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Nanny Spy Confession: The Importance Of Awareness In Choosing A Nanny

I talk a lot about awareness because I believe as parents, and as people, it is one of the most important parts of growing and thriving. This is a story about a client (I’ve obviously changed a lot of details and the name) I worked with who was looking for some advice on hiring a nanny.

When Karen first came to me she was eight months pregnant and was really excited but also very nervous and anxious about the idea of hiring a nanny when she had to return to work. She didn’t even know where to begin and would ask me questions like, “What should I look for in a nanny?”

I had to get her to answer that question for herself, so I started asking what values were most important to her and how she wanted her future child to be raised. I also asked what her biggest fears were when it came to someone else looking after her child.

As we discussed these questions, a lot of her family history came up. Her biggest concern was finding a stable support system, for both herself and her children, as she had moved cross-country to NYC when she was 18. When Karen was 15 years old, her mom was diagnosed with cancer and eventually died a few years later. Her dad was an alcoholic during her childhood and she had lost contact with him since. Karen had to grow up at a very young age and, consequently, one of the biggest factors she was looking for in a nanny was stability and support.

Another question I asked was, “What do you fear most about hiring a nanny?” Karen revealed that she was terrified of hiring the wrong person – someone who would put her child in harm’s way. When she thought of what could go wrong, her mind would spiral. Eventually, it came out that when she was younger, there was an incident at a playground where she fell off a slide and had some very serious injuries involving stitches. It became evident that this had translated into high levels of anxiety for her future child’s safety.

The child wasn’t even born yet and she was scared to death of a nanny taking her eyes off her child and something terrible happening. While safety and consistency are two very important characteristics to look for in a nanny, in Karen’s case, she needed to work through some of her own fears and understand that what had happened to her was an accident. There is no way to protect your child from every single cut and scrape.

A child’s exploration is extremely important. Awareness helped Karen see that while there were some things she would be able to control about her future nanny, she would also have to learn to trust in order to not develop into a mom who hovered over both child and nanny.

As she became aware of her fears and her childhood, she was better able to articulate what she was looking for in a nanny and not just focus on the hyper-vigilant aspect. Throughout this process, she realized she had some unresolved issues. She had never properly mourned the loss of her mom or dealt with her tumultuous relationship with her alcoholic father and his sense of helplessness. These are all issues that would come out eventually, but as she went to therapy and talked through them she realized how important it was to address them head on before they became a part of her parenting style or negatively blinded her to what she was looking for in a nanny.

I also asked her to identify what types of parenting her parents exhibited throughout her childhood. Her father was controlling at times, but in general, he was fairly absent and therefore she didn’t have a lot of rules or boundaries. She was close to her mother, but again, she wasn’t given a lot of structure at a young age. This became something she craved for her own child.

Especially for new parents, I always recommend thinking through your own childhood and putting thought into why you fear the things you fear. This will help put your fears into perspective and keep you from blowing them out of proportion in a way that could negatively affect your children.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

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Preventing Obesity In Our Children With Mindfulness

As an eating disorder specialist, and someone who battled an eating disorder for many years myself, this is a topic very close to my heart. Food has become such an obsession in our culture – and body image issues, as a result.

We all know that obesity in children is a growing epidemic in our country. However, eating disorders are also a huge problem, so as parents, it’s hard to know how to deal with the issue of eating when it comes to your children and their health.

An interesting study was published earlier this year in the journal Heliyon that found a connection between impulsive thoughts in children’s brains and how much they ate. For the study, scientists at the University of Vanderbilt looked at the brains of 38 children between the ages of 8 and 13. From MRIs, the researchers were able to establish a connection between physiological reactions in the brain and food behaviors. Then they established connections between BMI and the kids’ eating behaviors (they used this questionnaire).

The results aren’t shocking. We know eating disorders aren’t just a mental thing – they are a physical thing. However, the researchers concluded that teaching children mindfulness could go a long way in helping prevent obesity. If we recognize the connection between children’s impulsive behaviors and eating habits, teaching them mindful techniques, to really focus on what it is they are putting into their mouths, could decrease their eating.

