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.
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…
A profound tender, passionate affection for another person.
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!
Focus on the Positive
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.
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.
“Get Some Sleep” is so much easier said than done! I can’t tell you how many times people told me to “sleep while your baby is sleeping,” when my first child was born. Sounds good in theory, but in real life, my daughter only took 2- 3 twenty minute naps a day! On a good day.
I hate to say it – and those of you who know me personally will know that this is hard for me to say, but I will: Get Some Sleep! You know how tired and cranky children can be when they are tired or hungry? Well, the same thing can happen to sleep-deprived parents. And let’s face it, the first few years with a new child provide many sleep deprived moments. Some days you feel like you are walking around in a fog just trying to keep your eyes open and make sure no one gets hurt.
Reading about the benefits of sleep have been eye- opening to me (no pun intended)! I used to be able to function quite well on 4-5 hours of solid sleep or 6-7 hours of interrupted sleep. I know that I am better able to handle life’s challenges when I am “more rested.” However, the specific health benefits I’ve learned about over the years have been enough to scare me into trying harder to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep each night. In fact, one year, my New Year’s resolution was to get in bed 15 minutes earlier every two months (starting at 11:45 in January aiming for 10:30 by December).
Based on research done by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, NOT getting enough sleep can:
Decrease one’s immune system
Impair cognitive functioning and memory
Affect mood, motivation, judgement and even our perception of events.