Wakes Up Too Frequently

Like adults, children can wake up in the night.  They may do so for any number of reasons, depending on their age, health and unique characteristics. However, when a child awakens in the night, other members of the household may be disturbed (i.e. siblings sleeping nearby or parents in their own room). If nighttime awakenings happen only on rare occasions, it’s not a big problem. But what if a child routinely wakens in the night and does so more than one time?

If your child wakes up too frequently, consider the following tips:

Babies Naturally Wake Up Often
Newborns and infants wake to feed every 90 minutes or so. There’s not much that can be done for this age group; they’re SUPPOSED to wake up in the night every couple of hours. The best solution for tired parents is to try to catch a few naps in the daytime. Sleep when the baby sleeps in those early weeks and for as long as you can manage it. Some people are able to afford night nurses so that they can sleep through those night wakings, but many cannot. Some couples trade off in the night, so that each one only loses half the sleep. Some people take the newborn into bed with them, finding this less exhausting than having to get out of bed and walk down the hall to another room, or even to get out of bed and go to the baby’s cradle in the same room. Some folks can afford daytime help that allows them to take a generous snooze in daylight hours. Those who have only the one baby or other kids in school, can and should try to nap when the baby naps. The good news is that this stage of life eventually passes and babies will sleep for longer stretches. Some babies will actually sleep right through the night from 8 or 9 months of age. Some will accomplish this later – say at 14 or 16 months. And some, will not sleep right through the night until they are 6 years old!

Toddlers Still Seek Parental Comfort at Night
While some toddlers sleep through the night without interruption, there are many who don’t. In this latter group, some children awaken just once and then settle back to sleep for the night. Some want a little parental presence, while some want a lot (i.e. they want to climb into the parents’ bed). If parents provide that presence (either by letting him in their bed or by patting him back to sleep), some of these little ones will just go back to sleep for the rest of the night. If you are fine with that, go ahead and let it happen. All kids eventually outgrow the need and desire to sleep in their parents’ bed. However, if you prefer to train your child to stay in his own room for the duration of the night, you will have to do a bit of nighttime sleep training.

To begin with, you need to understand that parental touch and presence is comforting and pleasant for small children. When little kids enter a light sleep cycle, they often call out for this touch or presence. If parents are willing to pat the child back to sleep, or talk to him or hold him and rock him, then the little night-waker may expect this service each time he wakes up in the night. In order not to have to provide it, you will want to create a scenario in which the child must soothe HIMSELF back to sleep. Once you accomplish that, the little one will put himself back to sleep after waking in the night.

Parental Consistency is Key
Put your little one to bed in the usual way. Provide a night light, soft toy and other comforts and then leave the room. If the child wakes up and calls for you, you can come to the room – but do not pick up the child or touch him. Simply tell him that it’s late and he should go back to sleep. Then leave. If he calls again, wait a bit and then come back and tell him the same thing. Don’t stand too close – it’s best to stand in the doorway. Each time he calls for you, wait a little longer before coming. The idea is to provide reassuring presence without providing reinforcing contact. When the child figures out that he’s not going to get much out of this and it’s getting to be hard work for little payoff, he usually stops calling for parents and just stays asleep. Keep in mind that if you decide to do this with your child, you cannot interrupt the process by taking the child into your bed. Some parents make exceptions and let the child come into their bed when he is sick or when he has been crying for a long time or even when THEY are just too tired to deal with it. Providing these exceptions causes the child to learn that it’s worth staying up and screaming for as long as possible because it might just yield some positive results! If you take the child into your room even once in awhile, it can become impossible to get him to stop waking up in the night.

School-Aged Children Wake for Different Reasons
When bigger children are waking up frequently in the night, there is something wrong. Some kids are fearful of sleeping in their own room or being separated from their parents. Whereas such feelings are common for two and three year-olds, their existence in kids over six might indicate the presence of some anxiety. A mental health professional should be consulted. Some kids wake up because of various health problems. Always have a pediatrician do a full workup to determine if a physical condition is causing the frequent waking. For instance, it is possible that the child suffers from a breathing difficulty known as “sleep apnea.” If doctors have agreed that there is no emotional or physical cause for frequent nighttime awakenings, then you can safely use behavioral interventions to help the child. As for younger children, make it clear that you expect the child to stay in his or her own room. Let the child know that YOU need your sleep and you will NOT be tending to his or her needs once it’s night. Provide the child with books, crayons or puzzles to entertain him or herself with, should awakening occur. Make it clear that no one can be disturbed, including other children in the house. When the child sees that everyone is sleeping and no one is coming to look after him or her, the child usually decides to stay asleep. However, if your child insists on coming into your room and disturbing you, feel free to inform him or her that causing you to wake up will result in a (significant) negative consequence the next day. If necessary, be sure to apply the consequence (show the child you mean business!). Be consistent. Apply the consequence each day that follows night time disturbance. Hopefully, the child will soon get your point. If he or she fails to learn, see a professional counselor for further suggestions.

Premature Babies

The birth of a premature baby can bring mixed emotions: the joy of the newborn’s arrival and the worry over health issues. Sometimes, when the premature birth is completely unexpected, there is also a feeling of shock and panic. Will the baby survive? Will she be alright? Indeed, some premature babies literally have to fight for their life in a neonatal intensive care unit. Some parents feel responsible: did we do something wrong while pregnant? Even when the early birth is clearly accepted as out of the parent’s control, parents may begin to feel the pressure that accompanies caring for any “special needs” child. They know their child is more fragile than an average infant and may face more developmental challenges. Their radar goes up – they are more vigilant. Since caring for a full term baby is already an intensive, exhausting process, it is easy to imagine how caring for a premature baby can sometimes challenge parents to their max.

If you are the parent of a premature infant who has health issues, take heart: both the survival rate and the prognosis for healthy development among preemies is now excellent. With the right medical intervention and adequate postnatal care, preemies tend to do very well indeed. Although your task might feel overwhelming at first, it will get easier (if you can call parenting a baby “easy” at any stage!). Let’s take a closer look at the phenomenon of premature births:

What is a Premature Baby?
A baby is considered premature when he or she is born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. It is estimated that around 500,000 babies (or about 9%) of live births in America each year are premature. Because preemies are born ahead of schedule, it is possible that they will suffer from temporary health concerns brought about by inadequate pre-natal development. The bigger the gap between actual and anticipated birth date, the more serious the health problems tend to be. However, because of the sophistication of modern medical interventions, almost all such health issues can be adequately addressed. Indeed, almost all preemies survive their initial struggle and grow up to be indistinguishable from the rest of the population.

