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Why should we talk about stress for newborns? Even if you're not pregnant and maybe your kid is now a teen? For the third episode of this series about stress, I'm particularly keen to start from the beginning. Because even babies get stressed (and a lot); and the way we support them determines the formation of the fundamental mental structures that will help them face life even as adults. This is stuff that's worth learning, and spreading to future generations!

stress-newborns-matters
Birth, after all, is a stressful event. Photo by Javier de la Maza on Unsplash

Why talking about stress for newborns and babies?

I didn't know anything of what I'm about to write today when I first became a mom.

I was happy and naive, convinced that I would make my mistakes in the best possible way.

My instinct suggested me how to react; but then there were many other voices that rose louder:

"You're going to spoil her!"; "You don't want her to get used to it?" "You're too good/ too patient / miscellaneous."

And then, tiredness; sometimes, the loneliness of misunderstanding.

I hope I didn't do any serious damage, but at the same time I keep telling myself: "If only I had known before!"

So, future babies, moms, you dads who have such an important role but you don't always know. These lines are for you.

If you're thinking that this doesn't concern you, and you're going to click elsewhere (because I know that time is short and precious, and the attention span on the internet lasts a few seconds). Hold on.

Who you are today depends at least in part on those first few months with your parents.

#1: Parents form their babies' brains

At birth, a newborn's brain has about 100 billion neurons. And this is just the beginning.

...continue reading "Why talking about stress for newborns matters more than you think"

"You can't afford to make mistakes"; "If you don't put a lot of effort, you'll never be able to do anything" and also "Stop wasting your time!" What do these sentences have in common? And what does they have to do with toxic stress and high cortisol? We might be living with these recorded messages and the related chronic stress for so long, that we don't see them any more. We don't connect them to when we forget for the umpteenth time the keys inside the door of the house; to when we cry because we missed the bus; Or when we get breathless after another loud NO! from our 3-year-old boy. Can you find the resources you need to get better within yourself? Spot on high cortisol and toxic stress, and on one of the ways we secretly cultivate them..

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Our system is not made to hold a high level of cortisol for a long time... Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Toxic stress, me? Nope

A few years ago I found myself in a vortex. One of those times when everything goes fast, and you seem to have everything under control. In fact, you're pretty excited: "Look how well I can manage this challenge, and all the change! I'm a superhero!" (Ah no, that's my son's excuse).

My husband had started a new job abroad, and I was alone with two small children, working full time. At work we were launching a new project, in which I wanted to give the best-because I was beginning to feel cramped in the marginal role I had.

I didn't want to show my fatigue nor give in. So, I kept doing sports, organizing weekend trips, seeing friends.. Without noticing that I was neglecting myself. That I wasn't sleeping enough. I was not resting, I was eating too little. The race was such that I didn't even have time to notice the signals.

Then, a colleague of mine suddenly stopped coming to the office. Burn-out. We examined her case. What happened? And yet I could not connect her symptoms to mine. I often got sick, sore throat that left me without a voice but enough strength to come to work. Furthermore, I lost patience so easily, I was susceptible. As if nothing would make me laugh any more.

I had to write my schedule, or I risked forgetting everything after a few minutes. I, who have an iron memory and register the agenda in my head.
Now, at a distance of time, it all seems so obvious!

Effects of high cortisol and toxic stress in our brain

Toxic stress. How come? What was going on?

...continue reading "5 sentences you must stop repeating yourself to fight toxic stress!"

We might be living with a stranger. We talk about it all the time. We fight it, we shun it, but unconsciously seek it; and yet, it shapes us, it makes us succeed, sometimes it makes us sick. Do we really know what stress is? And how does it affect our brain and the rest of our body? And above all.. How does it affect the way we interact with our children, and their growth? A mini-series to drop some prejudice and better understand how  stress is a part of our lives - from pregnancy to birth and to adulthood.

Che-cosè-lo-stress
Photo by George Pagan III on Unsplash

Stress, this unknown beast 

If I say "stress", you immediately think about working deadlines, sleepless nights, getting stuck in traffic just before an important appointment.

And then, the derived diseases, the tiredness, the evils of our times.

Almost no one thinks a baby can be stressed out, right? Much less a newborn. Or that you can be too little stressed. And yet..