Dr. Cowan, from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, said,”We think mindfulness could recalibrate the imbalance in the brain connections associated with childhood obesity.” He went on to say that while mindfulness hasn’t shown much of an effect on adults and eating behavior, perhaps testing the connection in kids could be more beneficial.

Teaching our children mindfulness – being aware, staying in the moment and focusing on tasks at hand – is a skill that will benefit them in more ways than one.

If you would like me to connect you with one of our expert therapists, contact me or book an appointment with me. I look forward to hearing from you

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An Introduction To Love And Logic Parenting

In the past 15 years, I have had the pleasure of working with many families. I have had many parents tell me they need the help as they feel like they are about to have

a mental breakdown. As a mother of three girls, I can relate to what these parents were saying as parenting is extremely stressful, and as we all know, it doesn’t come with a parenting guide. I started looking into parenting skills and parenting philosophy 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my oldest child. While I thought I knew a lot as I worked with children since I was 12 in the kibbutz daycare, I discovered that despite my psychology degrees there was a lot more to learn about parenting. I wondered on many occasions why no one taught a parenting class in college??? Even if one didn’t want to have a child, we all have parents, and as such, can at least relate to some of the things involved with raising children.

I developed a passion not just for working with my clients but for working with parents. I wanted to learn as much as I could about parenting so I could better help families. More specifically, I wanted to help parents become more confident and competent by obtaining basic skills that would allow them to gain more control over their children.

Love and Logic (L& L) is an approach to parenting that has been around since 1970. It involves courses worldwide with over 45 books written about the topic. I recognized at a young age there is a big need for parenting and nanny classes, and Love and Logic was a good place for me to start.

While there are several parenting philosophies such as STAR parenting, Triple P Positive Parenting, Nurturing Parenting, Common Sense Parenting and How To Talk So Kids Will Listen, among others, I will focus here primarily on the Love and Logic philosophy as I wanted to share an approach that is easy to understand and that can really start helping parents immediately.

Empathy is the foundation of L& L. Empathetic statements help keep kids in a thinking mode instead of survival mode, and they allow learning to occur rather than giving the child an opportunity to focus upon the anger of the adult. Most importantly, empathy builds relationships.

Dr. Seigel, who I often mention, wrote several important books, and he describes a kid’s brain as an “upstairs and downstairs brain,” to differentiate between the emotion part of the brain versus the rational part of the brain. It is important to keep kids in the rational part, and the L&L approach can help with this.

The objectives of L&L parenting are to:

 

  1. Identify steps to responsibility

 

  1. Recognize who has control

 

  1. Offer appropriate choices

 

  1. Identify who the problem belongs to

 

When parents use empathy and don’t react negatively to a child, they help the child stay in the upstairs part of the brain (more rational part) and not the downstairs (emotional).

Parents often send their kids into their downstairs brains, which causes kids to become very reactive – instead of sticking to chronological thinking. Especially in the case of toddlers and preschoolers, they may seem overly emotional about things that are simple, but sometimes as parents, we are unknowingly sending them into that state by the way we respond to conflict or stress in situations. The L&L theory delves more into how we as parents can keep them out of that state. This includes designing appropriate consequences for certain behaviors. This document goes into a lot of detail about Love & Logic parenting, and I’ll be talking about it more on this blog, but I wanted to start the conversation by addressing the need for real thought about the skillset we have as parents and how we can make a more conscious effort to use empathy, letting our reactions nurture and protect our children in a way that lets them grow.

LW Wellness Network’s parent coaching provides practical tools and strategies to assist Parents in overcoming the struggles. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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Digging Deeper Into The Nanny Hiring Process: How To Interview References

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Because I’ve had a lot of experience with my own nannies for my children as well as helping other families find and evaluate their nannies, I’ve seen some extreme situations. I’ve seen everything from nannies who it seemed could do Read more

Is Your Nanny Emotionally Fit For The Job?

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a nanny/ housekeeper to help me for two days a week.

I met a friend who is a psychologist and I asked if she was happy with her nanny. She said she was happy with her, but the nanny was looking for more hours and she only needed her for three days. I asked if she wanted to share her nanny and she said she thought that was a great idea.

