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“I'm going to take a quick shower," I explained to my four-year-old.

I rarely shower during the day when both our boys are awake to spare myself the anxiety of wondering what sort of mischief is going on in my absence. But there was no way around it this time. I was covered in the germy ick of the stomach bug that was making its way through the family. I couldn't put it off any longer.

“But I don't think I know how to keep little brother safe on my own," he replied.

I was thankful for his honesty and his exceptional verbal skills. He could have whined, argued and negotiated. Instead he told me how he felt. If only all our interactions could be so simple.

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“I can see how that would make you feel nervous," I reassured him. “Stay right here in this part of the house with the gate closed, I'm sure he'll be okay. I'll turn on a show for you to watch and I'll only be a few minutes." He nodded in agreement and I seized the precious few moments to prioritize my own needs.

The cleansing waters also brought a moment of clarity, a refreshing perspective about siblings and parenting.

I thought back to the times when I've needed to resolve conflict between big and little brothers. As I navigated my way through our first year with two boys, I thought giving them time to spend together without direct supervision for just a few minutes at a time would strengthen their bond.

However, every time I was out of sight, I found myself scrambling back a moment later to attend to little brother's crying and an expression of guilt from big brother. I became frustrated and irritated, expressing my disappointment in big brother's actions and reminding him (again!) to be gentle.

From my perspective, the misbehavior seemed like a cry for attention, acting out in aggression and jealousy. I knew my four-year-old wanted to be gentle and enjoyed having a little brother. I couldn't understand why this kept happening.

Then I discovered the work of Janet Lansbury, author of Elevating Childcare and No Bad Kids, and host of podcast, Unruffled. Her practical parenting advice, based on the theories of Magda Gerber, involves respectfully acknowledging the feelings behind a child's behavior, and understanding acting out as a cry for help.

I thought I was doing this in addressing my older son's need for my love and attention and his feelings of jealousy toward his little brother. What I didn't realize was that I'd been misinterpreting nervousness and anxiety as jealousy. Because he told me, “I don't think I can keep brother safe by myself," I realized his actions to call me back into the room when left alone with his brother were an attempt to ask for assistance, not to demand my attention.

He knows babies are not self-sufficient, can get into dangerous household items, and can get hurt. It dawned on me that he wants very badly to keep his brother safe from harm but he is just little himself and can't bear the weight of that responsibility.

I'll add a disclaimer that I would never leave them unattended for more than a minute or two while I switched a load of laundry or refilled my coffee. My adult mind thought this was a reasonable amount of time. In his mind, I realized, it felt far too long. The only solution he could see was to do something to get his brother to cry, which would then bring me running back to join them.

He felt the same way being left alone with his little brother as I usually did when I attempted to shower at home alone with them during the day. He was anxious. When I addressed his anxiousness with empathy and reassured him I felt little brother would be safe, he was able to rest in knowing they would be okay and I would only be out of sight for a short time.

While any sibling relationship will experience resentment, disappointment and envy, and I'm sure some of those emotions also contributed to my son's aggression.

However, taking tips from parenting experts like Janet Lansbury and books like Siblings Without Rivalry, we can address emotions empathetically and help our children build their own relationships.

1. Respect boundaries

Having a sibling can mean having a companion, confidant and advocate. It can also mean having someone who is always around when you'd rather have them somewhere else. When we respect our children's feelings, keeping them separated from their siblings when their actions tell us they can't handle the relationship at the time, we model how to set respectful boundaries for themselves as they grow up.

2. Don't force sharing

Experts point out that when young siblings are adjusting to their new relationship, the baby doesn't actually care that much when the older one takes away her toys. If the older sibling is given the opportunity to “claim his territory," so to speak, initially, he will feel less threatened as the relationship develops.

3. Focus on feelings

Writer, speaker, and childhood development professional, Amanda, at Not Just Cute recommends using the acronym CARE: Cause, Action, Reaction, Expectation, to guide parents through helping children manage challenging behavior. By understanding the root cause of sibling squabbles, we can avoid placing blame and inflicting guilt and judgement on one child or the other.

