Tag Archives: Stress

Video: My Daughter Keeps Returning to Her Addict Husband

What can a parent do when an adult child chooses poorly, but creates a beautiful grandchild?  This grandmother doesn’t know what to do when her daughter keeps returning to her addict husband creating a destructive home life for her granddaughter.  You know I’ve got an opinion on this!  Watch:

Read the transcript.

Ten Small Changes to Be a Healthier and Happier Mom

Being a mom is tough.  I remember when my son was a baby, survival was the only thing on my mind.  Even though they’re cute and you love them to death, infants and toddlers can tire you out and even put you in a bad mood.  Here’s a list of 10 small changes you can make in order to be a healthier, happier mom:

1. Cut the caffeine.  Coffee might keep you going, but your caffeine addiction – yes it’s a chemical addiction – can dehydrate you (it makes you pee more) and cause you to feel jittery or anxious.  This is not a good thing when you’re already stressed out with a kid.  Have one, maybe two cups a day, but that’s it.  For the rest of the day, sip decaf, herbal teas, or just plain water.  That way, you’ll stay hydrated and energized.

2. Have sex.  A lot of new moms call my show complaining that they are too tired or don’t feel like having sex, as though it’s a terrible obligation or assignment.  However, with all the crazy hormonal changes you’re going through, sex might be just the solution.  Sex is therapeutic.  Orgasms release oxytocin, endorphins, and DHEA, which create positive emotions, release tension, improve mood, and give your immune system a boost. In addition, sex does wonders for that post-pregnancy belly pooch because it strengthens the pelvic floor and the lower abs.  Forget the apple – sex a day keeps the doctor away. 

3. Get sleep.  Sixty percent of moms say sleep is their primary challenge.  Are you having trouble falling asleep?  I suggest 10 minutes of yoga, prayer, or meditation before going to bed.  If you find it really hard to shut off your brain at night, keep a journal on your nightstand and before you go to sleep, jot down your to-do list for the next day. Anything that is worrying you, write it down. By getting it on paper, you can say to yourself, “It’s taken care of, now I can sleep.”

4. Eat breakfast.  It’s the first meal (you are “breaking the fast”), and it sets the tone for the rest of the day.  You need to put food in your belly within a half hour of waking up to rev up your metabolism and get your brain going.  Aim for a mix of protein and fiber, such as yogurt with fresh fruit or oatmeal with berries and almonds.

5. Don’t set unrealistic goals.  Don’t overload your brain with 40 million things you think you need to get done.  You won’t stick to what you can’t do.  For example, instead of looking at exercise in terms of weight-loss, approach it in terms of endurance.  When you start off, it may take you an hour to go around the neighborhood. A week later it may take 58 minutes, and then the next week 56 minutes, etc.  That kind of observation is better than stepping on a scale and getting demoralized.

6. Listen to music.  Just like Mother Laura has been saying for years, a recent scientific review published in the journal Nutrition reports that listening to music strengthens immunity, digestion, and pain perception, reduces the incidence of heart failure, and even improves recovery time after a strenuous workout. So, load up your iPod with the kind of music that makes you feel good.  For me, that’s Motown.  When the music comes on, my mind immediately goes blank and I’m just movin’. 

7. Cut out the packaged foods.  Eating any kind of food that can last a long time on the shelf makes you live a shorter amount of time.  Instead of packaged snacks, eat real food.  No antibiotics, hormones, chemicals, or added sugar.

8. Snack smart.  There are times when I get out a teaspoon of peanut butter, lay it in my mouth, and just let it melt (if you have to talk, I don’t recommend doing this).  It keeps my blood sugar up, and it’s a good source of protein.

9. Make your workouts work for you.  With little kids, you may not have time for a half hour or hour workout, but you can break it up into 5-10 minute increments throughout the day.  Or get up earlier.  When my son, Deryk, was little, I used to ride him around in a seat on my bicycle.  I rode him to the park and he’d play, and then we’d get back on the bike and go back.  I also took him to the mall. This worked great: like one of those wind-up toys, I’d set him down, face him in the direction I wanted him to go, and let go.  He would run forward and I would do my little shuffle run behind him.  It’s amazing how you can get exercise by doing simple things like this (of course you get tired and they don’t!).  You can get a good 20 minutes in just by chasing your kid around the mall (if they like to run in a straight line and you don’t take your eyes off them).

