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Managing the stress of newborns and preemies

lovin_sleepNothing can really prepare you for having a newborn.  It is like nothing ever experienced. Even if you have older children, every baby is different and brings new challenges.  Having multiples is an even greater challenge, and even more challenging is having those multiple babies early.  Some of the tips in this article you may have heard before, however some I hope are new.

What not to do:

  1. DO NOT blame yourself for any mistakes you think you are making.  It is all part of the learning process.
  2. DO NOT go it alone.  Get any and all help that you can.  Even contact your insurance company to see about any home care you might be eligible for if you have no other support.
  3. DO NOT isolate yourself from friends or family.  Use support groups online, it will help you feel less alone.  Reach out to whomever you can.

What will have the most impact:

  1. Use the time you have to relax and even meditate if possible.  Even 5 minutes of meditation can have more benefits than x number of hours sleep.  Try the one I recorded at www.reddingcounseling.com/links and scroll to the bottom for the link.
  2. Eat and drink!  Not just your babies need nourishment, so do you!  Make smoothies for yourself with protein powder if eating is too hard or time consuming.
  3. Tell yourself everyday that you are doing the best that you can.  Tomorrow will come and you will trudge ahead.

Special considerations:

For some carrying multiples, you might have your babies early.  These babies may have special needs for a while.  And they might even spend time in the NICU, while you get to go home.  You might even be able to take one home, while having to leave one or more at the hospital.   One thing to remember about having to go home without your babies, is that you need to use that home time to your advantage.  Sleep, bathe and eat.  When you go to the hospital you can better focus on being there for your babies.  The small amount of respite you get while at home will help you deal with the stress of going to the hospital and dealing with all that comes with it.  Take advantage of any newborn classes or groups.  Use the hospital social worker for any help you need with services.

When to look for outside help:

Post partum depression is real.  It is not weakness.  It is not a sign of a bad person, or mother.  It may start as a slow feeling that you are not ready to be a mom.  It may be an absence of a connection for your babies.  This is not your fault.  This is the powerful nature of hormones and what they do to your fragile mental state after birth.  Utilize online support groups for post partum depression.  Also contact your insurance company for a mental health professional referral specializing in post partum depression.  The hospital may also have referrals for you.

Your health can only take a back seat to your babies and children for so long.  At some point it will only hinder your ability to parent the way you want to.  Sleep deprivation with the overload of trying to meet your babies needs are a combination for mental overload.  Your body is trying to heal after the birth and getting your body and mind to relax even a little bit everyday will go a long way.  You deserve to take care of yourself and this will help your babies.

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT, Cht, is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Certified Hypnotherapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and an office in Trumbull.  She is a mother of 6-year-old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.  Her website is www.reddingcounseling.com and phone is 203.274.0158.

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Managing back to school anxiety for the whole family!

Written by Lenore Pranzo

Yes it is that time of year again, back to school!  It always brings that Staples commercial to mind ‘It’s the most wonderful time of the year’.  However it may not be for the kids and sometimes not for the parents either.  If you are already stressed and your kids are too, then read on.  If not, go put on some music and keep dancing around the house until the bus drops the kids home.  Otherwise to deal with the stress you can help your child and you identify where the anxiety is coming from, then you can work on strategies together for the school year and beyond.

How can you identify what the anxiety stems from?  First ask your child these questions:

  • Is it academic or social?
  • If it is academic, is there a specific subject?
  • If social, can you identify the situations you are most worried about?
  • Is there something else that you might be worried about?

Now that it is identified, state that one way to help with worrying about it is to work on new approaches.

  • How have you handled this in the past?
  • Did that work?
  • Was anyone helpful to you?
  • If so, can they continue to be helpful?
  • If not, can you think of anyone that can help?
  • For instance if you did x what do you think would happen?
  • What do you think would happen if you didn’t do what you normally do?

Tell them that if their new approach doesn’t work it is ok and it can continue to change.  These skills at helping working through problems, without you as the parent, coming up with the answers will help them enormously.  They will be more prepared for things and they will understand the learning process.

Now if your anxiety is starting to peak as well, you also need to identify where it stems from.  Is it about remembering your childhood anxiety?  Is it worry about your child’s academics and performing?  Is this worry about their performance based on realistic expectations?  Meaning is it super important that your child excel in one subject when they truly have more of an aptitude for other ones?  Are you comparing your family to other families and setting everyone up for too much stress?  Does your child need to play three sports and an instrument?  Just keep asking yourself what you want your child to gain from childhood.  Remember my blog on scaling back in an overscheduled world?  If not take a look back to last fall’s blogs where my article helps us remind ourselves to keep evaluating our schedules year after year.

If leading a calmer life is your goal for you and your family you might want to try yoga or meditation together.  Either find family yoga classes or research some DVDs that are good for all ages.  The meditation is something you can do by just putting on relaxing music and helping your child with their breath.  They don’t need much time and 5 minutes could be perfect for great results.  After they have practiced it remind them to use it during stressful or high anxiety situations.  I hope that this article was helpful.  If you have any questions, you can email me at reddingcounseling@hotmail.com or call 203.274.0158.

