Monday, December 12, 2016

Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire (part 2)

Q: My preschooler has started making up all kinds of stories. From things that happened when he was in school ("There was a clown today." "So-and-so's mommy had a baby" - so embarrassing when I wished so-and-so's family congratulations and they had no idea what I was talking about!) to things that happen at home ("my toys colored on the wall, not me"). Why is he lying and what can I do about it?

A: Preschoolers don't yet have a solid handle on what is true and what is not. They're still trying to grasp it themselves, and they certainly aren't trying to be malicious when they make up stories. There is a fine line for little ones between what they remember happening and what they imagine or wish might have happened, and they are not clear on where that line is drawn.

When your child colors on the wall, try to focus on the real issue - "In this house we only color on paper" - and not on asking how the mess happened. (Asking "Did you color on the wall?" is just inviting your child to say "no, of course not.")

When your child fantasizes about a clown coming to visit his classroom, this is something that really did happen... in his imagination. Engage him in conversation to help activate this imagination, which is a great tool that is worth developing. But steer him in the direction of "wouldn't it be nice if a clown came to school? What would you like to see a clown do? Who else would it be fun to have visit you at school?" so that he starts to be able to differentiate between fact and fiction.

Telling "what if" stories is great for exercising imagination and it's also a great way to spend quality time with your preschooler. You can even branch out into playing a fact-or-fiction game with him. Tell him two things that "happened" to you today and have him guess which one is real and which one is pretend. Then have him tell you two things that "happened" to him.

Don't worry that your preschooler is lying to you. He's just trying to figure out what's what in this big, confusing world of ours. Talking to him and playing with him can help him understand not only the difference between fact and fiction, but also appropriate ways to interact with others (i.e. telling the truth).

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Sleeping Like a Baby

Q: My baby seems to think nighttime is from 4am till 12pm. We try to get her down at 9pm and she will fight us till 12am, sleep till 4ish then wake up, take a bottle and sleep till 12pm. How can I fix this crazy schedule?

A: Wake your daughter up at 7 am. Yes, you're both going to be exhausted because neither of you has had enough sleep. But you need to do this. For the greater good.

Don't let her sleep till noon. This is the problem. No baby that sleeps until noon is going to be tired enough to go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Wake her up and take her outside in the daylight. Engage her, keep her active.

A couple of hours later you can let her take a nap for an hour - but don't let her sleep longer than this. Wake her up again, get her out of the house and engage her. Keep her awake.

She will be irritable when you do this. You're gonig to have to deal with it. In my experience, the best way to deal with an irritable baby is to be out of the house, where there are lots of distractions. Maybe make a play date at the park with another mom and baby.

Having been up since 7 am, your baby will be very tired come 7 pm. You may even want to put her to bed earlier than what seems to be a reasonable bed time. Keep an eye out for cues from her - if she is yawning or rubbing her eyes, jump on that "sleepiness window" and put her to bed even if it's only 5:30 pm. Don't miss the window or she will get overtired and will refuse to go to sleep when you want her to.

It might take a few days, but be consistent. Wake her up at 7 am no matter how many or how few hours both of you have gotten. I guarantee you that by the end of a week, she will be sleeping at night and not during the day.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Liar, Liar, Pants-on-Fire (part 1)

Q: My 4-year-old has just started lying. If we ask him if he did something he will say "no," even when it is obvious to all that he did it. (Eg. peeling paint off our porch in a destructive manner.) How do I deal with this?

A: Never ask a child a question you know the answer to. You're opening up an invitation to him to lie to you. If you already know the answer, you don't need to ask the question. Asking the question makes him think that you don't know the answer. He is going to try to get out of getting in trouble by feigning innocence. Don't give him this opportunity. Instead, deal with the actual issue - the destructive act.

Instead of asking him "Did you peel the paint off the porch," tell your son that we don't destroy property. It's not allowed. And if we have destroyed property, we have to help fix it. Include him in the solution. Show him that there are ramifications to his actions and that it's not worth his while to destroy property because there will be a consequence - he will have to fix it.

