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Don't be scared! You should do it in spite of fear! Brave men don't listen to their fears. What if we should, on the contrary, learn to acknowledge fear in our lives, through our bodily feelings, and then use this information to take conscious action? Instead of just labeling fear as the bad guy? And more importantly: wouldn't it be great if you could teach your child to maintain her instinctive connection to her feelings and help her use her natural curiosity to embrace fear in her life?

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Meet Emilie and her family 🙂
Photo courtesy of Emilie Hoffman

An interview to understand how we can help our child embrace fear

I'm glad and honored to host an interview with Emilie Hoffman, coach, pilates instructor, and creator of the mind/body coaching method "Science meets soul".

I just love her approach. It consists into creating a deeper connection with our body and our feelings, in order for us to understand more deeply our inner selves - our needs, our emotions, our values.

The underlying belief is that, once we are able to establish a healthy relationship with ourselves, we are then able to build healthy relationships with our world.

I strongly recommend that you go check her website, https://sciencemeetssoul.co/.

She shares amazing insights about all the science behind emotions and feelings and the connection with our body and our actions.

In one of her recent newsletters, Emilie wrote something about fear that resonated deeply with me: how can we know when fear is holding us back from something that would make our lives better, and when is it a healthy signal from something that is dangerous for us?

We so often tend to think about fear as something bad, just as we do with anger. But in reality, those are just neutral, basic and very important emotions: they send us useful information we shouldn't ignore, but learn to interpret, in order to guide our actions in a way that feels good to us.

While I was reading, I couldn't help but thinking about the way we teach our kids to deal with those emotions.. Very often, it's based upon our own experience as children more than a reflected, conscious approach.

And that's where I thought about this interview! I'm so grateful that Emilie accepted to contribute to this topic and help us parents better understand how we can guide our kids into a healthier relationship with fear.

The 2 questions we should ask before we can help our child embrace fear

Kids are all different, we all know that; and their fear may have a different trigger and different intensity.

It's hard sometimes for us parents to find the right balance between:

  • need for encouragement - when we know they can push their limits a little more and learn from experience;

  • and a healthy fear - when the kid really feels overwhelmed.

Not to count when our own fears comes into play. I find myself at times preventing my children from trying because I'm scared, whereas my kids are confident and would "jump in".

Emilie, which reasoning do you suggest? How should we guide our thoughts in these cases, when we not only have to understand ourselves, but we also need to understand our kids' feelings and possibilities?

#1. What's the intention behind our actions?

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Let kids embrace curiosity
Photo by Joseph Rosales on Unsplash

In my experience as a parent, I find that the times I’m most controlling of my child are when I have in my head my own story about what he’s about to do and why without checking with him.

If I’m not feeling curious, I’m probably missing something about what’s going on inside both of us.

My son is not even two yet, so sometimes it’s pretty hard to get his version of the story, but it’s important to try!

What are your kid’s intentions in the actions they are about to take?

There are lots of different ways to carry out the same intention and it’s really helpful to walk through their version of how they expect a situation to unfold.

Whether you are a kid or a grown up, you often get what you expect.

#2. What are you feeling in your body?

Find out how your child is feeling in his or her body to see if they are still feeling grounded or not:

  • Some butterflies in the stomach but still able to think clearly, ask playful questions, and take deep breaths is a sign that it’s probably an adventurous level of fear.

  • But if your child feels really tense; can’t find a deep breath; and starts to lose touch with his/her surroundings, it’s time to pull back and find a sense of security again.

A sense of internal security will help us push our limits in a way that helps us learn.

Without an internal sense of security, pushing our limits just shuts us down. It keeps us from being curious or playful about anything.

Children are amazing examples of what learning can look like: it’s creative, challenging, imaginative, and integrated in mind and body.

When we can still tap into our curiosity, situations feel a little exciting and fun to us, even if we are nervous!

But in a fear that is too much for our brain and body, we don’t feel that excitement, and we do not have curious thoughts.

Instead, we usually feel overcome with tension and the urge to be defensive, run away, or crumple.

If you can’t already tell, I value curiosity highly. One of my top priorities as a parent is to help my child satisfy his curiosity and stay safe at the same time by altering the environment or physically guiding him to help mitigate risks that are too big.