She added as a side note that her nanny was a little sensitive but otherwise wonderful.

I met with her nanny and was very impressed. She seemed kind and warm and had a great resume and strong references. I ran a background check and also conducted an online search. I met her husband who worked at a local Jewish school. I even called the school to ask about him to make sure he was a good person (might sound crazy but after having a nanny who had an alcoholic boyfriend who was following her I learned to be very thorough).

Overall, I was very happy with the nanny. I’ll call her Vivian. She was smart, well-spoken, kind and loved my girls. Since I have worked as a nanny and with nannies and families for over 20 years, I knew how important it was to have a trial period. It can be two weeks or one month.

For me, it was four weeks.

My 6-year-old was always so happy and excited to see her. My older two, ages 9 and 12, liked her but they are very independent and need less of her attention.

A week after Vivian started she started telling me how unhappy she is with her other job. She knew that her other boss was also my friend and now she was putting me in an uncomfortable situation.

She started saying things like, “The older boy is a bully. He throws things at me and treats me badly. I can’t do this job anymore. I love the younger sister and the parents, but he is just horrible. He has some problems… And he takes medication but it’s too much for me…”

That day, I had to run to work and couldn’t talk, nor did I want to talk to her about my friend’s son and his behavior. And then… Out of nowhere, she started crying. It was 3:30 pm, and I had an appointment at 4. I told Vivian that she should talk to the parents about it and have them talk to their son. Vivian then told me that she was looking for another job and asked that I don’t tell my friend.

I couldn’t believe that she actually asked that. But then I realized that it might have been a cultural thing as Vivian moved here from the Philippines a year ago and she might not have been aware of how important communication and giving families notice is. I encouraged her to tell the parents how she felt because if she wasn’t happy, it wasn’t a good situation for everyone involved.

Vivian said she would tell the parents that she was looking for a job and in fact had an offer pending.

I called my friend and told her about the situation. She then told me that indeed her son  hates her and hates everything she makes him to eat. I didn’t want to get involved or get in the middle of it but I somehow got sucked into a very challenging situation.

Is this nanny emotionally fit to be a nanny? To take care of my girls? Any kids?

She was excellent in organizing and cleaning, which is mainly what I needed her for. She was a very pleasant person and very kind. But, when a nanny starts crying on a job and starts talking about another family that way and speaks in such an immature manner, there is no way she is fit to be a full-time nanny. Now,

Now, personally, I had no problem with Vivian. She was very good. But her judgment and sensitivity made me feel uncomfortable, and I told her that while she was excellent in many ways, she wasn’t the nanny that I was looking for. In fact, I told her that I thought that being a nanny wasn’t something that fit her. I said it in a kind yet serious way and I tried to explain the rationale behind what I was saying.

She said she also thought that it was too much for her and that’s why she decided to take the other job taking care of an older woman with Alzheimers.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

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There Is No Compensation For Time Spent With Your Kids

Something we as parents often feel guilty about is not spending enough time with our kids, or sometimes, not spending enough time with one of our children when we have multiple. It’s so easy to fall into a pattern of compensating your kids in other ways to ease your guilt. We know we shouldn’t, but it makes us feel better to say, “Since I’m not there to go to the park with you, I’ll let you pick out anything you want in the candy store with the nanny,” or, “I’ll bring home a special treat.”

The problem is when we do this, we are teaching our kids several things that will stick with them. First off, we aren’t teaching them that disappoint is a fact of life and as a parent, it is impossible to be there every second. We’re also teaching them that they will get presents when things don’t go their way. They will start to expect extra things or place higher value on things like money. The truth is a candy bar or even something like a later bedtime can’t make up for you – the parent – being there, so there is no sense in teaching your children that those things are on the same playing field.

Whenever you feel yourself starting to give your child what you might deem as a “reward,” stop and ask whether you are actually rewarding your child for something that is deserving of praise or a special treat or are making up for something you feel you owe. If it’s the latter, try taking the approach of having a sensible conversation and explaining why you can’t be there. Can you spend extra quality time with your child in the near future? Make sure you explain that time together is of the utmost importance to you, and then take steps to show you mean it.