Common Health Issues of Premature Babies
A common health condition of preemies is hyperbilirubinemia affecting 80% of prematurely born infants. Babies with hyperbilirubinemia have a high amount of bilirubin (a compound resulting from the natural breakdown of blood). Babies with hyperbilirubinemia are placed under special lights that help the body get rid of bilirubin. Other common health problems of premature infants include: sleep apnea, respiratory distress syndrome, infection, bronchopulmonary dysplasia, anemia, low blood pressure, retinopathy of prematurity and patent ductus arteriosus. These conditions all respond well to medical treatment.

What to Expect
Premature Babies are placed in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) until the infant can go home. After leaving the NICU most babies will still require special care. Frequent examinations will be made to make sure that the baby is developing in a completely healthy way.

Premature babies generally come home from the hospital at the time of their original due date. Premature babies will need to feed 8-10 times a day at first. It’s important not to wait longer than 4 hours in between the feeding times in order to prevent dehydration. Breastfeeding is one of the best ways to protect an infant from germs and sickness, during the first months after birth. Making sure to keep on track with feeding times is crucial – even if it is necessary to wake a sleeping baby. The baby may not give clear signs that she is hungry so frequent feeding is necessary even in the absence of signs of hunger. Premature babies should not begin eating solids until 4-6 months after their due date (not birthday), in order to be able to swallow.

Premature babies will sleep more often than normal babies, but they will wake up after shorter intervals of time. They may sleep up to 22 hours a day during their first weeks at home. The baby should be put to sleep on her back. Remember that when a preemie reaches an adjusted age of 6 to 8 months, she should be able to sleep through the night.

In premature infants, the baby’s ability to control bodily movements often lags behind the development of senses (hearing, touching, seeing). Parents needn’t worry if their baby has trouble holding his head up or making smooth, coordinated movements with his limbs – this will all develop in time. In fact, the premature baby may develop slower than a full-term baby in many ways. It may take up to two years to catch up with children who were born on their expected birth date.

What Causes a Premature Birth?
There are many possible reasons why a baby may have been born early. However, most cases of prematurity are caused by unknown factors and factors outside the parents’ control. Indeed, in the majority of cases of premature birth, doctors have no warning sign that a premature birth is likely. And most parents are similarly taken by surprise by their early labor. Nonetheless, we do know some conditions that can lead to higher chances of premature births – some of which can be avoided in future pregnancies and some of which are outside of the parents’ control. Undiagnosed problems in the uterus or the cervix can cause early labor. Twins are often born prematurely. Maternal obesity, diabetes and hypertension can also increase the risk of giving birth ahead of schedule. Poor diet, lack of folic acid, smoking, drinking alcohol or taking illegal and regulated drugs are other  risk factors. Mothers with a history of taking medication designed to induce abortions may also be at risk for giving birth to a premature child.

How can parents help themselves and their new baby?

There are many things parents of premature babies can do to help their child and one another. Consider the following:

Deal with Your Emotions
As mentioned, parents go through many conflicting feelings when a preemie is born. It helps to be able to express fear, upset or grief over the situation. Often, hospital social services are available to ease the shock and pain and provide practical support. But parents can do each other a big favor by just letting each other talk it out – without offering reassurance, correction or any other comment. Listening to each other non-judgmentally is the greatest gift of all. Providing practical support to each other – helping each other find ways to relax, rest and refresh – will also do wonders for both parents.

Be Involved
Stay close and get informed about your preemie’s condition. Because they were born before term, premature babies may be suffering from various health issues – some easily managed by the medical team and on rare occasion, some that cause conditions that can be critical. It helps for parents to learn what they can about their baby’s status; knowledge reduces the sense of overwhelm and helplessness. Often, parents can help their premature baby by spending time in the neonatal intensive care unit. Touching the infant may be a simple but effective way of providing valuable stimulation.

Make Arrangements for a Healthy Home
Even when the preemie has been released from the hospital, he or she is still vulnerable to infections and opportunistic diseases. It’s important then that parents invest in making their home suitable for their premature baby. Pollutants in the household that wouldn’t otherwise harm a baby born to term may be intolerable for your infant. Consult your doctor on how to best prepare your home for your little one.

Know What to Expect
It’s not unusual for premature babies to experience some developmental delay. For instance, milestones typical of a child 6-7 months of age may be achieved by a premature baby later. Premature babies also tend to behave differently than babies born to term; for example some may have difficulty expressing their needs through crying, especially in the early weeks. Some preemies will need interventions as they develop. For instance, many will benefit from speech therapy or occupational therapy for gross and fine motor coordination. Sometimes a preemie will go on to have learning disabilities that will require attention as well. However parents need to be aware that many children who are born at full term also need various interventions as they grow up and not all developmental quirks are caused by prematurity. Like the rest of the full term population, preemies can have the full range of human challenges simply because they’re human! It is important for parents to help their child outgrow the “preemie” designation over the course of the first few years of life. Continuing to treat the child as particularly fragile or vulnerable long past the challenges of the early days does more harm than good.

Sometimes intervention services such as physical, occupational, speech therapy, or developmental therapy may be helpful during the first couple of years after birth, enhancing progress and preventing delays or developmental deficits.

 

Parent Has Depression

Clinical depression is a debilitating disease. It significantly affects a person’s internal life, ability to work and accomplish things, and relationship with loved ones and friends. When a person is depressed, his or her whole world is affected.

How Does Parental Depression Affect Children?
Parents who are depressed have a hard enough time coping with their emotional pain – it can be overwhelming to also have to worry about the feelings of spouse and children. The tendency is to hope that at least the kids don’t notice their parent’s emotional distress – the hope provides some relief and comfort. Unfortunately, scientific research does not substantiate the hope; it turns out that it’s almost impossible to hide a parent’s depression from children. Studies show that even infants can tell if their mother is depressed; infants with depressed mothers tend to display more symptoms of insecure attachment than infants whose mothers have no depression. Some get more anxious than other infants their age when separated from mothers, while some show signs of unusual indifference to separation. In either case, they relate differently to their depressed parent, indicating that they are sensitive to the mother’s mood and affect.

