Kick Off Potty Training by….. Making Muffins?

Yes, you read that correctly. I often encourage clients to incorporate baking muffins with their little one into their potty training plan as they begin the potty training process. How are these two things related? Let me explain.

Potty training is an important milestone in family life. It should be a time of celebration and even liberation for both child and parents. Spending that together- time, baking muffins, sends the message to the child that s/he is important and fun to do things with. It boosts confidence, increases feelings of competence and helps further cement the important closeness between parent and child. A child that feels secure is not quite as likely to be defiant. (Ok, I know many are two years old when they are ready for potty training, so take that one in context.) There is also another very important reason for baking muffins on day one.

Make those muffins full of bran. Children are more likely to eat something if they were involved in the preparation. Fiber is essential in everyone’s diet and is especially important in the early days and weeks of toilet training. As you support your little one in learning to control his/her urine and feces, you will want to make sure that when s/he does go, it is as comfortable as possible. While often the peeing is mastered before the pooping, the bran will keep the poop soft and frequent.

Not always but sometimes, as a child learns to control bladder and bowel, he or she will begin to hold stool inside. Most often, this resolves itself with repeated bathroom success. However, it can be that as the stool sits in the colon, it dries out and becomes hard. If it is difficult to pass, the child will avoid going as long as possible. In rare cases it may become chronic and the colon stretches and looses elasticity. Many cases of encopresis, sometimes called fecal incontinence or poop accidents, begin during or shortly after potty training. By encouraging lots of fiber, water and fresh fruits and vegetables before, during and after potty training, you’ll help your little one avoid constipation and, provided s/he is ready to toilet independently, shorten the duration of the whole process!

I’ve coached many families as they navigated through the potty training journey. Let me encourage you to make a plan, then relax and enjoy this time as you partner with your little one and celebrate all of the mini successes as he or she learns this new skill and grows in independence. Your baby still needs you, mama, and always will!

 

 

6 Tips for a Good Night’s Rest for You and Your #Baby

Ah, finally after a few false starts, your little one is sleeping soundly and now you can get a few hours in before the next feeding. So, you leap into your bed and wait for that wonderful lull that comes right before you nod off. You turn to one side, then the other; you’re exhausted. Why won’t sleep come? 

Does that sound familiar? It may be that you are actually overtired. It may also be that your baby is overtired and that state, for all ages, lends itself to taking a longer length of time to settle in and to stay asleep. Here are a few tips, three for you and three for your little one, to help you all get the rest you need. 

For you:

  1. Create a bedroom environment that minimizes distractions and says, “This is where sleep happens.” If you can, remove clothesbaskets of laundry, piles of papers or anything that triggers an urge to work.  Keep your bed tidy and inviting. If you enjoy aromatherapy, consider incorporating relaxing scents such as lavender in your bedroom.
  2. Turn off electronics at least an hour before bedtime. This is frequently recommended for youth and teens with sleep troubles and it certainly applies to adults as well. Your brain needs to transition from awake to asleep. The light from your smartphone or tablet signals your brain that it is time to be awake and your brain is stimulated by what is on the screen. There is quite a bit of current research that supports the findings that electronic devices affect our circadian rhythms by telling us to be awake when we should be winding down and creating an unfortunate cycle of daytime sleepiness/nighttime restlessness. Do what needs to be done on your computer or phone and then give yourself time to wind down and prepare for sleep.
  3. Once you climb into your cozy bed and get into your “I’m ready to fall asleep” position, focus on your breath. This is my version of counting sheep. No need to change how you are breathing. The depth, the pace, it is where you fall naturally.  Allow yourself to relax into it then simply observe the place where the inhale meets the exhale. Mentally note it, and continue to breathe, noting where the in-breath meets the out-breath. If your mind wanders, acknowledge the thoughts and simply go back to the breath.  This keeps the endless “ to do list” from taking over and robbing you of the relaxation you deserve.

