Archive for November, 2009

Are You And Your Family Crashing Into The Holidays?

Friday, November 27th, 2009

I am curious – how many people are spending this weekend doing a lot of “crash shopping” with or for their family?  And how many of you tend to do your shopping at other times or online?  I say this because I had a “crash lesson” several years ago which completely changed the way I try to prepare for the holidays.

I used to be more about doing holidays just as they came along.  Thanksgiving would be a couple days away and I’d finally get around to making that thing I was supposed to bring, plus do all the laundry, plus pack, plus try to scramble up some Xmas ideas for myself because I knew people would ask.

Then I sort of crashed into Christmas too.  I tried to do all the decorating all in one day or night, finding that the last minute often creeped up on me far too quickly.  I got trapped by procrastination and I tried to blast through the stores straining to find that “perfect” gift.

Then I was blessed with a great big interruption in the 1999 holiday season – my first child was due a couple of days before Thanksgiving.  Thankfully, pregnancy lasts many months, so I had time to do the math and start changing my mindset about the holidays.  She was going to force my hand so I could either suffer it my way or do something different.

I forced myself to start thinking about this before I “had to” think about it – like August.  Totally not in the mood then, but it was either that or face the mall with an infant.  Despite not being in the Christmas mood, I kept at it until nearly all of it was done.

Do you know what I learned then?  Making fewer decision about the holidays with my emotions and more with my brain allowed me to do what I need to do without having it all crash on top of me.  I was able to recover from the birth experience, do her specialty medical appointments out of town, and be …

Thanksgiving For Ordinary Things

Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Today is Thanksgiving, and when I think about this holiday I’m reminded that I should be more thankful.  And yes, I begin thinking about my family, the roof over my head, and large things like that.  But what happens after all the pumpkin pie is gone, the turkey leftovers are in the freezer, and you’ve done half your shopping list on Black Friday?  Are you still thankful?  Where do we go wrong on not being grateful enough.

I’ve decided that gratitude isn’t an event, it’s a habit.  Yes, a habit like brushing your teeth, putting the toilet lid down, and putting your shoes away when you take them off.  Habits take work and effort, consistent effort over at least 21 days (or so I’ve heard).  Man, this doesn’t quite sound like the dinner conversation at the Thanksgiving table anymore.

Most people don’t talk about being thankful for their slippers, the welcome mats by the front and back doors, or their regularly functioning coffee maker.  These are the kinds of things we all use all the time but we take them for granted.  Would you like the cold floor in the morning, or having mud tracked in the house, or missing out on your caffeine fix first thing in the morning?  Probably not.  And for those things, we ought to be grateful that they continue to be a part of our daily lives.

So in that vein, I’m going to kick this off by creating a list of ordinary or unusual things that I have reason to be grateful for.   These things aren’t likely to be a part of any Thanksgiving dinner conversation you have, unless you decide to start the conversation with this topic.  And even though I’m not putting down the explanation, I have specific memories or regular uses for each of these things.

My Ordinary Gratitude List:

I’m grateful for my alarm watch, my timer, my kitchen clock (sense a theme here??), tight deadlines, my blender, my water softener, my favorite mug, my radio, my container of shea butter, the blue fabric softener container that you can …

Bullying Between Siblings

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

An older kid roughhouses with the younger one and always wins.  He makes a point to rub it in, too.  The younger one complains of stomachaches and headaches a lot, especially when he’s been at home after school with his older brother before his parents get home from work.

The parents tell their youngest he has to toughen up if he’s going to make it in the real world.  The youngest gets sadder and more withdrawn, and the oldest gets more brazen with his taunting and insults.  Would you call this normal sibling rivalry or sibling bullying?

Many parents overlook what they believe to be normal sibling rivalry.  They see physical aggression, hear the insults, and get told about the manipulation.  But they do nothing.  Parents like these may truly believe they aren’t doing anything wrong by not coming to the aid of their younger child.  In fact, they may believe that if they interfere they will deprive their youngest the chance to learn about fighting back.  While the intentions may be understandable, the reality is quite different.

Let’s start by quickly going over a few bullying basics.  Understand these features of bullying and you could prevent a problem brewing right under your nose.

