Introducing: The Incredible Years

This was last week’s published article, and I was delighted because our family’s clinical psychologist sent a copy of it to America’s IYP office 🙂

What if I could tell you how to improve parent-child interactions, so you can stop yelling in the mornings and your child happily hangs their towel up after a bath?

ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/
ID-10070716By Clare Bloomfield http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

Before you launched into your job or career, chances are you received training or completed a course, so you knew procedures, how to complete tasks, operate equipment.

Fortunate parents have the opportunity to attend antenatal classes, where you learn about birth options, basic newborn care and most importantly, meet a few people who are going through the same stage as you, providing the basis of the all-important support network.

However not many families are given much of a crash course in parenting – how to deal with tantrums, non-compliance and unappealing behaviour, and how to play, praise and enjoy your child (because for some people this doesn’t come naturally).

I often hear people joke that ‘babies don’t come with manuals and instructions’, but let me tell you about the next best thing: parenting courses.
Ok, stop groaning! As with anything, attitude is everything – so you’ll get the most out of a course if you go into it with positive goals and a willing approach to give it a go.

New Zealand is host to a fabulous international renowned parenting course called, ‘The Incredible Years’. This course is a 16 week, weekly session programme that helps parents with strategies to build a respectful family relationship.

The course is useful for turning behaviour around from the undesirable to a more positive family life, so if you’re struggling to deal with a child that is demonstrating challenging behaviour, then The Incredible Years programme can help you set clear rules and boundaries to improve behaviour.

For families who deal with behavioral or developmental issues, many psychologists and social workers recommend the course to establish a calmer household. Having done the course for this reason, I can highly recommend it for setting structure, developing social skills and eliminating/minimizing the disruption that these traits and behaviours can cause.

Every family will get something out of this course, because the strategies can be adapted from toddler to youth. You may even find some techniques helpful to use in your relationship or working environment! Adopting clear limits, problem solving, listening and talking skills, empathy and redirection are life-long skills to ensure your child’s success in life. Having done the programme for a second time, I can see its ability to be adapted to every family situation.

Based on a foundation of a respectful relationship with plenty of play, fun, encouragement and celebration, The Incredible Years will also teach parents strategies such as ignore, distract, redirect, limits and (my own personal weakness) consistent follow-through. The focus is on encouraging behaviours you’d like to see, and using consequences to deal with the behaviour you don’t want!

Contact your nearest Ministry of Education district office if you’re interested in the Incredible Years – Parent programme.

Read more about it online at http://incredibleyears.com/

If you cant get onto a course this year, try and get hold of the book. It doesn’t replace the course, but may help you adopt some different strategies to help you in the mean time!!

EDITED: Here is the link to what the American IYP office had o say about my articles 😛  https://incredibleyearsblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/a-word-from-one-of-our-parents/

Starting our babes on food!

This weekend’s article in the paper (and I am yet to get a pic) is on starting solids.

I’ve found this is quite a grey area because there is so much wrong and dated information out there. When I had my first baby, it was recommended to start solids at 4 months. Just one year later, with baby two, it was moved to 6 months. There are grandmothers saying they started their babies on solids at 6 weeks, those who advise putting baby rice into baby bottles, and so many stories and so much information that a new parent would be spinning with confusion!!!

When sucking on the spoon no longer satisfies, perhaps it’s time to go through this checklist:

*Firstly, is your baby six months old?
*Has he lost the natural tongue reflex that pushes everything out that is put into his mouth?
*Can she sit up with less help?
*Can he pick up objects and bring them to his mouth?

Delaying all foods other than breastmilk, until 6 months old, is important for many reasons. It gives baby greater protection from illness, and decreases the risk of food allergies. It gives the digestive system time to mature, helps mum maintain her milk supply, and protects baby from iron deficiency. It also makes the start to solids much easier when baby is ready. Waiting protects baby’s gut. Absolutely do the best for your baby and wait until 6 months!!!

Once you are ready to start, get ready! This actually involves very little work and cost at all, depending on the food you choose. Consider that food is what keeps us going, a healthy diet keeps us well, so your baby will be healthier and will learn better if they are given good food.

Mashing ripe banana or avocado into a bowl with a fork is easy and cheap! Use breastmilk to thin if desired. Choose a time when your baby is happy and also after their normal milk feed. Your baby will only take one to two teaspoons for their first few feeds, but they will enjoy the new taste and sucking on the spoon once you’ve finished!

Avoid rice cereal and other starches, which are processed, hard to digest for a baby, and can upset the gut. Go on – Google why rice cereal is NOT a good first food for babies.

Instead, choose fruits and vegetables such as peeled, steamed and pureed carrots, pumpkin, apples, pears. Skip the fancy baby bowls and spoons, and instead invest in organic and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Start with one food at a time, giving your baby time to enjoy and process each one and time for you to identify any possible allergies. Reactions may include colic, ear infections, breathing difficulties, runny nose, skin rashes, diarrhea or nappy rash. Once you are satisfied with the fruit and vegetables, add steamed chicken, plain cooked mince, potatoes, kumara, broccoli. Always offer solids after baby’s normal milk feed.

