Does your child need a multivitamin? Here’s what the experts say

Parents of picky eaters, you might be surprised.

Do I need to give my child a multivitamin?

"Should I give my child a multivitamin?" is one of the most common questions I get asked by moms as a pediatrician.

The question often comes up at well-child visits, as part of a conversation about how to improve picky eating. Vitamins also come up at sick visits, especially when a child seems to be sick all the time with colds and coughs—it's normal to wonder whether a daily multivitamin might "boost" a child's immune system to prevent them from missing school.

Are vitamins a quick fix for most healthy kids?

The short answer is no. If your child is eating a variety of foods and is not on a restricted diet, then extra vitamin supplementation is not needed. In most cases a daily vitamin for kids is not necessary. Instead, focus on serving healthy foods most of the time.

Can vitamins hurt a child?

A one-a-day multivitamin for extra insurance won't do harm (except for the expense). But mega dosing on vitamins—particularly fat-soluble vitamins like A,D, E and K that can build up in the body—can cause toxicity. So more is definitely not always better.

In addition, giving a vitamin supplement is not a pass for your child to then eat unhealthy processed snacks and fast food. The biggest concern with the average child's diet isn't the lack of vitamins (even sugary breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins), but that the typical American diet is low in fiber, fruits and vegetables, and high in added sugar and unhealthy fats.

That said, there are a few nutrients that are often lacking in many children's diets and could use a boost—ideally through nutrition rather than through taking a vitamin:

Iron

Iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in kids of all ages, but particularly in preemies, breastfed babies, toddlers who drink a lot of milk, growing teens and girls who menstruate. Very low iron can affect neurological development and can lead to iron deficiency anemia, which can cause a child to be pale, low energy and tired, with headache and fatigue.

There are many foods rich in iron, including eggs and meats such as turkey, chicken, liver and fish. Iron is also found in dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, seeds and dried fruits. Here's an important tip: the type of iron found in plant-based foods (known as non-heme iron) is better absorbed if eaten at the same time as some vitamin C. So serve beans with sliced tomatoes, or even broccoli and bell peppers to dip in hummus.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin important for bone growth and development and to prevent a disease called rickets. You may be aware that the body can make vitamin D, however sunlight is needed, so depending on where you live, the amount of sun exposure your child gets, the season and even how much sunscreen your child wears, your kids probably still need to ingest some sources of Vitamin D.

Breastfed babies need additional Vitamin D as it is not as readily absorbed from breastmilk (if you have questions or concerns speak with your pediatrician). For older children, food sources of vitamin D include beef, liver, eggs and fish such as salmon, as well as Vitamin D-fortified foods including cereals, dairy products (such as milk and yogurt) and non-dairy milk (such as soy and almond milk).

Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that's important for strong bones and teeth, as well as for the functioning of the muscles, heart and nervous system. Dairy products (like cheese, yogurt and milk) as well as non-dairy milks are very good sources of calcium. When serving fortified non-dairy milks, make sure to shake well, as the calcium needs to be dispersed throughout the liquid before pouring—otherwise it settles at the bottom of the container. Other non dairy sources of calcium include seafood, dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, legumes, almonds and dried fruit. Many cereals and breads are fortified with calcium as well.


Looking at your child's overall diet for the week—rather than just one day—is a helpful way to assess the nutrient value of what they are eating. After keeping a food diary for a week, you may be pleasantly surprised to learn that with added nutritious snacks, your child may be meeting their nutritional requirements. Reach out to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's overall diet. They can evaluate and determine with you if added supplementation is needed.


A version of this post originally appeared on Dr. Jen's website.

In This Article

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn on how they’re ‘sneak teaching’ kids with their new show "Do, Re & Mi"

    The best friends created a musical animated show that's just as educational as it is entertaining

    Amazon Studios

    This episode is sponsored by Tonies. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

    Kristen Bell and Jackie Tohn have been best friends since they met as young singers and actors more than 15 years ago, and now they're collaborating on a new Amazon Original animated kids series called Do, Re & Mi. The show, which follows best birds Do, Re and Mi as they navigate the world around them while also belting out catchy tunes, is just as educational as it is entertaining.

