Colicky Baby

Inconsolable crying in babies is understandably anxiety-provoking to parents. After all, crying can be caused by many things, pain and illness included. When parents have tried all means of soothing a child, it’s easy to imagine the worst. If only babies would be able to speak and tell their parents what’s wrong!

If you have a child who tends to cry and fuss frequently, for no understandable reason, consider the possibility that your child has colic.

What is Colic?
Colic refers to the condition characterized by a healthy baby who tends to have periods of intense crying, fussing and/or screaming for no known reason. Traditional medical definition classifies colic as crying episodes that last more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days a week, for more than 3 weeks, although variations of colic outside these parameters also exist. It is believed that colic affects 1 in 5 infants.

Symptoms of colic typically appear within one week after birth, and can last up to the baby’s fourth month – after which they generally go away on their own. While crying episodes can happen anytime within the day, it usually reaches its peak during late afternoon or early evening.

What Causes Colic?
The exact cause of colic is still unknown, although many theories exist. This is why the phrase “healthy baby” is critical in the condition’s definition; infections, diseases and all kinds of illnesses have been ruled out in most (but not all) cases of colic. Proposed explanations for colic include overfeeding, gastro-intestinal upset, allergies or sensitivities, a child’s innate temperament, anxiety in a household, and difficulty adjusting to the environment outside the womb. Research findings so far show no bias towards any one of these explanations.

In general, colic is harmless, and is not associated with developmental delay or impairment of any kind. In fact, the bulk of the impact of colic is felt by the parents. Colicky babies have been known to trigger fatigue and burn-out, feelings of helplessness and inadequacy, as well as anxiety and depression, among their primary caregivers.

What can Parents Do?
Traditional soothing techniques for infants are specially recommended when caring for a colicky baby. These techniques include rocking the infant gently in one’s arms, singing to the baby and walking the baby outdoors he or she is upset. Changing the baby’s position, e.g. turning them on their stomach, and swaddling (wrapping the baby in a warm blanket) have also been found to be helpful.

There are also medications that are specifically for colic, although many have expressed concern regarding medicating someone so young. It’s best to consult your pediatrician if you want to know your pharmaceutical options for dealing with colic.

Some nursing mothers have found that adjusting their own diet helps reduce their babies colic. For instance, removing gas-inducing foods like beans and cabbage may help the baby. Or, removing dairy products, wheat products or common allergens might sometimes make a difference. Some parents have discovered that their crying baby is reacting to something in the environment like cotton clothing or baby creams or powders – and when they remove the offending substance the colic suddenly stops. However, the majority of parents with colicky babies cannot trace down a specific trigger. They and the baby just have to deal with the upset.

Obviously, parents must pay attention to self-care. It’s easy to get defeated by the stress of caring for a colicky baby. There’s loss of sleep from the baby’s crying, frequent trips to the doctor to figure what’s wrong, worry over the baby’s health, and just the effort of keeping the child calm when he goes into one of innumerable cryng spells. When parents can get some time off of caring for their baby, they will come back more refreshed and able to handle some more stress. Babysitters can help or parents can relieve each other, taking turns caring for the baby as much as possible. It’s important to get out of the house, see other people, exercise and have some fun; all of this strengthens a person to deal with the hours of crying and fussing. Picture the baby growing a bit older and a lot quieter – it WILL happen! Realize that colic is temporary and keep your eye on what’s up ahead.

When should Parents be Concerned?
Excessive crying among infants is such an ambiguous symptom to interpret. It can be colic or something else. To be safe, parents need to check-in with their pediatrician regularly. They should always note any other symptoms that accompany crying such as fever, skin rashes, diarrhea, vomiting or developmental delays. Most colic is nothing but colic and will disappear on its own in a matter of months.

Interrupts Frequently

Whether it’s because of poor manners or difficulty in impulse-control, kids often interrupt adults. It is the parents’ job to teach children how to wait patiently or, in case of true emergency, interrupt properly. After all, social skills are integral in a child’s personality development. Kids will find more social and relationship success when they know how to behave politely.

