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The other day I stood in my driveway crying, with my 2-year-old daughter screaming and sobbing. All I could gather was that she didn’t like my shirt and no longer liked her car seat.


We had just had a 30-minute meltdown inside the house, too—and I was frustrated because I really needed to get to work. I was tired, with a mix of mom brain and new pregnancy hormones.

I bribed her with a sucker and threatened to take away something that I don’t even remember. It didn’t work.

I gave her hugs and gave her space and had no feedback of which was better.

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Finally it became clear: My options were to connect or disconnect.

I thought about which one I would want when I feel emotional and sad. Connection. I repeated quietly to her, “I’m right here with you. I love you.” When she hit me, I stepped back a little and said, “I can’t let you hurt me. I’m still right here with you. I’m ready to help you whenever you’re ready.”

After a little while I thought, “Dang, that didn’t work, now what?” And right then, she lifted her little arms up to me and said, “I need you mommy, I’m ready.” I hugged her, we connected, and I felt like I really showed her that I would be with her through everything. I honestly felt like we’d just gotten through a hurricane and come out into the sunshine. She smiled, got in her car seat and we were on our way.

That sounds like a great ending, right? It was. But I wish that meant it always happens like that. I have no idea why sometimes that works, and sometimes the only thing that works is a sucker, or distraction or someone else taking over.

I’m not a perfect mom, or even a really amazing mom—just a regular mom who is still new and learning every day. But I do have one added bonus that has given me a different perspective: I’ve been a mental health therapist for almost five times longer than I’ve been a mom, which has taught me a lot.

1. What we say and do matters more than we know right now

Everything we say and do has an impact, especially to our children. Children’s brains operate as if they’re looking into a mirror; whatever the world shows them about themselves is what they believe to be true.

As a therapist, I mainly work with depression and trauma. I do a particular type of therapy that focuses on identifying negative cognitions (thoughts and beliefs) and then exploring and healing the root of those beliefs, whether they are from a big trauma or “little” trauma. Clients often come to therapy identifying that these beliefs stemmed from a big event, but when we really process it, they are sometimes able to identify that the very first time they felt that way was an interaction with a parent.

It could be a parent saying something like:

“You’re never going to make it in life.”

“I liked it better when you were little and didn’t talk.”

“I can’t believe you did that, I’m embarrassed that you’re my child.”

And even, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now.” (I always recommend, “I don’t like your choice right now, but I always love you.”)

If you’re a new mom gazing into your sweet baby’s eyes, you’re thinking, “I would never say those things to my child!” Let me tell you, good parents sometimes say things they don’t mean when they’re pushed to their limits. Even if you don’t mean it, those words hurt your child and sticks with them.

2. It’s never too late to make things better

That first one is kind of scary, right? So much pressure!

But wait—there’s good news! Teaching your children that you can make mistakes, take responsibility, apologize and demonstrate change is extremely important. And what better way to do that than by example? Starting when they’re little, it’s important to go back and say something like, “I yelled when I felt mad, and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled and I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.”

Then show by example that you’re trying. Next time you feel like yelling, it’s OK to take a parent time out, and say to your child, “I feel frustrated by _____, I’m going to take a break, and then we’ll come back and talk about this.”

Imagine how great it would be if, when they’re teens, they’re able to recognize they’re in the midst of making a bad choice, stop themselves and reach out for help from you? The goal isn’t for people to never make bad choices, it’s to be able to recognize that and make a U-turn.

3. Connection is our greatest tool

Imagine you’re having a really tough day. Maybe you made a mistake at work or someone was really mean to you. Maybe it’s huge or maybe you’re even overreacting—it doesn’t matter. You sit on the couch and cry. You can’t even help it, the tears just come out and you can hardly speak. Imagine your partner comes in, your main support person, and they tell you that you need to calm down or they’re going to leave you alone until you can calm down. They walk out of the room and leave you there alone, maybe even yell at you on the way out.

Ouch! I know for me personally, some of that sadness would turn to major hurt, resentment and anger.

“How can you leave me when I really need you? I can’t just ‘calm down,’ I need a hug!” That’s how our developed adult brains react, so imagine how a toddler’s brain reacts.