The four markers of bullying:
-Bullying is a conscious act.  It is a deliberate act of aggression and is always done against a perceived weak target.
-The bully always has more power in some way (size, maturity, age, more acceptable race or ethnic group)
-The bully always intends to harm their target.
-The bully leaves their target with threats of future aggression and terror.

Types of bullying:
-Verbal – the most common form, can be insults, humiliating comment, name calling, taunting, harassing.
-Physical-easiest to see from the outside, can be tripping, punching, shoving, pinching, hair pulling
-Social/relational – hard to detect and usually indirect, can be shunning and exclusion, done through body language like dismissive looks, mean and degrading notes, ignoring, spreading rumors
-Cyber-bullying – newest form of bullying, using text messaging, email, chatrooms, and other social media to send threatening and degrading messages, harass, or spread rumors

Are you surprised to hear what …

Helping Kids Who Stand Out From The Crowd

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Standing out from the crowd can be a kid’s worst nightmare.  Not everyone loves the limelight.  And even for those who do draw more attention to themselves (on purpose or not), the spotlight can turn on them in a moment.  Kids don’t always know how to handle the scrutiny, but you can help.

I wasn’t a terribly popular kid in school, but I did have friends.  When I was younger, I felt like I was missing out on something because I wasn’t noticed as much as other kids.  However, the older I got the more I began to appreciate my relatively low-key status.  I learned that many school accomplishments turned into popularity contests, and whoever had the coolest thing going got the love.  Also, whoever was embroiled in controversy lived in the hot seat for a while.  My school was rather small, just fifty or sixty kids in each class.  You exhaled and people knew it within 20 seconds.  So the spotlight could get white hot at a moment’s notice and not everyone handled it well.

Many kids really would rather fit in than stand out.  Even someone who is accomplished in certain areas of life can get scorn from those who think they are showing off.  Here are a few examples – a child thinking the handful of children chosen for a special project are “better than anyone else” (even if they are being modest and respectful), a child who’s been to the principal’s office a few times is a “troublemaker” again, a child with a physical deformity, a child who has stand-out physical attractiveness for their age.  Any of these things can make a child distracted and uncomfortable.

You can help by giving your child a few ideas for handling the attention.  Often, a child will get a comment from someone about why they stand out.  “You think you’re so smart – I’m not playing with you anymore.”  “What happened to your face?”  “You’re going to be in jail someday!”  “You are so skinny, are you from a starving country or something?”

Most of the time, …

Avoiding Discipline Extremes

Friday, November 20th, 2009

Parenting can be so difficult when you use too much of a good thing and not enough of another.  I’m taking a cue from one of my fair readers who commented on the mother-daughter post a few days ago.

It’s about being too strict or too lenient, and then finding yourself on the opposite extreme end trying to make up for it.  I understand this well.  While I do believe I generally ride down the middle of these lines, I know when I start feeling like I’m too far in one direction.

As I’m writing this, I realize what’s driving my swing in either direction – emotion.  I’m not sure if this is what you would relate to, but my first sense was that I over-corrected because of my emotional state.  When I get too much crabby drill sergeant going on, I start to feel guilty that I’m being unreasonable.

In order to “make up” for going overboard, I make greater allowances and go soft for a little while.  You know, it’s the least I can do after they suffered me.  Do you see where this is going??  When I get my mood out of the way and focus on the big picture, I can get things back to a good balance.

I think every parent does this to some extent.  I mean, we are all human and we all get swept up in our emotions.  That’s very normal, so don’t go beating yourself up if you do this sometimes!  But do pay attention to whether this is a “sometimes” kind of thing or a “most of the time” kind of thing.

Do your kids live by two sets of rules – one for when mom or dad are too easy-going and one when mom or dad is uptight and demanding?  If you think this might be to similar to your own situation, don’t panic.  Take a few days to pay attention to your mood swings and how you handle them.

