perfect

As soon as people find out that I’m a parent coach, the air around us changes.  There’s this expectation that my children are perfect children.  Why is this career the only one where this is assumed?  Do mechanics drive cars that break down?  Do doctors get colds and other illnesses?  Do the people at smartphone fix-it stores drop and break their phones (probably not, but that’s another story)?

One thing about having children is they push our buttons.  Not necessarily other people’s buttons (but that can happen too) but they really come down hard on us as parents.  As a teacher, I often work with kids that have a lot of difficulties with their parents.  That doesn’t mean that I know more than the parents, it just means that I’m separate from the issue so I have a different perspective.

That’s what it all comes down to: Perspective.

I recently read an article that is circling the interwebs about parents being their child’s expert.  This is so true.  Parents know their kids better than anyone and they know what is best for their little ones.  But if I may add on to that wonderful article: sometimes parents are stuck inside the cycle and sometimes they can’t see what’s just above them, or just around the corner and they need just a shift.  Just another set of eyes or ideas.

They just need a different perspective. 

I have used a parent coach myself because I have been in the same place that all parents have been in. Things were tough, I couldn’t see an end to it.  I needed help.

The coach was able to point me in the right direction and get me out of the hole that I was in and it was so helpful.

It takes a village to raise a child.

We see so many signs pointing to parent intuition, “you can do this mama!” and that you are the expert in your child.  All of that is SO true, but it doesn’t mean that we need to be islands in the ocean of parenting.  Ask your neighbor for help.  Call your mother-in-law and see if she can give a different perspective.  Call a parent coach.  And if you disagree with every single one of them then you can laugh at their advice.  But maybe, just maybe, they will have a different idea on how to solve the problem that will re-frame the whole situation.

My children aren’t perfect, nobody’s children are perfect.  We are all in this together!

 

Have you seen this video about failure?

It changes your whole perspective on how to deal with failing.  We have been asking our kids about their failures for about a year now and the other day one of my boys fell pretty hard on his bike when he was trying something new.  After crying for a minute or two, he looked up at me and said, “Mama, that was my failure for today!”

 

What was your failure today?

emotion

My favorite word is “overwhelmed” and I use it all the time.

I think it does two things:

It really sums up parenthood

It teaches kids about emotions and empathy

I see parents trying to hide their emotions all the time.  I see mom’s apologizing for crying when there is nothing wrong for using tears as an outlet.  And I am overjoyed that moms do cry in front of each other all the time so that they create solidarity and a support system.

Parenting is hard and even though we try to keep up our appearances that it is easy, it doesn’t work and we need to allow our emotions to show so that we can be there to support each other.

If you are overwhelmed, you are allowed to show it.

When my day feels so long and my children are driving me crazy and one more thing happens the throws me over the edge, I say, “I’m really overwhelmed.”  And then I either try to take some deep breaths or I walk away and take some space (usually in my room for just a minute or two).

Kids then learn all about emotions and empathy when moms show their emotions. 

If you can name what you are feeling and even give some ideas on how to deal with it, then so much the better for everyone.  But don’t hide the feeling.  Don’t apologize for it. Just feel it.

You are allowed to cry.  You are allowed to yell.  You are allowed to feel all of the emotions and in fact, everyone benefits from moms showing emotions so let it all out!

 

 

outside

The concept is simple enough- get outside every day.  Sounds too simple right?

But the actual task is quite difficult (daunting even) many, many days.

When I was pregnant, I worried a bit about postpartum depression and the best advice I heard about beating the blues was to get outside everyday.  Even if it was for five minutes.  Even if it was just to your porch.

There were days when it was easy.  The weather was perfect, the boys were happy.  We got a good stretch of sleep the night before.

But then there were days that it was very, very difficult and I just didn’t want to make the effort.  But even if it was just for a short bit, it made the difference in my over all mental health.

But there was something else good that came out of getting outside every single day.  It became part of our routine. 

When I was a preschool teacher, there were 11 different preschool classrooms and so there were about 11 different teaching philosophies under one roof.  When it came to taking the children outside, the philosophies ranged from: “That is too much work, we don’t go out very often” to “We get outside everyday, rain, snow or shine.”