If you use money, food and other incentives to “make up” for your time, you are essentially sending the message that material things hold significance. Awareness is key, and nothing can make up for quality time.

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The Best Interview Questions To Ask A Potential Nanny

People sitting in the raw at the passage

I’ve done a few posts about qualities I look for in a potential nanny. However, if you’re interviewing a nanny for the first time, it can’t be daunting to know where to start and what you should ask to elicit the best responses. Below I’ve listed out some of my favorite questions to ask potential candidates. Remember to try to keep the conversation flowing and ask for clarification on any points you don’t understand. Also, be sure to look out for this list of red flags, as those should immediately be of concern. Do other parents have any other questions they think are good to ask? Share with me in the comments!

  • How did you become a nanny? What made you decide to want to be one and how did you get started?
  • Why do you think you’re right for our family?
  • What do you like about being a nanny?
  • What are your long-term goals?
  • What is your family like? What is your living situation like?
  • How do you think past employers would describe you?
  • What are your safety and first aid qualifications?
  • What would you do in case of an emergency?
  • What age children are you most comfortable working with? What are your experiences with different ages and multiple children at a time?
  • How do you like to communicate throughout the day? Are you open to recording simple notes in a daily log?
  • How would you describe your style of working with kids? Are you hands on? More authoritative?
  • What is your general childcare philosophy?
  • What are your thoughts and strategies on discipline?
  • How would you handle _______ situation? (Ask them to guide you through a few scenarios. For example, how would you handle a temper tantrum in the middle of a crowded store?)
  • What are your expectations for this job as compared to your last one?
  • What do you know about the area? Do you know people in the area? Do you feel comfortable getting around the neighborhood and could find activities throughout the day for children?
  • Can you tell me the best child you ever took care of and then one whose behavior wasn’t so great?
  • Have there been certain parenting styles you feel you can’t work well with?
  • What have been your specific duties at previous jobs? What have you done in terms of errands and housework? Do you feel comfortable making playdates for the kids? Are there things you have been asked to do previously that you don’t feel comfortable with?
  • What are you looking for in a potential employer?
  • If you were hiring a nanny for your child, what would be the most important things you would look for?
  • What is your availability like? How flexible is your schedule? Are you OK with travel?
  • How will you handle transportation to and from work? Are you someone who can consistently be on time? Do you have any special circumstances or illnesses or ongoing family issues that you feel I should know about?
  • How do you feel about spending the night occasionally? How would you feel about switching the occasional night for other days off?
  • Would you sign a confidentiality agreement?
  • How have you typically been paid – on or off the books – and how would you prefer to be paid?
  • What are you salary expectations and what are you comfortable with in terms of hours per week and weeks per year?
  • Why do you want this job? (This is a good last question)

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today.

7 Ways To Keep Your Nanny Around For A Long Time

Young woman standing near refrigerator filled with products

Finding a good nanny can be such a relief. So, what do you do when you have finally found that person who you can depend on and who you and your kids both get along with? How can you ensure the nanny will stick around?

I’ve come up with a list of  7 suggestions that can make a huge difference to your nanny and will help guarantee the relationship continues to prosper like you need it to.

Do you have any to add? Comment below!

