Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

East Coast / West Coast Families

Sunday, June 24th, 2012

My colleague, Judy Zexter, and I have had countless personal and professional discussions about theories, techniques and even trends in the world of parenting. Despite the fact that I am based in NY and she has a practice in LA, we’ve noticed that there are common themes, pressures, “shoulds” and contradictions in the parenting world that span the distance between us.

We have decided to share some of our thoughts in our ongoing dialogue given that we continuously encounter parents who question their instincts and struggle with their decision making when it comes to their children. There are definitely some common threads to successful parenting, along with the familiar challenges, but each family is unique in terms of its needs, its expectations and what seems to work best for its family members. Our horizons have been broadened through our professional and personal experiences in terms of how best to foster healthy development in children, while maintaining a sense of satisfaction and confidence as a parent.

There is no one formula, one manual, one approach or one theory that holds all the answers to raising children. We are both often asked for book recommendations, sometimes with a seemingly desperate tone for a “tell me how to do it” guide. It would definitely be simpler if there was one recipe to happy children/parents/families, but the fact is that we all are different, so there is no one guide fits all. The personalities and characteristics of our selves, our children and our family units all need to be taken into consideration as we embark on the parenting journey and make efforts to provide our children and ourselves with a positive and empowering experience. Educating yourself about theories and research around healthy parent/child attachment can provide important tools to help guide, support and reassure you through the parenting process. However, knowing yourself and your child(ren) inclusive of strengths, limitations, sensitivities and temperaments is crucial in determining the most appropriate means by which to foster healthy development and a strong bond with your child(ren).

What seems so important and at times forgotten in the parenting process is to maintain a sense of awareness and consciousness. What we mean by this is to continually acknowledge our children’s emotional states and developmental phases (as well as our own) as we continue to revisit our intentions. What is it that we are trying to achieve as we guide, teach and interact with our children? It is so important to realize how one’s own childhood experiences can trigger reactions that can become automatic responses that may not necessarily match one’s intentions. For instance, if you felt emotionally deprived in some way by your own parents, might you unconsciously replicate this dynamic or perhaps overcompensate for it in your role as a parent? Are these actions really in the best interest of your child and do they truly match what you are trying to provide for them? By acknowledging and understanding reactions (triggers), you can then respond with awareness and mindfulness. In this way, your child’s needs are very present in your relationship and you can act according to your identified objectives and motives. It’s hard to steer clear of the “should” frenzy, proclaimed by other parents, specialists and authors. Learning to fully consider who you are and who your children are as well as developing the capacity to trust your own instincts can make YOU the expert of your family.

Judy Zexter, LCSW

It’s been a while and now I am sandwiched.

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

I have hand written blog entries, thought about blog entries, wanted to list a few things and say a few things but, alas, it has take a few months to do it.

I, actually, had to relearn how to post.

Well, it’s a snow day and boy oh boy am I happy about that. I’ll still run my new mom’s groups but NOT HAVING to get the kids up, ready for school, dog walked  and everyone out the door (let’s add a parent-teacher meeting this morning) before 8 is a huge relief. I will also add that life has taken a way too busy turn.

You know when the baby boom media talks about the sandwiched generation? Well, here I am.  Sandwiched between my parent’s declining well-being and my kids struggling preadolescence. And this is where it sits, let alone what it feels like when i project into the future and start predicting stuff.

I asked my kids, “How do you define being a grown up”?  Their answers were “when you can tell someone else what to do”, “when you can do what you want” , “when you can drive”.  Their answers are very reminicent.  The feeling of freedom, of choice, of independence.  I think as a kid I  had those feelings, too;  “when I can wear makeup, when I can go to bed when I want”.  However as an adult,  a defining moment of being “grown up” has been caring for my aging parents. Some might say that’s strange since I became a mom years befoe that happened.  I had been in the work place and on my own even fruther back.  The  first, concrete,  glimpse at being gown up, or maybe an adult in a new way, was when my mom had open heart surgery about 8 years ago.  I remember bathing her and her allowing me to help.  Her revealing her vulnerability and letting me assist. WOW! She let me take care of her.  It was profound, sad, sweet, and moving.

Fast forward to today. My parent’s wellness is on an obvious decline. While they balance the tightrope of being able to be independent (sort of) and could easily be completely dependent on the other side.  A moment, and hour a day makes the difference. As the adult child, I am needing to shift constantly.  What my parent’s don’t realize is how much I do for them and how much more they need done. I have found a big part of  my role with them is to care with respect.  I don’t want them to think they are burdening me, I don’t want them to give up ALL aspects of independence, but there are times that they need to know this is either too much for me, or too much for them.

A great challenge to me is balancing this and the emotional (and logistical) tug  of my kid’s growing needs (school, behavioral, relationships, food/shelter etc) with my parents growing needs (0versight, safety nets, backup plans etc).While my kids are entering their middle school years, academics have taken on a new look and behavioral changes or exaggerations are precarious. If you are partnered, the relationship can be strained during this time or can be a strong piece to holding it all together.

Oh, have I forgot to mention my New Mom’s Groups, my private practice, my sleep consultations work? I have really cut down on promoting my practice.  I am fortunate I am partnered with some wonderful places that do the administrative pieces: the outreach etc (Prenatal Yoga Center, Discovery Programs, Wiggles and Giggles Playhouse and Bread and Yoga), but my involvement with pulling in people has had to give.  I have whittled my practice down to the essence, lending support, assisting new moms and parents in identifying and building on their strengths as women, moms, dads and parents.  Sometimes we just need to know we are on the right course or need some support in steering the ship from an outside perspective. well, that’s no different for moms and dads of school aged and adolescent kids, or of adults taking care of their aging parents.

Whatever adult stage of development one is  in there are challenges and joyful moments. Each needing to be acknowledged for what it is (emotional, logistic, financial, pure, muddled, whatever). I need to remember that I am not in control of all things around me and that my daily life with my kids have all these components  (sometimes in the moment and sometimes with some perspective) and even my relationship with my folks at this point still hold all of these components.  This is what life looks like for me right now.  Much I am overwhelmed by, some of which is me, some of which is the situation.

So, how do I take care of myself during all of this. It’s is very easy to disconnect, to retreat.  I feel a bit flat, socially, sometimes. Like, when you are a new mom- you’re home with the baby and it’s like WHOA! How’d this happen? Where’s the light at the end of the tunnel? But as you reach out to others, talk, connect, take in the support, care, love (where you can) those feeling of self appreciation and care build. So, while you still might have struggles with nursing or your baby still might not be sleeping, the support around you helps  hold up and build your own self confidence.

I do believe reaching out for support and finding the right people to surround yourself with can give the journey perspective and insight.  Can help build one’s own confidence and to help feel cared for (while caring for all these other people and situations). Life is messy much of the time, can be uncomfortable and can require more from you that you think is possible. I need to remember I do have my limits, I will do nothing perfectly but I can do things to the best of my ability (which has its variables).

So, perhaps if I am part of the sandwiched generation, the supports and  friendships are the condiment.