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Archive for July, 2009

No matter how intent we are onhiding our stress from our children it inevitably wears on them.  I’m not talking about Acute Stress, like waking up late or hitting all red lights on the way to drop off.  That will stress your child out too, but with less long term affects.  I’m talking about Chronic Stress, the kind of stress that comes from illness in the family, career changes, moves or a bad economy.

You may think you are a master thespian when it comes to hiding stress, but our children are hardwired to trust their intuition, so no mask in the world is going to prevent them from knowing that something is eating at you.  Recently I asked my children how they know when I’m stressed.  My daughter who is 12 took her hands and separated them while making an “explosion” noise.  I had to laugh, she’s correct.  If I’m stressed I carry it outside of my body and like a force parting the Red Sea I  can move things out of my way just by looking at them.  I then asked them how they know when their dad, a total introvert, is stressed.  Again with the hands, my daughter drew them in, clasped them tightly and hunched her back.  She said, “It feels like this.”  So even though my husband thinks he has a fool-proof mask he’s busted by the kids.  She was correct.  My husband retreats emotionally afraid to let anyone know he’s out of sorts.

How do we know when our kids are stressed?  They have their own tells.  One becomes completely withdrawn and picks her nails the other walks around the house checking on everyone.  Here are some other common “tells” that may indicate your child is internalizing the family stress. 

Signs of Stress in Your Child(ren):

1) Sudden Behavioral Changes

2) An inability to keep track of their belongings

3)They become super clingy or anti-social

4)The whine factor increase (making you want to increase your own wine factor)

5)Grades start slipping

6)Self sabotage can occur (nail biting, thumb sucking, scratching themselves etc.)

For tips on how to break the stress patterns and bring back balance, read next week’s blog.  In the meantime, share with us what you’ve noticed about stress and your children.

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It’s hard to believe that summer is half over.  Whether you are a stay at home parent, a work outside of the home parent, or a work at home parent, you hold a minimum of two jobs.  There’s the one that takes you away from your children and the one that bonds you ever closer to them.  It’s the job that occupies most of the away-from-your-children hours that earns you a few cherished days off.  And whether you take an elaborate vacation to Europe, cruise with club Disney, go camping or make home-made popsicles and play by the pool, vacations bring up lots of boundary issues for parents.

Summer is the hallmark of extended bedtimes to accommodate amusement parks, night swims and s’mores by the fire.  While bending the rules is certainly acceptable, make sure that as a parent you are bending them consciously and with forethought, and not from a place of being worn-out or from guilt of not having been more available due to work.

Children need boundaries, and though they tend to fuss, resist and even rebel against them, they actually like them.  Imagine that the boundaries you set for your child are like building fences out on the open range.  Once the fence is built you can fill it with cattle and let them roam freely. The same is true of children, once you establish the boundaries, they have a lot more freedom to make their own choices as long as they stay within the limits.  Conversely, it’s disastrous to just plunk the cattle down in the middle of your property with no fences to keep them safe.

Kids need those fences so that they can stay safe and healthy.  If you extend a bedtime or let them have an extra treat at a picnic because you have weighed the consequences, evaluated their needs and feel the decision is appropriate, then that’s like moving the fence a little on your property to allow for more movement.  If you let them have extra treats or stay up late because you feel guilty or because “it’s vacation, who needs rules,” then you are setting a dangerous precedent.  The precedent is one where the child begins to realize that decisions get made based on guilt levels and whimsy instead of with forethought and care.  In effect, they find a hole in the fence.

Two things occur when a child finds a hole in the fence.

1)  They love the initial freedom, but then become scared.  They realize they are no longer in the protected zone and will start pushing more and more to force a new fence to be built.  You’ve seen this, one cookie becomes a whine for two… becomes a need for an ice cream… becomes a melt-down on the pier.  Parents who indulge these requests absentmindedly are actually decreasing their child’s emotional safety.  To the parent’s credit, they think they are being “cool,” “lenient,” or “vacation minded,” but in reality they are stressing their child out.

2)Children who find the hole and exploit it on vacation will remember this,and if the parent who was being indulgent just because it was “vacation,” will have a great deal of difficulty re-establishing the boundaries once the normal routine is again in place. 

How to get around this as a parent?  Decide what summer/vacation rules are appropriate for your family.  If you are a parenting team, it is crucial that these boundaries be set and enforced as a team.  It is appropriate to have more wiggle room, to allow the boundaries to cover a larger area than they might otherwise cover.  It’s OK to extend bedtimes, allow more friends over and have a sleep-over in the middle of the week, as long as these are decisions that are made consciously with the entire family’s well-being under consideration.  Don’t get caught off guard, know what’s important for you and your child and why.  Next, don’t falter.  If bedtime is 8:30pm, then move your schedule to accommodate that.  If you allow one treat a day, then don’t double or triple that on a whim.  Every time you make a conscious choice or set a boundary with love and intention, you are teaching your child how to do the same for themselves.   Children who understand how to set boundaries are generally more content, more self-aware and healthier (emotionally, physically and mentally).

If you are gearing up for one last summer vacation, a trip to an amusement park or a few glorious days off with your children, enjoy!  I promise you, the more consciously you set loving boundaries around these times, the more you and your children will enjoy them.

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In the many years that I have been offering workshops and individual sessions for parents, one obstacle seems to crop up repeatedly.  It’s a fear parents have that if they claim to be Conscious, Spiritual or even just Positive parents they will then be held to a standard that is impossible to achieve.  They feel like they are taking on a role in which mistakes are not allowed. Even worse, a role in which they are under the scrutiny of others with the consequences being humiliation for claiming to be something they are not. 

Why this topic today?  Well, I’m writing as I try to remember that my son lost a tooth this morning and the Tooth Fairy needs to make an appearance tonight.  For most parents this minor interruption in daily life is no big deal.  In our house, it’s an enormous and complicated undertaking.  I mean, once, my son diligently put his tooth under the pillow four nights in a row, and finally on the last morning we stuffed the money down the side of his bed after he woke up to another fruitless night’s sleep and sent him back to look telling him he rolls around a lot at night (which is true) and the money probably moved.  We told him the tooth was left behind because it was too heavy for the Tooth Fairy due to the bracket from his braces still attached to it.  We don’t have a much better track record with my daughter either.  I was relieved that she was already in on the “secret”  and I could just hand her the $2 for losing her last tooth.  Whew — no dropped balls on that one.

Now, on a daily basis, I see myself as a pretty competent and attentive parent.  I teach Conscious Parenting classes and advise countless parents on how to raise their children with self awareness.  Here’s my dirty secret.. . I can’t remember to take the tooth from under the pillow, and at this point, I don’t remember which container full of teeth in my jewelry box is my son’s and which one is my daughter’s.  Want some more dirt?  Sometimes we eat cereal for dinner. 

Parents, give yourself a break.   As Conscious Parents we are teaching our children that they are a spiritual beings having a human experience.  A Conscious Parent is still a human being!  So we lose track of time and miss pick-up by 20 minutes (or sometimes altogether, thank goodness for friends), we don’t serve veggies at every meal, we make our kids clean their rooms, and some of us forget to let the Tooth Fairy in.  We also love our children, we respect ourselves, we set loving boundaries, we let our children find their uniqueness, we celebrate our differences and embrace our similarities and we teach our children to take responsibility for the energy they bring to this planet.

Come to think of it, Conscious Parents are about as close to perfect as you can get–here on earth anyway!

Make us all feel better, share the parenting foible you secretly laugh about.  Or if you are truly a perfect parent or don’t have kids yet, share one of your parents parenting fauxpas.

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