If infants can sense depression in their parents, imagine how much more easily the condition is recognized by children and teenagers. While it is tempting to believe that older kids are too busy with their own lives to really notice what’s going on with parents, nothing can be farther from the truth. In fact, children are sensitive to all the emotions and feelings happening in the household— whether spoken or unspoken. They may not always talk about what they experience, however. In fact, sometimes the only way a parent can tell that the child has noticed that something is wrong is through the youngster’s misbehavior. Misbehavior – often referred to as “acting out” – can be a child’s way of asking for help. He or she may not be able to articulate the source of the problem, but when invited to sit down and talk about what’s going on, may suddenly blurt out a pile of fears, concerns, worries and upsets. A depressed parent and/or his or her spouse, can help children understand what is going on and thereby help prevent pain and confusion from building up and spilling over into behavior problems (see strategies below).

Being proactive in reaching out to children can help reduce the chances that the children will suffer depression themselves. Although there are biological factors that predispose one to depression, these are open to influence by environmental factors: in other words, parents can make a difference. A study released by Beardslee and colleagues, found that a child whose parent has a mood disorder, is about 40% more likely than other children to develop major depression before they turn 20 years old. There are different possible reasons for this: vulnerability to depression is likely passed on through the genes; it may be that a depressed parent is unable to give as much attention to the emotional needs of his or her children, increasing the chances that their emotional health may be compromised; it may also be possible that the children lack a model of good emotional health (particularly if growing up in a single-parent home with a depressed parent or if living with more than one parent with a mental health issue). Whatever the reason, ensuring that the children are educated about depression and are receiving appropriate intervention (see below) can help them be more resilient.

Seek the Best Possible Care
An accurate diagnosis and effective treatment plan can help alleviate the symptoms of depression and speed recovery. The earlier one seeks treatment, the better. However, any time is a good time for assessment and professional support. Too many people try to tough it out on their own, failing to realize that there are some very good treatments for depression nowadays. There are both medical and alternative treatments, medications and therapies. Most people who experience depression can be helped back to a life of joy and productivity once they’ve received the help they need. Seek that help for your sake AND the sake of your children!

Explain the Situation
It’s best to explain to your children what is happening, rather than leave things up to their imagination. When children don’t have the facts, they can concoct the strangest explanations for events. For instance, they may think that a depressed parent who is in bed a lot of the time is lazy, or is dying or doesn’t love them enough to get up. Or, they may think that it’s THEIR fault that Mom or Dad isn’t happy a lot of the time. They may feel that they are bad and that is why Daddy is always irritable or Mommy is always crying. As you can see, their explanations tend to be destructive and unhealthy. Just tell them the truth: Mommy or Daddy has an illness that makes them feel (list symptoms such as tired, nervous, grumpy, sad, etc.). Tell them that the doctor is helping and hopefully Mommy or Daddy will feel better soon.

Be Real
There is no need to try to pretend that everything is fine and in fact, doing so might cause confusion for the kids. Acting super-happy one minute and dissolving into tears the next may cause the children to feel that they’re living in an unstable environment! Nor should the healthy spouse work too hard to overcompensate for the depressed partner. Being too happy is also unreal and therefore destabilizing to kids. Everyone should just be what they normally are while being aware of their need to be as respectful, loving and attentive to the kids as possible. Not all depression is the same; some people can actually carry on with their careers while being depressed while others are housebound. Those who can get dressed and take care of the kids should continue to do so as much as possible. Those who are too ill to do this are simply too ill to do this and others must take over.

There is one caveat, however: showing children strong negative emotions or destructive behavior can have devastating effects. For instance, children will inevitably be overwhelmed by watching a parent harm herself, fly into out-of-control rages or engage in screaming or crying spells. Finding a parent in the midst of a suicide attempt is one of the most traumatizing experiences a child can ever have – second only to discovering a successful suicide. However, any form of parental breakdown will usually scare – even traumatize – young children who can’t yet fully grasp the nature of the illness. If you feel that you are on the verge of a breakdown, ask someone to take you somewhere private, or somewhere that you can rest for awhile or, if appropriate, to an emergency medical center.

Help Your Children Understand What is Happening
Keep the doors of communication open. You may be able to find some children’s books on depression or parents with depression – reading them to your young kids can be helpful and spark questions and dialogue. Ask your local librarian for help. Alternatively, search out the internet for resources. Allow kids to express their frustration and anger – greet their feelings with Emotional Coaching (see “Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice”  for details). That is, accept their feelings without trying to change them. When a child angrily shouts to a depressed parent, “YOU’RE ALWAYS TOO TIRED. YOU NEVER TAKE US ANYWHERE!” the parent can actually respond with Emotional Coaching: “I know you’re upset. You have a right to be. It’s frustrating and maddening that I can’t take you on outings like everyone else. It doesn’t feel fair. Why should you have to have a mother who suffers from depression? Why can’t we be like all your friends?”  Interestingly, when the parent responds with acceptance, understanding, compassion and validation, the child almost always changes his mind – if not right in the moment, then perhaps a few minutes or hours later. “I’m sorry Mom. I know it’s not your fault. I just feel sad about not being able to go out with you.”

Kids Need to be Kids
Although children can certainly cheer their parents up, they cannot handle the responsibility of making parents happy. Children who need to be too quiet, too “good” or too anything so that their parents won’t be too stressed, too challenged or too depressed, inevitably suffer. Kids need to be kids. It’s their turn to be looked after. Although they will certainly be willing to try, there is no way they can look after their adult parents. If your illness renders you vulnerable, weak and/or needy, turn to other sources of support besides your kids. Don’t share too many thoughts or feelings with them; use family, friends and therapists for that. You may not always have the energy you need to be “present” for your kids – that’s just part of the illness. If possible, see that others can step in to provide much needed attention and positive feedback. Your spouse, your parents or siblings, your friends and neighbors as well as the children’s teachers, coaches, babysitters and other helpers may all be able to step up to the plate. Ask for them for their help. Taking the time you need to fully recover is the best thing you can do for your kids. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle afterward in order to prevent relapse is equally important. Take good care of yourself because your kids are dependent on your well-being.

Provide Professional Support
When possible, help your children by providing professional counseling for them. Although it’s not your fault at all, your (or your spouse’s) depression presents a developmental challenge for your kids. Counseling can help children grow and thrive through this challenge. There may be children’s groups for family members of depressed people in your area.  Check with your doctor. Also, see if there are other friends, neighbors, relatives or volunteers who might be able to take the kids out or give them extra time and attention inside the house. This helps them get their own needs met when u are in stages of deep recovery.

