the lies we tell ourselves about motherhood

There are many false ideas and lies we tell ourselves about motherhood. Before I became a mother, I had this dream of what motherhood would entail. I imagined a well-behaved, perfectly mannered child. I had a husband who I never argued with. In turn, I was put-together, organized, cool as a cucumber under pressure, and never raised my voice. Basically, I thought we were going to become the Brady Bunch.

There are many harsh realities I faced as a mom. I had many idealized notions blow up in my face, and I had many misguided ideas of what I needed to be as a mother. I’m sharing the lies we often tell ourselves that prevent us from truly embracing motherhood.

It is our duty to be the perfect role model for our kids

role model

Raise your hand if you feel guilty when you don’t say or do the right thing. Okay, now ALL of us (myself especially) need to give ourselves a good whack on the head. It is a lie to tell ourselves that being a mother means always getting it right.  News flash- none of us are perfect. To expect that we are always going to set the right example for our kids is unrealistic at best. Truthfully, it is the reason why so many of us are wracked with guilt. We feel we are failing our kids when we make mistakes.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have regrets. There are instances where I feel I raised my voice when I should have been patient, or I was too lenient and should have been firmer.  Some days I wasn’t fully present when asked a question, or I was too overly involved and didn’t give Brielle enough time to play independently and foster self-sufficiency. There are instances where I’ve lost my temper when I could have modeled emotional regulation, or Brielle saw me get frustrated instead of persevering.

I am emotional, I am anxious, I am frazzled, and I am completely and utterly imperfect.

However, isn’t that what being a good role model is truly about? Showing your kids that you are human and that all we can do is learn from our mistakes and keep striving to grow? Isn’t being a good mother showing your kids that imperfections are what make us lovable?

When I make mistakes, I apologize to my daughter. I show my daughter that it is important to take responsibility for our actions, but that we should not demand perfection from ourselves. Trying is what matters. In the instances where I start to fall back into my perfectionist tendencies, I tell Brielle that I need to remember that I’m not perfect. Being honest with our children about our mistakes allows them to feel comfortable with their own imperfections.

We can beat ourselves up for our mistakes, or we can be model self-compassion and self-love. That is how we are good role models for our kids. The truth is, being imperfect role models is what makes us good role models.

We are doomed to be bad parents if our parents weren’t good to us is another lie we tell ourselves about motherhood

I am the poster child for having a dysfunctional family. I had a mother who did terrible, unspeakable things to me. Her mother did terrible, unspeakable things to her. However, it is a lie to tell ourselves that we cannot be a good mother because of our parents.

It Is true that there is a cycle of abuse, and that those who abuse were often abused themselves. That said, you are not doomed to repeat the sins of your parents. If you are worried that you are going to be like your parents, that means you recognize that what was done to you wasn’t okay. If you have that awareness, you can implement change.

As I mentioned, my mother was abused and abused me. However, she refused to admit that her mother was abusive, and also refused to acknowledge that she was abusive. It is that refusal that enables the cycle to continue. How can you stop doing something wrong if you aren’t able to see that it is a problem?

If you know that terrible things were done to you, then you have the power to do better with your own children. If you are unwilling to turn a blind eye to what happened to you, then you are able to do the same thing with your children.

Awareness brings change. It brings understanding, acknowledgment, and healing. Use what happened to you as a reminder of what to never do with your kids.

Having terrible things done to you does not mean you will do them as well. It means you have the opportunity to do things better. I did it, and you can do it too.

You must always stay strong for your children

hiding your emotions

This lie we tell ourselves about motherhood is an especially hot button for me. I know there are many parents out there who will go into another room when they are sad, so their kids don’t see them cry. I know there are many parents who go out of their way to stay even-keeled at all times.

That’s not me. I don’t think it should be you either.

Here’s why- in our efforts to protect our kids from seeing us sad, mad, anxious, hurt, etc., we are inadvertently telling our kids that those emotions should be hidden. Negative emotions are inevitable, and hiding it from them sends the message that those feelings aren’t okay. It makes our children shy away from feelings, rather than making space for them. It tells our kids, in big, bold letter, that it is not okay to not be okay.

I am a firm believer that it is absolutely, positively, without a shadow of a doubt, okay to not be okay.

In fact, I encourage it. If we run away from our emotions, and we bury them, we will never learn to cope. That is why people land up turning to drugs, alcohol, and other unhealthy choices. If we don’t learn healthy coping mechanisms, we will turn to unhealthy ones. It’s like buying a car without ever learning to drive. How do you deal with life’s obstacles if you are never given the tools to handle them?

