Is Your Child Stressed?

I don’t know about you but when I’m stressed, it is OBVIOUS to everyone around me!  But what about our kids?  Children don’t always have the vocabulary or self-awareness to be able to articulate their emotions in a way that we can hear them.   In fact, their emotions are so strong that just labeling them with a word (“you feel sad, angry, over-stimulated, overwhelmed”, etc.) makes the feeling seem more manageable and immediately helps them calm down.  American kids are more stressed out than every before, how can we know if our kid is one of them?

Misbehavior – When you are seeing recurring patterns of misbehavior, try to figure out your child’s motivation for acting out:  power, revenge, attention, excitement.   If there isn’t one, it might be stress.  See if you can find an underlying cause:  overbooked schedule, stressful environment, lack of predictability or just misalignment with the child’s authentic self (too much coping required).

Forgetfulness – “I forgot my Math book and I have a test tomorrow!” can be a normal problem but if it’s happening regularly, the child may be either stressed or self-sabotaging.

Illness – Some kids have magic bodies that won’t let them detour too far off track.  Notice if your child easily gets headaches, stomachaches, excema, colds, flus, etc.  I know whenever I’ve had a job that wasn’t good for me, I was constantly dealing with one illness after another.

Checking Out – Some kids do a marvelous job at taking care of themselves when stressed.  If you notice your child daydreaming, mentally zoning out or shifting into a trance-like state, congratulate yourself on having such a self-reliant child, but note that they are probably stressed.

Clouded decision making – I remember seeing a Dad telling his 4 year old he could have any toy in the whole store and this kid proceeded to have a total melt down at Toys R Us.  Sometimes what we think is fun, can be too overwhelming for kids and you’ll know they are stressed if they are having a hard time making simple decisions like what to wear, they want for dinner, or who to play with.

Arguing & Whining – We all take our stress out on those who are closest to us (ask my poor husband!).  Kids are no different.  When they get in the car after school and immediately start bickering, you know they are purging all the negativity they picked up during the day.  Whining can usually be cured with loving attention or a nap.

Overeating, Under-eating, Difficulty Sleeping – Kids and parents alike.

Do you have a sensitive child?  Sensitive children can be like the canary in the mine, alerting us to problems we all may experience if we don’t pay attention and switch gears.  Luckily, there are MANY things you can do to reduce stress in kids, in fact too many for one blog post.  Until next time, try working on just one: your own.  We are all built to mirror the emotions of people around us unless we intentionally focus on holding a higher state.  It can be really hard to feel good when your child doesn’t but it’s one of the most helpful things you can do for her/him.  Your kids will automatically pick up on your worry, spoken and unspoken stress.  Instead, find out what makes you feel good:  exercise, sleep, yoga, healthy foods, life coaching, meditation, hiking, card games, gardening and do it.  The quickest, most effective way to reduce stress is to switch your thinking.  Say these words to yourself (if you can believe them) and to your children.  “There is nothing I (you) have to do right now”   “All is well”  “It’s ok to rest”  “Everything is unfolding exactly the way it’s supposed to”.

If you have another restful thought or mantra you love, please share it!

2012 is gonna be easy!

I love a New Year.  A fresh start.  A clean slate.  Everyone working to improve their bodies, their finances, their relationships, their careers.  Hope, optimism, belief, determination- a life coach’s dream time.

But where does it go come February?

Here’s my list of the biggest killers of New Years Resolutions.

1-    Perfectionism:  I don’t mean my house is immaculate kind of perfectionism.  I mean the black & white thinking.  “I’m either on my diet or off”  “I’m either saving money or spending it”  “I’m either a good parent or a bad one”.  If you give yourself a label “I’m lazy”, “I’m an idiot”, “I’m impatient”, “I’m a loser”, “I’m fat” then you are playing a game of perfectionism you will not win. A better way to stick to your resolutions is to see yourself in a constant state of flux.  “I am moving closer to my goal right now or away from it.”  “I am becoming more fit or less”  “I am learning to be kinder to myself or I am forgetting to be kinder to myself.”  The truth is, life is not static, and pretending things are set in stone, will suck the motivation right out of you.

2-    “It’s too hard”:  I catch myself saying this all the time.  “Keeping the house clean is hard”,  “Being a solo-prenuer is hard”, “Dealing with health problems is hard”. Hello, pity party!  Do you want some whine with that?  If I look back in human history, or right now in cultures all over the globe, my life is pretty damn easy!  It is a ridiculously untrue thought that my life is hard and when I believe it, it doesn’t serve me.  If you are like me and you hear yourself complaining about things being hard, try changing it to, “this is easy!”  Eating healthy is easy.  Exercising is easy.  Making money is easy.  Raising twins is easy.  Balancing work/family life…easy!  The more you think it & say it, the more you will find evidence to prove it’s true.  Isn’t it just as true that change is easy?

