What’s the quickest way to ruin holiday festivities?

Do you know the one thing that will ruin your holiday faster than anything else?  It’s not overcooking the turkey, heated political debates, or cranberry sauce on the carpet. The one thing that ruins holiday dinners is EXPECTATIONS. When you have visions of cinnamon scented candlelight over peaceful conversations with joyful children lingering over delicious cuisine, beautifully presented, it’s a recipe for disaster.

The reality is, Thanksgiving is not a holiday for most Moms. It’s everything we normally do: clean, cook, wash dishes, manage children, but with more people around to watch and football on the TV. So how do we lower our expectations without feeling like a negative pessimist?

Keep it real, and have fun with the worst case scenario. Before the holiday begins, get together with your family or friends and make a list of all the crazy shit that could possibly go down during a simple holiday dinner.

My moms going to subtly hint that I should lose weight.

I’ll become a frenetically crazy cleaning machine two hours before people arrive and my children and husband will hide from me.

Uncle John will show up early spouting the latest Fox News reports about “He who shall not be named”.

Aunt Jen brings appetizers but shows up late saying she got the wrong time, directions, or somehow makes it my fault.

The favorite football team loses and everyone’s in a funk.

My Dad asks my husband how much money he’s saving for retirement….again.

Grandma drinks too much and starts telling me that I’m over-parenting my kids….again.

I’ll be upset that I’m doing all the work, don’t get to relax, and I’ll take it out on my family.

My mother-in-law will tell me that I’m doing it wrong. Bonus points for every “it”.

Whatever you can think might happen, write down all your predictions and see how many things you get right. Compare notes with other families to see who had the worst holiday dinner, then take that Mom out to celebrate her win.

Holidays are like the world series of motherhood. They aren’t designed to be restful and relaxing for YOU. This is game time, expect the worst, hope for the best, and get to work. The closer you align your expectations with your reality, the more fun you will have.

If you have changed your holiday tradition to make it more fun for YOU, let me know! If it just feels like hard work, then claim the next day as “Mom gets to do whatever Mom wants day” and celebrate your holiday victory. If you take a day to yourself to play and relax, share it on my Facebook page so we can take inspiration from each other.

The one thing stressed teens need from Mom and Dad

How helping fix problems and focusing on struggle can make it harder for our teens.

I had a hard time when I first became a Mom. Besides the normal, new mommy angst of “Am I doing it right?” I had a difficult baby. He had a hard time eating and sleeping. He needed constant movement, would get easily overstimulated yet easily bored and cried constantly. I needed support and I needed it bad. I joined as many new mom support groups as I could. One day, I found myself sitting in on a cement wall, alone, in someone’s backyard, watching my child, finally happy, sitting and playing with little rocks. The house was too noisy or crowded for my sensitive baby so I sat, exhausted, angry and lonely outside with the garbage cans and the dog poop. All the other moms were inside sipping coffee and chatting while their babies played happily on the floor.

Every once in awhile, a well-meaning Mommy would come out to check on me “You should come inside. He just needs to learn to deal with it. I’m sure he’ll get used to it after a bit.” A few minutes later, another Mom would come out, “You know what I do, I sleep with my baby, that way she feels secure and comfortable in the daytime.” After that I got, “What if you came inside and just breastfed him, then he’d feel comfortable and you could visit with us.” All the advice was valid and helpful but it just made me feel angrier and more alone. What I really needed was someone to say, “It’s really hard isn’t it. Some days just totally suck but you are such a good mommy. I don’t know how you do it all. Here’s a cup of hot coffee.”

I think we do the same thing to our teenagers. We underestimate the amount of stress they are under and we offer helpful suggestions and advice when all they really need for us to say “It is so hard and you are doing a great job. I am so impressed at how well you are managing. Here’s a cup of tea and a cookie.”

The more we can offer this kind of compassion and support, the better chance our teens have of developing their own compassionate “inner best friends” that encourages them through the tough times. Adolescence is the age where we start to develop our own “inner mean girl” who says things like, “What’s wrong with me?” “Why can’t I get it right?” “Nobody likes me, I’m stupid, ugly, fat, lame”, “I’m going to fail”, whatever. This inner mean girl will take charge and steer our life if we don’t get a hold of her and cultivate an equally strong inner best friend.