...continue reading "What is Stress? 6 Must-Know Facts a Parent can’t ignore"

We are born women, but moms, we may become.. How can we build this role, while keeping intact our other many identities? Career, love, friendship, sisterhood, sport, volunteering.. Women, can we find a balance? Does this balance even exist? Analysis of an apparent contradiction.

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Overlapping roles

"You can't have it all"

Growing up, we find ourselves all wearing new roles; sometimes we change them like snakes change their skin; at other times we accumulate them like the layers of an onion.

"You can't have it all," I was repeatedly told. "You'll have to choose." And I stubbornly insisted, out of contradictory spirit mostly.

I distinctly remember when I went to the office to show my newborn babies. I saw a golden aura around me, as if the stars were suddenly aligned.

And then, when I came back to work to work, the roles added up, and the first real challenges hit me.

Which of these moments have been more difficult in assuming your new role as a parent?

  • Discussing your working hours;

  • Juggling between day care centers and baby sitters;

  • Fumbling unlikely solutions to cover the summer closure, the strikes, the sicknesses..

  • Calling the doctor's office months in advance so to have the vaccines' appointment after 5 p.m.;

  • Counting your available days off to see if you can use one to go to the school party, because last year you got there too late;

  • The eternal never being there enough;

  • Getting dressed in the laundry, because you still haven't had the time to put your dry clothes away..

"You can't have it all." And there I am, looking for counter-examples, for different possibilities; 'cause I don't like to choose. I have a hard time when there are more than two dishes at the restaurant.

And when no one sees me, I caress the doubt: what should I give up? Is it really inevitable that if I'm a woman, and a mom, I can't also be all the other identities I'm wearing? Because I feel more onion than snake.

...continue reading "The multiple roles of women: Is a balance possible?"

You've always wanted to work on yourself and increase your self-esteem. And probably, you also aim at raising confident children. Because, especially if you've been suffering from your low self-esteem and the continuous self-criticism, you want to stop this negative cycle; and grow strong and self-assured kids. I have good news: you can increase your self-esteem! The bad news is, it's going to take some time and energy. But the stakes are high: your kids' confidence..

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I didn't do anything! That milk was already there...

I never make it right..

My daughter and I have the unfortunate tendency to distract ourselves easily and, as a result, to drop things down. Shall we call it clumsiness? But I purposely didn't  say that "We are clumsy", and now you'll see why.

You know those days when as soon as you get up, you're in a hurry? You have a hard time waking up, so you're late. You'd forgotten you had a very super important meeting; you selected the wrong program on your washing machine and now you don't know what to wear. Your children sniff your undisguised nervousness, as a bloodhound who finds truffles..

And just when everything seems to be back on the rails, your daughter spills a whole cup of milk on the floor. And a few minutes later, she stumbles into his brother's potty (no need to mention that it was still full, right?).

What would you do?

...continue reading "Why should you increase your self-esteem? It’ll help your kids to thrive"

22

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Becoming a parent who smiles when you keep falling into the same old patterns

"Kids kids kids! It's time to get up my lovely children!

What starts as a whisper, gradually becomes a perky scream, as I notice that my two "bundles of love" are hardly hearing my voice under their still strong sleep.

At some point, I finally manage to actually wake them up and take them to the breakfast table.

We worked on our morning routine, and used so many of the positive parenting strategies here and there.. Yet, here we are : both kids in their pajamas, running again under their duvets when we only have 20 minutes to leave and be on time to school.

My daughter's staring at her drawer, lost in her own thoughts.

"Honey, you'll have to go to school in your pajamas if you don't get dressed, I'm leaving in 15 minutes.

"But I'm too cold mom! I want you to dress me! I want to be with you."

All this, while her younger brother is crying that he doesn't want to go to school, he doesn't want to brush his teeth, and I don't recall what else he didn't want to do by the way.

What does it take?

The purpose of this article is NOT to give you yet another very useful list of techniques or sentences you can use to survive to morning prep.

It is to show you that even when you do know plenty of these, you still have to adapt them to you, your kid and the specific situation you're in.. a never ending journey.

...continue reading "Becoming a Parent who smiles and grows – a never ending journey"

1

I don't know about you, but I sometimes happen to be short of ideas on things to gift a friend's or relative's child with. Every idea that comes to my mind it's either something the kid already has, or something I've already given to him. So, I've decided that from now on, I only give books as presents! If you want to replenish your collection or look for a new birthday gift, here are some ideas for a new children's book, directly from our home favorites!