3-    “I deserve a reward”:  Most people use this as a way to cheat on their resolution.  (Often in combination with ‘I worked hard, therefore, I deserve it’).  We think this is self care, but really it isn’t.  It’s usually said defiantly, as though we are rebelling against our own desires to feel better.  What we are really saying is “I deserve to be overweight & unhealthy”,  “I deserve to be broke” or “I deserve to be unhappy”.  Try using the same sentence in support of your resolution “I deserve to work out & feel healthy”, “I deserve to have a tidy home”, or “I deserve to spend less & have more money in the bank”.  I believe you ARE deserving, and that you deserve to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments.

4-    Be open to more & better:  Take a look back at 2011 and write down what worked for you and what didn’t.  Even if you didn’t complete your resolutions, spend time thinking about how your life has changed for the better.  What improvements were planned and which weren’t?  Even if you had some real difficulties, think about positive things that came from it.  Now imagine yourself one year from now.  Even if you don’t accomplish your resolutions, what by-products might you enjoy as a result of the attempt?  Might I make a new friend, even if I quit the gym?  Might I make some new connections, even if I didn’t get that job?  Might I learn something about myself that I couldn’t have learned any other way?  There is always opportunity for growth and increased joy in our lives, and we don’t always know where it will come from.

So take some good guesses, make those resolutions, be kind to yourself whether you stick with them or not.  2012 might just have some wonderful plans in store for you.  If working with a life coach is on your list of ways to improve your life, email me today to take advantage of my special New Years offer of 5 sessions for the cost of 4.

Why do you do this?

I am holding the phone in my hand, sweating and pacing around my bedroom.  I’m 21 and I’m working up the nerve to call my parents.  I am going under general anesthesia in 14 hours for minor, elective surgery, and I figured they should know.   I am terrified to tell them because the surgery is something in my private area, you know, the down there region that we don’t talk about in my family.  I had been suffering with vulvar pain for a while and my OBGYN suggested this surgery might help.  If I tell my parents about Vulvodynia and the problems I’ve been having, they might draw the conclusion that I am sexually active.   And we don’t talk about that in my family.

So I make the call and it goes fine.  And I have the surgery and it goes fine (although it’s not how I cured Vulvodynia but that’s a story for another day).  What was not fine with me was how ridiculously nervous I got to tell my Mom and Dad.  I was willing to go under the knife and not even tell them?  What was I afraid of?  Ruining my good girl image?  Making them uncomfortable? My parents are kind and loving and they went outside their comfort zone to give us “the talk” and tell us what we needed to know.  Unfortunately, what came through more clearly to me, was their discomfort with the subject.   I learned that my parents weren’t the people to go to, to talk to about sexuality.

At 21, I decided this wasn’t okay and I created a mission: To help open up the lines of communication between parents and children on sexuality and other difficult topics.  It can be hard to teach age appropriate sex education that is factual, relevant and relaxed, if you’ve never seen it done.  (I knew for sure I would not be imitating my 6th or 8th grade teachers!)

What I didn’t expect was how much this field of family life education would change in 20 years.  The quantity of sexual images and content on TV has skyrocketed.  The information today’s 9-12 year olds have, blows me away.  (I’ve had 10 year old girls asking about penile dysfunction (pharmaceutical commercials are big educators) and for a few years, everyone knew about the “man who had the baby”. One savvy, 12 year old blew me away with her correct spelling of “pseudohermaphrodite.”)  These kids have lots of information but they need help with filtering all the messages in a way that works for them.  Kids need to hear their parents talk authentically about their values.  Kids are hungry for information on intimacy, relationships, listening to their instincts, and solving problems with peers.  This new ability for kids to mass distribute private information over the Internet, requires a whole new set of values and etiquette and parents don’t even know where to begin.

I do not teach sex ed to parents and kids because it’s easy for me (although I do find it ridiculously fun).  I do it because I feel called to.  I relate to parents who want to do the right thing but get embarrassed, put it off, giggle or tease rather than educate.   I also relate to the kids:  embarrassed, curious, and grateful that someone explains it in a way that makes it entertaining and relevant.

You never know what mistakes you make as a parent, will turn out to be your child’s greatest passion.  We do our best, we ask for help when we get stuck, but perhaps the rest of our shortcomings are meant to be.   Whether your kids have to deal with divorce, debt, bullies, or disabilities, you never know how they will turn that challenge into their way of helping the world.

Thank you to all who help me fulfill my dream of bringing parents and kids together in meaningful and authentic ways.  If you are interested in attending my free, parent night tonight (Monday, Oct. 24th at 7pm) or would like more information about my parent/child sex education workshop, let me know.  I am here for you.