Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Monday, April 25, 2011
Sunday, April 24, 2011
Saturday, April 23, 2011
Sometimes we really just need to do a little bit of Nothing. Kick back, lay low, chill and relax. It's a pretty healthy thing to just think sometimes. Contemplate where you are in your life, where you're going, and where you want to be. Answers come when you slow down enough to hear yourself think.
Friday, April 22, 2011
|We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. ~Native American Proverb|
Thursday, April 21, 2011
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
You’ve been yelling impatiently at your kids. You’re snapping at your spouse. You stamp around the house, doing three things at once, but getting nothing accomplished. In total frustration, you collapse with a pounding headache. Taking care of yourself doesn’t even make the “to do” list. It’s no wonder you’re frazzled and stretched beyond your limits. What’s going on? Pay attention to the signals. You may be heading towards parent burn-out! Now’s the time to stop and ask, “What do I need to feel good about myself again?”
As a parent, you’re like a pitcher that is constantly pouring. Let’s face it, kids are exhausting! What happens when that pitcher runs dry? There’s nothing left to give, you’re drained and empty. Paying attention to your own needs is the only way to refill the pitcher.
I can hear the protest already: “But I don’t have time to take care of myself!” “I can’t do that for myself, it would be selfish!” GUILT. We’ve got it by the truckload and it rears it’s ugly head whenever we contemplate an evening to ourselves, or say “No” to another request from the kids. Sure, being a parent demands compromise and a certain amount of sacrifice. We give that willingly. Somehow, our needs have to be worked into the balance, too. If we ’re not healthy and whole individuals first, we can’t give our best to our children.
So, where do we start? Take a look at the five basic needs: physical, mental, emotional, social, and spiritual. What’s missing in your life? What did you enjoy in your other life (before kids)? Do you need more relaxation, or more contact with good friends? More intellectual stimulation, more sense of accomplishment, or a chance to feel connected with nature? It doesn’t matter what you choose to add to your life. The important ingredient is simply doing something that gives you positive feelings.
Affirming to yourself that it REALLY IS OKAY to listen to your own needs is more than half the battle. You already are a master of time management if you can run a modern family. Schedule time for yourself before you fill the calendar with activities for the kids. Switch off child-care time with your spouse or a friend. Join a babysitting co-op. Build your support network. A good babysitter is not only a lifesaver for you, she’s one more caring person to enrich your children’s lives. Getting away, or enjoying a new activity will restore the creativity and enthusiasm you need to really be there for your family.
Self-care doesn’t have to involve expensive vacations or time-consuming hobbies. Regular, simple breaks during the day can be just as refreshing. Steal a small moment for yourself for a quiet cup of tea instead of vacuuming. The mess will wait – guaranteed, but your health and happiness may not!
We all can get so caught up in the frantic demands of life, that it’s easy to forget what’s really important to us. Slow down, nurture yourself, allow yourself some simple pleasures. You owe it to yourself, and you owe it to your kids.
Monday, April 18, 2011
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Saturday, April 16, 2011
Friday, April 15, 2011
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Monday, April 11, 2011
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
“Love is an attachment to another self. Humor is a form of self-detachment - a way of looking at one's existence, one's misfortune, or one's discomfort. If you really love, if you really know how to laugh, the result is the same: you forget yourself.”
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
The star baseball player, the most graceful girl in the ballet class, the child who consistently gets top marks at school – these kids are competent, right? They excel at what they do, they’re recognized by others as being capable and effective. They must have high self-esteem. Maybe….
Strong self-esteem requires two basic beliefs. There is the foundation: “I am lovable and valuable, just because I’m me”. This is the “feeling good” component of self-esteem. When we love our children, unconditionally, when we accept them and consistently look for ways to make them feel loved; we nurture that first fundamental belief. This was the topic of my Jan./Feb. article: “Does Your Child Feel Special?”
Feeling loved and special is not enough. Our children also need to believe “I am competent and worthwhile. I have something to offer others”. This is the other part of self-esteem, the “doing well” component. Both parts are necessary for a child to evaluate himself positively. When a child “feels good”, he will be primed to succeed. Every success, every time he “does well”, in turn reinforces those good feelings. As parents, or other important people in a child’s life, we can intervene and positively influence a child by encouraging either part of this process. In this article, I’ll focus on what we can do to encourage our child’s sense of competence.
Let us get back to the baseball superstar and the academic achiever. There just isn’t enough room at the top, so what if your child does not excel at anything? What if she will never earn great marks, win a race, or play an instrument? Of course, that’s the reality for most children. And yet, we know that children need to “do well” in order to feel competent and worthwhile. So, how do we help them to experience success?
