Monday, November 14, 2011

Finding Gratitude in Unlikely Places

I am grateful for hair-pulling, biting, pushing, shoving, screaming and crying.  Ok, not so much those behaviors, per se, but what they represent.

I was talking with a mother of two young children this morning who says she struggles with helping her children play together successfully.  Her 6 year-old likes to make elaborate lego projects that her 2 year-old brother likes to take down Godzilla-style.  She has tried convincing her daughter to build these projects in her room.  She has tried redirecting her son toward different toys.  Neither of these strategies has worked.

They want to be together, which is nice, I told her.  It's what I tell myself when my own daughters have the same fight...over and over again.  They could play in separate rooms or with separate toys,  goodness knows we have more than enough to go around.  But the separation wouldn't meet their needs for togetherness, which is a strong need, indeed.  And sometimes they play together successfully.  I just tend not to notice, since no one is screaming, "Mom, help!" at those moments. So I try to remind myself of the lovely part of their siblinghood when I extract one from the other, teeth bared and tears flowing.

I've learned a lot from clients who've consulted with me over the years about finding gratitude in unlikely places.  They've found it in seeing they have choices, even when those choices aren't the  greatest.  In finding calm in an otherwise anxiety-provoking time while washing dishes or pulling weeds.  In having a major life crisis hold a mirror up to their life and finding they don't like what they see and using their resources to change it.

There is much to be grateful for, even in trying times.  Sometimes we have to look beyond the initial ugliness to find the beauty at its core.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Emotions, Learning, and The Child's Brain

I was, for a brief time, an elementary special education teacher. While my students' test scores indicated that they were not "performing at grade level", they're participation in my class suggested otherwise. Indeed, they were all capable of doing the work. They were a very intelligent, thoughtful, and engaging group. Their home lives, however, were highly unpredictable and anxiety-provoking. How well would you do on a test if your parent was in prison, drug-addicted, or severely depressed?

I'll you: Not well, my friends. Not well.

So, that's why I'm pleased to see the topic of Seattle's Maria Montessori Language and Cultural Center's Workshop: On Emotions, Learning and The Child's Brain being offered on Saturday, 10/15 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. A highly worthy topic for our times. Hope some of you can make it.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

No More Shame: Postpartum Support International of Washington's Executive Director, Heidi Koss, Speaks on Ending PPMD Stigma on NPR

My esteemed colleague and friend Heidi Koss, Executive Director of Postpartum Support International of Washington is featured in an interview with NPR's Joanne Silberner. Heidi Koss shares her personal struggle with Postpartum Depression, and her personal quest to end the stigma that prevents women from seeking treament for a highly treatable illness. Please share with every new and expecting parent you know.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Postpartum Support International Conference Comes to Seattle in 2011

Save the Date!
Postpartum Support International
25th Anniversary Conference
When: Sept 14-17, 2011
Where: Seattle, Washington
In the heart of downtown, at
Stay Tuned for more details! &

Monday, June 6, 2011

The "We Decade" Dilemma

Fresh from her appearance on The Colbert Report, Stephanie Coontz proffered her well-researched opinion to the audience of anxious parents and parents-to-be at the Parent Map-sponsored Baby Map Event. Ms. Coontz said that she has found in her research that while parents are spending more time with their children, they do so at the expense of time spent with other adults or as a couple. This observation rang true to my ears, as I've grown accustomed to hearing from clients with children: "Are we normal? Does this experience happen to other people? I honestly have nothing to compare ourselves against!" The hard truth is, yes, these families are quite normal. And yes, the parents in these households are so cut off from other adults in similar situations that they can't possibly realize how common their situation is.

So, what to do? First, today's parents, congratulate yourselves on spending more time with your children than previous generations. Second, remind yourself that to be the best parent you can be, you need to be a fulfilled adult and partner. When reviewing your calendar, take note of how many fun and enriching events you have posted for your children when compared with those for you and for your relationship as a couple. Do the numbers skewed in the kid's favor? Then get some "me time" and "us time" on there, pronto!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Amy Tan Gets Creative on Ambiguity

I found this TED talk by Amy Tan to be funny and reflective--if at times unfocused. Though she doesn't make the connection out right, implicit in her lecture is the notion that our ability to tolerate ambiguity corelates with our capacity to feel compassion for others. If we are able to defer judgment about about events, beliefs, and cultural norms that shape our own lives and the lives of others, we're more likely to come away with a richer understanding of what is found there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Teaching Empathy in Extra-Large Doses

Today, my 2 y.o. bit another child. I know "why" she did it: She has speech and hearing challenges. Another child was playing with a toy she wanted. She can't say: "I want that, too. Can I have a turn please?" But, you better believe the kid she bit dropped the toy like a hot potato. So, biting is effective for getting the toy--less so when one wants to make friends, which she really, really wants. So that's the "why" of it. But harder still is coming up with the "how" in helping her have empathy for other children when she is feeling flustered.

I've been doing a post-mortem of my responses to her biting of other children, and I was relieved to read this article by Dr. Meryl Lipton and find that I've done most of her recommended steps in helping her learn empathy. I haven't yet experimented with the drawing exercises, but I'm itching to try them out, despite having drawing skills not much better than my toddler daughter's. Perhaps she'll develop a little empathy for her artistically-challenged mother, too.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman: It's time to explode 4 taboos of parenting

I highly recommend this TED talk from the founders of who (with hilarious charts and graphs) deconstruct much of the "conventional wisdom" of new parenthood, miscarriage, and hanging in there as a couple. Funny, touching, and important. Please share with new or expecting parents.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Importance of the Postpartum Partner (for Gwyneth Paltrow and Non-Celebs Alike)

While reading this interview with Gwyneth Paltrow in People I realized that there's an all-too-common misconception about Postpartum Mood Disorders: that a person must be crying all the time in order to be diagnosed. Not so! The symptoms are often subtler, yet no less serious. That sense of being "cut off" from one's emotions is a common symptom of PPMDs. And it's often one's partner who notices these sometimes subtle, internal shifts. Sometimes it takes an attuned partner (such as Chris Martin) to know when something sounds a little off in ourselves.