    On the latest episode of The Motherly Podcast, Bell and Tohn talk to Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety about how they're "sneak teaching" kids with their new show and why music is such an important focal point.

    "It was basically our mission from the very beginning to 'sneak music education' into kids' lives, hands, brains, all of it," Tohn admits.

    "There's so much science and data to support that [music] helps kids, their brains grow with math, with social skills. It literally can change your neuroplasticity. You can put music of their favorite genre or timeframe on, in an Alzheimer's ward, and they will come back online for a couple minutes. I mean, it's crazy," Bell, who has two daughters of her own, adds. "You know, music can bind a lot of families together. It can bind friendships together. And it's just a show that you can feel really good about. We want to get it in front of as many kids as possible, because I don't like the fact that some kids won't have exposure to music. Their brains deserve to grow just as much as everyone else's."

    The first season of Do, Re & Mi premiered on September 17th and its creators recorded 52 different songs for the show that range from reggae and pop to country, blues and jazz.

    "That's what's so exciting about this show," Tohn gushes. "Not only are the lessons we're teaching for everyone, but every episode has a musical genre, a musical lesson and an emotional lesson. And so there really is so much to learn."

    Elsewhere in the episode, Bell tells Tenety about how she made literal toolboxes that carry different regulation tools to help her kids calm down (one is "find a song you love and sing out loud") and why having a village is crucial to surviving motherhood, especially in a pandemic, while Tohn details her special friendship not only with Bell, but with her daughters, too.

    To hear more about the show, Bell's experiences in motherhood, and her enduring friendship with Tohn, listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.

    Entertainment

    12 baby registry essentials for family adventures

    Eager to get out and go? Start here

    Ashley Robertson / @ashleyrobertson

    Parenthood: It's the greatest adventure of all. From those first few outings around the block to family trips at international destinations, there are new experiences to discover around every corner. As you begin the journey, an adventurous spirit can take you far—and the best baby travel gear can help you go even farther.

    With car seats, strollers and travel systems designed to help you confidently get out and go on family adventures, Maxi-Cosi gives you the support you need to make the memories you want.

    As a mom of two, Ashley Robertson says she appreciates how Maxi-Cosi products can grow with her growing family. "For baby gear, safety and ease are always at the top of our list, but I also love how aesthetically pleasing the Maxi Cosi products are," she says. "The Pria Car Seat was our first purchase and it's been so nice to have a car seat that 'grows' with your child. It's also easy to clean—major bonus!"

    If you have big dreams for family adventures, start by exploring these 12 baby registry essentials.

    Tayla™️ XP Travel System

    Flexibility is key for successful family adventures. This reversible, adjustable, all-terrain travel system delivers great versatility. With the included Coral XP Infant Car Seat that fits securely in the nesting system, you can use this stroller from birth.


    Add to Babylist

    $849.99

    Iora Bedside Bassinet

    Great for use at home or for adventures that involve a night away, the collapsible Iora Bedside Bassinet gives your baby a comfortable, safe place to snooze. With five different height positions and three slide positions, this bassinet can fit right by your bedside. The travel bag also makes it easy to take on the go.


    Add to Babylist

    $249.99

    Kori 2-in-1 Rocker

    Made with high-quality, soft materials, the foldable Kori Rocker offers 2-in-1 action by being a rocker or stationary seat. It's easy to move around the home, so you can keep your baby comfortable wherever you go. With a slim folded profile, it's also easy to take along on adventures so your baby always has a seat of their own.


    Add to Babylist

    $119.99

    Minla 6-in-1 High Chair

    A high chair may not come to mind when you're planning ahead for family adventures. But, as the safest spot for your growing baby to eat meals, it's worth bringing along for the ride. With compact folding ability and multiple modes of use that will grow with your little one, it makes for easy cargo.


