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Archive for November, 2009

We don’t need a lecture on the value or meaning of Thanksgiving, but many parents have said that they struggle with helping their children understand what it means to be thankful.  In the conscious parenting world, being thankful starts with being thankful for who you are, then thankful for your family, then your community, then your world.   The holiday of Thanksgiving is a great way to remind our children how to express gratitude.  Below are some of our favorite ways to do this.  Maybe you’ll try one of our suggestions; we’d love to know how it affected your family.  Or maybe you have a favorite way to express gratitude either on Thanksgiving or any day – we’d love for you to share it with us here.

1)       When my kids were little we passed a man playing his clarinet (badly) on the way to preschool every morning.  The kids would comment and we would talk about how nice it was to see him there offering what he could.  I knew he was indigent, but he was on a corner of a busy intersection and the only way people were going to give him money was if they threw it at him from their cars as they entered the freeway on-ramp.  That Thanksgiving my two children and my nephew went with me to thank him.  I parked the car at a nearby shopping center and we walked to where he was playing.  We gave him a home baked loaf of pumpkin bread.  The kids were so happy to help him.

2)      Many civil servants (like police officers and firemen) have to work on the holidays, giving up their time with family so that they can keep us safe or keep our utilities working.  Again, when my kids were fairly young we took homemade pastries to our local fire department.  The men were very grateful and the kids have never forgotten how that felt.

3)      As your family gathers and talks on Thanksgiving, have a jar or decorated box out in the common area with some slips of paper and pens or markers nearby.  Encourage everyone to write down things they are grateful for and put the slips in the box.  Once everyone is gathered for the meal open the box and take turns reading the slips of paper.  It will be an incredibly uplifting time.

4)      Help your kids list a few people that have touched their lives over the last year.  Depending on the age of the child, pick an appropriate number of people and have the child(ren) draw pictures or write notes to these people telling them why they are thankful for them.

5)      At dinner, or at another equally focused time, tell your kids why you are grateful for them.  We tend to assume our children know how grateful we are that they are in our lives,  but in the daily hustle and bustle of life our kids tend to remember most the things we’ve scolded them for more than they remember the things we appreciate in them.

6)      Start a new recycling program at home as a way of being thankful for the earth.  If you already recycle paper or plastics, add conserving water (many municipal water companies will provide you with shower aerators or low flow faucet caps), start a home composting bin, plant some herbs or add some potted plants to your home, pick up trash with a local scouting group or even start making your own non-toxic cleaning products.

However you choose to express your gratitude this Thanksgiving, we at Little Soul Productions want you to know that we are grateful for you and your family. We wish you many blessings this Thanksgiving and throughout the holiday season!

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One of the most emotionally challenging things I ever had to do was resign from a position within a charity group that I belonged to. Never in my 39 years had I failed to fulfill the obligations that I committed to or was assigned– no matter what the cost to my emotional or physical well-being. It was difficult to do, but two things happened that day;  1) I really felt free once it was done. I spoke from my heart and I stated realistically what I could do and what I could not. My two month headache disappeared almost immediately. 2) I earned the respect of the very women I was afraid would judge me. After all, I knew (or at least I suspected) that they were as busy as I was, so who was I to actually claim more time for myself when everyone else was carrying equally heavy loads? They were incredibly supportive of my self-honoring.  And in truth, I wasn’t really fulfilling my obligations anyway, so I freed them up to find someone who could help them more. Not only do our children act out when we are overcommitted, but they learn from what we do. If our children see us volunteering at every opportunity, helping every friend in need and operating from an unhealthy place to meet the needs of others then they will very likely grow up to be the same kind of person. So before you say, “Yes,” to that next charity drive, bake sale or PTA position, think about the message you are sending to your children. Saying, “Yes” to You and “No” to others takes some practice. Here are a few tips to ease you into the process. The goal is to only agree to those things that fuel your heart, your passion and your soul.

1) List all your commitments (no matter how big or small). Have a friend or your spouse read them back to you. If any give you a sinking feeling in your stomach or make your heart hurt or you feel like you are being squeezed in a vice…those are commitments that will only drain you. Find a way to get out of them or fulfill the commitment and resign from that job.

