All posts by DrJalapena

28May/18
cell phone

Before Screen Time Activities

As promised in my last blog, I am going to share some details of my family’s summer with you.  One of the things I feel strongly about is not letting my kids spend hours on their screens every day.  Yes, there are some awesome educational activities on electronics, but for the most part, our kids are not engaged in these activities.

Below is our list of “Before Screen Time Activities.” My daughters must complete these before they are allowed to play on their phones, watch a movie, or be involved in any other screen time. I hope if you were looking for ideas that our list inspires you to create a list that works for your family.

I’ve included a link at the bottom of the post where you can get a copy of a ‘pretty’ version to print out.

BREAKFAST

This is such an important meal for growing (and aging) bodies.  It is important to me that my girls get a healthy start to their day.  They are old enough to make their own breakfast, so I don’t have to be in charge of that. I will encourage them to eat a variety of things so we don’t get hooked on a “cereal every morning” path.

QUICK PICK UP

This is a quick run through on our main floor to make sure that all of their stuff has been put away.  I prefer this to be done in the evening before bed, but sometimes…life happens.

AT LEAST ONE CHORE

We have daily and weekly chores.  Daily chores include things like setting/clearing the table, unloading the dishwasher, and feeding the dog – most of which are done in the evening, so it would be hard to check this one off early in the day.  Weekly chores are bigger and these are the ones I expect to be done for this list.  Some examples of our weekly chores include doing laundry (my girls have been doing laundry since they were 4!), vacuuming, mopping, cleaning their bathroom, and making a healthy dinner for our family.

READ 30+ MINUTES (something NON-electronic)mom and daughter reading

My girls love to read but, now that they are older, they don’t read as many ‘fun’ books during the school year.  Summer is a great time for them to read for fun.  We ask friends what their favorite books are and check out the library summer reading program for ideas, too.  Speaking of which, most libraries have a reading program for children of all ages (adults, too) with events and prizes, so make sure to visit your library this summer!

EXERCISE 60+ MINUTES 

My girls are very active during the school year with PE, soccer, band, running, Tae Kwan Do, and more.  I worry that if exercise is not something intentional this summer, it might not happen.  That’s why it is on this list.  I’m pretty flexible with what they do (hanging out at the pool, running, playing soccer, walking the dog) and I will allow them to listen to their electronics while exercising.

WRITE 15+ MINUTES

I went back and forth on how long I wanted ‘writing’ to be.  The goal is to encourage 30 minutes of writing, but I don’t think that is realistic every day.  I will provide my daughters with a fun basket full of stationary, stickers, colorful pens and envelopes.  They can write letters to grandparents, family, friends, or they can create poems, stories, or scavenger hunts.  If they get stuck, I also have a lot of writing prompts.

PRACTICE INSTRUMENT 30+ MINUTES 

When my girls were young, they would earn one minute of screen time for each minute of violin practice and one minute for each song they played.  It was a great motivator and they really didn’t spend much time on screens.  At that time, most kids did not have their own cell phones so I could regulate when the tv/video was on or when they played on the computer.girl playing violin

Now, cell phones are how kids communicate with each other, mostly texting, not actually talking on the phone.  It is their way of “play” so I am a little less strict. However, some of you reading this will think my rules are crazy strict. 🙂  I do try to limit their screen time, as you might have guessed by this list.  My hope is to get my daughters engaged in other activities, so they reach for their phones/screens less often.

GO OUTSIDE 30+ MINUTES 

It’s summer! I always tell my kids that I am extremely generous with sun screen (slop it on).  I’m a lot less generous with chocolate!  Being outside is something that can be done in conjunction with many of the other activities (i.e., exercising, reading, writing).

ASK: “WHAT CAN I DO TO HELP YOU?”

I want my kids to learn that they are part of the family and that means participating in everything.  Some days I might have big tasks to answer this question (help clean the basement) while other days the tasks could be relatively small or easy (give me a hug! Bake chocolate chip cookies).

 

Click on the link below to download a PDF:

BEFORE SCREEN TIME ACTIVITIES May 2018

 

 

21May/18

It’s Almost Summer – Are you ready?!

Summer Break is coming! 

For some parents this is an exciting time.  You look forward to hanging out with your kids, having a more flexible schedule, and getting to travel. 

For others, the thought of having your kids home full time and the lack of structure strikes terror in your hearts!

I am very much a parent who looks forward to not having to get up super early to pack lunches and send my kids off to school every morning.  I’m also looking for a break from the hours I spend in my car driving to multiple activities after school and on the weekends.  However, I am anticipating a lot of together time which can occasionally lead to fighting, messes and sibling squabbles.  Ugh!

So what can you do?

Be intentional.  Take a few moments, maybe before the kids get out of school, and think about what it is that you want for this summer.  What do you want for your family?  What do you want for your child(ren)?  What do you want for you?

