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parenting, Support

PARENTING IN THE SPRING

While spring is an exciting time of year for our kiddos in and out of school, it is essential to know it also creates increased stress for many. We often think of stress as resulting from challenging things like struggling in a class or relationship troubles; however, even fun things happening in our lives like traveling or reaching a milestone, such as graduation creates stress as it takes us out of our comfort zone and routines.  When under stress, we often return to old coping strategies such as avoidance or burying feelings. So, keep an eye out for natural opportunities to build your kiddos skills.

When we listen to our kiddos often, we kick into problem-solving mode. Remind yourself to slow down and take notice of your own emotions that may drive your response. Actively listen to your child and remember it is frequently not about the content on the surface (“she was mean” or “that was unfair”). It is more helpful to respond to the emotions underneath the surface so we can help the kiddo identify their feelings, learn to sit with them and use some strategies to manage.

Some potential discussion starters could be the following:

It sounds like that was upsetting.

I’m sorry that was frustrating. What did you do or what could you do?

That sounds rough. I know you can handle it.

It will also be important to practice new ways of thinking about things such as learning to expect change and know it will take you out of your comfort zone. Talking about what to expect, including discomfort, and normalizing it will be key to building more successful coping.

Some potential discussion starters could be the following:

What felt hard today?

Did you expect that to be so easy or hard?

I never like it when that happens to me. What did you try to do?

Happy Spring! Embrace change and time for new growth. 🙂

Uncategorized

Allowing Kids Privacy Gives Them So Much

Much is being said about the topic of privacy and children/teens these days. To be sure this is not a simple issue as parents work to balance letting their kids be and working to assure their safety. The expanse of threats has grown as parents must now worry about more than the neighborhood in which their children roam. However, while parenting concerns have indeed shifted through the years and care is required, it should be balanced to allow kids as much privacy as possible to develop their own abilities to manage their lives.


I have listened as parents share their many techniques of keeping tabs on their children, some of which include the use of trackers and access to their child/teen’s text messages. It is stunning to hear parents share how they use this information to interject themselves into situations that have the potential in which their child may make a poor choice large or small. I find it concerning those children and especially teens are not being allowed to navigate these conditions independently. These are valuable opportunities that offer our kids chances to practice skills such as managing awkward social dynamics, speaking up for themselves, leading others in more positive directions and most often, making the right choice. By anticipating and jumping into a variety of situations, we are communicating they are not capable.


We should be mindful that we need to allow kids to learn to deal with the thoughts and emotions that arise when they are uncertain of what to do next. It is part of their development to navigate the many challenges of growing up with limited input from parents when possible. Most children are able to manage playground disagreements independently, and most teens can figure out how to leave a situation they feel might not turn out well. Allowing kids the chance to trust their own instincts is critical to learning to manage more challenging moments in the future. Trusting them to do so means parents must learn to step back. If we do not allow kids time to foster these skills, we will run out of time to parent them, as we have allowed them to become overly reliant on adults to support and rescue them.


When possible let your kids fail while they have you as a safety net. Let them learn for themselves. Continue to give them time to practice learning about responsibility, making good choices and problem-solving in your home. Trust that they will learn to navigate challenges, make mistakes and recover from struggles big and small. Messing up is part of growing up and should remain so.

Uncategorized

Parents Need Practice Too

We teach our children to be kind, inclusive and stand up for others, but far too often parents let teachable moments slip by instead of modeling these same skills. We all have heard the stories or read the articles about the small number of friends who show up at a birthday party for a kiddo with special needs. Many times, the adults in the community step up and save the day, which is heartwarming; yet, I cannot help but think about all the discussions in the homes of the kiddos who were invited. I wonder if these kiddos expressed ambivalence about going and parents validated those thoughts as they too may have some unexpressed discomfort. Is it possible some parents simply rationalized the party of a non-preferred peer to be unimportant and not a priority for making the family calendar? Did parents take the opportunity to talk with their children about the situation and how things may be similar or different than past birthday parties and then make their decision to attend?

