‘parenting’

All Articles tagged ‘parenting’

Mindfulness In A High Stakes Job

4-17 mexicoWe’re just back this week from a vacation with our children. The 6 days we had together, the variant pace at which we were able to live for the week, and the challenges that bubbled up offered some reminders but also some fears for me. We’re always on quicksand while raising children. Parenting demands exceptional grace but also exquisite flexibility and immediate rapid-fire insight. Our job descriptions, as parents, are ever-evolving; we’re asked to shift what we know as we step from stone to stone and into something new as quickly as our children do. The minute we feel we’ve figured something out — whammo — a new challenge arises we never even thought to consider.

The stakes are high. Of anything that unites us all as parents it’s knowing that truth. Along the way we will fail, fail, fail and have wondrous little successes too, thank goodness. Yet the tasks involved in raising a child will never look just like they did last month. I loved a This American Life (#553) segment I listened to this past week where a mom discussed some of the complexities in the requisite shifts she faced raising a principled little 7 year-old boy named Elias who is vegetarian and very emotional about animal-eaters. He finds himself living amid a family who explores an occasional pepperoni pizza and turkey sandwich. As his parents upend the way they eat at home (they end up banning all meat at home because of their son’s feelings) narrator Ira Glass states,

“If you’re hearing all this and you are feeling judgey about these parents and I know you are, because that is a national pastime — judging other people’s parenting – I just want to say I totally felt that way until I heard Elias….just like she says. Hearing Elias made me realize ‘oh, right, she actually is in a really tough situation. Where she has these two kids and those both have really strong feelings about this and she doesn’t want to crush either one of them.’”

Judging others’ parenting is often just the malaise of parental insecurity. We all have our own shakiness at times, especially as we’re asked to rise to new heights each new day. It’s of course so easy to judge, and so much harder to elevate and emulate others. In my mind, the best we can do while parenting (failing or succeeding) is tease out others’ profound moments. Learn from them but also copy and try those things out ourselves and see how we can make them work in our own lives. Read full post »

Balance And Bad Parenting, Maybe

3-27 jumpingLast night four Swansons sat in row 6 of a little commuter airplane on the way to visit family, all plugged in. Four people who love each other with four separate devices hardly communicating for the two hours or so that we sped through the air. At first glance it can look like an utter failure — you can hear the criticism ringing in your ears — this family must not be connected, or these working parents, pounding out emails and prepping presentations while their children watch videos and play apps, really must have their priorities off, right? Right.

Maybe.

On that flight I read a beautiful blog post from tenacious pediatric researcher Dr Jenny Radesky that questions the new world in which children are being reared. The one where their parents are plugged-in, distracted, perhaps less attentive and less available while raising infants and young toddlers. It’s the same world today, where preteen digital natives may be connecting more by text than by talking. She cites data that found, “if you take away preteens’ mobile devices and make them hang out with their peers in the country for one week, they get better at reading other people’s facial expressions.” Perhaps these children and teens are swapping thumb skills for interpersonal ones. Radesky is the researcher behind the observations out last year evaluating parents’ use of mobile phones at dinner that alarmingly demonstrated children’s near need to act out to get their parents’ attention.  Are our parent-child connections forever changed because of the profound brilliance that digital devices have in capturing our attention? Radesky brings up the zone of proximal development (I’d not previously heard of it) and its profound value. She says,

In order to effectively teach children how to regulate their behavior, we need to interact with them in what psychologist Lev Vygotsky termed the child’s “Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).”  This means  knowing their cognitive and emotional sweet spots: what they can do on their own, what they can’t do, and what they can do and learn with an adult’s help.  You can’t fit the puzzle pieces in yet?  Let me guide your hand a little bit until you figure it out by yourself. You can’t calm down when you’re frustrated yet. Let me help you identify what emotion you’re feeling and then show you some options for calming your body down. And I’ll slowly take my support away until you can do this skill on your own.