    Add to Babylist

    $219.99

    Coral XP Infant Car Seat

    With the inner carrier weighing in at just 5 lbs., this incredibly lightweight infant car seat means every outing isn't also an arm workout for you. Another feature you won't find with other infant car seats? In addition to the standard carry bar, the Coral XP can be carried with a flexible handle or cross-body strap.


    Add to Babylist

    $399.99

    Pria™️ All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    From birth through 10 years, this is the one and only car seat you need. It works in rear-facing, forward-facing and, finally, booster mode. Comfortable and secure for every mile of the journey ahead, you can feel good about hitting the road for family fun.


    Add to Babylist

    $289.99

    Pria™️ Max All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

    Want to skip the wrestling match with car seat buckles? The brilliant Out-of-the-Way harness system and magnetic chest clip make getting your child in and out of their buckles as cinch. This fully convertible car seat is suitable for babies from 4 lbs. through big kids up to 100 lbs. With washer-and-dryer safe cushions and dishwasher safe cup holders, you don't need to stress the mess either.


    Add to Babylist

    $329.99

    Tayla Modular Lightweight Stroller

    With four reclining positions, your little ones can stay content—whether they want to lay back for a little shut-eye or sit up and take in the view. Also reversible, the seat can be turned outward or inward if you want to keep an eye on your adventure buddy. Need to pop it in the trunk or take it on the plane? The stroller easily and compactly folds shut.


    Add to Babylist
    $499.99

    Tayla Travel System

    This car seat and stroller combo is the baby travel system that will help make your travel dreams possible from Day 1. The Mico XP infant seat is quick and easy to install into the stroller or car. Skipping the car seat? The reversible stroller seat is a comfortable way to take in the scenery.


    Add to Babylist
    $699.99

    Modern Diaper Bag

    When you need to change a diaper during an outing, the last thing you'll want to do is scramble to find one. The Modern Diaper Bag will help you stay organized for brief outings or week-long family vacations. In addition to the pockets and easy-carry strap, we love the wipeable diaper changing pad, insulated diaper bag and hanging toiletry bag.


    Add to Babylist

    $129.99

    Mico XP Max Infant Car Seat

    Designed for maximum safety and comfort from the very first day, this infant car seat securely locks into the car seat base or compatible strollers. With a comfy infant pillow and luxe materials, it also feels as good for your baby as it looks to you. Not to mention the cushions are all machine washable and dryable, which is a major win for you.


    Add to Babylist
    $299.99

    Adorra™️ 5-in-1 Modular Travel System

    From carriage mode for newborn through world-view seated mode for bigger kids, this 5-in-1 children's travel system truly will help make travel possible. We appreciate the adjustable handlebar, extended canopy with UV protection and locking abilities when it's folded. Your child will appreciate the plush cushions, reclining seat and smooth ride.


    Add to Babylist
    $599.99

    Ready for some family adventures? Start by exploring Maxi-Cosi.

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


    Boost 1

    This incredibly soft comforter from Sunday Citizen is like sleeping on a cloud

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    When it comes to getting a good night's sleep, there are many factors that, as a mama, are hard to control. Who's going to wet the bed at 3 am, how many times a small person is going to need a sip of water, or the volume of your partner's snoring are total wildcards.

    One thing you can control? Tricking out your bed to make it as downright cozy as possible. (And in these times, is there anywhere you want to be than your bed like 75% of the time?)

    I've always been a down comforter sort of girl, but after a week of testing the ridiculously plush and aptly named Snug Comforter from Sunday Citizen, a brand that's run by "curators of soft, seekers of chill" who "believe in comfort over everything," it's safe to say I've been converted.


    Honestly, it's no wonder. Originally designed as a better blanket for luxury hotels and engineered with textile experts to create this uniquely soft fabric, it has made my bed into the vacation I so desperately want these days.