Whatever the reason, I want to encourage parents to be more mindful about these moments. Most families these days are very busy and certainly prioritizing time for family and activities is essential. Yet, this does seem to be a missed opportunity to talk with children about the differences of others which includes the critical skills of learning to think about others.  These skills must be nurtured and practiced if they are going to become part of who we are and hope for our children to become.

As parents, we need to not shy away from things that make us uncomfortable or come up with excuses why we cannot do something. We need to view these moments as an opportunity to educate yourself about a condition or struggle someone at our child’s school, or community may be having. Many times, misinformation leads us to avoid the potential awkwardness of unchartered waters. We may find ourselves rationalizing how not going to an activity/event is the polite thing to do. If we are honest, we learn that many of the decisions we make for ourselves and families are linked to maintaining our comfort. We gravitate toward what and who we know, however, when time and energy allow, gift yourself with the opportunity to learn more and grow. Take these opportunities to learn about another family’s story that may be out of your usual circle. These moments are precious with the potential to build kindness, empathy, resilience, and perseverance.

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Parents need to change before children can


Talk openly with parents, and they will share things they often worry about and maybe even would like to change about their child. A parent recently shared with me her concerns about her child’s significant moments of inflexibility, which creates considerable challenges for the whole family. I am aware these concerns have been troubling this mother for some time now; however, she seems to be in the same place. By that I mean, she continues to worry about it regularly and has not expressed any new ways of thinking about the behaviors or the family’s response to the situation.


This is a common phenomenon which led me to wonder how to help parents mobilize their strengths and abilities. Many of the parents I know are bright, decisive people in other areas of their lives, so why is it so challenging to be more action-oriented when it comes to parenting? Often times, parents have the benefit of a partner to discuss concerns, which one might think would help create a move toward action, yet this does not seem to be the case. After thinking about this from several angles, I realized it keeps coming back to our abilities to be self-aware. Luckily this is an area we all can improve upon.


Parents can develop the ability to catch moments of concern and become more proactive by simply acknowledging something is happening and choosing action over inaction. Steps can be small such as gathering more information, talking with a teacher or doctor, etc. These are small movements that begin a more extensive process and lead to growth, as well as change. Ruminating and being passive should not be options. We teach children and teens to be proactive and speak up for themselves so as adults this too should be our focus.


It is heartening to know, we can always learn more and seek more support to improve our perspective even if a situation itself is not able to shift. So, if you are unsure if you should do something about a concern, ask yourself if the thought/worry has been popping into your head often. If so, it is time for movement. If you are still unsure, ask a trusted friend or family member whom you know will be honest. Lastly, be honest with yourself and boldly step toward something. The following are some steps to think about if you are stuck and you choose to do something:


Write or talk about it
Seek support from trusted people
Gather more information and learn about it
Choose to do something and set a simple plan
Try something

Here and Now, Uncategorized

Becoming Real in Your Fifties

I vividly remember the moment a neighbor shared she was celebrating her 50th birthday, and I was shocked to hear that number, as any thirty-something would be, right? It is halfway to a hundred after all. That moment was a long time ago, and now I have not only rolled into my fifties but am moving through them. I have much to be grateful for each day. As my children have grown to become self- sufficient adults, I have few regrets but rather a sense of urgency to do more, see more and be more. There must be something about freeing up all that parental energy and worry time it took to raise children.

In many ways, my current age still shocks me. It is as if I put my head down in my thirties to do the heavy lifting of parenting and now with my youngest off at college, I truly can lift my head and look around. It feels like my life has been on hold and I’m just getting back to it after roughly two decades. It leaves me wondering what is next. I will need to harness some of that energy, previously used to parent, to embrace the wondering, be in the moment, take some chances and grab some joy just for me or at least I will try after getting over the half century thing 😊.

living with intention, Uncategorized

A Few Simple Steps Towards Living with Less Judgment…

It is part of the human condition to compare ourselves to others and make judgments. It is a part of the developmental process to become increasingly aware of others and think about how we measure up. Early on we learn who is the fastest runner, best at kickball and in the highest reading group. These comparisons can be helpful and even motivational as they prompt us to try harder, which can be a very good thing. It is only when we continue to primarily rely on these judgments that we frequently run into trouble. We all can think about the many reasons this may not be a good idea but the one I want to focus on today relates to our thinking. It comes down to the simple fact that not every thought we have is accurate or helpful. We have many random, even goofy thoughts that require us to be aware of and filter them out. When we do not catch these moments and recognize them for what they are and are not, we often internalize them, and they become part of our story.