If you have a child who tends to interrupt others, consider the following tips:

Inform Kids Early That Interrupting is Not O.K.
Interrupting starts early and is best addressed early. Babies can interrupt conversations with their cries and there’s not much parents can do about that! However, toddlers can begin to learn that they are not the only one with needs. Two and three year-olds can be taught to recognize when adults are talking. “Mommy is talking with Daddy right now. Please wait a minute” or “Mommy is talking on the phone. Please wait a minute.” As the child grows, even more can be required of him. For instance, a pre-schooler can be taught to say “excuse me” – and can also be taught when to use this phrase and when to just wait instead. “If you need help you can say “excuse me” but if you just want to tell me something interesting, then please wait until you see that I have finished speaking.” School-age children are capable of distinguishing between true emergencies and “I want something right now,” so you can raise the bar even higher: “If there is a fire or something else dangerous that is happening, go ahead and say “Excuse me but there is a fire in the kitchen!” or something like that. Or, if someone is waiting for you at the door and you have to leave right away, you can say, “Excuse me, but someone is waiting for me – I need to ask permission for something right away” On the other hand, if you want to know if you can eat something or do something, then please wait until you see that I’ve finished speaking and then say, “Excuse me, can I ask you something?” Hopefully, by the time your child is an adolescent, you won’t need to to offer any more lessons on interruption! (Although, you may need to review what you’ve taught previously!).

Teach Kids How to Recognize Cues Signalling their Turn
Make sure that you child knows what  “interrupt” means! Use role-playing, puppets or dolls to illustrate what happens in a conversation. Demonstrate what a pause or “lull” in the conversation sounds like. Explain how to say “excuse me” and wait for a response.

Don’t Reward Interruptions with Attention
Some kids are prone to interrupting because they know that it is a strategy that “works” – they’ll get what they want. If this is the case, then it’s best to send the message as soon as you can that interrupting is not an effective way of getting needs met. Tell your interrupting child “I’m talking to so & so right now” and then ignore him until you are ready to deal with his concern. Try to refrain from giving attention even if the child starts to tantrum. Try not to show irritation or upset (since that is also a form of attention). Don’t reprimand or punish. Instead, reward the behavior that you approve of (waiting patiently and saying “excuse me” at the right time). If parents consistently reinforce the behavior of waiting for one’s turn, then they will eventually see more of it in their children. If after using this strategy for some time, your child still interrupts, then change strategies. You can use discipline to eradicate interruptions. Make a rule: “From now on, when you interrupt me to ask a question, the answer will be an automatic ‘no.'” Or, “From now on, when you interrupt me when I am speaking with someone, I will not answer you and you will have to write out ‘I wait my turn before speaking’ ten times” (or pick any other negative consequence that you want to use – see Raise Your Kids without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe for appropriate suggestions). Be consistent with consequences if you decide to use them and your child will quickly learn not to interrupt.

Give Your Child Quality Time
Kids love to share stories, and they may be constantly interrupting you because they like to tell you things. Make sure that you do give your child time so that they can tell you everything they want to tell you. If parent-child bonding time is regular, then there’ll be less need for frequent interruptions.

Provide Ways to Manage Excitement While Waiting
The behavior of interrupting frequently may be due to poor impulse control. Kids get so excited, they can’t contain what they want to say! As alternative to giving in to one’s impulses, parents can teach their children ways to manage frustration tolerance. For example, parents can give children a recorder so that they can document their stories during moments when there’s no one they can speak with. Parents may also teach children to count from 1 to 10 while waiting, write out their message (if they’re old enough to write!), or play with toys that are nearby until you are available.

Consider Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or ADHD
If your child’s interrupting behavior is excessive, chronic and appears across all settings, then consider the possibility that your child may have ADHD. ADHD appears before a child is 7 years old, and symptoms typically last for more than 6 months. If you suspect that your child has ADHD, then do consult a mental health professional for an assessment. When ADHD is properly treated, it will be easier for the child to refrain from interrupting parents and others.

Temper Tantrums in Public

When a child doesn’t get his way, generic he or she might throw a temper tantrum – a “fit” in which the youngster expresses rage both verbally and physically. While having a tantrum, a child might throw himself on the ground, kick and flail, cry, scream and shout verbal abuse or other types of hysterical rants. The tantrum can be a reaction to not getting a candy, a toy, or another object of desire. In fact, it can occur for any type of frustration. Sometimes, a child may throw a temper tantrum in public, which can be especially embarrassing and aggravating for parents to experience.

Public temper tantrums are normal for toddlers and pre-schoolers and also occasionally happen with school age kids. For pre-teens and teens though, this behavior is rare and is reason for concern and specialized intervention. No matter what age your child is, however, temper tantrums must always be addressed.

If your child has public temper tantrums, consider the following tips:

Stay Calm and Respectful
When your child throws a temper tantrum in public, you may be angered by the embarrassment he is causing you and you may be tempted to react the way you’re feeling. However, it is important to stay calm and not display any anger in this scenario. First of all, you are also in public at the same time as your child. No one wants to watch an angry parent make a scene, even if they understand your particular predicament. In addition to this, you are a role model for your child. If you react angrily to something you don’t like, you are showing him that anger is an acceptable reaction, which is exactly what you don’t want to show him here. Instead, speak slowly and calmly to him, despite your frustration and demonstrate the proper way one should react to frustration.