10. Stop stressing. Exercise, meditate, or do something fun with your husband.  Whether it’s sex or playing a board game, you need to have some fun before you go to bed.

Training Your Brain to Stress Less

The vast majority of Americans today feel stressed out.  I would say that it mostly stems from financial struggles, which, in my opinion, are only going to get worse in the near future.  Women, in particular, get stressed out because they have too much on their plates. Ever since the feminist movement, women have been told that they are lazy bums and betrayers of their sisters if they stay home to raise their children.  As a result, women have quadrupled their responsibilities, and in doing so, increased their risk of heart disease and cancer by trying to play wife, mother, and jack of many other trades all at the same time.  If you’re struggling with stress in these hard times, I have some advice.

The first thing you need to do is realize that you are only human and that humans have limitations.  It’s simply the reality of our systems.  There are times when we just need to sleep or shut down.  Thinking that you’re a lazy slob or an incompetent idiot because you’re getting killed by all the stuff on your plate is not constructive.  You need to see that you have limits.

When I was still involved in private practice, I used to tell people to write down a list of all their obligations and then dump a third of them.  You should do the same.  Arrange all the things you need to do into a hierarchy of least to most important, and then dump the ones that are least important.

In addition, there are techniques you can use to train your brain to stress less.  For example, many athletes have trainers who help them respond quickly in stressful situations.  They teach them to focus under pressure, and even more importantly, how to recover from stress-induced errors.  Their trainers also teach them the importance of shutting down so that they don’t carry their stress around with them all day and night.  The same thing goes for soldiers training for battle. The more combat situations they face, the more familiar they become with handling the stress and the more control they have over their reactions. 

Training your brain to deal with stress is difficult, but it can be done. Here are a number of ways you can start reducing your stress levels.

Becoming a Mom – The New Reality

One of the scariest things in the universe is having to transition to being a mom.  At first, it’s a very romantic and cute idea.  You picture the little baby always smiling, and you anticipate getting to hug him or her whenever you want.  You think about how sweet it is that you and your spouse made this baby together as a composite of all your love for each other.  It’s going to be so much fun.  You can’t wait!

But then, the baby is born and reality sets in.

When my son was born, I called up every friend I knew who had ever had a baby and pleaded, “How do you get him to stop crying?! What’s the story?”   Some of them said, “Oh, just put him in the car seat and go driving,” but that didn’t help me much because even though the kid could sleep, I wouldn’t be getting any rest.  I gave it a try, but he only screamed more.   

We had a screamer.  It was a constant thing, and we could never figure out what he was screaming about.  “Does something hurt?”  “Are you wet?”  “Are you hungry?”  “Are you constipated?”  “What is the problem?!”  We just wanted to hold up pictures and hope he’d point at whatever was wrong.  However, babies don’t point or tell you, they just scream.  We even got one of those itty bitty baby swings, figuring that the rocking motion was going to work.   But it didn’t fix anything.  Finally, while I was looking through the mail, I came across an advertisement for a stuffed bear that was supposed to help kids sleep.  It contained a mechanism inside of it, which emulated the heartbeat sound that the baby hears when he or she is floating around in the uterus’s amniotic fluid.  When my husband came home from work that day, I said, “Lew, go out and find this bear, and don’t come home until you have it.” 

Yes, I was that crazed, and he knew I meant it.

While he was gone, I was lying on the bed trying to console the crying baby.  I put him on my stomach, tried petting him, and hummed/sang to him.  Every now and then he’d quiet down, but then he’d start screaming again.  Just when I was about to cry myself, Lew walked in the door holding the heart bear.  He stuck a nine-volt battery in its tush and turned it on. 

My son’s eyes got huge, and within a split second, he was out.  Boom.  Asleep.
 
Mr. Bear was like a miracle drug.  Although my kid is now 26 and doesn’t sleep with him anymore, I have kept Mr. Bear (even though he doesn’t work anymore) because he sure saved everybody’s life.