If your kids are sad, upset, frustrated, overwhelmed, please don’t tell them to be strong. Being strong IS having emotions. True strength is allowing yourself to feel without judgment, while figuring out how to deal with those feelings. Strength is not sucking it up and acting like you’re fine when you’re not. Being a robot isn’t being strong; it’s burying your feelings. Encourage your children to discuss their feelings with you.

Show them empathy and understanding.

Hold space for their feelings and learn to feel comfortable with them not being okay. Accept that your children are not always going to feel happy. It’s part of life.  That teaches them to become comfortable with their emotions instead of running from them. Let your kids see that you feel. Show them that moms get sad, mad, and worried too.

Be open about your feelings, but don’t discuss your adult problems with them. Rather, show them that you feel different emotions, and that it is okay for them to have them too. Showing your emotions also doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take time to yourself to process your feelings. You can absolutely tell your kids you feel overwhelmed and then go into another room to cry, scream into a pillow, etc. There’s a difference between that and pretending that you don’t have any negative feelings at all.

Above all, model healthy strategies to deal with your feelings, so they in turn can use those strategies too.

Whether it is writing in a journal, doing breathing exercises, reading a book, listening to music, or just having a safe person to talk to, show your kids how you handle not being okay. It is important to teach them that sometimes, despite all the strategies implemented, there is nothing that will make them feel better but time and acceptance. There are situations where problem solving can make you feel better, and others where there is no solution. Sometimes we just need a hug, support, and to know that people care.

There might be times when you or your child has difficulty regulating your emotions. If you explode into a fit of anger, or your child has a meltdown, acknowledge that there are healthier ways of handling our emotions. Discuss what should be done differently next time, and remind your child (and yourself) that learning better ways to handle emotions doesn’t mean we aren’t allowed to feel emotions at all.

Showing your kids that you are human gives them permission to feel whatever they need to feel. It is a wonderful gift to show your children that ALL emotions are okay, while teaching them healthy ways to manage their emotions.

To be a parent, you are not able to have any issues of your own

Ha! Ha! If that was the case, I think many of us would still be childless (myself included). 

If you are in a bad place in your life and aren’t emotionally or psychologically in a position to properly provide and care for a child, that is one thing. However, to think you need to have yourself and your life completely figured out in order to be a good mom is horse rubbish. It is merely another lie we tell about motherhood.

We are all works in progress. Just as there is no perfect mom, there is no mom that has everything figured out. We all have problems, we all have struggles, and we all have baggage.

We can accept our issues and also strive to work on ourselves.

It is necessary to be honest with ourselves about our issues, while holding compassion for our struggles. Continuing along our healing journeys is what makes us good parents.

Truthfully, being a parent allowed me to grow and heal more than anything else. I want to do better and be better for my child, but I also know there is a fine line between growing and expecting to have everything figured out.  I will never have all my issues figured out.  With that said, I learn new things about myself all the time. That allows me to work on new areas and see areas where I’ve made progress.

Showing our kids that we don’t have all the answers is okay. Showing your kids that you are flawed is okay. We can have baggage and still love our kids with all of our hearts.  Being aware of our issues and trying our best is what makes us good parents.

The Amount of time you spend with them will determine whether Your children will feel loved 

Nope. Not true. Quality is so much more important than quantity.

Being intentional with your time is what matters the most. If you are around but are preoccupied, that doesn’t give your kids a warm and gooey feeling inside. They want to feel like they matter.

Life doesn’t allow us to always be fully present.  There are endless responsibilities, demands, and other things that require your attention as well. It’s okay to not always be available to your kids. Believing otherwise is a lie we tell about motherhood.

Instead, set aside a realistic amount of time to focus your attention on your child.  

Don’t sneak peaks at your phone. Don’t run a to-do list in your head. Be completely present.

We institute “fun time” in our house. That means that during that period, Brielle gets to pick whatever she wants to play with me, and I put all electronic devices away. She gets my undivided attention, and she knows that is something she can count on daily. I never take fun time away as a punishment. No matter how hectic our day is, she knows I will always set aside that quality time to spend with her.

Kids, like adults, want to feel like they are the priority. Whether you are a Stay-at-Home-Mom or a working mom, you can set aside time each day to be completely devoted to them. You can have limited time, but still make your child feel loved and valued.