  1. Trust your nanny. Trust is the first step in any healthy relationship, and this pertains to a parent/nanny relationship as well. When you trust your nanny it makes her feel empowered. It makes her feel confident in her choices and not have to second-guess every decision. It also shows your children the nanny is competent enough to take care of them and they should listen to and respect her. If you don’t trust your nanny, how will your kids?
  2. Offer to pay for  transportation. Of course, if your nanny is transporting your kids around, you should be paying for any and all transportation. However, if your nanny stays late it is a really nice gesture to pay for a cab or an uber ride home occasionally as well.
  3. Leave petty cash for your nanny. If your nanny will be out with your kids and buying snacks etc. for them, leave cash ahead of time. This way your nanny doesn’t feel like she is digging into her own pockets. It can be awkward for your nanny to request you pay her back for a $2 bottle of water, but at the same time, she should never have to use her own cash on your kids.
  4. Offer her food, especially if she is there around mealtime. If your nanny is always there around a meal, make sure you offer her food or tell her she can take what she would like from the refrigerator/ pantry. You can also text her beforehand and order her food, or make extra of whatever the kids are having. Keep in mind that if your nanny is constantly having to order takeout to your place, she is going to start seeing this as an added expense of what it costs for her to keep herself fed while she takes care of your kids.
  5. Tell your nanny of any change of plans. If you know you will be away one weekend or your kids’ schedules are changing, give your nanny a heads up. Your nanny sets aside time for you and it is only respectful to give her notice as soon as you know of any changes that may affect her. Don’t announce at the last minute you don’t need her the following week. Give her a chance to plan accordingly.
  6. Be respectful of her time. Similar to the last point, your nanny sets aside a specific amount of time for you each day or week depending on your agreement. It is okay if you are going to be late one day, things happen. But understand your nanny may have other obligations and this should not be an ongoing occurrence. The same way that you want your nanny to be on time getting to you, as parents you should treat your time being home the same way.
  7. Give her time off. Everyone needs a break. Being aware of when your nanny needs time off and offering it to her without her asking may go a long way in your relationship with your nanny. Don’t let your nanny burn out; a short break can recharge someone for a long time. Even if it’s simply asking if she would like an afternoon or a day off. You can make it work for your schedule. If it’s her birthday, try not to make that the day you come home really late. Certain things can’t be avoided, but awareness, respect and communication make all the difference.

If you’re interested in more information about our services as they relate to your nanny, check out our nanny consulting page or contact us today!

New Documentary Explores The Effects Of Screen Time On Children

A new documentary called “Screenagers” takes a close look at the epidemic we as parents are facing when it comes to our children and “screen time.” While I haven’t had the chance to see the film yet, just the trailer alone sparks some great questions and things to think about.

The director, Delaney Ruston, is the leading voice in the film, and she talks through the research she did when her 12-year-old daughter wanted her first smartphone. In the trailer, she says children spend six and a half hours a day looking at screens – not including school and homework time. That’s an incredible amount of time, but it’s a statistic we all probably can relate to.

According to GeekWire, which did a review of the film, Ruston presents a great deal of scientific research and medical opinions in the film while also addressing relevant topics like the role technology plays in bullying at schools, violence in video games and body-image issues.

She also addresses ways we as parents can put guidelines in place for our kids, stressing the importance of talking through rules and really explaining where we’re coming from as parents. Laurance Steinberg, a professor of adolescence at Temple Univerisity, explains, “The mistake that parents often make is that they assert their authority without explaining it in a way that makes sense to their child.” Children will often come back with, “It’s different now. Everyone has a phone.” And, while it’s true that times have changed, many things about the way children learn and grow into healthy adults have stayed the same. Therefore, it’s so necessary to get on the same page with your kids and monitor the digital world in which we all live in.

One of the things that really stood out to me from the trailer is the discussion on multitasking and what it does to children’s brains. I’m sure we’ve all tried to have a conversation with our children – or another adult, for that matter – while they are glued to their phones or video games. The level at which they tune us out or respond without truly listening is frightening. Sometimes, though, people seem to be able to do both (answer e-mails and hold a conversation, play video games while doing homework, etc) with remarkable ease. But, what is really happening when we multitask?

Dimitri Christakis, professor of pediatrics at University of Washington, says, “The young, adolescent brain can oscillate back and forth very very quickly, but it comes at a cost.” Ruston goes on to say, “What’s extraordinary about the studies on multitasking is even though you’re doing worse and worse on everything you’re doing, you feel like you’re doing better.”

I’m eager to watch the entire film and see what other research is cited, as well as the suggestions for dealing with technology. Scilla Andreen, the executive producer of “Screenagers” told GeekWire, “We have to learn our relationship with food, alcohol, other people — same goes for screens. Ultimately would I like people to look up a little bit more? Absolutely.” I think we have to acknowledge that screens have become just as important of a health concern for our kids as things like eating disorders, drugs and alcohol.

