The Inner Conversation I Need to Have with Myself Every Day.

The Inner Conversation I Need to Have with Myself Every Day.

I am sitting here watching my son play with his friend thinking about all of the things that have blown up this week all while smiling for him. Let’s be honest, there are times when this parenting thing is just hard. Like when you get to the point where you are not sure whether you’re going left or right. Organizing rides to practices, planning meals, working and trying to find 30 minutes to get to the store to get my favorite face wash. Every decision feels wrong and everything seems to be going wrong. What do I do when I feel like this? Sometimes I go behind closed doors and cry then put some makeup on my red nose, throw on my Nikes and get back to it. Other days I don’t hide it from my kids. I let them see the struggles, the frustration and the tears. 

Which one is right? I could argue both. I don’t want them to see me cry or cause them to worry about anything that’s my job as their mom. They are just kids and have enough adult life to worry and stress them out. However, if they see how hard I fight they can gain more appreciation for what they have and what I do for them. The life we live doesn’t come easy. No matter how I respond I beat myself up. I have painted a picture of me being superwoman to the world and now that’s the picture that I see of myself. No room for error even when things are tough. 

I have read article after article about ways to cope when you’re stressed or how to give yourself grace and even how to parent under pressure. When I read those articles I then think, how can I get to the point where I am as put together as those moms? Which either motivates me or makes me feel defeated. 

Ways I Find Peace in the Chaos

So what’s the moral to the story? Finding peace in the chaos looks different for everyone, and that’s ok. It looks different for me every day, and that’s ok too.

I remind myself a few ways:

  • I put sticky notes on my mirrors with positive quotes.

I take time to write down life’s little blessings and put them in a vase to read when things get hard.

Reading those really helps put things into perspective. 

    I call my mom friends and complain about the chaos and then brag about the wins.

    I have found my one release from the world in coaching basketball. Nothing matters to me when I am on the court.

    Building Parental Resilience Is Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

    This is what parental resilience looks like for me and it’s built by learning healthy coping skills and strategies to manage your stress and function as well as you can when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma.​ Researchers at The Center for the Study of Social Policy have found that parental resilience is among the five Protective Factors that, when present in families’ lives, have the power to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and when I think about that, it makes complete sense to me. 

    When I’m not taking care of myself or managing my stress, I know I don’t show up for my kids the way I want to. But, who among us has not felt a little short-tempered, yelled or not been your best-self at moments in front of your kids. Everyone needs to practice self-care, especially parents. 

    Take the time to do little things that bring you calm during the storm. While I complain about the articles saying give yourself grace, it’s so true! I have to constantly remind myself that parenting is not for the weak, so we use the tools we have to make the best decisions we can to strengthen our families and ourselves. This is the pledge I make to myself and I’m sharing my story to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

    Makita Cotto

    Makita Cotto

    Makita is a proud mother of three, human resources manager and high school basketball coach sharing her lived experiences so that children and families can grow and thrive together. She has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced the foster care system as a child.

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    Three Ways to Start a Conversation with Your Nurse That Will Change the Way You Parent

    Three Ways to Start a Conversation with Your Nurse That Will Change the Way You Parent

    As a nurse, talking with patients is one of my favorite things to do. It’s wonderful interacting with patients and their families while providing the knowledge and resources that empower them to take control of their health. 

    Patient education is a key component of nursing practice and is integral for parents during those early childhood years. Especially since  it’s hard to know everything you need to know to raise a child on day one. At some point during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or postpartum, new parents will encounter a nurse. Take advantage of the opportunity and allow them to share their knowledge of parenting and child development.

    Physical Health Care

    Nurses play an important role in the physical health care of both parents and their children. They can address concerns about the complications of pregnancy, labor and delivery, and the physical health of newborns.

    In addition, nurses can provide patient and family education on the identification of health problems in children and when it is appropriate to seek medical care. You are confronting a new frontier. Don’t be afraid to talk about your body or your newborn.


    Conversation Starter

    Is it normal to feel. . . .?

    Safe Environments

    Those first few days and months are nerve-racking to say the least. The hazards of life are all around us, and it can be hard to know how to spot them while also navigating a lack of sleep or, sometimes even more intense stressors like; navigating recovery from a substance use disorder, postpartum anxiety and depression, or even financial problems.

    Guiding parents toward a safe environment for their children is also something that nurses can assist with and it’s free to parents in many communities. Parents can have a nurse visit their home and provide education about safety issues such as smoke detectors; safe spaces for children to play, sleep, and eat meals; and other activities that may best promote well-being.


