Is too much technology stressing out our kids?

Kids, Stress, Technology and BUFFERING? 

Our bodies are designed to live outside, moving constantly, with very little noise and external input distracting our brain. Once a year MAYBE a stampede of animals would go by and cause a ruckus or a group of travelers might come through. The thought of living in one place with only familiar faces, eating the exact same food, and doing the same activities day after day, seems immensely boring to me. But it always helps me to remember that our brains and bodies were not designed to handle the level of excitement and external stimulation we get today. What is the cost to our kids of this extreme level of input coming at us 24/7  video games, TV’s, social media alerts and advertisers, all promising MORE EXCITEMENT for a slice of our attention?

Kids show us how they are feeling through their behavior. Parents, noticing their kids stress levels rising, are wondering what is causing so much stress and how they can help?

Modern life creates an unnatural environment for kids. Asking them to sit on hard chairs inside four walls with people they don’t have intimate connections with, is an automatic stress. We want them to listen to someone else’s ideas the majority of the day, keeping an eye on the clock, always looking for the next blast of input. The absence of down time, time to connect with other people time, time to create and get lost in the imagination, time to explore nature and be in the body is unnatural for kids. Time to be inside our own heads without external input allows kids to process the stress of the day and feel refreshed and ready to learn.

We can help our kids by encouraging buffering, to prevent buffering. (WHAT? One word – two meanings – too much fun!)

Just like the spinning wheel on your computer, kids need time to “buffer” or process all the input they’ve taken in during their day. If you have too many windows open on your computer, things get bogged down and overwhelmed. Rather than yelling, crying or melting down, your computer takes a pause, refuses to do more work, until it has processed all that is happening. Kids can “buffer” or process their day by talking, walking, riding bikes, skateboarding, staring into space, creating something, any quiet, repetitive, physical activity. Today’s kids might CLAIM that video games and netflix help them relax but actually it creates a different kind of buffering.

The other “buffering” is what we do to protect us from a stressful world. Like padding on the walls, we buffer ourselves from our own emotions and our own bodies so that we can’t notice how stressed we are. This kind of buffering PREVENTS us from processing and keeps us stuck in a loop that’s hard to get out of. If you’ve ever gone on vacation but took a few days to relax into vacation mode, your constant work load or input addictions were creating a kind of buffering for you. Adults use work, alcohol, food, worrying, clutter, busy-ness, any number of things to buffer ourselves from our genuine emotions. Kids, more and more, are using electronic input to buffer themselves from an overwhelming world.

What can you do to help? 

Remember that neighborhood park you took them to in preschool?  Go there (or let kids go by themselves?) Hang out. It might take a while for them to remember how to entertain themselves.  It’s different than going to “practice” where someone is telling you what to do. Celebrate boredom. Let them see you relaxing. it’s painful to step off the grid but keep at it. Just like you on vacation, it might take a few days but eventually you settle in and it feels delightful.

Fake a blackout. Pretend the power went out, light candles and let yourselves be bored together. Tell stories, play charades, or just do nothing. It was eye opening to see how early my family got sleepy without TV entertainment and artificial lights!

Go camping or visit state parks. There is something about being around water, trees, and fire that connects with our primal brain and tells it to relax. I’m always amused to see kids who have trouble paying attention in class, spend five straight hours burning stuff at a campfire pit.

Music calms the savage beast. If you can’t live without electronics, choose relaxing music or audiobooks. It connects with a different and more relaxing part of the brain. Try www.gonoodle.com or simple habits app to use your electronic devices to encourage downtime.

If you see your kids staring into space, don’t interrupt them. That is very valuable time that is becoming more and more rare. Some kids like to process out loud, others need to process quietly inside their own heads. Be open and supportive to either one.

 

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You have got to try this!

 

I have friends, family members, and clients with strong personalities who can feel like themselves no matter who they are with. They probably don’t need this getaway as much as I do. Maybe it’s having high empathy, my life coach training, or just being a Mom, but I find it really hard to stay fully connected to myself when I’m around other people. Tuning out my kids I find nearly impossible. Walking through my house without seeing it as a giant to-do list is really hard. If this sounds like you, try giving yourself a weekend away, by yourself.

At first it was really hard. I started with a day at a spa. I felt guilty spending the money and leaving my husband with the kids. After 12 hours (I can milk a day at the spa) I felt so much better, so much more like myself, I knew it was the best gift I could ever give my family.  A year later, I expanded it to an overnight in  a hotel alone. It was so fabulous, I KNEW I needed to do it again for two nights.

I bring work projects so I can call it a write off. You might scrapbook, write Christmas cards, read and watch movies, whatever your heart desires. I spend lots of time walking in nature. You might get the same feeling from house sitting, traveling with a girlfriend, attending a retreat, I can even get the same feeling from babysitting other people’s children at night! My intention for this post is to give you permission to do whatever sounds delicious and delightful to you! xo

 

Here’s a picture I took yesterday on my walk through a redwood grove. img_2740

 

Should you give your child everything on their wish list?

Making our kids happy without making them feel entitled

Don’t you loving reading kid’s wish lists or letters to Santa? It’s so easy get a picture of what the child is like and what his interests and priorities are. If a kid can’t create a wish list, it’s a warning sign of low self worth and depression. It is SO important for kids to be able to ask for what they want, and believe they are worthy of receiving it. img_2686

As parents, our desires often get buried under the daily to-do list and we lose touch with what we really want. The feeling of yearning, of wanting, is very valuable and I’m often coaching my clients into reconnecting with this feeling. We need it to know who we really are and what’s next for us. It provides us a road map for our life. WANTING is wonderful, but you might want to read this before indulging your child in all of their desires.