If you think you do a lot of any of those things, you may be living in …

Postpartum Depression Versus The Baby Blues

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

The more I have learned about postpartum depression, the more I realized how much misinformation is out there. Television, magazines, and the Internet continue to over dramatize and politicize postpartum mental disorders. Or, they are completely dismissive of new mothers truly concerned about their mental health. Right now, I’ll just take you through a comparison of two very common postpartum mental conditions. Let’s keep this simple and easy.

Postpartum depression meets all the basic criteria of clinical depression. This includes any five of the following symptoms: feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in usual activities, significant weight loss or gain, significant appetite change, sleep problems (too much or too little), loss of energy, either feeling too keyed up or too slow, feelings of self loathing and negativity, problems with concentration, decision-making, and clear thinking.

Along with those symptoms, a mom with postpartum depression may turn some of her negativity or loss of interest towards her baby.  Oddly, many of the above-listed symptoms are very normal in the first several weeks following childbirth. What new mom hasn’t struggled with their sleep, had some loss of energy, and had significant weight change?  The similarities can make postpartum depression somewhat tricky to diagnose.

Baby blues consist of tearfulness, some mild sadness or an overwhelmed feeling, and last just a few weeks after childbirth. A difference between baby blues and depression is that the baby blues usually starts a few days after birth, and depression may not set in until a few weeks or months later.

Certainly, depression can set in very early, but true baby blues simply don’t last that long.  You know you have depression when you just can’t shake those feelings and they seem to get worse.

To add a few personal details, I didn’t notice the odd depression symptoms until about two months after giving birth.  I noticed that my calendar in my mind was a big white blank wall for anything more than five minutes into the future.  Also, I tried just about everything I knew how to do to feel better and more positive, and I was …

The Special Mother Child Relationship

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

In honor of my oldest daughter’s birthday earlier this month, I’d like to do a shout-out to all the moms out there.  The title of “Mom” is both common and unique at the same time.  Caring moms are all over the planet, but each one is the most important person mom in the world to their children.

Now that I’ve been on both sides of the Mom coin, I can appreciate this so much better.  I mean really, who else would put up with someone throwing up on her shoulders every day?  And I’m virtually certain there must be a bank of “sleep Mommy never got” up in heaven, so I’m counting on some nice long naps after I leave this earth.  Moms put up with a lot, but the rewards they get – a toothless smile, a loving hug, a “thanks” – are priceless.

Those special coos and soothing little mommy sounds – they are a lullaby for babies and little children.  Mommies are walking comfort blankets.  When moms and their children develop a bond, nobody quite measures up to Mommy.

Thankfully, this essential bonding doesn’t just happen between biological mothers and their babies.  Adoptive moms, grandmothers, or other special caretakers may become the mommy for a child.  Just giving birth doesn’t automatically make you a mommy. Being the woman a child counts on for security, acceptance, love, affection, help, safety, and learning – that’s how kids know who their mommy is.

A good mother-child relationship is built on warmth and being around each other a lot.  Typically, moms do hands-on nurturing like kissing boo-boos, fixing hair, making favorite foods, changing diapers, being a lounge chair for a child who’s sick, being with a child during the night shift over and over.  Moms develop their bonding relationship with their children through these activities.  I can recall many occasions where my mother did that with me, and that I have done with my three girls.  It’s those little things that add up to the whole relationship.

When you feel you need that one person who knows you best, accepts …

Helicopter Parents – Who Are They Really Protecting?

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Do you know a helicopter parent?  They tend to hover over their child out of concern that something bad might happen.  While it this may be appropriate when a real threat seems nearby, some parents take it all the way.  They continue the hovering long after the child is in diapers, long after their days of toddling around the living room, and long after they are ready for school.  Who are helicopter parents really protecting?

I’m reminded instantly of Nemo’s dad in the Disney movie, “Finding Nemo”.  Dory insightfully points out that if Nemo’s dad never lets anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him.  Food for thought as we consider how our culture has shaped parenting.

The news seems to be full of warnings about every possible danger in the home and out.  I’m not discounting real hazards, just pointing out that drama sells.  parents already inclined towards anxiety have so much more information about all the possible hazards, they need something to fight back with.  Supervision and worry.

