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Posts Tagged ‘balance’

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  One becomes completely withdrawn and picks her nails the other walks around the house checking on everyone.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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