    The comforter is made up of two layers. On one side is their signature knit "snug" fabric which out-cozies even my most beloved (bought on sale) cashmere sweater. The other, a soft quilted microfiber. Together, it creates a weighty blanket that's as soothing to be under as it is to flop face-first into at the end of an exhausting day. Or at lunch. No judgement.

    Miraculously, given the weight and construction, it stays totally breathable and hasn't left me feeling overheated even on these warm summer nights with just a fan in the window.

    Beyond being the absolute most comfortable comforter I've found, it's also answered my minimalist bed making desires. Whether you opt to use it knit or quilted side up, it cleanly pulls the room together and doesn't wrinkle or look unkempt even if you steal a quick nap on top of it.

    Also worth noting, while all that sounds super luxe and totally indulgent, the best part is, it's equally durable. It's made to be easily machine washed and come out the other side as radically soft as ever, forever, which totally helps take the sting out of the price tag.

    My only complaint? I've slept through my alarm twice.

    Here is my top pick from Sunday Citizen, along with the super-soft goods I'm coveting for future purchases.

    Woodland Snug comforter

    Sunday-Citizen-Woodland-Snug-comforter

    The bedroom anchor I've been looking for— the Snug Comforter.

    $249

    Braided Pom Pom Throw

    Because this degree of coziness needs portability, I'm totally putting the throw version on my list. It's washable, which is a must-have given my shedding dog and two spill-prone kiddos who are bound to fight over it during family movie night.

    $145

    Lumbar pillow

    sunday-citizen-lumbar-pillow

    What's a cozy bed without a pile of pillows?

    $65

    Crystal infused sleep mask

    sunday citizen sleep mask

    Promoting sleep by creating total darkness and relaxation, I've bookmarked as my go-to gift for fellow mamas.

    $40

    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

    Shop

    10 Montessori phrases for kids who are struggling with back to school

    The first day of school can be hard for everyone, mama. Here's how to use the Montessori method to help your child adjust.

    No matter how excited your child was to pick out a new lunchbox and backpack this year, there will likely be days when they just don't want to go to school. Whether they're saying "I don't like school" when you're home playing together or having a meltdown on the way to the classroom, there are things you can say to help ease their back-to-school nerves.

    More than the exact words you use, the most important thing is your attitude, which your child is most definitely aware of. It's important to validate their feelings while conveying a calm confidence that school is the right place for them to be and that they can handle it.

    Here are some phrases that will encourage your child to go to school.


    1. "You're safe here."

    If you have a young child, they may be genuinely frightened of leaving you and going to school. Tell them that school is a safe place full of people who care about them. If you say this with calm confidence, they'll believe you. No matter what words you say, if your child senses your hesitation, your own fear of leaving them, they will not feel safe. How can they be safe if you're clearly scared of leaving them? Try to work through your own feelings about dropping them off before the actual day so you can be a calm presence and support.

    2. "I love you and I know you can do this."

    It's best to keep your goodbye short, even if your child is crying or clinging to you, and trust that you have chosen a good place for them to be. Most children recover from hard goodbyes quickly after the parent leaves.

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, give one good strong hug and tell them that you love them and know they can do this. Saying something like, "It's just school, you'll be fine" belittles their feelings. Instead, acknowledge that this is hard, but that you're confident they're up to the task. This validates the anxiety they're feeling while ending on a positive note.

    After a quick reassurance, make your exit, take a deep breath and trust that they will be okay.

    3. "First you'll have circle time, then work time, and then you'll play on the playground."

    Talk your child through the daily schedule at school, including as many details as possible. Talk about what will happen when you drop them off, what kinds of work they will do, when they will eat lunch and play outside, and who will come to get them in the afternoon.

    It can help to do this many times so that they become comfortable with the new daily rhythm.

    4. "I'll pick you up after playground time."