For an everyday example, instead of asking a child "Did you brush your teeth" when you already know he didn't, you can say something more constructive like "It's time to brush your teeth." This way the real issue - the tooth-brushing - gets addressed and there is no opportunity for your child to lie. Lying just takes the focus off the actual issue - brushing his teeth - and starts up a whole new conversation, further delaying bed time.

Lying can (and will) be addressed another time. For now, instead of giving your child that opening to start a conversation about lying (when, let's face it, all you want is for him to get into bed), bypass the lying issue completely by dealing with the real issue and not asking questions you already know the answer to.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Other People's Children

Q: I drive someone else's kids (along with my own) to and from school everyday. Their 5 year old boy keeps saying "the B-Word" in the car. I REALLY dont want my kids (ages 5,3, and 1.5) to hear this. Any tips on how to get him to stop?

A: The first thing you need to tell him is that you have rules in your car that must be maintained. "We don't use that kind of language in this car. That language is unacceptable and I will not allow it."

If the child refuses to listen to you, let him know that you will be speaking to his parents. If his parents cannot get him to stop, you will have to let them know that you will no longer be able to drive him because his language is influencing your children and your children have to come first.

The most important thing is that each time you make a statement or a "threat," you follow through. If you say, "we don't allow that kind of language in our car," then do something about it. Don't let the child continue to get away with it. If you wanr him that you're gonig to talk to his parents, follow through, and make sure he knows you followed through. If you say he cannot ride in your car anymore if he continues to speak that way, then you have to stop driving him.

This is not about disciplining someone else's child. That's his parents' job.
This is about teaching your own children that you have rules and that when your rules are broken, there will be consequences.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Taboo Subject

Pregnancy Loss and Infant Loss – What Not to Say

In the olden days, pregnancy loss and infant loss were a common, accepted part of everyday life.

Today, even though every healthy pregnancy has a one in five chance of ending in miscarriage, somehow the subject has become taboo. Doctors don't warn you about how likely it is to happen. Friends and relatives don't mention that they've experienced it personally. No one talks about it. I don't know why; Maybe it's just too sad. Maybe people are afraid if they mention the word, it will happen to them. Whatever the reason, there is a stigma attached to the subjects of miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillbirth and infant loss. Nobody wants to think about them. Nobody wants to talk about them. And the consequences, unfortunately, are that when a pregnancy or infant is lost, the parents are completely unprepared because they didn't know it could happen to them and they have no one to talk to about it, no way to work through or deal with their loss. They feel utterly alone.

Unfortunately I have a great deal of personal experience with pregnancy loss. I lost my first two pregnancies. I was shocked. I thought this was something that only happened to older people and that it was very very rare. Thankfully I was able to have healthy children after that, but I also had two more losses, including a stillbirth in my fifth month.

I have a policy about talking about my losses. I post about them on Facebook. I talk about them extensively with friends – those who've been there and those who haven't, those I've know forever and those I've just met once or twice. I am anti-stigma and it is my mission to break the taboo, to get women who are suffering in silence to feel comfortable having an open dialogue about something they have no reason to be ashamed of.

I once mentioned on Facebook that I'd had a miscarriage and I received a private message from an acquaintance: "I had a miscarriage 30 years ago and this is the first time I've ever mentioned it to anybody. But I still think about that baby and how my life would have been different if he'd survived." Losing a child – born or yet unborn – affects a mother forever. She will never forget that child, whether she spent nine weeks with it, nine months, or nine years.

When your friend, relative, or someone you know suffers from a miscarriage, a stillbirth, or an infant loss, your instinct is to try to comfort her. You want to say the right thing but sometimes it comes out wrong. Even the most well-meaning message may take on a different meaning when you are dealing with a grieving mother. Even the simplest thing you say could turn out to be hurtful. Because this has happened too many times to me as well as to people I love, I have compiled a list of what not to say. I am also including some things you can do to help your loved one get through this difficult time.

