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parenting class

Woman holding a popsicle kneeling down to hug a child in the grass surrounded by people

Connection and Compassion Are Key

I’ve said it a lot; there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep, but this applies to parenting in general as well. Many parents will read about certain techniques, and even follow specific scripts with older children, but if they don’t work, parents feel like they have failed or there is something wrong with their kid. They try a technique that their friend used, or read a book, or hear about something that is really popular. What they aren’t considering is that it will work for some kids, and it won’t work for others. Or maybe it will work for a little while, until your child catches on, and then you need to change your approach again.

No matter what age, you need to tune in to who your unique child is.

Connection means different things to everyone. I’m not a ‘hug it out’ type of person when I’m upset. I need space. My daughter needs lots of hugs and lots of attention when she is sad. When she is upset, she needs space and then she needs to talk. My husband needs peace and quiet, time to think. Your child is a unique individual with different needs, desires, and fears than you, your partner, and your other children. Just as we wouldn’t expect one technique to work for all adults, we can’t expect that when dealing with children.

Sometimes, to connect with your child, you may need separation. Many parents don’t understand this idea. They think if they are not hugging or physically touching, or at least near their child when they are upset, they are abandoning them. But when a child is more upset, more frustrated, and the situation escalates when you are near them, separation may be what they need. How this is executed will make all the difference. The words you use, your tone of voice, and your body language all matter. This is how you connect.

“I love you. I am going to step outside the room and wait here.”

“I am also feeling frustrated so I am going to take some deep breaths in the hall until I calm down too.”

Obviously, what you say and how you separate will vary depending on the age of your child and their temperament. Connection and compassion are key. You are here to help them, not punish them. When they are acting out, throwing a tantrum, or won’t go to sleep, it is never helpful to make them feel bad about it. For most little ones, they are not doing this intentionally. They need your help to get through this sad or scary or frustrating moment. They need your help in dealing with these completely normal emotions. Notice I said the are normal. We can’t expect our kids to never feel anything other than happiness. This is unrealistic and extremely unfair. They are going to get angry, sad, frustrated, scared, and nervous. How will you help them cope with these feelings? Instead of ignoring them or disregarding them, allow your child to feel the emotion and then deal with it in a healthy manner.

Sometimes your child will have these emotions toward you. They will get angry with you about something, and that’s okay. You are the parent, and they are the child. Your role is not to make them happy all the time or be their best friend, Your role is to create a safe and loving environment in which they thrive and feel supported. And sometimes that means allowing them to feel all their emotions. We also shouldn’t label emotions as “good” or “bad”. You don’t want your child to feel guilty because they are experiencing sadness or anger. These are normal emotions. You want to teach your child how to acknowledge that emotion, and deal with it in a healthy way. Ignoring it is not helpful. Discrediting it is not helpful. Shaming it is not helpful.

Try telling yourself this:
I have a really good kid who just happens to be struggling in this moment. I am their helper, not their punisher. They need my support, not my anger or frustration. Acting in anger causes stress in them which makes them act out more. It creates guilt and shame.

When I relate this idea specifically to sleep, this is why an in-person consult, with one-on-one support, and a custom sleep plan are so important. When one technique doesn’t work, you have an expert to guide you through other options. It’s also important to note that some babies and children need space sometimes. Stepping outside the room when things get hard is often good for both of you. Children sense anxiety and stress in parents. It changes how we act and talk which can change the outcome of the entire situation.

When we model this behavior to our children, we are showing them how to deal with strong emotions in a healthy way. It’s great for our children to know that we also have bad days. We also get frustrated, angry, or scared. We can help them figure out how to handle these big emotions.

They are always watching. They are always listening. What will they learn from you?

Alyssa Veneklase is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, Newborn Care Specialist, and Certified Elite Postpartum & Infant Care Doula. She also teaches a Newborn Survival Class, Becoming a Mother series, and Tired as a Mother.

 

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Gold Coast Doulas Saturday Series: Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival Classes. goldcoastdoulas.com/events

Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102

Kristin Revere, Kelly Emery, and Alyssa Veneklase talk about their Saturday Series of classes offered through Gold Coast Doulas.  Each goes in to detail about what their classes cover including Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Kristin, and I’m here today with Alyssa and Kelly, and the three of us teach our Saturday Series of classes.  So we’re going to talk about what each of our classes are and a bit about what we’re doing during COVID.  So welcome, Kelly, and welcome, Alyssa.

Kelly: Thank you.

Alyssa:  Hey.  So, yeah, we could kind of talk first about why we — so we used to teach all of our classes separately and have different days and different times, but then we had clients who were taking a breastfeeding class and my newborn class, and they would be on separate days, separate times, and we know how hard it is for people to coordinate their schedules.  So doing them all at once in a series on Saturday, and then Kristin adding on her comfort measures — you know, having three classes — it’s hard to find three nights in a week that either a pregnant person or a couple can both get off to take these classes.

Kristin:  Right, and some of our clients work nights, and if they have other children at home, childcare has been easier to find on a Saturday than a weeknight.  So that’s part of why we adapted to this format, and it’s also helpful that the Saturday Series is ala cart, so a client or student could sign up for just Kelly’s breastfeeding class or, you know, just the newborn class or all three.  Or they can take them at different times, since we offer the classes every couple months.  A client could take a class in September and then down the road later in the year take breastfeeding, for example, as it gets closer to their due date.

Alyssa:  And for the students who do choose all three and do them on the same date, it can definitely be a long day.  When we were doing the classes in person, we had a lunch break and then another break in between.  But the feedback we’ve gotten so far is that people really like knocking these out one after another.  And then because of COVID, they’ve been virtual, so that’s actually been kind of nice.  They don’t have to leave their sofa.  They can feel a little bit more relaxed, grab snacks.  So that’s worked out well, too.  But our next series is in September, and we plan on doing it in person for the first time since COVID, but that could change at any minute, depending on…

Kristin:  Right.  And our office is in Eastown, and we’ve talked about having a smaller class size and how we’re going to pivot due to COVID and all of, you know, the sanitation that will need to be done.  But our Zoom classes have been going well.  I wasn’t so sure about the fact that Comfort Measures is so hands-on, how that would work virtually, but the students seem to enjoy it, and they were hands-on as I instructed virtually.  So it went over pretty well the first time.

Alyssa:  Same with breastfeeding.  How does that — you know, you had said, Kelly, that it was going well virtually, but were you a little bit nervous at first about, you know, like, how do you show a position and, you know, what a proper latch might look like, through a computer?

Kelly:  Yeah.  Yeah, that was something — speaking of pivoting, we had to do pretty quickly because people were still having babies and they’re still learning to breastfeed.  That is not something in life that can just stop.  So, yeah, getting up and going on the Zoom and all the technology was rapid, and it was — it’s pretty slick.  You know, what I do is just like in the in-person classes, I show videos, and so I can share my screen.  I show videos, clips of things that — it will make more sense when they actually have their baby, but I think instead of me just talking about it, showing a visual and the videos and all of the pictures that I have.  I have just a slew of pictures over my 20-some years of doing this, so it’s able — the people are able to really see what I’m talking about better when I share my screen.  So it’s all actually working out, and the parents love it.  And, you know, they love being together in a class together, but also I’ve gotten great feedback about the Zoom classes, that they love that they can just sit on their own couch in their pajamas and eat dinner, you know, or eat a meal and have Dad be right there with them, as well.  So it’s all working out.

Alyssa:  Well, Kristin, do you want to talk about — so the series kind of starts with the Comfort Measures.  Then it’s Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.  So you want to maybe in that order talk about each of our classes and what they’re about?

Kristin:  Yes.  So Comfort Measures is a hands-on class that the couple is encouraged to attend, but certainly I’ve had the birthing person attend without a partner, as well.  And so we go over breathing, relaxation, and it definitely doesn’t replace a traditional comprehensive childbirth class.  I’m not going to cover the stages of labor in two hours.  But it’s more about different positions that will relieve discomfort, both while they’re at home, if they’re birthing in the hospital, in the early stages of labor, or positions to utilize further along in labor in the active stage as well as the pushing stage.  And we do cover breathing, as well.

Alyssa:  So is it more to have the partner understand what’s going on and allow the partner to offer these comfort measures?

Kristin:  The partner does learn how to do some of the different measures.  Hands-on massage, light touch massage is covered.  We go over hip squeezes and a lot of the doula tools, just a variety of positions, like hands and knees and leaning up against a wall and dancing, sort of rocking in labor, as well as, you know, using the birthing ball.  And then we talk about different positions that they could consider pushing in, like squatting and sidelying.  And I answer questions, and there are some handouts that they use to just get a comfort level for where the partner and the birthing person are at as far as what their expectations of birth are and how comfortable they are supporting a partner.  So there’s a lot of communication in the short class, as well.

Alyssa:  And Kelly, what about your class?

Kelly:  It’s called Breastfeeding: Getting a Strong Start, and it’s a lot about — my goal, anyway, is to get the mom and her partner comfortable and feeling confident about at least starting out.  You know, I think it’s sometimes overwhelming.  It is a three-hour class, so it is a long time, and a lot of content is covered, but my goal is not to, like, overwhelm the parents with, like, what to do over the next, like, two years of breastfeeding or whatever, like that.  Because I think people in this moment when you’re pregnant, especially, you can take little chunks of information that are going to be relevant to you in the moment.  And so just getting off to a strong start, at least to get you through those first early days and weeks, you know, of breastfeeding, and then let you exhale a little bit and kind of find your answers as they are relevant to you is something that I’ve found over the years of doing this, honing, about what moms really want to know and what they need to know in the beginning.  So I might go over — I’m a really strong proponent of going over anatomy in the beginning, just because I think if moms know how their breasts work and how their babies work, they can figure out — they can put a lot of these dots together and make it make sense for them in their situation.  So, for instance, one of the first things I talk about in anatomy is, like, in our middle school health ed class, we skipped right over the breasts, I’m quite sure.  You know, they talk about your periods and, you know, maybe some birth control.  I don’t know.  I don’t even remember what they all talked about.  But I don’t remember talking about lactation or anything about the breasts other than that they get bigger, and then you wear a bra.  That’s about it.  And so I’m like, wait, wait, wait.  This is an incredible two glands we have here that sustain life.  They have so much to do and so much to contribute, and they’re kind of a natural next stage of being pregnant is lactating.  So it’s kind of all jumbled up together there, and I feel like in our society we kind of — as women, we’ve kind of not learned a lot about our breasts.  So I talk about what’s happening while we’re pregnant, what happens in the first couple days after delivery, and then how lactation and how their breasts change and make milk and all these other wonderful things that they do in the days and weeks, you know, after delivery.  Yeah.  So I’m big on helping women know about their bodies and then seeing how it works, and then I think it’s less of a mystery when things unfold because we just — you’re like, oh, yeah, we talked about.  That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or that’s what my breasts are supposed to be doing.  Those little bumps on my areola, they mean something and they do play a role.

Alyssa:  What do those mean?

Kelly:  Those are your Montgomery glands, and they enlarge, you know, when you’re pregnant.  They secrete a couple things.  One is — it’s almost like a self-cleaning oven.  One is that they secrete the substance that kind of — it’s an antimicrobial, so kills bacteria.  It kind of keeps your nipples clean and your areola clean so you don’t have to scrub them.  A long time ago, like back in the ’50s, we used to think you had to scrub your nipples, and believe it or not, we would put alcohol on them before the baby would — like, we would sterilize your nipples, like we did with bottle nipples, before we would put the baby on you.  Just ridiculous.  And come to find out, you know, Mother Nature’s already taken care of that with those Montgomery glands.  Another thing that they do is they secrete — it’s an exocrine gland, which means it excretes something, you know, kind of like a sweat gland.  So they also secrete something that kind of keeps your nipple from drying out.  Keeps it kind of supple and moist.

Alyssa:  Kind of lubricated a little bit?

Kelly:  Yeah.  So all of those things — and one of the reasons I mention that is when moms think, oh, I have to buy some lanolin or some nipple ointment, those things are fine if you want to use them, but just use them just on your nipple.  You don’t have to smear it all over your areola because they can — if you smear up too much, they can block off those Montgomery glands, and then they can’t do their job.  So that’s one of the first things I talk about because it’s one of the most visible things you see when you get pregnant is your areola gets the little bumps on them, and then they darken and, you know, all of these things happening.  And then the next thing, the other part, huge part of the class, is getting the partner involved.  The baby’s other parent is going to be a huge part of breastfeeding, and I go over the research of how statistically, whether breastfeeding works or not has a lot to do with the mother’s partner and the worth that they feel and that togetherness.  And I joke that, you know, they’re going to be with you at 2:00 a.m., not me, and they’re the ones who know what motivationally you need to hear in the moment.  You know, what gets you — what makes you feel better.  What kind of cookies do you like?  What do you need in that moment?  And the partner is more tuned into that than I am, of course, you know.  So I can give some technical advice if I’m working with you postpartum to help with breastfeeding, but the partner is going to be there to be the other really important team member, and so that’s why I super, super encourage them to come to the class.  The in-person class or the Zoom class, any kind of class, so there’s four ears listening to all of this and not just two.  For the mom to have to listen to it and then go back and regurgitate it all, you know, it’s another burned on her, and she may forget things.  And I spend a lot of the time giving advice about what dads and partners can do to be helpful because I think they feel like they’re on the sidelines and they can’t be a part of breastfeeding.  And so I totally dispel that, and I give them lots of things, you know, concrete things that they can do that can be very helpful to breastfeeding.

Alyssa:  I know that everyone who’s taken your class has told me they love it.  They think you’re just so knowledgeable, and they had no idea about all these things, and they definitely go into it feeling more confident.

Kelly:  Awesome.  That’s my goal.

Alyssa:  Was there anything else you wanted to say about your class?

Kelly:  Well, I just want to say that I love being part of this entire series because knowing that I’m part of blending it together, like the big picture — like, the labor feeds into the breastfeeding.  The breastfeeding really ties closely with the newborn survival.  They’re all so well-interwoven that I think it’s great for the parents to have all of this information at once or, you know, dole it out as they need to, but just to have all of the information because then they get a sense of the bigger picture, I think.  It just makes total sense when all of these are taken together.  So I’m happy to be a part of this series, for sure.

Alyssa:  We’re happy you are a part!