It’s scary for them to feel out of control and then all alone in that feeling. Even if it’s just because they didn’t get the blue cup—it’s real sadness and hurt in that moment for them. If we send toddlers to be by themselves and calm themselves down when they’re upset, how can we expect them to come to us as teens when they really need advice and support? It’s no wonder teenagers keep it to themselves and hide in their rooms. It’s what they’ve often been taught to do.

So, what can you do to connect and teach your children they can talk to you? Well, that’s a magic answer that really needs a whole book, but No. 4 is a good start.

4. Being able to express feelings, instead of suppress them, is a great lifelong skill

“You’re OK.”

“Don’t cry.”

“Calm down.”

They all seem well meaning, right? But are they helpful in the long run? My opinion is no. Is it helpful for you when someone says it to you? It’s not helpful to me. Even at 2 years old, if my husband or I say to our daughter, “You’re OK,” she quickly says between tears, “No, I’m not!” And she’s right. If she were OK she wouldn’t be crying! If she could just calm down and stop crying, she probably would have done that, because she certainly isn’t enjoying feeling like that.

Pointing out to children, “It looks like you're mad because _____. That’s OK to feel mad. What can we do that will help?” teaches them to recognize emotions, label them and create a plan. This is most helpful when they’re not in full on meltdown mode, because once they get to that point they can’t come up with a solution.

In meltdown mode, establishing expectations and connections are key:

“I can’t let you hit me, but I’m right here with you when you’re ready.”

“I see you feel sad, that’s OK.”

“It’s OK to be sad and mad; it’s not OK to be mean to other people when you’re sad or mad.”

“Tell me where you want me to stay while I wait for you to be ready for help; I can sit next to you or right over here.”

These all show that you’re there with your child through everything, you see how they’re feeling, you hear them, it’s OK to feel any of those feelings, and there are still expectations for not hurting others. When we inadvertently teach our children that “it’s OK” when they actually don’t feel OK, or that they just need to quickly calm down, we are teaching them not to recognize their own feelings and actually deal with them. When those kids become adults, they often freeze or flee in tough situations because they don’t know how to be in it, feel it and move forward with a plan.

I know, this feels like a lot of pressure, and it’s so much easier said than done. Refer back to No. 2—it’s never too late to make things better.

And remember, even people who are supposed to be experts in emotions and connections sometimes just bribe their kids with a sucker or an episode of Doc McStuffins to get through the day. Take a deep breath and hang in there—I’m right there with you.

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Caring for young children can be challenging enough on a perfectly normal day, but during an emergency those challenges are magnified. Natural disasters and emergencies—such as earthquakes, storms, fires, power outages, flooding or outbreaks that affect a wide community—obviously present a major operational challenge for childcare programs.

That's why childcare providers need to have preparedness plans for emergencies and natural disasters that are likely to occur in their communities. Be sure to discuss emergency planning with your day care, childcare program or after-school care provider.

Here are a few helpful questions to ask to make sure that your child's day care or childcare is ready for emergencies.

1. Does the parent handbook cover emergency planning? Is it up to date?

The parent handbook should serve as a guide for everything that takes place in a childcare program, from drop-off protocols to nap schedules, and it should also include information about the program's emergency plans, response, and recovery. As situations change or arise, the parent handbook should be updated accordingly.

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2. What is your communication plan for emergencies or disasters?

While 90% of childcare providers have written emergency response plans, only 70% have plans to communicate with family members during an emergency. Your provider should outline its plan of communication in its parent handbook.

3. Do you perform drills for disasters that are likely to occur in our area?

Ask whether your day care or childcare program has practiced its emergency response plans in a calm, safe environment—in other words, before it's necessary.

4. What is your evacuation plan?

In the rare event that an evacuation is necessary, it's important for providers to include up-to-date evacuation drills and protocols in the parent handbook. Caregivers, staff, parents and children should all know the designated meet-up point during a community evacuation.

5. Do you have a safe, designated evacuation spot in the event of a community evacuation?

Once staff and children calmly evacuate the building, there needs to be a safe shelter-in-place spot nearby. This location should be kid-friendly and have plenty of food, water and ways to keep young children occupied. The location should also be able to accommodate children with special needs and those with medical requirements.