 

I don't need you to be perfect

Don’t buy into the lies we tell ourselves about motherhood. Your kids don’t need a perfect parent. They need a mother who is real. A mother who no matter the number of imperfections and flaws, tries and keeps on trying. They need someone who will guide them and support them. Our children need a mom who is always in their corner, cheering them on.  Loving our children is what our children need most. That is the biggest truth about motherhood, and it is one that we should always remember.

parenting a child with adhd and spd

Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child. This is a mere glimpse into my life of parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing  Disorder (SPD).

“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).

parenting my child with adhd and spd

The scenario I described at the top is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with ADHD and SPD. The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented.

This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.

The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org, 2014).

My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.

lack of impulse control and emotional regulation skills

parenting a child with ADHD

One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.

Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle.

She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center, 2016).

As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.

parenting a child with adhd who has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation is very difficult

sensory stimulation

Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.

Brielle craves sensory stimulation.

She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.

From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.

lack of focusing and difficulty playing independently 

independent play

Everyday Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights. Teachers needed to assist her in making sure that her folders and materials were packed in her bookbag. There were two occasions where she brought her folders back to school and proceeded to misplace them.

They were lost for two months.

Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly. She needs numerous reminders to stop before jumping to another activity. She will leave books on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.

Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly.

If I don’t check on her, she does things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.

Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.

Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.

inattention and executive functioning

Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory.

She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.

Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She will have accidents because it doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom. Most often, she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.

Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”

 

 

childs advocate

There are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides.

She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.
“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’”

( ourADHDstory.com, 2014).

 
We are our children’s biggest supporters and greatest advocates. Wear that honor with pride and hold your head up high. Remember that your kids are lucky to have a parent who tries as hard as you do.
tricky people

As a former New Yorker, I am always cautious when it comes to strangers. We learned about stranger danger growing up, but the tricky people concept can be a better way to teach kids to stay away from sketchy adults.

I’m a very petite female, so I understand others can pose a threat to me. That said, the most important people in my life were once strangers. My husband was once a stranger, and his family (now my family) were once strangers. One might say that strangers are friends you haven’t met yet. 

my daughter’s numerous encounters with strangers

My daughter absolutely subscribes to this way of thinking. When she was very young, she would smile and wave to everyone she saw at the grocery store. It made a quick trip to the supermarket a huge ordeal as everyone would smile back and begin to chat with her/me. As she got older, a greeting followed suit. I explained to her that we shouldn’t start up a conversation with people we don’t know, but she looked at me baffled. In her mind, it was an opportunity to meet and engage with new people.

my daughters encounters with strangers

When Brielle was 3 years old, we went to a neighborhood park with my husband and my in-laws. Brielle was (and still is) a bundle of energy, and there was a big field where she could run around. It was deserted until a couple of well-dressed men in suits showed up. I was speaking to my in-laws when my husband tapped me on the shoulder. To my horror, Brielle had gone over to these men and interrupted their conversation. The men were smiling at her and clearly found her amusing. Before my husband could stop me, I ran over and apologized for the intrusion and dragged her away. My husband informed me after the fact that these well-dressed men were doing a drug exchange when Brielle ran over. I aged 10 years in that moment.

I explained to Brielle the importance of 911, and she was told to only dial those numbers if the person with her is unresponsive and/or she is in danger. She knows our phone number and address in case of an emergency. To my shock and terror, she started telling cashiers at the supermarket our phone number and address. That incident aged me another 20 years. Luckily after another conversation about privacy and the importance of keeping contact information to ourselves, she no longer did that again.

i had to teach my daughter how to be safe

I wish I could say that those were the last times Brielle put herself in harm’s way, but that would be a lie. When Brielle was 5, Matt went across the street to ask our neighbors a question, and I told Brielle to go into her playroom so I could take a quick shower.

I went into the bathroom and turned the shower on. At that point, a feeling of doom came over me. I don’t know if it was maternal instinct or divine intervention, but somehow, I knew something was wrong.

I immediately ran out of the bathroom to check on Brielle. She wasn’t there. I screamed her name, but there was no answer. At this point I opened the door and started screaming on the top of my lungs for her. To my relief, I heard Brielle come to the front porch. After I gave her a huge hug and composed myself, I asked her where she had gone. She told me she went outside to find Matt, and she heard my voice right before she left our driveway.

I knew I had to instill in Brielle an awareness that it is not okay to wander outside or talk to strangers. However, there is a fine line between being cautious and being fearful, and I wanted to make sure that I treaded that line carefully. It was at that point that I spoke to her about “tricky people”.

teaching kids about tricky people

teach kids to identify tricky people

Pattie Fitzgerald, the creator of the website Safely Ever After, Inc., came up with the concept of tricky people. I know some people explain it as “stranger danger”, but I feared that explaining it in that way would make my daughter feel that all strangers are dangerous.

