How to Calm Your Freaking Brain

Don't get me wrong; I'm really glad this place exists. But boy does it make me anxious.

“Maybe I should google the possible risks and side effects of anesthesia in children.”

That’s the thought that popped into my decidedly unhelpful brain last Thursday night. I was lying in the dark on my daughter’s bedroom floor, waiting for her to fall asleep. She was having a hard time for the same reason I...


How Do I Get My Kids to Stop Swearing? (Reader Question)

Here's the latest anonymous question from one of my readers:

My kids are 9 and 6, and they’ve been swearing more lately. I try not to make a big deal about it lest they use the words more often to get attention, but some of the language they are "trying out" is truly inappropriate and offensive. Most of this happens at home with just our family around (thankfully). How do I address this in...


Is There Hope For My Relationship With My Son? (Reader Question)

I am now accepting anonymous parenting questions for this blog; here's the first one:

I really messed up. I started parenting my son before I knew about being conscious, respectful, and kind. He's 12 now. Is there hope of repairing our relationship? I fear he'll be angry with me forever.

Oh, dear reader. I wish I was sitting next to you right now, instead of on the other side of the internet. I’d...


Parenting: This Sh*t is Hard

My daughters only had two and a half days of school last week, which meant I had to cram all of my work into the remaining two and a half days. On Monday morning I kissed my husband and wished him a good work trip to Florida, dropped my daughters off at school, and gave myself a little pep talk about how super productive I was going to be all day.

If you’re a parent, you know how this story ends--with a call from the school nurse (aka My Work Husband) and a wicked ear infection for my older girl. Both of my daughters get ear infections more frequently than most people stub their toes, so I’d been to this particular rodeo before. Or so I thought.

What I assumed would be a 24-hour issue spiraled into nearly a week of continued ear pain, challenging side effects, doctor’s appointments, a plan for a surgical procedure in a couple of weeks, and then, to drop a cherry right on top of our little crap sundae, a new infection in her thumb (likely the result of a cat scratch). We ended up at the doctor’s office three times in six days, and by the end of the week, my little girl was on two different antibiotics, and I was on the edge of losing my mind.

Instead, I ended up in tears. We had just gotten back from urgent care where the doctor had dropped the phrase “necrotizing fasciitis” (aka flesh-eating disease) as casually as if he was talking about a hangnail (WTF?). I managed to hold it together in his office, but once we were home and my little girl was soaking her sore thumb while playing Connect Four with her sister, I went upstairs, plopped myself on the bed, and started crying.

I cried hard. I sobbed. All of the tension and fear and stress and anxiety from the past week flooded out of me. I was frazzled, exhausted, and freaking out.

I share all of this not because I need to vent (whatever, I totally need to vent), but because I want to remind you that parenting is hard. It’s really f*cking hard. It’s hard for all of us.


I Think I’m a Highly Sensitive Mama. How Do I Parent Without Losing My Mind? (Reader Question)

Dr. Naumburg,

I think I’m a “highly sensitive person.”  I am so damn sound sensitive that I can’t stand my kids in the morning right now. I feel like I'm going to have an anxiety attack. I’ve recently realized that my anxiety is almost all about the noise. Noisy day = high anxiety. Quiet day = low anxiety. I almost feel like I need to wear ear plugs. Right now I ask my kids to use quiet voices because it feels like Mommy's head might explode. Strangely, that doesn't change their behavior much. Any suggestions for what to do??


Seeking Silence

Dear Seeking,

Woof. This is a tough one, but an important one to tackle if you don’t want to lose your mind. Here are a few thoughts for you:

First, being a Highly Sensitive Person (HSP) is a real thing*. You’re not imagining it, and it’s not just you being overly stressed (although stress can make you feel even more like an exposed nerve than you did before). It’s about how you’re wired, which means you’ve likely been this way since birth. (All of you parents out there wondering why your kid refuses to wear socks with seams or totally freaks out every time they get within five feet of the fish aisle, read on.)