Use Emotional Coaching
When your child has a tantrum, you can briefly name his feelings. “I know you’re upset.” “I know you’re not happy about this.” There is no need to go beyond the simple naming of his feelings at this time when he is in an intense state of distress. Tantrums are not “teaching moments.” It is useless to try to get the child to understand anything while he is having a meltdown.

Don’t Reinforce Tantrum Behavior
When your child is having a tantrum, do not give him lots of attention or try to console him through hugs and the like. Do NOT give the child the thing he desires that is the subject of his tantrum (i.e. if he wanted you to buy him a toy and then threw a tantrum when you said no, don’t buy him the toy to stop his tantrum). If you give into his tantrum, you will only be encouraging this type of behavior in the future. He must learn that tantrums are not the way to get what he wants.

Teach Alternative Methods of Responding to Frustration
After the tantrum is over and your child is calm, teach him how to properly respond to frustration with the use of words instead of tantrums. Use the CLeaR method to reinforce his efforts. For instance, teach the child to say something like, “I’m not happy about this” on occasions that he is disturbed by your response to him. Then, if he asks you for a treat and you tell him that it is too close to dinner time and he remembers to say, “I’m not happy about this,” you can use the Comment, Label, Reward (CleaR Method) strategy to reinforce his appropriate behavior. You could say, for example, “You remembered to tell me your feelings in words! (Comment).”  “That’s very mature of you! (Label)” “Since you spoke so nicely even though you were frustrated, I’m going to change my mind and give you that treat after all (Reward).” See more about the CLeaR Method in Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice by Sarah Chana Radcliffe.

Use Discipline
For children older than four, use the 2X-Rule (see Raise Your Child without Raising Your Voice) to discourage tantrums. Think of a negative consequence that will always follow a tantrum and tell the child that you will use it from now on, whenever he has a tantrum instead of using his words. In this way, the child’s brain will make the connection between his tantrum and something unpleasant happening afterwards. The next time he thinks of throwing a tantrum, he’ll think again!

For older kids and teens, attempt to explain how you feel when he throws a public tantrum and point out that there are far more appropriate ways to convey and handle distress and frustration. You may also try discipline (i.e. revoking certain valued privileges whenever he throws a public tantrum).

Consider Bach Flower Remedies
If your child is prone to frequent tantrums, consider the Bach Flower remedies Vine (for children who MUST have their own way – or else!), Cherry Plum (for those who lose control) and/or Impatiens (for those who quickly disintegrate when frustrated). Or, consult a Bach Flower Practitioner for assessment and recommendations. You can find more information about the Bach Flower Remedies online and throughout this site.

Consider Professional Help
When children – especially older children and teens – continue to have tantrums despite your interventions, they may benefit from professional counseling or even anger-management training. Ask your pediatrician for an appropriate referral

Fear of the Dark

Turning the lights off is usually a signal to rest and relax. Some children, however, consider it as a signal to panic. When a child is afraid of the dark, even the simple act of trying to sleep can be a stressful experience.

Fear of Dark is Common
Fear of the dark is one of the most common fears among young children, with the fear affecting kids as young as two years-old. Many researchers believe that this fear is part of our survival instincts; some of our ancestors probably did well by being alert during nightfall. But since we no longer need to worry about nocturnal beasts roaming after day, this fear no longer serves a purpose in our civilized times. The best thing to do is manage the fear, as the threat doesn’t exist.

Fear of the dark is often not because of the dark per se, but of what can be lurking in the dark that you can’t see. When kids hear strange noises as they sleep, it’s easy for them to imagine that a monster or a robber is out to get them. When they can’t make sense of the moving shadows on their walls, their mind starts going to ghosts and ghouls. It doesn’t help, of course, if they are fond of watching horror programs on TV or news stories about crimes. Children have imaginative minds; you’d be surprised with what they can fill blanks with.

Helping Your Child
One way to help a child manage fear of the dark is to simply let them sleep with the lights on. After all, there’s no harm in not turning off the lights, except perhaps to the parents’ electric bill! An alternative is to give them a nightlight, like a small lamp, or a flashlight that they can use when they don’t feel safe. When kids have the means to check out whether their fears have basis, they will feel more in control.

