Nervous about having kids all summer? Here’s how to enjoy it.


Help Torie! I am nervous about summer! I’m a stay home mom and I WANT to be one of those chill moms who loves hanging out by the pool sipping lemonade. My kids are 5, 7 and 9 so I’ve done this enough times to know that I’m not a great summer-mom. I love the structure that the school year provides but I’m not good at creating a structure for myself at home.

I signed them up for swim lessons and some other activities but I’m nervous about not getting enough time by myself. My friends that love the slow-paced, lazy days of summer. The idea of it appeals to me but the reality is, I’ll probably be crazy by July. How can I make the most of my summer?        -Stephanie

Parent Educator Answer: When you are nervous about summer

Summertime is important for the mental, emotional and physical health of children. There are two pass times that will optimize this quality time for kids: downtime and pursuing passions.

Children’s brains need the lazy, slow-paced days of summer to integrate learning, build relationships, and recalibrate to life without stress. It’s also a great time to discover and pursue passions that they might not have time for during the school year.

If your child loves baking, allowing her extra time to do get creative in the kitchen is a great use of summer.

Whether it’s building a hammock out of duct tape or learning to dive into the pool, giving kids time to choose activities freely increases the motivation parts of their brains.

Sorry kids, (and tired moms), the negative consequences of screen time on children’s physical, mental and emotional health are still outweighing any positive effects.

Find passions to pursue in the real world to maximize summer. TV and video games are too physiologically stressful to be considered downtime.

Summer and the Obliger Mom

Life Coaching Answer: With the kids squared away, it’s time to talk about MOM.

Stephanie, you sound like a classic “obliger”. Gretchen Rubin wrote a book called The Four Tendencies which describes 4 different tendencies that come into play when someone wants to take change a habit.

The Obliger Mom

One tendency she calls, obliger. Obligers have an easy time meeting EXTERNAL expectations (we show up on time for appointments, we remember to attend Back to School nights, etc.) but we have a hard time with INTERNAL expectations (going to the gym, making time for ourselves, etc.)

You say you do well with the structure of school but are worried about getting enough time by yourself.

Other tendencies (Upholder and Questioner) have an easy time meeting INTERNAL expectations. Meaning, if they want to lay in the sun and read a book every day, they do it. If they want to work out, they head to the gym easily without any drama.

The problem for Obligers is the KIDS start to take on the role of “external expectations”.

It’s easy for us to obey the demands of others: “Mom, can you drive me to Sophie’s?” “Mom, I’m hungry.” “Mom, can we go to the pool today?”

It’s almost like we lose the ability to hear our own voice. We feel imprisoned by the demands of our kids. Waiting for them to be happy and satisfied before we can listen to our own voice.

Obliger moms have an especially hard time being home with kids all day.

Rather than wishing you were the kind of mom who can just chill and enjoy a slow-paced summer, learning to work with your natural tendency will make life much easier. Here are 4 tips to help obliger moms enjoy summer more.

4 Summer Tips for the Obliger Moms

  1. Recognize that waiting for your children to be happy and satisfied isn’t working. They will never push you out the door saying, “Go take care of yourself now, Mom!” If you want to feel better this summer, it’s going to have to come from your desire to give your kids a happy summer mommy.
  2. Start every day with a paper and pen, asking yourself “What would I LOVE to accomplish today?” “How do I want to feel while accomplishing these things?” “When I look back on my day before going to bed, what will I be most proud of?” Sit in the driver’s seat of your brain and tell it what to focus on.
  3. Build upon external expectations. Have a friend meet you at the gym. Tell your kids you have an appointment with your book at 3:00 and it’s their job to make sure you don’t miss it. Sign up for a class for YOURSELF. Make an appointment with a life coach.
  4. Use a timer as your external accountability. “I have 15 minutes to clean and then I get to relax.” or “I will drive you to your friend’s house if you’ll let me read for 30 minutes first.” The world benefits from obligers, but putting ourselves last has a cost to it. It’s time to prioritize your goals, dreams and desires, and show your kids the value of pursuing things that are important to you.

Supermom Kryptonite: Compare and despair.

It’s so easy to “compare and despair”. We go on Pinterest or Instagram and see other Moms so happy and creative, we think we should be different than we are. Everyone else appears to be having an easier time than us so we assume we should be different.

Instead, try thinking about adapting your life as a mom to your particular personality. If you like external expectations, sign up for classes and make appointments with friends and life coaches to help you work towards your goals.

