Friday, February 20, 2009

In the Know

The other day, I was working with a teenage mom and her 10-month-old baby who was fussy and irritable. The mom tried rocking the baby, soothing her with her voice, patting her gently, and distracting her with a toy. But, baby kept fussing. Mom kept trying. And, tears where starting to roll down both their faces.

The mom's frustration was palpable. She turned to me and said, "I don't know what to do!"

The same day, while I was talking to another mom with three children, she began telling me that sometimes she just doesn't know what to do when her kids get upset and tantrum.

"They don't explain how to do it all in books I've read!" She said.

Later, I thought about these two very different moms, one a first-time parent and the other with three kids' worth of experience. I was struck by how no matter what your level of experience, it is impossible to know exactly what to do every time, especially when your child is irritable, fussy, or throwing a headache-inducing tantrum which seems to have no end in sight.

Here are some thoughts:
1. It's okay to not always know how to make everything better instantly. If you could do this, then you would be Super Parent. And, you would have to run around the world wearing tights and a cape. Do you really want to do that?
2. It's important to stay calm. Even if you are completely frustrated and ready to scream, remember that your child will pick up on your emotional state and this may make him more upset that he already is. Remember that no matter how bad the situation, there will be an end to it. It will not last forever.
3. Offering empathy always helps. Acknowledging the way a child feels helps him or her to feel understood, validated, and calmer.
4. Dare to try different things. Don't always rely on only one thing (such as a time out for older children, or a bottle for infants) to deal with challenging behavior. Be flexible and willing to try a range of ways to soothe your child.

And again, remember that as a parent it's okay and quite normal to not always be in the know.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Eensies: A Giant Help for Parents

In these tough economic times, many parents I know have been feeling not only worried and concerned, but understandably stressed and overwhelmed.

It's a good time to remember certain important things, including that children can easily pick up on a parent's state of mind. Younger children who tend to be more egocentric may feel that "Mommy isn't happy," or "Something is wrong with Daddy," and blame themselves. If you see your child responding in such a way, this is a great time to remind him that you love him.

If you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, you are not alone. Now is the perfect time to reach out to friends, family members, or professionals such as teachers and counselors for support. Remember that no matter where you live, there are free local resources available.

One of the best online resources for parents (and one of my new favorites) is eensies. Started by two teachers (and parents), eensies is chock full of tips, activities, and advice. And, every Thursday is dedicated to answering parents' questions about everything from homework and reading to how to help your child make clean up time fun. Not only is eensies enjoyable to read and a giant help for parents -- it's also absolutely free.

Speaking of free, don't forget that love and hugs don't cost a cent. So give your favorite child a hug today and remember to check out eensies.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Eight Is Too Much

Like many of us, I've been following the story about the Bellflower, California octuplets with interest and curiosity. This morning, the mother, Nadya Suleman, was on the Today Show, insisting that she will provide her babies with unconditional love and attention.

It's a basic and obvious fact that babies need unconditional love and attention. However, actually providing this can be extremely difficult with just one baby. For parents with multiple babies who may have developmental problems, it's a massive struggle without additional support from family, friends, medical doctors, developmental specialists, and other outside help.

I've written often on this blog about how crucial the relationship is between a parent and child, right from the start. It is the very foundation of a child's healthy social and emotional development. Through this critical first relationship with mother, babies become kids who can communicate appropriately, manage their feelings, play well with other children, and empathize with others.

It is hard enough to develop and nurture but one relationship with a single newborn infant, not to mention an additional seven who may also experience developmental delays due to their prematurity. For even the most amazing mom, eight is just too much.