I told Brielle that a grownup is trying to trick her if she is approached by one for help. If a safe adult needs help, they will ask another adult, not a kid. Pattie explains, “Instead of looking for the boogie man, a child should look for the person asking them to do something that doesn’t sound right or ask if the adult is trying to get them to break one of their family’s safety rules or trick them.” She lists her “Super 10, Play-It-Safe Rules for Kids and Grownups” here: https://safelyeverafter.com/prevention/#tab-886fbe060b867e5ba61.

how i teach my daughter the tricky people concept

I informed Brielle that most people are not a threat, but it is important to understand the concept of tricky people. I explained that tricky people are the ones who try to trick you into doing something you shouldn’t do, such as getting into their car, or telling her they have a toy/animal in order to take her. She knows that I would never tell someone to pick her up or ask her to leave without talking with her about it in advance, and in the case of an emergency I would tell this person the password.

The password is a word I thought up as a code word that only my daughter and I know. She is not allowed to tell anyone the password, and only someone who received my permission to take her would know it. We have acted out different scenes of what a “tricky person” might say to try to convince her to go with him/her, and how she should handle herself in those situations. As much as I have tried to drill this awareness into her, she still is very trusting, and I worry.

internet predators and teaching kids about other types of tricky people

internet predators

Brielle uses the iPad on weekends to watch pre-selected shows. I discovered that she was going onto fan groups for these actors, and chatting with others on a fan board. When I tried to discuss the dangers of speaking with strangers online, she was puzzled. She didn’t understand how anyone could hurt her when the only interaction was from a computer. She said that they can’t jump out of the screen; therefore, she was in no imminent danger.

I looked up different tricky people scenarios that are meant for children and showed it to Brielle. I explained to her that tricky people can be on the computer as well. Her IPad usage is closely monitored, but I know I can’t monitor every action that she makes.

it’s our job as parents to teach kids about tricky people and to be cautious, not fearful 

It seems like life is an endless game of whack-a-mole. Every single time I discuss the dangers of one situation, another one pops up. It makes me want to lock my daughter in our house and throw away the key.

It is our job as parents to teach and guide our children. Despite all our best efforts, there are still monsters out there. Some are in the playground, others in a car, and some are on the computer. The world is a scary place, but being scared of everything isn’t a way to live. Ignoring harsh realities aren’t okay either.

I will continue to try to instill in her that although there are many kind people, there are also some whose intentions aren’t pure. Tricky people can be anywhere – from the grocery store to an online chat room or kids game. It is my job to protect her from the tricky people in the world, but it is also her job to be mindful of those people and to not put herself in harm’s way.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem. The world is a better place because of our children’s trust in the good of people. All we can do as parents is keep pointing our kids in the right direction, be diligent about their safety, and teach them to be cautious, not fearful.

13 sleep solutions to aid children at bedtime

Many children need help falling asleep. Bedtime is a particularly difficult time for my daughter. For many years she had no problem falling asleep and staying asleep. As Brielle got older, her mind and body started to get restless due to her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) and ADHD. What was once a seamless transition turned into evenings filled with tears, anxiety, and fear. I had to research and come up with sleep solutions to help her relax and doze off at bedtime.

sleep solutions and tools to help a child fall asleep

There are numerous strategies and products that aid in my daughter’s transition to bedtime. I hope some of these sleep solutions and tools are helpful for your kids as well:

(1) Brainstorm

Discuss with your child what specifically is bothersome for them about bedtime. Is it the dark? Are they afraid of sleeping in a room by themselves? Is it that they can’t calm their thoughts? Whatever it is, encourage your child to be open and honest about their concerns. Be supportive, and brainstorm together about what tools they can use to help your child fall asleep.

Some ideas that my daughter and I brainstormed together:

(a) My daughter doesn’t like being by herself at night and is also a restless sleeper. My husband and I each gave her a stuffed animal that we had from our childhood, so she has something tangible to remind her that we are with her while she sleeps in her own room.

(b) We also were gifted a small photo album such as this one. It is filled with photos of her family that she can look at if she feels sad. I love that the album is small, so she can easily hold it.

(c) Brielle didn’t like the darkness, so she used a light projector that comes in a variety of colors and settings.

