In Praise of Fathers

Fathers should be appreciated all year… not just on one day! While Father’s Day is a tremendous idea, we all need to affirm Dads for their significance every day of the year.

I come from a long line of fantastic fathering men. My grandfathers were both grand fathering me from birth to their deaths. My Dad, in his 80’s, is still fathering me long distance and with just as much love, sincerity and respect as always. My husband has been an awesome father for 28 years. One of the problems with us mothers is that we sometimes spend too much time trying to get the fathers in our lives to mother, instead of just appreciating what fathering does for our children.

Fathers teach two very crucial concepts to children: how to trust themselves and how to take risks! Since men don’t have the same hormonal response as women when their kids move away from them, a familiar scenario often happens. Mom might go out to the park and ask her husband to watch the kids while she goes to the bathroom. When she returns, the kids are playing on the playground equipment, at the furthest point from where her husband is standing. He is in deep conversation with another Dad. Mom’s first response is usually, “why are you not watching the kids, they are way too far away and you weren’t even looking at them when I came out of the bathroom?”

The truth of the matter is, kids can move six times further away from a Dad, as opposed to a Mom, before he has any physical response like that alarm that goes off in Mom’s head saying, “where are the kids?” That does not mean that men love or protect their children any less than a woman. What it does mean is that fathers teach their kids that it is okay to trust your self and take risks.

So Moms, celebrate Father’s Day by valuing what Dad’s give kids!

In deep appreciation of fathers 365 days per year, Dr. Ann Corwin

You Know I Love You Anyway

In celebration of Mother’s Day, I’d like to share a special poem with you that was given to me by a mom that I had been working with earlier this year. She was a new mommy having trouble adjusting to being a stay-at-home-mom after the birth of her second child. She came seeking guidelines in managing her impatience with her children… the same impatience that many of us experience in trying to juggle life’s many demands. In the course of working with her, she found this poem and shared it with me, and today I share it with you as a subtle reminder to slow down and enjoy your precious children.

I bumped into a stranger as he passed by.

“Oh, excuse me, please,” was my reply.

He said, “Please excuse me too.

I wasn’t even watching for you.”

Oh, we were polite – this stranger and I.

We went on our way and we said our goodbye.

But at home a different story is told

how we treat our loved ones, young and old.

Later that day, cooking the evening meal,

my daughter stood beside me very still.

When I turned, I nearly knocked her down.

“Move out of the way!” I said with a frown.

She walked away, her little heart broken.

I didn’t realize how harshly I’d spoken.

Later that night, wide awake in my bed,

a still, small voice came to me and said,

“While dealing with a stranger, common courtesy you use,

but the children you love, you seem to abuse!

Look upon the kitchen floor,

you’ll find some flowers there by the door.

Those are the flowers she brought for you,

she picked them herself – pink, yellow and blue.

She stood quietly, not to spoil the surprise,

and you never saw the tears in her eyes.”

By this time, I felt very small,

and now my tears began to fall.

I quietly went and knelt by her bed,

“Wake up, sweetheart,” I whispered and said.

“Are these the flowers you picked for me?”

She smiled, “I found ‘em, out by the tree.

I picked ‘em because they’re pretty like you.

I knew that you’d like them – especially the blue.”

I said, “Daughter, I’m sorry how I acted to you today,

I shouldn’t have yelled at you that way.”

She hugged me and said, “Mommy, that’s okay.

You know I love you anyway.”

I said, “Daughter, I love you too!

And I do like the flowers – especially the blue.”

Dr. Ann

Expert urges parents not to rush their little ones off binkies, blankies

By Cathy Zimmerman, www.TDN.com

Trying to get rid of your baby’s pacifier? Don’t do it.

That was the message from Dr. Ann Corwin, a specialist in parenting and children’s health who spoke at a conference March 13 in Vancouver.

“How many of you have ever heard something like this: ‘Oh, your third birthday is almost here. The Binkie Fairy is coming! After your party, we’ll put your binkie under the pillow, and the fairy will take it away and put a surprise there, because you’re 3 now!’

“What does the child say? ‘I don’t want a party.’ ”

Mimicking a quaking 3-year-old, “the parenting doctor” drew a chorus of chuckles from a crowd of several hundred parent educators at the WSU Vancouver campus.

“Never, ever, ever, ever, take away a comfort measure,” Corwin said in a more serious tone.

Babies and children need objects that help them give up their craving for constant comfort from a parent, Corwin said; the objects help them learn to soothe themselves.

She then explained how a “transitional object” — a blanket or pacifier — is a serious part of human development called “attachment.”

Infants form intense attachments to one or several caregivers, said Corwin, a California teacher and therapist. They do it from the first day of life, in three ways: touch, eye contact and verbal interaction.

In the healthiest type of attachment, she said, “the parent or primary caregiver is consistently sensitive to signals, emotions, perceptions, and needs of the child. We call this unconditional love. …

Secure attachment “is an enduring, reciprocal, emotional and physical affiliation with another person.”

