Tag Archives: anxiety

A Decade of Motherhood Come and Gone – What I Have Learned

7 Oct

Today’s guest blogger is one of our awesome faculty members, Erin Stegman. Through her post, she is showing how much we grow through motherhood and how much we need to forgive ourselves.

Yesterday was my son’s tenth birthday.  Throughout the day I began to reflect on the past ten years and how much he has grown.  At the same time I found myself reflecting on my journey as a mother and how much I have grown.  To my surprise I realized that maybe I have grown more than my son.  I think I speak for most mothers out there that when you are pregnant and throughout your stay at the hospital you are ready and willing to take on the world and be the best mom ever – losing your temper, yelling, and not letting your kids manipulate you into getting what they want  is never part of the equation.  However, not too far into my motherhood, I realized that this fantasy I wanted to live in was not a reality.  It wasn’t long before the exhaustion and down right mental state of changing diapers every 30 minutes and never getting to take a shower until maybe the following afternoon took over and I became everything I didn’t want to become.  I had to face the fact that the life-long mommy course I signed up for was much harder than I thought.  As time passed I began to question my abilities and the mommy “guilt” was so overwhelming that I know I have more sleep than gained throughout these ten years.

It is now my belief that I was WAY too hard on myself.  There was no possible way I could (or can) do everything right.  Ten years has taught me that I need to forgive myself more than I need to dunk myself into a swirling pool of guilt.  This has not been easy to discover since I have been through divorce; dated some real doozies; and, tried to find my own self through the process.  Life happens and we are dealt a new hand everyday and we don’t get to choose most of the time.  We can only choose our actions and reactions.

I have reflected and now feel proud of the mom I was most of time and don’t want to carry the times where I was less than perfect with me into the next decade.  I am human.  Humans make mistakes.  I have found great pleasure in letting my son know this as well.  He needs to know that even though I am his mother and protector now and beyond my life on earth, I, too, don’t always get everything right.  Hopefully, this will sink in and he won’t be so hard on himself when he is less than perfect.  I handle this by telling him, “Guess what?  I was human today.  This is what happened…This is how I took care of it.” Being honest with your kids is so important – they should know that you struggle at times just like they do.  I think this has helped me be a better mother and friend to myself knowing that I make mistakes and my child will too.

“Children don’t come with a manual” is a phrase all parents have heard before.  I have to remind myself that I don’t have one either.  We are consistently changing and evolving and we are never the same as the day before. I am of the opinion that moms need to give themselves more credit and realize that they did the best they could do at the time.  If we beat ourselves up for something that happened yesterday, we will remain stagnant and will never grow which means we stay in the past and aren’t present for our children.

What does this mean for my next decade of motherhood?  Not sure.  Am I any wiser? NO…just willing to let life happen – one day at a time. I am proud the woman (not just the mother) that I have become and am ready to let my mommy journey continue for as long as I am privileged to do so.

P.S. Since I have never considered myself a scholar of the English language, I have already forgiven myself for any and all grammatical errors written above.  Hope the readers do to.