For baby:

  1. Routine, routine, routine! Some children adapt easily to changes in their daily routine. But for most, it is unsettling and disruptive. Until you know how your baby will manage schedule changes, keep to a bedtime (and naptime) routine. You can develop this in your baby’s early months, keeping it simple and consistent.  Do the same tasks, in the same order, at the same time.
  2. As often as you can, put your baby to bed when drowsy but still awake. With newborns, this is easier said than done but as your baby gets closer to 3-4 months, you should see the beginnings of a schedule emerge. Whatever your sleep arrangements are, look for signs that s/he is getting sleepy, follow your bedtime routine and put him/her down while the little eyes are still closing.
  3. Help your baby learn to distinguish between days and nights. During the day, have bright lights, lively conversations, barking dogs and music playing. Be sure to tune into and be aware of the signals your baby is giving you. Too much of a good thing can make him/her over stimulated and fussy. Toward bedtime, quiet things down, dim the lights, play soothing music, sending the message that it is time for sweet slumber.

Babies need sleep for overall growth and development. Their brains need it; their bodies need it. If you begin to view your role in teaching your little one good healthy sleep habits as part of your parenting responsibilities, it may strengthen your determination to make sleep a priority for your entire family and help you stick with a long term sleep plan. 

If simple steps are not working, reach out for support. My approach to sleep coaching avoids one-size-fits-all solutions.  Rather, I will listen to your priorities and values, and partner with you to develop — and follow through — on a sleep plan that meets your goals and your family’s needs. You may already have someone who can help support you compassionately without an agenda. For those others, always remember that you have me. 

Sweet dreams! 

Happy Father’s Day

Following is a re-vamp of an article I originally wrote for a parenting magazine, thebabyspot.ca . I hope you enjoy it! 

 

Dad-ness (adjective) \dad-nes\

The many qualities that encompass being a dad; Vague and ever changing based on the individual father and his children; Implies a sense of protection, playfulness, masculinity, sensitivity, strength, occasional sternness, involvement and stability.

I had to make this word up. There is not, to my knowledge, a single word to describe what a father means to his children. Whether you are married, single, divorced, step, foster or adoptive, if you have kids that look to you as their dad, this article is for you.

In preparation for writing this, I reached out through social media to ask what dads struggle with. Very real but no surprise, many dads strive to find life balance and often feel pulled between family and work commitments. Workdays are often longer than the traditional 40 hours a week and kids are involved in more activities outside of school, leaving moms and dads hustling to transport and cheer on while keeping a handle on things at home. Being a dad in the 21st century carries responsibilities that our dads and grandpas were not expected to fit in.

One struggle I uncovered, that the dads who responded face, came as a little bit of a surprise. Many (not all) dads feel that they are not equally as essential in the caregiving as the mom in the family. Just to be clear, I don’t mean as essential to the family, but to the part of the family structure that decides childrearing details- foods to eat, clothes to wear, what time is bedtime, those kinds of things.

This has given me insight into my own family and led me to finding a word that describes being a dad. This is something so significant and yet there is no word to explain the plethora of attributes of dadness. How can this be? Dads are not stand-ins for moms and vice versa. Dads are equally important to the raising of a child. What a dad brings to his children is unique and valuable. You see the world differently and function differently than women. (Duh, Brenda.) Kids need that to grow, be challenged, be sheltered, and be loved in ways that only their dad can show them.

My husband was hands-on in raising my girls yet I think part of him always felt like he was “standing in” for me when I wasn’t home and he was PIC (in this case, Parent in Charge). He sometimes stayed home with them when they were sick; made a few specialty comfort foods as only he could do; got after them when they were naughty; slathered sunscreen on them in a “guy that doesn’t know his own strength” kind of way; went on field trips, played endless horsey on his hands and knees, you get my intention. When my oldest was 12 or 13, she was sick and dehydrated. Not our first go-around, I knew she needed to go to the emergency room. As I explained this to her, she said, “But Mom, I can’t go. Tom” (my husband) ”isn’t home to carry me to the car.” She needed his dadness, his strength and protection to empower her to be brave and face what was ahead.

A year ago last September, my husband walked the same daughter down the aisle; symbolically giving her away to her husband, living forward to the next generation, trusting Alan’s innate and unexplored dadness to provide. So goes the next generation. “Her mother and I do” was what he said but the look between them said more.

Where does it begin; where does it end? Because of the elusive, ever-changing meanings of Dadness, I am led to infer that a dad’s “dadness” may emerge at the just-right time, just right for him and his children. For some, it may be when they know their partner is expecting. For others, it may be with that first touch or first baby all nighter. And with no less impact, other dads may own their dadness when the adoption papers are signed or they are PIC for the first time with their kids. There is no right, only what fits dad and his children, in their unique and exclusive dad/child relationship.

