Monday, September 29, 2008

Getting ready to get pregnant : Have you been dieting recently?

Going on a crash diet right before you start trying to conceive is just plain bad news. While your objective may be noble — getting to a healthy weight before you embark on a pregnancy — you risk depleting your body of important nutrients at the very time when those nutrients are needed to grow a healthy baby. In fact, if the Fad Diet Du Jour that you’ve been following is overly strict, you may even stop ovulating entirely — your body’s way of switching into self-preservation mode in the face of a perceived “famine.”

Note: If you’re struggling with an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa, or if you have battled with such an eating disorder in the past, you’ll want to be upfront with your doctor or midwife about the situation. Studies have shown that women with eating disorders face an increased risk of miscarriage, obstetrical complications, of giving birth to a low-birth weight baby, and of developing postpartum depression.

That’s not to say that these problems are unavoidable, of course: you may simply require some added psychological support (and possibly some nutritional counseling as well) during your pregnancy.

Source : The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. Second Edition . Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D. 2004

Friday, September 26, 2008

The Benefits of Being a Real Mother

Some of the long-term dividends of being a real mother are obvious and easy to appreciate; others are more subtle, yet no less important. Here is my list of seven reasons we need to get real:

1. Real moms can help their kids buck peer pressure because the certainty and firmness of their conviction strengthens their influence on their kids.

2. Real moms’ children are more likely to adopt their mother’s values because their mother hasn’t watered down her beliefs with the latest trends or moral compromises.

3. Real moms are likely to be better models of patience and self control because they’re being themselves and are at peace with who they are.

4. Real moms are happier and have more joy in their families because there is so much less pretense and putting on to keep up.

5. Real moms are less guilty and anxious because they’re not trying to be perfect by other people’s standards.

6. Real moms are more appreciated because their kids have had a chance to know their interests and passions.

7. Real moms have more energy for their families because they don’t waste time doing things that don’t match their priorities and beliefs.

The result of all these wonderful benefits is that real moms enjoy a powerful connection with their children that lasts for always. If your kids are two, three, twenty, or older, the bond remains as strong and important as ever. You could even say that your model and the lessons you’ve learned are carried with them in their own lives and families. It’s the most important legacy that you can ever provide.

Source : 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. GETTING BACK TO BASICS AND RAISING HAPPY KIDS . Michele Borba, Ed.D. 2006

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Characteristics of Gifted Families (Part 2)

Perfectionism is an energy that can be used either positively or negatively. It can cause paralysis and underachievement, if the person feels incapable of meeting standards set by the self or by others. It also can be the passion that leads to extraordinary creative achievement—an ecstatic struggle to move beyond the previous limits of one’s capabilities and a component of the drive for self-actualization (Maslow, 1970). In a study of 400 gifted sixth graders, Parker (1997) found perfectionism to be correlated with conscientiousness rather than neurosis; he argued for appreciation of a healthy form of perfectionism. Therapists need to be able to distinguish between unreachable, punitive self-standards and a level of excellence within the grasp of gifted clients.

In gifted mothers, perfectionism may blend with their desire for beauty and order. Leta Hollingworth (1939) wrote that she had never met a gifted person who did not have a love of beauty. The desire to create beauty can express itself in gardening; flower arranging; taste in clothing; the care with which one decorates one’s home; delight in music, art, and sunsets; orderliness; and appreciation of the elegance of mathematics. Gifted individuals with limited funds may become depressed having to live in inelegant surroundings. Family conflicts erupt when perfectionist mothers with a strong aesthetic sense strive to maintain too high a level of order in their homes. For example, one mother insisted that her teenage son hang all of his clothes in the same direction in his closet. It is essential for the counselor to honor the gifted mother’s need for beauty and, at the same, assist her in picking her battles.

The complexity of gifted minds is mirrored in the complexity of their emotions. Highly intelligent people see so many variables in a situation, so many connections between seemingly unrelated events, and so many potential outcomes that they may not be able to sort through all of the information to find an appropriate path. Decision-making is simpler when one has less information. While there has been much psychological investigation of the pitfalls of black/white thinking, little has been written about the dilemma of living with an infinite number of shades of gray. If the individual is petrified of making a mistake and believes that all but one of those shades of gray will be a dreadful error, life becomes a perilous walk on a tightrope with no safety net below. And if members of a family share this trait, decision-making is highly charged. The therapist must provide the safety net, while attempting to unknot the multitudinous variables, so that family members can safely navigate life. The heart of therapeutic work with gifted families comes from their insatiable need for meaning. The clinician often asks, “What does this mean to you?” Gifted individuals are willing to cope with loneliness, being the perpetual outsider, and even lack of joy, if they can find meaning in their experience.