Managing the Back-to-School Blues

14 Sep
Are you ready to tackle the back-to-school blues in your house? Our guest, Dr. Keith Kanner, will give you some tips on how to manage the blues.
     Background:  By the end of this week, most children and adolescents will be back to school.  Although most parents took the appropriate measures to prepare them by talking about it and getting the needed “back to school supplies”, nevertheless, going back to school after summertime represents a significant transition for most kids. Typically, the first month back after summer is when parents experience the most significant battles over homework, getting up in the morning, turning off those cell phones, and being generally cooperative.  Such manifestations are due to the natural feelings that all children and adolescents experience when going back to school – a combination of frustration and perhaps some excitement about seeing their friends.  The adult comparison would be going back to work after a vacation where there was an absence of business problems, meetings, and deadlines.
     Adults seem to have an easier time understanding the concept of “Monday Morning Blues”, then being able to put themselves in the shoes of their children and responding as though they know how they feel.  However, children truly appreciate when their parent can associate with their inner experiences without them having to express themselves in words.  Remember the days when your child was an infant and as a caring and invested parent, you could determine what type of cry determined what particular feeling in them?  This was all done without words.  Just because a child develops the capacity to speak does not erase how important it is for parents to be able to “read” their child’s non-verbal cues to determine their mental state.  In fact, as children develop and strive towards independence from their parents, they naturally speak less until they get through the adolescent years, but still rely on that caring parent to “know them”.  Here, is where the continual investment of parenting comes into action – being able to let your child know that you know them and how they must feel.  Even making the attempt to convey your perception is worth the chance that they may tell you are wrong, but at least you tried and there is a chance they might actually share what it is they are feeling.
     Putting this concept into place comes in handy over this next month.  Most children and teenagers will have some “normal” adjustment issues to going back to school which could manifest in a number of typical ways:  a refusal to do homework; trouble getting up in the morning; irritability; acting out; and even some infrequent bed wetting, just to name a few.  Each of these “symptoms” are just that – indicators that your child is experiencing some very strong feelings about going back to school.  How a parent responds to this “regression” is very important however.  Perhaps the most common parental mistake is to just punish the behavior.  Punishment by itself does not work, but communicate to the child that their feelings and behavior are both bad.  There is a big difference between a feeling and a behavior.  It is a matter of how feelings are handled and the role of any parent is to help their child learn how to better manage feelings, not feel bad about them.  When parents merely punish a behavior, most children then generalize that the feeling was “bad” too and then a development of guilt over feelings becomes a pathological pattern rather than the emphasis be placed on appropriate behaviors.
     So, if your child is having such a “regression” due to school resuming, talk to them about how they are feeling and work together with them to get through the initial “shock period” of getting back into school.  Empathize, share how it was for you when you were a kid, and help them get their “job” accomplished by encouragement and some limits if necessary to “help” them manage, not punish them for feeling frustrated and perhaps saddened that vacation is over for a while.
Key Points:
1. Most kids will have some normal adjustment issues about going back to school
2. Help them by talking to them about how you think they must feel
3. Both emphasize and help them stay on track with rewards and limits
4. Punishing behavior by itself is limited in effectiveness
5.  Regression typically weans over the first month back to school
Dr. Keith Kanner
Anchor/Host Your Family Matters – Wsradio.com
Host:  Ask The Doctors:  Relationship Edition
Fox 5 News – San Diego

Fighting Procrastination In Kids

24 Aug
Thanks to our guest blogger, Dr. Keith Kanner, psychologist, author, and radio host of Your Family Matters.
Background: With school just around the corner, parents once again have to deal with helping their kids focus on getting through daily homework, projects, and studying non of which are on the “top of the list” for most typical kids and teens. Procrastination, or putting off the completion of projects, schoolwork, and many other activities, is a common manifestation for children, adolescents, and adults alike.  The outcome can be devastating – poor grades, low self-esteem, and a lack of promotion are just to name a few, Breaking a procrastination habit or pattern is also not an easy task for the underlying causes are frequently hidden and not easily identifiable.  In fact, in certain cases, medication is prescribed with the determination that the cause must be traced to an Attention Deficit Disorder.  Interestingly, even in these cases, only sometimes does the effects of the medication help with the problem indicating that the etiology is often more complex than meets the eye.  Procrastination also seems to change and vary in appearance.  For example, many only procrastinate in certain circumstances and not in others.  For children, procrastination is higher when dealing with something that they either do not like, find difficult, or are related to some circumstance that they do not feel good about.  Procrastination is also at a peak just prior to and after vacations, such as Spring Break. Procrastination, like many other unfortunate occurrences,  such as Panic Attacks, is a symptom of something else going on inside of the person causing extreme conflict and anxiety.  These conflicts are typically unconscious and the person usually is not aware of the root of the issue.  This is especially true in children for they do not have the intellectual capacity to utilize insight to help themselves solve internal struggles.  Often times, when insight becomes available, the symptom disappears and the problem is solved.  In other cases, it may take time and may require professional assistance of it continues to cause extensive problems, like failing grades.In most cases, the root of procrastination is either anger, fear, or a combination of the two and are not immediately aware to the person.  Instead, they avoid the condition that they dislike or fear, and then their feared condition comes true because they were not able to help themselves through the struggle.  10 year-old Sam was a solid A/B student without any difficulties getting his work done, except in Math, where he always seemed to put off doing his homework and often forgot to even turn in completed assignments leading to a failing grade.  It turned out that Sam had some very strong negative feelings about his math teacher that  he did not let himself know about and instead, his uncomfortable angry feelings came out on himself through his procrastination and forgetting.  Why was Sam so uncomfortable with these feelings and why take them out on himself?13-year old Kim always falls apart academically just prior to vacations.  It seems that no matter what she does, her grades suffer just before a vacation and she struggles to remain focused on  her work.  The outcome  is her feeling ashamed and tends then to have a damper on her full enjoyment of her vacation.Such examples have the same underlying cause – strong feelings that are both unaware and uncomfortable to the person.  For both Sam and Kim, they are both uncomfortable with their angry feelings – Sam towards his teacher, and Kim having to wait for her vacation to begin – because both are unaware and uncomfortable, their feelings play out in another way – procrastination.