If he goes beyond a point where he is terrified rather than curious, I am there to provide a safe, stable center that he can come back to and rely on to help him change his situation.

Help your child embrace or ignore fear?

A few months ago,  I brought my two kids skiing. It wasn't the first time, but we hadn't been on the snow for a long time.

I had planned to carry my 3-year-old between my legs, and to have my oldest daughter, 5 and a half, go on her own by my side - I obviously picked a baby slope.

At my astonishment, my son would just throw himself down the slope without waiting for me (putting himself into danger) while my daughter was stuck with fear.

I didn't know what to do, because she would grab my legs and cry, while I had to follow my little one (who obviously didn't wait for me and was dangerously skiing on his own).

I then told my daughter : "I know you're scared, it's normal to be scared, you're doing something new and you don't know how to do it. Fear is like an alarm bell. But I'm here with you, and the only way for you to learn is to go even if you're scared, and I'll stay with you."

This is just an example of many situations we may face as parents, where we would like our kids to go beyond their fears because we feel that if they just try, they'd gain confidence and see they can do it.

After reading your article, I start thinking that maybe, that wasn't the right thing to say.

Which words can we use when our kids panic, for them to learn when and how they can trust themselves, their body, their instincts; and when they can let go and just try?

Is there truly only one way?

Well, I’d like to ask you a question about your focus in the situation…In the little bit of story you share here, it sounds like you were making the focus for your daughter about her needing to ski; but in reality perhaps your main focus was about you needing to be with her brother.

Is it possible part of her discomfort was from sensing the disconnect between what you were saying to her and what you were expressing in your actions and personal energy?

I’d also like to challenge all of us (self included!) to really pause when we say there is only “one way” or “one truth” or “one possibility”; because more often than not, there are lots and lots of options available to us! We have a lot more choice than we think we do.

Realizing that we have choices and that we are allowed to make our choices on our own terms is very empowering!

Sometimes that realization alone can ease fear that feels overwhelming.

The power of choice

Close your eyes and imagine the following scenarios:

Notice what your body does when somebody you trust and respect says to you: “You MUST do it THIS way.”

Then, notice what happens to your body when the same person says: “We can come up with some options of how to do this together and you get to decide on the approach we take.

Which scenario do you think would be most helpful in empowering your daughter to quiet her own fear and learn a new skill with confidence and enthusiasm?

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Are we considering all options to gain that sense of security? Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash

Aside from our kids, it is so important that we do this for ourselves too. When you feel pressure and fear at the same time, see if you can find more personal power by creating different options for yourself and establishing space for you to make your own personal decisions.

Connected: the power of choice to get your child's cooperation

5 steps to learning the value of curiosity if you want to help your child embrace fear

On the same note: what can we do to support our children into learning that fear isn't bad, but to interpret what it tells us? Can you also give us some practical examples of it?

#1. Fear is ok: give yourself permission to seek safety

In my own life, and the lives of many people I’m close with, giving ourselves permission to seek safety and security is so important to trusting ourselves and being resilient. Humans are not robots and we’re not invincible!

We’re squishy social animals who need a sense of security in order to thrive.

So, the first thing we can do for our kids is let them know that fear is normal, okay, and useful! It doesn’t mean you are “weak.” It means you are perceptive!

We aren’t meant to dive into every situation we meet. Sometimes it’s good for us to say no.

#2. Learn to recognize the symptoms in your body

Our brains, bodies, and nervous systems are so clever in their ability to know what we have the skills to handle, and what we don’t.

We get the automatic message: "You don’t yet have the skills you need!" when we feel the body sensations that come along with fear.

As a practical example in my own body, I’ll notice when my breath gets shallow. I'll take a pause to rewind my thoughts and see what crossed through my mind right before I felt the tightness in my chest.

I know that this is a time when I have a great opportunity to either:

  • practice new skills I’m in the process of learning,

  • or identify a skill gap so I can get help to learn what skills could help me here.

#3. From skills to habit - it’s ok to ask for help

These days, fear pops up most frequently for me in two places: business money stuff, and marriage.

I have learned so many skills about relationships in the past several years. I really do know a lot now!

But, not all of those skills are integrated as habits.

So when I’m aware of my body shifting from a calm, alert, warm and bright state to a rigid, tense, vigilant and hyper-focused state in those two areas, I pull out my notes about what I already know and probably need to practice.