Two other characteristics of the gifted family are their lack of conventionality and their cohesiveness. Some therapists mistake the closeness of many gifted families for enmeshment. This is especially true for the exceptionally gifted, who may have no one outside their

family with whom they can relate. Kearney (1992) writes:

Giftedness is a family affair. … Discrepancies in an individual child’s development affect siblings, parents, and extended family members as well as the child, and educational options have repercussions that can reverberate throughout the family system and across generations. (p. 9)

If these children are placed in heterogeneous, rigidly age-graded classrooms in school with no opportunity to associate with gifted peers for academic and social activities, it may appear to their teachers that they do not “socialize well” with other children. In addition, if they complicate the play to the point where other children literally cannot play with them, they will not be surrounded by playmates at recess. But within the family, they may spend hours and hours with gifted siblings of varying ages participating in imaginative, extremely complex play. During the 19th century, this would not have been unusual, since children spent much less time in school and much more time at home. Twentieth century society, however, features a much different pattern of expectations for family life. Thus, such closeness and creativity among gifted siblings sometimes is perceived negatively by schools and mental health professionals… (pp. 9–10)

Source : Clinical Practice with Gifted Families. Handbook of Giftedness In Children. Linda Kreger Silverman and Alexandra Shires Golon. 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Getting ready to get pregnant : Are you at a healthy weight?

It’s always best to try to embark on pregnancy at a healthy weight, if you can manage it. Here’s why:

Seriously underweight or overweight women don’t tend to ovulate as often as other women, something that can wreak havoc on a woman’s efforts to conceive.

Seriously underweight women are at increased risk of giving birth to a low-birth weight baby (a baby who weighs less than five pounds at birth and who may be at increased risk of experiencing some potentially serious health problems).

Seriously overweight women face a higher-than-average risk of experiencing pre-eclampsia, gestational diabetes, of requiring a labor induction and/or a cesarean section, and of giving birth to extremely large babies, babies with neural tube defects, babies with heart defects, or babies who are at increased risk of developing diabetes later in life.

If you’re not an ideal weight, you might want to try to lose weight or gain weight so that you reach a healthy range before you start trying to conceive. Just don’t try to lose a ton of weight overnight: that’s not healthy for you or the baby and may throw a wrench in your baby-making plans anyway by disrupting ovulation.

Source : The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. Second Edition . Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D. 2004

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Age issue to Having a Baby (part 3)

Get the scoop on your family’s reproductive history.

Find out if you have close female relatives who have had difficulty conceiving or who have had trouble with endometriosis, uterine fibroids, early menopause, or uterine abnormalities. Some of these conditions tend to run in families, so you’ll want to know upfront what you may be dealing with so that you can either seek treatment or fast-forward your baby-making schedule if it looks like you may be facing greater-than-average challenges on the reproductive front.

Choose your sexual partners with care.

Sexually transmitted disease (STDs) are just plain bad news for the female reproductive system, so take steps to protect yourself and your future baby-to-be. (Some STDs can be harmful — even deadly — to the developing baby, so you can’t be too careful on this front.)

Quit smoking.

While you’re no doubt aware of the terrible toll that smoking can take on your heart, lungs, and other organs, you might not realize that it can do a real number on your reproductive system, too. Studies have shown that women who smoke are 30 percent less fertile than other women. And, what’s more, they’re at increased risk of developing pelvic inflammatory disease. So smoking is just plain bad news for you and the baby you hope to have some day

Encourage your partner to safeguard his fertility, too.

Future fathers are sometimes guilty of assuming that fertility is “a girl thing” that they, as guys, don’t have to pay much attention to. That kind of thinking is dangerously outdated and could rob a guy of his chance to be a dad. In fact, in recognition of the fact that sperm quality does tend to deteriorate over time, The American Society of Reproductive Medicine is now recommending an age limit of 50 for sperm donors. But, of course, that’s not all a guy needs to think about on the fertility front. A man’s reproductive system can be damaged by sports injuries, exposure to toxic chemicals or radiation, the use of anabolic steroids, the use of certain types of medications that can hamper sperm production and/or reduce sperm counts — even by something as simple as carrying around too much weight. (Men who are significantly overweight tend to have excessively high levels of the female sex hormone estrogen, something that can affect a man’s fertility.)