4. Comparison is the thief of joy

Adults and children alike feel worse about themselves when compared to others. Especially put in a situation where a child feels they are vying for parental attention or affection, comparing siblings can be especially damaging. The author of Siblings Without Rivalry encourages parents to observe and describe a situation from a position of neutrality, being careful not to compare the behavior of one sibling to another.

5. Fair does not mean equal

That “fair" actually means that everyone gets what they need, not that they get the same thing or what they want, can be a difficult concept for children. But the earlier it's introduced, the easier it will become engrained in their expectations of family relationships. Babies need different forms of love and attention than toddlers and preschoolers. Reminding older siblings that you're there to help meet everyone's needs and pointing out their differences with those needs can keep jealous feelings at bay.

Sibling relationships can be difficult at any stage. Every phase of childhood and development can pose new challenges, but when we let go of our desire to control our children's actions and interactions, we give them the freedom to learn constructive problem-solving and conflict resolution. If you're still in the trenches of siblings adjusting to their new relationship, take heart, I'm right there with you. Emotions still run high, and since our little brother isn't even verbal yet, our boys lack the communication component for building a relationship.

Then I hear the baby giggle at his brother's silly faces and am assured that we're on the right track. Using these expert tips and handling situations with empathy has cut way back on aggressive behavior and jealousy. So, with a little time and a lot of effort, I'd say this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

My kids miss their grandparents on a regular basis. They're obsessed with them in this completely beautiful, loving way. One set lives four hours south of us and the other set lives about three hours north. We all frequently talk about how we wished we lived closer so we could see each other more regularly because even though they're not super far (thank goodness), it still feels far enough.

Far enough to require planning visits in advance, packing our bags for those visits and sleeping over instead of opportunities for weekly family dinners or sneaking out for a midweek date night, free grandparent-babysitting included.

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But even though we don't see each other daily, or weekly even, we all make significant efforts to visit consistently. We always have plans together on the horizon. Birthdays are celebrated in-person, plays or recitals attended and often when our kindergartener has time off from school, we pack up and either go to New York or Vermont to spend our free time with them.

Except right now. Right now—even though our kiddos are not going to school—we can't just pack up and head north or south. Which has been confusing, and understandably emotional, for the kids.

Basically a lot of our conversations lately have gone something like this:

Child: "Can we go to Grandma and Grandpa's house, pleeeeeeease?"

Me: "I'm sorry, honey, we can't right now. Remember how we talked about the germs going around? We have to stay home to keep safe."

Child: "Well, when are the germs gonna be goneeeeeee?"

Me: "We aren't sure. We just have to try to be patient."

Child: "Why can't we just go to Nana and Poppas nowwww?"

And after I side-step the whining, I want to burst into tears. Because I don't know. I don't know what to tell them exactly. I don't know when we'll see their grandparents again.

I simply don't know when this will be over.

And while the kids are used to frequent FaceTimes with Nana and Poppa to stay in touch and they know they have to go through stretches of time without visits from Grandma and Grandpa, they're not used to stretches this long or only having FaceTime as an option for connection.

Even though this is our new (and temporary) normal, it doesn't feel normal. The uncertainty isn't normal. Long periods of isolation isn't normal. Only being around each other—and no one else—isn't normal.

Celebrations that were planned and family visits that had been marked down in our calendars have been canceled and crossed out. Baptisms, birthday parties, Easter gatherings—all gone.

This Easter, a time when we usually gather with at least one set of grandparents, will be celebrated by the five of us, in our home without any extended family members. We'll still hunt for eggs and eat too much Easter candy, of course—but there will be a piece of our puzzle missing in the shape of a chocolate bunny from Poppa and a ricotta pie from Grandma.

We don't know when we'll be together in person again and it's breaking our hearts.

Because they miss Grandma rubbing their back and earlobes (this is a true request) while she tells them bedtime stories.

They miss going on adventures to the farm with Grandpa.

They miss cuddling up with Nana on the couch for movie time.

They miss going on walks with Poppa to visit the ducks.

They miss smelling Grandma's meatballs and sauce cooking in the kitchen.