After the drive for survival — food, shelter and water — the next strongest drive is for attachment, Corwin said. ”We want to be stroked, to be looked at, to be talked to. Without that, we will fail to thrive. This is profound.”

In fact, the brain grows when a child receives “nurturing touch, eye contact and talking. The brain is hard-wired to use these ways to connect. Gotta touch, skin to skin, or I won’t be OK.

“Why are kids born being able to cry? It makes people move closer — ‘I will get fed, I will get touched.’ ”

Not all parents attach to their babies securely. But babies “will take it anyway they can get it,” including from parents who are unavailable, ambivalent and confused, or even frightening — the other three types of attachment.

“We will connect with somebody else even if it hurts,” Corwin said.

Attachment is important for brain development and for lifelong social skills. Corwin said it shapes “how we make relationships, how we keep relationships and what we do when a relationship is not working so well.”

Attachment forms in the part of the brain called the amygdala (uh-MIGG-duluh), or limbic brain, where all emotion originates. When a child has a secure attachment with a loving parent, the amygdala grows, Corwin said.

“It’s where we process emotions — ‘OK, I’m sad, glad, happy, angry,’ ” she said. “When a child is held and comforted when they need it, it’s the primary way the amygdala grows, and it doesn’t end at a certain age.”

We don’t regulate or control emotions in the amygdala, “we just FEEL them.” We manage our feelings in the cortex, the front part of the brain, and we learn to do that only over time.

Picture a frustrated, angry child who throws something, and a parent who says, “Haven’t I told you a million times that you cannot throw things in the house? You should know better!”

At that moment in time, “the emotional brain is in charge,” Corwin said. “The child doesn’t know better. He just feels something.”

Only comforting touch, eye contact and talking can soothe the young child … until the baby starts to use a blanket or pacifier when Mom, Dad or Nana cannot hold her.

” ‘If I can’t touch my mom right now, what will make me feel better?’ The definition of comfort is to soothe and console and to strengthen — it actually builds strength to be comforted.,” Corwin said. “Babies need touch, smells and sucking, and as they become toddlers, they use subsititutes.”

When they interact in play groups and visit the in-laws, parents may get antsy to leave the grubby blanket at home or hide the pacifier.

“Just teach the child how and when to use it,” she said. Tell the child, ” ‘You can have it, but you need to enjoy it in an appropriate time and place.’ … As children grow, they will want to replace one method of comfort with another, either because of peer pressure or just because their internal comfort system (self-talk) has finally had time to develop.”

Parents who believe they need to “toughen up” their toddlers may unwittingly bring up children who are aggressive and unable to deal with feelings of sadness, fear and anger.

“Children lose control because they haven ‘t learned to calm and soothe themselves yet,” Corwin said. “You had to learn to control your feelings; someone had to teach you how to do it.”

We all need comfort measures, the doctor said, no matter how old we are. The adults at the conference nodded and smiled.

“In the California fires, what did people run back into their houses for? Photos, the images of their families. How many people here take a pillow when you stay away from home?”

What All Kids Need…Oprah Tells Us

Oprah’s show this week about the “Little Girl Found Living Like an Animal” reminded us all what devastating effects neglect has on children.

Even if kids are not severely neglected they suffer if their parents don’t have a relationship with them.

Dr. Bruce Perry www.childtrauma.org is not only the leading authority on child abuse and neglect, but is one of the most down-to-earth psychiatrists I have ever met. His book, “The Boy Who Was Raised As A Dog” is not for the faint of heart, but gives profound insight into how the human brain changes if kids don’t connect with their parents.

There is more neglect in our country than abuse. Caretakers are responsible for helping children learn how to form and maintain relationships. Oprah pointed out that if kids spend too much time with ‘things’ like T.V. and computer/video games and not people that is a form of neglect.

There is optimism about change after neglect. These adoptive parents are awesome. Both mother and father gave this child the gift of unconditional love and affection to help this child travel through her trauma to learning about love. Watching her moving in the family pool to help herself process her emotions and environment was a beautiful sight. All kids need movement to change their moods and deal with their pains.

Dr. Perry emphasized what I have been sharing with you on my website when he said, “Simple things like eye contact, touch and rocking and humming can make all the difference to a baby. It makes neurons (the telephone system in the brain) grow, to make connections in the brain. Those connections make the brain functional.

So the moral of this story is keep touching, talking and making eye contact with your kids for healthy connections to keep their brains thriving.

The gift of your presence in your child’s life means more than any other ‘thing’ you can ever give them, Dr. Ann (Check out show at oprah.com)

Pacifier Problems

Dear Dr. Ann please help with my serious pacifier problem!

I believe your thoughts on weaning a child from a pacifier is that it shouldn’t be done unless he’s ready. And that a pacifier is a very emotional connection between a child and parent.