(2) Relaxation Techniques

There are many sleep solution tools available to help your child relax and prevent bedtime battles:

a) I do a visualization with her before bedtime where she imagines a box filled with all her worries and concerns. She tells me what the box looks like, and then she visualizes opening her box and fills it up with every fear and bothersome thought. Next, she imagines closing the box, putting a lock on it (so the worries can’t creep back into her mind), and throwing it where it is impossible to resurface (sometimes it is the bottom of an ocean, other times it is buried underground). This is the only time during our bedtime routine where I allow her to voice her grievances. Once they are put in the box, we put aside negative thoughts and wait until the morning to discuss any, as needed.

b) Breathing: there are several breathing techniques we use. She gets to pick which ones she wants to implement each night:

· 4-7-8: Inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 seconds, and exhale for 8 seconds. We do this together several times.

· Deep belly breathing: She inhales and fills her tummy with air then exhales and the air leaves her tummy. You can do this while doing the 4-7-8, but I find that it overwhelms her, so we choose one or the other.

· Tensing and relaxing her body from her head to her toes: She tenses/squeezes her face, arms and hands, chest, stomach, legs, and feet for 7 seconds while taking a deep breath and holding it, and then exhales as she releases the tension in that body part. This is a favorite of mine, and one which I do on my own as a form of self-care .

· Taking an inhale and then exhaling for as long as she can while vibrating her lips to make a “wwww” or “ommm” sound: According to Neurosculpting Instititue (neurosculptinginstitute.com), “The researchers found that the vibrations from ‘OM’ chanting stimulate the vagus nerve, which then sends out neurotransmitters and electrical signals that reduce activity to key areas of the brain like the amygdala, associated with our flight/fight/freeze response. In addition, the increased oxygenation of the blood from the vibration facilitates feelings of relaxation and release in the muscles and structure of the body.”

(3) Being her own friend

As I mentioned in my article about ways to build your confidence , it is important to treat yourself with the same compassion as you would a friend. If she still feels anxious or sad after using the relaxation techniques, I encourage her to talk to herself and comfort herself just like she would if a friend was upset at bedtime.

(4) Using a sound soother

My husband and I use a sound soother, and our daughter has one in her room as well. We bought her this sound soother almost a decade ago, and it is still going strong!

The sound soother is crucial for her sleep routine. It helps her fall asleep and stay asleep when there is background noise that might wake her up. It also helps calm her mind and body. She uses the rain sound, but all the sounds work very well. This is a great tool to help your child fall asleep.

(5) Weighted blanket

Having that extra pressure on her body when she goes to sleep is extremely helpful in calming and relaxing her. We got her this one because it is budget-friendly, gives just the right amount of support, and has great reviews on Amazon.

sleep solutions to aid in preventing bedtime battles

(6) Consistency

Keeping a consistent bedtime is crucial for those who need extra support during transitions or don’t like changes in their routine. Life sometimes gets in the way, but I try to have her go to bed at the same time as often as possible.

(7) Books

There are many great books out there about kids who have difficulty sleeping. I chose the book, Orion and the Dark, because it tells the story of a boy who has many fears, particularly the dark, and he discovers that darkness can be his friend. After reading it, we talk about her fears, and how it is okay to feel afraid, but being brave is facing things despite being afraid.

(8) Come up with a bedtime routine

Just as having bedtime at the same time each night is helpful, so is having a consistent routine leading up to saying goodnight. I set aside 15-20 minutes before I leave her room to read books, discuss and implement what sleep solutions and tools she is going to use to aid her with bedtime, and give hugs and kisses.

(9) Alarm clocks

Many younger kids benefit from having an alarm clock with lights to notify them when it is time to wake up (red=sleep and green=wake up), and older kids can have a digital clock that they set. In my daughter’s case, she would wake up hours before the time that we told her. She would then stare at the clock until she was allowed to get up. As a result, we opted to take the clock out of her room and revisit it another time.

(10) Video monitor

We used this video monitor when she was a baby, and it something we still use today. It is very helpful because it reassures her that although she is not with us, we can still see her and hear her.

(11) Transitions

After spending time with her reading and doing relaxation exercises, I noticed that she would get anxious and scared once I left her room. It felt like all the work we had done together vanished as soon as I walked away. As a result, I incorporated a 12-minute period in which she can go to the bathroom, talk to herself, and do the relaxation exercises on her own before she had to lay down. Putting this small window of time in between my leaving her room and her laying down made the transition to sleeping much easier.

