Blog Archives

7 Sleep Tips for Babies and Toddlers

March 6, 2013

This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family.

baby rubbing eyes, sleep tips for babies, sleep tips for toddlers, Sleep is like the coveted Holy Grail of new parenthood. I’m often asked about sleep tips for and babies and toddlers and how to improve or lengthen sleep times.

Whatever your family chooses for sleeping arrangements is a personal choice, but it tends to be a hot-button issue. I work in many families’ homes and what works for one family, doesn’t work for another, what one family values another family shuns. Sleep is no exception.

If whatever you’re doing is not a problem for you, it’s not a problem. However, if something is disturbing parents or children getting solid, beneficial sleep, if sleep deprivation is creeping in through small, but regular incremental sleep deficits, perhaps it’s become a problem.

Sleep has so many benefits, both obvious and subtle, it’s worth creating and protecting healthy sleep habits for the whole family. Understanding a little bit about sleep can be useful in making sleep decisions for your family. Babies go into deep sleep state in the beginning of nighttime sleep (perhaps 7 – 10:00 pm) and then again before waking in the morning with more frequent periods of lighter sleep (and more chance for awakenings) in between (around 10 pm – 4 am).

By three-four months most healthy full-term babies are able to sleep through the night, perhaps with a single 2:00 am feeding, by six months all healthy babies can do it. Studies have shown that at four months, a baby’s nervous system is mature enough to allow him to be able to sleep at 12 hour stretch. Unlike other milestones, sleep is not fixed, there may be shifts with time change, illness, travel and as babies go through new stages and become toddlers.

The Importance of Sleep

March 4, 2013

boy sleeping with teddy, sleeping wtih stuffed animals, boy sleeping, trouble sleeping, kids sleep problems,This week is the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Awareness Week to provide education and to promote the importance of sleep. I will dedicate my posts this week to sleep in babies through teens. I have attended sleep workshops, panel discussions, I’ve read stacks of books on the topic and I regularly consult with families to identify strategies to improve sleep for the whole family. We’re kicking off Sleep Awareness Week with the benefits and importance of sleep.

Sleep can be one of those things, “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” Kids resist naps and bedtimes, but busy, fatigued adults crave a chance to lie down.

How to Decide Whether to Have Another Baby

February 27, 2013

baby number 3, another baby?, deciding on another baby, how to decide on another baby, questions to consider before new baby,How do you decide whether to have another baby? This is an intimately personal choice, everyone and every circumstance is different, of course, but the kinds of things that go into this decision are often quite similar.

Even though this is such a private choice, often outsiders offer unsolicited input. Nick and I always knew we wanted three children. We had a girl and two years later, a boy. Then when I was pregnant with our third baby, someone actually said to me, “Oh, why would you do that? You have the perfect family!” Um, seriously? You have your perfect family, I’ll have mine.

There is so much that goes into family planning decisions. It’s tough to sign up for another pregnancy when you look ahead at going through sleep deprivation, being tied down for nap schedules and managing babyhood, all while ALSO dealing with the needs of toddlers and school-aged kids.

Maybe you feel that things are going smoothly now, well, usually. Your kids are walking on their own, maybe they’re all even going to the bathroom by themselves. Nap times are extinct, diaper bags have been donated and you’re sleeping through the night (most of the time). So it’s hard to think about going back to square one just when you’ve really got a rhythm to your daily life.

My younger brother once said of growing families to Nick, “Everyday, you guys are moving closer to freedom and everyday we’re further away.”

If you’re struggling with this decision, you’re not alone in your conflicted feelings. I’d venture to say that most women and couples explore the idea to have another baby at some point. It’s a modern day battle between head and heart, between practicalities and emotions.

Clingy Toddler Help

January 31, 2013

toddler holding head, toddler in purple, oh brother!, tips for clingy toddler, purple butterfly jacket, I often get asked what to do about a clingy toddler. As parents, we want to raise autonomous children who are also well-attached to us and to others who care for them, but clinginess can be frustrating.

Clinginess is about separation and separation at different ages and stages is often difficult for parents as well as for children.

First it’s important to recognize when the separation anxiety is our own instead of our child’s. A child leaving our side to venture out, a child left in someone else’s arms at day care, or a child walking into a preschool class, can be charged moments of conflicting feelings for Moms. The way we respond can affect how our children react. They are signs of autonomy and can be scary for toddlers as well as for Mamas!