I use this story about my son to illustrate one of the more frustrating and scary moments about becoming a new mom: when you have no idea what the baby wants.  It’s an awful feeling when you’re standing there willing to do anything for your baby, but you don’t know what it is you’re supposed to do.  You figure it’s the standard things – they need warmth, food, contact, or cleaning – but none of those ends up being the problem.  In my case, it was the heart bear that did the trick.  For some reason, when I lay my son on my own chest and he could hear my heart pounding, it wasn’t nearly as impressive to him as his memory of the womb.     

New mothers have a lot of reasonable fears.  Here are just a few of them:

Everybody who says they want a baby pictures a sweet, happy child who is easy to get along with, studies, does well, has friends, and possesses many talents.  However, pregnancy is this big unknown.  You have no idea what kind of little person is going to come out until he or she grows up enough to start expressing him or herself.   Some kids are cuddly, and some cry a lot.  Some seem to bond readily, and others don’t.  Some are born unhealthy, and others are born healthy.  In the meantime, you have a whole lot of uncertainty going on.  It can be exciting, but it can also be uncomfortable.   There are a lot of challenges that you’re not going to know about until the baby is born.
 
Another worry is that you’ll turn into your mother.   Whatever your opinion of your mother’s mothering, it’s your first and strongest model of mothering.   A lot of you say, “I am not going to be like my mother,” but then you start hearing yourself sounding just like her.  That’s because it was your first experience, and it’s what you are familiar with.   Of course you don’t want to blindly stumble along in the footprints of familiarity, but you also don’t want to reflexively react against your mother’s parenting style.  Think about the good stuff you learned from your mom, consider the things you don’t think were the best, and formulate your own method of mothering.   You don’t just want to say, “Well, my mother did ‘x’ so I’m going to do the exact opposite,” because the opposite may not always be a good alternative.   Remember the Dr. Spock era where kids were encouraged to have total freedom to express themselves?  Yeah, that bombed.

You also may worry that your marriage will never be the same again.  Well, that’s true.  Although a baby doesn’t weigh much or speak, the minute you have them there, they rule.  However, the key to holding on to your marriage is to work together as a team.  The experience of having a baby can’t be about one of you being superior, more knowledgeable, or more in charge than the other.  The two of you need to be a team. 

For example, when I was trying to house-train my most recent baby (my Rhodesian Ridgeback puppy, Sweet Pea), my husband and I had a system.  I’d pick her up and carry her to the door, my husband would open the door, the doggie would relieve herself outside, and then my husband would help open the door to bring her back inside the house.  We also had a system years ago when my son was breastfeeding.  At a certain time, my husband would get up and bring me the baby.  I’d breastfeed, and then one of us would change the baby’s diaper.  After that, the other one would put the baby back to bed. 

That is what you have to maintain to keep your relationship strong:  a team effort.  On a side note, women’s brains are wired very differently for hearing baby sounds than men’s brains.  The reason is obvious: Since babies come from our bodies and suckle at our breasts, it’s a part of our biology for us to hear those little high pitched noises.  So, don’t think your husband is just being a drag and a bum if he doesn’t immediately get up when the baby calls – his brain is simply not wired to hear what you hear.

Another worry is that you’re going to be a bad parent.  I hear that far too often.  I know it’s easy to think about that in this extreme age of parenting where people are hovering over their kids and trying to make them be totally happy and successful without having to put in any effort, but you shouldn’t worry.  Being a good parent is really just about being open and willing to listen, putting your needs aside, and parenting even when it’s inconvenient, uncomfortable, or unpleasant.   It takes a lot and there may not be one specific way to do it because you and your spouse’s personalities have to coordinate, but you can do it. 

One of the things new mothers often say early on in the first year is, “I don’t think I like this parenting thing. What have I gotten myself into?!”   However, you have to remember that kids are always changing, and the experience of motherhood changes along with them.  Things won’t always be so difficult and overwhelming, and you are bound to have favorite and less favorite phases.  Just look at their sweet little faces while they’re sleeping, and you’ll remember why you got yourself into this.