6. What is your shelter-in-place plan?

During an emergency where parents are unable to access roads or public transportation, childcare programs need to have a shelter-in-place plan. Whether children stay at the facility or evacuate to a safe spot nearby, providers need to keep at least 72 hours worth of food, water, and medical supplies up to date. The program should also have parents write notes in advance letting children know that everything is okay.

7. Do you have post-disaster plans?

According to FEMA, more than 40% of businesses do not reopen after a disaster. If childcare programs close, parents cannot return to work and recovery cannot begin. Also, young children need a safe, secure, and familiar place to return to after a disaster.

8. How do you discuss emergencies in an age-appropriate manner with children?

A great way for care providers to introduce the concept of emergency plans to children is to have them help create emergency kits. This way children become familiar with emergency response items. Teachers should also let parents know how they plan to talk to children about emergencies in advance.

9. What are your policies for closing?

Childcare providers must give advance warning to parents about closures if there is an impending weather emergency. If roadways near the childcare program are typically out of use during an emergency, both parents and staff need to map out secondary pick-up plans in advance.

10. Are you in touch with local preparedness organizations?

Local emergency organizations can provide advice and tips to prepare for an emergency or natural disaster. Parents, care providers and community organizations should meet regularly and have the most recent copies of the parent handbook.

According to FEMA, in 2019 alone, there were 59 declared disasters in the U.S. These emergencies include earthquakes, tropical storms, fires, floods, severe storms, tornadoes, landslides, mudslides, extreme wind, and snowstorms. But basic advance preparation can go a long way toward helping parents and caregivers feel ready for emergencies and disasters, and can ensure that families and care providers stay safe.

A version of this post was originally published at the Institute for Childhood Preparedness

Learn + Play

The transition to motherhood is tough, and you deserve a little love! Join us March 28th for Motherly's Becoming Mama event in NYC for a day filled with conversations and connections that will leave you feeling inspired. Get advice from expert panels, indulge in a little pampering, and meet other local mamas IRL for a day of empowerment and support.


Register now for early-bird pricing, and access to limited VIP tickets with exclusive gift bags.

Here's what you can expect:

  • A mindful mama meditation to start your day.
  • Interactive panels and workshops focused on the hottest topics for new moms and moms-to-be. Check them out below!
  • A healthy lunch + delicious snacks
  • Pregnancy + postpartum pampering
  • Personalized gifts for you + your baby
  • The chance to test the hottest baby gear on the market
  • A swag bag filled with surprises
  • Amazing giveaways from our brand partners

Sat, March 28, 2020
10 am-2:30 pm
SECOND.
849 6th Ave
New York, NY 10001

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Here's what we'll be talking about on our panels:

Navigating the Fourth Trimester: Self-Care for Mom
While having a baby is a joyous occasion it often involves mom putting her own health on hold and speeding into overdrive to care for baby. Here postpartum experts will discuss the importance of postpartum mental wellness, and the importance of asking for help and finding support.

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The Motherhood Advantage sponsored by Medela
Motherhood brings so many advantages to the workplace, and yet, it's still a topic often talked about in hushed voices. We'll invite Medela to sponsor this very important panel that will evolve this working mom conversation. Together we can work to erase the Motherhood Penalty, support moms with the proper tools and lift each other up in the workplace.

Parenting in Partnership: Learning to Share the Load
There's never been a more equitable time to be a parent, and yet so many mothers still feel like they're carrying more than their fair share. Let's talk about how to create a parenting team from the start, with tips, tricks and expert advice on leveling the playing field between parenting partners.

*While many of Motherly's events are family focused, there will not be specific activities or play spaces for babies or kids. This event is more mom-focused. Babies under 1 are welcome at this event, but a baby carrier is suggested. Please use your discretion.

Thank you to our sponsors buybuy Baby and Medela.

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When I think about Meghan Markle, her effortless style is usually one of the the first things that comes to mind. Whether she's traveling, taking her dogs for a walk, or attending a royal event, her outfits always look timeless and put together. Yet somehow she still manages to wear outfits that feel way more accessible (even when she is donning a gorgeous—but expensive—coat we've had in our cart for much longer than we care to admit).