I fell into the latter category and that drew me some strange looks as we marched down the hall to the playground on the worst of days.  I would hear grumbles of “It takes 20 minutes just to get them all ready and then what?”  or “All that work for 5 minutes outside? No thanks!”  And what I would repeatedly explain to the other teachers was that:

Getting ready to go outside is part of the learning process.  Sometimes it is the goal of the day.

But what I should have explained even further was that every time we got ready to get out, we were only making the next time easier.   

As a parent, getting kids ready to go outside has not gotten any easier.  But since our routine has always been to get outside at least once per day, we have the routine down.

I know that it is a lot to get your kids outside, but you have to re-frame your thinking into- “getting them ready is today’s learning goal”.  As you make it part of your daily routine, not only will getting out of the house become easier, but your children will benefit from being able to make that daily transition.

Your mental health will thank you.

little-tree

Oh my goodness. If you haven’t seen this book yet, go check it out.

The Little Tree by Loren Long is about a tree that wants to hold on to its leaves.

There are a lot of things that we want to hold on to and it shows up in our bodies in a not great way.

The word that Loren Long uses over and over again is, “tight,”

That’s how it feels.  Your back? tight.  Your neck? tight.  Your body? tight.

We know that it isn’t healthy for us to hold on to this and to create this tension so teaching this idea at a young age is genius. We can show our kids how tight feels and how letting go feels.

When you get to the part where little tree lets go, watch your child.  Watch how things float away.  Watch their body and watch how it melts.

It’s magical.

Get this book and read it.  It will help you as well!

 

some-days

It happens, our children are driving us up the wall and to be totally honest, we don’t want to be around them.  We don’t want to hear their voices.  (We don’t really like them) and it feels horrible.

We react differently when we feel this way and we want to get out of this cycle but they are just so annoying.

So practice gratitude around your child.

We know this makes a difference.  In another one of my favorite articles in the New York Times, the author talks about how a bad situation is flipped upside down when he invokes gratitude.  It can work with your kids too.  When you add in gratitude, your whole perspective will change. 

  • So while you are making breakfast, think about one thing that you love about your child.
  • Before you go to bed, write down one thing that you enjoyed about your child during the day
  • Your children may be pain in the necks, but remember what you do have, food on the table, a safe place to sleep, clean clothes to wear.  When we put things into perspective, it is easier to practice gratitude.
  • Volunteer at your local homeless shelter or a group that works with refugees.  When you give, you are also practicing gratitude and if your kids are old enough, have them participate too.

This is real.

When our kids are complete pains, we can really turn things around by practicing daily gratitude.

 

 

 

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Over the summer, I was struggling with trying to figure out how to carry a bag and ride my bike to the swimming pool a couple of blocks away.  It got to be so bad that a couple of times, I just ran in my flip flops because I couldn’t manage three towels, snacks, water bottles and toys while riding a bike.

But then I got a Convert-a-strap.  It will convert many bags into a backpack.  So in my case, it was a huge IKEA bag, but lots of bags will work and if you don’t have a bag that works, she has those as well.

Fast forward to the first week of school when I volunteered to wash the school’s laundry.  The boys love to ride their bikes to school and I didn’t want to take that away from them, but this was the most cumbersome awkward bag without a single strap on it so we almost had to drive to school, but the Convert-a-strap came to the rescue!

The strap can either be an over the shoulder the strap, or it can be changed into straps for a backpack just like that.   This is key for anybody who wants to save their back, or who rides a bike at all.

So I ultimately attached the strap to a messenger bag and now I can use it for anything and I won’t break my back.  I want to be able to ride my bike, be big enough to carry everything that I need but not to be too much to carry around.

Convert-a-strap was designed by a mom right here in Boulder and I love supporting local moms!

 

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Have you ever yelled at your children?  Have your children gotten angry and screamed at you or threw things?  You may feel like your family is the only family that ever gets angry, but the truth is that everyone feels anger and that feeling angry is perfectly OK.  But what do we do when we feel angry, or after we feel angry?  We weren’t really ever taught how to deal with it, so it is important that we teach our own kids about this unique emotion.