Should I Make My Daughters Hug Each Other? (Reader Question)

I received this question from a reader, and with her permission, I’m answering it here on the blog.

Dr. Naumburg,

My older daughter (who I’ll call #1) is seven years old, and her sister (#2) is four and a half. #1 is consistently friendly, compassionate, and helpful to other kids, but the moment she’s with her younger sister, it's a different game. #2 is very affectionate physically and verbally, but her big sister just doesn’t reciprocate. If #2 even tries to hug her she will shrug it off violently and say "Stop! Get off of me!" My youngest now knows to ask, "Can I give you a hug?" but the answer is always "No."  Recently the youngest said, "She never lets me touch her, she hates me."

I've explained to #1 that it's nice for loved ones to express their love with touch and words. That you don't always need to let them, but sometimes it's really nice. I've explained that allowing her little sister to hug her would make both of them feel good. I feel for the little one, who is always being rejected, but I also can't force hugs if they aren't wanted.

Any suggestions?
Sincerely, Hugless at Home

Dear Hugless,

Oh, the joy of siblings. They can be our greatest allies and our most deeply irritating enemies. This is a tricky situation, and I appreciate how hard you've been working to help your daughters connect. I have several thoughts for you; hopefully some of them will be useful.


Support: You Can’t Parent Without It

I’ve started going to restorative yoga classes once a week. These classes are basically like naptime, but stretchier. Our teacher’s primary instruction is to “get as comfortable as you can in each pose,” and she teaches us how to use cushions, yoga blocks, blankets, and straps to do just that.

We were in the middle of a gentle twist last night when she said, “If your knee isn’t touching the ground, put a block under it. When your body is supported, it can relax.” She went on to explain that when your shoulder, arm, knee, or anything other body part is just hanging out there, your muscles tighten in order to hold it in place. Sometimes that’s a good thing, like when you’re trying to build muscle. But when you’re trying to just chill out, well, not so much.

So there I was, laying on my mat on the floor of my local community center, my limbs resting on a variety of cushions, when I thought about the truth of what my teacher had said.

“When your body is supported, it can relax.”

One could say the same about almost anything, including parenthood. When parents are supported, they can relax.


How to Deal With Your Child’s Public Accidents Without Losing Your Mind (Reader Question)

I received this question from a reader, and with her permission, I’m answering it here on the blog.

Dr. Naumburg,

My 7 year old daughter has started having pee accidents again, and yesterday she peed on the side of the soccer field during her game! I saw her squatting and I assumed she was trying to hold it in until she could make it to the bathroom, but nope, she was peeing. Right there, on the side of the field, right through her clothes. I’ve tried everything - timers, reminders, sticker charts, even telling her that her friends will see if she pees her pants, and they might make fun of her--and she just doesn’t seem to care. I know she’s capable of making it to the toilet in time, because she often goes weeks or months without accidents, and then it starts again! I’m at my wit’s end. Any advice??

Mother of a Free-Range Pee-er

Dear Mother of a Free-Range Pee-er,

Oh dear. Right there on the soccer field. That must have been quite a sight. I’m sorry you’re both dealing with this. Without violating my kids’ privacy, let’s just say, I can totally relate.

I have some suggestions for you, and I share them with this caveat: there is rarely a magic bullet when it comes to potty training. Some kids figure it out right away, some kids take a little longer, and some kids pee on the side of the field in the middle of soccer games. If you happen to be in that last unfortunate category, please keep these points in mind:

Dealing with this is just a huge pain in the butt. It just is, and the sooner you can accept that, the easier it will be.
You’re not alone, and neither is your daughter. You may think every other second grader on the planet is consistently dry, but I promise you, they’re not.
It’s unlikely you will fix this overnight. I hope I’m wrong, and if I am, then you rock. But if I’m right, and this does take awhile to resolve, please remember it’s not because you’re doing anything wrong. It’s because children are an inconvenient truth and you just can’t force them to use the toilet.
This too shall pass. It might pass like a damn kidney stone, but it will pass, so hang in there.

Having said that, here are my recommendations for you: