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Posts Tagged ‘balance’

Across the nation we are hearing reports of sunshine, warmer temperatures and flowers blooming.  We have been told by doctors, therapists and moms since the dawn of time to “Go outside.”  The benefits to all levels of your being are huge.

When children go outside they expand.  They experience a fullness of themselves that they cannot experience when indoors.  This is why moms everywhere lament foul weather — kids can only go so long without expanding before they start taking up all of the space around them — inside!

Next time you go for a walk with your child or even just outside to shoot some hoops or draw with chalk on the driveway, ask them how the sun feels on their body.  They are already soaking up the benefits of vitamin D which is so important for development and healthy living, and by tuning in to the sun they will also tune into their heart space.  They will feel the opening, the expansion.  Let them describe that to you.  Have them tell you how they feel.  Pay attention to how much more creative your child is when outside (or right after they come in). 

Put some sun screen on, grab a sweater and your sneakers, and go outside and feel better!

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One of the biggest challenges parents, caregivers and teachers face is getting children to eat healthy.   As babies, my kids ate almost everything: peas, carrots, beats, strawberries, green beans, sweet potatoes…. Why then is feeding them nutritiously so difficult when they get a little older?

Think hotdogs, French fries, prepackaged cracker/cheese/meat lunches and fast food.  Truth is, children do what we do.  We eat on the run, we eat convenience foods and we eat for emotional needs more than hunger a lot of the time.  It’s not that any one of the food types mentioned is horrible….well, let’s just say not completely without merit, but we tend to make these the building blocks of our eating habits instead of once in awhile treats.

We are born with coding to know what our body needs.  And try as we might, we don’t ever obliterate that intuitive sense.   If you’ve ever just absolutely craved a salad or needed a hamburger you know what I’m talking about.  You body sends messages all the time about the nutrients, vitamins and minerals that you need.  We coat that system with preservatives and sugar creating a scenario where we think we need preservatives and sugar, but listen a little deeper and you will find that you really want an apple with peanut putter, a vibrant salad, pasta with veggies….even that protein and iron rich hamburger on occasion.

Help your children hold on to their internal menu guide by having them play a conscious role in food choices.  Let them help you pick out fruits and veggies at the supermarket.  Make a menu with food choices that are easy for you to prepare and have them check off a food from each group (bread, fruit/veggie, protein and beverage) for breakfast and lunch.  Lead them towards healthier snacks like nuts, dried fruit, crackers and cheese, a scoop of peanut butter, yogurt and granola etc. 

Tell us about your favorite healthy snack?

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The most successful teams I have seen, from sports to the workplace to philanthropic groups, are ones on which every participant is working with others doing what each does best.  The teams that I watch fail are those where everyone is trying to be the star and no on wants to play a supporting role.  I was in 3rd grade PE class when I learned that winning was important to everyone.  Not being very coordinated and, quite frankly, caring more about friends than winning or losing, I was never first choice for any teams.  I remember being so very confused that people I thought were friends were choosing others for their team because they had a better chance of winning.  In sixth grade I realized that I was not in the “smartest” class, only the “second smartest” in my grade and I was too young to realize that in my case, changing classes meant going from the top of second to the bottom of first.

To this day I have a problem with competition.  Yes, I realize that competition can push us to be better, give us something to strive for etc., but we are assuming that without competition we would turn into lumps.  Instead, I suggest that in fostering competition we are encouraging a society where there is a hierarchy of abilities instead of a society that recognizes each person for what they are good at. 

More times than not I see children as young as four years old, sad, depressed, angry (note none of these are positive emotions) because they weren’t the best at one or two activities.

Let’s imagine for a minute that instead of competing for one or two coveted spots on a team or in school, each child was recognized for what they are good at.  That every child’s unique contributions to the world were cherished.  Do we really think that under those circumstances our corporate, social and financial worlds would do anything but thrive?  Not to mention what the spirit of collaboration could do for world peace.

I see parents pushing their children earlier and earlier in sports, academics, dance, art….trying to secure a “top spot” in their child’s future.  I also see a lot of kids suffering from anxiety, depression, and stress disorders in elementary and middle school.  It’s not too late to change our world.  Here are a few ways to help foster collaboration and bringing out your child’s unique talents.

1)  Let your child try lots of sports, art and social activities before deciding on which one they excel at.  Don’t tell them how they are doing, praise them for trying and let them tell you how the activity makes them feel.  It is OK to do something just because it’s fun.

2) Do household projects as a family letting each person choose the part of the activity they will enjoy most.  Then talk about how quickly the project got finished and what each person enjoyed most about it.

3)  If you have multiple children, let the kids help each other with difficult homework problems or projects.  Letting them help each other not only lets each child shine, but it teaches the children that one person (the parent) doesn’t have to be great at everything!

4)  Ask for help and let your children see you do that.  In acknowledging that you are not an expert at everything, you open the doors for your children to know it’s OK to do the same.

5)  Let your children see you share your talents with others.  They will then want to share their gifts as well.

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As you wrap yourself in the spirit of giving this season don’t forget to include yourself as a recipient of your own generosity.  While you’re at it, include your kids and teach them the art of prioritizing oneself.  Too often we unwittingly give our children the message that everyone else should come first.  We over-commit, over-dedicate and generally over-do.  Our children see this and follow our lead of rushing and putting other first even if at the expense of our own mental or emotional well-being.

This holiday season help your kids learn to make time for themselves.  Try one of our suggestions for giving back to yourself or let us know what you do with your children to teach them this important skill.

1.  Have a mandatory quiet time.  Turn off the house phones, the cell phones, the computers and have everyone pick their favorite place to hang out in the house.  Every person does something they enjoy for at least 30 minutes; read, color, journal, listen to music on an mp3 player, bird watch or anything else that feels self-serving.

2.  Have a “Pamper Me Party” with the kids.  Help the kids pick out lotions, nail polish, bubble bath ect.  Turn on some soothing music and join the kids in a little at home spa indulgence..  Help younger children learn the art of self-care by helping them with the pampering or just let them soak in a bath while you sit close by relaxing to the scent of a lavender scented candle.

3.  Do some yoga with your child.  It strengthens and relaxes.  There is an excellent child friendly version of yoga on Self-Esteem the DVD by Little Soul Productions. (www.littlesoulproductions.com)

4.  Make a cut out of your child and provide glue and embellishments.  Encourage them to make the doll in a way that expresses what their own beauty and love looks like.

5.  Snuggle with your child and watch their favorite TV show or movie. Turn off all distractions and hold off on any chores until the show during this “down-time.”

6.  Sit for 10 minutes and just practice breathing.  Deep breaths with closed eyes.  Inhale and exhale evenly.  You can play soothing music or light incense if you wish.  This time can eventually turn into a family meditation time.

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I love to listen to the children this time of year.  They don’t have the same constraints on creating their heart’s desires that adults do, so kids make their wish lists with reckless abandon anticipating surprises that delight.  This year, the current economy has caused many families to curb or quash children’s anticipations.  Where is the balance?

I am a firm believer in charity work, reaching out and the spirit of community that gets fostered during the holidays, but the creative energy that ignites in children this time of year really makes me excited.  This is one time of year when kids can create what they want and almost instantly see the fruits of their creations. What great validation.  Trouble comes when  well-intentioned parents try to thwart the creative process to avoid disappointment.

Balance in this process comes from teaching our children to dream, create and imagine, while having gratitude for whatever the universe delivers; for it is always perfect and timely.  As your children make their holiday, or even birthday wish lists, try to avoid comments like, “That’s really expensive” or “Only put a couple of things on your list” or “It’s going to be a tight birthday this year.”  All of these statements, while well-meaning, are designed to lower expectations and ward off disappointment.  It doesn’t usually occur to us that we are creating the very disappointed we were trying to avoid.  Kids want to dream and create — let them.  That hydrogen fueled car may be something you cannot imagine being able to afford or have the space to play with, but the unexpected happens everyday.

It is appropriate to help your child be comfortable with the perfection and timing of the Universe.  As they make their list try some of these techniques that will empower them and your whole family to create. Then sit back and watch as things you never thought possible come into your life.

As your child makes their list have them prioritize the items, moving to the top 3-5 things they want most.  It’s easier to create when we know what we most desire.  Let them change the list a few times — children live very present moment and their desires can change quickly.  If we give them opportunity they manifest quickly too.  Ward off entitlement by saying things like, “I’m sure that you will get the gifts that are perfect for you right now.”  Set them up to be grateful.  Sit with your child and imagine being happy on the big day(s).  Talk about how much fun the family will have, how festive the party will be or how it will feel to see your creation(s) come true.

This all may seem out of reach to you, so let me share a quick story.  A friend of mine is struggling financially this year and her son’s handheld electronic device is old and fading.  In her mind she just couldn’t  figure out how she could replace that loved item this year, but still let her son put it on his Christmas list.  She empowered him to prioritize and create and so did she.  She knew that if it was in alignment she would find a way.  She was in a thrift shop a recently and a brand new device was there along with a few new games.  She was able to pick them up for prices that fit her budget.  She didn’t let her awareness of tight finances get in the way of the creation.  She held on to the desire with her son and they anticipated a good holiday no matter what.  Those are the keys to creative success.

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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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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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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 not always equal, but it is always fair!  This is the phrase that I just know my kids are swearing to themselves that they will never EVER repeat to their own kids. . . but most adults I know hear it and adopt it quickly.  OK, so there are lots of kids out there who are cursing me under their breath.

This has been an oft repeated motto in our home since my children were little.  If you have even one child you are bound to hear the words, “but that’s not fair” at some point in their young life as they  plead their case for the childhood version of equality.

