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Archive for September, 2009

It’s back to school time!  That means runny noses, watering eyes, stuffy heads, fevers, tummy aches….

Do you ever look around your child’s classroom and wonder, “Why does one kid get the flu and another doesn’t?”  or “Why is it that my child seems to catch everything going around while my sister’s kid is always healthy?”  Or maybe you are the parent of a healthy child and find yourself being continually grateful for that!

Viruses, bacterias, and micro-organisms of all shapes are everywhere — even in the most well cleaned home, office or school.  That’s because they travel through the air and water too.  As a Spiritual Life Coach and Conscious Parenting Expert, I have seen many cases where a family is suffering year after year with one illness after another, only to make some emotional shift and have the repeating illnesses disappear.  Please note, I am not addressing families where a chronic illness, immune disorder or other serious medical conditions exists.  I’m referring to the everyday germs that are floating around and the havoc they create in our lives.

Our children are powerful messengers for us when they are little and for themselves as they get older.  Yes, we get tired and stressed and are exposed to illnesses…but for one moment, if you’ve never done it before, I ask you to ponder how 15 children can be exposed to a cold virus in a classroom and only 10 get it.  I propose that it’s not always as simple as genes and luck.

I’d like to share with you some common childhood illnesses and the emotions that are commonly associated with them.  I am still advocating that you see your family physician or pediatrician, but while you are treating the symptoms and caring for your child, take a look at the household or your child’s most recent emotional state while you’re nurturing them.  You may find ways to prevent the illness next time.

The key to emotional discovery with each of these illnesses is looking at what has been going on in the family life and/or the life of the child 48 hours prior to the illness onset.  There will be lots of clues in that time frame to help you pinpoint some of the emotional contributors to the illness.

Ear Infections:  So common in small children, they frequenly indicate that the child’s life is out of balance.  Are they too busy? Has a new sibling arrived? Has mom or dad gone back to work? Is there a new stressor in the household or an old stressor that’s not been addressed?  They key with preventing future ear infections could be as simple as taking a look at how household obligations and new situations are affecting the child.  Give them more one on one time or support them if something outside of the family is stressing them out.  It may require mom and dad dealing more effectively with stress at home as well.

Soar Throatsare often the physical sign that a child is having trouble speaking their truth about something.  It could be that they saw someone break a rule or promised to keep a secret that’s weighing on them.  It could be that there is something they want to say to mom or dad but don’t know how or if they will get in trouble.  It could be that they are recognizing something about themselves and they don’t know how to speak from that place of empowerment or disempowerment.  Ask your child some questions about what has been going on recently.

Stomach achesare typically a sign that the child doesn’t feel good about themself.  You may notice that  the stomach ache shows up on test days, or before a big change (like the first day of school or before going to a relative’s house).  If your child only has these occasionally, it is probably a very specific issue that just came up.  If your child has chronic stomach aches, in addition to seeking medical treatment, try to pinpoint when they most frequently occur and give your child the opportunity to share what they are feeling during those times.

Common cold is frequently an indicator that the child or the household has been “going” non-stop.  If mom, dad, siblings or the child are over taxed with obligations or chronic stress, then the body does not have time to fortify it’s immune system properly leaving us more susceptible to the viruses that are floating around.  Make sure that your household schedule always includes down time, nutritious meals and adequate rest.

Why do kids get sick more during school?  In part because that is when their lives become more stressful.  Peer pressure is at its height when school is in session, parents are trying to juggle work, school, sports and leisure time and the stress of showing up everyday and trying to please every adult around you can be exhausting. 

Some people, including me, believe that all illnesses have an emotional component.  The more we can strive towards balanced living the healthier we will be.

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“Shhhhh, mommy’s meditrating! ”

Yes, my spell check is functioning and you read that correctly — meditrating.  That’s what my 2-year-old used to say when I was having my quiet time.  With a 5-year-old and 2 year old I had to find alone time for my sanity and theirs.  Like many moms, I worked and so did my husband, so trying to find a few minutes to take a deep breath and recenter myself — an integral piece of not going nuts — I would sit the kids in front of Sesame Street, lock the doors and head up to my son’s bedroom to sit.  I painted and carpeted his nursery with serene cool blue-green so that I would feel like I was stepping into the depths of the ocean.  His room was always calm and peaceful.

Inevitably the kids would seek me out — together, fighting all the way about who was suppose to bother me or not.  They were too young to realize that I was a better mom when I had a few moments alone with my thoughts and my emotions, but they were not too young to understand what it felt like after I had my “alone time.”

