Join me at the Verona Public Library on Thursday February 8th from 6:30-7:30pm for a presentation on how to discuss body safety and healthy boundaries with preschool and elementary school age children in a way that is empowering. I'll provide an overview on the prevalence of child sexual abuse, prevention strategies, and offer resources you can use to start this conversation at home with your children. We can't afford to not discuss this important topic! I hope to see you there.
There has been increased interest and research on the benefits of mindfulness and meditation strategies for both adults and children in recent years. Mindfulness encourages people to be intentionally present with their experiences while suspending judgment and being open and accepting to what is happening in the present moment. Achieving this state can help us calm down and allow us to experience relaxation (Kabat-Zinn, 2013, p. lx). Mindfulness based practices are now incorporated in many school environments with the goal of helping children to increase compassion, kindness, and emotional regulation. You may be wondering how you can support your children with using mindfulness at home as a strategy for relaxation and enhancing self-regulation.
Here are some ideas on how to get started. The list below includes a few of the resources that I have used in my sessions with clients. There are many additional resources available!
“Peaceful Piggy Meditation” by Kerry MacLean (picture book)
“Sitting Still Like a Frog: Mindfulness Exercises for Kids (and Their Parents)” by Snel (includes an audio CD)
"The Relaxation and Stress Reduction Workbook for Kids" by Shapiro & Sprague (includes both stress reduction and mindfulness interventions for parents and kids to do together)
Free Child-Friendly Apps:
*Because kids are always more eager to practice a new skill when there is an app for that!
Breathe, Think, Do with Sesame: Interactive and ideal for ages 4-7.
Settle Your Glitter: Simple to use and great for practicing deep breathing!
Stop, Breathe, and Think Kids: Requires a parent email to activate. Includes guided meditations for children.
Headspace: Includes short (1-3 minute) meditations. Some of the features require a paid subscription.
Calm: Better for older children and adults. Includes several free meditations, and timed unguided meditations. Additional meditations are available for purchase.
Want to learn more about mindfulness? We are fortunate to have the Center for Healthy Minds as a resource here in Madison. Check out their research and upcoming events on their website.
It’s not uncommon for me to initially receive odd looks when I talk about using praise as a discipline strategy. After all, praise is a positive thing. Parents ask, “Why would it make sense to give my child positive attention when they aren’t doing what I need them to be doing?” Valid point. However, we know that positive reinforcement and praise are actually among the most motivating parenting techniques you can use with your child. Children want to please you and they need to be taught and reminded about the desirable behaviors you want to see. They get plenty of feedback from others about what they are doing wrong, and very little feedback when they get something right. When we look at the origins of the word “discipline,” we find that it means “to teach.” When kids are acknowledged for things they are doing well, they pretty motivated to repeat those behaviors because praise helps them feel good about themselves, what they’ve done, and connected with you. Don’t forget that you are arguably the single most important person in their lives.
So, the next time you are frustrated during a battle over homework, chore refusal, sibling arguments, brushing teeth, or fill in the blank for your child here, ask yourself, “How do I let them know when they’ve done a good job?” and “How did I let them know they did the right thing, even if it took them 45 minutes longer than it needed to.”
Here are some specific suggestions for using praise:
We are expected to have good boundaries and follow social rules when invited into another person's home. We ring the doorbell, wait to be invited in, and then sit where we are told to sit. We don’t open the cupboards or wander around, and we usually find a way to give a compliment related to the home’s décor. Yet, when children are part of this picture and an adult is left in charge in your home, boundaries can quickly become blurred if good communication and clear expectations are not in place. Many people wonder about how they can best communicate and share family values and maintain boundaries with grandparents, babysitters, other caregivers, and neighbors.
Whether you are wanting to set boundaries related to discipline approaches, expectations for your children’s diet, or areas of your home that are “off limits,” it is essential to have a plan for communicating these desires with the adult in charge. We all know it’s easy for kids to say, “It’s okay, my parents wouldn’t mind” and test the boundaries. This type of situation leaves the well-intended adult in a tricky situation, and they end up using their own values to make a decision, which may not be aligned with your hopes or expectations.