Oh yes, we certainly do need to be in this space and be available, eyes connected, body engaged, actively listening to the loves of our life (children). In championing this reality we can easily finger-wag that how things used to be (without smart phones and wild virtual connection to data and community) is better. Slow down, unplug, unwind, and CHECK BACK IN, right? Common Sense Media even has a new PSA campaign, that I happen to love, tagged #realtime guiding us back to life with a series of delicious, tight videos reminding us how we mess up. Read full post »

Vaccines, Profanity, And Professionalism

Screenshot 2015-02-01 12.30.40You’ve likely seen the Jimmy Kimmel “public service announcement” on vaccines. Over 3 1/2 million people have viewed it on Youtube so if you’re not yet one of them you’ll likely add to the tally now. The first 3 minutes of the monologue are spot-on and they’re also very funny. Jimmy takes a stand against the “anti-vaxxers.” He mentions that some parents are more scared of “gluten than small pox” and references the reality that some schools in this country have 20% of students opted out of some vaccines. His monologue is followed by a series of pediatricians voicing profane frustration. Most people think the video is hilarious and many of us fired up about vaccines feel a rush when the safety and trust we have in vaccines gets the spotlight like it does here. Jimmy’s script is brilliantly written and his execution is direct.

Thing is, I didn’t like the video. I was left feeling somewhat uncomfortable and embarrassed for my profession. Immediately I wanted to explain that even though many of us are frustrated with where we are on vaccine hesitancy, we really aren’t interested in offending. We will always work to partner with parents –we won’t mock, swear, or intimidate you. Our goal is to support, protect, and cure children whenever we can and our privileged responsibility is to listen to parental fear and connect families with resources that soothe. This really is why we went to medical school.

It’s exciting when celebrities voice-up and stand to talk about vaccine issues that reflect science. It’s especially exciting when they include practicing physicians. Counseling families who are hesitant or flat-out refuse vaccines is a part of the job for every pediatrician. A study published in the journal Pediatrics this week found 93% of pediatricians had reported they’d been asked by parents to skip or delay vaccines in the last month. The current measles outbreak has changed the tone of these conversations for many of us; I’ve written about my new stance because I’m enraged pockets of measles can even occur in 2015. That being said, even though I really do like to swear like these pediatricians when I’m out of public earshot, I’m unsure the tactic of this PSA will do any good for those parents who hesitate to immunize their children according to the tested and safe schedule.

It seems to me that if parenting is governed by love, pediatrics is governed by respect for that love and for the integrity of children individually.

Read full post »

Legal Doesn’t Mean Safe: Marijuana

Legal never has meant “safe” but the two words may at times overlap in our minds. When it comes to marijuana I’d suggest there is quite a bit of confusion right now about safety, recreational and medicinal use, and the effects of use on our population. In general, as laws change and access to marijuana increases we have a responsibility to be clear about what is known.

The adverse effects of marijuana in children and teens have been well-documented. Marijuana use can impair memory, decrease concentration, and change problem-solving capacity. It’s not good for the lungs nor long-term health; teens who use pot have a higher likelihood of drug addiction later on in life, the risks increase the earlier they start using. Research also finds that teens who use marijuana are less likely to finish high school, are more likely to use other (illicit) drugs, and have an increase in suicide attempts compared to those who don’t. The more they use, the more the effect. I can’t help but think about what a mom to a teen said to me recently in clinic, “marijuana is everywhere now.”

One in 5 high school students says they have used marijuana in the last month and up to 1 in every 16 students says they use it every single day. Who are we if we ignore these numbers?

As legal may mean “safe” to some a strong statement from pediatricians everywhere from The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) was released today to set the record straight. The two things to know:

  1. Research has found marijuana has adverse effects on teen health. It’s now known that the brain isn’t fully developed until the mid-20’s raising real concerns about what the drug does while the brain is still forming. The effects of marijuana change how teens think in school, how safe they are on the road, and potentially how they act for a lifetime (lifelong addiction risks increase with use, teens who use are less likely to finish high school, teens who use have higher suicide risk).
  2. Use Coupled With Criminalization Can Change Lives For Good: Legalization for medical and recreational use may imply marijuana is benign; for children and teens this is untrue. History shows that teens, especially those of racial minority groups, are incarcerated at higher rates secondary to possession or use of marijuana. A criminal record can have lifelong negative effects — the AAP is advocating to decrease marijuana crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, study effects of legalization in states like WA or Colorado, Alaska or in DC, and strictly limit access to and marketing of marijuana to youth. The big concern here as well is that policies that lead to more adult use will likely lead to more adolescent use. Decriminalization is especially important in states where recreational use is legal for those over 21 years of age.