Even a child under a year old crawls away and tests his independence before returning. It’s great to be encouraging and give your child positive feedback as he glances over his shoulder to check on you! Then go ahead and smoosh him up with kisses and hugs when you reunite to let you both know that the time apart was okay.

Separation, in increasing increments throughout childhood, the teen years and beyond, is one of the great dances of parenthood: how much to let go, how much to protect them. How much to push them to do something on their own, how much to pull them back. This is true at 8 months and 18 years old, we have to find balance. Sometimes the separation makes the parents uncomfortable, and sometimes it’s the kiddos who are troubled.

Disciplining Our Kids: The Basics

January 16, 2013

sisters, siblings hugging, girl in yellow dress, sisters as friends, big sister little sister, smiling sisters, Disciplining our kids is not easy. It’s exhausting and frustrating. Disciplining our kids can create feelings of sadness, guilt, anger, impatience and helplessness in the best of parents. But that’s no reason not to take charge and do it.

Discipline has two sides – negative consequences for negative behaviors and positive consequences for good behaviors. I love being able to reward my kids’ good choices in life. Praising and acknowledging the behaviors you want to encourage is the best way to influence and guide your child. However, kids do misbehave. I find in working with and being a parent, it’s dealing with the not-listening, rule-breaking behaviors that’s more challenging so that’s the focus of this post.

As parents, it’s our job to keep our kids safe, to set limits for them, to communicate those limits and to give them reasonable and swift consequences when they break a rule.

The point is learning. Discipline is all about teaching our children how to behave and interact with the world, beginning in our homes.

It can be uncomfortable and flat out not fun to execute time outs or to take away an iPod. It requires endless energy to mold kids behaviors, to determine adequate consequences, then to stick it out and deliver them in a timely way. If our goal is teaching them, it’s wise to follow through on a logical consequence right away so they connect the discomfort with the undesirable behavior.

Knowing exactly what motivates a child gives us a perfect immediate consequence; but that can punish the parent. A long car ride without a gadget may be tough, but if it’s educating our child on the importance of proper conduct, well, then as the parent, we need to see it through however hard it is on us.

It’s difficult to see our kids crying and upset, but we’re the adults and need to bear that discomfort and manage our personal feelings. We need to be the grown-ups and carry that weight for the long term good of our children.

If we back down to relieve our uncomfortable emotions, we are ineffective in parenting. We have only taught our children that they can cry, fuss or tantrum their way out of a sanction. They have not learned to choose the appropriate behavior and the next time, it will be exponentially harder for that parent.

Thank You Note to Moms

December 14, 2012

A Thank You Note to Moms

I was sitting and imagining what it would be like to receive a thank you from my kids.

We don’t become Moms for recognition or acknowledgement, we do it for the relationships we build with our children. We do it from a place of selfless, boundless love.

But we deserve to be thanked for our tireless, passionate, endless work as Moms. We don’t get sick days, personal days and we really don’t even get Mother’s Day off, do we?

So here is the thank you note every Mom should get. This is for you!

Never say you’re “just a mom” and know that your work is the most important there is!

mom and daughters, two girls, sisters, thanks Mom, appreciating Moms, Mother's Day, ideas for thanking Moms, raising children, disciplining kids, Dear Mom –

Thank you for all you do for me and our family.

Thank you for picking up my socks, my Legos, my bouncy balls, my crayons, shoes, towels and cars, my books, my crafts, my underwear, my DS games, teddy bears, magic markers, my pajamas, more Legos, my Play Doh, my Squinkies, my hair clips, my slippers and all the things we leave in a path behind us everywhere around the house.

I know you spend a lot of your day just picking up the things we left around between coming home from school and going to bed. I just wanted you to know I appreciate it!

Thanks for cooking for us, it must really take a lot of work to plan meals, to go to the grocery store, to read labels and pick the best foods to keep our bodies healthy. It must take a lot of time and energy to put the food into the cart, out of the cart to pay, into the cart, out of the cart to the car, out of the car, into the house, out of the bags and then into the pantry; all before you cook us dinner. Great job! (I’ll try not to say, “Eww” or “Yuck” anymore.)