If I hit a bump and I really don’t know what to do and I’m feeling very avoidant, that’s a sign I need to reach out for help and let someone else teach me a few new ideas!

When I have help, my curiosity comes back and I can begin to empower myself.

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When they feel secure, children can follow their own path
Photo by Emma Frances on Unsplash

 

#4. Let your child’s natural curiosity guide and help him embrace fear

In the case of my toddler, I let his curiosity guide. He’s too young to talk to me about body feelings or emotions; but he can assert his likes/dislikes and desires very clearly.

We have air conditioning in our house and there is a fan unit on the side of our house in the back yard. My son is a bit wary of it.

Whenever we play in that part of the yard, he will always listen for the fan and tell me: “air conditioner fan off!” or “fan turned on.”

He’s not completely comfortable with it yet; but each time I notice him checking on the unit, I ask him if he wants to get closer.

Sometimes he says yes, and sometimes he doesn’t. If he says no, I’ll ask him if he wants me to pick him up and carry him to a place where he can see the fan, but doesn’t have to be too close.

There’s a garden bed (my son calls it the dirt box) on the far side of the AC unit. When the fan was on, he used to say "no" when I asked if he wanted to play in the “dirt box”, because he was too scared to walk past it at all.

Now he goes past it to get to the dirt box if I’m there too; and he’s started talking more freely about the AC fan.

“Fan goes around and around!”

His curiosity is helping him engage and find his own sense of security in his relationship with the air-conditioning unit.

It’s a serious and important process for him, even if it’s “just an air-conditioning unit” to us grown-ups.

#5. Protect their sense of security

That’s the same approach I use for all situations I sense my son is feeling fearful.

There’s no rush for him to push through circumstances that undermine his sense of security; because in the long run, it will just make fear an even scarier feeling for him to experience.

I want him to know he can work with his fear, that he doesn’t have to be overwhelmed by it.

Let your kids embrace fear and reconnect

As adults, we've very often grown in a way that disconnects us to ourselves and our bodies. That's why you created your activity in the first place, right? Rebuilding this confidence and alignment within ourselves is not always an easy job. What can we do, while we're still on the path towards a better understanding of ourselves, to help our children grow in a more "connected" way? (And I'm obviously not thinking about the internet 😉 )

will-o-connection
Find the connection within ourselves. Photo by Will O on Unsplash

Reconnecting with our feelings in 3 questions

Hahah…very clever, Clio!

I love asking the following questions mindfully throughout the day:

  1. How does your body feel?
  2. What do you think that feeling is saying to you?
  3. How can you respond kindly and quickly to the message?

For most of us adults, we’ve lost touch with what we’re feeling! And because we’ve lost touch with what we feel, we aren’t even asking the other questions.

Many adults end up knowing very little about themselves. They experience a lot of self-doubt simply because they don’t realize the brilliant messages they are sending themselves; and they don’t give themselves a chance to respond.

I believe in teaching our children that their physical feelings are very important because our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are all woven together.

The feelings that arise within our kids will be the root of their wellness, their emotional experience, and their intuition.

Our kids will have great trust in us and trust in themselves the more we model asking and answering the three questions. “How does your body feel? What do you think that feeling is saying to you? How can you respond kindly and quickly to the message?”

Resources

A few useful resources for you to dig deeper if you want!

Note: some links may be affiliate links. It means that if you buy something after clicking, I might get a small commission. All opinions are my own.

 

Here we come to the last episode of this series about stress. As a new parent, you might have felt overwhelmed with emotion..  marveled at your emotional reactions, and maybe, you even felt bad about it. Because feeling sad is not very sexy in a world that wants us smiling and full of energy all the time. Let's try to cast some light on stress in pregnancy and postpartum depression - so as not to feel "wrong" for our vulnerability.

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Photo: Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

It was a dark and stormy evening.

One night four years ago, my husband and I had a heated argument. Like all couples made of opposites, we were in one of those phases where differences made us fly away from each other. And I was pregnant.

Since I'm a predominantly emotional person, I chose to follow the impulsiveness of "making each other feel guilty", and I left slamming the door.

Dishevelled, with a big belly, in slippers and nightgown, what a sight I was, wandering around the condominium garden while crying noisily. I still remember the deep pain, made even more acute by the guilt for the little baby in my belly.