While I can't quite afford a personal stylist yet or drop a few thousand on a bag, I did do a little digging and found that a few of her wardrobe staples are items that I can add to my closet, with a little investment. And, if you're not in the market to invest this much, don't worry—I found dupes that will do the trick!

Here are our favorite products to achieve Meghan Markle's classic mom style:

Meghan's pick: Rothy's flats

rothys flat

Confession: I own a lot of shoes. But I wear my Rothy's at least once a week and they're the first shoe I toss into my luggage when I'm traveling because they're so comfortable and can be machine-washed. The Point is my (and apparently Meghan Markle's) favorite style because it elongates the legs and goes with literally anything you wear. I love that they're made from recycled plastic water bottles, too. And, they just launched the Mary Jane—it has a bow!—if you prefer a more dainty look with a fun twist.

$145

Our dupe: ASOS ballet flats

asos black pointed toe

This pointed pair will give a similar elongated look at just $23. They come in half sizes and if you're unsure which size is best, ASOS offers a sizing recommendation. The material isn't machine-washable (like our prized Rothy's) but you can wipe these clean with a damp cloth to keep them looking like new.

$23

Meghan's pick: Wool wrap jacket

meghan markle wool coat

There's just something so elegant about this coat. Maybe it's the wrap waist that flatters any body type. Or, it's the way the collared neck drapes (seriously it'll even make wearing pajamas look chic). It's become one of the most recognized pieces from Meghan's wardrobe and we are obsessed.

$750

Our dupe: Tahari wool blend coat

tahari wool blend cape coat

Looking for something more affordable? This coat is marked down to $83 from $360 at Nordstrom Rack. While we haven't personally tried it, at 77% off, we can bet the quality is pretty up to par with a higher-end jacket. Plus, we're obsessed with the pale blue and port wine colorways. The removable waist tie belt and shoulder cape overlay will have you feeling like Meghan Markle in just about anything.

Bonus: We love this Amazon dupe that's just under $80.

$82.48

Meghan's pick: Longchamp bag

longchamp bag

On the quest for a bag that holds just about everything you need (without having to be a diaper bag)? Say hello to the Longchamp 'Le Pliage' tote. It's water-resistant, has durable leather straps and folds up into a square for each storage or packing. I've had mine for more than five years and it's still going strong—and it's schlepped a lot of heavy things over the years. Plus, it just looks nice with everything!

$125

Our dupe: Amazon shoulder bag

longchamp knock off bag

This dupe on Amazon has 59 great reviews and the large size is under $30! With three sizes, you can pick whatever best fits your style. Each bag comes with a zippered main compartment and interior pockets and yes, it even folds up just like the real thing.

$27.99

Meghan's pick: Birdies slippers

birdies slippers

Are they house slippers or the most comfortable flats you've owned? Spoiler alert: They're both. Meghan has been spotted wearing The Heron style (I've been spotted wearing the slides around my apartment all day) many times and we think the velvet detail dresses up just about anything, even leggings. The no-slip rubber sole and 7-layer support means you can run around in these all day long without missing a beat.

$95

Our dupe: Chase & Chloe pointy loafer

pointy toe loafer

While you won't experience the cloud-like softness of Birdies, you can achieve a similar look with this pair from Nordstrom Rack for under $20. Both black and tan pairs come with a padded footbed, grip sole and a flexible construction (so hopefully no blisters even from day one).

$19.97

Meghan's pick: Madewell denim jacket

madewell denim jacket

I didn't own a denim jacket until last year and since then, I've worn it in just about every season. Over summer dresses, paired with a T-shirt, over a blouse, you name it. It add just enough extra warmth without having to put on something bulky and is machine-washable. For an extra-cool and Meghan Markle factor, roughly roll up the sleeves twice.

$118

Our dupe: Old Navy denim jacket

old navy denim jacket

Grab this $30 distressed denim look at Old Navy. I'm not sure how they do it, but their denim jackets are *so* soft. This one is slightly fitted so size up if you're looking for a more oversized look. Just like the Madewell one, this hits right below the waist, making it great to pair with pants or dresses.

$35

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