By thinking about what you want, you will be able to lay out a game plan for the summer.  Here are a few of the things I have planned that might help you get intentional about your summer.  Feel free to check in with me at the end of the summer to see if I actually accomplished these goals and had an intentional summer!

Bucket List:  By creating a Bucket List, I will get input from everyone in the family as to what is important to them to make this feel like a great summer.  I anticipate some of these items being big (travel, amusement parks, camping) while other items can be quite simple yet meaningful quality time (picnic lunch, paint toenails, eat s’mores).  One of the things my family is great at doing is brainstorming.  I will have to be careful not to put too much on our Bucket List.  I want this to be a fun and enjoyable summer, not a stressful one. 

Free Time: I want my kids to be creative and use their imagination.  This means, I want them off electronics, so they can be out exploring and creating.  I plan to create a “Before Screen Time Activities” List (see next week’s blog where I will provide you with my list and examples). One of the things on this list will be 30+ minutes of creativity each day.  Are you sensing a theme here?  I happen to be a list person…

Responsibility: I am a big believer in teaching kids to grow into responsible adults.  All kids can and should do chores to learn how to be successful in life.  By teaching kids how to do chores, they learn responsibility and life skills.  These chores can become habits that will continue on through the school year reducing mom and dad’s workload (=stress levels) and allow us to have more family time together.  Daily and Weekly chores will be added to the “Before Screen Time Activities” List.

Together Time (also known as Quality Family Time): I’m looking forward to more game nights!  During the summer, we are not rushing in 100 directions after school and on the weekends.  We’re able to spend more time together.  For us, playing board games is a fun way to do this.  We’ve also spent time hanging out reading together outside, going for hikes, and volunteering together.  I’m going to look at our Bucket List and try to make sure we have at least one “Together Time” activity each week.

Special Time (also known as Quality Parent-Child Time): Spending One-on-One time with each of your children is priceless.  I know this can seem challenging when you have a lot of kids, and especially during the school year when you are running in multiple directions at once.  However, summer is a great time to schedule One-on-One time with your kids.  Really take time to get to know them at this age.  What do they love? Is something bothering them right now? What are they successful at doing?  Is there something they are struggling with and how can you help guide them to overcome this struggle?  What is a special trait they want to work on (courage, kindness, self-discipline)?  What dreams do they have?

My daughters will be going to different camps this summer, so I anticipate a full week with each of them as “only” children.  I hope to fill those with a lot of Mother-Daughter Special time.  Looking at our Bucket List, I plan to pick one bigger activity and a few smaller ones (cooking a meal together, walking the dog) with each daughter during her week.  We will definitely aim to spend Special Time together at least once a week throughout the summer, not just during the “only child” week.

Me Time: I saved this for last because it can often be the hardest one for me to do, but I need to, and so do you.  Self-care is not a luxury, it is a necessity for us to be good mothers, good partners, and good citizens in this world.  By taking care of me, I can fill up my emotional, mental, spiritual and physical ‘bank accounts’ and be better able to take care of others.  By taking care of me, I am modeling self-care for my daughters.  I would like this to become a necessary part of their beings, not something they struggle to squeeze in or feel guilty doing. 

I’m sure that some of my Me Time might include my daughters directly or indirectly.  If I plan a lunch date with a friend, we might have our kids in tow and let them sit at a nearby table.  If I’m wanting a pamper session, I might invite my daughters on the back porch to paint nails or make fruity facials. However, I will get to pick the music, it is my Me Time after all!  Some of my Me Time activities will be just for me (solo or date night with my husband or a girls night out).

There you have it!  My intentional summer game plan outlined above.  The one thing I didn’t mention is that once my family has created our Bucket List, I will take all of those ideas and anything else I have (Free Time, Together Time, etc.) and start putting them on the calendar. 

I know some of you are saying that you love the flexibility and looseness of summer and can’t wait to ignore your calendars for a few months.  For me, and for many of the families I have worked with, scheduling things makes the summer easier. There is a better chance that we will realize our intentions if we put them on the calendar.    We’ll still have the flexibility to change things as needed, but if it’s on the calendar, it is more likely to happen.

 

Hey!  Since you read this far, I have a special gift for you!  Enter your name and email in the circle below to receive my  eBook:  Top 10 Tips for Surviving Summer Break

Summer!

 

15May/18

I did NOT see that coming! Mother’s Day 2018

My youngest daughter provided me with a brand new, unforgettable Mother’s Day experience this year!

The day before Mother’s Day was wonderful.  I volunteered at the MS Walk in the morning with my Girl Scout troop.  When I got home, my older daughter had finished the laundry and washed the dishes!  Then I got to volunteer with my younger daughter, helping the local Food Bank collect food from the National Postal Workers Food Collection. 