We discuss in advance what I will say when the 12 minutes is up. I want to keep the interaction as brief as possible. I speak into the monitor and let her know that her time is up, and she is to lay down. We then tell each other “I love you” and “Goodnight.” At that point, our interaction for the night is over. She knows I will not speak to her again until the morning. At first, she got upset when I would only speak to her once. Through consistency she learned that this is part of our bedtime routine. The structure of it aids in her sleep and helps prevent battles at bedtime.

(12) Melatonin

Melatonin is a natural and non-addictive supplement that can be used to help problematic sleepers. Speak to your pediatrician to discuss what dosage would be best for your child.

(13) Black Out Curtains

Black Out Curtains are a great idea for kids who wake up when the light shines into their room. These have great reviews , come in a variety of colors, and are a great price!

 

 

help a child fall asleep

I offer my daughter empathy, support, and compassion, but I cannot force my daughter to feel okay at bedtime. Her perception about bedtime is based on her own inner dialogue. She can choose to see bedtime in a positive way, or she can see bedtime in a negative way. I do everything within my power to aid in that choice. She is the one who makes that decision. These sleep solutions and products have been very helpful for Brielle. With that said, there is no magical wand that can make our children WANT to sleep.

Finding tools and strategies to help a child fall asleep is not a one-size-fits-all solution. It is a trial and error process to determine what will work best for each child. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me! I hope that some of these sleep solutions are helpful for your child!

Germ Factory

My Daughter, A germ factory

Is your child as much of a germ factory as mine is? My daughter loves to share her germs when she gets sick. Normally, I think that is a wonderful quality for a child to possess. I love that she will eagerly share her toys and take turns with others. However, there are exceptions to every rule.

The rule of sharing should not apply when it comes to getting sick. My daughter thinks that if she isn’t feeling well, it is perfectly acceptable do everything in her power to share her germs with me. Now I could reason that she didn’t know any better when she was a baby. After all, what do babies know about being germ factories and stopping the spread of germs? At three, I chalked it up to having poor impulse control. However, at the age of 7, she is just playing dirty (no pun intended).

germs are not my friend

I hate germs. My husband calls me a germaphobe, and perhaps I am. I wash my hands thoroughly before I put any item of food into my mouth, I will never eat anything that dropped on the floor (five second rule- ha!), and don’t even get me started on doorknobs and faucet handles. My dream house is one that is fully motion-censored, so I never have to touch anything.

Germ Factory

 
Despite my own desire to live in a germ-free world, I understand that kids are meant to get dirty. I mean, some of the most fun activities are messy ones. Bring on the slime, the playdough, the finger paints, the playground that every child has touched. I even have pictures of my daughter playing in the mud, with dirt in parts of her where no dirt should ever be. I can handle all that.

my daughter loves to share

What I can’t handle is when my daughter, the germ factory, gets sick. When my daughter has a cold she will do the following: cough on me, wipe her nose on me, sneeze on me, and even lick me. I still have nightmares about what happened when she had a stomach bug.
On top of everything else, being sick rarely slows her down. She doesn’t lay there and play quietly. When I inevitably catch whatever abomination she has, I have to take care of a germ-oozing energizer bunny despite feeling like something that got scraped off of the bottom of a shoe.
 
I’ve explained to her many-a-time that those types of behaviors are simply unacceptable. However, the more utter disgust I show, the more she seems determined to gross me out (mission accomplished). I try to avoid her when she’s sick, but then I remember that I’m the only one around to take care of her. She doesn’t act this way around her father, and even if she did, I doubt he’d care. I decided that I must follow the same rule you would with dogs and bees- show no fear.
 
The last time she had a bad cold, I tried to apply my newfound logic. I didn’t react when she used my shorts as Kleenex and didn’t blink an eye when she sneezed in my hair. I calmly walked away from her and didn’t reinforce her behavior in any way (and in the privacy of my own room scrubbed myself down). My thought was that by showing no reaction, there would be no motivation to act that way. Turns out, the motivation is that she simply enjoys sharing her germs with me.
I finally came up with a solution; Vitamin C and Lysol. Wait, you can’t find Lysol anymore…I guess I have to start wearing a mask indoors.
My Labor Story

My labor story was nothing like the women you hear of who gave birth in a toilet bowl or in the car. I noticed I had some leakage (more like a drip), so I called my OB-GYN and spoke to the physician assistant. She informed that it was probably discharge (I apologize if this is TMI). When it continued into the next day, I suspected something was up and called again. This time, they told me to come to their office. I was informed that I lost a significant amount of amniotic fluid and needed to go to the hospital.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t thrilled with the timing. My due date was August 8th, and it was August 2nd (which is my wedding anniversary). I joked with my husband throughout my pregnancy that the baby would want to arrive on our anniversary, and apparently it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  I knew this would be the last time I’d get to celebrate my anniversary fully (because her birthday would be the same or next day), so I tried to convince my husband to stop for a quick anniversary meal on the way. Shockingly my request was denied, and we rushed to the hospital.