And any dad who is actively trying to father a child should be laying off the alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes, too: these vices can interfere with a man’s ability to ejaculate and/or affect his overall fertility. (Just tell your guy the true high in life comes from being a dad!)

Source : The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. Second Edition . Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D. 2004

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Characteristics of Gifted Families (Part 1)

The characteristics of giftedness in childhood do not disappear when one becomes an adult. Only memory has a short shelf life. Parents of highly able children are usually gifted ex-children (Tolan, 1994). Genetic studies suggest that “intelligence…is one of the most heritable dimensions of behavior” (Plomin, 1999, p. 29); therefore, if one child is gifted, it is likely that the entire family is gifted. From this perspective, there are no “potentially” gifted children, even as there are no potentially retarded children.

Families of the gifted have been studied from a different vantage point: to discover how family life creates giftedness or eminence (e.g., Albert, 1980; Bloom 1985; Goertzel, Goertzel, Goertzel & Hansen, 2004) and to see how one child being labeled gifted affects siblings (e.g., Colangelo & Brower, 1987; Cornell, 1984). These questions are from the fields of psychology and education, which have been somewhat skeptical of genetics. The concept that a gifted child is imbedded within a gifted family is probably more palatable to medically trained psychiatrists and clinical social workers, since medicine places a strong premium on heredity.

When a parent brings a child for testing, it often opens the door to self-discovery, sometimes leading the parent to seek assessment for him- or herself. Even without formal testing, parents may begin to recognize their own abilities when they read a list of the characteristics of giftedness. But owning one’s gifts is another matter.

Giftedness is so wed to recognized achievement in adults that most parents, regardless of what they have achieved, have an immediate disconnect from the notion that they might be gifted. This is particularly true of mothers, who often avow, “She gets it from her father!” If mothers are their daughters’ first role models, and mothers cannot be gifted, how can their daughters believe in their own giftedness?

Many of the issues in gifted families are related to unrecognized giftedness and the characteristics of the gifted throughout the life cycle. The feeling of being an outsider in any social sphere, a feeling that began in childhood, colors the parent’s attitudes and concerns for the child. It is this lack of belonging that may drive a gifted adult to seek therapy and that gets triggered when there is family conflict. If the conflict is intense, it may bring the threat of loss of the only community to which the parent has ever belonged.

Increased sensitivity is common throughout the family system. Intensity is another family trait (Meckstroth, 1989). Any perceived slight can quickly escalate into a major drama. Luckily, intense blow-ups often blow over quickly. In working with the incendiary quality of the gifted family, two other characteristics of giftedness can mitigate the potential damage to family relations. Highly intelligent people are capable of understanding the point of view of others. And, as the first counselor/psychologist of the gifted, Leta Hollingworth (1940), often pointed out, humor is their “saving sense” (p. 274). If they can see the humor in the situation, or can get to the point where they are capable of laughing at themselves, they can get beyond their feelings of wounded-ness.

The argumentativeness of gifted families can be off-putting for those who do not understand it. Nearly all gifted individuals argue: some argue out loud and some argue with others in their minds—too polite to voice what they are thinking. Argument is a way of knowing and a form of mental exercise engaged in by inquisitive minds.

In some gifted families, mental sparring is the basic form of communication. Leta Hollingworth understood this trait well. As part of her “emotional education,” she designed a program to train highly gifted children in the fine art of argumentation, including “argument with oneself,” “argument with others in private, involving etiquette and the art of polite disagreement,” and “argument in public” (Hollingworth, 1939, p. 585). If parents were raised in authoritarian families where they were punished if they were disobedient, they may perceive their children’s argumentativeness as oppositional defiance.

There is very likely to be heightened perfectionism in a gifted family. This is one of the most frequently misunderstood qualities of the gifted. Clinicians often assume that perfectionism needs to be cured, since it appears to be a factor in several conditions, such as stress-related ailments, anxiety, depression, anorexia, bulimia, workaholic, sexual compulsions and dysfunctions, chemical abuse, Type A coronary-prone behavior, migraines, excessive cosmetic surgeries, suicide, psychosomatic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive personality disorder (American Psychiatric Association, 1994). However, in the gifted, perfectionism may have an entirely different significance (Silverman, 1999).

Source : Clinical Practice with Gifted Families. Handbook of Giftedness In Children. Linda Kreger Silverman and Alexandra Shires Golon. 2008

Friday, September 12, 2008

The age issue to Having a Baby (part 2)

If you decide to put your baby-making plans on hold for the foreseeable future, but you’re still hoping to become a mother someday, it’s important that you take steps now to safeguard your future fertility. Here are the key points to keep in mind:

Choose a birth control method that is fertility enhancing.