If you are introverted and need extra time to be inside your own head, respect that and check into a hotel by yourself for 2 nights.

Take time every day to reflect on how things are going: What do you miss? What do you yearn for?

Motherhood is not a one-size-fits-all. The goal is to give your kids a happy, fulfilled mom. Make sure you are paying attention to who you are and what you want, rather than what everyone else is doing.

 

Supermom Power Boost – Read the book, The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

Understanding your tendency can help you have compassion for yourself and others. Compassion always feels good and boosts our energy.

If you get frustrated with yourself, “Why can’t I be more easy going?” or “Why is it so hard for me to break this bad habit?” this book will help answer your questions.

There’s no one tendency that’s better than another (although Gretchen Rubin says Obligers don’t tend to like being obligers, where the other tendencies enjoy themselves more).

I WISH this book had been required reading before marrying my “Rebel” husband. It would have saved me many years of frustration, trying to get him to do what I wanted him to do.

Raising a rebel child came with its own brand of craziness. Since all teenagers have a rebellious streak, I recommend reading how to motivate a rebel for anyone raising an adolescent.

Whether you are an Obliger, Rebel, Questioner, or Upholder, understanding and ACCEPTING your tendency makes life easier and more fun.

We tend to project our expectations onto our family, thinking they should be more like us. When you identify your loved one’s tendencies, it’s easier to enjoy them for who they are.

Quote:

“One of the best ways to make yourself happy is to make other people happy. One of the best ways to make other people happy is to be happy yourself.” Gretchen Rubin

When your kid holds a grudge

Today’s Question: Kid Holding a Grudge

Hello! I LOVE and look forward to listening to your podcast!

I have three girls: 13, 11, and 9. My 9-year-old is a very bright, confident, gregarious, and tenacious young child.

I do think that these are very strong qualities, but wonder if they get in the way of peer relations. She has a wide variety of friends. I used to be worried that she did not have that one special friend, but realized after listening to one of your podcasts that that is okay.

The issue lies in that if a peer says or does anything negative to her, she A: doesn’t forget it, B: continues to remind her peer of it, and C: tells her peer that she is not her friend. Like any 3rd grader, this peer is now hurt and upset. It’s as though my child does not care and sees no remorse.

I have conversations with her about this and it’s so hard for her to change. I don’t know what to do!  Thank you so much for your guidance!  – Andria

holding a grudge

Parent Educator Answer:

It is so hard to watch your daughter behave in ways that are not aligned with your values, but it’s a great opportunity to talk about empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Some kids naturally pick up on social cues and don’t need to be taught how to use empathy to connect with others.

Other kids do need to be taught. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with these children, they are perfectly normal, but it can make a supermom cringe when she watches her child navigate the nuances of friendships.

Kids who struggle to show empathy usually do so for two reasons.

  1. They aren’t easily hurt by others so can’t relate.
  2. They are VERY deeply hurt by others.

I asked Andria which category she thought her daughter fell into.

Her initial reaction was that her daughter was “unaffected” but after further consideration, she thinks perhaps she is deeply wounded by slights from friends and that is why she is so dismissive.

Andria said she is very caring with young children and animals which signals a profound sense of empathy.

When we feel hurt, it is human nature to want to hurt back. Picture a porcupine, whose quills lay soft and flat until threatened, then stand sharply to deter anyone from getting close.

Instead of crying, and showing her hurt, it sounds like Andria’s daughter shoves it down and gets “prickly” like a porcupine.

There isn’t a lot that mom can do to change her daughter’s personality.  This is how she is wired. But I will give you some tips to support her softer side.

  1. Acknowledge her hurt. Even though she will deny it, you can show compassion to her saying words like, “Boy, if someone said that to me I would feel hurt.” or “I feel so sad when my friends leave me out.”
  2. Find opportunities for her to hang out with children, animals, the elderly, or the disabled. She feels safe letting her vulnerable side show around these sensitive souls, encourage it!  Kids like this turn into advocates for social justice! Find volunteer opportunities for her to let her softer side show and start effecting change in her community.
  3. Make her rigidity work for you. All kids think in black and white, “If I’m not smart, I must be dumb.” “If she said something mean, she’s a mean person.” This good/bad, right/wrong thinking can keep a kid stuck in a negative pattern. You can use this to your advantage by asking black and white questions like:

“Do you want to live in a nice world or a mean world?”