"I'm sorry I'm not offering you the ideal conditions to come into the world" I sobbed.

I put a little bit of a drama, I admit. But I was afraid, however absurd it may sound now, that my tears and anguish might hurt the child. (Obviously thus distressing me even more.)

Don't they tell you to be as quiet as possible during pregnancy? To surround yourself with love and affection and softness, because pregnancy's a delicate period?

The duty to feel happy

Let's move on a few months. Here he is, my baby boy. Healthy and perfect. I'm so happy to welcome him.

Still, tears lurk. I feel the bubble of my pain set aside rolling here and there, between my stomach and my throat.

"You must be happy for your children"

"It's hormones. It's just hormones.

So, as soon as someone sees me, I put a smile on my face, because hey, you're having the best moments of your life! You don't want to give in to sadness! What if you get postnatal depression?

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Photo: Kewei Hu on Unsplash

It's time to learn

Don't think I was sad all the time, on the contrary: I was enthusiastic, full of energy - and very tired at the same time, like any mom juggling work, young children and husband; an acrobat looking for a balance that won't precipitate her into the void.

Because those months between pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding are wonderful, of course; but of an intensity that overwhelms and leaves you stunned, frazzled and lonely like a shipwreck.

You dress up with expectations, you want to live up to that creature that was given to you. And it's hard to conceive, in our binary world, that one can be over the moon and emotionally shocked at the same time.

Fast-forward to a few years later. I've survived. And I wanted to see clearer.

  • Does stress really hurt in pregnancy? Do we really have to be careful and live in an enchanted bubble?

  • And what happens after childbirth? How can we accept the upheaval, while remaining attentive and available to our children?

  • What is the role of fathers in all this?

What happens to the fetus in case of stress in pregnancy

If I could speak to myself that night, I'd say,

"Don't worry. It's not stress or the occasional crying the problem. You're doing your best."

Especially women : we tend to overload ourselves with guilt. We think we need that unattainable perfection to feel legitimate.

The goal of this article is NOT to provide an additional source of anxiety.

On the contrary: on the one hand, it's to get a better understanding of what happens in order to act in awareness; on the other hand, to spread how NORMAL it is to feel certain emotions, which have nothing negative in themselves.

By the way, it's not yet clear how stress and anxiety in pregnancy are related with the fetus' development.

So far, a relationship has been identified between strong levels of stress and emotional and behavioral development of infants and children.

(for example:

  • a more "difficult" temperament;
  • problems falling asleep;
  • a tendency to be fearful).

The reason why we still don't know exactly how this happens, is that so far, the experiments have been done mainly on animals. Let's say, mice under a level of stress that I hope we will hardly ever have to experience in our life.

Among the hypotheses, there are:

  • lower blood pressure to the placenta

  • contact with cortisol that in some cases would be able to penetrate the placenta

  • exposure to serotonin

In case of extreme stress (such as physical violence and abuse), cortisol can cause genetic changes in the fetus.

Stress in pregnancy: is it always bad?

As seen in previous articles, a certain level of stress is not harmful at all, on the contrary: it acts as a stimulant!

And to dispel a further myth, I think it's worth remembering that about 20% of women suffer from anxiety and/or depression in pregnancy - for different reasons that may -or may not- be related to pregnancy-related factors.

In any case, it's not rare ! Even less so if instead of falling into a "pathological" case we are subject to more or less intense mood swings.

There is certainly a link between the mother's emotional experience and the fetus'; but it is unthinkable, absurd and even harmful to shy away from any "negative" emotion and to live constantly in joy and good humor.

Dads and their influence on stress in pregnancy

Fathers' role is fundamental, although indirect :

  • Indirect because there is no physical link between his emotional experience and that of the baby;

  • because it affects the emotional state of the mother.

What happens to men during pregnancy?

Physical changes (yes!):

Emotional changes :

  • reflection on the relationship with one's father

  • jealousy of the place taken by the newcomer in the life of his partner

  • non-acceptance of physical changes in the mother's body

  • feeling overwhelmed by the new responsibilities

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Dads' Role - Photo by Tina Bo on Unsplash

Mental images and a relationship that is created : from the beginning of pregnancy

Do you remember when you started feeling the baby move the first time?