After 9 months, you can start introducing wheat, dairy (yoghurt and cheese), egg, pork and fish, however wait until at least 1 year before adding cow’s milk. Avoid all added salt and sugar. If you buy baby food, choose brands that are not packed with fillers (like water and thickeners).

Make your own baby food and then freeze it in ice cubes. Once frozen, store in containers or freezer bags so you can easily defrost several cubes when you need them (one apple cube and one nectarine cube for lunch!) You can also buy freezable and washable baby food pouches now – great for being on the go!

For many following the traditional route of starting solids, the puree becomes mash, which becomes mash with lumps, and so on until the baby can pick up or be fed whole foods in their natural state. However, for those following Baby Led Weaning (BLW), baby starts with those whole foods. Steamed carrot sticks, chicken drums (with that terrible skinny bone removed!) , chopped banana – from the time of starting solids, baby eats what the family does. Check out www.babyledweaning.com for more! Using purees means baby learns to swallow before chewing, while baby led weaning teaches baby to chew and then swallow. Babies have a natural gag reflex to protect them from choking, and understanding this and knowing what to do in a real emergency situation can give you the confidence to pursue BLW. The two children I did BLW with have always eaten well and never went through the fussy stage like the two I didn’t do it with! It’s great to allow your baby to discover different foods and certainly easier to offer family meals than making heaps of baby food (or worse, spending a small fortune on jarred/pouch food!)

As for allergies and reactions – talk your health practitioner on this one. When I first started solids, it was recommended not to give nuts and other high allergen foods until after the age of 1 or 3! More recently, it was recommended to give baby peanut butter and other such foods from 6 months or so because delaying could CAUSE the allergy. It really is quite confusing!!! So if you have concerns in this area, it would be best to talk to your doctor. Personally I never started a new food on the weekend just in case there was a reaction!!!!! (There never has been!)

The worst reactions to food I’ve seen in my littlies is from pineapple and other acidic foods, which burnt baby’s bum dreadfully. Otherwise… they love their food! Sushi, mild curries and seafood are all favourites with my children now!!

Good luck!!! Be sure to ‘like’ Ministry of Lunchboxes for great snack and meal ideas 🙂

AS: Let’s talk about Postnatal Depression

As you all know, postnatal depression is a subject dear to my heart (and mind) and one of the huge reasons I started The Motherhood Project.

I feel that often us mothers try to do it all…. and we beat ourselves up, riddle ourselves with guilt, try our absolute damnest to be the best…. its really no wonder that we fall over sometimes. And yet, when we do slip up or fall to pieces, we berate ourselves for failing! Gah!

Yep, us mums really can be our own worst enemies!

Add to this situation how society perceives us. Generally, we’re ‘just’ mothers, taking time away from our ‘real jobs’ and not contributing to the economy. If we’re slightly in need or single or unsupported, we become a ‘burden’ on the economy.
(all those ‘-‘ are in reference to what I’ve read, heard and discussed about how others view parenting).

Society – and of course, again I am generalising, and here refer to our NZ culture, western society etc – thinks our babies should not ‘interrupt’ our lives – they need to be sleeping 8 hours from 6 weeks old, are cartable from party to social occasion to BBQ to picnic to wedding etc, and must not be cuddled, rocked or breastfed to sleep, lest we spoil them! So if your baby doesn’t fit this ‘norm’, you doubt your parenting, become frustrated and resentful.

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Depression and other mental illnesses are generally misunderstood in our society. Still commonly dismissed as not a ‘real illness’ and combined with the Kiwi mentality of “harden up”, depression is surrounded in stigma and judgement. Its great when stars stand up and say, I have depression. I really like John Kirwans book for this.

In addition, we’ve cultured ourselves to see asking for help as a weakness. We’re covered in baby sick, the washing hasnt been done in 3 days, and do we pick up the phone to ask a neighbour, friend or relative for help?

It’s no surprise then, that new mums struggle to feel validated when feelings overwhelm them. With pregnancy and birth hormones surging, sleep deprivation and huge feelings of responsibility and hopelessness, post-natal depression can affect 15% of new mums.

Symptoms include feeling exhausted, stressed, tired, anxious and confused. You may feel unable to cope with your new baby, or feel little towards your baby. Managing daily activities can be tough, and it can be hard to make simply decisions, because of difficulty concentrating and thinking. You may be worrying, feeling guilty, useless or irritable or having negative thoughts. It can be a low flat mood or loss of enjoyment in the things that used to make you smile.