A lot of parents shy away from showing or talking about strong emotions.  We were brought up to think that emotions should be hidden.  But teaching empathy and talking about our emotions is the healthiest way to take care of our minds and bodies.

So we are going to get angry.  And our children are going to get angry.  And that is perfectly OK.  But we also talk about it and read about it.

My favorite book about anger is When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry… By Molly Bang

Here’s why:

It’s the classic kid problem.  Both kids want the same thing.  How often does this happen?  Every. Single. Day. About a hundred times.   The classic kid response to this classic kid problem?  Anger. 

The description of anger is dead on.  She is like a volcano, she is like a tiger.  She wants to roar.  She feels like she is going to explode.  That is exactly how I feel.

How she deals with it.  She runs. She leaves.  She doesn’t hurt anyone. She breathes.  She cries.  She stops and she starts coming back through awareness of her surroundings.  It’s like Buddha wrote this book.  It is so sweet. 

Connection to nature. Being outdoors.  I heard someone say once that it is impossible to be angry while looking at a rainbow.  Sometimes just getting outside will help with our emotions and this is exactly what Sophie does. 

It’s an example of a perfect time out.  Time outs are effective when they are used as a calming down strategy.  The strategy is talked about before the child gets angry and is modeled by the parent.  So when I get angry, I say, “I’m going to take some space like Sophie and take some deep breaths.”  Then later, I can talk about how I calmed myself down and read the book again with my children.  When they get really angry, I can offer, “Do you want to take some time like Sophie?  Do you want to go outside by the tree like Sophie?”

Kids really relate to this book and it is perfect for teaching children about anger, emotions and empathy.

 

 

 

outside

The days are getting longer and all I can think about is getting outside with the family.

Here in Colorado we have 13 National Parks and they are a great place to start your spring and summertime adventures.  On May 21, the National Park Trust is hosting a Kids to Parks Day to get your kids excited about what theses parks have to offer. Why do we want to get kids into our National Parks?  They are some of the most amazing parts of Colorado (Rocky Mountain National Park, Sand Dunes National Park), they have interesting history (Bent’s Old Fort, Mesa Verde) and they are great for everyone in the family.

At the end of the post, I have information about a National Parks Giveaway!

Here’s 5 reasons why it is so important to do that:

1. The outdoors are screen free!

Are you attempting to keep your child screen-free or limit the amount of screen time?  Well, the easiest way to do that is to get outside!  Every day and every weekend that you plan to be outside, you can also plan to never hear, “Can we watch that video?” or “Mama, phone!”

2. Good exercise and better mental health

Getting outside pretty much guarantees exercise and good exercise guarantees fewer tantrums, better mental health and happier families. If you head to Mesa Verde National Park, you will be climbing ladders, and if your choice is Sand Dunes National Park, you might be sand boarding or just a simple trek to Colorado National Monument and you could be hiking or biking.  Live longer and happier by just getting outside.

3. Awareness of our world

It is crazy that most people can name TV characters, sports team stats, and the names of famous people’s babies and yet they don’t know any names of birds, trees or flowers.  Getting your children outside will balance that out.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t be aware of social media or what is happening in our government, it just means also being able to recognize the song of a robin.  Just being outside a couple days a week will give your children an awareness that can be invaluable to their life.

4. Learn new skills

Depending on your kids’ ages, you can learn lots of new skills in the outdoors from map reading, to fishing, to climbing, to learning about different plants and animals.   Our boys each have an animal tracks book and a flower book to bring along on our hikes.  The National Parks Trust also has a great booklet you can print before heading out with lots of activities.

5. Nature

This one parallels #2 and includes one of my favorite quotes: “Nature; cheaper than therapy”.  Being in nature is good for mental health and when children learn to appreciate nature at a young age, lots of great things happen.  They will be healthier adults, they will be more likely to advocate for conservation, and they will have more awareness of their environment.