The birth control pill (a.k.a. “the Pill”) gets top marks from fertility experts because it changes the consistency of your cervical mucus, making it more difficult for bacteria to pass through the mucus and into your uterus and tubes. The Pill also serves up some added benefits on the fertility

front: it helps to prevent ovarian cysts, halt the progression of endometriosis (a condition that can lead to fallopian tube scarring), to decrease the incidence of ovarian and uterine cancer, and to restore a normal hormonal balance in women who don’t ovulate. Of course, it doesn’t provide you with protection against sexually transmitted diseases, so that’s something you’ll want to keep in mind if you haven’t quite settled upon Mr. Right yet. A birth control method you might want to steer clear of until your baby-making days are behind you is the intrauterine device (IUD): it has been linked to an increase incidence of pelvic inflammatory disease — a major cause of infertility in women.

Pay attention to any gynecological red flags.

If you notice an unusual discharge from your breasts or detect any unusual menstrual bleeding, see your gynecologist sooner rather than later. The sooner you seek treatment for any hormonal imbalances or other gynecological health problems, the less likely these problems are to take a toll on your future fertility.


Source : The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. Second Edition . Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D. 2004

Monday, September 8, 2008

What are the Signs of Giftedness?

Parental recognition has been found to be a key ingredient in identification of, and differentiation for, gifted children in school settings (Dickinson, 1970). Recognition is enhanced when parents are exposed to a list of the typical traits of giftedness (Munger, 1990; Silverman, Chitwood, & Waters, 1986), such as the following:

Characteristics of Giftedness

Compared to other children your child’s age, how many of these descriptors fit your child?

• Reasons well (good thinker)

• Learns rapidly

• Has extensive vocabulary

• Has an excellent memory

• Has a long attention span (if interested)

• Sensitive (feelings hurt easily)

• Shows compassion

• Perfectionist

• Intense

• Morally sensitive

• Has strong curiosity

• Perseverant in areas of interest

• Has high degree of energy

• Prefers older companions or adults

• Has a wide range of interests

• Has a great sense of humor

• Early or avid reader (if too young to read, loves being read to)

• Concerned with justice, fairness

• Judgment mature for age at times

• Is a keen observer

• Has a vivid imagination

• Is highly creative

• Tends to question authority

• Has facility with numbers

• Good at jigsaw puzzles

The 25 traits above are from the Characteristics of Giftedness Scale (Silverman, 1993b), developed and studied over a period of 34 years (K. Rogers & Silverman, 1998; Silverman, 2003a). The descriptors were selected to meet the following criteria:

(a) applicable to a wide age range,

(b) generalize able to children of varied socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds,

(c) gender fair,

(d) easily observed in the home environment,

(e) brief and clearly worded for ease of interpretation by parents, and

(f) supported by research.

The Characteristics of Giftedness Scale is a 4-point Likert scale, with room for anecdotal descriptions of each characteristic. Delisle (1992) has found that accuracy of parent checklists improves dramatically when parents are asked to provide anecdotal data about each characteristic endorsed. For many years, the scale was administered in a phone interview, and now it is sent to parents electronically. There is also a teacher version. In a study of 1000 children whose parents indicated that their children exhibited three-fourths of the characteristics, 84% of the children tested above 120 IQ (Silverman, 1998). Another 11% demonstrated superior abilities in some areas, but had weaknesses that depressed their IQ scores below 120. Exceptionally gifted children (above 160 IQ) demonstrated 80 to 90% of the characteristics (K. Rogers & Silverman, 1998).

Source : Clinical Practice with Gifted Families. Handbook of Giftedness In Children. Linda Kreger Silverman and Alexandra Shires Golon. 2008

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Age issue to Having a Baby (part 1)

While you might be tempted to hold off on starting a family until you have your financial house in order, it might not be the wisest move from a biological standpoint. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, postponing motherhood indefinitely isn’t necessarily in the best interests of mother or baby. Not only do you risk missing out on the experience of motherhood entirely (the biological clock waits for no woman, after all), you face an increased risk of experiencing reproductive or other health problems, or of giving birth to a baby with health problems. Here’s what you need to know in order to be fully informed on the age issue:

Older mothers are less fertile than younger mothers.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, a woman over age 40 has just a 5 percent chance of conceiving during any given cycle as compared to the 20 percent odds enjoyed by a woman in her early 20s.