They miss building blocks with Grandpa in the living room.

They miss painting rocks with Nana at the kitchen table.

They miss Poppa sneaking them M&M's.

I can't help but pause and think to myself how lucky they are they get to miss these people—as strange as that sounds. I'm so proud of the relationship they have with their grandparents, how close they all are, and I know this strange period of time could never take that away from them.

The other day, my father-in-law read about five books to my 2-year-old after she grabbed my phone and demanded, "Gandma, Gandpa! Read book!" to me while dragging me over to her little fox chair in the corner. She plopped herself down—snacks included—and I adjusted the phone so she could see her Grandpa's face as he started reading. She was proud as a pickle. Happy as a clam.

She knew this was an option, because last week Grandma did it, and the kids loved it.

So for now, we'll have virtual storytime instead of in-person bedtime stories.

We'll have videos of Nana and Poppa reading and checking in with the kids instead of catching up under a cozy blanket on the couch.

We'll talk on FaceTime over dinner at two different tables, chatting about our day instead of sharing a meal together at one.

We'll have a Zoom Easter party virtually connecting under different roofs, instead of celebrating under the same one.

We'll send colorful pictures or handwritten notes in the mail instead of delivering them with our own two hands.

We'll figure it out. This is hard. But we can do hard things.

We can still laugh.

We can still see each other's faces, hear each other's voices.

And we can still stay in touch.

The connection may be virtual right now, but it's not virtually impossible. Thank you, grandparents, for still supporting our families—even from a distance.

Love + Village

Pregnancy brings so many questions, but giving birth during a pandemic can be plain overwhelming. It likely seems as if your questions are never-ending, and the more answers you get, the more questions come up.

There is likely so much on your mind right now:

Will I need to give birth without my partner?

Will I have limited pain relief options?

Am I going to be separated from my baby?

It's so much to think about, and it can feel scary.

As you think about your birth, one of your biggest fears is likely a sense of having a lack of control throughout this process. Mama, you are not alone. Thousands of couples are in the same boat, and I want to share some ways to cope with this shift.

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Ultimately, I want you to know that it is still possible to have a good birth, even if it is different than what you had originally hoped for.

As a doula, here are tips for giving birth during the COVID-19 pandemic:

1. Grieve for the experience you didn't get.

Hold space for yourself. Hold space for the expectations that you had for yourself and your birth experience. It's okay to be sad, or mad, or scared, or even a little resentful that this pandemic has disrupted your perfectly planned birth goals. One of the best things to remind yourself is that while you can't control what happens, you can control how you react to them.

If your difficult feelings are impacting you significantly, don't hesitate to reach out to a mental health therapist for help via virtual services.

2. Prepare for a new kind of birth.

More important than grieving the birth you won't have is finding the energy to adapt. Now more than ever is the time to get creative with how you will adjust your expectations to help you have a controlled birth experience despite the current outbreak.

A great way to start is by taking a birth class—there are plenty of online classes like Motherly's Becoming Mama™ Online Birth Class. Books can help, too, like The Motherly Guide to Becoming Mama, which releases on April 14th, 2020.

The Birth Lounge Membership for expecting parents is another great service to check out. Surrounding yourself with positive, evidence-based information will help you feel more confident during this uncertain time.

Look for resources that comfort and inform you.

3. Advocate for yourself.

You may find that your appointments with your doctor or midwife are canceled or rescheduled. This doesn't mean you no longer have access to your medical provider—it just means they don't think the prenatal appointment was worth the risk of exposure for you.

However, you can request that a nurse, midwife or obstetrician give you a call to answer the questions you were planning to discuss at your appointment. You aren't alone, and help is still available to you.

4. Brace for the aesthetics.

When you arrive at the hospital to have your baby, you may see a different set-up than you are used to. There may be tents set up outside, security guards and nurses at the doors checking everyone's temperature, and medical staff in what appears to be hazmat gear! What a shock this will be. So spend some time coming to terms with it, and remind yourself that even though it looks scary, its intention is to keep everyone safe.

Say to yourself, "I am safe. My baby is safe."