A final worry is that you’ll be trapped.  It’s not as carefree of a life when you have a baby.  Unless you’ve got grandma living near you so you can go out to dinner and a movie, everything changes.  My husband and I would have to bring the car seat into restaurants with us.  As soon as our son started fussing, one of us would go outside and rock him while the other ate, and then we switched.  We very rarely got to eat together in a restaurant, but we still tried to do it about once a week so we wouldn’t go completely stir-crazy. 

There is a lot of negative thinking and anxiety when you become a new mom, and there are many adjustments you have to make.  Sometimes you think you’re going to mess up and do something terribly wrong, or you have nightmares about something horrible happening to your child.  You may even feel trapped and want to get out of the situation.  However, these are all normal anxieties.  The most important thing you can do is talk about them out loud.   That’s where girlfriends, mothers, or good mother-in-laws come in.  I remember one time when I was getting batty, I called up a girlfriend who was already on her second baby.  I told her, “Oh my gosh, I’m having terrible thoughts,” and she said, “Oh yeah, you’re going to think about setting them on the curb from time to time.  But don’t worry, that’s normal.”   Simply having the support of another mom telling you that what you’re feeling is normal is a huge help.

If you are having a hard time as a new mom, don’t hate or get down on yourself.  When you’re feeling stressed out, it’s time to hand the baby to Dad and go take a walk or a bath.  Do something to refresh yourself for a little bit and then come back.   It’s a difficult transition, but you can handle it.

And just think – when they become teenagers and start driving, you’ll look back and say, “Gosh, that was easy.”

Paying Kids for Grades

I have the final answer on whether or not you should pay your kids for grades:

You shouldn’t!

There’s a great deal of debate out there among parents about how to motivate kids to do well in school.  I think kids should do what they are able to do in school.  A lot of parents have their eyeballs set on the brass ring – the “A” – when they have B or C students.  If a B or C student is working his or her butt off and gets the B or C that they’re capable of getting, then that’s a huge success.  It’s the process and the activity of studying that should be valued over the result. 

I’ll tell you why that works.  The more enjoyment and satisfaction you get out of a process, the better it feels.   For example, when I’m shooting pool, I go through a five-point process just like the pros do (although I’ll never be a pro), and when I do it right, it feels so good that I don’t even care about pocketing the ball – that’s just icing on the cake.  If you’re only focused on the end result, your hand tightens up, your arm twitches, and your head moves.  Sure you may get lucky and inconsistently pocket some balls, but you’ll never get past a certain level.  But if you follow the process, eventually you’ll be pocketing a lot more balls.  It took me a couple of years to get to the point where the process was the goal and not pocketing the ball.

The same goes for kids in school.  It’s about the process and the learning that are important, not getting the grade. 

One fun way to inspire your kids is to sit around the dinner table and ask them what they learned at school.  My kid is currently taking some philosophy and political science classes, and on the nights he comes over for dinner from his place, we all sit around and enthusiastically discuss whatever he’s learned that day or week.  No matter what your child’s age, you can still ask them to teach you something they learned at school.  Once you’ve asked, just sit there, look impressed, enthusiastically ask questions, and complement them on their ability to discourse in a particular subject and show you that they’ve learned something.  That kid is going to have a lot more enthusiasm for learning because the payoff is your interest and pride in them. 

You have to decide what you want to achieve with you child.  Do you want them to get good grades because you need them to get good grades, or are you trying to change their attitude and behavior?  You are a lot better off trying to help them improve their habits than beating them up over a grade because they’ll not only get the most out of their education, but they’ll also learn how to be more focused and productive. 

Another reason not to pay your kid for grades is that a lot of what we do on this planet isn’t necessarily attached to rewards, especially financial ones (e.g. you don’t get filthy rich volunteering for a charity).  Providing praise and recognition when your child does well in school is wonderful, but setting expectations for a cash reward won’t motivate your kid or instill the values you’re looking for.  It’s difficult for kids to recognize that working hard has long-term benefits when all they are focused on is a paycheck.

So, you need to stress the process over the result, support their work ethic by demonstrating it yourself, and always value the activity of learning.  If your kid comes home and he or she didn’t quite attain a particular grade but you saw that they really studied and prepared, do not say, “Go to your room and don’t play with your friends for six years.”  Tell them, “You know what?  You really studied hard, and this one test in no way measures how hard you worked or how proud I am of what you put into this.”