    Give your child a frame of reference for when you will be returning.

    If your child can tell time, you can tell them you'll see them at 3:30pm. If they're younger, tell them what will happen right before you pick them up. Perhaps you'll come get them right after lunch, or maybe it's after math class.

    Giving this reference point can help reassure them you are indeed coming back and that there is a specific plan for when they will see you again. As the days pass, they'll realize that you come consistently every day when you said you would and their anxieties will ease.

    5. "What book do you think your teacher will read when you get to school this morning?"

    Find out what happens first in your child's school day and help them mentally transition to that task. In a Montessori school, the children choose their own work, so you might ask about which work your child plans to do first.

    If they're in a more traditional school, find an aspect of the school morning they enjoy and talk about that.

    Thinking about the whole school day can seem daunting, but helping your child focus on a specific thing that will happen can make it seem more manageable.

    6. "Do you think Johnny will be there today?"

    Remind your child of the friends they will see when they get to school.

    If you're not sure who your child is bonding with, ask the teacher. On the way to school, talk about the children they can expect to see and try asking what they might do together.

    If your child is new to the school, it might help to arrange a playdate with a child in their class to help them form strong relationships.

    7. "That's a hard feeling. Tell me about it."

    While school drop-off is not the time to wallow in the hard feelings of not wanting to go to school, if your child brings up concerns after school or on the weekend, take some time to listen to them.

    Children can very easily be swayed by our leading questions, so keep your questions very general and neutral so that your child can tell you what they're really feeling.

    They may reveal that they just miss you while they're gone, or may tell you that a certain person or kind of work is giving them anxiety.

    Let them know that you empathize with how they feel, but try not to react too dramatically. If you think there is an issue of real concern, talk to the teacher about it, but your reaction can certainly impact the already tentative feelings about going to school.

    8. "What can we do to help you feel better?"

    Help your child brainstorm some solutions to make them more comfortable with going to school.

    Choose a time at home when they are calm. Get out a pen and paper to show that you are serious about this.

    If they miss you, would a special note in their pocket each morning help? If another child is bothering them, what could they say or who could they ask for help? If they're too tired in the morning, could an earlier bedtime make them feel better?

    Make it a collaborative process, rather than a situation where you're rescuing them, to build their confidence.

    9. "What was the best part of your school day?"

    Choose a time when your child is not talking about school and start talking about your day. Tell them the best part of your day, then try asking about the best part of their day. Practice this every day.

    It's easy to focus on the hardest parts of an experience because they tend to stick out in our minds. Help your child recognize that, even if they don't always want to go, there are likely parts of school they really enjoy.

    10. "I can't wait to go to the park together when we get home."

    If your child is having a hard time saying goodbye, remind them of what you will do together after you pick them up from school.

    Even if this is just going home and making dinner, what your child likely craves is time together with you, so help them remember that it's coming.

    It is totally normal for children to go through phases when they don't want to go to school. If you're concerned, talk to your child's teacher and ask if they seem happy and engaged once they're in the classroom.

    To your child, be there to listen, to help when you can, and to reassure them that their feelings are natural and that they are so capable of facing the challenges of the school day, even when it seems hard.

    Back to School

    Yes, a shower can be self-care—here's how to level it up

    Some seasons of life can make you feel like you have no time for self-care, so here's how you can make an everyday activity a luxury.

    Getty

    Over the course of the last several years, "self-care" has become not only a buzzword, but also a daily requirement for personal fulfillment. And while self-care is important, it loses its appeal when it feels like a chore, or yet another item on a never-ending To Do list. I have a one-year-old son and a three-year-old daughter. I work full-time, and I do not have full-time childcare. As a result, like many parents, free time is the stuff of fairy tales.