Christmas Elves

December 5, 2012

Crispin, Jilly and Zibby are our own personal Christmas elves. These mischievous Santa’s helpers are called from the North Pole with crackers (to remind them of the crunching snow) and water (melted snow); they visit for the weeks before Christmas, hiding, making messes and bringing joy until they return to Santa’s village on Christmas Eve […]

Feeding Your Family

November 26, 2012

Feeding your family is different things to different people. It’s a challenge, a joy, a stressor, a chore, a gift. I experience all of those depending upon the day. I feel fulfilled serving a balanced meal, full of nutrition, but I often resent the interruption to my day to stop and prepare it. Other times, […]

Skipping Halloween

October 29, 2012

Here on the east coast, we may actually be skipping Halloween, and it won’t really bother me. With this hurricane-noreaster-monster storm coming and lurking around, we may have a rain-out for Halloween night. The kids costumes are ready (well, almost) and have been selected and changed myriad times since last October 31st. So what happens […]

Voting: Teaching Kids Responsibility

October 8, 2012

I have voted in every election since the day I was legal to vote. My birthday is the first week in November and the year I turned 18 it happened to fall on election day. I’m a committed voter, I even vote in all the less exciting in-between elections. I’m a big believer in upholding […]

Paper Chain to Motivate and Reward Kids

September 18, 2012

motivate and reward kidsA simple idea in college motivated a group of 17-21 year old women to earn top grades on campus, so I’m thinking this could really work for younger kids as a reward system or as extra inspiration in school work.

When I was the Scholarship Chair for my sorority in college, I cut up bunches of colorful strips of construction paper then I shared my plan. Anyone who got an A on a quiz, test or major paper could add their name to the A-Chain. Our goal was to have this paper chain grow along the stairway from the main floor to the third floor of our house by the end of the term. I couldn’t have anticipated the positive response. Everyone jumped on board excitedly, they proudly wrote their names and shared their successes with one another. We not only hit the top floor midway through the term, but we went all along the third floor hallway and headed down the back stairs! That year, our chapter was number one in grade point average; it was a rewarding achievement for us all.

It dawned on me that this could really work to motivate and reward kids, from toddler to teens. Here are a few ideas to use a paper chain in your family [this shows how to make paper chains with glue, I use staples or tape]:

Family Dinner

September 10, 2012

So much more than eating goes on during a family dinner. Communication, learning and connection are the real benefits to sharing a meal together around the table. Before we moved to Rhode Island, my husband’s job kept him out so late that we could only eat together as a family on weekends. We weren’t living […]

Invisible Mom

September 6, 2012

Invisible Mom | MothersCircle.netYesterday was a day of Mom-frustration and I felt invisible. I wondered, did I actually speak those words or did I just think them? Because if I did say them out loud, they made no difference . The regular expectations we’ve had in our family for years didn’t matter, they went ignored. And really, how many times can I be expected to repeat something calmly before there’s action, or screaming? I felt completely invisible.

Years ago I read a poem called I’m Invisible and boy did it resonate with me, I printed it and have it saved in a book I keep of special quotes and notes. Our job as Moms, by nature, cannot be appreciated or valued by our children. Not until they have children of their own, that’s when we may get some recognition for having done well. We don’t become Moms, though, for recognition or acknowledgement, we do it for the relationships we build with our children. We do it from a place of selfless, boundless love.

I love the expression that with young children, the days are long but the years are short, it’s just so true. However, within those long days, within a Mother’s love, there lies annoyance, aggravation and sheer head-pounding frustration. It’s the reality of raising children.

Big Sister, Little Sister

August 20, 2012
[caption id="attachment_521" align="alignleft" width="250"]sisters Our first meeting[/caption]

 

I met my Little Sister when she was seven. We sat in a booth and started to get to know one another over chicken with broccoli. I remember she politely made sure to empty her mouth before speaking or answering any questions. We were both hoping to make a good first impression, and even more, a lasting connection.

When I toasted, “Here’s to new friends!” this sweet second-grader looked up at me and corrected, “Here’s to sisters!” She has been a part of our family ever since.

