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Archive for December, 2009

Do babies and wine ever mix?

Sunday, December 20th, 2009 by:
My six-month-old explores a Niagara Vineyard

My six-month-old explores a Niagara Vineyard

I’ve brought a child to a winery twice. Both times my baby was under age one. We went for a walk through the vineyard to look at the grapes, played on the grass and then enjoyed a relaxing dinner and glass of wine on the patio. My baby sat in his highchair happily looking at all the activity going on around him. My husband and I each enjoyed one glass of wine. After a great afternoon, we drove home. Does this make me a bad parent? According to some people, yes.

Last year, we posted our baby-friendly wine route. Since then, we have received countless emails (from people calling themselves “Sour Grapes,” “Happily Single”  and–my favorite– “Concerned Non-Parent”) chastising us for posting a list of wineries that encourage families to visit.

I’ve been told parents should have a zero tolerance for alcohol if there children are around. “Even one ounce is too much.” I’ve been told having a glass of wine in the presence of a child is the same as taking a hit of cocaine. I’ve been told wineries should be a sanctuary for adults and it should be illegal to bring a child.

I’ve often wondered why some North Americans feel that adults need to change their entire life the second a baby comes into the world. In other areas of the world family-life is encouraged and children are considered an asset not a hinderence. Wouldn’t it make more sense for me to teach my child how to behave in public and for me to want to spend time with them rather than than leaving them with a nanny while I carry on with my “so-called adult life?” Should I really only bring my children out in public twice a year for a visit to Chuck E. Cheese?

I avoided visiting a winery when my first-born turned one because I was worried he might act out. Now that he’s almost three I will try again soon. If he does act out, I’ll leave. As parents can we please use common sense when bringing our children to a winery or restaurant? If a child acts out–leave. If not, stay and enjoy. It’s that simple.

Keeping your cool

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 by:

Never mind dealing with your child’s anger–it can sometimes be hard enough to deal with our own. I have so many parents come to me and say, “I’m a really nice person. I never got angry or yelled at anyone before I had kids.”

The depth of emotion that you feel with your own child can indeed be overwhelming. You love this little person so much you can hardly stand it, but the frustration and anger can be just as overwhelming. It can be surprising how angry we can get and how much yelling we can do.

Being stressed and tired or trying to do too many things can add to our frustration–but the truth is sometimes kids just really know how to push their parents’ buttons. Whether it’s giggling and laughing when you’re trying to discipline, ignoring your request or talking back, it can be hard to keep your cool. But although getting angry and yelling is a popular parenting technique, it’s a very ineffective one. (If it worked, there would be a lot more well-behaved children around!)

The reality is that we yell for us. We yell as a release and we yell because we’re angry and we need to vent. My rule is: if you’re mad and what you’re saying feels really good coming out of your mouth, then it’s probably not the right thing to say. It’s important to stop and ask yourself, “Am I about to say something my child needs to hear? Or am I about to say something I feel like saying?” You will find that the answers to those questions are often very different.

When we yell, we show our children that we’re not able to control our feelings and, in some cases, we are even displaying the very behavior we are asking them not to do. It’s not easy and we all blow up sometimes but the good news is that when we do, we can always go back and repair. Here are some tips to help you keep your cool.

Leave your self enough time. When you’re rushed, you’re much more likely to get angry and frustrated.
Recognize–and reduce–your triggers. If multi-tasking is overwhelming and you’re likely to blow your top at the next person who walks in the room, front load the kids to let them know you need a few minutes and what the consequence will be if they disturb you.
Simplify. Try to do fewer things and go easy on yourself; try to simplify by doing things in advance. If you’ve had a stressful day, order in and forget about bath night for the kids. Keep it simple and manageable. What good is it if they are clean with a stomach full of homemade food but everyone is crying and miserable?
Breathe. Slowly breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth several times a day when you feel yourself getting stressed. Check in with yourself throughout the day to monitor how you are feeling so you’re less likely to blow your top.
Find the humour. Laughing about a situation can be very helpful sometimes.
Take care of yourself. If you’re exhausted and snapping at people, call in a baby sitter, find a mother’s helper or ask a relative to come in so you can go do something for you. If a spa is out of the question, go sit in a coffee shop with a cup of tea and read the paper, or go for a walk.
Keep everything in perspective. These crazy times are fleeting and they’re the very stuff you will miss, believe it or not, when your kids are grown up and gone.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and found of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at info@connectedparenting.com or visit www.connectedparenting.com.

How to say “no”

Monday, December 7th, 2009 by:

We love our children and want the best for them. But in our rush to give them all the things they want, we may actually be robbing them of important coping skills.

Too often the more children get, the more they want and the less they appreciate what they get. It’s the reason so many of our basements are filled with mountains of toys that are never played with.

Where does it end, and how can we bring things back into balance? Saying “no” is hard–but if you think it’s hard now, wait until they’re 16 and wanting co-ed sleepovers, or expect you to buy alcohol for their parties (a common practice these days.) Saying “no” doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.

And if every road is smoothed, every desire gratified, every disappointment made up for, children come not only to expect this, but have fewer skills to handle disappointments or losses when they do arise. We essentially get in the way of them developing the emotional hardware necessary to handle what life throws at them, making it difficult for them to bounce back, cope with stress, and learn from mistakes later in life. We may be solving difficult behaviors in the short term by giving in, but creating bigger problems for our children and ourselves later.

Getting everything they want even most of the time can affect your child’s ability to appreciate and care for things, to learn to control that urge for immediate gratification, or to know the joy of earning something she has worked for. To prevent that from happening, here are a few tips to help you say “no:”

Tips for saying no:

• Stay neutral and clearly say “no” to your child. Don’t say “maybe” or “we’ll see.” Say “no” if you mean no and stick to it.
• If your child gets angry and has a tantrum, stay calm and tell your child that you love them enough for them to be mad at you. That you wouldn’t be a good parent if you said “yes” to everything. They will make noise and have a fit, but don’t get sucked in. They will give up when they believe you.
• Never give in to a tantrum or whining for the toy, item or activity they have requested. This rewards the behavior and guarantees its return.
• Use a neutral but confident voice–if you don’t believe yourself, they won’t believe you either.
• Talk to them about others who are less fortunate–ask them to set aside some toys or new gifts that they can give to charity.
• Know that you are helping them develop the life skills they need to handle disappointments in life. It’s important for them to know that they can do this, that they are strong enough.
• Help them create mindful and responsible consumer habits by talking about choices and modeling the difference between wanting something and needing something.
• Help them consider the advertising they are being exposed to–teach them to question it and discuss it.

Jennifer Kolari is a child and parent therapist, and found of Connected Parenting. For more information you can contact jennifer at info@connectedparenting.com or visit www.connectedparenting.com.