    Conversation Starter

    Can I take you home with me? I’ve heard the term “home visiting,” but I’m not sure what it means.

    Support Networks

    All new parents need help! So, building supportive relationships is important. Nurses can link new parents to resources and people in the community that assist with things like child care or connecting to parent groups.

    Just ask for a list. Colorado Shines is one example of a community resource for parents which provides information, education and support for families with newborns and young children.


    Conversation Starter

    Any tips on the best resources for parents to find _____ in town?

    One of the five protective factors for preventing child maltreatment is knowledge of parenting and child development. Unfortunately, there isn’t a manual to prepare you for your journey through parenthood. So, it’s natural to talk to your family, friends and professionals you trust about what to know and where to go to ensure your kids are healthy, valued and thriving. Multiple studies have examined the relationship between the role of nurses and the development of parenting during early childhood care. Findings indicate that nurses can be an important source of information for parents during the first few years of caring for their children.

    Nurses can guide new parents in areas including physical health care, safe environments and developing support networks. Talk to us. We’ve heard it all before and we can help. It’s one of the most amazing parts about our job.

    About the Author

    Kenneth Oja is an assistant professor of nursing and nurse research scientist in Colorado who assists nurses in conducting research to improve nursing practice and patient outcomes.

    New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

    New Federal Safety Standard for Infant Sleep Products Help Make Smart Choices to Keep Kids Safe

    When you walk into any store to buy something for a new baby on the way, you assume that the products on the shelves are safe, but those who’ve spent some time learning about safe sleep recommendations and guidelines know that isn’t the case when it comes to infant sleep products. Earlier this month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) announced the approval of a new federal rule to ensure products marketed or intended for infant sleep will provide a safe sleep environment for babies under 5 months old. Beginning in mid-2022, any product intended or marketed for infant sleep must meet a federal safety standard—a requirement that does not exist today. 

    The new mandatory standard will effectively eliminate potentially hazardous sleep products in the marketplace that do not currently meet a CPSC mandatory standard for infant sleep, such as inclined sleepers, travel and compact bassinets, and in-bed sleepers, which have been linked to dozens of infant deaths. Popular products formerly referred to as “inclined sleep products” include several styles that have been recalled over the years. In fact, just this week, Fisher-Price announced a recall of thousands of baby soothers, gliders after 4 infant deaths, including one baby from Colorado.  

    “This change will be historic and save lives in Colorado,” said Kate Jankovsky, childhood adversity prevention manager with the Violence and Injury Prevention-Mental Health Promotion Branch of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and member of the Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership. “This will make it easier for all consumers to buy, use and give infant sleep products as gifts. Today, many people are unknowingly buying products known to be unsafe for an infant to sleep.” 

    The lack of regulation of infant sleep products and the abundance of unsafe sleep objects and devices manufactured and sold throughout the United States has frustrated advocates, health care professionals and parents who have lost children, alike, for years. Dr. Sunah S. Hwang, the Lula O. Lubchenco Chair in Neonatal-Perinatal Medicine and Associate Professor of Pediatrics and Director of Perinatal Health Services Research with the University of Colorado School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics Section of Neonatology, highlighted the need for action by the Commission in The Call to Translate Data Into Action to Prevent Infant Death published just last month. Stating “[a]lthough states such as Ohio, Maryland, and New York have banned
    the sale of unsafe items such as crib bumpers, these soft bedding objects continue to be manufactured,
    marketed, and sold. The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted unanimously in 2020 to proceed with developing a federal safety rule that would ban the sale of crib bumpers that limit airflow. We eagerly await
    the results of the federal rulemaking process.” Hwang highlighted the fact that

    of SUID cases categorized as “explained” or “unexplained–possible suffocation,” 74% of airway obstructions were due to soft bedding. In short, 1145 infants may have survived their first year of life had soft bedding not been used during their sleep.”

    Later this year, the Commission expects to consider federal safety standards for crib bumpers and crib mattresses. CPSC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have long warned of the dangers of bed-sharing or co-sleeping. The new rule does not take any action against bed-sharing without sleep products. Instead, it shifts responsibility to manufacturers to assist parents who want to bed-share, by requiring them to produce only products that are safe to do so. The new rule also does not extend to items that are expressly not intended or marketed for infant sleep, such as swings and car seats.


    As a reminder, the safest place for a baby to sleep is a flat, bare surface dedicated to the infant. The Colorado Infant Safe Sleep Partnership is actively recruiting members interested in getting involved to support families, providers, organizations and policymakers to increase infant safe sleep practices and address related barriers and disparities, through education, practice change and systems improvement. 