My son is 3 years 3 months old. At 3 we limited his pacifier (papai) use to only nap and bedtime. Then he started coming out of bed with it and it became a power struggle. Because of this struggle and our son’s cross bite my husband and I to agree that it was time he give up the ‘papai’.

He gave his ‘papai’ to the dentist. He gave it up willingly with no problems. I was shocked. Then at naptime he threw a tantrum for an hour and a half! I kept trying to be encouraging and sympathetic, telling him I understand that he’s sad but that “you can do it” and “you’ll be fine”.

Later, I went to check on him and he had snuck into his 19month old sleeping sister’s room and he took her ‘papai’ out of her mouth and had it in his mouth. He really wanted to go to sleep; he just couldn’t without the pacifier! It’s seriously like a drug!

I feel like he needs to figure out how to go to sleep w/out the paci and my husband is adamant about it being gone. I just wonder if I’m screwing up my child! Is this pure punishment or is it something that has to be done sooner or later? Diane

Diane,

You are correct, your child’s “papai” represents his connection to you and your husband. Try not to think of the pacifier as a plastic and rubber object, but rather what it represents. It helps your son know he will be “OK” if you and your husband are not around…namely when he sleeps.

I would never presume to tell you or your husband ‘when’ it is time to have your child give up his pacifier as that is up to you as his parents. But, what I will share with you is some child development information.

-1st don’t ever use chronological age to determine if a child is ready to handle changes in their lives. Just because your child is 16 years old does not mean they are mature enough to get behind the wheel of a car.

-The pacifier represents the child’s ability to deal with their emotions.

For example, it is no different than you looking at a picture of yourself and your beloved mother embracing at your wedding. When you look at the picture it elicits an emotion/feeling in you.

When you think about it, that picture is simply photo paper and nothing more. But, it is what it represents that really matters to you. If I told you right now, that you were old enough to have me remove all the sentimental pictures out of your house, what would you do?

Probably you’d say I am crazy and tell me those mean something to you, so no you’re not getting rid of them. So, what is the solution? Pacifiers until they go to college, if that is what they want…absolutely not.

The answer is to help your child transition to some other more appropriate object (match box car, stuffed animal) to help him understand his feelings.

Don’t just take away what represents comfort for him without replacing it with something else. During the day if he is having a hard time or you leave him with a baby sitter just hand him the substitute object and say, “Here is ‘stuffed animal’ and it will make you feel better while mom is gone”.

Thanks Diane for sharing your common story for all parents to relate to, Dr. Ann

Ontario Mom with 25 month old has bed problems

Hello Dr Ann
We are having some issues with our 25 month old daughter. Shortly after her second birthday we purchased a dora toddler bed which Ryleigh loved, we also at the same time took away her sucky.

Since then she has been doing amazing with the no sucky situation but has now refused to sleep in her toddler bed she wants to sleep in our bed. We have been allowing her to do so for the past month but no one is getting any sleep.

Please help! any suggestions you have would be greatly appreciated.
Sincerely

Ange Billings
Fergus Ontario
Canada

Ange,
Thanks for your thoughtful e-mail. Kids and actually adults too, use objects to make sense out of their feelings and emotional connects to others.

Kids start out with comfort objects like a sucky because they have more nerve endings in their mouths at birth than anywhere else. So to discover their world and how they feel is done through putting things in their mouth.

Adults do things like look at pictures of their kids to bring up feelings. The reason your 25 month old will not sleep alone is that she does not have her sucky. The sucky is how she knows she is going to be OK when you are not around, namely when she is alone sleeping in her bed.

So you can either give it back to her or teach her to transition to some other object (like a blankie) to help her cope without you while she sleeps. You should carry it around with you and put in in-between you and her as often as possible. Like if you pick her up because she hurt herself or you are reading her a story.

If you visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s website they will tell you through their parenting pamphlets that there is normally no damage to a child’s teeth with sucky type things until their permanent teeth come in, which is around the age of 8 years.

Now don’t think I am recommending that your daughter keep her sucky until she is 8 years old! What I do know is she needs some kind of object to help her sleep without you. A 25 month old can ‘still’ have their sucky if they use it at appropriate times and that would be to sleep.

Your child should not have a sucky when they are playing or talking, only when they are resting (like listening to a story) or sleeping or are having a tough time during the day.

Lastly, if you don’t want to confuse her about where she should sleep, never take her in your bed again. I know you may have some sleepless nights for her to catch on, but if you ‘give in’ and have her sleep with you even sometimes, she will assume if she puts up enough of a fuss you will bring her to bed again.

You may have to put a gate at her door to keep her in her bed and there may be some tears. But, just give her the new “lovey” or sucky and don’t talk to her, look at her or touch her during the night waking. If you have to put her back in her room, always do it from behind, making sure her back is to your chest. Hope that helps and thanks again for contacting me,

Dr. Ann Corwin