Our Child is a Brat—and it’s Your Fault

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m a single mom with a 10-year-old son who’s with me half the time. Before the divorce, he was a sweet kid and a pleasure to be around. But lately he’s become a terror, throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants—and I think it’s because his father is spoiling him. How do I deal with him? What can I say to his dad to get this behavior to stop?

A: As you well know, divorce is tough on everyone involved: you, your ex, and your son. And among the many problems divorce creates, one of the most common is children being spoiled by mom or dad. The one doing the spoiling is usually the non-custodial parent, who’s making a well-intentioned attempt to buy the kids’ affection or to do something to make up for how hard the divorce has been on them. But the same thing can happen in cases like yours, where both parents have the kids the same amount of time.
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Sandwich Generation: Raising Teens & Caring for Aging Parents

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Just as our rambunctious toddlers and kids grow into self-sufficient teens, the self sufficiency and health of our parents start to decline. Dads of the sandwich generation are caught between directing a misguided, angsty teenager and helping a parent with diminishing independence. You’ve inescapably fallen into the role of caretaker for your own mom or dad.

 

Defining the Sandwich Generation

One in eight Americans care for aging parents while tending to their own families, according to the Pew Research Center. An estimated 66 million Americans take care of a loved one, while a third are also raising children, reports the National Alliance for Caregiving.

It’s a stressful responsibility that also evokes strong feelings of resentment, guilt and anger. You’re making sacrifices and engaging in 100 percent selflessness that can create serious health problems, self-neglect and exhaustion. The following pointers can help members of the sandwich generation healthily navigate their roles without the detrimental “caregiver syndrome.”

Be Empathetic

Aging seniors with decaying health can fall into depression and moodiness. A sick parent resents their own increased dependency on others. The growing resentment is a two-way street, and your once vibrant parent may resent needing your help just as much as you resent your parent’s reliance on you. During high-stress moments when your emotions are about to implode, try to remember this isn’t ideal for your parent either. Embrace empathy and compassion — inner strength and calmness will follow.

Let Go

Mother and caregiver Mary Novaria wrote on The Huffington Post that she had a romanticized vision of her family’s three generations of women coming together. She fantasized about her and her mother and daughter sipping tea while dishing on “Grey’s Anatomy” and reminiscing in front of the fireplace. Likewise, you may have picture hitting golf balls with your father while teaching your teenager about the rules of the game. Letting go of an idyllic picture of how you imagined your relationship to be with your parent can help alleviate disappointment, resentment and irritation. Your parent is still your parent, and love is unconditional.

Claim Good Days

Parenthood can make a man want to pull a Christopher McCandless and abandon society to live in isolation with nature. Although McCandless met an unfortunate fate in the novel “Into The Wild,” his escape can be a fantasy for a parent. Parenthood is tough, and you have to savor the beautiful moments. A warm hug from a little one before bed can make up for an entire day of temper tantrums, and the same goes for caregiving. Cherish the good days. Avoid feelings of inadequacy with affirmations that you can’t do it all. It’s a balancing act. Use special moments shared with your parent as a reminder that your mom or dad suffering from Parkinson’s, for example, isn’t a burden, but a loved one.

Move Mom or Dad

Moving a parent out of their home can be devastating decision to make. Conversations with a parent about moving into your home or an assisted living community is commonly met with resistance. An aging parent may be even more reluctant to move from their home if they’re moving across country to be near your family for support. So focus on the bright side of things and drive home that a sunny transfer to assisted living community in Mesa, Arizona or elsewhere, could offer a healthy change of scenery..

Have an open conversation as soon as necessary and share honest concerns about your parent’s well-being. Explain that you’re their advocate. Continue to approach the subject in a way that makes your parent feel like they made the choice, rather than being forced into abandoning their home. Ensure your parent that your family is a caregiving team who your mom or dad can count on no matter what.

Finding the Truth behind the Headlines

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Dear Mr. Dad: Like you, I enjoy reading about new research findings in health and parenting. But I get really frustrated when what’s in the headlines isn’t always what’s in the actual research. How can I find the truth?