Kristin:  So at what stage in pregnancy would you suggest someone take your breastfeeding class?  And I’ll also ask the same question of Alyssa and then answer that myself.

Kelly:  I would say the seventh month.  I wouldn’t wait to the last month because there’s a lot going on, you might go early, blah-blah-blah.  But, you know, you can take it in your ninth month, for sure.  But, yeah, I would say the third trimester would be good, start of the third trimester.

Kristin: Alyssa?  What would you say for Newborn Survival?

Alyssa:  You know, I would say third trimester, too, just so that this all is fresh in their heads.  The only problem is waiting that long, we do go over some items that are — you know, like baby registry items.  And by that point, usually they’ve already registered or had baby showers and gotten everything.  So that makes that a little bit irrelevant.  We still go over it, and I tell them, you know, keep things in packages with tags on.  If you don’t use them, you can always return them.  So we still go over it, but I think to do it any earlier, you’d kind of forget all of the stuff we’ve gone over.

Kristin:  I would say ideally the third trimester, though I’ve had students take it in the second trimester and still retain the information and practice the hands-on techniques that they learn.  A lot of my students also have doulas within Gold Coast or are working with me directly, so, of course, the doula is a great reminder of the different positions and comfort measures for labor and also some of the relaxation techniques that we learn.  And, certainly, you know, as far as who should take the class, we are also quite different from other childbirth education classes in that many are suited — just like Bradley method, for example, just for one type of birth.  Like, for those seeking an unmedicated birth.  For Comfort Measures, I have clients who want an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital or, you know, are having a home birth or are seeking an unmedicated hospital birth, so a variety of situations.  And, Kelly, I know that you have students who want to pump, and you do, of course, have the pumping class, the back to work pumping.  But it’s not for one type of parent or birthing person.  I know, Alyssa, you have everyone from attachment parents taking your newborn class to those who are more mainstream in parenting style.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You kind of have to be open to all of the options and all of the parenting styles.  I would say, you know, for yours, it’s important.  Kelly, you know they’re going to breastfeed if they’re taking your class, or at least going to attempt it.  And I don’t know in my class, so I go over if they’re not breastfeeding.  We’ll go over bottle feeding.  Maybe they want to just pump exclusively and bottle feed.  I go over it very briefly.  Sometimes I can completely skip it because they’ve also taken your class, Kelly, and I don’t need to go over anything.

Kelly:  I think with my breastfeeding class, you’re right, there are some moms who just want to pump and bottle feed, and we do go over working and bottle feeding and how to combine all of that, for sure.  But even the part about the anatomy that I was telling you about, it’s good for the moms to know the anatomy of how, also, to maximize that with a pump, because there are ways — the ways that some of our hormones work with a baby, trying to also trigger those with a pump takes a little bit of knowledge, you know, and a little bit of practice.  So even if you’re not going to breastfeed, knowing about your breasts and how they work would benefit you even if you’re going to be pumping, because then you can work with a pump to work with your anatomy and how all of the pumping and maintaining your milk supply goes together.

Alyssa:  I feel like I should sit through your class.  I haven’t sat through yours, and I always love having a refresher on breastfeeding because when I’m working with sleep clients, we talk about feeding a lot.  So I feel like I should put the next September Series class on my calendar to sit in yours.

Kelly:  I know, and I should — I want to learn more about your sleeping, too, because that’s a big question when it comes around to breastfeeding.  They are so intricately tied together.

Alyssa:  So my Newborn Survival class, I started or I created because, you know, working as a postpartum doula — I don’t anymore, but when I did, you start hearing the same questions and same concerns from the parents over and over.  If only someone had told me this!  Why didn’t I know that?  How come nobody told me that this would happen?  When you start hearing the same things over, then I’m like, yeah, I had these same concerns and questions and fears when I was a new mom, too.  So I just kind of started compiling all these things and talking to experts and put this Newborn Survival class together, and it has real-life scenarios.  Like, things that happened to me, things that happened, you know, in my work, and how do we deal with these?  And then it’s very — you know, we do talk about, hey, has anyone changed a diaper?  If they haven’t, we’ll show them.  But that’s probably the most surface level type stuff.  I want to get into, hey, babies cry.  There’s no way around it.  How do we minimize that?  What do we check for?  And how do you communicate?  Like, you and your baby are a team, and from a very, very young age, they are communicating with you, and you need to figure that out.  So just giving them really pragmatic steps to — you know, the first few weeks, your baby’s just going to eat, sleep, poop, pee.  That’s about it.  But once, you know, six weeks rolls around, there’s kind of this schedule forming.  You probably have a pretty good idea of when they want to eat.  Maybe you start to see some sleep patterns forming by six to nine weeks.  And then if they’re crying, what does that mean?  What causes that crying?  How do we stop that crying?  What happened when the crying started?  And then talking a lot about feeding.  People usually want to ask me a lot of sleep questions, even though this isn’t a sleep class.  We go over sleep.  But a lot of it’s, well, you know, if my baby’s not sleeping well, do I just let them cry?  Never, never, never is my answer; never.  No.  We don’t just let them cry.  But if they’re not eating enough, no amount of letting your baby sit in that crib will do any good because they’re hungry.  So we talk a lot about feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  And then we go over things like, you know, common skin issues.  Like, everyone always gets weirded out by cradle cap and baby acne and maybe some rashes, diaper rash.  And then like I mentioned, we go over some things that are not worth spending your money on.  Here’s some things you really need.  And then talking, too, about the partners keeping communication open and setting goals and expectations for each other ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to be dealing with that in the moment at 3:00 in the morning.  So if you have these expectations set ahead of time, it’s really important.  And then obviously talking about, you know, letting them know that there are resources available.  They don’t have to go through this alone.  There are — you know, Kelly’s a lactation consultant.  She can do an in-person or a Zoom visit.  We have postpartum doulas who work day and night.  All these resources are available to them.  And then we go over a lot of soothing methods.  I show them my swaddling methods.  And we talk about bathing, too.  Bathing is a big one for parents that they’re usually kind of freaked out about.  But yeah, it’s just kind of how to survive those first few weeks or months home with a new baby because it’s a little bit scary when you walk through that door for the first time holding a human that you have to keep alive.

Kristin:  Great summary!  So let’s talk a little bit about — again, we mentioned breaks within the format and a little bit of the timing structure of each class.  So the Saturday Series usually starts off with my Comfort Measures class.  We have switched our schedule a few times, but my class is two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, and then there is a lunch break.  And then we get into Kelly’s class.  And, Kelly, you mentioned your class is three hours.  And then there’s a short break, and then Alyssa has an hour and a half for Newborn Survival.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I think there’s a half an hour break to grab a snack, go to the bathroom.

Kristin:  Right.  And then as far as the fee for the class — again, the classes are a la carte so you could purchase one class or all three, and each class is $75.  And traditional insurance does not cover the Saturday Series, but if a student has a health savings or flex spending, most plans do cover childbirth classes.

Kelly:  And I would add, Kristin, on the same for breastfeeding classes.  As part of the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding support and supplies and education should be covered, and I provide a superbill for my class as well with all of my codes and my tax ID number and everything that they would need to self-submit.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  And, Kelly, did you want to touch on your pumping class that’s separate from the Saturday Series?

Kelly:  Yeah.  I have a class for moms who want to go deeper into just the pumping.  During my Saturday Series, I will go over some pumping and working and everything, but to dive deeper into that of what that looks like on a professional level and an emotional level, like leaving your baby, what that’s like, and if I have to travel, and how do I maintain a milk supply and what if my milk supply goes low?  Lots of little details swirling around.  If you’re still having, you know, after this class, if you’re still having questions about that, or if you want to skip over the whole breastfeeding class and just do the pumping and working one, I have a class, and you can just go to my website and you’ll see.  It’s called Work Pump Balance, and it’s an almost-three hour class in and of itself.  It’s self-paced modules that you can go through, and it’s myself and then a — my friend Mita, and she pumped for a year for both of her kids and worked full time.  She had a very demanding career in a very male-dominated industry, and she made it work.  She gives a lot of insight about how — you know, a lot of the laws have changed since she’s done it, so that only benefits moms even more.  But how to logistically travel and calling clients and work around this when you’re really the only female in the whole — it’s a big company, but you’re the only female around.  So, yeah, we dive deeper into that.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  And Gold Coast also offers a private multiples class for any of our clients or students who are expecting twins or triplets.  So we do offer each of the individual Saturday Series of class privately, since our Series is offered every couple of months.  There is the option of taking just breastfeeding privately through Zoom and/or, depending on COVID, in person.  So did each of you want to — I know, Alyssa, you just recently taught a newborn class on Zoom.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We just did a private one because they were being induced this week.  So we just did it last week.  Yeah.  It’s great.  It kind of allows the couple an opportunity to ask the questions that they might be afraid to ask in front of other people, although I feel like with my class specifically, I make it very clear that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and I think most of the students do feel very comfortable asking anything.  But it’s just a little different when it’s just me with one couple.  They can ask whatever they want freely.  And I do get told that it’s nice for them to learn the same techniques together so that it’s not, you know, one person saying, well, I think we should do that, and I think we should do that.  You know, they can kind of take all the information I’ve given and make their own decisions from there based on what they’re comfortable with.  So I’ve been told several times that they like that they’re hearing the same information together and not different information from different people at different times.

Kristin:  That makes sense, and yeah, it is nice that if someone wants to take a class last minute or wants the individual attention.  My students have enjoyed just being able to customize the comfort measures based on what their birthing goals are.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So if anyone wants to register, they can go to our website and register for, like we said, one, two, or all three.  We also have the Multiple class and a HypnoBirthing Series.  And you can always reach out to any of us with questions.

Kelly:  I appreciate you doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next class in September.

Kristin:  Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  You can find us on SoundCloud, iTunes, and on our website.  These moments are golden.

 

Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102 Read More »

Alyssa of Gold Coast Doulas holding a Zoom interview for the Ask The Doulas Podcast

Adult Separation Anxiety: Podcast Episode #99

On this episode, Alyssa and Laine begin by talking about  parenting anxiety and the distance that parents can sometimes feel as their babies and children grow and seem to need them less.  The conversation takes some interesting turns to talk about having clear boundaries for kids, pivoting our expectations of children as they grow, and learning how to figure out who you are as a parent.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  Super excited to be talking to Laine Lipsky again.  How are you?

Laine:  I’m good.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Good.  So we had a couple great podcasts, and I had an idea last week about another topic to talk about because I have a lot of clients who — so, they come to me and they want something specific, right?  They have a specific sleep goal.  Maybe that’s to stop nursing to sleep.  Maybe it’s to stop bed sharing.  It could be any number of things.  But when those things happen, they struggle with feeling distance from their child because now they’re not cosleeping, and they’re not nursing to sleep anymore.  So I just wonder, you know, from your end as a parenting coach, what kind of, I don’t know, tips or tricks do you have, because it kind of seems like the classic motherhood scenario, right, where our babies are going to grow up and we always have these feelings of — I don’t know.  It’s almost like grief.  You’re, like, grieving the loss of one stage of this child.  But, of course, we want them to grow up and we want them to become strong, independent little humans, but we grieve the loss of that, especially if maybe you’re only having one child.  So, yeah, I just kind of — like, that was an idea I had.  So let’s talk about it.

Laine:  Yeah.  It’s such a good topic, and you’re right, it does sort of permeate all phases of parenting, right?  Like, no matter how old your child is, you’re going to be experiencing — you’re moving through life and life stages, so there’s going to be transitions, and transitions are — they have loss as part of them.  That’s part of the deal of a transition.  You’re starting something new.  You have to let go of something that you had before.  And I’m sure with the clients that you’re talking about, when they’re looking to move out of one sleep phase, it’s because it’s not working for them, right?  And they want to move into this new thing, but once they have the new thing, it’s like this sort of romantic, you know, notion.  But there is this real separation thing, and I think that’s where the pain point is.  It’s interesting talking about it.  I think that what comes up for me when you first mention this topic was that I received a card when my son was born, and I think it’s a — I don’t know; maybe you’ve heard the phrase before, but it was something — I might get it a little wrong.  But it was something along the lines of, “Motherhood is the understanding — or the agreement, maybe — of having your heart walking around outside of you for the rest of your life.”  Have you ever heard that one before?

Alyssa:  Yeah, I’ve heard that, and it’s so true.

Laine:  Yeah!  So hopefully I didn’t butcher that too badly.  But it is really like — it’s such a good quote and concept because it really is, in a nutshell, saying about — this other person that’s really a part of you and really needs you is going to be separate from you.  Right?  In different times of life.  And I think that, you know — I think that when — it’s like a confusing time when you first have a baby because you’re literally enmeshed with your baby, right, when you first take them home or you’re an adoptive parent and they’re first brought home.  They’re so reliant on you and dependent on you for their survival, if you have an infant on your hands.  Right?  And it creates this — I mean, it creates this codependence, really.  It’s like the ultimate enmeshment of a relationship.  And I have always seen motherhood, like early motherhood, as being like this accepted form of enmeshment, and then the process of it kind of tearing and tearing apart.  And that, I think, is the pain of it, is this process of separation.  I hear a lot from people that they get afraid of, like, oh, my child won’t need me anymore.  And I think that — I mean, I think we all go through that.  I think we all have that fear of, like, being so needed and then not being needed.  It’s like this overwhelming capacity of being needed and then flipping over to not needed anymore, and we get so identified with that need, that early need that our kids have for us.  I think we identify with it really strongly.  That’s, like, an interesting place to start talking about it.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and it seems to happen so drastically.  So, you know, this infant needs you 100% of the time.  You’re sustaining its life.  It needs you to live.  And then you have a toddler who still needs you quite a lot, and then all of a sudden, you have this young — you know, maybe at age 8, 9, 10 — they’re just so independent that it just stops.  And I think that’s what’s really hard for, maybe especially us as mothers, is we go from, “Hey, Mom.  Hey, Mom.  Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” like all the time, to, “I go this.”  So I think, you know, when my clients with their babies are going through this, it feels very severe, like it just happened so suddenly.  And they really struggle with that feeling of disconnection.  So I try to find, you know, what’s a way that we can bring that feeling of connectedness back without getting you back to a place of sleeplessness.