Kids learn by imitation so the best way to help them cultivate a kind inner voice is to hear us say it to them. In order to offer compassion to our teens, however, we first need to offer it to ourselves. Think about it, these kids of ours used to light up when we walked in the door, now they close it on our face! They thought we were beautiful no matter what we looked like, now they criticize our outfits, our hair, our singing, our choice of words (or is this just me and my kids?). Our babies have turned on us and that totally sucks! We used to look to their joy and exuberance to cheer us up at the end of the day, now we have to work hard to not be pulled into their negative spiral. No matter what we say, we are wrong. Our babies have done a 180 and it’s ok to give ourselves sympathy and recognize this is a hard phase for us, too.

Once you are feeling heard and validated, we can take a minute to recognize that the teen years are inherently stressful. You have this body whose hormones are out of whack, that is highly tuned in to other people’s thoughts and opinions, who can spot a fake a mile away yet are surrounded by inauthentic teenagers. Our teens have brains and bodies that are wired to be outside, moving constantly, listening to their own internal voice, yet are sitting on hard chairs, between 4 walls for 7 hours a day, listening to other people’s ideas. Today’s adolescents are swimming in perfectionism and sometimes, all they need to get through another day is compassion.

Our teens don’t always need us to fix their problems or focus on the struggles with our helpful suggestions, sometimes they just need to know they can do it on their own. “You are doing an amazing job, I can’t believe how well you are managing.” “Do you know what a mess I was at your age?” “By the way, there is nothing you need to do today. The day is yours.” “I try to worry but when it comes to you, I just can’t think of anything. I just know your future is bright.” “You have such a good head on your shoulders, I know you’ll be able to solve any problems that come your way.” “How did I get so lucky to get such a great teenager?”

It’s not easy to let go of worry and control and start trusting our kids to figure things out by themselves. That’s why I created “Leading Your Teen” teleclass.

Would like some support figuring out whether it’s time to lean in or let go? Click here and I’ll tell you all about this 5-week class designed for parents who want to worry less, love more, and create a more peaceful relationship with their teens.

How to transform tragedy into love

My Facebook feed is filled with fears and concerns over the recent mass shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. People are angry, sad, scared and trying how to not feel so vulnerable in this violent world. Venting on Facebook is kind of like yelling at your kids. It releases tension in the moment, you feel heard, but sometimes it creates more problems. When we focus on sadness, fear, anger or blame, we run the risk of spreading more negativity in the world.

To truly transform tragedy into something positive, try this approach before you post.

  1. First, ask yourself. Am I in danger? Are there any immediate threats to me or my loved ones? If you are fine in this moment, tell your brain it’s ok to relax and take some deep breaths.
  2. Ask yourself: What is the feeling I’m trying NOT to feel? Your default might be to worry, blame, get mad or scared, but what is the feeling underneath that you try hard not to feel? Let’s find that one. Vulnerability is sneaky, yet popular feeling to avoid, could that be yours?
  3. Allow yourself to feel this feeling, whatever it is. Name it, drop below the neck and locate where in your body this emotion resides. Emotion means energy in motion so see if you can identify the quality of energy. Does it feel like a solid, liquid or gas? Is it warm or cold? Does it feel heavy or tight? What color is it? Allow this feeling to be there without resistance.
  4. After about 2 minutes, find the emotion of compassion in your body. Where do you feel a sense of love & compassion? What color is it? Is it shiny or dull? Can you get a picture of it?
  5. Then offer the compassion to the part of your body that is experiencing the negative emotion. Infuse the negative emotion with compassion. See if you can transform the quality of the negative energy into a positive one.

Once you have allowed yourself to feel your feelings, your brain is freed up to think logically.

I used to have a thought that “Bad things can happen to my children anywhere, at any time, and I won’t be able to handle it.” These thoughts kept me very diligent, always worrying, watching for the next possible threat, never relaxing or trusting that things were going to be fine. It was an exhausting way to live. I used worry, anxiety and overwhelm as a way to avoid feeling the more authentic emotion of fear. 

The truth is, bad things CAN happen to our children anywhere at any time. That is a fact. We have no idea what the future will bring. But would you recommend I THINK about this scary fact, all day, every day? Probably not a helpful place for my mind to dwell. Plus, my brain will miss other important facts like, WE LIVE IN THE LEAST VIOLENT TIME IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. Don’t believe me? Ask Harvard Psychologist Steven Pinker.