“Do you think people should be kind or rude?”

“Would you prefer to have no friends or some friends?”

If she wants to live in a nice world, then it’s up to her to be nice, no matter what everyone else does.

If she wants to have friends, it’s up to her to act like a friend even when they don’t deserve it (in her opinion).

Letting her think about the kind of world she wants to live in, moves her attention from this small little hurtful comment (where she feels powerless) to the big picture where she can do something about the injustice she feels.

Life Coaching Answer: 

What gets in our way when our daughter is cold, prickly, and mean?

All sorts of fearful catastrophic thinking!

“She’s never going to have any friends”

“She’s a b*tch”

“Nobody’s going to want to be around her”

“She doesn’t care about people.”

And of course, whenever we see bad behavior in our kids, we fall into the conclusion that “I must not be doing a good enough job as a mother.”

When we think these dramatic thoughts, we get scared.

When we get scared, we get mad (hello porcupine!).

We start telling her to be nicer, stop holding a grudge, forgive and forget.

There’s nothing wrong with this advice except that it’s rooted in our own fears.

She picks up on our judgmental, “you need to change now” energy, feels a feeling, and shuts down.

She acts cold and aloof. This makes us get meaner, in order to try and get an emotional reaction out of her.

We escalate our words, trying to break her down, which only makes her more cold and aloof towards us.

We’ve got to keep an eye on our thoughts, making sure they help us feel like the parent we want to be.

In order to allow our sensitive kids to show their softer side, we need a soft place for them to fall.

How do you get a porcupine to lay down her quills?  Sit still, be calm, and give her time to feel safe again.

This personality trait of your daughter has nothing to do with you as a mom.

If you can be soft and gentle with her, she will know you have her back, no matter how many people say mean things to her.

Eventually, she may look around and find she doesn’t have any friends.

Then she may be receptive to your helpful advice. More likely, she will be the one who befriends the kid on the “buddy bench” at school, advocates for the disabled kid, and is friends with the bad boy no one wants to be with.

The world is made up of all kinds. You can teach her appropriate social behavior from a place of acceptance and gentleness.

Instead of “futurizing and catastrophizing,” share your vision of her in the future. Say things like:

“Someday, you will realize that most people mean well, even if they don’t always say the right things.”

“People make mistakes all the time, someday you will learn that forgiveness feels better than being right.”

“You care so deeply about others, it’s this compassion of yours that is going to make the world a better place.” 

 

Supermom Kryptonite: Parenting from Fear

This is a sneaky one. Our words and actions can be exactly the same, but when we are rooted in fear, our kids pick up on our neediness and push us away.

For example, your 14 year old daughter comes downstairs looking sexy in a short skirt and tube top, ready to go out.

Your mind immediately jumps to “OMG NO! Too sexy.

Sexual predators! Kidnapping and human trafficking! Boys! Dirty old men! What will people think? Embarrassed.”

The words that pop out are, “No. You are not wearing that. You need to change NOW.”

She argues, complains, then pops her outfit into her purse and changes as soon as she leaves the house.”

If she comes downstairs wearing the same outfit, you might get a different result if your thoughts are calm and inquisitive…

“Is that outfit aligned with our family values?”  “Would I have worn that when I was her age?” “What is the statistical probability that something bad will happen to her because she is wearing that outfit?”

You might say, “No, that outfit is not aligned with our family values. Go put on something more modest, please.”

This calm, clear, confident energy is much more likely to yield a positive result. She might argue, but she would match your energy, doing so calmly and logically.

Whenever there is behavior you want to change in yourself or your child, be sure you are rooted in positive emotion rather than fear.

Supermom Power Boost:

Choose a spirit animal. Do you have a favorite animal? Do you find yourself intrigued by certain animals?

Learn more about them and see what they have to teach you. ‘

If you love sloths, it could be your higher self saying it’s time to slow down and chill.  Are you drawn towards elephants? Maybe you are yearning to feel supported by a larger community.

Andria’s daughter could learn more about the porcupine as a compassionate way to learn more about herself.

We don’t argue with reality thinking, “porcupines shouldn’t be so prickly” we accept them for who they are and learn to live with them peacefully.

 

Quote of the day:

“Everybody is a Genius. But If You Judge a Fish by Its Ability to Climb a Tree, It Will Live Its Whole Life Believing that It is Stupid.” -Albert Einstein 

Managing May craziness without overwhelm

Question of the Day – Feeling Overwhelmed

“I feel so overwhelmed with the “end of school year” craziness.