my Labor and delivery

I was not dilated at all, so they had to give me Petocin. All this did was speed up my contractions, but still no dilation. Seventeen hours into my labor I had dilated 3cm and I had a fever. My husband kept commenting on how my body was shaking from the contractions. Nurses kept coming in to ask me what brought me there (seriously?!). The anesthesiologist administered the epidural manually on four separate occasions.

My theory is that my body realized that in order to survive I was going to have to dilate, so I finally dilated 7cm after TWENTY-ONE hours of labor (on top of 24 hours of a high water leak). By 23 hours and change, I was fully dilated. My OB-GYN (who came highly recommended) was texting on her phone when it was time to push. I decided I was getting that baby out of me with or without her help (which clearly I wasn’t getting), and I delivered my daughter after 30 minutes of pushing. The complications I had after delivery are another story, and perhaps one I will go into at another time (or perhaps I’ll just spare you the gory details).

our nicu experience

My husband and I had decided we would not find out if we were having a boy or a girl in advance. Everyone (myself included) thought that I was having a boy. We had picked out a definitive name for a boy, and had a couple of names for a girl. When we looked at our daughter for the first time, we knew this was our Brielle.

My Labor Story

I didn’t know it at the time, but my daughter was not breathing after their first attempt, and it took a good twenty seconds before she started to cry. My husband did not get to cut the umbilical cord, and she was rushed to the NICU because they thought Brielle might have an infection due to my fever. My husband and I were the only visitors allowed to see her at the hospital.

When I finally made it to the NICU, I was informed that my daughter’s blood sugar level had dropped. Unfortunately, they had to give her formula before I arrived. I had wanted to breastfeed her for her first feeding, but unfortunately, that was not in the cards. I was able to feed her the next time though. After two days at NICU she was deemed healthy and we took her home.

It is unbelievable to think that my labor story took place almost eight years ago. I am able to look back at it now and laugh, but it was anything but funny at the time. That experience seems like it happened yesterday and also a million years ago. Giving birth to a child is a great representation of parenthood; it brings you unimaginable pain, but also brings you unimaginable joy

self-love and a reminder to love yourself

Self-love is easy to forget when life throws so much your way.  Therefore, this is a reminder to love yourself. This letter is for you. Yes, you.

I see your strength, determination, and kindness. I also see your pain. Some days you just want to hide under the covers and never get out of bed. Somehow you always find a way to get up and keep on going.

I see how tired you are from juggling all of life’s responsibilities. Mortgage, bills, jobs, kids, organizing, scheduling, cooking, cleaning, planning activities; the list goes on and on. You are now the teacher too. With the pandemic, it is more overwhelming than ever. It seems like every time one thing gets accomplished, another thing pops up. It is exhausting, but you never stop trying.

I see how hard you try to be a wonderful mom. I see how much time you devote to motherhood. You will play one more game, read one more book, sing one more song, listen to one more story, give one more hug, and wipe away one more tear. I know you are not just the mom; you are the caregiver, cook, playmate, cheerleader, confidant, educator, nurse, and support system. I see that you want to set a good example and be a good role model. No matter how much you try, sometimes it feels like it’s never enough.

all that you do

I see how you take care of everyone else. How you strive to be a great wife, daughter, sister, friend, and person. I see your heart, and I see how much you love and care. Your needs sometimes get thrown by the wayside because you are too busy looking out for everyone else. I see that sometimes you don’t feel appreciated and feel the weight of the world on your shoulders.

Self Love Letter

I see your loneliness, now more than ever. Social isolation has become the new norm. I see that even when you reach out, there often isn’t enough time or the right words to express how you feel. Even if you know what to say, you don’t want to burden others with your struggles. Sometimes it feels like nobody understands you or truly cares.

I see the hardships you’ve had to overcome in your life and the cruelties you’ve had to endure. I see that no matter what curveballs are thrown your way, you refuse to give up. Others might have crumbled, but you didn’t. I see that you are survivor. I see your bravery, and I see your courage.

There are times when you feel weak and like the walls are closing in on you. Never forget how far you’ve come. You are strong, resilient, and capable. No matter how many times life has and will knock you down, you will always get back up. I see that you are a fighter; you always were, and always will be.

