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We are constantly absorbing emotions from those around us. That's part of the reason being around kids and teens, with their roller coasters of emotion, can be so exhausting. And when our own hearts and minds are clouded by emotion, we are not showing up and responding with our wisest mind and most open heart.

Our capacity for calm in the midst of a kid's emotional storm offers hope, because it signals that calm is possible in the midst of chaos.

What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the "attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.


What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the “attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.

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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.

FEATURED VIDEO

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.

FEATURED VIDEO

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

FEATURED VIDEO

"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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