Archive for October, 2009

Ever notice that a trip to the beach, a hike or a picnic all tend elevate your mood?  Or perhaps you’re familiar with feeling “like a new person” just from taking a shower?

Nature (and yes, for all intents and purposes, shower water is still nature) seeks balance. All of nature, the trees, grass, water and animals have a natural vibration of peace.  So when we are in a natural setting our mood tends to settle in a place of contentment or happiness — especially for children.  The only times a trip outside will not make a child feel better are when the temperature is extreme, making them physically uncomfortable, or when other non-natural factors are involved: like the commotion of a party, the antics of other children on an outdoor playground or when physical fatigue sets in.

But in general, taking kids outside is a great way to help them recharge or elevate the mood of squabbling siblings or a cranky child.  Autumn is a great time to enjoy the uplifting spirit of nature as the temperature is usually kinder to our senses and the colors and smells are particularly vibrant.

Here are a few ways your whole family can get the most mood elevating benefits of a day outdoors.  Best of all, these suggestions are free or at a nominal fee.

1) Pack a picnic and head off to a local park.  Spread a blanket out in a quiet corner and enjoy healthy foods while you tell jokes, read stories or play tag.

2) Look for botanic gardens in your area.  Many are run by Universities or non-profit organizations so they are free or open to the public at a nominal charge.  Wander through the gardens with your children letting them set the pace.  Don’t forget your camera — you’re sure to create memories you won’t want to forget.

3) Check with your local rec center for organized hikes.  Some places will even do small night hikes with campfires and s’mores for the families.  There’s nothing like star-gazing on a crisp Autumn evening and eating a s’more to bring you right to your heart.

4) Get a map of local trails from your local park and rec center or check out the lists of national parks online — one may be closer than you think.  Take a family hike and enjoy the natural beauty of your community. Let the kids gather things they find to be beautiful to bring home and make a collage or picture.

5) Go camping.  Even if it’s in your backyard.  Spend a night outside with your children telling stories.  It’s amazing how much kids open up emotionally when they are outside — you will learn a lot on a family camping adventure.

6) If the weather outside is frightful and the kids are young enough, draw a warm bath for them, put on a nature CD, put a couple of “child safe” potted plants around the tub and sip cocoa with your child while reading their favorite book — the water and plants will provide enough nature to calm a cranky child or wash away a bad day.


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The Role of Daddy

by Dr. Frances P. Walfish, Guest Blogger


There are many different ways to be a wonderful father, but for some, it can be a challenge.  For others, it comes easily and naturally.  There are two things that need to be present and in balanced for a man to feel like a successful father: being loving and nurturing and being comfortable setting boundaries and sticking to them.

I find that many fathers are at ease with the first step or the second, but find it a challenge to balance both at the same time.  A great deal of what determines which is more comfortable has to do with the model set by our own fathers and mothers.  For example, a dad in my practice who lacks patience with his children shared that his own father flew off the handle with him.  It was only through gentle exploration that this father was able to take a painful, honest look at his own behavior.  This awareness is the key to breaking the cycle of repetition.

For most dads, loving their child comes easily.  They want to create fun in the relationship so they find ways to engage through play, sports, talking, and wrestling.  But also important to fathering is to setting boundaries, placing limits, saying no, setting up targets.  Many dads are not comfortable with this because it stirs anger, tears, and a little bit of rebellion in the child.  This is where knowing your own history is so vital.  For example, if a father had a harsh disciplinarian father of his own, he may feel that setting limits implies a need to scream at or beat the child.  He may fear repeating the hurt and humiliation he felt with the implementation of rules and boundaries so he instead chooses a loose set of rules.

Let me share an example of a father who, with hard work, changed his own parenting style from that of his parents and grandparents.  This man married late in life and had children at an older age for fear of repeating the mistakes his own parents made with him and his siblings.  His father mishandled the children; he was rough and tough and quick to use the belt.  His mother, who knew no better in raising children, did not intervene and protect her children.  She was busy with her charity and fundraising activities and not very available.  This father decided in his 30’s to invest whatever time, energy, courage, and money it took to turn things around.  He immersed himself in a long term psychotherapy experience.  By the time he married,  had children  and consulted me he knew a great deal about himself.  He came to me when his first child was 9 months old to “prevent” problems.  Because he was open, he took my suggestions, put them into action, and became an exemplary father.  His two school-age children are thriving and doing well.  He has learned how to talk with his children about feelings and behavior rather than responding impulsively.  He is empathic, not reactive.

Tips for dads who have trouble setting.  Remember that each time you set a limit you are giving your child an opportunity to grow.  Meeting the child’s resistance and allowing your child to wrestle with not always getting what she wants builds your child’s strength and character.  Also, when you are able to set a boundary and stick to it without getting angry, you are teaching your child to inhibit aggressive impulses that she would alternatively learn if you screamed and yelled at her.   You are not being mean if you say no.   Your job is to protect your child and to socialize him.