A: You’ve hit on one of my biggest pet peeves. As Mark Twain said about 100 years ago, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” You can find a study to support just about anything you believe. And if you can’t, statistics are easy to manipulate, massage, shoehorn, and just plain distort. Here are a few examples.
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Learning with Your Kids? There’s an App for That

As fun—and educational—as iPads can be, when it comes to parents playing learning games with their children (as opposed to kids playing by themselves and turning into zombies), there really isn’t an app for that. Until now. TigerFace Games has developed a number of learning apps that allow parents and children to either compete or [...]

Pregnant? No Need to Panic. Really

pregnancy myths

Dear Mr. Dad: I’m pregnant and it seems that the more my husband and I read, the more confusing the whole thing gets. One “expert” says that I should stay away from any alcohol. Another says it’s okay. One says sushi could be deadly, someone else says it’s not. One says I should be careful not to put on too much weight, while another says it’s more dangerous to put on too little. And this goes on and on. Do you have any suggestions for how to filter out the myths from reality?

A: The amount of pregnancy-related information out there is staggering. And, as you’ve discovered, everyone seems to have an opinion on what’s good, bad, healthy, or dangerous. Unfortunately, as you’ve also discovered, it’s really hard to figure out who’s right and who’s completely full of it. Fortunately, there are a few resources that can help.
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Wean Me, Baby, One More Time

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Dear Mr. Dad: My wife is breastfeeding our three-month-old baby, but wants to wean the baby and go back to work. I heard somewhere that it’s better for babies to nurse for longer. But does it really matter when she stops? Is there some actual “right” time to introduce solid foods?

A: I teach a class for expectant dads in San Francisco, and that question comes up a lot. The short answer to both of your questions is, ”Yes.” It does matter when your wife weans your baby, and there is a “right time.” The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that, barring any medical reasons to the contrary, babies should have nothing but breast milk for the first six months. Then, gradually introduce solids and phase out the breast milk over the next six months.

However, if you or your wife has—or is at risk of developing—diabetes, that “right time” is more of a window than a hard line: Somewhere between four and five months. Introducing solids too early or too late may cause real problems.

On the too-early end, researchers at the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado just found that weaning a child before four months doubles the child’s chances of developing type 1 diabetes (which used to be called “juvenile onset” diabetes). So at the very least, you’ll want to encourage your wife to hold off on weaning and keep breastfeeding until four months old.

By the way, extending breastfeeding doesn’t have to interfere with your wife’s return to work. She can pump several bottles of milk at night or in the morning before she goes to work. You or another caregiver can give that milk—and the benefits of breastfeeding—to the baby during the day. Most employers are legally required to provide a place for nursing women to pump (however, that “place” could be a nice lounge or it could just as easily be a stall in the women’s bathroom).

Unfortunately, not enough people follow these guidelines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 40 percent of moms introduce solid food before their baby hits four months. Worse yet, nine percent of moms have given their baby solid food before four weeks.

Okay, let’s talk about the other end of the window. If you’re able to get your wife to breastfeed for four months, see if you can convince her to go all the way to six. Several studies have shown that those two extra months make a huge difference, cutting in half the risk of coming down with an ear infection and/or pneumonia. In addition, for babies with a genetic diabetes risk, the same Colorado study that found that introducing solid foods too soon increases diabetes risk, also found that babies who didn’t get solid foods until after six months had triple the type-1-diabetes risk of those weaned before six months.

“In summary, there appears to be a safe window in which to introduce solid foods between four and five months of age,” wrote Brittni Frederiksen, the study’s lead author. “Solid foods should be introduced while continuing to breastfeed to minimize [type 1 diabetes] risk in genetically susceptible children.”

Remember, introducing solid foods and weaning aren’t always the same thing. In other words, it’s fine to do both at the same time. In fact, the Colorado study found that introducing wheat or barley while continuing to breastfeed actually reduced diabetes risk.

Hopefully, I’ve given you and your wife something to think about. But before you make a final decision about when to wean your baby, make sure to talk with your pediatrician.
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