What not to say to someone who has suffered from miscarriage, pregnancy loss, stillbirth or infant loss:

1. It's very common; it happens to a lot of people. (This is undoubtedly true, but it doesn't make me feel better about it happening to me.)
2. It wasn't meant to be. (What are you, God? Who are you to say whether my baby was meant to live or die?)
3. She's in a better place. (How do you know where she is? The only place I want her to be is in my arms.)
4. You weren't very far along. It wasn't even a real baby yet. (It was a baby to me! From the moment I got that positive pregnancy test, I was picking out maternity clothes, thinking about names, considering schools, planning her life as my child and mine as her mother. The loss of a pregnancy at any stage is a significant loss for a mother.)
5. God doesn't give us anything we can't handle. (It sure doesn't feel that way to me.)
6. She must have already fulfilled her mission in this world. (Even if I believed that, I don't believe it was OK for her to die.)
7. You're better off – she would have been brain damaged if she'd survived. (How dare you say I'm better off without my baby? I would have loved her no matter who she was. I am not relieved that she's gone!)
8. At least you know you can get pregnant; you can always try again. (That does not take away the pain of losing this baby.)
9. Did you lift anything heavy or work too hard or have a lot of stress? (Chances are nothing I did cause my miscarriage, and asking this question is only going to make me feel guilty. I feel guilty enough already.)
10. Did you try acupuncture/feng shui/meditation/veganism? Maybe those would have helped. (Maybe they would have and maybe they wouldn't have, but I can't exactly go back in time and try them.)
11. At least you have two healthy kids. (Would you say someone who lost a grandmother "at least you have another one?" Would you say to someone who lost a living child "at least you have two more?" I didn't think so.)
12. You're young, you have plenty of opportunity to have more. (Again, this doesn't negate the fact that I lost a child. Maybe one day I will feel strong enough to try again, but right now I am mourning.)

I realize that people usually say these things because they mean well. But remember, your friend has just suffered a terrible loss. She is extremely sensitive, and even the best intended words can end up sounding hurtful. You have to remember that, no matter how short the pregnancy was or how many children your friend already has, this baby was real to her. This was her child. And her child died. No cliche is going to make that pain go away.

If you ever have to comfort a friend who is suffering after a pregnancy loss or infant loss - and I don't wish this on anyone - the best thing you can do is to say "I'm so sorry for your loss" and give her a hug. You might add "I can't imagine what you're going through." You really don't have to say any more than that. In fact, the less said the better. Take her cues and be there to listen when she needs to talk. The rest of the time, silence is golden.

What you can do, instead of talking, is take over some of the mundane household tasks for her so she can have the time and space she needs to mourn. And don't ask her what you can do to help or tell her to give you a call if she needs anything. Chances are she is too deep in her own grief to know what she needs or to pick up the phone if she does. Choose something you can do and tell her you are doing it. Take her kids to the park or to your house for a playdate. Wash her dishes. Buy her groceries. Drive carpool. If you decide to make dinner, let her know in advance so she doesn't make other plans. In fact, I highly recommend the website, where friends can sign to prepare a meal on a given day and specify what they are making so your friend doesn't end up with lasagna every night for a week. Also, encourage your friend to find a support group, whether online or in person. The women I met in an online miscarriage support group were the only ones I could open up to about this, the only people who could understand exactly what I was going through. They got me through that very difficult time in my life, and all these years later they remain some of my very closest friends.

Instead of trying to come up with something appropriate to say, when there really are very few comforting words to choose from, do something for your friend from the list above, or think of something else you can do for her that you know she would appreciate. These are concrete ways you can help your friend deal with her miscarriage or infant loss without even saying a word.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

"How do you cope?" – A mile in my shoes

I've never filled out one of these memes before, but something about this one just drew me in. Maybe it's how personal the questions are.

Lately when I look around at all the tough situations people are in – abusive relationships, deaths in the family, special needs, financial woes – I think that if we all put our problems into a pile in the middle of the room and got to choose whichever ones we wanted to go home with, we'd all take our own problems back again. No one's problems are "easier" or "less significant" than anyone else's. And no one would judge anyone else if we'd walked a mile in each other's shoes.