Laine:  Yeah.  What comes up for me when we’re talking about this is really the backing up in that process.  Like, even before somebody is lamenting the loss, right, like, it’s almost like — when you lament losing something, when you grieve something, it’s almost like I didn’t get enough of it, or maybe I didn’t do it — I didn’t get enough out of it when we were going through it, and I’m not ready to let go of it yet.  And one practice that I feel really strongly about in parenting, and I think this applies here, too, is the concept of practicing mindfulness.  And one of my favorite definitions of mindfulness is actually savoring.  When you savor moments with your kids, what you are enjoying about each phase in the moment — I believe there is a natural sense, because I see it with parents and I know with myself, there’s a sense of completion of a phase, and it’s not as hard to let go of because you’re not like, oh, I’m trying to grasp back to that.  So, for example, I remember — I remember actually sitting — it was with a friend and her toddler.  We were at a play date together, and the moms were sitting in one room, and the kids were supposedly playing in the other room.  And the toddler kept coming up to her and asking for her attention.  And she kept shooing him away, saying, go, this is your time to play with your friends.  Go play with your friends.  I mean, all he wanted to do was sit on her lap.  He didn’t even — he wasn’t even that demanding, right?  She kept shooing him away and shooing him away.  And finally she, like, couldn’t fight the fight anymore, and she let him sit on her lap, and she was so much happier about it, and she was obviously so much more at peace.  And, you know, the other moms were sitting there, and I was like, you know, this time is going to pass so quickly.  Embrace this time that he’s seeking your attention because before you know it, he’s going to be off.  Peace out, Mom.  I don’t need you anymore.  And that — I think that when we fight what’s happening in the moment, we kind of lose out on getting our fill of it.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I almost wonder if you hit the nail on the head there with my sleep clients, because let’s say it’s a two-year-old that I’m working with.  Maybe they — because of sleep deprivation, they feel like they’ve lost out on so many moments, because as we’ve talked about before, it inhibits your ability to parent, and then with a sleep-deprived child, they’re not themselves, either.  So maybe they feel like these months or years of sleepless nights and dealing with a crying child and tired and screaming, they feel like they didn’t get all those moments or get enough of those moments; that they’re not ready when it does end.  I’m not sure.

Laine:  That’s interesting.  There’s also very intense bonding that happens.  I had a child who was not a good sleeper, and there’s very intense bonding that happens at 3:00 a.m.  And it’s like you love this being and you’re there for this being and you’re comforting them or you’re trying to comfort them in whatever way, and it’s so primal and it’s so intense that I think there is a loss of that, like, bonding experience.  How are we going to bond?  If that’s been our bonding up until now, as crappy as it was, as hard as it was, if we don’t have that thing, how we do it now?  And I think that gets to more the real, like, heart of how do you interact with your child.  How do you interact with anybody when the problem has been defining the relationship, right?  Anybody, really.  Like, when you have a friend and, like, all you’ve been doing is, like, talking about what hasn’t been working, let’s just say, in your friendship, and then suddenly you resolve that thing.  It’s like, wait.  Do we even know how to interact with each other?  Or like with parents whose kids then leave the house.  This whole — I know you’re far away from this, but it does happen.  Kids do eventually, you know, leave the house.

Alyssa:  And then the parents are like, hmm, what do we talk about?

Laine:  Yeah.  Like, so I still like you?  Who are we without this thing, this elephant in the room?  Or not elephant; we’re actually talking about it.  Maybe it’s not the elephant.  And, like, I think that there’s some fear there, and I also — which I get.  I get it.  How do I actually mother now?  If my child doesn’t need me for this essential need, this basic physical thing of sleep — okay, so what are the other levels I can bond on?  Maybe it’s the physical because it’s about kissing them, you know, their boo-boos when they fall down.  It’s about feeding them.  It’s about making sure their diapers are clean or whatever.  I’ve got the physical thing.  But it starts to kind of move into this more emotional realm where I know for a fact that most people feel very uncomfortable.  How do I actually interact with my child?  Especially — I don’t know if I told you this in one of our other podcasts, but it does bear repeating.  When I Googled how many people were raised in a dysfunctional home, do you know what the percentage was?

Alyssa:  I’m sure a lot higher than I think.

Laine:  It’s staggering.  96%.  Some sort of dysfunction.  Not, like, fully crisis level, but some sort of — and the way that it was encapsulated, at least in the article that I read, was around the ability to talk about emotions.  The emotional functionality of families.  So maybe there’s something going on.  I’m just riffing here, but maybe there’s something going on.  If we’re moving out of the physical realm, I don’t know if I’ve got the chops to handle the emotional stuff that’s coming.  I thought that maybe the physical piece of it is ending.  Maybe there’s something there.  I think a lot of people get really nervous about, like, what else am I — if you’ve been nursing your child, if I’m not the nurser, then what do I have to offer here?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s like learning and relearning who you are and who your child is and then rebuilding that relationship, maybe even from the ground up, if that’s all you’ve known for months.

Laine:  Yeah, or I would say more like pivoting.  Right?  Pivoting from being one thing; okay, now I’m this other thing.  Okay; now I’m going to be this other thing.  And that’s a process that doesn’t stop, right?  Like, my kids are 12 and 14 now, so, you know, you’re the comforter when they’re born, and then you’re the playmate and the early teacher, and then you become the — you continue to be your child’s teacher, but you keep pivoting as they grow, depending on what they need, and developing a sense of what is sort of normal levels of need and what the fair expectations are at each stage.  I think it’s a really useful thing.  Like, I don’t want my 14-year-old coming to me with every single issue that’s going on.  You know, I want him to have some agency in the world, right?  So at this point I will, like, sometimes purposefully put him into an uncomfortable situation.  Like, you order the food for the family over the phone, or you make the appointment for the doctor.  That kind of thing.  And, again, he’s older, but that’s where we’re headed with them, right, to teach them real-life skills.  But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need me anymore.  It just means that it’s like handing — it’s like you have the reins, and then you slowly start handing the reins over to your child.  It’s a process.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I like the idea of pivoting.  Because it’s true; at every age and stage from birth on, it’s this constant shift of, now I have to do this for my child.  Now I don’t need to do that, but guess what?  She has a new need.  She doesn’t need this one anymore, but she needs me in this other way, and helping parents to understand that.

Laine:  Totally, and what sucks about it for parents is that just as you’re getting good at one stage, those kids go on and they do something else, and you’re like a rookie all over again.  Even if you’re on your second or your third child, your second or third child isn’t going to be exactly the same as your first or your second child.  It’s like, I’ve never been a mom to — to my 12-year-old, I’ve never been a mom to a 12-year-old you before.  I’ve never been a mom to — even though I was a mom to a 12-year-old before, it wasn’t to you.  Which is a very useful phrase for me to teach people to have in their back pocket.  You know, I’ve never done this part for you before, with you before.  And staying flexible and flexible-minded is the key to it, for me, anyway, and what I try to teach people.  Something else along the lines of mindfulness and savoring each stage is letting yourself grieve a little bit at each stage.  I think it’s a really — like, what a useful practice.  You know, to recognize that this piece is ending and not try to talk yourself out of being sad a little bit.  You know, I think anytime we try to overshadow — did you see the movie Inside Out with your daughter?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Oh, yeah.

Laine: I mean, really.  Such a good movie.  We just watched it again as a family the other night.  And it’s just brilliant, right?  Anytime you try to overshadow sadness with joy, it just rings false.  And it doesn’t hold the truth to it.  And so you asked me for tips and tricks.  One thing that I will share that I do around grief is I have a really simple candle lighting thing that I do, which is when I’m feeling grief about something — could be anything, but even parent-related — I just have a little candle that I light, and I say, like, I grieve this thing.  You know, I grieve the end of this stage.  I grieve that I didn’t get to do this.  I grieve, you know, we’re in Corona times right now, so I’m grieving that I don’t get to see my friends, and honoring that grief because any time we try to convince ourselves and “joy” our way out of something, we’re not going to get the full experience.  It won’t be satisfying, and it won’t feel authentic.  And as a parenting coach, I will say: our kids pick up on it.  Whenever we are acting from a place of inauthenticity, that’s when they start to smell the blood and the fear in the water.  So they’re going to start acting out more.  They’re going to start — because they’re reacting, not always entirely, but a lot of times, they are reacting to the energy, the emotion, that we are emitting, even if we’re not saying it out loud.  They’re feeling it, especially the young ones.  Like the kids of the parents that you mostly deal with — those kids are all about, you know, the limbic part of the brain, which is all that, like, mammal-kind of stuff, which is, like, I’m just going to feel how I’m feeling.  I’m not going to talk about how I’m feeling.  I’m not going to reason how I’m feeling.  I’m just going to be in the feeling 100%.  Right?  And so they pick up on — no matter what we’re saying, no matter what our tone of voice is, they’re going to pick up on what the feeling is.  And so we’ve got to get right with ourselves around it.  So I say welcome it.  Don’t disrupt your sleep over it, right?  I mean, please.

Alyssa:  Right.  Just own it.  Do whatever you need to do, whether it’s a candle or writing or a meditation.  But own it; leave it, and kind of move on, because it’s true.  Even at a few months of age, these kids — you know, you’ve probably seen those studies where, based on a parent’s face, how a baby will react.  And even just facial expressions can change how a baby feels and reacts.  So if you’re stressed, they feel it.  They notice.

Laine:  They do, and I think as much as it’s a good training ground for the infant to learn how they’re reading our face, it’s great training when our kids are infants for us as parents to be, like, I’ve got to get myself right around this.  Whatever this pain point is — it feels enormous because we’re all emotional and we’re all tired, and it’s all very, very sensitive and raw and new.  But in retrospect, the infant issues are going to seem very small, you know?  And when your kids get older, they will seem very small.  So we want to use these moments when our kids are babies to train ourselves.  How am I going to get right about this feeling?  What are my practices around talking about this?  Who’s my tribe?  Who are my trusted mentors?  What is my trusted source of information?  What are the practices that actually work for me?  You know, we’re so vulnerable as new parents to taking in all the information that’s out there.  It can get really overwhelming, like a tidal wave of information coming at us.  And it’s such a great time to learn how to slow down and just be like, hmm, what feels right for me?  And that takes some work for most of us, you know?  We want to do everything right, but really, there’s no — I’ve said this before.  There’s no one right way to parent, but there’s a right way for each of us, and we’ve got to find that way.  And the only way to do that is to get right with yourself.  So the other thing I was going to add in is that — you know, it’s interesting, because when people talk to me about sleep stuff, they’re often talking about their children — you probably hear this a lot, too — delaying the sleep by one tactic or another.  When they’re a little older, right?  I need another drink of water.  I need another book.  I need another song.  I need another whatever.  And what I find is really helpful for parents to know is that for children, this is a time when most kids and parents are at odds, right?  Children are not wanting to separate.  They’re looking for more connection.  But the parents are looking to separate because they need a break.  They want to connect with their partner if they’ve got one.  They’re tired themselves.  They’ve got dishes; whatever’s going on.  And so they become sort of at-odds, and so evening can become this really tense time, right?  And what I would — what came up for me as you were talking about your clients with this issue is, like, perhaps the parents are also experiencing some inner feelings about that separation.  Maybe they’re experiencing it as a separation as well, you know?  And so with separation comes a little bit of anxiety, not just about what it means, but the actual act of separating.  So I never thought about it as, like, creating anxiety for the parent.  I’ve always thought about it from the child’s perspective and thinking, like, well, this is — it’s an anxious time for them, and the more you can settle in to helping them, the better it will go overall.  But maybe there’s something going on there for them, too.

Alyssa:  I’m glad you mentioned that, the bedtime routine, because that’s the one time I tell them, really focus on that time to bond with your child then.  So that means it’s just you.  There’s no phone.  There’s no TV.  It’s just you two, and you’re not thinking about anything else.  You’re focused.  Because 30 minutes, which is the perfect bedtime routine, so it doesn’t — another drink, another book, another song – can turn into an hour or two easily.  So if you focus on trying to stick within 30 minutes, but 30 minutes of focused, dedicated time on your child is like hours to them.  So they’re going to struggle at bedtime if you give them 30 minutes but it’s half focused on them.  You’re checking the phone; you’re having them brush their teeth; you’re helping another kid, and then you’re telling them to go to the bathroom, and you’re never focused on just them.  If you have older kids, stagger it, so that the youngest, you’re putting to bed first, just them.  Then you do the next, and it’s just them.  If you can dedicate that time to them, it’s huge.  And then you can also feel — you know, even if you’re not nursing to sleep anymore, just those cuddles and sweet kisses and songs, you know, and holding the little stuffed animal, that can be still such an amazing bonding experience before bed.  I think it just takes focus.

Laine:  It does, and mindfulness, too, like that savoring.  You’re talking about exactly what I was mentioning before.  It’s the same thing.  Take it in.  Smell their little clean head.  You know, like enjoy their breath before it get stinky, you know?  Give them a few years.  You’re not going to want to do that.  Touch their skin; hold their hands.  That’s all mindful practices which is, like, just take it in.  Breathe it in.  Which is really hard.  I just want to, like, give a shout-out to the parents out there whose kids, first of all, you know, bedtime is not a pleasant experience.  That’s a very real thing.  And also a shout-out to the parents whose kids are not neurotypical.  So if you have a child who’s really challenging who’s, like, very strong-willed; a child who had a really hard time settling themselves down, and so bedtime routine is longer than that half-hour and it seems like the more attention you give them, the more they want, and the more they seem to crave — that is going to require something different on their part, too.  Because it’s not — I mean, 30 minutes, I would say, is ideal, but, like, I’ve got a child who is not neurotypical, and I would have loved half an hour.  Trust me.  But, like, that was not in the cards.  And so, again, recognizing what your reality is and accepting that and identifying where it doesn’t feel right.  Okay, I can make a tweak here.  Where it does feel right, I can embrace that part of it.  But really taking it all in and recognizing, like, this is your team.  You don’t swap out kids.  If you’re a coach on a team and you show up that year, these are your players.  You make the best of what you have, no matter who you have.  And everybody has their strengths, and everybody has their challenges.  I think that so often, parents whose kids require more, who demand more, start doing the, like, I wish it was this way, or so-and-so’s kids are so much easier.  This would be so much better if.  And rather than that grass-is-always-greener kind of thinking — that’s a real mindset shift that parents — that I do, I work with parents on all the time, of, like, who do we have?  Forget the ideal child.  Forget the ideal whatever; sleep routine or whatever.  We got to figure out what works for you.  You know?  And I think that a lot of — back to your original thought around, like, why — how parents grieve and the separation that they feel and the loss that they feel, you know, there’s a lot of fantasy thinking around, oh, it was supposed to be this way, or I was supposed to be this way.  And it’s like, you know, I have clients who have older kids, and they’re like, you know, I really am sad that now things are this way.  Maybe they would have been different if I would have parented differently when they were younger.  I mean, it doesn’t end, right, unless you end it.  Unless you end that kind of thinking, and you’re like, you know what?  Starting today.  Starting right here, right now, this is how I’m going to do it differently, whatever that different thing is.  The only mistake I really call parents out on is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results.  That’s the only mistake that’s really going to bite you in the butt.  Other than that, if you’re trying different things, and you’re being mindful about it, and you’re being honest with yourself and getting really aligned with what feels good for you and lines up with your values — I mean, this is all — everyone’s a rookie.  Everyone.