Here are some tips for setting boundaries with other caregivers in your home:
When you listen to people in newly formed relationships, you hear them say things like, “We have so much in common,” and, “I can talk to them for hours and hours.” Regular date nights, fun activities, and spending time together are a natural part of the dating experience as partners get to know each other. We all know that it takes time and effort to maintain this. As time passes, it becomes easy to find yourself engaging in separate activities at home with your partner and feeling alone in your relationship. Having some separate interests and activities are indeed important for maintaining your individuality in a relationship. However, it’s also vital to make sure there is regular time for you and your partner to come together. Working, raising a family, and engagement in other activities often taken priority over date nights and intimate conversations with your partner. While it feels like this quality time with your partner is a luxury and not as important as other daily tasks, I argue that shared meaningful activities and conversations are essential to continue to fuel your marriage.
You will have an easier time connecting with your partner on an emotional level, understanding their thoughts and beliefs, and working through conflict in your relationship when you regularly have positive, quality interactions with each other. Think of having a good friendship in your marriage as essential for having a solid foundation. When you have playfulness and connection in your relationship, you’re more likely to interpret your partner’s eye roll or snarky comment as them having a rough day rather than a personal attack on you because that foundation of positive experiences and connection is solid. You’re also more likely to offer the response your partner needs in these tough moments and you’ll be more prepared to help your partner calm down before the minor situation leads to a major blow up.
When working with couples in therapy, I often hear about how they would love to carve out more time for each other but just don’t have the time to make it work. Weekly date nights sound fantastic, and we know they are probably not realistic for busy families. It’s more important to set a goal that you can sustain and incorporate into your routine. Start small and talk with your partner about what would be fun for them. Schedule a few minutes with your spouse after you put the kids to bed. Don’t wait around for your partner to make the first move with enhancing quality time. It’s okay for you to take the lead, and know that it will take practice and persistence. You can search online for dozens of date night ideas, but what matters most is finding an activity that is meaningful to both you and your partner. It’s also important to have meaningful conversations about each of your hopes and dreams for the future. Schedule time to play a game together, take a walk, or engage in a hobby together. You will be surprised to learn something new about your sweetheart and it will feel good to re-experience the connection you had early in your relationship.
I will be offering additional parenting workshops at Huckleberry & Persimmon again in March.
Loving Discipline Strategies for Young Children. March 10th 7-8:30PM
In this workshop, participants will:
Teaching Young Children about Body Safety. March 20th 2-3:00PM
In this workshop, participants will:
Why is this important?
Statistics show numbers as high as 1:4 girls and 1:6 boys are sexually abused by age 18. Usually children’s abuser is someone that they know (www.nctsn.org). This workshop will provide information for parents about this important topic in a way that is focused on prevention and empowerment rather than fear.
Visit Huckleberry & Persimmon's website to learn more and register.
Ready or not, Winter is here. Daylight time is becoming shorter, and when you are out-and-about, you see people busily preparing for the upcoming holidays. While the new fresh snow and anticipation of seeing family over the holidays is exciting and joyful for many, we also know that many people find the holiday season to be a challenging time. The holidays may remind you of the loss of a loved one, or maybe your symptoms of depression increase as we head into the dark, cold Winter months. Many of you also need some extra support figuring out how to manage plans with in laws or co-parents, surviving the school breaks with your kids home from school, and balancing family budgets with extra traveling and gift-giving costs. Whatever the reason, it is common for people to endorse increased stress during this time of year.
Keep reading for a few ideas you may consider to help alleviate this additional stress.
Make Time for Taking Care of Yourself
During the holidays, it is more important than ever to practice self-care for yourself. What helps you to relax? Pick an activity and commit to 10-20 minutes per day. You will likely find this practice will help to decrease your reactivity during stressful situations throughout the day.
Give Yourself Permission to Say “No”
Become comfortable with saying “No” to extra commitments. Before committing to an extra holiday party or event, ask yourself if the extra commitment is worth what you are giving up (time to yourself, the kids’ nap time, family meals, etc.). Over-scheduling your kids and deviating too far from their usual routine is a recipe for meltdowns. If you do not feel comfortable saying “No” in the moment when you receive a request, it is perfectly okay to ask for time to think about whether not the extra event will work for you.
Keep Some Structure
Do your best to maintain your sleep-wake schedule during this time.
If you have kids, know that they will also want some down time during their school break. Having some predictability and structure at home will be helpful. Consider having 1 planned activity per day (e.g. play date, ice skating, art project at home). Write this on a calendar for your school-age kids to see so they know what to anticipate.