We get to decide what we think and how we want to feel. Don’t you want to enjoy living in the most peaceful time in the history while still accepting the fact that bad things could happen at any time? I do! So I don’t watch the news, I don’t share negative posts on facebook, and I make sure I don’t lie to myself with things like “I won’t be able to handle it if something bad happens.” Total B.S. In a real crisis, I tend to get clear headed and calm. I know how to feel my feelings. I know how to reach out and ask for help. Turns out, I’m actually pretty good in a crisis and I’ll bet you are, too.

Once you have transformed your negative energy into compassion for yourself, it’s time to put it to good use. Who do you know that might be suffering right now that you could reach out to? Could you send flowers to someone who might be lonely? Could you write a card to someone who lost a loved one last year? How about donating to organizations that help mentally ill or people suffering from weather related disasters. Let’s all spend a minute visualizing the gun lobby receiving our compassion and deciding, on their own, “that enough is enough”.

Love casts out all fear. Love is always an option. When you feel lost as to what action to take, ask yourself “What would love do?”

Not feeling it? It’s ok. Just schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Why you are not taking action

You know what you want:

a better career, a cleaner house, to set boundaries with the kids or let loose and have more fun. 

So why is change so hard? Before you can make a change, you’ve got to see what’s keeping you stuck. What keeps you from taking action is your thoughts. 

To find out what thoughts are keeping you stuck requires getting quiet and listening to ourselves. This first step, getting quiet and listening, is simple but not easy. There’s a reason you stopped going inward in the first place. Inside your mind can be all sorts of dark and sordid stories about “the one time you made a fool of yourself and promised you would never do that again” or the very common belief, that “you aren’t worthy of good things.” Here are some of the most common characters that keeps us stuck.

Judgmental Janet – Our inner mean girl likes to be in charge. She says things like “you are stupid, fat, ugly, nobody’s going to love you, you’ll never be good enough, etc.” She’s judgmental and critical, “Nobody’s going to like if you _______” or “You know your going to fail so why try.”

Safety Sal  This voice wants us to play small and play it safe. “Just wait a little longer, your family needs you.” “Keep your head down and appreciate what you have.” “I don’t know what to do.” “I’m not sure” “The timings not right, I’ll wait until everything is ready.” “What if I’m wrong?” This voice is more subtle and sounds so innocent but the perfectionism keeps us stuck.

Critical Christine – “If my husband would just help out more” “If we just had more money….” “If my kids would leave me alone and my boss would stop calling, then….…”  Our inner wisdom tells us, “somethings not right, I don’t feel good” but Critical Christine thinks it has identified the problem and wants to fix it. She convinces us that if we could just change the other person, our job, our financial situation, our house, then the problem would go away. Blaming others feels better (temporarily) but keeps us stuck because we never recognize the real issue is our own thinking.

Whenever we try to make lasting change, these characters feel threatened. They know their days are numbered and they pull out all the stops to not lose power. Before we can start changing our actions, we’ve got to change our thinking and tame these inner wild beasts. Having an hour long coaching call each week expedites things and ensures the changes stick. But you can do it yourself by writing in a journal for at least 15 minutes a day.

We’ve got to take inventory of the thoughts in your head so just write them down, every day. Write down every excuse your mind comes up with about why writing in your journal is a stupid waste of time. How there are other more important things to do. How this is selfish and not working. Whatever negativity you hear, write it down and identify who is saying what. Change the names to fit your characters: Inner Mean Girl, Terry the Turtle (who hides in a shell), the drama queen, the inner perfectionist, etc.

In order to take action and make changes in your life, you’ll need to take inventory of who’s in charge and decide if that’s working for you. Every time you go outside your comfort zone, these characters get ready to pounce. Life Coaching is so effective because once you learn to tame these wild beasts, you take charge of your life and can create whatever changes you want to make.

Are you ready to tame your inner critic to make changes in your life?  Try a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Are you overwhelmed with end of the school year stress?

You might be asking your brain to hold on to too many things.

Watch the video below and try this trick to eliminate overwhelm and take more effective action. It’s a busy time of year, but it doesn’t have to be stressful.