Using Creativity to Raise a Family
Dr. Amanda Preimesberger offers some personal insights on what works for her family
This is the first in a series of Dr. Mom blog posts. As physicians with children, our Dr. Moms will share their personal and professional insights to help you navigate your role as a parent. Learn more about our Dr. Mom group!
Taking care of four young boys, a fire fighter spouse and a full-time medical practice is no easy task. But Dr. Amanda Preimesbeger, family medicine physician at Dean Clinic – West, makes it work by applying some simple ideas and fresh thinking to family life.
Whether you’re just starting or been at it awhile, being a mom is both a great challenge and a great joy. You’ll discover that the more equipped you are to handle the challenges, the more rewarding your family life will be.
Here are some other things I’ve found to be helpful.
Be there for your kids
Every minute you spend with your children is quality time. That’s why my husband and I do our best to be with our boys as much as possible. But trying to juggle work schedules and family can get crazy at times.
My husband works 24-hour shifts with the Madison Fire Department and I have a busy clinic practice. So we try and plan our schedules where one of us can be home with our sons as often as we can.
When we can’t, sometimes our parents help out, which is the next best thing to one of us being there. Not all parents are fortunate to have family close by. But having a trusted child-care provider of any kind does wonders for peace of mind, and also promotes adaptability in children.
Set your kids up for success
We’ve found that leading by example is very important. For instance:
- Try to limit meals and snacks to the kitchen table, and let your children see you doing the same. Eat at the table as a family whenever possible, and talk about things that happened that day. Teach your children to be good listeners and not interrupt or talk over someone else.
- Serve healthy food as much as you can. Believe me, with four boys that all have different preferences it’s not easy. But if you expose them to different textures, colors and tastes, especially at an early age, it can start them on good eating habits.
- Food presentation can also be key. Children may be more likely to eat asparagus if they appear to be spikes on a “dinosaur” of lean chicken.
- By just two years of age, toddlers may become resistant to trying new foods and begin to prefer only a few tried-and-true favorites. Studies show it may be necessary to offer new foods as many as 8-10 times before a child will accept and like it. So keep trying!
- Set guidelines. Keep TV, smartphone and computer screen time limited, and monitor what they’re watching. Try and make bedtime the same routine every night.
- Give your children responsibility by assigning doable tasks to help out around the house, like picking up their clothes, taking out the garbage or helping with the dishes. Kids as young as two years old can bring their plate to the sink after meal time.
- Apologize. Admit when you make mistakes and talk about them openly. Those little beings, who really want nothing more than your love and approval, will breathe a sigh of relief to know that everyone messes up now and then, and that’s okay. Teach them to admit wrongdoing and work to make it right.
Talk about things in a positive way
Do things together as often as you can. Take walks and do activities as a family. Frame exercise and healthy habits in ways that emphasize the benefits rather than focusing on negative consequences of poor choices.
For example, children are far more likely to become engaged in exercise and healthy habits if they hear things such as: “I’d like to go to the gym. I feel stronger and happier after exercising,” rather than “I have to go to the gym, I need to lose weight.”
This approach can also work when discussing issues like bullying and making friends. If your child is getting bullied, talk to him or her about it and how to handle it. Explain why someone may be acting like a bully or just different from the other kids.
Maybe that kid is really hurting inside – he may be having trouble at home, or worried that no one will like him. If encouraged, your child might be the one to reach out and break the cycle. Teaching your kids to be brave, empathetic and understanding can have an important impact on their development.
When it comes to things like discipline, there’s the old tried-and-true approaches, like taking away privileges or enforcing time-outs. However, each child may respond differently to various methods at various ages. Sometimes a fresh approach can have a more positive effect.
Recently, our oldest hadn’t been nice to his brothers. As a lesson, we told him he had to take himself out of his baseball game for one inning. In addition, it was his responsibility to tell his coaches and teammates why.
At first, he asked if he could just tell them he hurt his foot, because he was embarrassed. No, he had to tell them the real reason, which he did. He got some good-natured teasing from his coaches and teammates, but it taught him responsibility for his actions.
Whatever method you find works best, be consistent.
A final thought
Don’t forget to spend some quality adult time with your partner. Do play-date swaps with friends or family so you can take turns watching the kids while the other couple gets a night off. It will refresh your relationship, give you some meaningful time together and renew your energy and patience with the kids.
Keep in mind that you’re not in this alone. When things get tough, talk to your partner, reach out to a friend, tap in to a support group or find a parenting blog you like for inspiration.
Being a good parent isn’t always easy, but it is rewarding. Just remember to do the best you can with what you have. I recently saw a quote that said, “Behind every great kid is a mom who’s pretty sure she’s screwing it up.” Yep. Every day is a new one. Have faith in the journey!
We invite you to use the comment area below to share your thoughts or ask Dr. Preimesbeger a question.