Some ideas on how to prepare for the summer with the kids

By Lenore Pranzo, LMFT

It’s that time of year again, school is almost out and the kids will be home all day.   Some parents love the laid back schedule of summer, while others find it hard to adjust to the energy level kids have in the summer.  For those who love the summer there is no need to read on.  For the rest of you, here are a few tips on dealing with summer.

How to embrace the slower pace of summer:

  1. Decide on the right amount of activity for your children.  Depending on their age you can ask them for their opinion.  Maybe a few weeks of camp over the course of the summer will be enough for you and them.
  2. Pick a few things you really want to do with the kids and spread those out over the whole summer.
  3. Try and remember what you loved about the summer while you were a kid and see if you can replicate that for your kids.
  4. Remember it isn’t about quantity, but quality.

Keep it simple.  You are not an entertainment director.  It is not necessary for your kids to have complicated activities every moment of every day. Here are some ideas for easy activities:

  1. The blanket thrown over the clothes line that turns into a secret cave.
  2. The sprinkler that always seemed to catch you unaware.
  3. Sleeping outside – right in front of the kitchen door – in the wilds of the back yard.
  4. Buy some 3 packs of white t-shirts (Fruit of the Loom, Hanes or whatever) and let the kids design a shirt with fabric markers.
  5. Solicit information from their teachers if they are in school about some easy, fun things to do that will also help them in the fall when school starts.

One other idea that I read about recently is to set up free camp for your kids:

  1. Coordinate with two or more families that you trust and who have similar parenting styles to yours.
  2. You each take a day to have all the kids at your house.
  3. You plan a few activities and crafts for the kids.
  4. Each kid brings his or her own food in a cooler.
  5. You only have all the kids once a week.
  6. You get free days to yourself while your kids are at the other “camps”.
  7. The kids get to have time with close friends in a slow paced comfortable environment.

Remember summers vacations are getting shorter and shorter each year.  Long gone are the three month summers of our youth.  Two months is about all they get and it goes really fast.  Allowing your kids to have more unstructured time is helpful in creating the much needed break from the rigors of school.  They will thank you for it.  Of course that may not happen until they are adults, but I promise they will thank you.

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and an office in Fairfield.  She is a mother of 5 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.  Her website is www.reddingcounseling.com and phone is 203.274.0158.

Keeping it simple in the life of overscheduling

A month into the new school year is a good time to feel settled in and back in the groove. However it can also be a time that you realized maybe, just maybe there are too many darn things to do! There’s soccer, karate, dance, gymnastics, football, music, and many other things to fill in every free moment. When does homework get done or a little family time? For those with preschoolers, maybe it is also too many playdates or storytimes. How does this happen so fast? It could be that we live in Fairfield County and sometimes we are valued by what we do or accomplish and not on our quality time. If this is sounding familiar now is the time to review the values and the lasting memories you want for your family.

It is a challenge raising responsible children versus overstressed children. It is important that children grow up to be responsible for their actions, work and behavior within reasonable limits. Think about how you grew up; what worked and what would you have changed about the choices you were given? Would you have liked to spend more time with your parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents? Would you have liked more activities? Were the activities you participated in ones that you wanted to do or your parents wanted you to do? Too many, none? How did it help your self-esteem and sense of belonging? What kind of family life do you want for your children? What combination of scheduled family time like game night, movie night, meals together? What rituals and traditions? How about out of the house activities? Does it always have to be sports or how about interests like the library, chess club or the arts? How do you balance everything and avoid running around from one thing to the next, barely able to eat dinner, going to sleep late and scarcely squeezing in homework?

Now it is time to plan. Take the time to streamline all of the activities in your family’s life and continue to check in with your children to see how stressful their schedule may be. How do you streamline all of the activities? Start with the answers to the above questions. Ask yourself and your family when they are the most happy. Then ask on a scale of 1-10 how happy each activity makes them. Are there outside expectations or pressure in doing an activity? What can wait for the summer when there is more time? Is one activity a season better? Check in with each member once a month to see how the new plan is working. Just working together to prioritize activities tells your children that you are more interested in what makes them happy rather than just “doing things”. As they review their schedule each month they will become more aware of how activities affect them. When they get older you may expand the criteria for an activity from “makes me happy” to “I enjoy being with others”, “makes me proud”, “I feel like part of a team”, “I feel healthy” or other things they value.

Remember what works for one year will need to be reevaluated the next. One child might be able to handle and thrive on many activities while another might not want more than one. Continue to discuss with your children and help them prioritize. Most importantly remember to schedule and find time for family. Family dinners are perfect for communicating about the day. Family movie nights with DVDs and popcorn go a long way as well. Remember do you want a Webster definition of family; a group of individuals living under one roof, or do you want a group of individuals who spend time together and have great memories of that time?

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and is a mother of 4 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.

Fertility and the path to parenthood

Why does it seem that everyone in the world is pregnant and having babies when you have been trying for years and spend every waking moment thinking about it? I wish I knew. God knows you don’t want to hear the word infertility ever, yet it seems to be on the tip of your tongue and front of your brain constantly.