Alyssa:  I love every piece of this.

Laine:  I don’t know that I have anything else to add.  I think that’s a lot.  That’s a lot of, like, essential, basic stuff.  You know, recognizing what you’ve got, leaning in to what’s true for you, tuning out the noise, having trusted people in your huddle.  You know, there’s a great body of information out there for parents right now and a lot of people delivering it and figuring out who’s your person is really essential.  And I love how you talk about creating specific plans for people.  Like, parenting is not one size fits all.  You work with a body of information.  And sleep is not one size fits all, right?  You work with a body of information, and then you have to pick and choose what works for you.  And the more — I just think the more support you can get for getting more and more aligned with yourself — that is an approach.  That’s not even a tactic.  That’s, like, a strategy.  That’s an approach for parenting that lasts a lifetime.  Because then no matter what, you’re, like, I’m good here.  I’m going to try these different things.  You know, one of these things is going to — all of them are going to blow up in my face.  This one thing is going to work, but that doesn’t mean — you know, that three minutes where I tried something new and it totally blew up in my face and my kid lost it — that doesn’t define me as a parent.  Right?  Like, I am defined by what I — I call the shots in what defines me as a parent.  Nobody else gets to do that for me.  And the more we can operate from that place of strength and confidence, which most people lack because they end up saying things, doing things, that they swore up and down that they wouldn’t say or do, but that’s what comes out in moments of stress.  And parenting is stressful.  It’s really stressful.  Our emotional back is put against the wall every day, most of the time.  Especially, again, shout out to parents who have kids who are not neurotypical or who are challenging.  You’re going to get stuff blown back at you every day.  And so if you don’t have your running shoes on, you’re not going to be prepared to run that marathon.  I just want people to — like, if I had one dream for all parents, it would be, like, get right with yourself.  You know?  And then, like, the rest — the rest is going to flow how it’s going to flow.  There are going to be bumps and turns and curves and sharp U-turns all along the way.  It doesn’t end.  But the calmer you can be, the more centered you are as a parent, the better off the whole family is going to be.  And that extends from early infancy.  It’s a great training ground, and all the sleep stuff and the feeding and all of that stuff to forever.  It’s not easy.  This sounds really easy, like I’m saying things that make it sound really easy, like get right with yourself.  Okay, Laine.  What does that mean?  Done.  Check.  Right with myself.  No.  It’s really, really hard.  And, again, that statistic of, like, how many of us grew up in some sort of dysfunction is real.  It’s so real.  And so, you know, I always say about parenting: it’s probably the most important job that any of us will ever have.  It’s certainly the most important job I’ve ever had and ever plan to have.  It makes it really stressful.  It makes it really important.  I really care about it.  And I didn’t get any training for it, except for how I was raised, and that’s true for everybody.

Alyssa:  When you put it that way, it’s pretty scary, when you think about it like that.

Laine:  How else could you think about?  I mean, put it in the context of playing tennis.  If you were taught how to play tennis, and then you were in a position to teach somebody else tennis, you can only teach them what you know.  Right?  I mean, so what would you do if you wanted to do it differently?  You’d get a coach.  You’d get help.  You’d get a consultant like you.  You would, like, start off learning how to do it differently so that you can give it to your children.  You can’t give your kids what you yourself don’t have, and I know for a fact that every person who I talk to about being a parent wants their kids to grow up to be a few things.  They want them to grow up to be successful.  Usually, actually, it’s happy first.  I want them to be happy.  I want them to be successful.  And I want them to be independent.  And sometimes kind is thrown in there.  Usually it is, eventually.  But it’s always happy, successful, and independent.  And what do you need to be those three things?  You need to have a sense of confidence.  And where do you get that from?  You know, well, you get it from your experience, and you get it from your parents.  And if you didn’t get it from those things, then you go to therapy and you work it out, and you figure some stuff out, and you try to bring those things in as an adult.  But wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if, you know, we could raise our kids who did not have to recover in one way or another from their own childhood and just grow up with this confidence.  And the only way we can do it is by giving it to ourselves first, which is awesome.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s great.  I mean, it’s great relationship advice, and no matter what age, right?  I always say you can’t be a good partner if you don’t know what you yourself need and want.  But it’s good training ground for children.  I’ve heard it before in the aspect of a partner, but it relates to being a parent.

Laine:  Yeah.  I always — there are a few things I say a lot, and one of the things that I say a lot is, you know, I teach parenting, but really, what I’m teaching is relationship, like human relationship skills.  It just happens to come out in full bloom with our kids because, you know, they bring it out in us.  They bring out all the stuff that’s unhealed, that’s unsettled, that’s ungrounded.  You know what that feels like, when your child says something or does something that you’re like, oh, no.  Oh, that’s a no.  Right?  And you’re so clear about it.  Like, that interaction with her goes away.  I don’t know how it goes in your house.  It can go all sorts of ways.  It doesn’t mean it goes any better.  You just know, no.  I’m not going to give in on that one.  Whereas when you’re not clear, and you’re like, well, I don’t know.  It’s, like, blood in the water.  You know, they smell it, and it’s like they just feed off of the uncertainty, off the anxiety, and it makes them feel unsafe, too.  It really does.  It’s like if you’ve ever driven over a bridge.  They have those guardrails there for a reason — for many reasons, but imagine driving over a bridge and it didn’t have the guardrails up.  You’d be like, oh, my gosh.  I could totally take one little wrong turn and fall.  Boundaries are the same way with kids.  I know we’re touching onto another topic here, but boundaries operate like that.  They keep kids feeling really safe.  And so when we know what our boundaries are, it makes our kids feel safer, too.  And so often we don’t know, and so, again, this comes back to getting more and more clear about where we stand as people, as humans, as women, as mothers, as parents, whoever, before we start trying to impose boundaries on our kids because some of those are going to fall really flat.  And even with — I’m sure you bump against this with the sleep consulting, right?  Like, parents don’t really know how they feel about it.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, especially with the older ones.  You know, what are your boundaries?  And you do; you find out these kids are just trying and pulling all the tricks because they don’t — some days it’s yes.  Some days, it’s no.  Some days, they let them cry.  Some days, they let them stay up.  Some days, he sleeps on the sofa.  Some days, he sleeps in their bed.  One night, he’ll sleep in his room.  It’s just that there’s just no — zero boundaries, usually, so you just kind of have to slowly rein them in.  But yeah, in that instance, I am coaching the parents more than the child because they have to decide.  And I ask them: what are your goals, and what do you want your boundaries to be, because you both have to stick with it.  It’s a two-parent home.  You both have to agree, and you have to be consistent 100% of the time.  Because like you said, blood in the water.  They sense that Mom will do one thing, but Dad will do another, and they’re like, okay, I’ve got you.  I know what I can get from both of you.  So, yeah, consistency is key, too.

Laine:  Yeah, I was going to add, it can be that.  It can be that I can get away with this, right?  Certainly, when they’re older, I can get away with this.  They’re more conscious of it.  But I caution parents against thinking that way because then they get resentful of their kids for trying to take advantage of them, and I think, coming from where I sit from a boundary perspective, I actually think that kids are looking to find out where the boundaries are by testing those limits because they want to feel safe.  They want to know what the boundaries are.  So they’re not doing it — I’m just flipping what you’re saying a little bit — not doing it to get away with something.  They’re doing it to find out where the edge is because they’re actually not feeling safe about it.  Do you know what I mean?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  No, I like that.

Laine:  I think that makes parents feel a lot better and more confident to set a boundary when they’re like, no, this is actually going to feel good.  It might not feel great at the beginning, but it will feel better for everybody when they know what the rules are.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and I think you said it better than I did, but I tell parents that if you have different styles, absolutely fine.  Your boundary might be a little bit different than your partner’s.  As long as your child knows that there are boundaries, and there’s got to be a little bit of give, but your boundary can’t be here and your partner’s boundary can’t be here because then there will be fighting.  So a little bit of wiggle room, but I like that: making them understand that their child wants and needs these boundaries, and they’re not just testing them to be, you know, malicious or cunning or conniving.  They just — at all ages, right, they want to know what they can get away with.

Laine:  And they want to know where the edges are.  They want to know where they’re going to be safe.  It’s like the rails on the bridge.  It feels very unsafe to not have those rails up, even if they don’t like it.  If they seem to not like it on the surface, kids do better — research tells us again and again that kids who do better in life are kids who grew up with boundaries.  You know, not enforced in some militant kind of way, but fairly enforced boundaries that are clear; clear rules.  And very few kids, very very few, can operate without clear rules and kind of figure them out on their own.  It’s kind of an unfair ask of kids to figure that out.  It’s really on us.  Part of the deal with parenting.  So to your parents who are feeling a loss over not bed sharing anymore, I would add this, as maybe a good place to wind down: what are the rituals that they can put in place to make, like you suggested, bedtime really meaningful, and also wake-up time; the reunion time.  People put a lot of emphasis on the separation; like, oh, we’re going to have this sweet goodbye.  Even if a parent is traveling, right?  We’re going to do this when they leave; we’re going to do that when they leave.  And there’s so much anxiety around the separation, for kids especially, and like I said, sometimes with parents.  But if we flip it and we start focusing on, what are we going to do around the reunion time, it is actually something to look forward to.  And you don’t even have to talk about it very much with little kids.  You just start doing it.  That’s the beauty when they’re little.  You just start doing stuff and try it out.  How does it feel when you walk into the room after a night of being separate?  Check your own emotional baggage at the door.  Leave it.  Like, that was hard for me, but you walk in and you’re like, maybe there’s a special song you sing in the morning.  Maybe there’s a special dance you do while you’re lifting up the shades.  I mean, it could be anything.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It matters how it’s done.  So rituals are so powerful for kids, and it’s something that is really soothing in them developing a rhythm in their life and in their heart and helping their brain develop a sense of safety and the sense of connection and that, you know, awareness for a parent can help put their minds at ease, as well.  Like, oh, I’m looking at how happy she is when she’s waking up, you know, and like really focusing on that reunion part.  But, again, not to diminish the sadness.  And then once you — having inner sadness, it’s kind of like having a child who’s really demanding your attention, like that mom I talked about at the playgroup, you know.  Once you let that sadness in, you let that child who’s demanding your attention on your lap, and you kind of welcome it and embrace it, it kind of loses its power.  So perhaps all the sadness around the grief is actually the fighting the grief, and if we welcome it — if they learn how to welcome it, they’ll feel more at peace about it and be able to let it go a little more easily.

Alyssa:  I love all this so much.  I’m going to be referencing this podcast to a lot of clients, I think.

Laine:  Well, excellent.  And, you know, I’m here for them.  I’m happy to help out however I can.

Alyssa:  Tell them how to reach you, and then I’ll tell your people how to reach me.

Laine:  Sounds good!  Probably the best way to find out more about me and to reach me is to just go to my website.  And how can my people reach you when they need a guru for their sleep needs?

Alyssa:  At our website, and then there’s a section for sleep.  And we have a blog listing on there, too, with a lot of stuff about sleep and anything pregnancy, birth, and parenting-related.  And then this podcast is called Ask The Doulas.

Laine:  Perfect.

 

Adult Separation Anxiety: Podcast Episode #99 Read More »

Mother comforting and speaking to her child outside

Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98

Laine Lipsky, Parenting Coach, talks with Alyssa today about the negative effects of sleep deprivation on children and parents.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  I’m excited to be back with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach.  How are you?

Laine:  Hi!  I’m good.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Great!  So when we talked on the phone last week, we talked a lot about sleep, and we didn’t intend to talk about sleep, but I told you that I was an infant and child sleep consultant, and then you were like, oh, gosh.  The way sleep deprivation affects some of the families that you’re working with — it kind of created some interesting thoughts.  I’d love to hear some examples of how some families you’ve worked with and how sleep deprivation has affected that whole family, because I see that when I work with — I’m hired to help children sleep, but obviously, these parents aren’t sleeping, either.  That’s why they’re calling me.  And then sometimes even when I get the children sleeping, these parents are, like, I still can’t sleep.  It’s like if they’ve been two years without a good night’s sleep, they have to retrain themselves.  So even though I’m not an adult sleep coach, there’s still a lot of rules from children that apply to us as adults that I kind of have to remind them of and tell them to be patient with themselves, just like they had to be patient with their child to get them into this new rhythm.