Baby Wakes Up at Night

You can’t blame exhausted parents for trying – they want their 8 hours of sleep back! So they read every book on the market and scour the online resources. “Rock your baby, don’t nurse her,” “Walk your baby till she falls asleep and then gently lay her in her crib,” “Sing to your baby while patting his back until he drifts off,” “Don’t pick her up again, just talk to her,” “let her cry 10 minutes before you come to her and then don’t pick her up,” and so on and so on. Many people offer advice about how to get a baby to sleep through the night because somewhere, for some baby, this advice actually worked at least once. However many, if not most, babies will defy your get-him-to-sleep strategies and continue waking up several times a night for—brace yourself—several years.

Why aren’t people aware of this fact? Because the popular culture suggests that if parents just do it right, their babies will be sleeping through the night by 4 – 6 months of age. Feeling embarrassed and inadequate, most parents with wakeful 8 month-olds or 2 year-olds simply don’t tell the truth to anyone. “Is your baby sleeping through the night?” the mom at the Moms & Babes group asks.  “Oh, yes. He sleeps quite nicely,” lies the other mom for fear of admitting what a failure she is at this tender stage of the game. Her lie only goes into the large pile in the sky that makes other normal parents feel guilty and ashamed. She should have answered, “Gosh no! Babies aren’t supposed to sleep through the night! Yours doesn’t, does he?”

Why Do Babies Wake Up?
Infants need things in the night. Their little bellies empty every couple of hours and for the first year or so, they actually get hungry in the night. In addition, when babies cycle into light sleep, they “realize” that they are alone; they crave warm body contact and cry out for it. In the second year of life, nursing babies suckle for the same reason—no longer just out of hunger (because their tummies have grown and can hold more food), but now out of longing for physical contact. Some babies are sensitive to the sensations of their own bodies and will wake with discomfort from a wet or dirty diaper.

All of this waking has been programmed into babies for their survival. If you were a paraplegic without a wheelchair or other equipment, unable to speak the local language and unable to get yourself from point A to point B,would you want to be left alone for 8 hours at a time? Probably not. You would want to know there was someone near by who could meet your needs. Have you ever been stuck in a dentist’s chair or other restraining medical device for 15 minutes without someone in the room? Did you feel a twinge of the panic of helplessness in that situation? What if you needed something? What if you wanted to tell someone something?

Babies are in that position until they become toddlers. They are helpless. To top it all off, they are like foreigners—unable to speak the local language. They open their mouths but they cannot put their needs and wishes into words; they can just make noise.  For all these reasons, babies are programmed to be distressed about finding themselves alone. It just isn’t safe for them to be alone. There are serious survival issues going on. They wake up for contact to in order to assure that they will be looked after. This is not something that we want to program babies out of any more than we would want to program adults out of their scream response when faced with life-threatening danger.

Training Babies to Sleep Through the Night
Nonetheless, removing survival instincts can be accomplished, if we only persevere long enough. By ignoring a baby’s cries consistently, the baby will learn that no one will come and there is no point in crying anymore. If this experience only occurs at night, the baby learns that there is no point waking up at night. For parents, this translates into a baby who sleeps through the night. If it happens both day AND night, the baby goes into a hopeless depression (as seen in “failure to thrive” syndromes), since he “realizes” that he has been abandoned and there is no further hope of getting his needs met (and therefore no further reason to keep trying to bring help through crying). Fortunately, for most babies, the “abandonment” experience is happening only at night. However, the newly subdued baby has still learned that there is no point in crying. This will not lead to hopeless depression. In fact, in babies who are now enjoying a better night’s sleep, we may even see improved daytime mood.

Here is the problem however: if a baby quickly catches on to the idea that crying at night is a waste of time, there is minimal suffering on the baby’s part. However, if the baby has the “not-so-good sleep genes” that cause him to put up a royal battle, screaming for weeks or months  before he finally submits to the new regime, then it could be that the child is truly suffering. What this does to his long term development is simply not known. Some say it does nothing. Others say that it causes trauma. More research is required before we will know the truth.

Tired Parents
Even if parents do not want their babies to feel abandoned, it is not clear that responding to their every cry at night is the action of choice. After all, tired parents also pose a risk for babies. Tired parents have less patience with their children and are therefore more likely to engage in poor parenting techniques like snapping at the kids (including the baby), yelling or speaking in a harmful way. Fatigue causes more daytime errors including driving more dangerously, forgetting to turn off electric elements and putting the baby down in unsafe locations “just for a moment.” Exhausted parents can even dose off during the day when they need to be alert. Therefore, it is essential that parents find a way to balance their own needs for sleep with their babies’ needs for night-time wakings. This is especially important because night-time waking happens, as stated earlier, in the majority of homes—not the minority. And, it continues for the early years of childhood in many homes. Therefore a coping strategy is badly needed!

Here are some strategies that parents have found to be helpful. Not all will be practical for your own situation, therefore simply choose any that might fit into your own lifestyle:

  • Keep the baby in bed with you and DON’T get out of bed the entire night (see Dr. Sears’ books on attachment parenting for details of co-sleeping techniques and strategies). Although you’ll still be waking in the night to tend to the baby’s needs, you’ll need to expend less energy doing so.
  • Keep toddlers on a small crib-size mattress on the floor near your bed. At first, they can start in your bed and when they fall asleep, you can gently place them on the floor mattress beside you.
  • Have the baby or toddler sleep on a large mattress on the floor in her own room. When you wake up, go to the child’s bed and sleep there the rest of the night.
  • Tend to the baby in his crib when he cries at night. In the daytime, hire a daily baby-sitter and take a nap for a couple of hours. If the baby is in play group or daycare and you are at home, take your nap during those hours.
  • Alternate “baby duty” with your spouse. Whoever tends to the baby at night, gets a one or two hour evening nap the next day while the sleeping spouse takes responsibility for house & childcare.
  • Alternate night-time shifts with your spouse so that neither of you gets completely exhausted. For example, one answers cries until 2 a.m. and one answers cries after 2 a.m.
  • Use weekends to catch up on sleep. One spouse sleeps in late on Saturday; the other sleeps in late on Sunday.

As you can see, all of these strategies address the problem of night-time waking by assuming it is going to happen, parents are going to be tired and they will need to make up the sleep somehow. This approach is more in line with reality than trying to get babies and young children to stay asleep all night long. But here’s the good news: once kids are around 4 years old, there are effective strategies that can be used to really keep them in their beds throughout the night. By the time a child is this age, he can speak and walk; he is no longer totally helpless. He is familiar with his world and is achieving a level of competence. No harm will be done now by insisting that he stay in his own bed. So just hang in there. Sleep is coming. That is, until your child turns 15. Then you’ll be up at night again—waiting for him to come home. Sigh.

