‘parenting’

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Soccer Mom

Soccer net

I had an unusually good time watching my boys play soccer this past weekend. It’s not always been easy to get our youngest on the field and I’m not the mom who’s really loved being there. There’s been years of standing on the cold sideline where I didn’t think the boys were getting much out of it. And there have been countless minutes on that sideline where I’ve been consumed, weighing the costs and benefits of the soccer class, while my coffee went cold. Fortunately, something has changed recently. I’m certain it’s not only me who’s noticed–the boys seem differently positioned as well. Although I look in from the net and see something that seems entirely clear (a soccer field, a group of children–excited and eager [or exhausted and angry], and a coach) these little boys have reminded me yet again of the diversity of vantage points we share. They really do see those green fields as a part of their future. A great coach can really make our children immensely proud and excited to be alive.

Wonder is priceless and the pristine innocence harbored within our children often delivers moments unique to childhood. Children often hold the gift of believing that anything is possible. So often when they share this perspective we get to see a glimpse of unconfined opportunity. We’re reminded of our own potential, too.

Two things recently passed through my ears I have to share. They’ve enhanced my soccer mom experience immensely. Read full post »

Let Us Break The Silence on Stillbirth

This is really beautiful. There’s little to say other than we can do a better job supporting parents in their loss and in the celebration of their children’s life and legacy.

Watch this and enjoy the amazing amount of love you will feel…

“I want the baby I didn’t have.”  “I feel like a bad luck charm around other moms.”

“I couldn’t understand why that happened to me…”

“His life was a good thing.”   “People say really sad, crazy things.”

“We said don’t come and they came….that was what we needed.”

“I love to tell people about my son…I don’t get enough chances to talk about him.”

“His life was a good thing.”

“I’m not afraid to mention him.”  “Why don’t they tell you about it?”

“You second guess everything you did, everything you didn’t do.”

“I don’t want another baby. I want the baby that I didn’t have.”

“I love to tell people about my son… I just don’t get enough chances to talk about him.”

Mindful Parenting

mindful and the skyThere was a moment, just after President Obama was sworn into the office earlier this week, that I’ve been returning to in my thoughts relentlessly. He turned amidst the regal archway of The Capital and stopped. His accompanying family and tribe of lawmakers waited. He said something like, “I want to take a look one more time.” And then he looked back upon The Mall and seemed to take it all in. A few seconds, maybe 1/2 a minute or so. Not long, no, but the moment seemed to take up enormous space. Quietly, eyes wide open, he looked out to the millions that had come to celebrate and bear witness to his honor and his responsibility. Instead of looking at him, my eyes migrated to his daughter, Malia. I saw her watching.

It may have been mindfulness.

It’s of course never clear to an outsider who is mindful or not. Thinking and spending energy to be more present is a passtime that I was introduced to as a medical student because of the work of Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn. I use lessons from his work in my personal and professional life on a daily basis. Therefore, it was a sincere joy last night to sit amidst 1000 other parents and hear Jon Kabat-Zinn and his wife Myla talk about, “Mindful Parenting.” I was surrounded by my husband and friends, many colleagues and pediatricians, and I was lucky enough to sit near parents of my patients. It was community. To me it felt like a needed touchstone and a hearty reminder of how nicely being mindful fits into a busy, reflective, hectic, and imperfect life.

5 Lessons From Kabat-Zinns On Mindful Parenting:

  • Mindfulness is not the antithesis of anything. There is no single ill or evil that impedes it. In fact, the last question on the night from the audience begged The Kabat-Zinns to detail the biggest obstacle to mindfulness. They couldn’t answer it really. All this, precisely because mindfulness in its simplicity is openness, compassion, and love. At the opening of the talk, Jon helped us recognize the work that it took to bring us there, amidst the heavy Thursday raindrops, rush hour traffic, busy workweeks, needy toddlers or teens at home, and the truth that there was potentially something else we really should be doing. He reminded us all that is was LOVE that had brought us together to listen to ideas about mindful parenting. This we all share. This is why mindfulness is possible for everyone at every time in their life. Each new moment is evolving into something entirely new.
  • At one point, Dr Kabat-Zinn looked down at his watch. At first glance it appeared he was tracking the timing of his talk and then he burst out, “If you check your watch, it’s now again.”  A hilarious reminder that each and every moment that unfolds is always now. We have a chance to bear witness to time indefinitely. We are offered up the opportunity to be mindful, open, and present with an infinite number of “do-overs.” Oh, wow–it’s now again. Myla furthered this saying, “Every moment is the possibility of a new beginning.” Every single moment is a new chance to be aware. Read full post »

What To Say About Pot

Screen Shot 2013-01-10 at 5.48.25 PMThis is a guest post from Lara Okoloko, LICSW, a clinical social worker who lives in Seattle area with her husband and two young children. She is co-founder and clinical director of Center for Advanced Recovery Solutions (CARES). CARES provides respectful, solution focused counseling to the parents of addicted young people. More about their services can be found at www.caresnw.com

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Well, it’s been about a month since marijuana became legal in Washington State and we haven’t gone to pot yet, although the national news circuits may suggest so… But all joking aside, many are wondering what the impact will be for children in our state. Will marijuana use increase because it will be perceived as no big deal? Or will rates of use go down because the taboo factor will be erased?