If you are coordinating holiday schedules with in-laws or co-parents, begin working on setting schedules for visits now. Add commitments to the calendar to keep you and your family organized, while also allowing for some flexibility with plans. For example, allow a cushion of time between commitments scheduled on the same day.
Be Flexible and Forgive Yourself
Ask yourself if it really matters. If you weren’t able to follow through with a favorite tradition, or if you had to purchase store bought goods instead of a homemade dessert, will your holiday be a wreck for the whole family? Would this somehow mean that you are not “good enough” at being a sibling/child/parent/colleague (fill in your role here)? Of course not! If you are starting to feel this way, be gentle on yourself. No one really can do it all, and usually the people around you do not even notice that something did not go as you had planned.
Additionally, it is important to remind yourself that this extra stress is usually temporary and that you can and will get through the next few months.
Reach Out for Help
Lean on your support system. Talk through your worries and stress with a friend who is supportive, positive, and knows your situational well. Delegate tasks and ask for help.
If you have tried some of the above strategies on your own and continue to feel stressed and down, I suggest you connect with me or another professional. Consult your doctor or a therapist if your symptoms are getting in the way of your ability to live the life you want. Examples of this type of distress may include difficulty getting out of bed, not being able to focus on work, sudden change in mood, or significant conflict with your partner or family members.
You may be wondering how to best address the recent attacks in Paris with your kids. Some parents wonder if they should say anything at all, and if they do, they are uncertain how to best explain what has happened in a way that is developmentally appropriate. Parent responses should be tailored to the child's age and stage of development. See this link for an excellent article on how to discuss the recent attacks with your children: http://time.com/4112751/how-to-talk-to-your-kids-about-the-attacks-in-paris/
You are in back-to-school mode, and shifting from flexible summer routines to structured school year routines are a challenge for many families. Just how much sleep should your child get each night? How can you have a peaceful bedtime routine, or what do you do if your child has bedtime worries? Keep reading for a few ideas.
Let’s start with looking at the amount of sleep your child receives each night. It is so important for your child to receive regular, sufficient sleep. You can all recognize that sleep-deprived children have a harder time concentrating at school, following rules/expectations, and regulating their emotions throughout the day. The National Sleep Foundation recommends your school-age children (ages 6-13) need 9 to 11 hours of sleep per night. Take a look at their website for more information on all age groups. So, assuming your school-age child needs 10 hours of sleep and wakes at 6:30am for school, he/she should be asleep by 8:30pm. This is a challenge for many busy households, particularly when you consider parent work schedules, after school or sports activities, and homework time. In this scenario, you would ideally plan for your child to be in bed before 8:30pm so they have time to get settled in and relaxed before falling asleep.
We know that children thrive when they have a consistent and predictable environment. One way to support your children with receiving sufficient sleep is to establish an evening routine. Not only does this make life predictable for your child and family, it can also help to teach your children time management and responsibility skills. For example, having an established routine that outlines the need for homework to be completed before TV/computer time sends the message to your child that it is important to prioritize school work before TV and gaming.
I also suggest you schedule time for your children to unwind during the hour before bed. Avoid highly stimulating activities such as video game playing in the hour before bed. Some ideas for a bedtime routine include: drink of water/herbal non caffeinated tea, bath, pajamas, picking out clothes for the next day, reading together, yoga/stretching, prayer, and snuggling. Develop a plan and stick with it so your children know what to expect. You will likely find that consistency helps to alleviate many of the bedtime challenges in your household.
How can you help your children with bedtime worries? Worries or nightmares that are intense and persist for a long period of time may be best addressed with the support of a professional such as your doctor or a therapist. However, many common bedtime worries are resolved with nurturing and reassurance by a parent. I am listing a few suggestions below:
* Practice deep breathing with your child before bed. See this previous post for ideas on how to practice deep breathing with children
* Create a “good dreams” list with your child. Develop a list of positive memories or experiences the child has had, and have the child select one of these memories each night to think about as they are falling asleep
* Other ideas: use a nightlight, keep the bedroom door open, play soothing music
I am pleased to offer a workshop on Loving Discipline Strategies for Young Children at Huckleberry & Persimmon on Tuesday September 29 from 7-8:30pm. Click here to learn more and register for this low-cost class. I hope to see you there.
Sara Kind-Michels, MS, LPC, LMFT
Do you have a comment or question about a blog post? If so, I would love to connect with you. Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or give me a call: (608) 886-9595.