Read full post »

Forgive Yourself In Advance

Our children will never be the sole judge of our job as parents of course. We are likely our own closest and most fastidious critic. And really it’s just us (and our partners) that can truthfully reflect and evaluate how it goes as we raise our children — what our hopes were when we started on the journey of raising another and where we find ourselves. And so, however radiant the peaks and successes seem, the anxiety of our choices in this high-stakes job will likely dominate. The angst with how this all goes as our children mature ties our feet together at times, and can feel a little like stuffing big rocks into our pocket as we jump off the dock into the lakes of our lives. We’re hard on ourselves. Sometimes this is good and motivating, centering or stabilizing, and at times it can even be useful when sorting priorities. But sometimes, it’s simply unkind. Some of the best advice I was given after my boys were born was this: Read full post »

An Unfair Advantage

MIL photoI recently listened to an interview on This American Life that stuck with me. The show was entitled “It’s Not The Product, It’s The Person” and went through a series of examples uncovering the reality that great business (or great work) is more a product of the who than the what. Who people are, how much grit, tenacity, raw or natural talent, passion, or skill really matters when doing whatever it is that that they do. Far more perhaps than what they actually create, sell or even perform. And although this isn’t the point I mean to make (you’ll see) it’s worth noting that the show opens with details of a young entrepreneur, like really young (age 11 years) and demonstrates how her talents, bravado, and finesse allow her to sell things and attract attention that others can’t. The show rounds out as the narrator showcases the varying pitfalls in his own quest for success as an ex-NPR radio producer turned start-up entrepreneur. The story was somewhat lighthearted, of course, but one point stuck. As he was gleaning information from an established, successful venture capital investor he was asked a potent question. The investor was interrogating how this fledgling entrepreneur could get funding; assisting him in creating his “pitch” for the money people. He asked, “What’s your unfair advantage?”

Think about it, what’s your unfair advantage?

It stuck with me because it was so relevant for success in an often random, senseless world of building ideas and companies but also in parenting “like a pro.” An unfair advantage sometimes facilitates success and I would suggest nearly all of us have something in our pocket that we know makes it work. You can think of this unfair advantage in terms of celebrity or early success for some (Kate Hudson’s mom is Goldie Hawn after all, and it certainly seems easier to get a bedroom in The White House if your last name is Bush or Kennedy or Clinton for that matter). Yet we all also know that success isn’t only built of “unfair advantages,” that it does take advantage wed to sheer passion, purpose or intent. But clearly those unfair advantages help people get their ideas and skills discovered.

It was only recently that I realized my unfair advantage this past decade or so. Read full post »

Baby Talk: How Moms And Dads May Differ

baby talk photo edited

There may be a stereotype that women talk more than men; the language environment in which we’re raised, starting at day one, may have influence on this. Whether or not women are chattier than men is due largely in part to the context of the conversation. But a new study published in Pediatrics shows when it comes to parents talking to their babies, the term “Chatty Cathy” probably rings truer than “Chatty Carl.” And this has the potential to change the game with your child as they age. It’s well founded that the number of words your baby/child hears in the first few years of life has dramatic impact on their vocabulary, school success and education for a lifetime. Parent-talk has more impact on a child’s IQ and vocabulary than their education or socioeconomic status. Who we are as talkers really changes our babies’ lives.

Gender Differences In “Baby-Talk” And “Parent-Talk”

The Pediatrics study out this week evaluated the intersection of both baby-talk (comparing preterm and term baby boys and girls vocalizations for 16 hours at a time) and parent-talk (comparing Moms’ to Dads’ vocalizations to their infants) at birth, at about a month of age (based on original due date), and at 7 months of age. More than 1500 hours of recordings (derived from little devices worn on babies’ vests) were analyzed to compare family language interactions. Babies in families with a Mom and Dad at home were included (no same-sex couples). About ½ of the babies were late preemies (note: 1/4 of all the babies studied had a stay in the NICU) and 1/3 of families were raising children in a bilingual home. I found three key takeaways: Read full post »

On Being Mortal At 40

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 10.13.56 AMI felt very much alive reading Dr. Atul Gawande’s new book, Being Mortal. Not because I have a sense of youthful immortality, but because stuck here in the sandwich generation I’m feeling a bit caught in-between — feeling simultaneously mortal and then very alive. In my mind this has a little bit to do with turning 40, a bit to do with the gift of raising young children, and a whole lot more to do with a year of losing people I love. Over the last 11 months I feel like my soul has aged by a decade as people I’ve loved and held onto have passed away. When dealing with death some hours can feel far more centurion than any others we can remember.