I’ve got 3 little kids and their 3 teachers are asking so many things of me: bring $5 for a field trip, send brownies for a party, send in a baby picture for kinder-graduation, black pants for the performance, flower and card for teacher appreciation, and on and on.

Not to mention the end-of-year gifts for the teacher, my son’s birthday, my niece’s high school graduation AND requests for my TIME! I’m supposed to volunteer at the festival, watch the end of year performance, and chaperone the field trip?!?!

My brain is ready to explode! This is all fun stuff so I feel guilty complaining, but how the heck do people manage the May crazies without getting overwhelmed?”     – Lindsay

 

Parent Educator Answer: Feeling Overwhelmed

I remember feeling exactly the same way when my kids were little. I was out walking my dog one December feeling totally overwhelmed with trying to remember all the things I had to do.

I ran into my neighbor who had 5 KIDS, was homeschooling 3 of them, and was very involved with church activities. Surely, she could relate to my struggle of feeling overwhelmed trying to manage the details of many lives.

I said, “You must be going crazy, too, trying to remember all the details, celebrations, gifts and events with 5 kids! How are you not overwhelmed?”

A Lot of Lists

She looked at me contemplatively and calmly replied, “Well, I have a lot of lists.

The most common cause of overwhelm during busy months like May and December is trying to hold too many things in your head at one time.

Writing everything down gets it all out of your head so you don’t have to “try to remember.”

If you trust yourself to check your lists and follow through, this (theoretically) frees up your brain so you don’t have to hold too many things in your head at one time.

It’s like having too many browser tabs open on your computer at one time. Sometimes the computer can’t process it all and it slows down and starts taking forever to load. It needs extra time to process everything.

When we have too many thoughts in our head, we also begin to slow down and become less productive. 

Writing things down is like closing some of those browser windows so there are fewer things to think about it.

If you do have a lot of lists and you still feel overwhelmed, take it three steps further:

  1. Break things into categories. Everything you need to buy can be compiled into one list rather than making multiple trips. All phone calls get done at one time.
  2. Write how long you think each task will take. Sometimes we procrastinate on things we really don’t want to do, but when you realize that one email you don’t want to write will only take 5 minutes, it makes it seem less daunting and you get it done with more easily.
  3. Choose a date and time on your calendar to complete it. Putting it on the calendar will help you see your schedule and how much time you actually have.

The list looks like this:

  1. Buy 13 toys for the preschool summer fun basket. (40 min. Tuesday @ 7:00pm)
  2. Have Sophie make a card for her teacher. (10 min. Sunday @ 2:00pm)
  3. Buy fruit and make a fruit platter for end of year party. (60 min. Thursday @ 8:00pm)

All you need to do is check your calendar and obey it. If someone asks, “Can you drive kids to the park for field day?” You will know if you can or cannot by looking at your calendar.

Life Coaching answer: What To Do When Overwhelmed

What gets in the way from implementing this tried and true method for reducing overwhelm? Perfectionism.

I have not encountered an overwhelmed mom yet who did not have some sort of perfectionism (myself included). Inside our heads, it sounds something like this:

  1. “I have to do everything right.”
  2. “I should do everything they are asking me to do.”
  3. “I need to contribute and do my part.”
  4. “I need to be there for my kids.”
  5. “I can’t forget anything.”

Everything that makes us such reliable, responsible Supermoms overwhelms us when too many external expectations are put upon us. It all seems equally urgent and important!

Why can’t we be one of those moms who just “phones it in” and doesn’t stress?

Because we are not kind to ourselves if we drop the ball.

“Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot, I can’t believe I forgot the coach’s gift!”

“Every other kid had their baby picture. I’m such a terrible mother!”

“What is wrong with me? How could I forget the baseball banquet? I’m such a loser.”

Other moms can drop the ball occasionally because they are quick to forgive themselves when they do.

What keeps us feeling crazy and overwhelmed? The fear of WHAT we are going to say to OURSELVES, about ourselves, when we screw up.

To feel more calm and more in control, you’ve got to commit to being nice to yourself no matter what. Practice saying things like this:

  • “Oh well, no big deal.”
  • “I’ve contributed plenty this year already.”
  • “I give myself permission to drop the ball”

 

Not only will you feel calmer and more clear headed, but you will be modeling for your kids how to let go of perfectionism and forgive yourself for being an ordinary human.