When we got home, the dog had already been fed.  We were off to celebrate a former babysitter’s graduation from college.  This meant that we not only got to celebrate but also that I didn’t need to make dinner (happy dance)!  To wrap up this great day, my family went to the Wind Symphony.  This is always wonderful, but this time they featured Rhapsody in Blue, one of my favorite classical pieces. After the show, we enjoyed visiting with a few band members (my daughters’ music teachers) and some close friends. But the day was not over yet.  I was treated to my daughters playing, or attempting to play, duets with new music they just bought that day. The evening lasted much later than planned, but I couldn’t interrupt the joyful sound of music and laughter coming from the other room!

And then Mother’s Day happened. 

M in ambulance

In last week’s post, I wrote how often times Mother’s Day dreams and expectations can be derailed. This is especially true if we do not make our wishes known or have unrealistic expectations.  I knew that this year I would be spending most of my day at the soccer field.  I decided not to plan or expect anything other than some time with my family.  My husband had a game at 11 and we did not have enough time to get home for lunch before my daughter’s team warmed up.  And while it wasn’t a fancy Mother’s Day meal, Subway was still lunch I didn’t have to prepare (another happy dance).

The first game went as well as can be expected in what my husband refers to as the “Old Man’s League.”  There were no major injuries or fights, so we consider that a win!  And my husband’s team did actually score one goal more than the other team, but it is really not about winning for most of the players in this league. It’s about not getting hurt, having fun/exercising, and then hanging out with adult beverages after the game.  Yes, in that order.

The second game, my daughter’s game started and the teams seemed pretty well matched and determined to win.  Towards the end of the game, the other team was up by 1.  Then we heard some thunder and I glanced up to see the lightning in the far distance. When I looked back, Megan was down.  She started to get up and then rolled over back onto the ground.  It looked like she was holding her arm.  Not the arm she broke (humerus bone) playing soccer in the Fall 2016 season, the other one. 

She didn’t get up and the coach was called.  She appeared to be talking but was not moving.  I know they were telling her to be still, but she wasn’t moving her legs at all.  No words can accurately describe the feeling of watching that from a distance.  My stomach varied from butterflies (maybe it was nausea?) to what felt like crushed glass rolling around.  My heart was in my throat, my breath being held and my brain was screaming for Megan to at least move a little so I would know she was going to be OK.  Someone from the other team left the sidelines and went to help and then my husband, who had been standing down at that end of the field went on. I  waited for them to call me over

After what seemed like an eternity, I didn’t wait for the call and I went out.  They thought at that moment was that she had possibly pinched a nerve in her neck.  She could move all of her extremities, but her entire left side hurt. I had a flashback to the season where she was kicked in her left leg and ended up with nerve damage.  She was eventually diagnosed with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.  It wasn’t pretty, but it was much better than what was flashing through my mind moments earlier on the sideline.

Mother’s Day 2018 was not at all what I expected – but I did get to spend a LOT of time with my younger daughter.  We experienced a lot of “Firsts” together.  We had our first ambulance ride.  Megan had her first IV, visit to the ER, her first CAT Scan, her first CT arterial Scan and her first MRI… she also got to spend 9 hours in a C Collar to prevent her from moving her neck while the trauma team tried to figure out what was going on.  Megan couldn’t eat or drink until the results came back.  Besides the uncomfortable C Collar and a sense of restlessness from lying around and only being able to see the ceiling for hours, not being able to eat and drink was probably the hardest part for her.  She hadn’t eaten since noon, just played most of a tough soccer game and was very tired, hungry and thirsty.

Hospital Humor

Hospital Humor

After checking into the pediatric wing of the hospital at 1:30 am and waiting for the trauma doctor to bring results, the collar was removed and Megan was allowed to eat and drink.  We celebrated with chicken strips and fries at 2:30 am.

The good news, ALL SCANS were within normal range.  They aren’t really sure what happened or is happening, but there was nothing that the trauma doctors and neurosurgeons could see that scared them.  Megan was to remain under close watch for 24 hours.  It seems as if my soccer player has a common football injury known as a “stinger” (brachial plexus injury).  It will be a bit of work (PT) and a while before she is back to her active self again, but she should be fine.

As I sit in the hospital waiting for the final doctor visit and our release papers, I will gladly admit, I did not see that Mother’s Day adventure coming!  I am so grateful for Megan’s health and lack of severe injury.  I am grateful to the doctors, nurses, and hospital staff who provided excellent care during our 23+ hours with them.  I am grateful to the concerned parents and players on both sides of the field. I am also grateful to the EMTs and Firefighters who took care of Megan on the field and kept a sense of humor (taking the picture in the ambulance) so I could remain composed and so Megan wouldn’t be as scared.