    Safe Storage Means Safer Kids

    Safe Storage Means Safer Kids

    Safe and proper storage of firearms can contribute to a safe home environment for all members of a family. The Colorado Child Fatality Prevention System specifically recommended in 2018 to raise awareness and provide education to child welfare providers and community agencies on safe firearm storage to prevent child deaths involving firearms. This is crucial as more than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend. Stronger safe storage laws promote a safer environment for all children to thrive, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic given the increased time spent at home paired with increased mental health stressors among youth.

    House Bill 21-1106 Safe Storage Of Firearms was signed by Governor Polis on April 19th, 2021. This bill requires that firearms be responsibly and securely stored when they are not in use to prevent access by unsupervised youth and other unauthorized users. The bill further supports and ensures safe storage by requiring that at the time of a firearm sale or transfer, licensed gun dealers must provide a locking device capable of securing the firearm. Thank you to partners at the American Academy of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital Colorado, Colorado Academy of Family Physicians, Colorado Children’s Campaign, Colorado Nurses Association, Mental Health Colorado, Violence Free Colorado, and more for supporting this important bill. Thank you to Representatives Duran and Mullica and Senators Bridges and Hansen for your leadership and sponsorship of HB21-1106. 

    Visit to get more information to guide us all through the choices we have to make at every age and stage of life to keep kids safe.  

    Review the 2021 Policy Agenda

    Download the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda and use the Illuminate Colorado Bill Tracker to stay up to date on the progression of bills this session related to strengthening families.



    Stay up to date on policy that prevents child maltreatment and the 2021 Illuminating Policy Agenda by subscribing to Illuminate’s blog.

    Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

    Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

    Few things are more exhausting than a new baby. Increased infant crying, perhaps a few older children to care for, and trying to get back to work after a few short weeks all result in very, very tired caregivers.


    October is Safe Sleep Awareness month. There has been a great deal of information shared this month around what a safe sleep crib looks like. And although it can sound a bit boring, ensuring cribs are free of objects which could lead to suffocation is worth the mental shift from “cute” to “safe”. Talking with all the family and friends who come in contact with baby about safe sleep practices is important to ensure even good-willed intentions do not lead to tragedy.

    Adding Substance Use to the Mix

    Imagine the last time you were beyond tired. Maybe you found yourself dozing off driving to or from work. Maybe you fell asleep watching a movie you actually wanted to see. Or maybe that last zoom call was just too long to handle. Sometimes our bodies take over even when we have every intention to stay awake.

    Now take a moment and imagine adding substances that can lead to additional depression of the body’s ability to function, like alcohol, marijuana, some over the counter and prescription medications, and illicit substances. When contemplating the use of substances with a newborn in the home (separate from breastfeeding risks and substance use) it is important to be extra vigilant in ensuring your baby has a safe place to sleep.


    Caregiving of an infant is exhausting. Falling asleep when feeding a baby on a couch or in bed is not uncommon for a tired caregiver. The impacts and side effects of many common substances increases the risk of positional overlay, which is when a caregiver accidentally rolls over on a baby in bed or on a couch or large chair, suffocating the infant. If you are thinking right now you would totally wake up if you rolled over on a baby, remember the times noted above. You didn’t mean to fall asleep, but you did. And if a caregiver is exhausted, and impacted by substance use, whether they were feeding the baby, or in bed with a baby and an additional caregiver, the risk of positional overlay or entrapment increases. And sleeping on a couch with a baby increases the risk even more, especially when substances are involved.

    Increasing Safety in Sleeping Environments

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are several ways to increase safety in sleeping environments, including:

    • Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night. 
    • Use a firm sleep surface. 
    • Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year. 
    • Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort.
    • Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
    • Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies. However, certain situations make bed-sharing even more dangerous. Therefore, you should not bed share with your baby if:
      • Your baby is younger than 4 months old.
      • Your baby was born prematurely or with low birth weight.
      • You or any other person in the bed is a smoker (even if you do not smoke in bed).
      • The mother of the baby smoked during pregnancy.
      • You have taken any medicines or drugs that might make it harder for you to wake up.
      • You drank any alcohol.
      • You are not the baby’s parent.
      • The surface is soft, such as a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.
      • There is soft bedding like pillows or blankets on the bed.
    • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area. 
    • It is fine to swaddle your baby. 
    • Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. 

    For more detailed descriptions of the above information, visit A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep.