Laine:  Yeah.  It is such a big issue, and I can speak from personal experience.  I have, hands down, the champion worst sleeper ever.  He is now a teenager, so for anybody out there who thinks that they could take me on, like, my kid on, when he was a baby, I challenge you to a duel, a sleep duel.  A sleep-off.  Whatever you want to call it.  My son — so I’ll just start by saying my son — he would go to sleep.  We did all the “right things” for sleeping, and when we would put him down at night, he would go through the night and wake up every 45 minutes.  And I was a nursing mom and I was not intending to cosleep, but because of his wake cycle, and nobody — nothing could get him back to sleep.  He had something called silent reflux.  It was really hard to diagnose.  It was really concerning.  We ended up cosleeping, and I — we had to out of absolute necessity.  So every 45 minutes — so literally, when I would put him down — and that’s in heavy quotes; “put him down” for the night, I would start weeping because I knew that there was just this huge thing ahead of me called “night” which was going to be really, really painful and difficult.  And you and I said we both know that, you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in prisons and there’s — I firsthand have been through it, and I work with people who have been through it.  So I just want to start off by saying, like, I feel anyone’s pain who’s walking around feeling like their body hurts, their eyes burn, they’re short-tempered; they’re not making clear decisions, and especially on top of it, we’re recording this podcast during this COVID lockdown time.  All of that stuff is just on, you know, steroids right now because we’re also stressed out about the uncertainty that surrounds us.  So my heart goes out to anybody who’s struggling with sleep right now, and it’s so widespread.  The impact of a parent being sleep deprived and maybe both parents being sleep deprived is just such a trickle-down effect.  And so, yeah, I can tell you a lot about clients who I’ve  had, but I just wanted to start off by saying that I have total empathy for somebody who is going through that.  It’s a really important issue.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You almost forget how bad it is, and then you have one night of bad sleep, and you remember.  Oh, my goodness; how did I do this for weeks, if not months?  And some of my clients, for years.  You know, for two years.  It’s devastating to relationships to where I –you know, they’ll say — or even six months.  Six months old; I had a long maternity leave.  I need to go back to work, but I haven’t slept in six months.  Or I went back to work after three months, and I have not been productive at work for the last three months.  It affects everything.

Laine:  Right, or people driving to work totally sleep deprived.  That’s dangerous.

Alyssa:  It’s worse than drunk driving.  I mean, statistically, I think there are more driving deaths related to sleep deprivation than drugs and alcohol combined.  Combined!

Laine:  Wow.

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I didn’t know that.  So I say a lot, joking not joking, in my practice, if parents were able to get on top of sleep early on in their families that I’d be out of a job because a lot of what I see are behavioral issues that are stemming from a lack of sleep.  And you just think about how you feel when you are tired, when you’re cranky, when you — you know, when you feel that way as an adult, you’re able to sit down.  You’re really able to say, I’m feeling really — at best, you’re able to say, I’m feeling really cranky.  I’m just really tired.  You’re able to maybe take a nap somehow, magically.  You’re able to have a cup of coffee.  When we think about our kids — or, you know, maybe people have a glass of wine to take the edge off.  There’s no taking the edge off for the kids.  They don’t have that.  Maybe it’s nursing.  I guess that would be the closest thing.  But there’s no edge — they’re just edgy all the time.  And so in a family system, what I see is that when kids are not rested and parents are not rested, we’re not dealing with the actual people.  We’re dealing with the tired versions of those people.  And so one of my very first questions when I speak to people about their parenting is, how is your sleep.

Alyssa:  That’s great.

Laine:  It’s that essential.  And because I shared a few minutes ago about my own son and my own sleep struggles: we defied the parenting books at the time to schedule our day or create a schedule around feeding.  I was, like, forget feeding.  Who’s going to eat when they’re tired and cranky?  Like, does eating feel good when you’re tired?  That’s not a solution.  The solution is sleep.  And so we quickly learned — and I don’t know if this is what you teach, but you’re so flexible.  You teach a lot of different things to people.  But had you been my sleep coach at the time, or sleep consultant, I would tell you that we were scheduling our day around our son’s wake-up time.  Like, that’s what we — we’re scheduling our day around his sleep needs.  His feeding seemed to be fine, but his sleep was just crazy off the charts.  And I think part of that is temperament.  I think a lot of it is.  And to this day, he doesn’t — well, to this day, he is a teenager, so he sleeps crazy amounts, but up until he started that whole sleep routine as a teen, he still needed less sleep than everybody.  He still needs less sleep than me.  And that’s where I see in families the real — when it’s upside down, when a parent has high sleep needs and a child has lower sleep needs, that’s a red zone for me as a parenting coach.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s really hard because in the podcast we previously recorded where you said there’s no one parenting style; there’s no practice style — but the same with sleep.  There’s no one — or there are some best practices, but there’s no best parenting style.  Same with there’s a lot of sleep methods, but there’s no one right sleep method for everybody.  So when I give someone a sleep plan which says, you know, based on your child’s age, this is what a child typically — what a nap schedule typically looks like or a feeding schedule typically looks like.  Most parents want to go by the — just down — and I have to remind them, we’re not watching the clock.  We’re watching your baby.  Your baby’s cues tell us, how long is their wake cycle?  Can they stay awake for an hour and a half before they get tired, or can they stay awake for two and a half hours before they get tired?  That will determine feeding and sleep schedules, not this list, not the clock.  So they just want me to hand them this guide that miraculously works, and it’s just not that easy.  We really have to watch Baby’s cues to understand what your baby needs, because if a typical baby needs 15 hours and yours only needs 14 hours, what does that mean?  Let’s try some things.  What is this going to look like?  A later bedtime?  An earlier wakeup?  A shorter nap?  Troubleshooting together is why I think finding a good sleep coach is the only way to be successful because you can’t just read a book because then you are looking at this sleep guide in a book saying, okay, oh, my gosh, it’s 2:03.  I’m three minutes late.  You should have been down for a nap.  But your baby’s not tired.  So then what?  Who answers that for you?

Laine:  Yep, and to have somebody help you watch that, because just like with parenting advice, you know, the old adage is that — the old whatever you want to call common wisdom or whatever that you might get from your own parents often doesn’t apply.  Sometimes they do.  Like, if you’re lucky, you know, like a baby will sleep when they’re tired.  Well, not if you have a baby who’s really high-strung, temperamentally speaking, or who’s overtired.  Their form of being really tired is wired, which is the case in my kids.  Right?  He didn’t get that dreamy, dazed-off look when he was tired.

Alyssa:  He didn’t give you the sleep cues of yawning and rubbing his eyes?  Mommy, I’m tired.

Laine:  There was no book that fit my child, and so to your point, I had to learn to read him and I had to stop reading the books.  And I didn’t do it perfectly.  You know, I still don’t do it perfectly, but just even that shift in my mindset of, like, oh, I need to read my child, not the books.  It’s the same thing that I say to parents about parenting, which is, learn to read your child and take in the information but, you know, information overload is overwhelming and we’re just being inundated with it now, and it’s conflicting information.  It’s like, you know, I’m a sports coach by training.  Then I apply all of that to parenting.  If there are too many voices in your huddle, right, the team gets off track and doesn’t know what they’re doing.  You need to have one clear voice in the huddle and for each parent, it’s going to be them.  Their family is their huddle, and the more clear that the leader can be, right, the captain — you’re the captain of your team — the better everybody is going to respond to that, or at least you’re going to know whether it’s working or not.  So what I find is happening with parents is they get in their, you know, best-meaning selves, they want to be informed.  They’re getting, like, flooded by information and they don’t know how to parse that out and to make it work for their child.  So is that something that you — how do you talk to parents about that?  Like, how would you help — that’s what I hear a lot from parents is, like, I don’t know what to do.  How do you handle that?

Alyssa:  A lot of the times, parents will come to me and say, we’ve tried it all.  We’ve done all of the methods.  All of them, even ones that I don’t agree with, right, like just crying for two hours.  But they’re so desperate.  They’re, like, this is what my pediatrician told me or this is what the book says.  I’m just going to try it.  Well, there’s so many methods, but they can be done incorrectly, and maybe that method’s not the right one for your child.  So if they’ve come to me and said, I’ve tried Method X but then I read through their intake form and I’m like, well, no wonder that didn’t work.  Here’s what we’re going to try.  Or we get into something and they’re like, hmm, but my sister has a baby who sleeps really good, and this is what they did, and you’re not telling me to do that.  I’m like, well, that’s their baby.  So you do.  You have to tell them — like, I love the coach analogy.  I am your coach.  We’re a team.  We’re doing this together.  I’m not coming in and just telling you what to do.  I’m doing this based on your family’s needs.  And then I educate you so that you can go and do it yourself because I’m not with you everyday for the next several months or years.  So I educate them so they have the tools moving forward to do exactly what they need to do.  And I also love the coaching analogy, the sports analogy, because for older children, I explain to them sometimes that it’s even with the emotional aspect.  You know, we talked in the last podcast about how we can’t just make our kids happy all the time.  Experiencing a wide range of emotions is normal, and we need to help them learn how to cope with those.  This comes into play a lot with sleep because you hear your child cry when they’re tired, and it’s this automatic — we just feel this distress.  But sometimes those same cries during the day — you take a toy away or you have an overly tired child who just wants to cry about everything — you can ignore them during the day a lot easier than you can at night.  But we need to help them cope with these emotions.  So it’s — what do I say to them?  You’re not in this to play the game for them.  You have to help teach them how to play the game themselves.  Right?  Like, we can’t hop in and do it for them all the time.  With sleep, we’re coaching them.  That’s my basic — I forget where I was going with that, but…

Laine:  You were talking about how coaching as an analogy was working for — yeah, for helping them learn how to do it and being — I think you said it; like, not doing it for them but coaching them to do it, and that the older they get, I think you were talking about, that maybe that was a piece of it, too.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, a baby needs a lot more help and it takes a lot longer.  When you have a two-year-old, it’s a lot different than a six- or nine-month old.

Laine:  Right.

Alyssa:  You know, they’re talking, walking, moving.  They’re a little bit more — they’re smart.  They can be tricky.  They know how to get you to stay in that room a little bit longer.  There’s no thirstier child than one you’re trying to get to bed.  Mommy, I’m thirsty.  Mommy, I’m hungry.  Mommy, I need this.

Laine:  Yeah, so does that — does your advice for parents change depending on all the things?  You know, the child and the parent, whatever — because that’s a classic one that comes up for people.  Like, my child has all the excuses and can crawl out of their crib and can crawl out of their bed or whatever.  Do you have some wisdom to share with people who are really —

Alyssa:  Bedtime routines.  Bedtime routines are so important.

Laine: For the kids who don’t — for the parents who are like, we have a bedtime routine, and it involves bath time and books and me putting my child in bed, and then my child’s coming out of bed, like, a zillion times before they stay in bed.  That’s the bedtime routine, and they’re sick of it and they don’t have any recourse.  And I’ll tell you something, Alyssa: some of my clients have gotten some of the worse advice from pediatricians, including people to, like, lock their child in their rooms.  That’s come straight out of the mouth of a pediatrician, and just, like — I want parents to know that if advice that you’re getting from a source doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good.  It has to feel good to be good, and it should be something that is aligned with your values, something that’s aligned with your personality and also that will work for your child’s temperament because it just breaks my heart to hear people on the phone, and I hear it all the time, people crying; well, I did this and it felt terrible, but my pediatrician told me to do it, so I — you know, thinking that they were doing the right thing.

Alyssa:  So when they work with me, I have them fill out an intake form for that reason.  I want to know, what is your parenting style?  What’s your child’s temperament?  What have you tried in the past?  What’s worked; what hasn’t worked?  And what is your end goal?  So I will make a plan based on that.  Not what I think you and your child need to be doing, but what is your goal as parents?  Maybe you have a one-year-old still breastfeeding exclusively, and you just to cut that down.  You don’t want to eliminate all night feeds.  Twelve months probably could sleep all night without a feed, but if you’re okay; you just want to have two feeds instead of five — okay.  Let’s work our way back.  Let’s eliminate a few of them and see how it goes.  And typically, you know, at that age, we would probably end up eliminating all of them, but then it’s also the opposite.  I might have a four-month-old client whose parents are, like, I need my baby to sleep all night.  Well, okay.  At four months, your baby probably still needs to eat at night, so let’s talk about what a realistic overnight looks like for this age.  So sometimes the expectations aren’t quite — you know, they might be a little bit unrealistic.

Laine:  Right.  Same thing with parenting.  We want our five-year-old, three-year-old, to set the table and then go up to bed by themselves.  And I’m like, yeah, no.  That’s not — that’s not a thing.  Or it could be, but it’s very rare.  So maybe you get this question a lot or this issue a lot that comes up; maybe this is a good place to overlap a little bit.  I hear from parents a lot that they have some shame, like, a lot of shame that they don’t know how to parent, that they should know how to parent.  Some people are more forthcoming and say, you know, well, I was raised by parents who I’m not looking to emulate.  I want to be parenting differently than how my own parents parented me, and I don’t know how.  There’s not so much shame there, but when people are, like, trying to do it differently and they can’t; they think that they should know how to do it naturally, and it’s not coming out the way — it’s like when you have a picture in your head and you start drawing, and it’s, like, nope, that’s not what’s in my head.  Not at all.  Right?  I get that a lot.  I hear that a lot from parents who are really struggling with this internal sense of, I should be able to do this.  Do you get that with people who are — especially around sleep and in this culture of, well, just let them cry it out, or they’ll sleep when they’re tired.  Do you find that parents struggle with that?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s kind of like breastfeeding, right?  We think it’s going to be this natural thing, and then when we really struggle with it, we think that there’s something wrong with us when nobody tells us as new moms that breastfeeding is really hard.  Same with sleep.  It’s just something that our bodies want to do naturally, and people tell you that newborns sleep all the time.  Well, they do for a little while, and then they don’t.  So when it hits the fan and you don’t know what to do, they start reading books.  It’s this downward spiral of, well, I read this book and it didn’t work, so I gave up and now, like you, you just end up cosleeping if you don’t want to, and I have clients who have been cosleeping for three years, and the parents haven’t slept in the same bed for three years.  Some families, that works.  They do that by choice and it’s fine, but the ones who are calling me, it’s not because they love this situation.  They’ve gotten there by desperation, and somebody’s not happy.  So every family is so different, and I always warn people: if any sleep consultant comes in and says they have a plan and just one plan, or if it includes cry it out, you just say, thanks but no thanks.  There is no one plan.  If there was one way to do this, I could write a book and tell everyone what to do and be done.  Right?  And same with you.  Every family is so different.

Laine:  Well, what I see is that when people are willing to take a plan, kind of no matter what, it means that they’re actually going to start — they’re going to start walking down a path of, I’m going to do whatever works to get the behavior I want, no matter what.  And that’s a path, from a parenting perspective, that’s a path of very authoritarian, very old-school parenting style.  Right?  Where it’s going to be harder if you’re not really showing flexibility; you’re not going into it with empathy.  It’s going to be harder to develop those skills and that mindset toward your child and toward your parenting style as your child gets older.  Right?  So something that I think gets lost when parents are willing to pick up a solution — and I get why they do.  Right?  Like, I get why they pick up the, “I’m just going to let them cry and figure it out,” because they are at their wit’s end, and it’s overwhelming to think about it being a process.  They want it to just be a simple solution.  I get the temptation there.  However, my cautionary tale to parents is, if that’s the way that you approach sleep, it’s likely going to inform how you’re approaching parenting in general, and that is — I rely on the science for this and I don’t come to this with judgment.  The science absolutely tells us, and the research tells us again and again, that when you’re parenting with an authoritarian style of parenting of, we’re going to do this no matter what, and you’re lacking empathy in that, you’re going to get certain outcomes for your kids in the long term, and they’re never the outcomes that parents want.  You know?  Like, if I were to ask you, what are the outcomes you want for your daughter?  What are your outcomes that you want for your daughter when she’s — push it out 20 years.  She’ll be 27?  What kind of woman do you want her to be?