Here's what Rebecca of Here Come the Girls posted about her "A Mile in My Shoes" Carnival:

"I often wonder how people cope with the difficulties they are presented with.  Or rather how I would cope in those situations. When I think about the single mums and dads, the people who have lost a parent, the children with an unexpected medical diagnosis or emotional and behavioural problems, I often think I wouldn’t be able to do it, without really thinking about what it is. It’s very hard to put yourself into someone else’s shoes and think what it must really be like. Yet that is what blogging does so brilliantly. You get to look into other people homes and into their hearts. It’s the perfect opportunity to share some stories, hopefully in a positive way. People are amazing. It’s incredible what we can cope with and I want to be able to celebrate that."

Here are my answers to Rebecca's questions:

1. What is it about your life which has made someone ask how do you cope?

I have lost four pregnancies; three early miscarriages and a stillbirth.

2. What is the best thing about the situation?

I think the best thing is the perspective it's given me on life. I really appreciate what I have and I even appreciate what I've been through because I recognize that it's brought me to where I am and made me who I am today.

3. What is the hardest thing?

The hardest thing is people not getting it. They think that losing a pregnancy is not the same as losing a baby. Well, they were all my babies and I loved them and they all died. Don't judge me for being sad about that. They also think I should just "get over it" and "be thankful for what I have." 
Here's what I have to say about that.

4. What gets you through the day?

Hope. Before I had kids all I could do was hope that one day I would. Now my kids ARE my hope for the future. I get up in the morning because of my kids and every night when I go to sleep, I know I will get up again tomorrow because of them.
When you lose hope, you lose all reason to live.

5. What would you change if you could?

I don't think I would change the fact that babies die. I know I wouldn't change the fact that mine did.

I think what I would change is the amount of information and support that women have available to them. And I am working to change that. When a woman loses a child, she doesn't have the time or the presence of mind to research all the things she needs to know. She doesn't think of the fact that if she doesn't hold him now, she will never have the opportunity again and she may always regret it. It doesn't occur to her to take a picture so that when the memory fades, she will always have something to look at to recall what her baby looked like. She doesn't realize that she should name him now because it's her only "official" opportunity. She has no way of knowing that there will be no grave for her to visit if she doesn't speak up now and interfere with the hospital's SOP. And when she gets home, she feels utterly alone because she doesn't know who to talk to or anyone who can possibly understand what it feels like or where to even begin the healing process.

6. What piece of advice would you give to someone finding themselves in your situation?

Let go of the "why." You will never be able to accept the situation and move on if you keep asking why this happened to you, why this happened to your baby.

I have come to the conclusion that there is a reason, and it must be a good reason, that things happen the way they do. Whatever that reason is, it is bigger than me and bigger than anything I can comprehend. I choose to let go and just accept the fact that that I may never understand. Knowing that there is a reason is enough for me I don't have to know what that reason is.

(The "A Mile In My Shoes" Carnival will be published on July 23rd and there will be a link to it here so you can find all the other entries.)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Keeping Our Children Safe in a Scary World

Since the horrific murder of 8-year-old Leiby Kletzky in Brooklyn last week, a lot of us parents can't stop wondering whether our children are safe and what we can do to keep them from being harmed.

There are a few simple but incredibly crucial things you can - and must - do to keep your children safe. Watching them like a hawk and not letting them go out on their own are not one the list.

The single most important thing every parent must do is have an open relationship with his or her child. Maintain a dialogue with your kids about their daily lives and make sure they feel they can tell you anything. This is not something you can do overnight, especially if you haven't been the type to share with your kids in the past. But you need to express an interest in what's going on in their lives and let them know that they can always come to you - even (especially) if they've done something wrong or think the information will be upsetting to you. If you have this kind of relationship with your child, he or she will feel comfortable asking you questions and bringing up uncomfortable situations.