Even if you are not the kind of parent who indulges you child’s every whim, you have likely grappled internally with the concept of how to make things fair — especially if you have multiple children.  We never want to seem injudicious in our parenting, but trying to even the childhood playing fields does a dis-service to our children and wreaks havoc on our parental psyche.  I have had clients who sit in my office twisting themselves inside out because they are trying to figure out how to arrange play-dates so that each child has one at the same time or are spending outside of the budget to even out awards and gifts.  The story that wretched my heart the most was from a  mom who was trying to create a vacation for her oldest child that equaled the character cruise vacation that the youngest went on with another family — the other family footed the entire bill and this mom didn’t have the financial means to do the same.

As parents, we can make ourselves crazy chasing equality, and in that, we miss an opportunity to help our children determine their own personal needs and desires independent of the collective consciousness.  When we are willing to offer what each child needs, and yes, even within the same family each child is an individual with unique needs, “it’s not always equal, but it is always fair” becomes a point of reference for resetting our values.  If we are seeking out and receiving what we want/need from a heart place, then we are always getting exactly what we need.

Here’s how to employ your own version of this at home.  Say, for example, your child wants two pieces of candy just like Sally consumed moments earlier.   You are reluctant to point out the comparison to lemmings jumping off of a cliff that your own parents used (let’s face it, that was just silly–sort of).  To say,”It’s not always equal, but it’s always fair” to your child is not enough.  Help them understand what you are implying.

“I know that Sally just had two pieces of candy, but you had a piece that was the perfect size for you.  I know what you had for lunch and your body needs some more nutrients in it.”

Your child may not comprehend all of what you are saying, but like all good parenting, which lies in the depths of repetition, they will eventually adopt this process of searching for what ‘s best for them on their own.  One day they will revel in making their own choices in spite of what friends are doing without your prodding.  My children dislike this phrase, but they can now see for themselves that life is an experience unique to each individual and what works for one person may not work for another.  They are more willing to seek their own hearts for guidance when they move away from the idea that everything has to be fair.

As parents, it is helpful if we adopt a similar line of thinking.  In other words, if we feel like the Universe is unfair because we don’t have everything our neighbors, co-workers or siblings do then we will promote this concept of unfairness subconsciously to our children.  Check your motivation when you feel that life is being unfair.  Chances are, you will actually glean the perfection of the circumstance(s).

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When you were young, did you ever play on a teeter totter with a friend?  Ever have one of those moments when you were smiling gleefully with your end as high as it would go and have your friend, or a sibling, jump off the lower end sending you crashing to the ground?  Some kind of injury or trauma was almost inevitable — along with a strong desire to get that friend back on the seesaw so you could seek revenge!

This is a great metaphor for the balancing act parents do.  What may have once felt like harmony in your household can easily teeter out of control when the blessing of a child enters in.  All of a sudden, the best laid plans can disintigrate because a child falls ill, has a report due in school, is being bullied, or just simply wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.  You feel your end of the teeter totter rising as unpredictability sits taunting you precariously on the lower side.

Balancing life as a parent can certainly seem challenging. .  all right, it’s downright difficult.  But it’s not impossible.  Creating balance in your life is even more important as a parent because you are teaching your child(ren) how to live– be it in balance, chaos or paralyzed.  And just like that 4 foot crash on the playground, if balance is not maintained in the household, trauma, injury, or other seemingly bad things tend to occur to force everyone back into balance.

The child who is stressed out at school and not finding any down time will ultimately get sick forcing them to rest.  The child getting perpetually bullied, will eventually take charge, but it will be out of balance and result in some time of punishment.

Here’s the thing. . . balance doesn’t mean equal.  Just like the teeter totter, the most fun was achieved when the players worked in tandem going up and down, traveling slightly above and slightly below the point of balance.  As the parent or caregiver you do not need to ensure that for every hour your child is in school you spend an equal number of hours hugging him or her.  Balance does entail checking in with your heart and only accepting those responsibilities that bring you joy.  Yes, as adults and parents we do have obligations. But if you are honest, most of the basic obligations (clothe, feed, educate and love yourself and your child) bring you joy.  It’s just sometimes hard to see that joy when your plate is filled with choices you’ve made that make you feel overwhelmed.   As you engage in this behavior of joyful and balanced living, so too will your children.

Tips for Living in Balance:

1.  Look at all your obligations.  Which ones no longer make you feel happy or joyous?

2.  Resign from committees, clubs, social organizations, PTA or any other group that no longer serves your heart.  It may seem daunting, but consider that if you are grudgingly taking up space, then someone who would be joyful doing it cannot step in.  No one is irreplaceable.

3.  Are there things you enjoy doing but have set them aside as prizes for other accomplishments?  ie.  I’ll take that vacation when I lose 20 pounds.  Check your motivation and recognize that you are depriving yourself which is as out of balance as overwhelming yourself.

4.  Start and end everyday with a smile.

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