After the third or fourth time I was interrupted I explained to the kids that I needed my alone time, I was meditating.  We would set a timer for 10 minutes so that they did not have to guess how long I would be and we discussed the terms under which they could disturb me:  I think it involved blood or fire.   They seemed to get it, my son would stand sentry outside his room and if anyone (namely his sister) tried to get my attention he would say, “Shhhhhhh, mommy’s meditrating.” 

In reality I think he was soaking up the peacefulness.  Over the years, both of my children have come to appreciate their own “alone time”.  It was definitely difficult to make time for me, but in doing so not only was I better mom, but I taught the kids how important it is to put yourself first.  They can now gauge when they are at their limit.  They will choose some time to recharge rather than the “go go go” pace that their peers often choose.  They know themselves and they know how to self-nurture.

Make sure that you are creating space for everyone in your home to have alone time — doesn’t matter what it looks like, a bath, meditation, a quiet walk….But teach one another how to honor the alone time, you will find the whole family exists in more balance.  Now Breathe….

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Disciplining our children is a very personal thing.  As Conscious Parents, we have the benefit of being aware of our own triggers, our children’s triggers and looking for tools to help us navigate the waters of discipline effectively.  Let’s face it, we generally discipline our children for engaging in behaviors that either make life unsafe for them or make us feel unsafe.  It’s easy to distinguish those activities that are just out and out unsafe for our kids, sticking things in electrical sockets, running out into the street, riding bikes without helmets and a list a mile long of things children can think to do that we never did.  I never dreamed my son would find the view of the downstairs so inviting peering through the banister railings — until he got his head stuck there.

We also parent our children through our own fears.  I’ve watched parents who are affraid of swimming (or some other activity) over-react to playful and safe water games because of their own fear.  And let’s be honest, we punish our kids for throwing tantrums in the supermarket not because they are unsafe, but because we start to feel judged, overwhelmed and like we “should” be handling things differently.  We’re human, we are all going to do some variation of this. 

When we see our child engaging in a behavior that we know could cause danger (or we suspect will cause pain), we generally react with some fear.  The ironic thing about this is that we cannot experience love and fear at the exact same moment.  So if discipline comes from or in  that moment of fear, the consequences for the behavior may seem extreme or out of context, and then sadly, our child only modifies the behavior based on being afraid, not based on understanding that safety is an issue.  And, we know when we have acted from fear — we generally have huge guilt about the punishment we dolled out.

So, first and foremost, take a deep breath before issuing the consequence.  By all means, if you’re child is running out into the parking lot, scream, grab him around the waist — do whatever you have to to keep him safe, but before yelling, scolding or punishing, take that breath and reconnect with something you love and adore about this child.  Just one thing is all it takes to get you back to your heart.

Consequences must be immediate, firm and adhered to by all adults who are care-taking of the child during the time period of the consequence.  Even if you are on vacation or with family. . . even if it means you as the parent miss out on the fun, any wavering will reinforce the child’s behavior. 

Second, make the consequence fit the action.  Here are a few examples:

1)  Kids want independence…if your little one is insistent on darting out into parking lots or running away from you, then the consequence is that they have to hold your hand for the rest of the trip (or ride in the stroller or cart).  Don’t worry about their screaming, just remind them in a calm voice, “Honey, we have to be safe, you have not been safe today (or the last time we went out) so today you have to ride in the stroller.  Next time well try it your way again and if you wait for mommy and look both ways then you can walk next to me.”  Next time, remind them of the consequence before your trip starts!

2)  Your child rides their bike without their helmet.  A natural consequence is of course falling and getting hurt, but it’s our parenting duty to help prevent this injury.  So if you catch your child being unsafe in this way, the bike gets grounded for a certain amount of time (this is age dependent — a 4 year old will not remember 2 weeks later why the bike is still grounded). 

3)Johnny repeatedly breaks other children’s toys.  The consequence for this could be that Johnny then has to give a similar toy of his own to the other child.  If “Johnny” is older, it’s appropriate that he pay for the damage or  replaces the item, but with smaller children who don’t yet get the concept of money, to replace the item with one of their own is an appropriate consequence.

The goal is to help you keep your calm and teach your child through positive and conscious actions.  Yup, you’re going to get stressed and overwhelmed and maybe even raise your voice.  Just remember that it’s never too late to take that deep breath, reconnect with love and move forward teaching your child how to be a more conscious kid!

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