Older mothers face an increased risk of miscarriage.

According to a study reported in the British Medical Journal, by the time a woman reaches age 45, her odds of having a pregnancy end in miscarriage are roughly 75 percent.

Older mothers face an increased risk of giving birth to a baby with a chromosomal abnormality.

While a 25-year-old woman faces 1/476 odds of giving birth to a baby with a chromosomal abnormality such as Down syndrome, a 45-year-old woman faces 1/21 odds.

Older mothers are more likely to conceive twins or other multiples than younger mothers.

Because complications are more common in multiple pregnancies and multiples are more likely to be born prematurely, the rate of loss in multiple pregnancies tends to be higher than when a

woman is carrying a single baby.

Older mothers are more likely to develop complications during their pregnancies. Preeclampsia (extremely high blood pressure), placenta previa (when the placenta blocks the exit to the uterus), placental abruptions (the premature separation of the placenta from the uterine wall), gestational diabetes (a form of diabetes that is triggered during pregnancy), premature birth (birth before the 37th completed week of pregnancy), and intrauterine growth restriction (when the baby ends up being significantly smaller than what would be expected for a baby of a particular gestational age) are all more common in order mothers than in younger mothers. Women over the age of 40 are also more likely to have preexisting health problems such as coronary artery disease that may complicate their pregnancies — yet another reason to keep an eye on the biological clock.

Older mothers are more likely to require an operative delivery.

Forceps, vacuum extractions, and inductions are more common among older mothers, and, what’s more, older mothers are more likely to require a cesarean delivery than their younger counterparts. (A study reported in the medical journal Obstetrics and Gynecology noted that mothers over the age of 44 are 7.5 times as likely to require a cesarean delivery as younger mothers.)


Source : The Unofficial Guide to Having a Baby. Second Edition . Ann Douglas and John R. Sussman, M.D. 2004

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

What Is a Real Mom?

Hey, Mom: Are you real? Is what you’re doing as a mother going to “last for always”?

Sure, that may sound like a silly question, but the answer is going to tell you a lot about just how effective you are as a mother, how influential you will be on your children’s lives, and whether they will grow up to be happy adults with character and confidence. It will also make a big difference in just how happy your family is now, today, every day.

What does a real mom look like?

  • A real mom doesn’t worry about what other moms are doing or saying.
  • A real mom knows her children so well that she makes her parenting decisions based on their unique needs.
  • A real mom is clear about her personal values and code of behavior, and sticks to them.
  • A real mom knows what’s important for her family and keeps those priorities straight.
  • A real mom has confidence in her maternal instinct and isn’t pushed around by the latest pressures and trends.
  • A real mom knows that what matters most is a close connection with her children so that her influence lasts for always.

And what does a real mom do?

Above all, she stays true to herself and connected to her kids, and she doesn’t deviate from what she knows is best for her family.

  • Real moms have a life of their own.
  • Real moms break the rules for their family.
  • Real moms let their kids wear the same clothes two days in a row.
  • Real moms go on a date with their husbands and aren’t afraid to miss the PTA meeting.
  • Real moms give their kids pots and pans to play with.
  • Real moms leave their food on the tray and head for the parking lot when their kid has a meltdown at McDonalds.
  • Real moms make their kids do their own homework.
  • Real moms aren’t afraid to say no.
  • Real moms give themselves time-outs.
  • Real moms tell their kids they don’t have to play Beethoven’s “Für Elise” at the family reunion.
  • Real moms know it’s not personal when their kids say, “You’re the meanest mother in the whole world.”
  • Real moms say “Good job” when their kids get an A but hold off on the brand-new Lexus.
  • Real moms make their sixteen-year-olds set their own alarm clocks.
  • Real moms tell their kids to pay their own library fines.
  • Real moms ask Uncle Harry to put on the lampshade and do his juggling act on the kitchen table as the birthday party clown.
  • Real moms let their kids be bored.
  • Real moms say, “Not in our family” when their kids complain that “But everyone else does.”
  • Real moms say, “I’m not an ATM machine” and tell their kids to save money.
  • Real moms admit they’re wrong.
  • Real moms know they’re not perfect.
  • Real moms leave the dust when the playgroup comes over.
  • Real moms admit when they’re grouchy.
  • Real moms send their kid to canoe paddling camp when the other mothers enroll theirs in intensive Chinese language immersion.

Source : 12 Simple Secrets Real Moms Know. GETTING BACK TO BASICS AND RAISING HAPPY KIDS . Michele Borba, Ed.D. 2006