I remember so well the day I realized that the rhythmic movement I felt from time to time was hiccups. Amazing!

Just then, mom and dad begin to form a mental image, or representation, of their child.

And no, they're not crazy, actually!

This image, although "fictional", is very important : it constitutes the first deep bond between parent and child.

It is also important because it seems stable over time (say up to 12 months of the baby); that means, it allows to detect potential problems in the very first parent-child relationship, as well as attachment's type and bond between the newborn and her parents.

Not only that: it's while building this "mental projection" that the mother, often unconsciously, reevaluates her relationship with her own mother; and that's where all the unresolved issues in childhood can emerge.

Pregnancy stress and postpartum depression : is there a link?

Is it possible to establish a link between stress in pregnancy (in the form of strong pressures and changes) and postpartum depression? Partly.

Again, it's the level of stress that counts. Some research has shown a correlation between strong levels of stress and postnatal depression. But we are mainly talking about serious situations: violence, abuse, trauma.

Three considerations:

  1. Yes, if you find yourself in such a difficult situation, it is important to ask for help.

  2. No, you don't need to overload yourself with anxiety if you happen to cry or quarrel with someone once in a while.

  3. Anyway, there's nothing wrong with you.

Postpartum depression can have several possible causes, the topic deserves to be covered in a separate article.

What I would like to point out is that all women after childbirth go through a strong hormonal change, with the imbalances that follow:

  • you'll be crying suddenly and for no apparent reason.

  • sometimes you will feel alone and misunderstood.

If it happens to you, don't be ashamed of it. Cry if you have to cry. Look for support.

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Slowly, everything is fixed. Photo: Steve Shreve on Unsplash

What happens next? Post-breastfeeding depression

Have you ever heard of it? At that time, I hadn't.

I had decided to continue breastfeeding even after going back to work, until it became too tiring, and I hadn't enough milk. Around me, I could feel that family, friends.. expected me to wean my baby. He was 9 months old.

During the last feedings, I cried. I didn't want it to be the last time. The bubble was tightening my throat, again.

Some time later, I stumbled upon an article about post-breastfeeding depression.

I cried as I read about the inexplicably dark months that the author, an American journalist, described so well. (You can read it here)

It took a weight off my shoulders.

Because I thought there was something wrong with me. I wasn't clinically depressed, let's be clear; but I often had mood swings and a feeling of sadness mixed with tiredness that accompanied me at all times.

And I stopped feeling guilty.

Guess what? When you stop breastfeeding, the level of two hormones suddenly drops: oxytocin and prolactin, which are the hormones that make breastfeeding work. They are also the hormones connected to feelings of well-being and energy.

Time for our body to adapt, and everything is back to normal.

 Don't feel weird, wrong, nor flawed. First of all, because it's not true. Secondly, because these thoughts isolate you. Don't deny what you're feeling, don't judge yourself. Your world needs you.

The stress series

Here we are at the last episode of the series dedicated to stress! Let me know if this post was useful to you, and share !

Sources and references

Note : the readings I mention here include mainly the books that I used to write this article, which I loved reading, or sometimes that I still haven't personally read but were suggested to me and are on my wish-list. The links to Amazon (UK or US) are affiliates: it means that if you click and decide to make a purchase, I perceive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

  • It is from this book that I have taken most of the information for the latest articles: "Why love matters" by Sue Gerhardt talks about the link between relationships and brain development, with real life examples as to the possible consequences. (Here's the US edition)

  • This is an indispensable guide : "The Psychology of Babies" is full of pictures illustrating how to interact with children and accompany them in their first development, in delicate stages such as teaching them to fall asleep, leaving them for the first time in childcare, and so on; all with a light tone, not guilty but informative. For me, a rare pearl that unfortunately I discovered "late". (Here's the US edition)

  • An indispensable reading to counter-balance the "pessimistic" thesis on stress: "The Upside of Stress" by Kelly McGonigal (Here's the US edition)

  • Finally, "Parenting from the Inside-out" by Daniel J. Siegel leads to a work of "self-analysis" on the link between our own history and that of our children. (Here's the US edition)

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!

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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"

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"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!"

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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.

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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..

increase-your-self-esteem-it-wasnt-me
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

My-never-ending journey-becoming-a-parent-who-smiles

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?"

30

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?"

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