Natural Treatment for Stress Relief

Bach Flower Remedies are one-ounce bottles of specially prepared water (see below for details). Although they are only water, they can affect the way people feel emotionally. In fact, they can help balance emotions so that a person can release stress, upset, hurt, anger, fear, sadness, irritation, jealousy, impatience  and any other distressed emotion. Indeed,  many people report that they have successfully used Bach Flower Remedies to feel calmer, sleep better, worry less, recover faster from upset and heartache, handle parenting stress and work stress better and so on. Many have also reported that they were able to see a reduction in their child’s tantrums, aggressive behaviors, moodiness  or fears because of the use of the remedies.

But the remedies can do even more than help a transitory bad feeling : they can also help correct the tendency to fall into those feelings in the first place. When the remedies are used to treat a chronic emotional issue (like a tendency to be stubborn or a tendency to be explosive), they might actually be assisting in a processes now referred to as  “epigentic healing” – the healing of the gene that leads one to experience chronically negative emotional states. We now know that genes can be turned on and off and this is what appears to be happening when someone takes a long course of Bach Flower Therapy. This means that a child who tends to be very shy can take the remedies over time to reduce the shy tendency altogether. The Bach Flowers do not change personality, however. What they do is enable a person to be their own best self. A very strong-willed, obstinate child will retain his strength of character but instead of just being difficult to live with he will be his best self: a born leader, a confident person, one who can take appropriate action. When the Flower Remedies help a childhood overcome chronic separation anxiety, they leave the child’s personality intact: it is the same youngster without debilitating fear blocking the expression of his true self.

It’s hard to believe that these little remedies can work and it’s best not to even TRY to believe that they will; rather, just try the remedies yourself and observe how you feel while taking them. Or, offer a remedy to your child and observe the child’s behavior over the next days and weeks to see if there is any difference. Bach Flowers sometimes seem to have a dramatically positive effect on both behavior and mood and other times seem to make little difference. (Of course, there is no medical or psychological treatment either that works equally well for every single person who employs it.) In the latter case, it might be that the wrong mix of remedies is being used, but it can also be that a longer period is necessary before change will occur or even that a particular person is not responsive to the remedies at the particular time that they are being offered (i.e. this could change in the future). It can also be that while the Bach Flowers are having some positive effect, a complete treatment  requires other interventions as well including strategies like nutritional support, exercise, psychotherapy and/or medicine.

How are Bach Flowers Prepared and Used?
Dr. Edward Bach, a prominent physician in Britain who died in 1935, was interested in preventative medicine. In his search for something that could boost the immune system to ward off disease or to help the body recover more quickly and thoroughly from illness, he discovered a water-based method of healing that became known as “Bach Flower Therapy.” Modern physicists use principles of quantum physics to explain how water remedies can affect human emotions. Dr. Bach, however, understood the remedies on a purely intuitive level. He felt their effects and he could see what they were able to do to effectively relieve stress and emotional distress.

Bach Flower Remedies are prepared by taking the head of a certain flowering plant and placing it in a clear bowl of pure water. The water is heated in sunlight or on a stove for several hours (depending on which flower is being used) and then the flower is removed. The water is the remedy. It is bottled (and preserved with a bit of grape alcholol) and – in our times – sold in health food stores throughout the world as well as on-line.

Bach Fower Remedies are a form of vibrational medicine, not herbal medicine. They are NOT medicinal. They do not act on the body at all. They don’t interact with other medicines or foods or health conditions or anything. They are the same as water is to the system. However, if someone cannot have even a minute amount of alcohol in their system, they should look for the newer remedies that are made using glycerin instead. In general, however, anyone can safely use Bach Flower Remedies – babies, children, teens and adults, pregnant women and elderly people. Even plants and animals respond well to the Bach Flowers!

How Does One Take Bach Flowers?
If a person is using only one of the 38 remedies, they can take 2 drops from the remedy bottle in a small amount of liquid. They should do so 4 times a day – morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

However, most people take anywhere from 2 to 7 remedies that have been mixed together in a “mixing bottle.” To prepare a mixing bottle, one places water in a glass bottle with a glass dropper – generally a  30 ml  (1oz.) amber bottle. (These bottles are sold wherever Bach Flower Remedies are sold and they are called Bach Mixing Bottles.) Then one adds 2 drops from each desired remedy bottle. If a person was using 7 remedies, they would be adding 14 Bach Remedy drops to their mixing bottle. To ensure that bacteria does not grow inside of the mixing bottle, a teaspoon of brandy or apple cider vinegar should be added to the bottle.

This Bach Flower Remedy Mixture is then taken, 4 drops at a time, in hot or cold liquid, with or without food. Ideally, these 4 drops are taken 4 times a day, for a total of 16 drops daily. A person takes them in the morning, mid-day, afternoon and evening.

Adults can put 4 drops of their Bach Flower mixture into coffee, tea, water, juice, soup or any other liquid. Children can take their drops in water, chocolate milk, juice, cereal or any other beverage.

A person takes their mixture until they start forgetting to take it and they no longer need it. (Or, parents give a mixture to a child until the child’s behavior or mood issues have resolved to the point where the parent is now forgetting to give it to the child)  If symptoms return (and they most likely will), the person starts taking the remedy again. In fact a person may end up using the remedy off and on for a year or two (less time in children) before the problematic tendency  disappears completely.

How Does One Know Which Remedies to Use?
Dr. Bach wanted to keep his healing method very simply. A person should be able to read the description of the 38 remedies and decide which ones he needs. Of course, some people feel that they need all 38! However, no more than 7 should be used at a time.

A person could pick up a book on Bach Flower Remedies and decide which flowers they need based on the description of who the remedy is for and what it can do. Also, most health food stores have a pamphlet that explain what the remedies can too. Alternatively, a person can make an appointment with a Bach Flower Practitioner who will be pleased to help them design a remedy for themselves or their child.

Helping Kids Deal with Feelings

Parents sometimes get so caught up in the physical demands of childrearing (getting kids ready for school, providing meals, making sure homework is done, taking them to lessons, getting them into bath and bed), that they can easily forget that there is a whole other side of parenting that is equally important and that must be attended to: the child’s inner world – the world of feelings. Helping children identify and manage their emotions is a critical task for any parent. So much of a child’s behavior is driven by emotions; frustrated children may become aggressive, frightened children may refuse to cooperate at bedtime, socially anxious children may isolate themselves, and so forth. Indeed, young children are prone to react emotionally to every situation rather than think about what they ought to do. Kids of every age are prone to experience periods of overwhelm or insecurity, moodiness or anxiety. Parents can play a major role in helping kids to negotiate the world of upsetting emotions.