Nine years ago, when I was 32 and married a few years I thought I could have babies quite easily. Why wouldn’t I, I was young and healthy? Sound familiar? The journey started with my OB whom I had been seeing since I was a teenager. Someone I trusted with my fertility health. Her philosophy with me was, come to me if you don’t get pregnant in 1 year. Needless to say with cycles that varied from 34-49 days using the standard method of ovulation detection was impossible and frustrating. Fast forward to one round of clomid and not even being able to bring my cycle to under 35 days it was scratch that and move on quickly to FSH and insemination. All the standard tests were normal.

The struggle began and so I tried to educate myself on fertility and how to enhance it in any way possible. After two unsuccessful cycles with fertility drugs I made the decision to consult a proven fertility clinic, Connecticut Fertility Associates in Norwalk and Bridgeport. After one cycle resulting in hyperstimulation the suggestion of IVF was made. I was tired and decided to just take a break and keep seeing my acupuncturist to treat my long cycles (possible PCOS) without medical treatments for a while.

I looked for support groups and didn’t find any in the area. However I was anything but private about my fertility health. I found talking with a few friends here and there resulted in finding others who were experiencing or had experienced similar struggles. The support and hope was helpful. Through my fertility journey I went back to school and became a therapist and used my education to help me through the ordeal.

After almost 4 years of trying to get pregnant naturally and with assisted technologies, IVF with acupuncture seemed to be the best combination. This approach resulted in a twin pregnancy and full term birth of healthy boys. Over four years later I can be brought back to that period of time in an instant hearing a story of someone trying to get pregnant or miscarrying.

What I do now in my private practice is help women and their spouses create a fertility plan and increase communication and stress management skills. Starting a support group is another way to help women with stress and create a forum to discuss what only someone who has gone through it can really understand.

What if things are so overwhelming, when do you need help from a professional?

Seek help – ask for a referral from your doctor, look for a therapist on AAMFT website (American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy) http://www.aamft.org, your insurance referral list, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or clergy. Don’t suffer in silence.

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and is a mother of 4 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.

Parenting and stress on the marriage

As a mother of twin 4 year old boys and a Marriage and Family Therapist I am constantly trying to evaluate the way I deal with my husband and children. Daily I think ‘is this the best way to handle this?”, “would I be a good example for my kids or clients?,” Well the answer varies depending on the day. We all know as parents that life happens and we do and say things that don’t align with who we think we are or want to be.

The great thing is each new day we can start again and try to align our values with our actions. How am I supposed to that when I spend every minute of the day just trying to put out fires, stop fights, drive kids to activities, feed babies and clean up the inevitable messes that arise with kids, especially multiples? Yeah I know. However you can. It just takes a little upfront planning. Just like sleep training the kids, short term pain to get to long term gain.

So what is the plan Lenore? It varies with the individual, however here are some ideas:

  • Open communication (how to parent as a team, share responsibilities, etc.)
  • Start dating your spouse again (if you are a single parent then get out on your own)
  • Stress reduction activities

Here is a term that is overused ‘open communication’. As in any cliché there is a core of truth here. To me it means taking time, even five to ten minutes a week to discuss where the kids are in terms of development and how you want to work together on parenting them. For instance with babies the plan would be around schedules, food, socializing, how much to expose to other children, grandparents, etc. Toddlers, how much tv, socializing, sleep routine, potty training, etc. And so on. It also means discussing the roles you each have in the family and how they are working for you both.

Honestly we all go through the day and it turns into a week, months, years and wonder how far apart we are from our spouse, significant other or even oneself in terms of how we wanted things to turn out. To stop periodically and do a check in will help to ensure that all things that you and the family are doing are again aligned with your values.

Going on dates again with your spouse will ensure that you retain that connection with the person you chose to have children with and spend your life. Once a week is ideal, yet not completely reasonable for us all. Once a month is critical. Even if it is going for a walk, hike, bike ride, coffee date, lunch, dinner, movie, or whatever you did before family chaos. On a side note there are studies that say if you do something that gets your heart rates up together it bonds you more. For instance, seeing a scary movie together, or going to an amusement park and riding roller coasters. Always worth a try however no scary movies for me thank you.

Now don’t forget to get some ‘me’ time. A little stress reduction activity goes a long way. Anything that gets you to clear your mind and lessen the strain that comes with parenting. One thing I find that works really well for me and my clients is meditation and breathing exercises are amazing at calming the world down around you. Also finding people to talk to like other mothers/fathers (or mothers/fathers of multiples) to get that feeling that you are not alone.

What if you are so stressed and don’t believe that things can get better? Well, sometimes they just do as the kids get older. Sometimes they don’t. When do you need help from a professional?

Seek help – ask for a referral from your doctor, look for a therapist on CTAMFT website (CT Association of Marriage and Family Therapy) http://www.ctamft.org, your insurance referral list, EAP (Employee Assistance Program), or clergy. Don’t suffer in silence.

Lenore Pranzo, MA, LMFT is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Redding, CT with a private practice in her home and is a mother of 4 year old twin boys. She works with couples, teens, groups and individuals on issues including substance abuse, fertility, anxiety, depression, marital strain, and stress management.