Whether or not a child will evaluate himself as competent depends on how closely his expectations match with his results. And who has the most influence on those expectations? We do. As parents, coaches or teachers, we need to be realistic in setting standards for our children that are healthy for them. We need to encourage them to recognize their existing strengths and celebrate their development and increasing skills. If Dad longs for a great football player in the family but Johnny would rather watch it on TV, expecting athletic prowess would most certainly be damaging to Johnny’s sense of competence. Even if Johnny loves sports, his parents need to strike a balance between standards that offer a challenge and yet build in lots of room for success. Johnny may be a superstar by most standards, but if he is never able to reach the mark that he or others have set, he’ll never feel competent. By comparison, if a mediocre athlete like Susie has learned to challenge herself, but also to be pleased with small successes, she will likely feel much more capable and confident than Johnny.
We can set up our children for success in any number of ways. By giving them responsibilities appropriate to their interests and abilities, we can allow them to feel proud of their accomplishments. By watching and listening to them carefully, we can encourage those activities that they feel passionate about, and will therefore more likely engender success. This one can be tricky to handle. What if your child is a passionate and skilled Nintendo player, but you would prefer he succeeded in math or music. Balance is the key. Recognize that his sense of competence with the video games may be an important contributor to raising his self-esteem. (It may also be a highly valued social skill amongst ten-year-olds). However, you can still encourage competence in several other areas as well.
How we teach our children to deal with mistakes can also encourage the development of competence. If every mistake or setback is treated as an opportunity to learn, then there can be no failure. If children are harshly treated or criticized, they’ll be afraid to try again. If they are supported and encouraged to plan differently next time, or to fine-tune a needed skill, then mistakes can add to, rather than detract, from their growing sense of competence.
While we may unconditionally love our own children, the unfortunate truth is that the world may not. Especially as they grow older, our kids will be faced with expectations that are too difficult or unfair and they’ll have to deal with people who don’t value them “just as they are”. Peers very quickly become a hugely powerful influence on a child’s sense of competence and self-esteem. As parents, we need to respect that influence and be supportive of our children’s needs to “fit in”. It can be enormously frustrating to discover that your competent, talented child hates himself because he’s always picked last for the baseball games at recess. Or, your smart, musical, successful daughter starts to despise herself because boys haven’t yet approached her. It may be tempting to point out all their wonderful qualities, and tell them that “it is okay, I think you’re great”. But what more could you do? Those influences will not just go away; your child’s self-esteem may suffer.
Being competent is important, but even more important is being competent at the “right things”. Whether it’s basketball or soccer, dance or skating, music or computers, how is a parent to know where to direct their child’s energies? There are no easy answers. There is, however, one area of competence that is undeniably one of the best places to start teaching. That is social skills. A child who knows how to make and keep friends, who understands the workings of interpersonal relationships, who is able to approach others with confidence and uses good social problem-solving skills will be popular and successful. Being socially successful ensures a more satisfying experience for children at school or in any other pursuits. So, listen to your children’s concerns about friends, and do whatever you can to teach them the skills yourself, or find someone else to help them.
Pay attention to what’s important to children in your child’s age group. If all the boys do play baseball at recess, maybe it’s time to throw a ball around with your son in the backyard, so that he feels more confident in the schoolyard. Since being attractive to boys has become important to your daughter, don’t ignore her distress. Maybe it’s time to investigate what things she could do, or little changes she could make, to feel more attractive. Sometimes, as adults, we look upon the many “social crises” our children experience as being superficial or insignificant compared to their math marks. But, these are the elements of life that will have a profound impact on how our kids evaluate themselves.
Finally, remember that self-esteem, like any other quality we may strive for, is constantly undergoing change. A child’s development often seems like a roller-coaster ride, with gains made only to be followed by a downhill ride of setbacks. Every child will experience stages where their self-esteem is challenged. It is then that parents can actively look for ways to help their children develop and expand their sense of competence. Helping them to “do well” builds upon the foundation of loving and valuing them. These two components work together to build and maintain healthy self-esteem.
Monday, April 4, 2011
Every child needs to feel lovable, just as he needs air to breathe. In order to feel lovable, kids need to be loved. That’s obvious. But it’s not enough that we love them, they have to feel loved. They have to get the message. There’s a multitude of ways we can show a child that they are special, but what works for one child won’t necessarily be meaningful for another. Love means something different to all of us, children included. Children need to be loved in ways that fit their own unique needs and personalities. If we listen, if we observe carefully, if we really tune in to our children’s worlds, they’ll show us just how to make them feel special.