    Instead of beating myself up over my inability to get to the nail salon or to schedule a monthly massage, I decided to redefine self-care—to be grateful for the little moments, to elevate them. In the seasons of life where you can't figure out how to fit "self-care" in—or when trying to fit it in causes more stress—choose to relish the small escapes. After all, the intent of self-care is to feel better, to improve your overall health, to fill your cup so you can help to fill others. When the act of scheduling self-care puts more weight on your shoulders, it defeats the purpose.

    I can't tell you how many articles I've read that say a shower—basic hygiene—shouldn't qualify as self-care, and I do understand that sentiment.

    However, on the days, weeks, or even months where you can't find hour-long blocks of scheduled "me time," why not embrace your shower as an act of self-care?



    In all honesty, my nightly shower after my kids go to sleep is beyond. I look forward to it. I set the mood and bask in 10-15 minutes of silence and pampering. Here are some of my tried-and-true tips to boost your shower:


    • Light a candle: What is it about the simple act of lighting a candle that sets the mood? I recently received a South Candle from my MIL, and the dreamy summer scent has me reaching for it again and again.
    • Use a dry brush: I jumped on the dry brushing trend a few years ago and never looked back. Right before I shower, I use a dry brush on my body to exfoliate and improve lymphatic drainage.
    • Hang eucalyptus: Visit your local florist, and buy a bundle of fresh eucalyptus. In addition to its spa-esque scent, eucalyptus boasts multiple healing effects, like promoting stress-relief and improving mental health.
    • Cleanse: Indie Lee's Brightening Cleanser smells delicious and is a great addition to anyone's summer skincare routine. This vegan and plant-based formula leaves my skin looking bright and firm.
    • Splurge: It's not cheap, but Tata Harper's smoothing body scrub buffs and polishes your skin, leaving it smooth, glowing, and in my case — ready to hit the sheets!
    • Moisturize: Post-shower, use your favorite moisturizer. I love Alba Botanica's very emollient unscented original body lotion — it's super hydrating and gentle on sensitive skin without an overwhelming fragrance.
    • Enhance your skin while you catch some z's: Glow Recipe's Watermelon + AHA Glow Sleeping Mask completes my nightly skincare routine. It smells like candy, and I wake up with soft, dewy skin.

    Moral of the story? For busy parents, your nightly shower is a special occasion, so don't save the good products for another day—use them now!

    Elevating the little moments and being creative carries over to all other areas of your life as well. Can't make it to a barre class? Slide into bridge pose while on the floor with the kiddos and do some hip raises. Turn a dance party into a quick HIIT workout with some squat jumps. Take the kiddos for a walk and pop in your airpods. Fresh air, movement, and a podcast fuels my soul. Having trouble finding a sitter for date night? Enhance your "Netflix and chill" with restaurant-quality cocktails, fancy popcorn, and a bougie dessert.

    In certain seasons of life, recognize self-care in the little moments. It's not worth stressing about your inability to practice an idealistic—and unrealistic—self-care routine. Instead, find the moment, elevate it, and enjoy it.

    Beauty Style

    Mom rage is real—and it's a sign that mothers' needs aren't being met

    The truth is, anger—real, fist-clenching, heart-racing, uncontrollable anger—is so much more common among mothers than many of us think.

    Maternal anger takes most women who experience it by surprise. I'm not this person, we say, after feeling a shocking swell of rage during one of those inevitable moments of frustration we all face as a parent.

    I never thought I'd be "that mom" who yells at her family, we say, after snapping and yelling at our toddler.

    I don't recognize myself when I feel like this—and I feel like this more than I want to, we say, when we realize that our anger isn't a temporary, one-time thing but an undercurrent in our day-to-day, an undeniable presence like a shadow.

    The truth is, anger—real, fist-clenching, heart-racing, uncontrollable anger—is so much more common among mothers than many of us think. And it's time to talk about what "mom rage" is, where it comes from, and what we can do about it.


    What maternal anger is

    Maternal anger is one symptom of postpartum depression and anxiety.