So, how can a parent help their child both better understand their minds and not compromise themselves for strong “normal” feelings?  The answer is that the parent needs to be both insightful about feelings in their children and help them both understand the normality of them and how to best manage them.  This process then becomes taken into the child and self-applied.

In Sam’s case, telling him that it is “okay” to feel mad (not get mad) at his teacher but not to let his feelings compromise his work, would be helpful to him.  Being empathic to Kim’s feeling of frustration about having to be patient about her upcoming vacation might have been enough to help her stay on top of her work prior to the vacation.  The point here is that feelings need to be recognized, not avoided, and managed in a way to promote success, not limit it.  Most children do not have this “automatic” capacity until late in their adolescent years and therefore need their parents to help them better understand and manage themselves, especially during times of the strong pressing of feelings.

Key Points:

1.    procrastination is a symptom of “uncomfortable” feelings
2.    anger and fear are usually the cause
3.    parents need to help their children validate their internal feelings
4.    feelings, not actions, need to be “normalized”
5.    forward incentives are also helpful to motivate staying focused

Dr. Keith Kanner
Anchor/Host Your Family Matters
Co-Host Ask The Doctors:  Relationship Edition
Fox5 News-San Diego
Columnist – Rancho Santa Fe Review

Getting Your Kids Back “Into” School

17 Aug
Special thanks to our guest blogger, Dr. Keith Kanner, psychologist, author and radio host of Your Family Matters
Background: If your family is like most, your children and adolescents are still in a state of denial that school begins in about three weeks from now. As parents however, you are ready for the summer to end and excited about getting them back into structure yet you fear their adjustment into a new year of academics and wonder if they are prepared to manage the tasks ahead. Many parents avoid the concept of talking to their children about a new school year for they fear putting their children into bad moods and getting into a fight. On the other hand, when parents do not approach talking about getting ready for school and looking ahead to expectations for success, the avoided conflicts tend to emerge shortly after school begins when problems may already have arisen.
As with any transition, preparing ahead of time is always a good idea. When situations are thought through, discussed, and planned for, there tends to be less anxiety generated and a greater likelihood for success. Young children in particular are not yet capable of thinking in the abstract and plan ahead and need assistance in understanding what is expected of them and how to reach their goals. Many times parents place responsibilities on their children that they are not able to developmentally manage which can set their child up for failure. The responsibilities of school are common areas where parents either expect their child to manage themselves or rely on the school to teach them how to both organize and study.
Parents of both grade and middle school students need to sit down with their children prior to each school year and discuss both expectations and plans on how to help them succeed. Reviewing the importance of school, your faith in their abilities to manage their work, and discussing concepts such as studying, organization, and note taking are all essential in making sure their child feels prepared. Often times after such discussions, the parents and child determine that there may be some areas that need some assistance and this can then be provided which then serves to avoid a later problem. As I have discussed in prior segments, self esteem is generated when the child him of herself experiences success. When the child has the tools necessary to manage their life, success is more likely.
Structure is also very important.  Children and adolescents who have a daily “routine” tend to do better academically and socially.  For example, it is always a good idea to have an after-school plan which entails: 1) an after-school snack; 2) some time for play or sport; and then 3) a scheduled homework time to be performed in a distraction-free environment.  Once homework has been completed, a “reward” time can be offered to celebrate getting through their assignments after a long day of school.  When children have something to look forward towards, they tend to feel less frustrated and seem more motivated.
For the high school student, who can think in the abstract and hopefully understand that their success at this time of their academic life will serve later goals, discussions are also necessary but inquiring with them about how they plan to manage their school work will make them feel as though you respect their intellect. If however, you determine that they do not seem able to manage themselves well enough, you will have to help them as well. Allowing children and adolescents to “learn from their mistakes” is poor judgment on the part of the parent for the child and adolescent is not yet mature enough to manage their lives independently without parents.
A special consideration needs to be made for children who are also starting a new school. Aside from preparing them for the academic tasks ahead, care also needs to be made in terms of helping them adjust to a new environment with new social and developmental challenges. Visiting the new school prior to beginning the school year is always a good idea even if the campus is empty of students. Here, your child can at least get a feel for the new surroundings which will make them less anxious once they arrive on the first day of school.
Key Points
1. discuss school beginning with your child now
2. review expectations for the year ahead of time
3.  implement structure to help with success
4. make sure they have an academic plan and can perform the required tasks
5. get them some help if needed early
6. visit the school ahead of time if a new environment
Dr. Keith Kanner
Anchor/Host Your Family Matters