There are some universal truths when it comes to feeling valued. All children will respond when we really listen to them. When we show a genuine and focussed interest in what they are saying or doing, we communicate that their world is important to us. When we accept them for who they are, and encourage them to follow their own dreams, not our own, we let them know that they’re loved and lovable. When we provide a climate of nurturing, support and trust, they learn that they are worthy of love, and will grow to believe in their own worth.
It’s often the little things we do that can brighten our child’s day, and make them feel special. Here are some ideas to add to the special things you already do. Have some fun trying them out with your child, and see which ones fit your child’s needs.
How many ways can you find to say, “I love you”? “I’m so happy I have you for a daughter”. “Nothing you could ever do would change my loving you”. Try saying it a little differently each day. What about a surprise note in the lunchbox, or a sign on his bedroom door, proclaiming, “You’re so very special to me”. Get really crazy and write it in the snow.
Kids love to receive mail. Why not send your child a funny greeting card or simple letter, just because.
Write a list of your child’s unique characteristics, the things you appreciate about them. Share it with them, and remind them of these things regularly.
Draw up a special certificate to acknowledge the little things – a cheerful day full of smiles, cooperative play between brothers, helpful behaviors.
Celebrate often. Don’t wait for the milestones and birthdays. Take turns letting your children have a day just for them. On “Sarah’s Day”, she could plan the menu for dinner and choose a game to play together as a family.
Show off their work. Post their artwork on the fridge. Create a scrapbook of their treasures. Send copies off to grandparents to let them know how proud you are.
Compliment your child regularly, but be more creative than, “You’re great!” Be sure to be specific and descriptive about what you like about your child or their behaviors. Say, “I see your printing looks very neat”, “You really showed you were reading the play when you made that pass”, or “ I love the way you put that outfit together”. This encourages your children to recognize the many reasons they are valued.
Make it a mission to search for positive things to say. Parenting so often involves the need to correct, to discipline and to referee that it’s easy to let a day go by without much positive focus. Why not make it a goal to notice more and more of the things that you value about your children. When you acknowledge the things you love, your interactions with your children will communicate more love and respect for them.
Create a special bedtime ritual of sharing the day’s highlights with each child. Focus on what they felt good about during their day. Model positive, supportive self-talk with them and always encourage them to recognize what they did well, no matter how small.
Spend one-on-one time with each child. Rotate children, and take each one of them on regular “dates”. Let them choose the activity and make it a special opportunity to focus on what’s important to them. While it may be inconvenient to arrange, this is one habit that’s worth the effort.
Write a song or poem specifically for them. You don’t have to be totally original, just insert their name into a silly song they know.
Do something spontaneous and wacky. When they ask for chocolate bars for lunch, shock them one day by saying yes, and going to buy some. Laughter and silliness spread good feelings all around, and create a special closeness.
Occasionally steal a moment away from your work or responsibilities to spend time with your child. When your child knows that you chose to be with them, even though you had work to do, you send a powerful message: “you’re valuable to me, the work comes second”.
Let them teach you how to do something that interests them. Learn how to play that video game with your son, or let your daughter lead you in a shared game of Barbies. Get down on the floor and help build the Lego design that your child chooses. Give them your undivided attention, and you give them the message that what they enjoy is important, and worthy of your interest too.
Get to know your children’s friends, and appreciate and acknowledge them too. This is especially important as they approach the teen years. Your children’s friends are an extension of themselves. Any positive interactions you have with their friends will affirm your acceptance of them, and reaffirm their own value.
Remember your child’s favorites, and delight them with a quick trip to the ice-cream store, or surprise them by renting that movie they’re anxious to see. Once in a while, a small gift will tell your child that you’ve been thinking about how much you love them.
Hugs and kisses and cuddling are always powerful messengers of love and affection. Surprise your child at any moment in the day with an unexpected hug, and let them know that you just had to show them how special they are.
When your child is asleep in bed, go in, and sit by the bedside and tell them several things that you admire and appreciate about them. There’s some research evidence to suggest that, even in sleep, the messages will get through. This can work especially well when you’ve both had a bad day, or if a conflict wasn’t fully resolved. It will work for kids who are harder to reach directly – you know, the kid who gets embarrassed with a compliment or just shrugs off praise.
There are countless ways to show your children how special they are. They need to believe “I am lovable” in order to establish the foundation for strong self-esteem. For self-esteem to really flourish, our children also need to believe in their competence and ability to master their environments. In part two of this series, I’ll explore how we can help our children develop the belief, “I am worthwhile, I have something to offer others”.
Sunday, April 3, 2011
Saturday, April 2, 2011
Friday, April 1, 2011
photo credit: Demi Brooke