Many times, when we accept messages and thoughts about ourselves, they are often negative. Comparing ourselves to others often makes us feel unhappy. In response to these negative self-messages, we tend to react by judging others more harshly, which makes us feel better. When we are honest with ourselves, we know that we have all had moments in which we compared ourselves to someone else and took comfort in knowing we were not as ‘bad’ as them. We want to feel good about ourselves, and often we seek it through observing others’ struggles. Naturally, wanting to feel good about ourselves is worthwhile; however, learning to do it for ourselves takes awareness and effort. This mindset requires us to make a shift in how we think about ourselves and others.

Steps to building a more positive, less judgmental self:

A first step in creating a stronger, more positive, less judgmental self takes a desire to do so and a willingness to make a few changes. The desire comes from within us, and if this topic resonates with you, you are halfway there.


The second step requires us to ‘catch’ moments when we find ourselves looking with judgment at ourselves or others. It can be a parent struggling to calm their child in the grocery store, or we hear a neighbor making an unkind comment about another neighbor. When we catch these moments, we need to take a breath and choose to contemplate what might be going on in that person’s life. Practice choosing kindness and compassion at that moment versus focusing on the automatic negative thoughts. Work to let go of the judgmental thinking of the past and let your mind rest on the more positive thoughts about the situation.


The last step requires us to stop talking negatively about others. One of my first group rules when working with kiddos is that we do not speak about others when they are not in the room to defend themselves. This not only works well in a group but it is a solid life rule. I also talk with kiddos about taking notice of friends who talk about others behind their backs. You can bet those same kids will talk about you behind your back one day. Choose your friends wisely and practice being a good friend to others.


Learning new habits and ways of thinking about ourselves and others takes practice. When we can do this more consistently, we feel more accepted and even happier. Be kind to yourself as changing automatic ways of thinking and reacting takes time. Start slowly and acknowledge your efforts to shift to becoming a more positive and self-aware person.

living with intention, Uncategorized

Give, Take, Savor and Remember

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This Thanksgiving I want to live with intention. For me, that means I will take more time to listen and support others. Whether it is listening to my kiddos, parents or siblings, I will work to actively hear what is being shared as well as be generous with my love and support. Moving beyond the superficial check-ins with families takes energy. I will be ready which means I will have engaged in some good self-care during the days leading up to the holiday. I will prioritize the necessary tasks and let go of others so I will be more present in the moment.

I will take with abandon. Permission granted to take it all in including the sights, sounds and wonderful smells of Thanksgiving. I will savor the decorations made by children, embrace the colors of fall, and fill up with wonderful foods and sweet treats. I will take in hugs, kisses, children’s laughter, and even some tired tears as the day turns to night.

Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and gravy will be savored. I will be mindful of my food choices and delight in them. I will be kind to myself when I inevitably overeat. I will not apologize or allow any self-recrimination. If those thoughts pop into my head, I will gently but firmly push them aside and reframe my thoughts to think about the positive moments of the day. I will not take this day for granted.

I will work to take snapshots of the best moments of my day and remember the sights, sounds and my feelings in that moment. My Thanksgiving will not be perfect. Life is messy and unpredictable even with great planning. But through the messiness of the day, I will seek the handful of joy giving moments. I will laugh easily and share in the good energy we create when we choose to do so. I will also allow myself time to recall the memories I created with those not with me this year.

While every year is different for a multitude of reasons and circumstances, I hope you can make your Thanksgiving what you choose it to be this year.