NOTE that of course, it’s understandable to have many of these symptoms post-birth! Some of these feelings are normal without throwing a baby into the mix!!!
In the days after you’ve given birth, its normal to be teary, exhausted and overwhelmed with emotions! This is commonly referred to as ‘baby blues’ and tends to pass after the first week – it is a result of your pregnancy hormones crashing and coming back to normal. Likewise, there will be bad days – teething baby, colic, growth spurts, job stress, moving house or relationship issues – and feeling angry, teary and fed up is also normal! It is when the symptoms linger on and start to affect your enjoyment of life, that post-natal depression is a problem to be addressed.

The first place to start is to talk to someone you feel comfortable with. Ideally, approach your midwife or GP and let them know how you feel (take a friend for support if you need to). There are also great resources at www.mothersmatter.co.nz

You may find that talking to people who understand can help you feel better about what you are going through. Avoid people who don’t understand and can only offer judgement or criticism. I’ve met a few of these – people who think mental illness isn’t real, or that I need to get over myself. However, even worse I find, are the people who are down themselves, except they are trapped in negativity and determined to bring you down too! I have had to cut ties with people who are so depressing that they refuse to help themselves and despite my efforts to help, are determined to STAY grey. At some point, I’ve had to focus on MYSELF so I can focus on my family, and end contact with these people.

Taking antidepressants can lift your mood and pull you from the black cloud. I know there is alot of stigma around these drugs too. Indeed, some doctors seem to give them out like lollies, and they are not always the answer. But for those who genuinely need them, and can find one that works for them, antidepressants can help keep you out of the black cloud/keep your hear afloat. And for some, that can be just the lift they need, to get things back in order.
A trained maternal mental health counsellor can offer you strategies for coping, and call in any other support you may need. My experiences here include weekly visits (in my own home, so less stress!) and lots of chatting about whats happened, how I have felt/reacted, and how I could do better. What I got out of using a counsellor is giving me the tools/strategies to cope when the black cloud rolled in… and I could use these strategies over and over. Worth a try!

Often getting back to basics can pull you back to feeling happy again. Ensure you are eating well, exercising regularly, and getting sleep when you can. A naturopath or homeopath may be able to help as well. Work through your issues and do everything possible to ensure you have smooth day-to-day running so you can enjoy baby and have time to yourself! Allow yourself time to appreciate the warmth of the sun, the scent of flowers, the sand between your toes and the other goodness of nature!

There is a lot of pressure on mothers!  Mothers need to stop judging each other, forget about pleasing the world, and do what is right for their family. We feel we need to be supermums, but we can’t have clean houses, happy children, healthy food and study or work commitments ALL THE TIME! The balance is ‘some of it, some of the time’! Be kinder to yourself and ease the pressure.

The more we talk about depression, the better it will be for new mums who are seeking validation of their feelings, and support for their new lives. Remember it can take some time to move out of the rut that is PND, but you will get through it!!!

Personally with myself and my friends, we find that we can stand up and shake ourselves off – and we’ve done it!!! But for many of us, we’ve revisted the black hole again – so dont forget to hit those basics again (sleep, exercise, good food, minimal stress), adopt your strategies again, and ride through the next wave of life 🙂

AS: Autumn Activities

BW 1 March
BW 1 March

 

Since you’re not all lucky enough to live in the same paradise as I  😛

Here is a shortened version of my article of activities to do this Autumn!

 

Before winter sets in, be sure to tick of these 10 must-do’s with your family:

*Play in the rain: When the weather is warm but wet, go outside and play!!! Grab the gumboots and umbrellas to splash in puddles, or put on togs to make mudpies or a waterslide. The feeling of rain on your face is an essential life experience – take a moment to enjoy it with your children!
After, have a hot bath and make hot chocolates or popcorn!

*Wharf fishing: Check those tide times and grab a little bait! Throw your handmade lines over and see what you can bring in. Make a simple line with a hook and sinker, fishing line or string, and a small stick of driftwood.

*Have one last berry ice cream – or try making your own!!! Simply put 2 cups of frozen berries into your blender, and mix with two cups of vanilla ice cream. Pulse until well mixed and refreeze until firm.

*Hunt for bugs –Little insects and creatures appeal to children, and it’s a great way to teach them to respect nature! Carefully identify spiders, praying mantis, ladybirds, caterpillars, butterflies, bees, aphids, dragonflies and talk about their different characteristics. You can talk about the usefulness of bugs in the garden and to our ecosystem, identify dangerous bugs, and head to the library to answer any other questions.

*Go camping! Summer may be over but don’t put away the tent just yet! A mild Autumn evening is perfect for camping in the backyard – or for younger children, set the tent up indoors. Grab the flashlights and marshmallows and spend an evening telling stories, playing cards, and giggling.

*Try geocaching – the real world treasure hunt!!! You’ll need an iphone, GPS or other GPS –enabled device. Using www.geocaching.com to search our area, enter coordinates and find the hidden geocache. There are hundreds hidden in the Bay of Plenty! Sign the logbook and return the geocache to its original location, then see if you can find another.