    You Are Not Alone

    Being a caregiver for a newborn is exhausting. If you are a parent or caregiver reading this, know you are not alone and that feeling exhausted is normal. It will pass. You will find a new pattern and chances to catch up on sleep over the next few years. Following safe sleep practices now, including limiting substance use, and creating and using safe sleep environments, can reduce the risk of SUIDS and the risks of positional overlay. Reach out to parent groups, family or your community for support. Raising children is beyond hard!

    For more information on resources to help provide safe sleep environments, call 1-800-CHILDREN, 2-1-1, or your local health department. For more information on finding support from other parents, visit

    No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe

    No Judgement Here, Just Three Simple Questions Every Parent Should Ask Themselves to Keep Their Kids Safe


    Stress is running high in many houses. We’re trying to anticipate what is happening with the new school year in the fall, while figuring out how to earn a living and take care of our families during this COVID-19 pandemic. For many folks that means accessing unemployment benefits and community support. The kids also don’t have many options this summer other than to stick close to home, and that means parents often don’t have a break from parenting. Then there is the added stress of trying to find child care, it is a lot of pressure.  

    If you’re on social media, you can see it’s pretty common to turn to substances to take the edge off, or at least joke about it. Whether it’s a glass of wine or beer, an edible or practicing mindfulness, the choices you make now in how you are present with the children in your life are more important than ever. 

    Colorado is a substance friendly state, and many legal substances have remained available during the COVID-19 pandemic. No judgement here, it may be a part of how you manage your stress, but there are three things everyone should ask themselves when considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children to keep them safe. 

    Who would take the kids to the hospital if you were incapacitated in any way?

    It’s a good rule of thumb and it is the worst case scenario. Driving under the influence of any mind or body altering substance can be dangerous for everyone in and around the vehicle. Make sure there is an adult in the home who has the capacity to get behind the wheel and care for the kids to help prevent something awful from happening.  

    That special someone should understand the developmental and physical needs of your kids based on age, ability and need. This may look like having the reaction time needed to keep a toddler off the stairs. Or ensure a baby is being fed and changed consistently, and when needed. Perhaps meeting the emotional needs of an older child. Oftentimes, the very escape that is desired from substance use (including alcohol), is what makes taking care of the kids safely so difficult. Substance use alone does not equal unfit or unsafe parenting. Remember, this is a judgement-free zone. 

    If the answer to this question isn’t you, it’s time to make a plan to have a responsible caregiver present during and after use. Edible THC products remain active a lot longer than many people suspect, so plan for several hours after use. 

    Is everything stored where the kids can’t get it? 

    Substance use may have increased in your home over these last couple of months or become a new normal. This likely means it is around the house more. Again no judgement, we all need to make sure substances are properly stored all the time, just like dangerous household cleaning items. This may include locking alcohol in a cupboard or pantry, or locking medications or THC products in a locking bag or box.

    Keeping substances out of reach of children and young people is important, and is an easy step in creating a safe environment for your family.

    What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?  

    Parenting is stressful under regular circumstances and this new normal may be here for awhile. There are a variety of ways to take care of yourself that doesn’t include “checking out.” Find a place you can retreat to when you start to feel stressed. Even if it is locking yourself in the bathroom or going for a short walk, give yourself permission to take at least 5 minutes alone, assuming children are in a safe place, like a baby in a crib, alone on their back.  Finding ways to take care of yourself can make all the difference in reclaiming some balance and help you be the parent you want to be for your kids. 

    Adulting is hard, especially with kids around. Much has changed in this new normal, but the questions to ponder at any point when substances are used, including alcohol, have remained the same. It is up to all of us to make smart choices to keep kids safe. 

    Whether you are a single parent who can’t remember the last time you had a moment to yourself or a neighbor helping out watching the kids, anytime you’re considering using a substance while taking care of a child/children, it’s important to ask yourself these three simple questions to keep kids safe. 

    Visit to get more information to guide us all through the choices we have to make at every age and stage of life to keep kids safe.

    And, if after asking yourself these three simple questions, you are starting to think that you need to talk. Call the Colorado Crisis Services 1-844-493-TALK (8255),a support line for anyone affected by a mental health, substance use or emotional crisis. It’s ok to admit that you are struggling. Crisis counselors are standing by.

    If you or a loved one needs support, just text, call, or walk-in 24/7/365.

    Anne Auld is the director of education for Illuminate Colorado. Auld has worked with children and families for more than 20 years, training parents, professionals and community members on subjects including strengthening families, safe storage, child sexual abuse prevention and much more.

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