All posts by DrJalapena

01May/17

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!

24Apr/17

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.

                                        

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!!!

17Apr/17

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.

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!

 

 

16Jan/17

You’ve Got This!

Focus on the Positive

Part II

Last week I wrote about the self-fulfilling prophecy: “You will find what you are looking for.”  So why not look for the good?!  I invited you to take some time to really stop to notice all the things your child can do and some things about him that make you smile.

This week, I invite you to focus on your parenting through a positive lens. Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs in the world.  And I bet, that even though you might not always feel that way, you are doing a pretty good job at parenting.

Stop and think for a moment.  What is one thing that you are doing right as a parent?  Do your children know that they need to stay buckled in their car seats to be safe? Are your kids going to bed nicely at night?  Do they enjoy grocery shopping with you because you keep them engaged?

We are very hard on ourselves as parents.  It’s so easy to dwell on the mistakes and regrets.  It’s easy to freak out in the moment instead of looking at the bigger picture.  Sometimes we need to stop and think if this will actually matter a year, or even a month, from now.

As a parent, it’s also easy to assume that every other parent has their act together.  I used to giggle inside when people assumed that because I was so involved and organized outside my home that the inside of my home was just as organized and spotless.  To be honest, the organization part isn’t bad, but even the few years that I had a maid didn’t seem to keep my home spotless!  I was spending more time playing with my kids than washing baseboards so that made it OK for me.

Think of this as permission for you to spend a few minutes as you are getting dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, to pat yourself on the back.  Think about some of the things you have done as a parent that have been successful.  Be specific and authentic with your thoughts.  Some days, that might include a sentence like: “My kids are still alive today!” and that’s OK.  The fact that they have made it this far with your help and guidance, is an accomplishment.

Congratulations!  Raising a child isn’t easy and you’ve made it this far.  There will always be ups and downs, but focusing on the positive will improve your outlook and spill over to make the downs not dip quite so low.

09Jan/17

Focus on the Positive

I am a strong believer in the Self-Fulfilling Prophecy:

“You will find what you are looking for.”

So why not look for the good?!  Focusing on the positive is the foundation of all the work I do with parents.

We get so caught up in our day-to-day activities that we often forget to look at all the great things that are happening around us. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to notice the negative.  It is simply easier to focus on what is going wrong. Taking note of the negative does help prevent mistakes from happening again, but it can be a real downer! Rather than dwelling on what could be better or what you should be doing, why don’t you pay attention to the things that are already going well.

Your mind is an amazing entity. Look for the good that is happening, think positive thoughts and you can transform your life.

I know, you’re thinking, “Sounds great Dr. Renee, but HOW can I do this?”  The fact that you are interested in learning more, indicates to me that you are already on the right path.

Start by looking for the good in your child. I know this is hard when you are exhausted and stretched beyond anything you ever imagined parenting to be. But I promise you, it is worth it.

Take a few moments as you get dressed in the morning, or ready for bed at night, and think about your child.  What are some of his positive qualities, traits, and abilities?  If you are feeling a little more ambitious, pick an entire day to try to look for positive things your child says or does.

Positive things can be something as simple as ‘sitting in a chair for an entire meal.’  Even if he’s strapped in a high chair, your child is sitting and not climbing/fussing to get out. Maybe your daughter smiled at you this morning. Maybe you took a few seconds to notice, and really enjoy, the sweet, little hand holding yours as you walked to the car. What about how he played with his friend and shared his toys? Or how she called a friend who was feeling lonely or looked sad at school? Open your eyes and look for the positive.

I am often asked, “Should I tell my child about all of these positive things I am seeing?” Then almost immediately, there will typically be one of two follow-up questions: “Will this boost his self-esteem?” or, “Won’t all that complimenting go to her head?”

It is OK to comment and praise occasionally, especially if you can point out a specific behavior/action and you are being authentic. However, just spouting off compliments all day could backfire. Your child might come to expect your input on everything in life (= not be able to think for himself).  Or she might begin to tune you out well before she hits the pre-teen years!

Focusing on the positive is more for YOU than for your child. Trust me, your child will benefit because your upbeat mood will have a ripple effect. Focusing on the positive is really more about a mind shift for you. It will help you find ways to be happier and feel a purpose as you go through the everyday tasks and necessities in life.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog. It’s Part Two of Focus on the Positive and it’s going to help you even more with your ability to parent.