How can parents help children deal with their feelings? Consider the following:

Be Open about Your Own Emotions
Kids feel free to explore and express their emotions only to the extent that they feel their family is open to it. So teach by example. If you feel sad, then express to the family that you are sad: “The ending to that movie was so sad that it made me cry!” If you are angry, assertively (that is, politely but firmly) express that you are angry: “I am really upset that you didn’t listen to me!” When you are feeling anxious, say so: “I’m worried about Grandpa. He fell twice last week.”  When children see that their parents are comfortable having and speaking about emotions, they will learn that feelings are just a normal part of the human experience. Parents who tell children to “stop crying” or “there’s nothing to be afraid of” accidentally encourage kids to bottle up their emotions.

Welcome Your Child’s Feelings
Differentiate between behaviors and feelings. You won’t be able to accept all of your child’s behaviors, but you can certainly accept all of his feelings. Let’s say that your youngster is mad at his brother for breaking the tower he was building. The anger is understandable and acceptable. However, punching the brother is completely unacceptable. Anger is a feeling – always acceptable. Punching is a behavior – and behaviors may or may not be acceptable. Is your child whining because he doesn’t like the meal you prepared? Whining is a behavior and one that happens to be unacceptable. Not liking dinner (feeling disappointed or frustrated) is a feeling and is acceptable. Your response can welcome the feeling while correcting the behavior. For instance, “I’m sorry you don’t like tonight’s dinner. I know that you’re disappointed and frustrated – you wanted something else. It is not O.K. to whine like that. Just tell me how you feel in words and I’ll try to help you out.” No matter what your child is feeling, accept the feeling without criticism or correction. This is easy to say but really hard to do. Sometimes your child feels things that you might find frightening. For instance, your child might say things like, “No one likes me” or “I’m so ugly” or “I don’t want to finish my degree. It’s just too hard” Your job in all of these cases is to accept the feelings BEFORE you try to educate the child. “No one likes you? That’s a sad feeling!” “You feel ugly? That’s really hard! “You don’t want to finish your degree? You sound very discouraged.” As the child responds, continue naming feelings as long as possible. Don’t jump in to correct the youngster because that will stop him from trying to share feelings with you in the future. When your kids have angry feelings, teach them the right way to express those feelings. How feelings are expressed is a behavior. Yelling, for example is a behavior, as is talking in a normal tone of voice. Teach kids that yelling, name calling, swearing, throwing, kicking and so on are all unacceptable ways to express the feeling of anger. On the other hand, saying “I’m angry” or “I’m really upset” or “I am so frustrated” are all valid ways to verbally express anger. Teach them to name their feeling and ask for what they want. It is normal for both parents and children to feel frustrated. You can certainly name, accept and validate your child’s upset and frustration. You cannot, however, accept his abusive behavior.

Use Pictures to Help Your Child Identify Feelings
When young children have difficulty articulating what they are going through, it’s best to turn to non-verbal aids. One such aid is a set of pictures depicting the different kinds of emotions. Instead of asking children to tell you how they feel, encourage kids to point at the card that illustrates the emotion they are going through. Parents can also use the cards as a prompt when trying to figure out what their child is feeling. Some parents put a “feeling wheel” on the refrigerator where a child can easily see it and use it to describe what he is experiencing.

Make it a Habit to Ask Children How They Feel
Very few parents take the effort to deliberately help their kids to identify what they are feeling at a given point in time. But there are many occasions when a focus on feelings can help increase a child’s emotional intelligence. Occasions when kids are happy, such as when a playmate comes over, can be an opportunity to teach kids about positive emotions. It looked like you guys were having a blast? Was it fun having Steve over?” Occasions that are sad, such as the death of a pet, can be opportunities to instruct about negative emotions. “I can’t believe that Fluffy died! I feel so sad. How about you? How are you doing?” By inviting open discussion of feelings you make it easy for your children to access their own and others emotions and become emotionally intelligent.

Reducing Stress at Family Gatherings

While the idea of happy family gatherings is heartwarming, the reality of these get-togethers is more complex. Family gatherings can be fun or they can be stressful. They can be uplifting or maddening – or they might be a little of everything! It all depends on who is in the family and how you feel about them. Family members are people who are thrown together by birth and marriage; they are not like friends we have carefully chosen. These are people we must deal with whether we like them or not. Quite often, there are difficult people included in the group who may have caused us pain and aggravation. Usually, there is one or more person who has hurt us and disappointed us and there are some others who are just plain annoying.  Fortunately, there are also likely to be some who we truly enjoy being around. All of these “loved ones” come together for family celebrations and holidays to enjoy feelings of closeness and community.

Let’s look at some tips for minimizing stress and increasing the pleasure of these gatherings.

Family Relationships are Important to Kids
Children are nourished by family gatherings. The extended circle of love makes them feel secure in a world which is often fragmented and isolated. The ritual celebration of holidays brings a sense of stability and meaning to the child’s world. If your children are going to experience the family scene, you can help to make it as positive as possible for them by keeping your negative thoughts to yourself. Children do not benefit from hearing how you can’t stand the sight of Uncle Joe or how you will not be talking to Cousin May. If you have any conflicts with any family members, try to keep them under wraps for the duration of the gathering. Kids don’t have to know all of your business. Even if YOU don’t like a certain family member, you can still allow your child to enjoy that person’s company. (If you think that anyone is a threat of any kind to your child’s well-being, either don’t invite the person or don’t allow your child to attend the event).

Prepare Kids in Advance
Let your children know what you expect of them in advance. If there are rules you wish to establish (no yelling, running, cursing, grabbing or whatever), tell them before the gathering. You can also warn them that there will be negative consequences AFTER the gathering if they misbehave. Try very hard not to discipline children during a gathering as the embarrassment they feel can harm them. Of course, you’ll need to be realistic too – children who are seeing their cousins and other relatives can get over-excited and a bit wild. From their point of view, they may be having the time of their lives. Simply remind them quietly to settle down if necessary.