I see you. All of you. I am proud of who you are. You’ve got this.

Love always,

Me

Surviving Motherhood

We are survivors. As women, as people, we have all had to survive different obstacles in our lives. Of course, the degree of survival differs from person to person, but we have all had struggles in one way or another. For me, I had to survive a traumatic childhood and create strategies to have a loving, healthy relationship with my daughter. I believe that these parenting tips and strategies are helpful regardless of your specific struggles.

parenting tips and strategies

These are the 6 parenting tips and strategies that helped me become the mother I am today:

(1) As a scared new mom, and even after all these years of parenthood, I often have NO idea what I am doing

If someone tells you they have all the answers, I have a bridge to sell you.  You can read parenting tips and strategies on the internet every day, and you will still not have all the answers. Each day it is my first time being a mother to my daughter at that age. Children do not come with a “how to” manual, and each child is different. What I do know is what NOT to do. I have a list of things that I will NEVER, ever do because those were horrific things that happened to me.

Awareness is key in implementing change. So I faced every horrific thing my mother did to me. I allowed myself to feel the helplessness, the sadness and the pain. If I allowed myself to stay in denial, or to convince myself that it was somehow justified, then how could I stop it from happening at my own hands? I used my own childhood as a roadmap of where I would never allow myself to go.

(2) For many of us, toxic and dysfunctional relationships are all we know

It is crucial that we learn new and healthy ways of parenting. Don’t be afraid to get help! Read those parenting books (and roll your eyes at the things you know wouldn’t work for your child), phone a friend (or two, or three) when you are having a bad day or you need some advice on how to proceed. Read that self-help book (or two, or three) that you’ve read so many times that it is hard to make out the words. Reach out to your spouse or find a good therapist. It is okay to ask for help.

(3) Kids will trigger the daylights out of you, and it is essential that you take time for your own well-being.

Parenting is hard! Scream into a pillow. Write in your journal. Talk to yourself in the mirror. Be your greatest friend and ally. Take the time to work on healthy coping mechanisms, and cheer yourself on for all the progress you have made. Remember, it is a marathon, not a sprint.

On particularly stressful days I make sure my daughter is safely occupied, and then I go into my bedroom, lock the door, and vent (sometimes to my husband, and sometimes I am a frazzled woman talking to myself). My daughter knows that sometimes Mommy needs a time-out too. We openly talk about our feelings, and she knows that feeling overwhelmed or frustrated is not something that only kids have to deal with.

(4)  We will all make mistakes

As long as we are not abusing our children, mistakes are natural, normal, and par for the course. Accept responsibility for your mistakes, learn from them, and grow from them. Be willing to apologize to your children and recognize when you have done something wrong.

Parenting Tips

Many of us grew up feeling that we had to be perfect or had a caregiver who never admitted any wrongdoing. I am definitely a work-in-progress when it comes to expecting perfection from myself. I associated saying or doing the wrong thing with shame, because I was often shamed for my mistakes. If I don’t want my daughter to expect perfection from herself, I realized that I needed to set the right example that nobody (myself included) is perfect.  There is no shame in making mistakes. I can be a great mom and still mess up. I can be the parent and still apologize if I do something that I regret.

(5)  Just as our children need a parent, so do we

When we were children, some of us did not get the love and compassion we needed from our parents.  If we did not receive support and kindness from our own parents, then we need to be our own parent.

How do we do that? Talk to that little child inside of you. Tell your inner child everything you wish you had heard from your parents and validate your inner child’s feelings and experiences. In order to love our children in healthy ways, we need to learn how to love ourselves.

(6) Unconditional love

The two most beautiful words in the world (in my opinion). What so many of us craved, but never received, was unconditional love. Give your children that love. Love them on the good days, and love them and support them on the difficult ones.

My daughter never doubts the love I have for her. She knows that no matter how I am feeling and no matter what she says or does, that nothing can ever change the love I have for her. She knows that to the point where she rolls her eyes when I say it to her. My daughter knows that no matter where life takes her, I will always be waiting for her with open arms and an open heart.

 

 

Ian S. Thomas wrote, “Before your children came, they were told that you would love them, so whatever you do, however you treat them…to them, it is love.” Being a parent is the greatest responsibility one will ever have. We know better than anyone how significant our role is in our child’s life. It is the greatest challenge and the greatest joy to be a parent. Remember to honor both, and you will be able to navigate the bumpy road of parenting.