02Jan/17

ANYTHING’S POSSIBLE

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Anything’s possible if you’ve got enough nerve.- JK Rowling

I like to think of a theme for each year.  It helps give me focus and something bigger to aim for in all areas of my life.  My theme for 2016 was “Take Care of the Caretaker“.  For 2017, my theme is “Anything’s Possible!”

Like most of you, my 2016 had its ups and downs, and yes, even some upside-downs.  However, I choose not to beat myself up about things I had hoped to accomplish but didn’t or about things that didn’t go exactly as planned.  I prefer to focus on the things I got right and how I have a chance to get more things right.  I love to think about what new and exciting things will happen in my life this year.

Getting into a mindset of “Anything’s Possible!”, I have a New Year’s Wish for you:

My wish for you is lots of fun time with your family- anything’s possible.

More time playing with your children and less time yelling at them – anything’s possible!

More time when your child is well-behaved and less time when he is challenging or defiant – anything’s possible.

More time when your children will be playing nicely together and less time fighting with each other – anything’s possible.

More time connecting with your children and less time in power struggles – anything’s possible.

And my New Year’s wish is for you to spend more time in “Positive Parent” mode and less time in the “I Didn’t Sign Up for This” or “Help! Things are Out of Control” mode because – anything’s possible!

Here’s to a great 2017-

a new year full of possibilities.

 

 

I am here to help you on your parenting journey.  Whether you gain insights from my blogs or (almost) weekly tips (hey, I’m a parent, too!), or you are looking for more personalized parenting advice and direction, I am excited to welcome you.  Sometimes it takes a bit of courage, or nerve, to ask for help, but it usually ends up saving a lot of time and frustration in the long run.  My goal is to encourage and support you being the best possible parent you can be.

26Sep/16

Organizing the Disorganized Child

Organizing the Disorganized Child

Your son/daughter has been in elementary or middle school for a while and things should be flowing along smoothly at this point. Right?

Unfortunately, for many kids, this is not the case!  Papers from school might, or might not, make it into your child’s backpack.  Homework assignments that are done, seem to vanish into thin air between your kitchen table and the classroom.

Just like learning to read, learning to be organized to succeed in school, needs to be taught in small steps and reinforced regularly.  When a child first learns to read, he learns what the letters look like and sound like.  Then he learns that when you put letters together, you create new sounds and eventually words.  Many letters together in groups (words) can make a sentence, a paragraph, or even a story! 

Once we’ve taught our children to read, we don’t send them off to fend for themselves. We don’t even let them choose whether or not they want to read.  We encourage them to read, and even require it of them in school.  Our world constantly provides opportunities to read (street signs, words on food packaging, t-shirts, etc.).  And all of this happens at a stage where the brain is open to and able to learn this new skill.  Notice I said ‘stage’, not ‘age’ because this does happen at different times for different children, and that is OK!

The executive functioning of the brain, the part that acts as a personal assistant, or office manager, doesn’t fully develop in humans until they are almost 25 years old.  Our executive functions enable us to make a list, remember to look at it, and then cross things off as we complete things on that list. 

So, GIVE YOUR CHILD A LITTLE BREAK, and GIVE YOURSELF A LITTLE BREAK!

Your child’s brain is still developing!

Your child is really not mentally capable of keeping track of all of the things that he/she needs to keep track of during the school day.   Can some kids do it? Sure.  But many can’t remember all of the details without a little bit of help.

So what do you do? 

Put strategies in place. 

Just like reading, your child will get to practice certain skills on a daily basis (i.e., bringing assignments home and bringing completed homework back to school).  Many teachers will provide your child with tried and true strategies.  One example is having one duel-pocket folder for all papers.   One side is marked “HOME” and the other side is marked “SCHOOL.”  All papers coming home are put on one side and then all papers going back to school go on the other.  While this might seem obvious to you and me, it really isn’t that obvious to your child.

If you would like to learn more simple strategies to help your child succeed in school, please contact me at DrRenee@HelpingParentsParent.com

 

I will be facilitating a local in-person book club starting on September 30th: Register here.

organizing-disorganized-child

I will also be leading Evening and Online Book Groups in October: Pick your best date/time here.