So start planning on which National Park you will visit this May 21 and join the almost 73,000 other people who are pledging to take their kid to a National Park!

Leave a comment below about your plans to visit a National Park and you could win a Buddy Bison stuffed animal and two books (Kid’s National Parks Guide and Buddy Bison’s Yellowstone Adventure) to accompany you and your children on your trip!   This set of books values at $25 and is a great way to make life-literacy connections. Winners will be chosen at random by May 21, 2016.  This giveaway is sponsored by The National Parks Trust and Kids to Parks Day.

travel

For the longest time, I never knew that people actually traveled with young children.  In fact, for most of my life, I thought that it was something that everyone avoided.

But then I started traveling as a young adult and I saw all of these people traveling with their young children and I started asking questions.  I started thinking that someday, I might have children and someday, I might want to travel with them.

Which is exactly what we did.  So after traveling with our little ones for a year and a half, I have compiled my top ten list of why you should also travel with your young’uns

1) To show yourself that you can.

I’m not going to lie and say that it is easy, but it is something that you can and should do.  Before we traveled with our young children, I would lie in bed at night and think of all the reasons that we shouldn’t.  What if the boys fuss?  What if they don’t sleep?  What if we don’t sleep?  What if our car breaks down?  Things can and do happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t travel.  You survived sleeping on the airport floor.  You children got through three days of not-so-appetizing food.  You realize that you can do just about anything.  

2) To get out of your routine

In pretty much every other post I write, I talk about routine and how important it is.  That is still true.  But traveling gets you out of your routine and in a good way.  If you are stuck eating sugary snacks every day, traveling can get you out of that routine.  If you are in a routine of late bedtimes, it’s possible that traveling will get you out of that routine.  Either way, you are changing stuff up.

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3) Mindfulness

It is so tempting to bring along technology and screens to entertain the young ones, but traveling with young children is a great way to instill and teach mindfulness.  Once you are out and about in the world and you see young children sitting on buses for hours on end, you realize that this is possible and yes, your child can do it.  It requires more work up front talking to your child about all the things around them (“oh wow, those trees look different than all the rest.””Oop! I just saw another white bird!”) but the payoff is huge once they are doing it themselves.

4) To get along with less stuff

When you travel, you can’t bring it all with you so you really have to pare down.  That means not as many toys, not as many gadgets and not as much stuff.  After a short bit, you realize that you didn’t need it in the first place.  And when you children start playing with dirt, sticks, string and rocks, you realize that they didn’t need all that stuff either.

5) To try new things

If you are like me, you don’t always jump into things head first.  So trying new things doesn’t always come easily.  But when you have no choice; you just do it.  It builds character and it builds your child’s character as well.

6) No school issue

Once kids are in school, planning gets a little bit more difficult.  Some schools don’t mind if you miss a lot of school to travel and some schools won’t allow it at all.  To avoid the headache completely, travel while they are young.

7) To build brain pathways

I remember my uncle asking me why we were traveling when the boys were 3 and 4 years old. “They won’t remember any of it”, he said.  He’s right in a way, but the travel will make an imprint.  The new languages, the new people, the new experiences.  They will affect how they grow and how they experience life even if they don’t remember it.

8) To deal with the “I-want-this-this-way” in a real way

Young children will throw tantrums for the smallest things.  “I want the red cup!  No! I want the blue cup!”  Well, guess what, when we are traveling, we have whatever cup is available and no other options.   We don’t have the specific bread that they like and nope, we can’t do that one thing that they want to do because it is on the other side of the world.  Children are more resilient than we think and traveling puts that into perspective. 

9) To see how other families live

Perspective is really everything (in raising children and in life).  When you travel and see how simply some people live, you begin to appreciate the small things more.  When you see how other children eat, play and communicate, you get more insight into your own children and parenting.  

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10) To enjoy your family

Kids grow up so fast.  We hear that everyday and it seems like it is taking forever, but it is really gone in a second.  When you travel while your kids are young, you are really spending time with them.  Once they are older, they will be off doing their own thing.  We only have one go at this, so book your ticket and create some great family memories.