Most parenting experts don’t recommend checking for “monsters under the bed” or “bogeymen hiding in the closet.” Doing so merely affirms to a child that these creatures do exist, and will come to get them. An alternative is to accompany them in checking their room’s nook and crannies, so that they can be assured that they have nothing to be afraid of.  The Bach Flower Remedy Aspen helps heal fear of monsters and general fear of the dark.

Fear of robbers is a different matter of course, as the possibility of getting burglarized does exist. If your child is afraid of criminals making it to their room, the best thing a parent can do is show them how tightly locked their windows are, and how accessible is help in case they need it. With children old enough to understand “probability” parents can do a bit of homestyle cognitive therapy: ask the child if they personally know anyone who was bothered by robbers (this only works if you live in a safe neighborhood). Then ask them how likely it is that a robber will break into their house. If the child knows that it is highly unlikely but still feels intense fear you have several options:

  • Help the child to learn to just “sit” with his or her fear; tell the child to pay attention to the fear and how it feels in the body (i.e. around the heart, in the tummy). The child should continue to feel the fear in the body and just let it be there. Sooner or later the fear will just stop by itself (this being the nature of adrenaline).
  • Teach the child some visualization strategies: help him or her to picture protective angels, animals or other imaginary protectors. Or, help the child picture sleeping safely at night and waking safely in the morning.
  • If you have a religious faith, teach the child to pray for protection before going to sleep.
  • Assign a large stuffed animal to protect the room (especially suitable for small children but even bigger kids with robber phobias may go for this)
  • Leave the light on.
  • Give the child the Bach Remedy called Mimulus. Add 2 drops to water or other hot or cold liquid four times a day until the child’s fear of robbers diminishes.
  • If none of the above steps work, consider arranging a consultation with a child psychologist.

When Mother is Emotionally Unstable

Borderline mothers are people with Borderline Personality Disorder. This disorder is characterized by the following traits and symptoms:

  • an intense fear of abandonment
  • intense anger
  • alternating between seeing people as all wonderful or all evil
  • self-destructive behavior
  • unstable relationships
  • unstable self-image
  • may have suicidality

Many people with Borderline Personality Disorder were severely abused as children. Often, they were raised by parents who had the same disorder and were not able to parent in a reasonable, stable manner. Sometimes the Borderline adult has been the victim of sexual abuse, incest or other severe childhood traumas.

Living with a Borderline Mom
A mother with Borderline Personality Disorder can be very emotional and at times, quite out of control. A child’s fairly normal misbehavior or mistake can trigger an intense temper tantrum. Verbal and physical abuse may replace appropriate discipline strategies. Drama, hysteria and crisis erupt where calm, thoughtful parenting should have prevailed. After episodes of abusive parenting, the Borderline mother may feel intense remorse and fear of losing the child’s love. Acting more like a lost child than a parent, the mother may then beg the child for forgiveness or cry in front of the child about what a terrible parent she has been.

The child who lives with a Borderline parent can become hypervigilant – always on guard for signs that Mom will become enraged. The child also becomes confused, never knowing whether he is a “good” or a “bad” boy because the mother’s opinion swings wildly from one pole to the other. Because severe punishment can be meted out at any time for any infraction, the child may feel that he can never succeed in being good enough. The child may also end up parenting the mother, offering reassurances of love when the mother expresses fear of abandonment.

A Life-Long Struggle
Eventually children of borderline mothers grow up and leave home. However, the mother-child dynamic does not end. The grown up child still may feel insecure and may still try to please the mother or at least avoid upsetting the mother. The grown child may not yet realize that, in fact, his or her parent is ill. Instead, the child may still be engaged in frequent fighting, arguing, disconnecting and reconnecting for many years into adulthood or middle age before some therapist finally identifies the issue.

It is important for people to realize that intense drama in interpersonal relationships and particularly the parent-child relationship, is never normal. Some sort of pathology is always at play. Instead of caring feelings of inadequacy, helplessness, guilt and anger, children of Borderlines can heal and find their own healthy centers. Usually professional assistance is required for this journey. However, once healing occurs, the relationship with the older Borderline parent can be renegotiated to protect the child better. Although the Borderline mother may never heal, the child certainly can. Seeking professional help is the quickest way to do so.

Parenting Your Difficult Child

The difficult child has been called by many names. Sometimes he (we’ll call him “he” in this article, but many difficult children are “she”) is called “the spirited child,” sometimes “the challenging child” and sometimes “the sensitive child.” Whatever we call this youngster, the name always points to one common denominator: this child is not easy to parent.