Alyssa:  I want her to be kind and successful and learning from me, right?  Maybe running her own business.  Yeah.  I want great things for her.  Right.  Right.

Laine: Independent, right?  You want her to be emotionally healthy?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Attract emotionally healthy partners?

Alyssa:  Right.

Laine:  Right?  All that stuff; resilient, gritty.  Right?  All that stuff; self-assured.  All that stuff are the outcomes that we know — we know that a certain type of parenting, a certain parenting path, gets.  There’s not one right way to walk the path, but there is as path, and that’s what I call best parenting practices.  Right?  We know.  The research is telling us again and again, and if you’re not walking that path, you are walking another path, which is to get insecure kids who are, you know, not as successful as they could be in the three big categories, which is work, school, and relationships.  That’s just research.  So I feel so passionate about having people start as early as possible making parenting choices that feel right to them to get the outcomes that they want.  Never had somebody raise a hand in my course or my class or workshops that I run saying, I want my child to be insecure.  I want my child to attract dysfunctional partners.  Never, right?  I would love to talk to that person.  I think; maybe I wouldn’t want to talk to that person.  But we don’t want that.  That’s not our natural instinct, and it’s so — I like to think of the really early years of being a parent as training for the parents of how you want to be a parent.  And then it sort of morphs into, how are we training our kids?  How are we guiding and shaping them?  But the early decisions, how we respond to them as infants, how we respond to them when they’re really little, when they’re preverbal, especially — that’s training ground for us.  It’s essential training ground for parents for how we’re going to be.  How are we going to listen?  Are we going to ignore?  Are we going to jump every single time?  What is the sweet spot?  What is the sweet spot for each particular parent?  There is a sweet spot.

Alyssa:  We talk a lot about that, and I like the term “sweet spot” because there are some parents who are fine ignoring, and then there are some who are jumping every time.  And when you really talk about listening — they’re like, well, my baby’s just crying.  What do you mean, listen?  I’m, like, crying is communication.  And they are — they can’t verbalize it, but there are different cries.  Especially as a baby develops, those cries actually do sound different, and even before they sound different, take a look at what happened when your baby started crying.  Was there something that you can actually take note of?  A loud noise; maybe a dog barked and it disrupted something, or the sun moved just enough, and it’s shining right in their eyes.  Taking note of what maybe happened to cause the crying instead of saying, oh, my baby must need food, or my baby needs to be held.  Because some babies, as much as we want to hold them all the time, are a little bit — they just don’t need it.  They need their own space a little bit more.  And those are the ones who will cry.  You know, grandma comes over and gets in their face and wants to pick them up right away, and then grandma feels bad, and I’m like, no.  I call them space invaders.  You just invaded the baby’s space.  Move in a little bit slower.  Give them time to adjust.  My daughter was like that.  She needs to assess everything that’s going on in that room before she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do.  If someone comes at her, game over.  Babies are the same way.  They have little personalities.  I mean, it takes a while to figure them out, but —

Laine:  But in those early stages, they’re little mammals, and they’re responding from that part of their brain and their being that’s the most developed, which is that limbic part of them, which is able to convey — like, my dog right now is conveying a message, right?  She’s not using words, but I know what she wants.  She’s sitting by the door.  She’s having that little howl-cry, plaintive cry.  I know she wants to go out.  I also know that she’s already been out.  She doesn’t need to go out, and when she does go out, she’s been super destructive lately.  And it’s going to get louder, and she’s going to get upset.  And if she were to — to be clear, because I never want to be at all misquoted or confused as saying kids are or should be treated the way that animals are treated — if she were a child, I do not believe in ignoring kids.  I would be going over there.  I would be getting down on her eye level, and I would say, oh, I know that you want to go outside and you’re so upset, and I see you’re so frustrated.  And while leading her away, because if she’s not — while setting a boundary.  We’re still not going outside.  Let’s do something else.  So it’s not just bait and switch, which I know that there’s a lot of parenting programs out there that are all about just redirecting a child’s behavior.  But we’re not looking at just behavioral creatures.  We’re looking at emotional, one day fully formed, human beings.  Right?  So the behavior is one piece of it, and to your point a moment ago about what parents are doing, it’s not just the what; it’s also the how.  Like, how are you walking into your child’s room?  Are you flinging the door open while they’re crying and being, like, oh, my gosh — because your babies are going to pick up on that energy, too.  Right?  So being responsible for our own energy before we engage with our kids, whether they’re crying or frustrated or being pissy or whatever it is, being responsible for our own energy is an essential piece to how they’re going to then react to us.  How we respond to them informs how they react to us.  It is a cycle, for sure.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We talk about that.  And, you know, they can pick up on our anxiety, especially around sleep.  Like you said, you can go this whole day; you can drink your cup of coffee, have a glass of wine at night, but then all of a sudden you knew: it’s night.  And you just feel this anxiety around sleep that you almost can’t help, but then your child senses that, which makes going to sleep even harder.  But then you’re also sleep deprived, so of course you’re more anxious because you’re sleep deprived, and it’s just this vicious cycle.  Probably 30 percent, maybe up to 50 percent of the parents I work with probably have some form of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, because I’m working with a lot of new moms.  And that just escalates.  That’s another vicious cycle.  If you have it, sleep deprivation makes it worse.  But even if you don’t have it diagnosed, maybe you have sleep deprivation, which is causing depression-like symptoms without being actually depressed.  It’s just really hard.

Laine:  But it doesn’t matter.  If the symptoms are the same, it doesn’t matter what it is.  You have to treat the symptoms, right?  I was talking to a sports psychologist the other day, because I’m always curious about how sports training and sports psychology overlaps with parenting.  It’s just this intersection that I find really fascinating, and it’s where I lean in with parenting.  Let’s treat it like sports training, in the sense that you’ve got to be prepared for it.  You’ve got to do some real training for it.  There’s a pre-game.  There’s a game time situation.  There’s a post-game.  You know, it makes sense to me because I grew up around athletics.  But — oh, what were you just saying about —

Alyssa:  Oh, depression and anxiety.

Laine:  Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.  Thank you.  So this sports psychologist, who also now works with women who are postpartum and have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, she was, like, oh, sleep deprivation — it’s not only, like, tied to it; it can be the cause of it.  You know, back to this thing about sleep deprivation being a form of torture: it can absolutely trigger anxiety and depression.  And I just was, like — I mean, I knew that, so when she said it, it wasn’t earth-shattering news to me, because I’d seen it — but to hear her say that with such, like, authority — I was just, like, wow, yeah.  That’s a real thing.

Alyssa: The hormone shift that’s happening anyway after you have a baby — like, it’s the largest hormone drop of any mammal, I think, when you have a baby.  And then add sleep deprivation on top of that, which as a human species, we can handle a little bit of it.  Our bodies are made to handle a little bit of that after having a baby, but not months.  We just can’t handle it.

Laine:  And certainly not years.  So what would you say to somebody — like, what would be advice that you would have for somebody who is struggling with sleep during this particular moment in time; the COVID situation; the unique time that we’re all going through around sleep, because, you know, people wonder, you know — they worry.  They worry and they wonder, and I remember that feeling of, like, I know sleep is the most important thing.  My baby’s brain is growing, and I have all this information about it, and I was definitely one of the more anxious people around sleep.  I was like the sleep police.  And I was also facing people who were saying, oh, it’s no big deal.  It’s no big deal.  So I felt like I was fighting the other side of it, which made me more vigilant.  So it was hard to find that balance for myself.  But I’m wondering, like, what would you tell somebody who is feeling like, I know sleep is super important, and I’m in this, like, bizarre situation at home where I’m working from home and there’s, like — there are noises around.  There’s not quiet.  It’s not ideal.  So I’m struggling with sleep, and we’re in this bizarre time.  Like, can you put anybody’s mind at ease?  Like, beyond saying, like, well, your child’s not going to die.  You know, they’ll survive.  For people I work with, that bar is too low.  You know?  They want to be raising thriving, really healthy — like, optimizing their child’s childhood experience.  Right?  So do you have any just blanket wisdom or anything that could help them have their minds put a little bit at ease?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I mean, you said it.  Sleep is so important, and I think especially right now with a worldwide pandemic with this virus, proper sleep helps build our immune systems, so let’s try to get proper sleep.  And even though we’re working from home — you know, like we said in the last podcast, let’s change your perspective.  Instead of saying, maybe my kid won’t sleep enough because I’m here and I’m working and there’s all these noises.  Let’s shift that and say, well, I’m home.  I have a lot more opportunity.  I don’t have anywhere I have to be at a certain time.  Let’s focus on sleep.  Instead of letting my kid say, oh, you don’t have a schedule and you can stay up until 10:00 now, let’s continue a pretty consistent bedtime routine, especially for kids — you know, you have teenagers; different story.  For babies and toddlers — even my daughter; she’s 7.  We walk back there at 7:30 at night.  We brush teeth, put PJs on, we read a book, and I walk out at 8:00.  So a 30-minute routine is pretty good.  It gives you plenty of time to do kisses and cuddles and, you know, that’s plenty.  But it’s so important because someday school will start again and work will start again, and it’s going be really, really hard on these parents who have to get back into a rhythm.  So if you’ve gotten out of that rhythm, maybe you can slowly work your way back to getting them.  And it’s hard.  Like, here it’s summertime, which means at 8:00 when I leave her room, it’s still light out.  But she’s still tired, so I just make it as dark as possible.  But try to keep a consistent routine, and that’s a wake up time and a bedtime.  And then if you have a younger kid who’s still napping, sound machines; make it dark in that room; crank the sound machine, and do what you can to keep the house as quiet as possible.  And then you had mentioned some of your clients have kids who are crawling out of cribs.  If you can wait until a kid is 3 to take them out of the crib, that’s better, because developmentally, they’re — before 3, they don’t really understand that this is a bed and I shouldn’t crawl out of it, and then you’re kind of having to shut the door and lock them in the room, which nobody wants to do.  You’re essentially making — I tell parents who have to do that, consider the room now a crib.  So you have to look at everything in that room and make sure nothing can fall on them; they can’t — there’s no — nothing that can hurt them, and you’re essentially turning the room into a crib.  But before 3, it’s really hard.  But there are some tricks.  If you have a 2-year-old who’s crawling out of a crib and you’re afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, and if they wear a sleep sack and they can unzip it and crawl out of it, flip it around so that the zipper is in back.  Maybe they can’t reach that zipper.  If they’re really smart and can get at that zipper, put it on backwards and then put a little T-shirt over it.  They would have to really work.  They have to pull the T-shirt off.  Just try to make it as hard, but it’s hard to climb out of a crib with a sleep sack over your feet.  I have had some Houdini babies who even that doesn’t work, but for most, even just having the zipper in back, they — even if they can touch it with their hand, they can’t get it all the way down.  So that’s one trick.

Laine:  Houdini babies.  That’s hilarious.

Alyssa:  But make sleep a priority.  Instead of saying, oh, I can’t — I just can’t — there’s no way I can get on a sleep schedule or get my kids back on a schedule.  If you make sleep a priority and have some sort of routine — we need routines as adults, and kids especially need some sort of normalcy and routine.

Laine:  Does it have to be to the minute?  Bedtime is 7:30?

Alyssa:  No.

Laine:  What’s your take on that?

Alyssa:  No.  Give yourself some flexibility, especially for younger babies.  Thirty minutes on either side.  So let’s say a working parent; they need to be up — they need their baby up at 7:00 in the morning because they have to get baby fed and out the door.  Now, on the weekends, let them sleep in until 7:30.  If you go past that, you’re really messing with the natural rhythm of the baby’s sleep cycle that we’ve worked so hard to put in place, that they can sleep, you know, 7:00 to 7:00.  You don’t want them to some days be able to sleep until 9:00 or stay up until 9:00.  Even as adults, every hour of sleep that we lose, it takes us about a day to recoup.  So time differences; if I fly to Seattle and visit my friend, three hours different, it takes me about three days to adjust.  And I can deal pretty well with that, but for a baby, it’s really hard; really hard to deal with.

Laine:  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  And parents get really nervous about traveling with babies, and how do I do this?  And, again, this comes back to being aligned with what your values are.  It’s okay to not travel with a baby.  Even though you see people on planes with babies all the time, it doesn’t have to be you.  Just getting really clear about where you stand and what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing.  What’s your why?  Is it because you feel guilty or is it because you feel jealous, or is it because you feel like you really, really need to go visit your mom?  Those are all really different answers to the same question.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I get asked a lot about travel.  People want to travel with their kids a lot, and sometimes it’s just not conducive to have a three-hour time difference with a baby because you’ll probably have to go to bed really early or get them in bed really early, and that means you can’t go anywhere, unless you have the resources to hire a nanny or you’re visiting parents and they’ll stay.  You know, you can put them to bed at home while you leave.  You know, my client right now, they like to go camping.  Before we part ways, how do we camping with this baby?  And we talk through that.  What does that look like?  Go hiking after the nap; come back at lunch; put the baby down again.