Fun is great!  Disciplining can be a drag.  Fathers must find a way to do both.

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One challenge that Conscious Parents face is finding good quality reading material that expresses the emotional and spiritual levels of our existence.  There are many great authors out there who have beautifully expressed these elements in easy to understand terms with gorgeous artwork.  I’ve even been known to refer my adult clients to children’s books as they frequently “tell it like it is” without the excess musings of the author.

This list is not at all comprehensive,  and there are many more great authors and books out there than what I’ve listed. These are some of my family favorites; use this as a guide to get started or to research authors.  Some of these books are available at chain retailers, most can be found at or ordered through smaller privately held bookstores, or there is always online.  Remember to follow your heart as you choose, and share with us your favorite.

Preschool and Early Elementary

  • Emma & Mommy Talk to God by Marianne Williamson
  • The Angel with the Golden Glow by Elissa Al-Chokhachy and Ulrike Graf
  • The Loveables in The Kingdom of Self-Esteem by Diane Loomans
  • All I See is Part of Me by Chara M. Curtis
  • Old Turtle by Douglas Wood
  • The Little Soul in the Sun by Neale Donald Walsch
  • Unstoppable Me! by Dr. Wayne W. Dye with Kristina Tracy
  • Who Moved My Cheese? for Kids by Spencer Johnson, M.D.
  • I’m Gonna Like Me by Jamie Lee Curtis & Laura Cornell

Middle School and High School

  • Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
  • A Treasury of Wise Action by Dharma Publishing
  • Grandad’s Prayers of the Earth by Douglas Wood
  • Illusions by Richard Bach
  • The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
  • Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D.

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If milk and all things wholesome supposedly “does a body good,” then doesn’t it also stand to reason that anything not wholesome or “trashy,” as we call it in our home, “does a body bad?”  As Halloween and the “sweets” holidays, (Thanksgiving and Christmas) fast approach, so begins the much heated parental debate over how much “trash” can/should our children have.

This is a perfect opportunity to remind yourself and your children that the best way to avoid eating dilemmas is to tune in to the body.  We get signals everyday about what our body needs.  The dry skin and parched feeling you have is probably a good indicator that you’re dehydrated, and you could use some water.  That craving for a big salad is probably indicative of a need for some “live” food in your diet. 

If you’re like most conscious parents, you are already attuned to most of these signals, but the thought of a bag full of candy and then pies and then cookies — Oh MY!!  It is a well known phenomenon that children who are deprived of all forms of sweets will at some time (be it college or at their first emotional crisis) over indulge because they have a scarcity issue when it comes to these  types of food.  That scarcity issue coupled with no experience in setting self imposed limitations on sweets is a recipe for disaster (weight gain, eating disorders, diabetes. . . . ). 

Kids are more in-tune with their bodies than we give them credit for.  It’s never too late to start the process of helping them recognize their abilities, but the earlier we start the better.   When my oldest was almost 5 and my youngest was 2 we began really working with them on tuning in to what their body needed.  They knew that no sweets were going to be doled out until after lunch, at the very earliest.  If they asked for a treat after this time of day then I would make them sit, close their eyes and stay present with their body.  I would ask them, have you had all of your vitamins, nutrients and energy that you need for the day?  Believe it or not, they were mostly honest about it and would often times, say, “No,” with a very sad face.  I then asked them to sit quietly again and see if they could tell what their body needed.  It was amazing.  They would intuitively know that they needed a banana or a piece of whole grain bread or a yogurt or some cheese.  Of course, they sometimes needed help from me and we might have to talk about what they had already eaten.  The rule was, once you (and I) felt that you had met your nutritional needs for the day you could have a small treat.

The entire process never took more than 5 minutes, and today at 13 and 10 they will ask for foods they need.  I’ll hear things like, “Mom, I really feel like I need some protein, can we have red meat for dinner.”  Or at the grocery store they might say, “Can you get orange fruits and vegetables, I just feel drawn to them for some reason.”  These are all intuitive signals that they have learned to tune in to.  And, they also get the treats so they are learning to eat in balance with what their body needs.

Another quick trick is write down (or on a magnetic board put magnets with pictures) the foods your child has eaten.  As they get older they can keep the journal themselves.  A quick look over the journal will help you both have a good picture of how they have eaten and base treats on a balance daily intake of fruits, vegetables, proteins and water.

So, rather than be the mom who is handing out pencils to trick or treaters and risking a good old fashioned T.P.ing for your efforts, teach your children how to listen to the signals that keep their diets in balance.

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