Healthy Snacks for Kids

August 13, 2012

Kids love to snack, and as Moms, we want to give them healthy snacks that they’ll like to eat. I have to say that I get made fun of a little for the unusual things my kids like, so I know I have it a bit easier than others, but maybe one of these healthy […]

When Okay isn’t Okay

August 6, 2012
[caption id="attachment_430" align="alignleft" width="234"]mom talking with boy, parent and son on couch, serious discussion with kids, when okay isn't okay, saying okay to kids, “Clean your room, okay?”[/caption]

About 12 years ago I read a little blurb in a parenting magazine about the one word parents shouldn’t use with their children: the word Okay. I didn’t retain the details of the article but it made sense and I consciously decided not to end my sentences with “Okay?” when speaking to our then one-year-old.

When we tell our children to do, or not do, something, then say, “Okay?” it implies that we are seeking their input or opening an invitation to discussion. If we say, “Johnny, come here,” it is much more effective than, “Johnny, come here, okay?” the simple “okay” gives Johnny a choice we never intended to give him.

In communicating with children, from very young ages, we cannot be ambiguous, we need to be succinct and specific. We’re much more likely to get the results we’re after (good listening is on every parent’s wish list) if we deliver a clear directive: “Do not touch the plant.” Even a pre-walker can understand what his parent wants. He may test you, but repeating the same, concise message with a gentle removal of his hand will teach him that you mean what you say without question.

Boys and Bruises

August 2, 2012

Boys and Bruises, climbing a palm tree | MothersCircle.netI remember a time when Michael was little and always had a bruise, or two, or three somewhere on his shins, his forehead, his knees. Some of them had hurt, others just seemed to appear. His bruises were badges of his explorations and were part of the process of him learning about his body in space.

A social worker friend once told me that a sign of abuse is a person having bruises in all stages of healing, but that described my non-abused, well-loved little boy and he had made the bruises all on his own. He was 100% rough and tumble boy from his earliest days.

He bumped into tables when he learned to walk and got bruised. He tipped back in a chair at dinner as a toddler and got bruised. He balanced himself to go up the slide backwards and he learned. Experimenting with body mechanics and spacial relations is all part of growing up, and for many boys, it seems they do it with more energy, more gusto and more brute force than girls (though girls get their fair share of bruises, too!).

Stone Reward System

July 18, 2012

Reward systems are often useful in motivating and disciplining kids, a task which requires endless parental creativity and energy. A tool or idea may be working perfectly, then seemingly overnight, it’s fallen flat. Our family’s stone reward system started very simply years ago, and over the years it has been reinvented and continues to be […]

Where do Babies Come From, Mommy?

July 3, 2012

Where do Babies Come From, Mommy

I love this question! How do you answer the question, “Where do babies come from?” when your child asks? I must confess that I am a “birth junkie,” as a childbirth educator and doula, my career has evolved into all-things-baby.

As a parent, it’s important to answer the tough question of where babies come from in a factual and age appropriate way. The discussion of conception and birth shouldn’t be a one time only talk, but instead a conversation that begins basic and young which grows and builds as your children grow, too.

I believe in honest and accurate answers when our kids come to us with questions, any questions. The more consistently you do that for your children, starting when they are very little, the more you are building a foundation of trust and openness. Most parents encourage their children to come to them with problems, questions and fears as they grow up and most parents strive and hope for this relationship and culture of openness to continue into the teen years and beyond. Being truthful, answering questions you may be uncomfortable with and finding out answers to things you’re unsure of will all go a long way in nurturing parent-teen communication.

Where do babies come from? To answer this tough question from inquisitive kids, I would first consider the age of the child asking.

Children’s Tough Questions

May 23, 2012

tough questions from kids, questions kids ask, how to answer kids questionsEver been stumped by your child’s tough question? Yeah, me too!
Children are naturally inquisitive and down and dirty scientists. My son has explored critters under stones, built himself a zip line between two trees (it really works after multiple variations and attempts) and even sleuthed out what kind of animal skull he found in the woods. A question lurks and a kid asks it, there’s no editing or second guessing like an adult might do.

I remember as a kid, I was impressed that whenever I was at my friend Bene’s, house, if a question or disagreement arose, the family went to the set of encyclopedias and immediately sought the answers. I loved that it didn’t float out there unanswered, I loved that we could hope to satisfy that curiosity. Kids want to know.

Today, the internet provides us an even greater tool to help give our children the accurate answers they crave immediately. As parents, we get to read and learn something new ourselves and then help to break it down and explain it to our children at an age-appropriate level. An inquiry by a kindergartener can be answered with pictures and simpler phrasing while a teen’s question can become an in-depth discussion or the spark for their next school project.

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