Do Not Disturb the Festive Atmosphere
Refrain from anything that might contribute to tension at the gathering. Don’t talk about “hot” topics. Don’t correct your spouse in public. Don’t criticize anyone or anything. Don’t argue with a relative about anything – it isn’t worth it. Your job is to keep the gathering upbeat and positive. This is a party! Keeping it this way is your gift to your children.

Teenagers are Independent
Often, teens go through a period where they don’t want to attend family gatherings. Usually this is temporary. Once they have found a life partner or  have kids of their own, they’ll be very interested in family gatherings again. Meanwhile, you can ask your teens to please attend for a short while and then allow them to go to do their own activities whether that involves leaving the house to be with their own friends or going to their own rooms to pursue their own activities. If your teen really doesn’t want to come for even 5 minutes, don’t push it; this may change by the next gathering or over the course of the next few years. As long as you report having a great time, the door remains open for your teen or young adult to join you on another occasion. If your adolescents are happy to attend the gathering – that’s great! You might even put them to work! At this age, they can help with serving and clearning or table setting or whatever. Try to listen to their ideas and suggestions and implement them, giving them a voice in how things will be set  up, arranged or conducted. This can help them “own” the scene and enjoy it even more. If you are at another relative’s home, encourage your teens to offer their assistance. This is sure to earn them positive feedback, helping them to feel important in the family scheme of things. But don’t over do it – a few minutes of helping is all that is necessary. Let your teens just relax and talk to people. Welcome them in joining the “grownups” in more adult conversation if they show an interest to be there. If they want to hang with the young people, be careful not to correct them or criticize them in front of others. No warnings not to drink too much and so on – do all of that in private before you get to the party. This is not the time to be “parental.” Just smile and wave!  By treating your teens as if they are no longer little kids, you can help them become “young ladies and gentlemen” within the family context – you are promoting them to the next level. When they experience their enhanced status, they are more likely to want to attend future gatherings.

Terminal Illness in the Family

It is hard to have to deal with serious illness in a loved one. However, when the illness is considered to be terminal (fatal or incurable), it is all the harder. Of course there are all the present, practical concerns such as arranging health care, and maintaining the continuing functioning of the family. In the case of terminal illness there is the additional stress of seeing someone you care about battle a disease he or she isn’t likely to win, along with the anticipated grief of loss and unresolved issues from the past. There is no way to make terminal illness in the family easy to bear. But there are some things that can be done to help lighten everyone’s load.

If you are dealing with terminal illness in the family, consider the following tips:

Educate Yourself about the Illness
When dealing with terminal illness in the family it is helpful to get to know the disease as well possible. Understanding the symptoms to expect, having an approximate timeline for the unfolding of the illness and learning about experimental treatment options available to the patient, can help the family maintain some sense of control amidst a chaotic situation. Grounding the family in sound medical opinion can help in making plans and decisions.

Talk about the Terminal Illness, Even with Your Sick Family Member
When there’s a heavy emotional issue in a household, it’s very tempting to pretend the problem doesn’t exist. This denial may be well-intentioned; perhaps you don’t want to upset your sick loved one by discussing an obviously painful subject, or perhaps the family wants to protect its younger members from any further trauma. But keeping silent on the issue just forces everyone to repress negative emotions.

The best support system for family members of a terminally ill patient are fellow family members who understand what is going on. Let the crisis be an opportunity for everyone to bond together, and offer each other much needed care and understanding. Families have been known to find grace in troubled times, grace that helps make members be closer and more resilient.

This may also be the opportunity to say to your sick loved one the positive things you haven’t said before, to express love, gratitude and forgiveness. Get to know your sick loved one’s wishes; wishes for both for immediate concerns like the treatment plan and arrangements for care, as well as future plans for the surviving family.

Share Responsibilities
There are many things that need to be done when there is terminal illness in the family. There’s caring 24/7 for the sick loved one, making sure that household duties such as getting dinner on the table is still happening and looking for additional finances to meet incoming large medical bills. If possible, don’t assign just one caretaker to help prevent care-provider burns out. Instead, look for ways everyone can contribute to manage the crisis. Even younger kids can have a role to play; in fact, new responsibilities can ease feelings of helplessness about the situation.

Make Sure Everyone Takes Self-Care Seriously
Terminal illness in a family causes serious stress, which is why it’s important that everyone — even the youngest family member — knows how to stop for a while and take care of one’s self.

Having a friend or professional outside the family to talk  to can help; during a crisis issues and emotions can get so messed up, it helps to get a fresh perspective. Making sure that everyone gets ample “me” time for rest, relaxation, fu, normal life and maybe a bit of meditation and prayer is also a good thing. Similarly, keeping the entire family’s good health in mind, through proper diet and exercise ensures the family members get a new start everyday.

If it’s an available option, joining a community support group is a good way to aim for self-care. Support groups are made up of people going through the same experience, which helps in removing the feeling of aloneness and intense stress that comes with terminal illness. If a support group is not available in one’s state or area, an online support group may work just as well.

Dealing with Change

The saying “there is nothing more constant than change”  truly fits the experience of family life.

Indeed, no family remains the same through the years. Children grow up and become teenagers, and then adults. Parents move through young adulthood to become middle aged and eventually to become members of the seniors population. The number of children in the family grows and contracts, as births, adoptions, deaths and marriages occur. Priorities of each family member will change, as well as the relationships between people. Even events outside the family, such as an economic recessions or job loss, can significantly impact everyone in the household. The immediate community will also influence attitudes and outlooks. And significant life events, such as illnesses and trauma, can change the course of family living.

The following are just four of the many dramatic transitions families go through, alongside some tips on how to navigate them:

The Birth of a New Baby
The birth of a child is one the first major transitions in a couple’s life. It requires such a major shift in priorities that it’s not unusual for new parents to experience intense stress. But the key to starting a family is adequate discernment and preparation. If a couple invests a little time in planning their envisioned family, then they need not be blindsided by the many changes that come with their first pregnancy. Reading books, taking classes or joining online forums focusing on the challenges of baby’s first year can really help new parents know what to expect and how to deal with it. Why wait until crisis hits? Knowledge is power!