I was held together by our extended family and friends who continued to text and support us during the wee hours of the morning.  It helps that my sister’s family lives in a time zone that is 9 hours ahead!  And even though I am not proud to say this, I was also grateful that my daughter could text and connect with her friends through social media.  It really helped distract her, although my arm did get tired holding the phone in a position over her face so she could see it.  Megan was not able to see the TV with her neck in the C Collar so her friends provided entertainment and support.

So parents, please hug your babies of all ages close tonight.  Everything can change in a second.  I know I talk about the Self-fulfilling prophecy a lot.  Look for the good in your child(ren) and you will find it.  You will also find more of the good and less of the other stuff if you are actively looking for the good.  It’s in there!

Going Home!!!

Going Home!!!

TUESDAY FOLLOW UP

Since I didn’t get a chance to post this on Monday, here is a brief “Follow Up.”

We haven’t heard anything about Megan’s lower body – and now that I can stop and think things through a little more clearly, I’m realizing they didn’t do any lower body scans.  We’ll follow up at her doctor’s appointment on Friday.  However…

Amazingly as of today, the Tuesday after Mother’s Day, Megan is back at school! She’s using crutches and has access to an elevator.  She is still very weak on her entire left side, but her arm is much stronger. She is able to use crutches to and from classes as long as she rests during class.  I’m on call for when she needs to leave early.  She will be missing the Biking Unit in an elective class that she is re-taking because she missed it last year when she broke her humerus… but she IS up and moving!  We are so thankful!!!

07May/18
Roses in basket

It’s almost Mother’s Day

As we approach Mother’s Day, I thought I would share a few thoughts about why this amazing day can be so frustrating!  Don’t get me wrong – it can be a super day, too!  But I hear from so many moms about how disappointed they were on Mother’s Day.  My goal is to help you avoid being disappointed and to really enjoy your day.

Recognize who we are celebrating…YOU!

That being said, if you want the day to go well, you know what you need to do. Plan it.  Yes, I know that doesn’t sound like the day you were envisioning, but keep reading, I’ll explain.

Be mindful of your expectations. 

Do this as much for you as for your kids.

The media does a great job making Mother’s Day out to be this amazing, flowery, perfect family kind of day.  Their job is to sell a product and they appeal to our emotions and dreams to do so.   Remember that you are only getting a piece of the whole picture.  When you see all the happy pictures your friends are posting on Instagram or Facebook… you only get to see the cream of the crop, the best of the best.  Please be mindful of your expectations and keep perspective when viewing anything in the media.

Some mothers have partners, parents, or friends who will help their children create a wonderful Mother’s Day.  Many mothers, have real human beings who try to do something, sometimes at the last minute, or possibly even forget to celebrate at all.

So, it is important to teach your children about your expectations for the day.  Be specific in asking for what you want.  If you want them to bring you breakfast in bed make sure you start asking them a few days in advance to do so.  Again, be specific with your meal request – do you want omelets or cereal?   Teach them how to make you happy by letting them know exactly what you want.  Obviously, there is no guarantee that they will get it exactly perfect, but there’s a much better chance that they will come close.

I’m super fortunate that my girls (with much help from my husband when they were little) liked to bring me breakfast in bed.  My girls love to make pancakes with their dad, so that was what they brought up to me.  During the weeks leading up to Mother’s Day, whenever we had pancakes, I would mention how much I liked chocolate chip pancakes and fresh strawberries..so that is often what they would bring me. What I really wanted was 5-6 more hours of sleep, but I couldn’t pass up the joy on those sweet little faces!

If this all seems a bit overwhelming, it might be time to create new rules for Mother’s Day in your house.  Maybe you decide everyone will help you cook your favorite meal.  Maybe you take your kiddos shopping and show them three things you would really like as a gift from them for Mother’s Day.  Let them choose which one they want to give you (and then go buy it!).

In an earlier blog post, I talked about how my daughters and husband plant our garden for spring.  I’m not a huge veggie fan, so I leave that up to them…  However, I do love flowers!  A tradition we have on Mother’s Day, is for my daughters and I to plant our container flower gardens.

                                       M planting for Mother's DayA planting for Mother's Day 

This is a way for me to spend time with the two beings who made me a mother, doing something I like to do and will enjoy seeing for weeks to come.  When I have my act together, I will take the girls out during the prior week to pick out flowers they want to plant with me on Mother’s Day.  However, there have been some years, when I have just picked out the variety of flowers I wanted and let them choose which ones to put in the containers we were planting together.

Your children can’t read your mind and they don’t know what you want or expect.  Your children also don’t want to feel like they missed a holiday. They are less aware of the calendar and how to celebrate Mother’s Day.   Make sure you have realistic expectations and that you are specific with your requests. 

With a little planning, you can have a great Mother’s Day. 

So, go out there and celebrate YOU!!!