Helicopter parents fret about germs, the hazards of kickball, their child’s self esteem in school, and anything potentially stressful.  They cringe when their child climbs on the monkey bars, gets nervous when their child is upset, and defends their child from criticism.

Do you notice some of the words I used?  Fret, hazards, stressful, cringe, nervous, upset, defend.  Those words distill the emotional base of a helicopter parent.  They overprotect their child to protect themselves from feeling fear and anxiety.  If they can keep their kids totally safe from harm, they can feel safe too.  They can create a cozy box of comfort for themselves and their child.

Helicopter parents translate their anxiety to their child.  Ironically, the anxiety these parents attempt the quell by hovoring can make kids feel less emotionally safe and secure.  A breeze could be bad because it’s too much air for the baby.  Playing in the snow could be bad because you could get really sick from being outside.  Exploring the backyard could be bad because you could fall.  Life is …

Parents – Your Poor Me Habits

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Poor me, poor stressed-out under-appreciated me.  Or that’s what I sometimes tell myself.  Yeah…that garbage circulates through my head sometimes and it just kills my day.  Even when all the evidence points to some serious sympathy points for you as a parent or spouse, you really aren’t going to win anything by pushing it.

Everybody has “poor me” habits, you just may or may not be completely aware of them.  Maybe you start saying really negative things out loud so others can hear.  Or, you start leaving things undone out of spite, hoping someone will notice and rescue you from your burden.  Perhaps when one thing goes wrong you horribilize everything else around you.  Maybe you have a “poor me” habit that is a little different from these, but has that same dark icky feeling.  Ready to step out of your “poor me” habit, parents?

– Put focus on things that matter and have gone well.  Yes, you didn’t have time to finish all the laundry you set out to do, and breakfast got interrupted, and you just had a massive schedule change out of left field before 8 am.  But…you have a chance to make a little extra money, you did get many other cleaning chores done yesterday, and you have supper planned ahead.

This is basically what my evening and morning have been about today.  I was very frustrated when all of this was hitting and I was getting a pretty bad dialogue going in my head.  Now I’ll never get XYZ done, already messing up the day and it’s only 7:15, I’ll never get a chance to catch up, I don’t know what I’m doing and that situation will probably go badly.  Since I made choices or just had a mental slip-up, I immediately started dumping on myself.  I had a limited amount of time now to do various things and I was already syphoning it away by this “poor me” nonsense.

-Decide it’s time for “poor me” to go away.  Only once I decided it was time to calm did things start going better.  …

Bullying in Your Child's Life

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

I remember a few bullies I encountered back in my younger days.  There was the obvious bigger-than-everyone bully who didn’t do so well at school.  He made up for that by showing his physical dominance when the opportunity arose.  But then there were the not-so-obvious bullies.  People you might never suspect.  Do you know about bullies in your child’s life?

1- Confident – This is your stereotypical bully, like you would see in the TV movie “A Christmas Story”.  He has the attitude, the physical prowess, and has no empathy for the little people around him.  He’s strong and mean.

2- Social – This bully spreads rumors, gossips, and verbally taunts others, Social shunning is also widely used by this kind of bully.  Sometimes it only takes a look to do the job.  Girl bullies commonly fall into this category.  Be aware – they can be difficult to spot because they are subtle.

3- Fully armored- This bully is a charmer, a real cool customer.  He or she are likable to adults, and deceptive to avoid arousing suspicion.  But when the adults are gone this bully is vicious and unemotional to their targets.

4- Hyperactive- The hyperactive bully bounces around and does his or her bullying with a lot of excuses “he made me do it” or “it was just an accident”.  They struggle with grades and have poor social skills.

5- Bullied bully- This kind of bully is the direct result of being repeatedly bullied themselves.  They have been a target for so long, they find some sense of relief from the powerless.

6- Bunch of bullies – Group mentality comes into play here.  A group of “nice kids” find themselves joining in or observing someone getting bullied.  They know what they’re doing is wrong and don’t stop it, but none of these kids bully anyone by themselves.

7- Gang of bullies – This is a group of kids who strategically align themsleves to gain power.  This can be a scary bunch because they lack any sort of empathy or remorse.  They know they are bullies and they are OK …


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