2) List 10 things that you can do for you that make you happy. Maybe read a good book, have coffee with a friend, take a day off, stay in your pj’s all day, take the phone off the hook, take a walk, exercise, meditate, get a massage….Whatever those things are, do one everyday before you fulfill any commitments outside of your family.

3) Remember that every time you continue to do a job that makes you complain or feel exhausted you are draining yourself, sending the group negative energy and most important, you are keeping that job from someone who would be very happy doing it.

4) Learn to say, “I deserve to live a balanced life.” Post it anywhere you need a reminder.

5) Surround yourself with friends who also say, “No.” If all of your friends are overcommitters, then it will be even harder to keep balance in your own life. In contrast, if you have friends who have a good idea of how much they can do and still live in balance, then not only will you feel more validated in declining but you will all serve as reminders to one another about what is important.

6) Make family time a priority. We often accidentally fall into the trap of overcommitting ourselves and then it becomes a habit. When we reconnect with the joy of family meals, playing games with our kids or having a date night, we are more reluctant to give those joyful moments up.

7) Ask for help. We assume everyone else is busy and has their own burdens so we don’t ask for help often enough. It is not our place to evaluate what throws someone else out of balance or what fulfills them. Let your friends and family members make that decision for themselves and take any, “Sorry I cannot” replies with gratitude and move on to the next person. Someone will feel very fulfilled in helping you.

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Blurry eyes, hair in a pony tail, coffee in hand and pj bottoms on as you drive the kids to school– Sound familiar?  These are not signs of a lazy parent, these are indicators of a parent who is so busy that self-care has fallen behind (way behind) caring for the family, relatives, work, school, friends…have I missed anyone?  Oh yeah, the family pets too.

When 24 hours just doesn’t seem like enough time to accomplish everything on the daily to-do list, most parents sacrifice self-care in order to meet the needs of everyone around them.  We know we are not SuperMom or SuperDad, but we look at those around us and if we have a little more time, energy, health or assets, we tend to feel obligated to lend a helping hand.  And we have trained one another to work until we drop.  How many times have you found yourself saying to a friend, “I really don’t have time to bake cookies for the preschool bake sale, but they really need the funds and I would feel guilty if I didn’t do my part.”  Where’s the sign that reads, IF YOU’VE TAKEN CARE OF YOU TODAY THEN WE’D LOVE TO HAVE 2 DOZEN CUPCAKES.  IF NOT, GO AHEAD AND EAT A CUPCAKE, WE’LL CATCH YOU NEXT TIME. ?

Helping and giving are HIGHLY encouraged, but as with all things we have to find balance.  Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Adrenal Fatigue and Hormone Imbalances are on the rise, and all of these illnesses are heavily influence by stress, nutrition and sleep.  For many parents I know, a balanced meal is eating the leftovers off each child’s plate, adequate sleep is a an uninterrupted nap while peeing and stress management includes enough chocolate consumption to fuel a neighborhood Halloween party for decades.  I will never forget the moment I realized I was not getting enough sleep:  the 20 minutes I was under anesthesia for a routine test were so sound and peaceful that I yelled “YOU’RE SO LOUD,” at the anesthesiologist as he was trying to wake me!

We all know when we are burning the candle at both ends, but what we don’t always realize is that sibling squabbles, cranky children, poor behaviors and obstinate actions in our children are often caused by the over-committing we do as parents.  When we are tired or cranky or always rushing to get to the next thing, our children serve as early warning systems trying to alert us to the damage our actions are causing.  The trouble is, just like the warning to change smoke alarm batteries every month, we usually ignore them.  Oftentimes, if we make subtle shifts towards our own self-care, our children will respond and the family balance returns to a peaceful roar?

What could you give up today?  What actions could you leave to another person?  What could you do for yourself each day that would bring you comfort, joy or satisfaction?

Next week we will offer some tips on how to make easy shifts towards self-care.  Stay tuned….

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