23Apr/18
Overwhelmed Mom

The 90 Days of May

Here we are!  We have officially entered what I lovingly (?!) call the 90 days of May.  If you have children in school, you know what I’m talking about.  There are concerts and performances, last minute projects due, special ceremonies, end of school year events, all in between the regular practices, lessons, games and meetings.  And don’t forget Teacher Appreciation Week or Mother’s Day!  Or the groceries or the garbage that needs to go out! 

BREATHE.

It can be very overwhelming.  You will have days where you feel like you are a horrible parent. We all do!  It’s hard when you are exhausted, stretched to the max and everybody needs something from you. 

Remember to BREATHE!

It is likely that you will snap once or twice at your children, at your spouse, even at yourself.  That is OK.  It happens to all of us.  The trick is to not let it happen too often.  The ideal, is to get to a point where the exhaustion and snapping happens less and less.  When I work with my One on One clients, we create simple systems to get to that point where you can get through the 90 days of May and actually enjoy most of the activities and the chaos.

As parents, we think everyone else expects us to be Super Mom or Super Dad. Sometimes, we put more pressure on ourselves than anyone else.  When you have one of those moments when the world seems to be falling apart, take 30 seconds – that’s it, 30 seconds – to stop and BREATHE.  For some folks, deep breathing for 30 seconds can work wonders.  For the rest of us, or those of us who need to quiet our mind from racing, here’s another option: 

In just 30 seconds, pay attention to all 5 of your senses. 

– What do you hear right now? Even if it’s a crying, screaming child, remember that the child has lungs healthy enough to let you know something is not right. In the future, those lungs might power a solo in the choir or a musical instrument.

– What do you see? What is something within view that brings you pleasure? It could be a picture of your family or a bird on the tree outside.  Look for something that makes you smile. 

– What do you smell?  If you are changing a diaper (Hey, life happens!)  can you think of something that smells nice?  A flower, a candle, the honeysuckle bush outside, or hot chocolate?

– What do you taste?  If you are not currently eating, can you plan to eat something that makes your taste buds happy today?

– What do you notice about touch?  Are you holding a sweet little hand? Do you have fuzzy socks on that you enjoy? Can you pet your dog/cat?

Taking 30 seconds amid the chaos can help ground you. 

And what happens when you do snap?  Think about what you would say to your child if he/she was feeling exhausted and overwhelmed?  Think about what your child was feeling to cause the actions or the behavior that just happened.  What would you do?  Say these things to yourself.  Take care of yourself first.  Then you can go apologize to the person you snapped at earlier.

When you are ready to apologize for snapping, you can start by saying “Boy, I was pretty awful at being a parent/spouse earlier.”  You can explain why, or you can jump to talking about how you will try to avoid this happening again in the future.  By doing so, you are being human.  You are being real.  You are also teaching your children/spouse that they might have “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” days (to quote Alexander from a book by Judith Viorst) and that’s OK.  It’s what they do with these days, what they learn from them, how they survive and get through them that counts!

It is OK to ask for help.  Email me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com to set up a 20 minute strategy session.  I make time in my schedule to offer 5 of these strategy sessions for free each month.  This could be your month to get out of overwhelm and back into enjoying parenting.

I anticipate a few “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” moments, but I wish you many more “happy and healthy” days during the upcoming 90 Days of May!

09Apr/18
egg heads

Spring has Sprung

One of my favorite things during the Spring season is watching my husband and daughter start our garden.  They start the seeds in small peat pots in our kitchen and nurture them until the sprouts are big enough to move outside to the back porch.  We all take turns bringing the baby plants out into the sunshine for a few hours and then back in to stay warm overnight.  Once they are big enough, Tim and the girls plant the little plants in our garden.

The impact of gardening has often been studied and written about before.  I’m sure you’ve heard that the more active your children are in growing and/or preparing their food, the more likely they will be to eat it, or at least taste it.  While this has not exactly been the case in my family, the girls certainly enjoy the process of growing and picking tomatoes for dad or zucchini for the neighbors.

There are also health benefits to being outdoors and to doing meaningful activities with your hands.  In fact, there have been studies that show the more outdoor experiences a child has, the more positive his attitude tends to be.  Many adults I have talked to, use gardening to relax and reduce stress which can help grow a positive attitude, or at least squash a negative one.

A garden does not need to be huge.  In fact, if you don’t have an area in a yard to use, you can grow a small container garden.  Even just experimenting and trying a few things with your children can be fun and help grow the connection between you and your child.  We have planted apple and orange seeds from our snacks and the excitement and joy of watching them sprout was awesome.  Parsley is an easy plant to grow in a small cup in your kitchen.  We have also taken empty egg shells and grown hair for our “Egg Heads” (thanks mom for that fun idea while I was growing up!).