5. Labor at home as long as possible (with your provider's approval).

This pandemic is changing the way that people birth in so many ways. We've already seen nationwide restrictions to hospital policies, as well as restrictions around the number of support people allowed at the birth. Providers are asking patients to call before coming to the hospital and are providing screenings to all partners to assess for coronavirus infection.

If you are low-risk, your provider may encourage you to labor at home for a while.

Laboring at home can help to reduce your risk of exposure and it will also allow you to labor in your own space with your own rules and with your own people without the energetic weight of COVID-19 hanging over your head. Many providers are recommending such already.

Remember, you need to check in with your provider when labor starts. There are some essential questions they need to ask to make sure it is safe for you to labor at home.

6. Know your options.

Be mindful of the information you take in so you can make educated and informed decisions when it comes to your birth. This includes unfollowing or unfriended certain people on social media if you find that their content is unhelpful or stressful. Try to focus on reliable sources like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), or the March of Dimes.

One of the tough aspects of this pandemic is that expert recommendations are changing day to day—you will notice that even these organizations have opposing recommendations.

For example, the CDC recommends separating new moms and babies if coronavirus is suspected, while the WHO suggests leaving the two together for skin-to-skin and breastfeeding. Consider what options feel best for you, and speak with your provider about your preferences, understanding that hospital policies may vary.

Something else to think about is pain medication. For example, some hospitals have suspended the use of nitrous oxide as it is an aerosol comfort measure, and there is a concern about the transmission of coronavirus.

7. Find the control.

When you notice yourself feeling anxious or worried about your birth, try finding the control in the situation.

Does your control lie in laboring at home for as long as possible?

Is your control in the fact that you've prepared for months for this moment?

Maybe you've realized that not that much will actually change for your birth plans, and that's what makes you feel in control.

Remember that you still get to have a say in the care you receive. You get to decide where you birth, and you get to decide what happens to your body during this time.

If you haven't heard the recent news, the Governor of New York put out orders declaring that one support person should be allowed for every laboring person—this extends to postpartum and recovery.

8. Remember that you are not alone.

There is power in numbers. There are so many parents who are on this journey of entering parenthood during a pandemic. While this is a difficult time, it's comforting to know that you're not the only one feeling this way.

Social distancing doesn't have to mean isolation. Take advantage of the technological advances we have in 2020 to harness the power of human connection. Your online village awaits you!

This is a scary time to be pregnant, but you are strong. You are not alone.

Thousands of parents across the country are navigating this story alongside you. While this is very different from anything you could have imagined, it doesn't have to be a bad experience. You still have so much control. The choice is yours. Take the time this quarantine has presented you with and use it to prepare for this new birth experience. You can do this.

Life

Kim Kardashian West and Kanye West have four young children and after self-isolating with her kids during the coronavirus pandemic Kardashian says that's probably as many as they'll ever have.

Speaking on The View this week, Kardashian explained: "Being at home with four kids...if I ever thought for a minute that I wanted another one—that is out the door. It's really tough. Really tough."

She continued: "My newfound respect for teachers—it's like, they deserve so much. It's been tough juggling it all and you really have to put yourself on the back burner and just focus on the kids."

Kim Kardashian West Shares Social Distancing Experience | The View www.youtube.com

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"I've been doing laundry and cooking," Kardashian West explained, which suggests that her household staff is not working during the family's self-isolation.

"Today was the first day that I actually brushed my hair and put on some makeup," she explained, adding that her sister Kylie Jenner came over to do her makeup for the TV appearance, and aside from their mom Kris Jenner coming over for a 6-foot-apart chat, that's the only extended family company she's had in a while.

Her kids, 6-year-old North, 4-year-old Saint, 2-year-old Chicago and baby Psalm have not been able to see their cousins, which is hard because they're all so close. Kardashian West told The View's co-hosts that while she actually enjoys the break from her family's usually jam-packed travel schedule, she's running out of activities around the house, and that her family has watched "every single movie that you can imagine" already.

There's nothing wrong with a little extra screen time during this challenging time Kim, but if you need more activities we've got plenty of ideas!

News
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