    One in 9 women experience some form of postpartum depression or anxiety, but anger may not be the first symptom we think of—we're far more likely to imagine PPDA as persistent feelings of sadness or numbness.

    "Women are more informed than ever about what to be on the lookout for after baby arrives: sadness that lasts beyond the first two weeks, difficulty sleeping when baby is sleeping, intrusive thoughts, excessive crying and trouble bonding with baby, just to name a few symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety," as clinical therapist Wendy Snyder notes. "But there is one symptom that still receives very little attention: postpartum rage."

    Here's what moms should know about postpartum rage, and why it's so incredibly common but often overlooked.

    Maternal anger is a symptom of anxiety well beyond the postpartum period, too.

    Anxiety is practically written into our job description as parents: We worry about our children's health, their development, their happiness. We also worry about ourselves, both as parents and as individuals: Am I doing this parenting thing right? Am I too much defined by motherhood—or not enough? Am I still myself?

    Anger is one way in which parental anxiety tends to express itself. This is especially the case if we don't have a regular way to release our worries and fears—self-care rituals that sustain us, a supportive partner, an understanding friend group or a rock-solid therapist.

    "Motherhood is one of those knock-you-over-the-head-with-a-2x4 experiences that tends to bring us face to face with our issues," notes clinical mental health counselor Margaret Sky. "For example, many parents have deep-seated fears about something terrible happening to their children. This fear can manifest as anxiety or even as anger. When my toddler ran out into the parking lot recently, I instantly felt flooded with rage, but beneath the anger was fear and anxiety."

    Here's what moms should know about the relationship between anxiety and anger.

    Maternal anger can be a stress response to our kids' negative behaviors.

    "When your child is experiencing a meltdown, you can become very frustrated...and most of the time it just doesn't come out in a very healthy way," says Brandy Wells, a licensed social worker specializing in childhood mental health. Our emotional reaction to our child's tantrums, meltdowns and negative behaviors is a stress response that can look and feel like anger. This anger can even become a cycle, where your child's behavior triggers your own emotional stress response, which in turn triggers more tantrums and negative behaviors.

    "Get in touch with how you react to stress in general, but especially in front of your child," suggests Tomi Akitunde, founder of Mater Mea. "When someone cuts you off in traffic, are you yelling and hitting your steering wheel? Are you and your partner prone to huffing and puffing when confronted with an inconvenience? Do you talk about your feelings or keep things bottled up until you explode? Kids pick up everything—and that includes these cues on expressing emotions."

    Here's what moms should know about the relationship between maternal anger and negative behaviors in our children.

    Maternal anger is a symptom and an expression of grief.

    We are all grieving losses on so many levels during this pandemic—we miss our parents and our friends, we miss our old lives, we miss our sense of security, we miss our old social supports. We miss the experiences we should have had. We miss childcare. When you think about all the changes the pandemic has caused, it's normal to feel grief.

    One of the ways grief expresses itself, in both children and in adults, is anger. Here's what moms should know about the connection between grief and anger.

    Maternal anger is an all-too-human response to the many ways our society fails moms.

    Ever notice how anger is sometimes triggered by seemingly small things—that are really connected to much bigger things? You're not really furious at your toddler for eating their breakfast too slow. You're anxious and exasperated because of the chain reaction that gets set off when your toddler fights you over eating breakfast: You're late getting out the door, which means you're hustling for time just to be late for day care dropoff, and late for work, where you already feel stressed, unsupported and under fire as a working mother. It's not about the peanut butter toast.

    Inaction from our partners can also trigger rage that seems out of proportion—until you consider the context. Your tearful fury when your partner drops their dishes in the sink while ignoring the dishwasher two inches away isn't actually about the dishes. It's about the mental load of motherhood. Among the thousands of other ways you're seeing around corners every day, you can't be the only person in the house who remembers to load the dishwasher when you're also the only person in the house who pays attention to when you're about to run out of dishwashing detergent. You'd have to be superhuman not to be angry about the level of invisible labor moms shoulder.