To grow your own “Egg Heads,” next time you use eggs, carefully crack your eggshells so that you save at least 2/3 of the shell intact.  Wash them well and let them dry.  Draw a face near the top of the cracked shell.  You can even glue on some googly eyes.  Fill the shell about 2/3 full of dirt and then put some grass (or parsely) seeds in the dirt.  Water it as needed and watch the hair grow.  My girls enjoyed giving our Egg Heads an occasional haircut .

Whatever type of garden or kitchen experiment you try, allow your kids to explore, experiment and get dirty.  You can always hose them off or throw them in the bath tub!

I would love to hear what is growing in your garden!  Comment below or send me an email at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com and I’ll respond personally!

Here’s a website I recently found: KidsGardening.org .  It is full of fun ideas and lots of information about gardening.

08Jan/18

4 Resolutions to be a Better Parent in 2018

If you are looking to improve your parenting, you are not alone.  It’s one of those areas that anyone who is trying to parent continually works on, sometimes daily, even those of us with fancy academic degrees and lots of experience.  What is beautiful about improving your parenting, is that your kids benefit, too.

As with any resolution, it is important to honestly examine where you could be doing better.  What are areas you feel you need to improve?    If we’re being honest…  I don’t make New Year’s Resolutions in the ‘typical’ sense.  My resolutions tend to be ‘Enjoy Life More’ or ‘Eat More Chocolate!’  So, maybe this blog should be called “4 Non-Resolutions to be a Better Parent in 2018.”  Or maybe my first parenting resolution should be to make a resolution?

All kidding aside, I do try to create a list of goals for the year that I re-visit often.  Once I have this list, I pick one goal – just one – to start with.  I tend to go with something that is just out of reach, but highly achievable so I won’t fail…  Some people have criticized me for not making “real” resolutions, but I find that success leads to success.  If I can accomplish something almost “do-able” then I can accomplish something else.

This is true when you are working on your parenting skills, too.  You might have a long list of things you want to work on and that’s ok.  However, if you choose one that you are pretty sure you can do without a huge amount of change or effort on your part, you can be successful.  Then you can move on to being successful at the next skill and the next skill.  Maybe a more challenging skill won’t seem so hard after all of the “do-able” improvements are taking shape.

Here are 4 parenting resolutions, or non-resolutions, to get you started in 2018.  These are areas that many parents express need improvement in their lives. I’ve included a few suggestions with each to help you be successful.

1. Connect With Your Child.

When you are with your child, be WITH your child.  Give them your full attention.  Listen, respond, engage.  Give them the attention they long for.  Put down your phone, don’t let email or Facebook interrupt your time.  You don’t need to spend hours with your child every day (unless you can!).  Even 10-15 minutes of quality time, focused completely on your child, will make a huge difference in your parenting over time by decreasing arguments and increasing your bond.

2. Let It Go. 

Take time to think about the things that are most important to you and those that aren’t.  Are you concerned with what others think about your parenting? Let it go.  Please don’t compare yourself to anyone on social media.  People tend to only post the perfect side of themselves, so you don’t see the sink full of dishes or the toys strewn all over the living room or the crying child on the floor kicking his feet in the air…

Are you concerned that your child doesn’t measure up to developmental achievements?  Let it go. Children develop at their own pace… in ages and stages, not according to a set schedule.  Kids tend to walk, talk, read and write when they are ready, not necessarily when the book says they should be.  My mom once said, “she won’t be walking down the aisle with a pacifier in her mouth.” You can substitute any word you need for pacifier (i.e., diaper, training wheels, etc.).

Focus on the things that are most important such as connection, sleep, healthy food, and being a good person who is kind and cares about others.

3. Yell Less.

This can be a tough one when you are feeling overwhelmed and are at your wit’s end.  And I haven’t met a parent yet who can claim he/she has never yelled at his/her child at least once.

Easier said than done.  Remember the last resolution?  Let it go.  Think about what is important.  It is nice to get out of the house and to school on time – especially if you’re concerned about what other parents think when you show up late.  However, you, or your child, might be having an off day.  It’s better to slow down and be a few minutes late than to constantly yell at your child.  Yelling can cause lower self-esteem and behavioral issues in children.

Ground yourself.  You’ve probably already heard that you should take deep breaths or count to 10 to stop yelling.  Try focusing on your feet being on the floor while you do this.  As you lower your stress-response, you will be able to respond better, in a calmer manner.

Please note – it’s still OK to yell if your child is in immediate danger.  If you don’t yell often, this might scare your child.  If you yell all the time, this might not phase your child.  In case of danger, be ready to act, too, not just yell.

4. Take Care of the Care Taker.

I talk about this a lot.  As parents, we are constantly taking care of others.  Parents give so much of themselves, especially if they have young children, and are often exhausted as a result.  Constantly taking care of others while forgetting to take care of yourself causes resentment and burnout.