I’m Not Perfect

20 Apr

Founding a parenting site must mean I’m the perfect mom. Hardly! In fact, I sometimes I think people get a sense of relief when they see that I can be disorganized, that my kids act up, my laundry’s stacked in the living room, etc. Although I consider myself an accomplished mom with three fantastic children, what people don’t know is how hard I had to struggle, and fail, for many years before I became the mom I am today. You might recognize some of these struggles in a mom you know or even yourself.

Fifteen years ago, when my first child was born, I realized that I knew absolutely nothing about taking care of an infant nor raising a child. I actually thought newborns were born playing and smiling, not sleeping 18 hours a day. I’m also not one to sit still, and recovery was not in my plan.  I also suffered from severe anxiety exasperated by post partum blues and didn’t know I needed help. This was not the best way to start motherhood.

The older my child got, raising a well-behaved child became my mission. I had no idea what to do to discipline my child except for how I was disciplined: spanking. When that didn’t work, I tried time out, soap, taking things away and anything else I thought would help. Needless to say, I am not proud of what I did, and I knew I needed help with parenting skills but didn’t know where to turn and was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t control my child.

Our second child came along three years later. My husband travelled four days a week, my anxiety became more severe and presented itself in frightening physical symptoms, my new baby had frequent ear infections and had to be in an upright position 24 hours a day. I rarely slept, my husband was out-of-town most of the week, I had a preschooler who needed my attention and had little ability to even care for myself. Unfortunately, I was hard on my children and I was hard on myself.

Luckily some good came a year after our second child was born. I was finally diagnosed with severe anxiety and received treatment and my son had ear tubes put in which finally allowed both us to get the sleep we so desperately needed. Unfortunately, relief didn’t last long.

I was pregnant again and during the third month of my pregnancy we moved for the for the third time in six years. I suffered from morning sickness all day, for nine months, and we lived in a hotel for a month before we could move into our new home. Three months after our child was born, we moved again- half way across the country.

After three years of being a stay-at-home mom, I was desperate to interact in an adult environment, but found myself in friendships with toxic people who negatively impacted my life. Then, we moved half way across the country- again. However, change was on the way this time.

My husband took a less demanding job and continued to be supportive and helpful though my personal challenges and those of motherhood. I began to utilize all of the information I had been learning over the years and realized I was doing a pretty good job as a mom and my kids were becoming awesome little people.

Although these are only a few of the trials and tribulations I faced while trying to be the “perfect mother”, it is not intended to be a sob story, but rather a message. You probably know a woman who appears to be a happy, well-adjusted mother yet is quietly struggling with her own challenges. Or, if you are that mom, know that you are not alone and ask for help. Most of all, know that you’re not expected to be perfect.

So now you know. I wasn’t perfect then and I’m not perfect now, but I have learned so much about parenting during the last fifteen years, and it’s time to share what I have learned with other moms facing the same challenges. My children are entering the teenage years and I’m finding that is a whole new beast! Now, I’m not afraid to find the help I need, ask the questions I don’t know the answers to, and surround myself with fantastic women who make me a better mom and woman during this new phase of parenting. The best part is I know I’m not perfect and so do they.

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