As a therapist working with parents of teens and young adults, I know that parents already face an uphill battle convincing their sons and daughters that marijuana use poses risks to their health and well-being. My hunch is that legalizing marijuana will only increase the challenge.

Pot isn’t a rarity in high school. According to 2010 data from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, one in five 10th graders have smoked pot in the last month. By the end of high school, almost half of all students have at least tried it. This makes marijuana the second most used drug after alcohol. Surveys of drug use show a clear relationship between the perception of risk and the likelihood of drug use. The 2010 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that only 1% of youth who saw great risk in smoking marijuana had used it within the last month, compared with 10% percent of youths who saw moderate, slight, or no risk. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that legalizing marijuana will add to the perception that it is harmless, which will in turn increase the number of teens who use it.

One of the biggest mistakes parents to teens make is to believe that they no longer have influence on their kids

Read full post »

Renewal, Intent, Intimacy, Reflection

Screen Shot 2013-01-04 at 12.36.15 PMI’ve self-prescribed a year of renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection for 2013. Although I’m unable to etch those 4 words onto my forearm, I’d really like to keep them at the helm. Resolutions are exceedingly difficult to maintain. The bar is often too high, there’s little trigger to make a desired behavior happen every day, and the resolutions we choose typically demand profound change. I learned much of that from BJ Fogg and because I believe in his model, my 2013 resolution will have the aforementioned 4 prongs: renewal, intent, intimacy, and reflection.

This year, I’m easing into these resolutions by gradually making changes to how I work and how I live. I spent the end of 2012 bearing witness to our limited days on earth, reaping the bounty of commitment that family and friends give me, and sorting out my own role as a caregiver, writer, and advocate. However obvious it is that life is precious and limited, there are the rare instructive days in our lives that preach it to us. One for me unfolded in August. Read full post »

Going Back To School Monday

Sick day alleyAs Monday approaches and we ready our children for school, I would suspect most of us have a little bit of dread in our hearts. I do. There is unease as we return our children to school. This post covers information for supporting your children but also information on supporting yourself during these upcoming days, too.

The past few days have been bewildering. Making sense of the tragedy in Connecticut is a huge challenge, particularly as the details of the shooting simultaneously unfold along side the details of the beautiful lost children and teachers and protectors. There’s little to say more than this is tragic and head-shaking. There is just no sense to what unfolded here in America last Friday. And although there are stories of incredible heroism we are left mourning and aching.

In my 4 years using social media, no single topic has over-run my channels like this shooting. We are all aghast and terrified, sad and stunned. As President Obama said, “We’re heartbroken.” When I opened the Sunday New York Times this morning, I gulped and teared-up again—I simply couldn’t wrap my head around the number of 6 and 7 year-olds that we’ve lost. Especially as one sat next to me at the breakfast table.

The randomness of this event allows us all to relate to the details of the horror and loss with uncomfortable familiarity.

We can and will work towards a safer future for our children. Don’t ease up on yourself or those in your community for action–improved communication, access to mental health, examining gun control–as months unfold. The future comes quickly. Today and tomorrow are about the ongoing effort to bolster yourself and your child in feeling great about the days ahead, in and out of school at the mall, wherever you find yourselves.

Tips For Parents With Children Going Back To School

  • Your child’s school is safe. The fact remains that this random, horrific shooting is an anomaly. Your child’s school is a very safe place to be. Remind yourself, and your children if they ask, that this tragedy was an exception.
  • Get the information you need to feel safe this week. Send an email to the principal, your children’s teacher, and/or fellow parents–perhaps commit to participating in ensuring you have good safety measures in place at your school. Leaving a VM message, sending an email, and/or joining the community of families wanting to ensure safety as the days unfold will likely ease your fears. Get involved. Write a letter to The President (The White House/1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW/Washington, D.C. 20500) or your congressman. Action is an antidote to anxiety. Read full post »

One Foot In Front Of The Other

photo (22) It’s been a heart-wrenching 3 days since the news of the shootings unfolded Friday morning. Best antidote to my sorrow was a run in the rain this afternoon. I turned up the music far too loud and headed out for a quick run. I stopped thinking and spinning about the grieving families in Connecticut. I heard the music and felt the cold on my hands. It was a powerful switch.

Even though I’ve only seen 15 minutes of news coverage about the shootings, I’ve been reading about how to support families in the aftermath and I’ve been consuming copious information since Friday. I’ve been allowing my own social networks and my own professional organizations to filter information I should read. Like most Americans, my curiosity for details is difficult to fully suppress. We all want to understand more. Even so:

Find time for yourself in the next 24 hours to have some release. Give yourself time and space (when you can) to get outside. Just putting one foot in front of the other helps. Without the news, without Facebook, without the conversations about Newtown, CT ringing in your ears. Get out and walk or run. Put in the music or simply tune out the masses. Be in a place with no ceiling and find time to repay all that has been drained from you.