None of us wants to create entitled kids but we all want to see our children happy. Watching their face light up when they open that gift they were so hoping to receive is OUR reward for all the hard frickin’ work! Let’s start by admitting that giving kids what they want is about US, wanting to make our kids happy so we can be happy.

What creates the “omg this is the best present ever” moment we all crave, is when the child is hopeful, but doubtful. It’s the surprise element that helps the child feel loved, seen and heard. If you always buy your child everything on their list, they lose the surprise and appreciation. Then, opening the gift just turns it into a checklist. When children expect to receive everything on their wish list, it changes from a “this is my heart’s desire and yearning” to an “here’s an errand I expect you to run for me”. Yuck.

Sometimes kids want gifts just because “everyone else wants them or has them”. Games, clothes, electronics, etc. can act a social marker between kids. If the kids your child likes and wants to be friends with, all talk about xbox, your child will want to be able to speak that language, talk about the latest games or levels, and feel accepted by his peers. This is a valid reason to want something, especially during the pre-adolescent years when they are trying to establish their identity.

My daughter has wanted UGG boots for years. Spending that much money on something that will make her (naturally hot) feet sweat and that she will grow out of quickly, is really hard for me. With so many better alternatives, the cost goes against my values. Helping my daughter have a sense of belonging and connection with her social group is aligned with my values, so I’m delegating to Grandmas and hope they can resolve the issue for me. 

“Something you want, Something you need, Something to wear, Something to read”

Remember, Christmas is for US. We do most of the work which means we can make it whatever we want it to be. By filling their stockings with deodorant, nail clippers and socks, you can make their “wants” that much more exciting. Giving practical gifts remind them that the “magic of Christmas” isn’t about the gifts themselves but the surprise, the traditions, the togetherness and the energy of giving.

So just be sure, if you are indulging your child in their desires, that you don’t do all items every year and you give them plenty of opportunity to experience yearning. There are many things that make the holidays special, make sure you aren’t sacrificing your own happiness for the sake of your children’s wish list. 

So what’s on your wish list Mama?

It’s the Supermom Superbowl!

December is here! It’s GO TIME in the land of Supermoms. Are you ready for the Supermom Superbowl?

The smell of pine trees, the twinkling of lights, the cranky teens studying for finals, the late nights finishing projects and the last minute requests (“I need black pants, red glitter and a secret santa gift by tomorrow!)

Ah, the joys of the holidays! Save some sanity with this one simple strategy, decide ahead of time.

List all the things you love and look forward to this month. Then list all the duties and responsibilities that fall on your shoulders, beyond your normal duties, between now and January. Your list may look something like this….

Buy presents for kids, bake cookies, take holiday photo, send cards, donate to toy drive, drive to look at lights, attend church service, decorate gingerbread houses, contribute to class party, take the kids to visit Santa, host Hanukah party, wrap presents, ride the “train of lights”, clean house for company, volunteer, go caroling, help with the winter production, spend time with extended family, watch Christmas movies, string popcorn, buy teacher gifts, deliver gifts to neighbors & friends, do Christmas crafts or handmade presents for family, go to the Christmas tree lighting in the city, cook holiday feast, hang exterior lights and decorate, make plans for new years, etc.

Christmas stress
but you feel more like this…

No wonder we go a little nuts! This is quite a list above and beyond our already full to-do list!

Christmas stress
You want to feel like this

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now rank each item on your list on a scale of 1-10. The highest number means you are so excited about this one thing, you can hardly do anything else. When you think about it you notice your body (not your head) reacting with a feeling of expansion, light or freedom. The 1 on your list means you feel heavy or tense when you think about it. You want to curl up into a ball and hide or run away. Your head might say “but I love doing that” but your BODY reacts negatively. You don’t have to know why, you just have to acknowledge how your body reacts and give each item a number between 1-10.

Once you have your list ranked between 1-10, take anything that scored a 7 or lower and ask yourself, “Could I just decide NOT to do this?”  There is so much freedom in deciding!  Your energy goes where your attention goes, so if you hold an exhaustive list in your MIND, without eliminating anything, you will be depleted before you even get out bed!  Deciding NOT to do something frees up your energy and creates more enjoyment of the other items on your list.

Are you having a hard time eliminating anything? It might be because you want evidence to prove you aren’t “Mom enough”. So many of us have perfectionistic pictures of what “good moms” do that we create these unrealistic expectations for ourselves. You can choose to stress your way through the holidays and feel exhausted yet accomplished at the end, or you can reduce your expectations and enjoy every aspect of the holidays.

Try this – mentally make the decision to eliminate your lowest scoring items and just see how it feels for a few days to have made the decision. Make the decision to feel calm and peaceful, while being proud of all you accomplish.

Are you worried about politics coming up at your holiday celebrations?

The house is all decorated for the holidays, the kids are happily running around with their cousins, the smells from the kitchen fill the warm house, and someone starts talking about Trump.

For Americans, discussing politics at the dinner table has changed from an intellectual, logical discussion to something highly emotional and divisive. If you are worried about the topic coming up at your family gathering and ruining your festive mood, I created a healing meditation recording for you to listen to. With politics as they are, it seems the only way we are going to create positive change is with a spiritual solution. When we can recognize our similarities instead of our differences and do our job to heal the broken parts of ourselves, change has a better chance. If you dislike the contentious political climate in our country and worry about it infiltrating your family gatherings, try this healing technique to create peace within yourself first, and then allow that peace to impact those around you. It’s a combination of Acceptance & Commitment Therapy techniques and the Hawaiian healing technique of Ho’oponopono and it works.

CLICK HERE to listen to the 20 minute meditation 

Thank you! May you be happy, may you be well, may you be free from conflict. I wish you a peaceful and loving Thanksgiving to you and all who sit around your table.