In addition to fostering an open relationship in which your children know they can tell you anything, there are three messages you MUST get across to your children in order to protect them:

1. There is never a circumstance where an adult can tell you to keep a secret from your parents. If anyone ever tells you "don't tell your mommy and daddy," come tell me about it right away!

2. Your body is your own. Just like a person can't come grab a cookie out of your hand, NO ONE can touch your private parts. (Be clear: These are the parts of your body that your bathing suit covers.)

Be specific about who may and may not touch your children. Don't say "it's ok for relatives and friends." Unfortunately, most cases of sexual abuse are perpetrated by people the child already knows. Tell your child that only Mommy and Daddy can touch his private parts when bathing and dressing him and his doctor when examining him.

3. It's ok to say "no" - even to an adult. If something makes your child feel uncomfortable, there's probably a reason for it. Empower your child and let him know that just because someone is an adult doesn't mean they can touch him or speak to him in a way that makes him feel uncomfortable. Kids have good instincts. They can tell when something feels wrong, but they don't always realize they have a say in the matter.

There are three things you should know about the molestation / kidnapping / murder of children.

1. These crimes are incredibly uncommon. I mean, the chances of one of these things happening to your child are miniscule. We freak out when a big case like Leiby Kletzky's hits the newsstands, but it is extremely extremely rare for these kinds of things to happen. I'm sure that's no comfort to Leiby's family but I'm hoping it will help you.

2. Most of these cases occur when children are unsupervised, especially during the summer months when they're just "hanging out" and have no structure or schedule. So for goodness' sake, send your kids to camp, to their grandparents, to a neighbor, or to a babysitter, but don't let them wander around and get bored!

3. The vast majority of these cases occur to children who are naïve and whose parents never warned them about "stranger danger." They feel they can trust an adult and go with him in his car even though they don't know him. It's an uncomfortable topic to talk about with your children, and please don't go into the details of what happened to Leiby. But do talk to them about the points mentioned above and that they should never, ever get into a car with a stranger, no matter what he says or what he offers them. If they get lost they should call you or find a police officer or go back to the last place they saw you, but by no means should they go with any old adult who offers them a hand.

Finally, here are some things you DON'T want to do. Don't decide to take away their freedom. Do not doubt yourself or your children. And do not scare your kids! The last thing you want is to give your children the idea that the world is an unsafe, scary place. If our children are afraid to go out into the world and see every stranger on the street as a threat, what kind of world are we raising them in? We need to instill confidence in them - confidence in themselves and their capabilities as well as confidence that the world around them is an intrinsically good place - albeit with a few not-so-good people living in it.

Don't start changing the rules on them. If you let your children walk home from school by themselves, don't decide it's too dangerous and insist on driving them from now on. If you were about to let your child ride his bike to a friend's house for the first time, don't question your judgment and tell him he's not old enough after all. Remember, and remind your children, that the "bad guys" are one in a million. Make sure your kids are equipped with the knowledge they need to be safe and protect themselves, and with the confidence that they can do it on their own. (Don't show them you're anxious because they'll detect your anxiety and lose their self-confidence.) It's perfectly acceptable to ask your child to call you when he gets to his friend's house. But let him ride there alone - he's going to have to step out of the nest sometime.

When we feel helpless, our instinct is to be overly cautious and protective of our loved ones. As LA child therapist Miven Trageser says, this works well for belongings but not so well for people. Psychologically speaking, people are actually less safe locked away and protected all the time. Children need to learn and grow, and necessary to this is letting them venture out on their own and learn to be autonomous. One day our children are going to have to grow up. And if we make them wait to experience real life until they're actually grown up, they will not be prepared to live in the real world.

So yes, be afraid. You wouldn't be a good parent if you were completely unphased when something like this happens. But instead of trying to keep them "safe" from reality, talk to your children, prepare them for life, make sure they know how to stay safe and what to do if they feel unsafe. And then watch them take a step into their futures.


Horowitz, Yakov. "Speaking to Your Kids about Personal Safety."

Trageser, Miven. "Leiby Kletzky's death shouldn’t make us fearful parents: Let yours roam free."