    This lack of support for mothers is a systemic issue, and the pandemic has brought it to new extremes. "We're asking all parents, but it's especially moms on the front lines, to try to do 24/7 child care without a break at the same time that they're trying to often hold down a job," says parenting expert and clinical psychologist Laura Markham, Ph.D. "So, is there more mom rage? How could there not be?"

    Here's what experts say about how moms—already overburdened and under-supported—are entering a whole new level of burnout caused by a lack of societal support during the pandemic.

    What we can do about maternal anger

    Acknowledge it

    We can't ignore it away. We can't pretend it's not there. We need to acknowledge and name anger. It's an emotion that so many moms feel, for so many reasons, in so many ways—and our first step in dealing with anger in a healthy way is to name it.

    Rebecca Eanes, author of Positive Parenting, suggests that taking ownership of our own emotions is the key to processing anger in a healthy way: When you feel angry, say, "I'm feeling angry right now, and I need to calm down."

    Talk about it

    "Many of us struggle with knowing what to do with our anger," according to couples' therapist Vienna Pharaon. "We either see red and then release it without any pause, or we shame ourselves out of expressing it at all."

    As one mom who wrote for Motherly about her experience with postpartum rage put it, "Why doesn't anyone ever talk about the anger? I mean, it's embarrassing—I get it. No one wants to post a picture to their Instagram feed captioned, "This is what it looks like after you scream at your kids!"

    Moms, we need to be able to talk about our anger with other women in a judgement-free way. We need to be able to talk about our anger with our partners in a constructive way. And we need to be able to model a positive response to "big emotions" like anger for our children.

    Sit with it

    "Allowing our emotions to be what they are has a wonderful side-effect; we start to realize our emotions aren't as scary as they once seemed, and that they don't have to run the show," notes Sky. "Often, our undesired emotions lose power and strength when we're not denying them or feeding them, but simply observing them without judgment." Rather than pushing anger aside or under the rug, allow it to be what it is—and then move to heal it.

    Anticipate it

    "It can be helpful to keep a journal about your emotions and responses," says Eanes. "Just by bringing awareness to the things that cause you to feel angry, you take away some of its power. We are often armed with our triggers in childhood. For example, if you were told often to 'quit crying' as a child, then hearing a child whine or cry may bring up uncomfortable feelings for you, perhaps even sadness. Anger is often the mask that sadness hides behind."

    "Before we are angry we are ALWAYS something else," Pharaon writes. "Think of anger as a secondary emotion. Before we feel angry we might feel abandoned, embarrassed or betrayed, but because we tend to go from zero to 100 so quickly it's hard for us to actually connect to our pain."

    Redirect it

    "Find whatever it is that helps you calm down in the midst of a heated moment," says positive parenting author Katie Mertes. "This will be different for everyone; it could be taking some deep breaths, stepping away from your child, or taking a break." If nothing else, keep this list of calming phrases for moments of anger tucked away in a note on your phone so you can read it when you're hiding in the bathroom silent-screaming into the towels.

    You can also work on reframing angry thoughts to defuse and redirect anger, suggests Eanes. "For example, if you often think, 'My kid whines about everything!' then those words will fuel your negative emotions. However, if you consciously choose to replace that with a more positive or accurate thought, then the anger has space to dissipate. Try 'My child is having a hard time and needs my help.' With consistency, you'll begin to automatically think gentler thoughts, and your responses will be more positive."

    Get help

    "Remember, if anger is less like the weather, which comes and goes, but more like the climate—"I feel like I am almost always angry"—then it might be helpful to talk about what's going on with a qualified mental health professional," says psychologist Kellie Edwards."So often past experiences can trigger emotions we can't quite manage and we can feel stuck in automatic reactions. It doesn't have to be that way and you don't need to go through that alone. Seeking help with difficult emotions is a gift to you and your family."

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