Laine:  Again, I think kids are so different.  They come just so different.  You don’t get to — it’s like getting a dog, right?  If you want to, you can thumb through a book and find your ideal breed, and you can pick the type of dog that’s going to have, likely, like, 99 percent sure, you’re going to have the kind of behavior that you want from that dog, right?  If you go to the pound and you’re going to get some sort of mix so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, then you have to work with what you have.  And that’s what parenting is.  Parenting is, you work with what you have, and you don’t get to pick.  And so I really — one of my favorite things to caution parents against is comparing other people’s outsides to their insides.  Right?  Like, what is your reality versus what you’re seeing somebody else in that moment having?  If you’re somebody who wants to go camping with your baby, if you have the type of baby that can hack that, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about taking a baby camping, unless you’re going to artic.  You know, perhaps that is not a good idea, right?  But if you’ve got an “easy” baby and sleep is not an issue, or you’re happy snuggling together, great.  That’s awesome.  But if you don’t have an easy baby or sleep has been a huge issue in your house, then you’re not the family who’s going to — if you want to have the shit show afterward, you know, and you’re willing to go and take that risk and then it’s a calculated risk — it’s just not fair to then be upset with the baby or be upset with your child for being cranky afterward.  You just to be informed, know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting yourself into when you take those risks.  And I think it’s one of the most empowering things that parents can do, to be really clear about what they are and what they’re not willing to tolerate.  Just like in life, right?  What are you willing to tolerate, and what is your happiness equation?  What are the elements of your happiness equation?  It’s really important for people to know that and to get right with themselves so that they can live their best family life.  And it’s not going to be a blueprint from somebody else’s family.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Realistic expectations, again.  You know, it’s just maybe sometimes telling them, sorry; I have to let you know that your baby’s not going to — based on working together, this activity you want to do won’t suit your baby — but now.  Maybe later.  Don’t give up on this dream to go camping.  It might just have to wait a couple of years until your child is down to one nap a day instead of three.  And again, like you said, you talked about being fluid instead of, like, having this solid — it needs to ebb and flow.  Be flexible.  Realize that your baby is a human who has separate needs from you, and just because you want to do this, your baby might not want to.

Laine:  Part of the deal of becoming a parent.  There’s sacrifices, you know?  And it’s funny; like, I think that we talk about that a lot, right?  Like, there’s a lot of sacrifices in parenting, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in marriage, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in whatever.  But when it really comes down to it, when that happens, when you’re confronted with the sacrifice, it’s a very hard thing.  It’s a tough pill to swallow.  And I just — maybe a good sort of point for us here is to talk about or to ask the question of, like, what is it that is important, you know, and where are you willing to sacrifice?  What is the sacrifice that you face when you’re a parent, and what are you — how do you respond to that?  How do you respond to the fact that you’re being asked to sacrifice stuff?  You know, it’s a tough one.  I don’t think people have a high tolerance for that, especially in this day and age.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We want things to go our way all the time.

Laine:  All the time.  All the time.  Well, it was definitely a good conversation.

Alyssa:  Yeah!  We covered a lot!  Well, why don’t you tell people again where they can find you if they have questions about the parenting end, before we sign off?

Laine:  Sure.  I have my website.  You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a very slim social presence right now because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in my life and my career has been live and in person, but I’m slowly building a social presence.  So definitely go to my website.  And feel free to check out my online course.  It doesn’t talk directly about sleep, but it does talk about discipline and the issues that follow, you know, if you’re having trouble with getting kids to cooperate and you’re facing a lot of meltdowns.  It will definitely, definitely help you.  And some of that is probably because they’re underslept, but it will help you anyway.

Alyssa:  But the two go hand in hand.  You know, a lot of times, to help them get to sleep better, they need a little bit of discipline, and then once that — you know, with consistency and the right discipline for that family, the child will understand, this is the new routine.  I can sleep better, and then you no longer need to discipline because then it just becomes part of their routine.

Laine:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So, yeah, the course will be — the free class will definitely be of help, and then people can also book a free call with me.  And those are the main ways to find me.  And I want my listeners to listen in to what you’re about to say, too, because I want them to be able to find you.

Alyssa:  Yes, you can find us at our website.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook, and this podcast is called Ask the Doulas.

Laine:  So good.  Thank you so much for having this conversation today!

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining me!

Laine:  My pleasure.  We’ll do it again soon.

 

Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98 Read More »

Woman wearing a cream colored tank top and jeans sits on a bright orange chair outside

Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96

Today we talk with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach, about some best practices for parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic.  She gives us all some great tips on how to manage stress and deal with out children no matter what age!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.   My name is Alyssa Veneklase, and today I am talking to Laine Lipsky, a parenting coach.  How are you?

Laine:  Doing great.  How are you doing?

Alyssa:  Great!  So we kind of met online and talked, what was it, last week, and then just realized we have a lot to talk about and a lot of similar clients.  With my sleep stuff — we’re actually going to talk about sleep on a separate podcast, but that kind of is what got us started talking about your parenting, coaching with parents, and then thinking about how does that relate right now to this pandemic that we’re all, you know, going through together.  Myself included, we’re stuck at home with a kid, and I know personally, I think about my frustrations, but I forget that she’s also going through this.  I don’t want to forget about, how is she handling this and how do I best talk to her, and how do I maybe help with some of the frustrations that I’m having, which are normal and to be expected, but maybe I could find better ways to cope with those.  And then we got talking about the weather earlier, and the weather even affects all this.  So let’s just kind of — you know, I would love to hear some ideas that you have on best ways to parent our children right now.

Laine:  Yeah!  Well, let me first start by saying, I’m really glad to be here and having this conversation, and of course we met online, because how else are people going to be meeting these days, right?  Like, it’s classic.  But that — and I’m going through this, too, and my kids are older.  They’re 12 and 14, so there are different considerations, but I am in the same boat as everybody else, and I never pretend to be, you know, something that I’m not.  But they still need parenting, so no matter how old your kids are — and I think your clients have younger kids, typically — but just know that, you know, whatever parenting style you’re using now is training ground for as they’re getting older.  Whatever we practice when they’re younger becomes our habit as they grow older.  And what I see really from the parents who I talk to, and I’m just reaching out a lot these days and just trying to ask a lot of questions — you know, what are people struggling with?  I want to say that, in answer to your question, you know, the best way to parent, I wholeheartedly believe that there’s not one right way to parent.  There isn’t.  There’s great information out there, but there is a right way that’s going to feel right to you, Alyssa, right?  Something that’s going to feel right to me.  We may be working with the same body of information, but it’s going to sound different for you.  It’s going to look different in your family because your family system is different than mine and from everybody else.  We each have our unique thumbprint in our family, our unique voice, our unique soul-print, and our kids are all different.  Different ages, different temperaments.  So I really resist the idea that there is a best way or there’s one right way to parent.  What we do know is that there are, just like in medicine when they talk about best practices, there are definitely best practices that are supported by ample research and, you know, certainly in my world, supported by the clients who I work with and in my own experience by what I see with my own kids.  And there are just a few fundamental things.  Uusually when you cover the basics in a really healthy, thorough way, you’re kind of covering the essential ground, and I think the word essential is really — it’s just so fitting for this time, right?  Like, there’s essential business.  There’s essential — you know, what is — this question of “essential” keeps coming up, and so I think a really good place to start in figuring out the best way to parent is to ask.  And so I’ll throw the question back to you: what feels essential in your parenting?

Alyssa:  Right.  Right.  So, I mean, right now, I feel like we’ve got so much extra thrown at us.  I’m not a teacher, which I’ve never had to be a teacher before.  So right now, her education is essential.  But I also own a business, and that business is essential.  And I’m also a wife and maintaining that relationship when we’re both home together and can potentailly be driving each other nuts, right?  So I feel like there are a lot of essential aspects, but I also feel like the short temperedness of, you know, just I’m not meant to be home with a seven-year-old all day long, seven days a week.

Laine:  Certainly!  Certainly not while you’re also trying to run a business and also trying to do all the other things, right?  If you were locked in and homeschooling, yes, you would be meant to do that, right?

Alyssa:  Yeah, and I’d probably — yeah, I would have found a rhythm by now, and maybe that’s what it’s going to take is just, you know, maybe in another month, I’ll have a really good rhythm.  But yeah, I guess essential for me right now is the happiness of my family unit and keeping my relationship with my husband whole, as well as my daughter happy.  She’s seven and silly, and I’m just not as goofy as her classmates, and she’s got to get all these sillies out, but I’m in the middle of, you know, writing a sleep plan, and so her silliness is annoying to me.  It’s just this, you know, on and on.  And I feel like this is one small — and I have one daughter.  So families who have three, four, five children — like you say, there’s no one way to parent, and even within the same family unit, each child might have to be parented a little bit differently because of their temperament.  But, yeah, I think getting down to the core of what’s essential for your family and then going from there is really helpful.

Laine:  Yeah.  And I think what — a few things popped up for me as you were talking.  Number one, I think parents feel — loving parents like you, right, well-meaning, best-meaning — you want the best for your kids — fall into this parenting trap of, like, I just want my child to be happy.  Right?  And I call it a trap because what happens when we witness our kids experiencing unhappiness or some sort of discord is then that triggers us.  If we have this belief of, I just want my child to be happy, even if it’s unconcious, right, it filters into everything that we do, and when we witness them having some sort of difficulty or challenge, our instinct becomes to swoop in and, like, fix it and make them happy.  If we change that inner — and I’m all about self-talk and, you know, what is our intentionality in our parenting — I want you to be happy, too, but there’s a trap in saying that as the goal, to be happy.  If we find a different frame for that, a different word for that, a rebranding, if you will, right, of what we’re really after for our kids, it can take off a lot of pressure from us as parents.  So I’m not saying there is — what the replacement word is.  I can give you some examples or some ideas, and sometimes I can just see in parents, like, their shoulders go down a little bit, right?  One word that might be a little less loaded than “I just want my kid to be happy” is, “I want my child to learn how to be resilient.”  You know, how to bounce back from things.  So, for example, if we were to go with that word as the intention, then what happens is, when you’re seeing your child struggle, when you’re seeing your child have a difficult time, it’s not — the instinct doesn’t become, how do I swoop in and fix this to make her happy?  It’s, how do I sit with this and help guide her through an opportunity to become resilient.  Right?

Alyssa:  And that sounds like the perfect word right now because even as adults, we have to be resilient through this unknown for an unknown period of time.

Laine:  Totally.  And so how do we model resilience?  As your child gets older, it becomes — and I have lots of clients with kids who are older, and sometimes we start when their kids are older and, you know, I say, it doesn’t — it’s not a lost cause if your child’s already 12 or already 15.  It’s harder, but our brains are so plastic and our brains are resilient, naturally, that if we train in a different way, we will develop new habits.  It’s totally possible to teach old dogs new tricks when it comes to parenting.  It is.  So I’m a full believer in Pavlov’s psychology in that way and training.  Right?  I mean, it works.  So when you are — as your kids are getting older, it becomes more and more important for us as parents to be modeling for them what it looks like to be that thing that we want them to be because I guarantee you by the time your child is seven, maybe even younger — if you were to ask her in any particular moment, what am I going to say to you right now?  You’ve said that thing, whether it’s time for bed or it’s time to brush your teeth or it’s time to, whatever, get your shoes on — I guarantee you, she will know what you’re going to say, in 99% —

Alyssa:  Oh, she already does that to me.  Absolutely.  She’ll tell me before she asks a question — she already knows my response, so she’ll preface it with my response.

Laine:  I know you’re going to say no —

Alyssa:  Right, right.

Laine:  I know you’re going to say maybe, but I’m going to ask.  Right?  So, good.  That means you’ve been doing your job of being consistent and a consistent messenger.  Consistent salesperson of your values and where you stand.  So she knows where you stand.  That’s awesome.  Then what becomes a slow but steady and sometimes really challenging journey for parents is to just start modeling these things and to start shifting the focus back to ourselves, which is very counterintuitive because we spend so long so enmeshed with them.  Right?  Parenting is, like, the ultimate enmeshed relationship, slowly untangling so that we find the boundaries between us and them so that they’re actually seeing what we want them to be receiving.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  They can sense our anxiety and our nervousness and maybe our fears with what’s going on right now.  So I like that.  You know, take a step back and say, how am I going to react to this because I know she’s watching or they are watching.  They’re learning how to react by watching us react.

Laine:  Right.  And so another level to the answer of your question, how best to parent, would be, how are you parenting yourself right now?  What are the messages and all the things that go into it, right?  What’s your self-talk and how you’re handling your own stress?  What is your self-care?  These are the pillars of what I teach.  Right?  Self-talk and self-care; self-regulation.  Right?  And then having the outer skills to be actually helping your child navigate some of these things.  But if you’re just saying the things and you’re not doing the things that you know are going to be helpful, then it’s going to fall flat and will fall on deaf ears eventually.  So an example; let’s talk about your — you know, that you can’t be silly; you’re trying to work, right?  And she’s trying to be silly and it’s, like, probably annoying to you.  Right?  If we’re going to be honest.  And it gets frustrating because you’re trying to get stuff done, and you can’t feed that need that she has to be silly.  Right?  Well, what happens around that?  Right?  Let’s call that awareness building.  Like, do you start saying to yourself things like — a lot of — I’m not trying to, you know, coach you here necessarily —

Alyssa:  I’ll be an example.  It’s fine.

Laine:  — a lot of parents who will say things like, you know, well, that starts a whole series of self talk in my own head which is, like, I’m a bad mom or I can’t do this or I wasn’t cut out for this or, you know, oh, I just — things have to be different now, when they actually can’t be different, and it just sort of drives that negative thinking further and further into feeling solid, and it stops us from feeling fluid.  Right?  So — and it closes us down to what is possible.  I always ask, like, what is possible?  What’s possible for time that you can set aside to be silly.  If you’re not the silly mom, maybe that’s just not your thing.  That’s not your style of parenting.  So where can she get the sillies out?  Is it — you know, could she — then that’s a new conversation, right?  How do we address that need without putting the burden on ourselves and having to figure it out for them.  Oh, I see she’s got a need to be silly, so can she perform something?  Could she put on silly clothes?  Could she — the possibilities there are kind of endless, but what I’m trying to do, and I feel like my particular skill with parents, is to change the upfront question so that then we can open up different doors of possibility.  Right?  It’s not, like, how do I get her to be entertained.  It’s, like, how do I figure out how to meet that need or get that need met for her?  And I might not be the best person.  Maybe it’s — sometimes it’s the partner.  Sometimes it’s crafting or sometimes it’s a different outlet, but it doesn’t have to be you, and that’s one option.  Another option is could it be, or could you be open to that possibility of being, like, I don’t know, I’m not naturally the silly mom, but, like, I’m being called to this in this moment.  Could I, you know, put some boundaries around work and explain to her, you know, once I finish this — or maybe try to be silly first.  Maybe her silliness, her call, her invitation to be silly, will actually help your work.  What about that?  What if you — like, this is how I’m just — like, I get playful with this stuff.  Right?  Like, what if you were, like, I’m going to — like, I’m going to really commit to being silly here, and I know it’s, like, for us intellects, it’s like, okay, I have to, like, decide how to be silly.  I’m going to make a plan for being silly —

Alyssa:  I have to schedule it in my day.  Silliness at 2:00.