I miei suggerimenti per i libri per bambini
Little readers grow

First books

Making an exhaustive list is impossible. There's a children's book for all budgets, ages and themes.

So, to begin with, I'll start with the books we have at home, which my kids love to read aver and over again.

If you want some international suggestions, you can also take a look at the pages in Italian and French, where the list is different as in not all books have been translated.

Moreover, if you do need a specific suggestion for a new children's book, you may want to take a look at the Children's Library Lady. She has a broader collection of reviews/

Or, if you specifically need suggestions on the best bedtime readings for your children according to their age, you may want to check the SleepHelp.org page.

Connected : Can you read a story?

...continue reading " Who else wants ideas for a new children’s book?"

27

Never frowned in front of a child making noise in the train? Or sighed at a mom who couldn't keep her children still in the waiting room? Or worse, those parents who dare taking their kids out to dinner on Saturday night! What is your attitude with regards to disturbing children? And why is it important to talk about it? Well, let's see!

No kids allowed they disturb
No disturbing kids allowed - Photo by Gary Bendig on Unsplash

Italy (and Germany, US, UK..) : no kids allowed in certain restaurants

A few months ago, thanks to the magical powers of serendipity, I came across an article in an Italian newspaper.

A restaurant in northern Italy had banned children from entering. And since then, a ton of comments were published (because, as we know well, the internet frees us from any inhibition) which, for a good part, supported this decision. I even believe that the restaurant in question has seen its customers double.

In fact, I remained speechless in front of people's harsh words : "I can't stand children"; "I didn't want to have kids myself, so I don't see why I should put up with other people's children"; "today's parents are incapable of raising their children well"; and so on.

Some declared that, abroad, "You can immediately recognize Italian children!"; that other cultures are different and parents know better how to raise children in a proper way.

Others responded by accusing them of lack of empathy and support for parents (a minority nevertheless).

Who is right ?

no kids allowed to interrupt our quiet meal
You said quiet meal out? - Photo by Sonja Punz on Unsplash

...continue reading "No Kids Allowed : Should we ban disobedient kids from public places?"

For those times when you're bored but don't feel like inventing a game; for when you need a quick entertaining method for your kids, but don't want to turn the TV on. Or simply, when you just want to have fun together, and maybe discover new sounds and learn a foreign word.. This (non) exhaustive list of children songs is for you! More than 40 amongst our favourite songs - in English, Italian, French and German. Some are well-known, others may surprise you.. It's time to sing and dance!

English Children songs

You probably know Raffi already.. Although he was a recent discovery for me! And have you already been on a bear hunt with your child? Or met an alligator waiting for the elevator?!

I'll start with Raffi's children songs, if you don't mind! I love the values he shares, he imaginary world some of his songs depict.. and the music itself.

...continue reading "The top #40+ international children songs to sing and dance !"

24

You come back home, tired from work, and all you can think of is sinking into your bed with a good book. You ask your 3 year-old-son to wash his hands before sitting at the table. What an outrageous request! "If you do not wash them, I'll wash them!" He's screaming, you're screaming. How can you handle such crises? How can you calm down and help your children control the storm of emotions? Let's see 10 ways to calm down - for the whole family!

ways to calm down breathing and meditating
Photo of Jared Rice on Unsplash

What could have triggered the crisis?

One morning like many others. "Mom, are we going to school today?" My little one asks me first thing once his eyes are opened. The angry look leaves no doubt: I want to stay at home!

Fortunately, we can take the luxury of having breakfast together before realizing it's late and we're all in our pajamas.

One way or another, we manage to get to the front door with the right clothes and enough time to go to school and office on schedule.

Mom, I want to take my bike !

My whole body gets ready for a fight or flight reaction.

Honey, you have to practice a little bit before, it's better if you come with me on the child seat for the moment. Tomorrow, if we can get out a little earlier, we can take your bike ok ?

Obviously, the stubborn and definitive answer is NO.

After a few attempts, I had to take him and put him on his seat...
C-A-T-A-S-T-R-O-P-H-E

Screams and desperate cries, scratches, kicks .. The ultimate crisis.

The one where you must be able to calm down before you can calm your kid .. not easy when your child's pulling your hair as if he wanted to shave you bold.

...continue reading "#10 easy ways to calm down in face of a major meltdown"