Expanding the Family
Is the birth of a second, third or fourth child a major family transition? You bet! Expanding a family requires a lot from parents. Parents don’t just need more hands to deal with more tots; they also need a more stable source of income to keep up with their expanding family’s many needs. Flexibility is also required in attending to each child’s individual needs — after all, each member of the family has a unique personality and is going through a unique developmental stage. There is no one size fits all in parenting multiple children, and unless parents are up for the challenge, they will experience extra stress. Now may be the time to take a more serious look at parenting courses and resources. Parents need more options in order to be able to meet the differing needs of each child. If it’s financially feasible, this may be the time to hire a little more help – someone who can assist with children or household tasks. Parents may have to do more tasks than they did before; for instance, a father who was not very involved in childcare when there was only one child in the family, may have to take on many extra parenting tasks now that there are more kids to look after. Or, a mother who was able to manage her full time job while raising two children may now find that she can’t continue when her third child is born; she may opt for part-time work or even full-time mothering. Of course, changes such as this may also necessitate other lifestyle changes such as cutting down expenses.

Kids Turning into Adults
One of the more sensitive family transitions is the change of children from young kids into full grown adults. Many changes happen, of course, during the transition from child to teenager. Parents have had to offer greater levels of autonomy and independence with each advancing birthday. The ultimate independence comes, however, when a child is ready to leave home. This is often a very difficult transition for parents. While the child is eager to move out into the world, the parent feels mixed emotion: pleasure at seeing the positive outcome of an undertaking that occupied two decades (raising the child) and sadness and grief over losing the companionship that a child brings. It can be hard to let go. Parents have to learn how to treat their young adult as an adult instead of the little girl or boy the person used to be. To parents, a twenty-two year old child might as well be a two year old child – it’s still the same person they carried, dressed, bathed, fed and guided for all those years. While parents may feel this in their hearts, they have to work hard to show new respect for the individual who stands before them. There’s no more asserting one’s authority. The parent-child relationship will now be based on mutual positive regard and respect or else it will be distorted in pain. Parents have to take a back seat and let their child do the driving of his or her own life. When consulted, they can offer advice but they need to learn from offering the unsolicited guidance that was their right not so long ago. Parents may find it helpful to read up on how to negotiate relationships with adult children – there are books and online resources that can provide insight and practical tools. If there are relationship problems at this stage of the game, family counselors can help you negotiate and resolve them.

The Death of a Loved One
Transitions are not just a cause for excitement; they can be tragic as well. The loss of a family member is one of the most painful family transitions there is. Death is a word nobody wants to hear because it means permanent physical separation from a loved one. When a family member becomes terminally ill, or experiences a fatal accident, the pain is almost unbearable. The challenge becomes: how to grieve and yet still move on as a family? Sometimes grief counseling or pastoral counseling can help. Techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and EMDR can help speed and complete the healing of unresolved grief or death-related trauma. Professional therapy is appropriate when grief lingers longer than a year or when it interferes with functioning, or when it is accompanied by feelings of depression or anxiety.

Going with the Flow
How can families deal with transitions effectively? There’s only one way: being able to adapt to change. With so many changes happening both within and outside a family, it’s important that individual members are dynamic and responsive to new situations. Family transitions are crucial turning points; if family members are resistant to change, the transitions become a source of stress instead of a source of growth. What is important is to be able to let go — but also let come. Nothing stays the same forever, and it’s important that we are open to the blessings of the next stage in of our family life.

Difficult Spouse

Like difficult children, difficult spouses may be rigid, over-sensitive, explosive, stubborn and more. This makes them challenging to get along with and one has to be a very skilled communicator in order to bring out the best in such a partner and minimize conflict. Although a difficult spouse’s personality presents certain predictable challenges in marriage, it also creates certain predictable challenges in parenting.

Here are just some problems that you may encounter with your spouse as a parent:

  • Your spouse has a tendency to spoil your children. A spouse who spoils the kids can be frustrating to deal with. He or she harms the children directly by overindulging them, refusing to establish appropriate limits and/or failing to establish healthy boundaries. In addition, such a spouse can harm the marriage as he or she contradicts the parenting rules you try to put in place and thereby aligns him or herself with the children rather than with you. In this way, the spoiling spouse diminishes your authority as a parent, causing real harm to your children through the process of “triangulation” (setting kids against the other parent).
  • Your spouse is too strict. Sometimes the opposite is true; your spouse establishes so much control in the family that there is barely room to breathe! Parenting should be a balance of love and authority, and rules must be flexible enough to accommodate the family’s changing needs. If your spouse tend to be too closed-minded, inflexible, rule-oriented and stern, he or she can alienate you and the children in one sweep.
  • Your spouse has to be right about everything. Marriage requires give-and-take as well as flexibility and the ability to compromise. Some difficult adults are simply too rigid and righteous to negotiate about parenting issues or anything else. Such a spouse provides a poor model of respectful negotiation for the children to emulate. Instead, the youngsters see an immature, controlling parent who cannot see another person’s point of view.
  • Your spouse is overly-dependent on you for decision-making. It’s great to be relied upon, but not for everything! When a partner refuses to step up to the plate to make decisions and take responsibility, you are left raising a family on your own. It’s not fair and its maddening. And watch out – the abstaining spouse may even accuse you of making poor decisions and being to blame for the children’s problems!
  • Your spouse is too critical. Getting constructive feedback from your spouse can be helpful. However, some spouses have a tendency to criticize everything you do. Whether your spouse claims that you are not feeding the kids the right kind of food, buying the right kind of clothing, or putting the kids to bed correctly, it feels like nothing but complaints.

What can you do when you have a difficult spouse?

Improve Your Own Communication and Relationship Skills
Just like a parent has to be highly skilled in order to raise a difficult child, a spouse has to be highly skilled in order to deal effectively with a difficult partner. Read marriage books or take marriage classes. Use the same excellent skills you’ve acquired in parenting to reduce defensiveness and encourage spousal cooperation. Use plenty of positive techniques like praise, acknowledgment, and empathy. Limit criticism and correction and eliminate anger. All of this will help your difficult spouse be more open to your suggestions and help in parenting and in every other area of marriage.

Consult a Third Party
Let a parenting expert guide you and your spouse together in creating your parenting plans. This can help avoid conflict over parenting issues and facilitate decision-making. When a neutral third party makes a suggestion, it is easier for your spouse to follow than when you make a suggestion (even if it’s exactly the same suggestion!).

Consult a Marriage Counselor
You aren’t the best one to teach your spouse how to behave. If you want him or her to provide a healthier model for your kids and to be a more pleasant person for you to live with, let a marriage counselor help out. Marriage counselors have the training and know-how to help people make significant changes in the way they behave as spouses. Your difficult spouse can become an easier spouse after a number of months of marriage counseling. Do not send your difficult spouse for individual counseling since the counselor will lack the necessary information (i.e. YOUR point of view) to truly help your spouse.