Laine:  I need to put on the silly makeup; I’ve got to find the — okay.  So you do that thing.  You get silly.  You have a frame around it, so 20 minutes.  I’ve got 20 minutes.  Let’s be super silly.  And you just, with reckless abandon, get silly, and you hold a boundary at the end of it, and there’s an end to it.  Maybe you film it.  Maybe she watches it on the replay.  You know, there are lots of options there.  And then I’d be curious — this is genuine curiosity — I’d be curious how your work was then informed by that.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s a great idea.

Laine:  What lightness would be brough to it?  What fun — what more fun would you bringing to work, and how would that manifest itself in the outcome of your work itself?  How much more fun would you have working if you just had, like, a half-hour playtime beforehand?

Alyssa:  And it truly — that’s all it takes.  Twenty to thirty minutes is a lifetime to kids.  You know, they don’t know if 20 minutes is any different than 2 hours.  I mean, granted, she’d love to hold me — hold my attention for 2 hours, but, yeah, 20 minutes —

Laine:  Held hostage!

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Laine:  I hear that a lot.

Alyssa:  Close to it.

Laine:  Well, better for her to hold your attention or hold you hostage in a positive way than having her hold you hostage in a negative way, because unfortunately, that’s what ends up happening with a lot of parents is they don’t dive in fully with both feet for the 20 minutes, and then for the — instead, what they get for the rest of their day is their child or their kids clamoring for their attention in negative ways.  And kids are going to — I worked with kids for years before I started working with parents.  I know this one for sure: that if kids don’t get it in a positive way, they’re going to seek it in any way they can, and at the end of the day, they don’t care how they get your full attention.  So they’re going to do whatever it takes to get it, and if that means that the only time that you — and I say “you” as a universal you, not you, Alyssa, but you — the only time you put down your phone and you look at them is because you’re so mad and you’re so frustrated that that’s the only time you are making full eye contact with them, putting your full attention on them — I guarantee you, that is going to feed their association with, “this is how I get Mommy or Daddy’s full attention.”  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It does.  So for a parent with four children, that just means they might need to take some time, you know, depending on the age of the children, I would imagine — you know, 20 minutes each?  Or maybe if there are two that are similar ages, you give 20 to 30 minutes to those two at the same time, but that just maybe takes a little bit more planning for somebody with more children to try to give them some dedicated time each day?

Laine:  Yeah, and so it’s — this is a really unique time to be figuring all this out, and I kind of get resistant about being, like, “schedule this, then schedule that and schedule that,” and I’m really more of a fan of having rhythms in the day.  So, like, sort of a play time, and then there’s a down time, and then there’s a, you know, an alone time, and then there’s a together time.  But figuring out what rhythms.  Some kids want to be alone in the morning.  Some kids want to be alone later in the day.  You really have to know your kid.  When it comes to having multiples, so let’s just say you’ve got two, three, or four kids.  Right?  I mean, but — or twins.  I said multiples, so it could be twins, too.  I have found that it’s easiest for parents to think about spending, like — dividing and conquering in one of two ways, either going by age — so you take the two olders and do something that’s sort of that age-appropriate, or you take the two youngers and you do something that’s sort of age-appropriate for them.  Right?  That’s usually how people do it.  But another way to think about it is to take them, if you can, by temperament.  So if you’ve got two kids who are really high-energy — could be an older one and a younger — if you have four, could be your oldest and your youngest, but they’re both super high energy — it might be easier on the parents to take them as a pair, and if your middle two are quieter and more sedentary, to pair it that way.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  That’s a great idea.

Laine:  So a lot of different ways to — I call it just dividing and conquering, and tag-teaming.  If you have — if you have a partner and the schedules are aligned and you can make it happen, you know, a lot of us feel guilty when we don’t have this perfect notion of, like, everybody’s spending family time together.  Family time doesn’t have to be everybody all together doing the same thing in the same place.  Family time can be very, very well spent separating, tag-teaming, I call it; dividing and conquering, whatever, doing your own thing; doing what feels best to each pairing; having the parents flip around from time to time is a good idea, too; mixing it up, and then all coming together, and then suddenly you find you’re sitting at dinner, and you’ve got more stuff to talk about, you know?  Even if the afternoon playtime session is, say, you know, 20 minutes, and one parent takes two, and the other parent takes two, and you watch something different, or you’re doing a different puzzle.  At least there’s been a different kind of experience and you’re not all in the same experience at the same time, because then there quickly becomes nothing to really — nothing novel to spark the conversation or to keep the energy new.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I like that.

Laine:  It’s like the same people at the party.  Same people at the party all night long.  It’s fun when new people arrive.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You can talk about what the other group did, and then you’re not — you can actually enjoy the time in segments together but apart because you’re not constantly trying to round and wrangle this one kid who doesn’t want to do the puzzle, who wants to play outside and just becomes this chaotic — more of a hassle.

Laine:  Yeah, and I think that anytime we can look at getting back to this idea of “essential” and what is best parenting, right?  What is really — like, what is the value that you hold?  So — and then sort of letting go of how that has to be, how that has to happen.  Going more after the what and letting go of the how.  So one example: a client of mine, she’s like, “I just want to have family meals together,” and her kids were older, and she was so upset that, you know, they’re — one child had this, you know, violin practice after school, and another child had team practice in the evenings, and she had things going, and they weren’t having dinner together, and she was so upset about it.  But she was missing out on the fact that every morning, her family was having breakfast together.  And I was like, where — like, the idea of having a meal together once a day — why does it have to be dinner?  Let’s let go of the how, right, and let’s look at the what.  And she was, like, oh!  We have a meal together every day!  But nothing changed in her reality.  It was just looking at it differently.  She was, like, oh, dinner is our sort of chaotic — you know, she started calling it the dinner dance, and she was, like, we’re doing the — and just everything lightened up around it, and before that, she was just feeling so, so heavy about it.  And sometimes all it takes is, like, a reframe and a perspective shift about what’s going on.  So getting back to what is really essential; what is your value, and where are you getting that?  And, you know, I’m not somebody who, like, sprinkles sunshine all over the place, but I do believe in looking at what is really going on and what is working as a starting point and moving from there to, okay, what do we need to tweak, because sometimes if you go into something, this just isn’t working, it’s like you miss out on the pieces that are working.  You think you need a total overhaul when in fact you don’t.  You might just need a few tweaks.

Alyssa:  Right.  So we talked a little bit before about weather — because we’re on opposite ends on the country and how weather can play, and you’ve lived all over, you know, and we — I was telling you that we just had one of our most beautiful weekends in Michigan in a long time, and it’s spring and gorgeous, and it’s been so cold that everyone was so happy to get outside, whereas you have kind of beautiful weather all the time.  So it’s like you take it for granted and these little things.  People are like, oh, my gosh, it’s raining.  Will we ever see the sun again?  And you’re like, yep, tomorrow.  We’ll see the sun tomorrow.  But weather plays a huge factor in our mental health.  You know, when we have a week straight of dreariness, it is really hard, and then tack on quarantine with that, right; we can’t go outside.  It’s too cold; it’s raining; it’s muddy.  Now you’re stuck inside and you’re not getting vitamin D, and you just feel it; you feel it in your core.  It’s almost like this heaviness just sets in.  But the sun, you know; the sun seems to relieve it for us in Michigan, anyway.

Laine:  Yeah.  Yeah, I think that’s a really real thing, and, you know, another way to — I spoke to somebody — I have lots of family — I’m from New York City, so I have lots of family back east, too, and sometimes — at least, this was a week ago — maybe two weeks ago, so things change, you know, as we’re going through this.  It’s like what felt okay two weeks ago might not feel good now or feel okay now, but at least what they were saying two weeks ago was, well, when it’s raining, at least I’d be inside anyway. You know, when it’s crappy out, at least I’d be inside anyway, so there’s not this pull to go outside to be rained in.  I think that — look, I don’t have, like, a magic answer for that.  I think the more anybody can get outside, the better.  I think that, you know, that’s just science.  That’s not me even talking.  What I also know about our own well-being: getting our kids outside and getting fresh air — they don’t care if they’re cold.  If you bundle them up — you know, my brother lives in Seattle, and he’s a big fan of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.

Alyssa:  True!

Laine:  You know, so you bundle up properly; you get the right rain gear on, you know.  I went on a — I did a 30-day mountaineering course a long time ago in a mountain range in Wyoming, and, you know, we were suited up for whatever came.  So, you know, we did whatever we did, whether it was raining or snowing or, you know, whatever.  So I believe in that, too.  And, you know, so I think bundling them up and getting them outside — you may not want to be out in it.  I totally get that, but let them go out; let them breathe some fresh air.  For the adults, there’s lot of science around this concept of getting some benefit, some of the same benefit you would get if you were to go outside by just looking outside.  So if you position yourself near a window, if you have a view — you know, I know people like my family in New York City, sometimes the view is a brick wall.  Like, that might not feel so good.  But watching a nature video is not the best, but it’s better than nothing.  You know, there’s a reason why they play a lot of those nature videos in waiting rooms and doctors office, right, to just, like, have people chill and relax.  Listening to nature sounds on your, you know, your radio station or your Alexa or whatever you’ve got going on in your house and just having that as the backdrop for your home can be a very soothing thing to do.  And, again, it’s not — I’m not saying that will solve the issue, but it’s better than nothing.

Alyssa:  Well, I think this is really helpful stuff.  Is there anything else that, you know, just a parent right now going through this, that you would love for them to hear or know, and then tell them how to get ahold of you, too.  I mean, even though we’re on opposite ends of the country, I feel like virtual support is just kind of the thing right now, so we can support people anywhere.

Laine:  For sure.  And I have an online course designed for just that.  Yeah, I think what I want to tell parents is to remember that you’re not alone, and as trite or as cheesy as that may sound right now, it’s really important to remember to universalize what you’re going through and just pay attention to how you’re talking to yourself, what you’re saying to yourself, because that’s the stuff that will sink in and eventually will come out at your kids.  So just keep your self-talk top of mind.  Right?  Be really, really aware of what you’re saying to yourself.  So, you know, I’m going to just practice self-compassion; kindness.  You know, make sure you’re doing your best to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a really good friend or the way you’d want a good friend to talk to you, and if that’s a totally foreign concept to you, that is a practice that can be learned.  It’s something that I teach.  And as far as getting in touch with me, you can visit my website, and I’ve got a free course there.  People can watch that and certainly get a lot of great information about discipline without breaking their child’s spirit and without losing their own mind, which I think is essential right now.  And if anybody listening to this knows — I just want to give a special shoutout to people who are, like, yeah, I know parenting is hard, but, like, my situation, it’s, like, really hard.  Like, they’re really struggling.  Then I just invite you to book a free call with me.  And that’s a free session, and I’m happy to have a conversation, a parenting conversation, and see how I can help people.  Happy to do it.

Alyssa:  Well, thank you so much for joining!  We will have another podcast after this.  We’re going to talk about sleep and parenting.

Laine:  Awesome.  Sounds great.  Can’t wait!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening, everybody!

 

Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96 Read More »

Adoption

Doula Support for Adoptive Families

Most parents probably don’t think about hiring a doula if they aren’t pregnant. They think of a birth doula only supporting a laboring mother, but that couldn’t be farther from reality. Birth doulas can support any parent. Postpartum doulas can support adoptive families by helping them to prepare for baby’s arrival and in-home after baby arrives. There are so many ways doulas can support families that are adopting!

At Gold Coast we are focused on educating parents. We offer several prenatal and postnatal classes to help new parents navigate this new territory. We offer a Newborn Survival class that goes over essentials of surviving those first few weeks and months home with your baby. Real life scenarios and raw topics are discussed to help parents feel confident in their roles.

We also offer a Prenatal Stress class. This is designed for any parent, pregnant or adopting, to understand the affects that stress has on a developing child’s brain, not just throughout pregnancy but through their growing years as well.

Infant Massage is a great way for adoptive parents to bond with a new baby. Our instructor offers classes as well as private in-home instruction. Another great way to bond is babywearing. We have a certified babywearing expert that does in-home instruction and can show you how to safely use your carrier(s).

For parents that might be bringing multiples home (twins or even triplets) we offer a Preparing for Multiples class, and we have a postpartum doula that is a mother of twins herself. Her in-home support, expertise, tips, and tricks are invaluable!

If grandparents will be primary care givers, we offer a class called The Modern Grandparent that updates them on the latest safety information as well as informs them about today’s parent and how parenting styles differ from generations past.

Our lactation consultant can help adoptive mothers induce lactation and can also offer advice about chest feeding.

At Gold Coast, our postpartum doulas are available day and night. Daytime support includes help with baby bonding, newborn care, help with older siblings, meal prep, and evidence based resources. Your postpartum doula is your trusted guide for anything baby related. Overnight support allows parents to get a full nights rest while the doula takes care of the baby through the night. The doula will feed the baby, burp, change diapers, etc allowing the parent(s) to get as much rest as possible knowing there is an experienced professional caring for their child. 

A postpartum doula is an amazing gift idea for baby showers! We can create a custom insert for your shower invitations and you can also register online for any of our services at EcoBuns Baby + Co online.

We also offer Gentle Sleep Consultations. Sleep is critical for adults and babies. Babies needs proper sleep for brain development and physiological growth. Parents need sleep to help manage the day to day obstacles of parenthood as well as for basic health and wellness.

We also have doulas specially trained in grief that can help you through loss.

Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:

Kelly Mom https://kellymom.com/category/parenting/ Athough there is alot of information about breastfeeding on this site, there are some relevant parenting and adoptive parenting tips as well.

This link features several apps our clients like. http://redtri.com/apps-every-new-parent-needs/slide/3

The Baby Connect Tracker App is also popular with our clients. https://www.baby-connect.com

At Gold Coast Doulas, we pride ourselves on being the premier doula agency in West Michigan. We offer judgment-free support to all families regardless of their parenting styles. We are here for your family, wherever you are in your journey.

 

Doula Support for Adoptive Families Read More »

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