Remember how I said that kids benefit from our working on our parenting skills?  While all of these resolutions will benefit your child, taking care of yourself provides one of the biggest benefits to your children.  When you take care of the basics (sleep, nutrition, and exercise) you feel better and can be a more effective parent.  Things that might bother you when you are stressed out and overwhelmed are less of a big deal when you feel somewhat ‘human.’  When you take care of your emotional self (getting together with friends, doing meaningful things, being creative, spending time alone), you enjoy your life more and model being a happy person for your child.

You Can Do It!

Which one of these resolutions seems like it will be easiest for you to be successful? 

Can you schedule 10-15 minutes of special time with your child this week and next? 

OR Can you try to figure out what is most important and what are things you can let go – and then work on actually letting one of those things go this week?  Does your child really need a bath and shampoo every day, or can they get by skipping one this week to spend special time with you? 

OR Will you set up some kind of system to yell less over the course of the next 48 hours? 

OR Can you schedule a date for yourself (with your spouse, a friend, or even with yourself!)?  One moment that you write in your calendar, in pen, to take care of yourself…

Remember, mistakes happen.  Mistakes are actually a great opportunity to model for our children that we are all human.  We can pick ourselves up, learn something, and try again.

I know you can do this.  Pick one resolution above and go for it!  Here’s to your small successes leading to more success!

 

 

As always, I am here to help you on your parenting journey.  Whether you gain insights from my blogs and emails, sign up to get my (almost) Weekly Tips (hey, I’m a parent, too!), or you’re looking for more personalized parenting advice and direction.  I am excited to welcome and interact with you.  I am here to encourage and help you to be the best possible parent you can be.

13Mar/17

CABIN FEVER

It’s that time of year – with El Nino and winter storms roaming about, kids (and parents) can start to get Cabin Fever.

Well bundle up and have the Hot Chocolate waiting!

Here are a few ideas gathered from my Weekly Tips to get you out of the house and connecting with your child in a fun way:

Make Snow Angels. Imagine what different animal snow angels might look like and try to create them.

Build a Snow Man or a snow family.  Use sunglasses and sombreros or find other creative ways to decorate your snow people.  Don’t forget to make some snow pets.

Follow the Leader. Have one person create a path that another person has to follow.  It can involve jumping, zig-zagging, or even crawling through a snow tunnel (or under low branches).

Tunnels and Igloos.  If you live where the snow is deep, create an igloo or a snow tunnel.

Snow Cones.  This is one my kids love, even when there isn’t a foot of snow on the ground.  We gather clean, white snow in a cup and then pour juice over it to make homemade snow cones.

If it’s too wet and cold to go outside, or if you don’t have any snow… you can still have fun connecting with your child.  Here are few in-door ideas:

Snow ball pictures.  Grab some glue/glue sticks, cotton balls, and some construction paper and create a snow scene.

Indoor Snow ball races. Using a table or the floor, blow cotton balls to race them across a finish line.  You can add to the fun by blowing the cotton balls with straws.

Finger paints in the bathtub.  Turn on the heat, put on the bathing suits and plop your child in the tub to with finger paints (or bath soap/paints).  We have tile on our walls, so I just let my daughters paint right on the walls.   It was great fun, a little messy, but in the end both the bathroom and the girls got clean.

Baking/Cooking.  While cooking can be a challenge with kids, if you plan to cook something together, and get things planned out in your mind ahead of time, it can be quite fun.  Not to mention the fact that baking/cooking can help heat up a cold winter day.

I would love to hear from you in the comments below what you do when your kids, or you, start to go stir crazy with Cabin Fever.

13Feb/17

4 Tips for Enjoying Valentine’s Day with Your Child

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I always have big plans for celebrating holidays.  Sometimes these plans come close to reality, sometimes they don’t!  Once I had kids, I had to learn to alter my Martha Stewart or Disney-perfect plans a bit in order to be successful.  Here are some tips to help you enjoy Valentine’s Day with your child.

1. Plan in advance.  If you are going to have a special meal, do any prep you can in advance.  Get the decorations out and ready a few days in advance.  Set the table the night before.  If there is any food you can prepare in advance, do it.

 

2. Lower your expectations.  I don’t mean this in a bad way – you should not settle.  You should, however, communicate everything!  Children, and husbands, are not mind readers.  Don’t expect to be pleasantly surprised if you haven’t communicated what you are hoping for.  As scary, painful, or foolish as it might feel, stating what you want will get much better results than hoping your family has been looking at Pinterest or paying attention to your needs.

3. Celebrate when you can.  If you are not with your child on Valentine’s Day (due to travel, divorce, etc.), remember there is no rule that you have to celebrate on February 14th!  One of my favorite Valentine’s Day celebrations was when our oldest daughter was about 6 months old.  My husband and I had a busy February 14th, so we planned, in advance, to celebrate on the 15th.  Tim had been very generously giving me roses for Valentine’s Day ever since we started dating.  This particular year, he came home with 2 dozen roses!  One for me and one for our daughter.  While I was pleasantly surprised (I love flowers!), I teased that he could be setting an expensive precedent.  What if we had more daughters? (We did!)  That’s when Tim told me that the flowers were 1/2 off!  I decided we should try to celebrate a day late for years to come. Consider this your heads up – I think the stores have caught on… it takes at least 3-5 days for our local stores to reduce the cost of flowers and candy after Valentine’s Day.  Now Tim just buys flowers for me to share with our daughters.