You dads deserve all the support that can be gathered on your behalf. Seriously, you just don’t get enough. As your doting mom, wife or sister will probably tell you, you are great!  My heartfelt wish for you, dads, is to acknowledge your fundamental importance in the lives of your children. You are not “standing-in” for anyone. Whether you are raising children with another or raising them solo, you bring your dadness to your child in ways only you can do. I encourage you to celebrate you and the father you are!

Happy Father’s Day!

 

Common Mother’s Trait

Recently, as I was teaching a parenting class exclusively for mothers, I was reminded of a common trait I have often found with those that answer to Mom, Mother, Mama, Mum and/or Mommy. My subject was the value of taking the time to reflect on parenting techniques, interactions and reactions to our kids.  I was encouraging the moms to keep a written journal for that purpose and I passed out spiral notebooks for the women to get them started. I had a few prompts prepared for them to copy and use, if they wanted. As they began writing in the notebooks, I continued to talk. “Write down an activity or occasion and describe the beginning, middle and conclusion.” Now, here’s the thing I said that stunned this group, “I recommend that you journal about occasions that you feel you can improve on but, also, occasions that you feel good about; ones that you felt great about as a parent.” At the word “good” all heads snapped up and looked at me as though I suddenly started speaking gibberish or something.

Moms nurture, take care of kids, homes, spouses/partners, aging parents. We have jobs, careers, girlfriends, exercise classes, support our children’s schools, our churches. We plan, organize, help out, sacrifice and the list goes on. Does this sound familiar? Your days are full from am to pm; you are an expert juggler and, most days, you wouldn’t give up any part of it. For everything you do, you are a little surprised that you should acknowledge that what you do that is great.

This is the common trait. Moms, in general, tend to be self-critical. It just may not sit right or feel like bragging or maybe you just assume anyone could do what you do. Not true. While there are many moms juggling as much as you and as well as you do, you are the only mother to your children. No one else can or will ever connect with them, love them, nurture them, the way you do. Ever. So, as I encouraged the moms in my parenting class, I want to encourage you. Spend time reflecting on what you do as a mother, that is good and great. What is right for your unique family and delivered in a way only you can convey. Acknowledge that you are an amazing mom, not perfect, but a marvelous mom, nonetheless.

Give credit where credit it due… You.

This was orignally a guest article I wrote for a parenting magazine, thebabyspot.ca. I hope you enjoy it now! Happy Mother's Day! 

 

Parenting Tip Tuesday

Are You of a Mindful Mind?

 

Did you know that multi-tasking might not be as effective as once thought? So for those of us who have prided ourselves on being able to do several things at once, well, we (including me) may not be accomplishing as much as we believe. Current research shows that focusing all of our attention on one task at a time before turning all of our attention to the next task may lend itself to greater productivity with less stress.

Mindfulness, very simply put, is living in the moment. If you are drinking coffee, consciously enjoy the warmth, how it feels as it reaches your lips, the weight of the cup. If you are driving to work, notice your breathing, the sounds of the engine, observe the beginning of buds on the trees. Mindfulness is often associated with mediation but simply focusing on your daily living activities can quiet your mind and increase your sense of peacefulness, if even only briefly. So how does this relate to parenting?

One of the best gifts you can give your kids is your undivided attention. It shows him/her that you value her thoughts and feelings and enhances the bond between you and your children. As a life coach, I am committed to being consciously present to my client throughout our entire session. I create space to allow my client to explore ideas, feelings and talk openly without judgment. I occasionally ask questions to support my client in fully exploring an issue.  All is client-led. I invite you to give this gift to your child.  

Implementing this may take some planning if you are out-numbered kids-to-parents in your home. In other homes, it may just happen organically, as you eat breakfast or tuck your little one into bed. Some kids may like to be able to plan what they want to talk about; others may feel pressured and prefer to share what’s on their mind in the moment. Depending on you, your kids, their ages and other characteristics, being totally present for them may outwardly look the same or different from your usual conversations. As you completely focus on the moment, the connection changes, deepens. Live in the moment and your family will reap the benefits.