Personally, the idea of conscious parenting and the concept of awareness in every day life is something that I believe translates to our children. The more present we are in the moment, the more we are mirroring the behavior we wish to see. We can’t expect our children to look up from their phones when we aren’t willing to do the same. Encouraging genuine conversation, requiring your children to sit at the table without playing video games or watching TV and marking out time for activities like reading, drawing or playing outside are all things we should place a priority on to teach our children about the world outside of the screen.

Has anyone seen the film? What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear in the comments section! What kind of rules do you have regarding your kids’ “screen time.”

The Key To Conscious Parenting

Happy mother and daughter at summer field

For the past 12 years I have had the pleasure of being the mother to three girls, and in that time, I have learned more about myself than I ever expected. I am writing this post because I want to propose that we occupy the role of parenthood in an entirely different way, with a renewed curiosity, a heightened awareness and a fresh sense of commitment.

Our children are facing challenges today that we couldn’t have dreamed of, and evidence suggests they are buckling under the pressure. One in five children in America show signs or symptoms of a psychological disorder, and that is a hair-raising statistic. The use of ADHD drugs is at an exponentially high 274% global increase. UNICEF did a study a few years ago and found American children are the second unhappiest in the world.

Each one of us holds transformative power, and there is real science behind this to show how the parental relationship can affect us as adults not only psychologically, but also biologically. Dr. Siegel, a neuropsychiatrist and one of my favorite authors, talks about how early interactions affect our brains in his book The Whole Brain-Child. I highly recommend the book, but I want to share with you a few key takeaways, one of those being the idea of conscious parenting.

Conscious parenting doesn’t necessarily mean spending every waking hour with your children, rather it means that when you do spend time with your kids, you make it meaningful and make sure you are present in the moment. You can practice the idea of conscious parenting when you help with your children’s homework or spend 10 minutes with them while they get ready in the morning. Listen with empathy and respond to what is said with full awareness. In their essay, called “Recognizing Our Hidden Wounds”, Psychoanalysts Harville Hendrix and Helen Lakelly Hunt discuss “the importance of recognizing when and how we slip into the past.” When we have a problem-causing “automatic, unexamined reaction” to a child’s behavior, that’s an indication that we are approaching the situation from an unresolved childhood wound.

The idea is obviously fairly complex, but simply making an effort not to bring the past, or your stresses and anxieties, into the time you spend with your child will go a long way. Conscious parenting might sound like work, but it can actually be executed rather easily. I found that remembering the acronym “AFTER” works for me when I’m dealing with a situation with one of my children and my first reaction is to be upset.

A-aware (Be aware that you are reacting to what is going on internally for you and not responding to the situation at hand)

F-focus (Focus on what is happening in the moment)

T-time (Take time to count to at least 5 so you can calm down)

E- Empathy (Forgive yourself for what you had done in the past and have empathy for yourself)

R- Re-enter (Re-enter the interaction with a new insight and respond appropriately with empathy)

Until about 10 years ago, I wasn’t sure what being conscious meant, and all I wanted to do was be a mom and to become a psychologist. As the years went by, I realized that I was often busy thinking about the goals I wanted to reach and thinking about my past. When I became a mom, I wasn’t really aware of how my level of consciousness and awareness would affect my children. Being a mom brought up things in me that had nothing to do with my children, but rather made me realize there are some things I’ve carried with me since I was a child. I had a lot of insecurities and there was a part of me that was still that little child who was crying and screaming out for attention, who was hurt and abused and needed guidance and support, and nobody was there. While my children are clearly not in the same situation, they were victims of my insecurities when I projected them through my parenting. Once I became aware that this was happening, as I progressed with my education of child development and mindfulness, I realized how important it is to be a parent and how much attention/responsibility and self-awareness is required on a daily basis.

As a therapist, it is my job to help people explore their inner worlds. After years of clients sharing their stories, it became clear to me that no matter what I would tell them, they weren’t readily accepting what I was saying because they had internalized the voices of their parents. It became so evident how very hard it is to erase that first blueprint as it comes to the way we define ourselves and the air we breathe. As parents, we hold a greater power and an immense responsibility, and our actions and behavior help provide our kids with the strong foundations they need to become competent adults.

Next time your child is asking you a question or telling you something exciting that happened, ask yourself if you are listening. Really listening?