Welcome to my blog! I am Dr. Lauretta Stombaugh (Dr. S) and I have been part of the Hendersonville Pediatrics family for over 8 years. I have decided to share this blog because I feel that it is vital for parents and caregivers to be well-informed as well as have access to solid, accurate medical information. Your children are our children and we take pride in the excellent care we provide here at Hendersonville Pediatrics. Please join me monthly (or every two weeks if my four kids allow me time to write!) and I will in turn provide interesting, helpful and maybe even comical blogs. Please share a link to my blog! Ready, set, go!!
Mindfulness is present in all of us. Mindfulness is an awareness of your thoughts, sensations and their interactions with your present experiences. I have recognized mindfulness in my own life and others. I have seen it be absent in the most innocent of ways. Mindfulness as a parent may mean placing your phone down and holding off on chores to play a puzzle or color with your toddler (being completely present). Mindfulness for others (as I’ve observed in a friend) means turning your dining room into a playroom. Rather than having pristine white wanescoating to match the interior decor of your ideal space, you replace it with drawings to teach your younger children about symbols and their second language. Mindfulness is stopping all that is part of chaotic daily life and breathing fresh air.
You must clear your mind, noticed your surroundings, experience and sense what is around you just at that moment. When I incorporate this into my parenting, I am mindful to be more attentive to my children. I am more mindful to those moments when I am not. If you don’t recognize this, educate yourself and learn, then you can never grow in these positive experiences or foster your sense of mindfulness. On the drive to school, my young children comment on the beauty of the mountains. This is because I have been mindful to model this behavior and secure a sense of appreciation in them for the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Of course this is sometimes coupled with screaming arguments between siblings, whining about the seatbelt and my own desperate sips of coffee, but it is there. I look for it because I need to remember to be mindful throughout my days. We never have enough time. Not enough time to call our dearest friends for the long conversations we long for. Not enough time to complete all the tasks we think we need to do in a given day. Time will creep on. So take a breath, notice the moment, and realize the effect this practice of mindfulness can have on your life. The effect it can have on your children’s lives.
Allow your toddlers to explore and allow them to break branches, roll around in grass and play in the dirt. Allow your young children the freedom to be sensitive to their surroundings. Respect that they may be set extra sensitive to certain fabrics or textures. Allow that to be their own thing Teach your adolescents to put down the the screens and have real conversations with others. Encourage them to have experiences through living and not through social media. Teach your children to meditate at an early age. Deep breathing can be golden during temper tantrum‘s. Meditation can be useful for inducing sleep and helping with anxiety. Find joy in these times and realize that life is never perfect. The imperfections and crazy times should lead us to the recognition that we need mindfulness. Use your energy to focus on the present moments. This does not mean you abandon your goals, or your hopes for the future or your children’s futures. It just means that you stop and breathe. Walk through a creek in your bare feet whenever you can. Step on a snow-covered ground in your socks. Concentrate on the warmth of a fire or the heat blowing up through the vents of your floor. Fill your time with positive energy and model this for your children. It may help you to enjoy the art of parenting. You will always have moments filled with grief, doubt, conflict or anger.
There will always be times that we are not present with our kids. Use these times to fuel your mindfulness. The beauty of it all is that you are capable and you can create a positive experience through these struggles. If you are mindful, conscious and intentional, you will learn how to incorporate this into your life.
The fluctuating emotions of parenting can be trying and wondrously ever changing. It may seem like your child tiptoed into this new phase as it sneaks up on some parents. It can be a tumultuous time for all. It’s a beautiful thing to watch our babies become toddlers then kids then tweens then teens then dare I say it? Adults! Navigating through the developmental shifts and their newfound independence is an experience we are blessed to have. That being said, it’s not always easy.
So, how do we stay connected or “ get connected” to our teenagers?
1. Validate their feelings. This is new and scary territory for them and they need to feel supported. They will not come out and ask for your validation, but they need it now more than ever just as we all do. Even if they want to hibernate because of a pimple, sleep until 5 minutes before they leave for school or change a class because it’s boring, we should respect their feelings. This does not always entail giving in to irresponsible demands.
2. Encourage them. Just as we advise to encourage children (specifically and thoughtfully), we need to be mindful to continue this with our teens. Good self-esteem is critical and delicate at this age as they experience peer pressure, new relationships and a biological need for independence.
3.Communicate. Don’t “helicopter” but be involved and keep talking. The more you model honesty and communication, the more comfortable they will be developing those attributes. Know where they are, what they are googling, how they are performing academically and who they are choosing to socialize with, but don’t get too involved either. Here’s that “ balancing act” again as you give them space to fail and problem solve while still being aware of their struggles and strides. You can’t get there without communicating with them ( not with their friends, siblings, friend’s mothers, doctors). Converse about peer relationships, friendships and their feelings about their life’s happenings. Speak openly, directly and with open- ended questions ( rather than ask “ how was your day?”, ask “ what was a positive thing that happened today?” Or “ how was your math test?”. This invites them to share and allows you to gain some perspective. Ask the hard questions once in awhile. The ones you are hesitant about because you may not like their answers.
4. Keep things fun. Try not to get caught up in the serious, parental, disciplining role 24 hours/day. Allow yourself some space to relax, laugh and be spontaneous. Ice cream for dinner once in a long while will not kill anyone. Let down your “mom or dad voice” and converse on their level. This is not being best friends with your child, it is creating a two-way, mutually respectable, fun loving relationship.
5. Teach them. Don’t change the tire for them, teach them how to change it. Warn them about safety, awareness and good decisions, being careful not to create anxiety. After all, making good decisions requires clear thinking. When was the last time you were overly anxious about something and could make a solid, informed, well thought out decision? Teach them to schedule their own doctor appointments, show up for them and speak to the doctors during the exam. As a physician, I expect teenagers to converse with me and answer my questions. They are the only ones who know how they feel physically and emotionally. I personally speak to every teen alone at each well check up for this reason. They need to have an open forum to ask personal questions. We need to teach them in a language they understand on their level.
So many more…to be continued.
It's All About Balance
A cherished friend, recently shared an interesting article with me which focuses on positive attachment and its’ effect on children later in life. It discusses ways to form a positive attachment or loving bond with your children. Be mindful of their need to have close physical contact early on. Some older generations may view this as spoiling the child, lacking boundaries or the “attachment parenting” style. In some ways it parallels attachment parenting, however, in more ways it is vital for a healthy child. We know this when we look at studies on orphans who lack the physical contact, bonding experiences and attachment early on. It affects their physical growth, mental capacity and ability to learn and thrive.
I believe that wherever you are from, whatever decisions you make in your life, whomever you choose to partner with, that there is an art to how you live. The first step is recognizing that it’s there. The next step is finding out exactly where it is in the space of your days and how it feels. How can you be in touch with it most of the time? Specifically, the art of parenthood is present the second you hold your child for the first time, whether you give birth, adopt, foster or choose to be a guardian.
After a visit to my daughter’s friend’s house for a party, she says, “Mommy. ____’s mom told her not to tell me something, but she did tell me.” A few thousand scenarios quickly sweeped across my mind and I casually said, “Oh really? Well, you know that you can tell me anything.” And then, she calmly said, “She has lice.” Ah! The dreaded,anxiety-producing, blood -loving parasite! I reassured her that she would likely escape getting lice, this time, because I was sure that her friend was already treated. (scratch, scratch) Of course, I had to then convince myself. Here are some debunked myths about lice.