One foot in front of the other helps.

More Than A Dozen Children Died At School Today

The news of the shooting in Newtown, Conneticut this morning is beyond horrific. Nauseating and troubling, it’s left me sobbing at my computer to think of the anguish families face. And the lesser anguish we all feel right now. To think of the lost hope and the lost efforts of all those that work so hard to protect children and those who work to educate them. And the loss of safety in another school.

The news from Newtown is agonizing. The loss is unthinkable.

And I’ll tell you this: there are days I wake up and wonder, “Am I doing this right?” or “How can I balance my life and work to improve the lives of children ?” or “Can I really speak my mind?” And then there are moments like this, where it’s clear.

Here’s my mind:

  • I believe we have an obligation to fight to protect children from guns in the hands of the crazy, the wild, the intolerant, and the careless.
  • I believe it’s really difficult to figure out who is crazy, wild, intolerant, and careless.
  • I believe gun control should have been yesterday’s topic, not today’s. Lives could have been saved. I believe politicians must put politics aside and create a safer United States now.
  • I believe the President of the United States has a moment to make change.
  • I believe that guns have no place in our homes.
  • I believe we must keep demanding improved understanding and education for we parents about how to get automatic weapons out of civilian hands.
  • I believe I am hardly alone on this. Even so, when I write about gun control I get angry responses.
  • I believe this: WE ALL WANT THE SAME THING—safe communities, healthy children, and opportunity for long lives.

Tell me what I can do to make a bigger difference. And please tell me what you’re going to do.

Tips from Pediatrician Dr Besser on talking with children about tragedy (this was filmed after Aurora shooting) and tips from Dr Robert Hilt at Seattle Children’s. Easiest first step is likely to just turn off the news…

When Parenthood Exceeds Expectations

We surfaced the other day, my husband and me. Bobbed up after having been submerged in the challenges and complexities of stress, tantrums, hectic schedules, holiday crunch time, and career responsibilities. When we surfaced we found ourselves in one of the most luxurious moments of life. It was one of those spells I want to compound. More than just burning it on my brain, I want to relive that memory again and again. I want to hit play and repeat…I suppose that’s part of why I’m sharing it here.

Here’s what I mean: Have you had one of those meals or nights or walks or adventures with your children recently where you realize there is simply nothing better? Where you wake up in a moment and consider that it is for this moment, this one space in the continuum of time, that you were made to be? When you come to feel like it’s why you’re alive?

In my opinion it happens to all of us in profoundly new ways when we are lucky enough to raise children. And it’s usually unexpected. These pristine, magical moments with our children and family don’t come with proper planning. They don’t usually happen on vacation, at the fancy meal, or at the picnic we’ve planned for 2 weeks. We often don’t have our fancy shoes on. The moments tumble into our lives when we least expect it with absolutely zero material value. But like falling in love for the first time, these moments sweep us up off our feet and arrive without a hint of warning.

This is, I believe, the gift of the season of our lives. When parenthood exceeds expectations.

Recently I was talking with a good friend about these rare moments. The ones that happen where your children are enticed by conversation, fully engaged in a game or meal, where they get along with each other, and you realize there is nothing more precious or intimate. Often it seems these moments follow illness or fear. But sometimes it doesn’t take a trigger or challenge. Recently a moment appeared for my friend when she and her husband had cancelled a date night. They were too exhausted, decided to stay home and have dinner with their children and just crash. And it happened–the moment–they connected, their children were angels at dinner, delighted and laughing, present and mindful. She and her husband looked up at each other and realized they were woven into one of those meals they wouldn’t trade the world for. Really.

For us it happened late Thursday night on the floor of our living room. Our six year-old had received Mastermind (a board game) for his birthday and the four of us teamed up to play. It was the first time I’d played in 25 years and each of us presented to the game with excitement. We were enticed to win, eager, and we each giggled as we navigated and explored ways to outsmart the others.

And there we were, lying on a hard wooden floor, surrounded by the darkness of winter entirely together with only little plastic playing pieces between us. Momentous connection and family intimacy. I can barely articulate why and how I knew it was one of those moments except that I realized this is really as good as it gets.

Mix And Match: Goldilocks Formula

Often new parents are nervous about mixing and matching infant formula they offer their babies. They worry if they switch from one formula brand to another, they may cause their baby fussiness, stool changes, upset or worse–that they could put their baby at risk.

It’s safe to mix and match infant formulas if you are following standard mixing instructions. Really.

Although spitting up or gassiness is usually not due to the protein in formula (cow’s milk versus soy versus hypoallergenic), sometimes changing formula helps new babies and their parents who worry. Switching them up can even help clarify worries in some scenarios when a parent worries about excessive gassiness, intolerance, or significant urping or spitting up.

Experimentation with formula brands in an otherwise healthy newborn is okay. But it’s not necessary at all, either.

It’s fine to make a bottle that is ½ formula from the blue can and ½ formula from the yellow one. Fine to serve Simulac one week, Enfamil the next, Earth’s Best or Goodstart followed by Soy formula the following day. Fine to buy one brand that’s on sale only to buy the other brand next week. Read full post »