 

4. Be flexible!  For years I have been decorating our bedroom doors the night before Valentine’s Day, while everyone is asleep.  I hang one streamer for each year my child has celebrated Valentine’s day, and on our bedroom door, I hang one streamer for each year that my husband and I have been celebrating Valentine’s Day as a married couple (21 Valentine’s this year!).  I attach paper hearts and Valentine’s stickers to each of the streamers.  One streamer will have one heart, another will have two hearts/stickers, the next three, and so on.  This year, we have a wonderful Korean exchange student staying with us.  My plans were to decorate her door with the correct number of decorated streamers, too. 

However, after a busy day full of activities, by the time everyone was in bed, it was almost midnight.  While I had thoughtfully saved many of my streamers from the previous year, I realized it was going to take a bit of time to cut 17 ribbons and count & stick hearts and Valentine’s on each of them.  I decided I would share some of my daughters’ streamers and some of ours, too.  While it wasn’t what I had envisioned, the flexibility allowed me to go to bed much earlier than if I had stuck to my plan.   Another great way to be flexible is in the morning.  Even though home made heart pancakes and waffles are great, I would recommend using a heart shaped cookie cutter on store bought waffles when you’re in a hurry.

I hope these tips help you enjoy your Valentine’s Day and every other day of the year, too.  I would love to hear from you what tips you have to help you enjoy Valentine’s Day with your child(ren).

 

 

Don’t Forget to take advantage of my February Special:  One-on-One Coaching sessions are only $49

Click the picture for more information.

This is not just for new parents – if you have worked with me before, you can take advantage of this, too!

06Feb/17

LOVE is in the Air

I am posting this a bit early.  I wanted to give you a little time to try the ideas below so that you don’t have to start them at midnight on February 13th!

 

Whether you celebrate Valentine’s Day, or just love chocolate, love seems to be in the air this time of year.

According to Dictionary.com, LOVE is…

  1. A profound tender, passionate affection for another person.

  2. A feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection, as for a parent, child, or friend.

I remember when we first brought our daughter home.  In between the sense of overwhelm and fear that if we didn’t “do it right” someone would come take her back, I developed this incredible sense of love for our tiny infant.  It was something so strong I couldn’t describe it in words.

I was a actually a bit worried when we brought her sister home that this would hurt, or somehow diminish, the love I had for her.  It didn’t.  It’s amazing how much a heart can grow!

Some of you are going through challenges with your children and aren’t feeling that love right now.  I get it.  Believe me – we have both teen and pre-teen girls in our house!  It can be very hard at times to remember the love you felt when you were first getting to know your child, whether that was at birth or any age you brought a child into your life.

Here are three things to help you get that feeling back.  It won’t happen overnight, but try one – or all three – to help you feel the love between you and your child more often.

1) Write a Love Letter to Your Child

Take some time to think about what you most love, admire or enjoy about your child.  Put this in a letter and mail it to your child.  Be sure to include what makes you most proud to call him/her your child.

2) Create a Love List

If writing a letter is not your thing, write a “Top Ten Reasons I Love You” list.  Some ideas to get you started:  I love your smile, kind heart, how you care about your friends, share your toys nicely, how you cuddle with our dog, when we brush our teeth together and see who can get their teeth the cleanest, ….  Be creative.

3) Love Notes

Write a short and sweet love note to your child and put it in his/her lunch box or leave it at the breakfast/dinner table each day of Valentine’s week.  “Have fun in school today”  or “I love your smile” are two ideas.

 

Here is an easy craft idea I sent out to my weekly Tip subscribers:

Cut out large hearts in different colors.  Write notes on each of the hearts and tape them to your child’s door.  The notes can be things you love about your child or you can use candy-heart sayings (Be Mine, I Luv U).  You could even stick one heart per year that your child has been alive – this is easier for kids to understand when they are older.  Be aware that younger children might wonder why they didn’t get as many hearts as their older siblings, so just be ready with an explanation.

If you have a young child who can’t read yet, glue or draw pictures onto the hearts.  The pictures can be of family and friends who love your child or fun/cute pictures from magazines or the internet.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can melt a heart and see big changes.

 

 

 

If you are feeling the challenges of raising a child, please take advantage of my February Special:  One-on-One Coaching sessions are only $49

Click the picture for more information.

This is not just for new parents – if you have worked with me before, you can take advantage of this, too!