The difficult child has traits that make him challenging like rigidity, reactivity and anger. He may be stubborn, unreasonable, and volatile. He may be dishonest. Sometimes the difficult child is fussy about everything – food, clothes, activities. He may be so easily bored that his parents feel like they must program every minute of his day. The difficult child may be sweet as pie at school and only difficult at home or may be difficult in both locations. Occasionally, a child is only difficult at school. Often the difficult child has combustive relationships with siblings; often, he has social challenges outside of the home.

What Makes  Children Difficult?
The difficult child inherits traits that create a complex, difficult personality. Difficulty with change, anxiety, low mood, irritability, impulsivity, hyperactivity, short attention span and so on are all governed by genes. Parents don’t create a difficult child, even with poor parenting. A child with great genes will still be fairly well-adjusted even if the parents lack top notch parenting skills. A child with “difficult” genes, will still be difficult even if his parents win the award for “Parents of the Year.”

What can be Done for the Difficult Child?
Although parenting alone can’t remove the difficult nature of a child, good parenting can help a difficult child manage better and it can help him avoid being hurt by the rejection of his parents. Good parenting can help the difficult child develop a sense of inner security that will help him deal better with life’s challenges. Therefore, parents of difficult kids should really read those parenting books, join forums, take classes and so on.

Bach Flower Remedies can be very helpful in actually changing the difficult nature of a child. These harmless vibrational remedies help with individual traits. There are Bach Flower Remedies for explosive behavior, grumpy mood, jealousy, panic, depression, impulsivity and whatever other problematic trait a person has. Taking the remedies off and on over the developmental years can help ease difficult traits out of a child’s system. The term for this is epigenetic healing. A consultation with a Bach Flower Practitioner can get you started on this path. You can find more information on Bach Flower Therapy online, in books, and throughout this site.

Self-Care
Parents of difficult kids suffer greatly. Their children sometimes cause them embarrassment and shame. They provoke tremendous frustration, disappointment and hurt. Parents must be careful not to blame themselves for having a challenging child. Tending to one’s marriage, one’s social life, one’s creativity and leisure are all important. Taking good care of oneself helps one take good care of a difficult child.

How to Soothe Your Cranky Baby

Babies have very clear personalities that are evident from the moment of birth. Some are so calm and easy-going. Some look and sound mad. Some look worried. It’s possible that their individual journeys down the birth canal have affected their mood and disposition but their genes also play a major role. Psychologists now say that at least 50% of personality is present before parents have a chance to have an impact on their kids. As any parent of more than one child knows, each child is different.

Babies Impact on Their Caregivers
Babies have a strong impact on their parents. A relaxed and placid, cooperative baby makes the parent feel the same way. Such a baby inspires parental confidence even if this is the first child. Parents of easy-going, content babies feel successful as parents and this makes them actually like their baby even more.

Tense, irritable, crabby babies make their parents feel that way too! They make their parents feel helpless, inept and inadequate. This causes them to be somewhat aversive to their parents – after all, we tend to shrink away from people who make us feel like failures. Although it’s not the baby’s fault, parents can’t help but feel resentful toward an infant that refuses to be soothed or comforted. They try everything they possibly can, but still the baby remains unsettled and unhappy. After months of this kind of cycle, parents can feel distressed, burnt-out and detached from their infant.

Loving Difficult Babies
There is no trick to loving a cooperative baby. There is a BIG trick to loving a more challenging infant. With non-responsive babies, parents must remind themselves that gentle handling and patient care-giving DOES make a difference to the child. Difficult babies are stressed from the inside. When parents provide a soothing, confident handling from the outside, the experience does impact on the child’s nervous system. Agitated handling creates more agitation for the infant; calm handling gets recorded in the infants brain and its impact accumulates over time, helping the child to develop in an optimal way. Since parents cannot get immediate feedback from the baby him or herself, they must give THEMSELVES positive feedback instead. Every time you hold your difficult infant, actually tell yourself “I am doing therapeutic parenting. It is so good for my baby. It will help him/her in the long run.” By rewarding yourself verbally (and in any other way you want to!) you can help your own body and mind resist the stress of a (temporarily) thankless child.

In addition, make sure to engage in other activities that DO give positive feedback. Take breaks from your baby in order to do what you enjoy doing and what you feel successful at. Use a babysitter frequently in order to give yourself time to replenish your energy so that you can continue to give love to this baby without exhaustion, resentment and strain.

Seek social support, therapy, alternative stress relief and any other intervention that can help strengthen and nurture you because your baby needs you. You must undo the effects that the baby can have on your nervous system and continuously restore and re-balance your system.

By looking after yourself, you’ll be doing the very best for your baby. This is true for every parent and all the more so for parents of challenging babies.