Gawande’s words granted some space to reflect on both my profession and my role as a parent, wife, daughter, sister, relative and friend. There’s a balanced vulnerability woven throughout the book that facilitates our joining into his stories as peers. And although the book begins notably academic, it accelerates into a rich narrative of love, endurance, small failures and singular courage. In its essence, Being Mortal is about one man’s journey loving his family, caring for patients, discovering inadequacies in his profession and interrogating the options afforded us all in living our lives with intention.

As a true “middle-ager,” sitting with these words felt to me a bit like peering over a vast, newly frozen Great Lake. Imagine letting your eyes move from left to right, looking out at the cracks in the ice and swirling snow as you capture the enormity of the expanse and what lies in front of you. But remember that this Great Lake is enormous, as big as the potential space of the lives in front of us. The words in Being Mortal can feel like a nudge. It’s as if while looking out from the shores of that frozen lake you hear someone whisper, “ Why, yes, it’s only been frozen overnight, but please just get up and run across it, Girl.” And you will, never knowing just when you’ll fall in. Read full post »

Malala, Malala, Malala! A Child Wins The Nobel Peace Prize

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Claude Truong-Ngoc/Wikimedia Commons

Malala, Malala, Malala – this is a historic day! A child has just won the Nobel Peace Prize! Our heroine, Malala Yousafzai, has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. She shares the prize with Kailash Satyarthi. Children and parents everywhere on planet earth have a perfect bedtime story. The youngest ever recipient of the prize goes to a girl born and raised in Pakistan who was denied equal access to her education. I mean, really, whenever you think your child’s potential is bounded or someone in the community minimizes the importance of your child’s ideas or implies that their potential is truncated by their age, limited by their perspective, or premature because of their experience, we have a new story to tell. We have an extraordinary antidote to those who treat children as lesser citizens of the world.

Malala Yousafzai.

Malala, you amaze us and you open up doors for little girls and little boys everywhere. Parents and pediatricians can and will share the news with young children and teens who falter.

First off, don’t let her globe-trotting-book-writing-media-circus attention fool you into thinking she’s an adult. She found out about her Nobel while in class, a place where all the other 17 year-olds in our country get the opportunity to sit…

Malala has leveraged her skills as a brilliant communicator and wed it to the courage of a champion to change the world’s understandings and opportunities. We are all so lucky.

Quick Facts For Your Family About Malala Yousafzai:

  • Malala and her father report that part of her success is based on the reality that her “wings were not clipped.” More from her dad in this popular TEDtalk.
  • Malala is a world leader. Read Amy Davidson’s New Yorker article from earlier today as a reminder of her influence — note Davidson saying, “It is past time to stop seeing Malala as simply the girl who survived, as a symbol. (The Times called her a ‘global emblem.’) She is a girl who leads: who addressed the United Nations on her sixteenth birthday; who amazes Jon Stewart and asks Barack Obama about drones.”  Watch her interview on Jon Stewart for examples of her unflappable courage and determination.

Age-Appropriate Malala Bedtime Stories:

Age 2-5: There once was a little girl loved to go to school. But one day the rules changed where she lived and she was unable to Read full post »

Deliberate Ambiguity

Deliberate ambiguity

I was at Back-To-School night this week at my boys’ school. Heard something I’m still thinking on. One of the teachers talked about how students are introduced to technology in the school house. She detailed how her philosophies helped shape their evolving understanding of, skills with, and opportunities with computers, code, and digital tools. She discussed her opacity with instructions as just one way to help develop grit. She said,

 

 

 

I use deliberate ambiguity. I want to make it a bit of mystery getting from point A to point B…

In ways, this is our job as parents in rearing independent children. Strike through childhood with deliberate ambiguity and provide a sense of mystery each day. With it, we can prime opportunity for our children to discover and stumble upon a sense of mastery. We can vilify technology in our children’s lives or we can facilitate our children’s use of new tools for expression and creativity. But deliberate ambiguity? That’s genius that we can apply in all sorts of places in our children’s lives.