No doubt about it, you are a Supermom; but trying to be perfect in May and December can be too much. Sometimes you just need to hang up the cape.

 

Supermom Kryptonite: 

Trying not to drop any balls. Picture a juggler with 5 balls in the air. He focuses; whole body tense.

He might smile and talk, but he can’t really relax. Most of his attention has to stay on juggling those 5 balls. Now imagine he is juggling these balls for 12 hours a day. EXHAUSTING.

Give yourself permission to drop some balls. Decide ahead of time which balls to drop or just commit to being kind to yourself when the inevitable ball drops.

You are not perfect, you are human, and human beings forget things, flake, and make mistakes.

Supermom Powerboost: 

When we are exhausted, overwhelmed, and crazy, we just need to be with people who understand us.

The Holderness Family does a great job of laughing at the craziness that comes with modern-day parenting.

They are famous YouTubers who make funny videos that make us crazy Supermoms feel seen, heard, and felt.

Their recent Maycember video is today’s Supermom Powerboost. Watch the video, have a laugh, and know that you are not alone. I’ll include a link in the show notes and my Facebook Page, Life Coaching for Parents.

Quote of the Day:

“Imperfections are not inadequacies. They are a reminder that we are all in this together.” Brene Brown

Middle School Misery

Today’s Question: Middle School Misery

My son is finishing up 7th grade and had a terrible year. He is BEGGING me to homeschool him next year. He’s always struggled with reading but got through elementary school with help and support.

He’s a bright kid, knows everything about every type of animals and their habitats. He loves turning over rocks and finding bugs of all kinds. My joyful nature-lover has turned into a miserable, despondent lump.

We made him stick it out all year, hoping things would get better but he struggles with just about everything school has to offer: sitting in a classroom, listening, learning, doing homework.

He makes friends easily but I’m worried about how homeschooling will limit his socializing and mess up his opportunities for college and future. What should I do about my miserable middle schooler?    -Lynnette

Parent Educator Answer: Middle School Misery

This “middle school misery” is more common than you might think.

Kids who have undiagnosed learning disabilities can get through elementary school just fine, but middle school magnifies problem areas.

The workload creates a bottleneck for kids with attention problems.

Too much information comes in (that they are NOT interested in) causing attentional fatigue. This mental fatigue causes kids to zone out and miss critical instruction.

middle school misery

Kids who struggle to pay attention at school do not have a focusing problem when it comes to things they WANT to be doing. 

Some kids have the ability to HYPERFOCUS on things that fascinate them.  However, having too much uninteresting information at school doesn’t leave much time left over for one’s passion.

When there isn’t time to learn about things that truly lights them up, you’ll end up with a grumpy, zombie child.

Kids without learning disabilities can struggle with traditional school as well.

Highly sensitive children can soak up the insecurities on a middle school campus so that they feel lost and drained of their own energy.

With so much pressure put on kids to perform and the fast pace of society, the mental and emotional health of students is of high concern.

Any kid who has a predisposition toward anxiety may find their symptoms ramping up during these sensitive years. 

Our brains are not designed for the amount of input we are currently taking in. I’ve even noticed a change in my ability to focus my attention.

I used to read all the time but now my mind wanders more and struggles to keep attention on the page. I have to be really selective about what books I read because so few will grab my attention. 

 

Life Coaching Answer for Middle School Misery

Let’s start by accepting reality as it currently is today. You could argue that society is too fast-paced.

Perhaps schools should be designed to nurture the whole human being, not being so focused on college and the workforce.

It would be great if our educational institution were able to meet the unique needs of all children.

Could your child learn to adapt better to the system he is in? Maybe.

For clarity and peace, let’s just accept the schools as they are and your child’s brain and personality as it is.

Your son has an easy time making friends. Let’s assume that will continue wherever he goes.

He has an appetite for learning the subjects he is interested in which will probably rekindle once he has some free time and mental space.

We don’t know what the future will bring. If he stays in school, he may enter such a depressed state that he can’t handle high school, let alone college and beyond.

The same thing may be true if you pull him out and homeschool.

All we know is that, right now, he is struggling with school and he thinks he has found a solution.

Offer Contrast

An easy way to increase happiness is to offer contrast.

When you are blazing hot and you jump in a cold pool, it feels fabulously refreshing. If you are cold and jump into the same pool, it feels terrible.

Trying to drink 8 servings of water a day is tough for me, but when it’s hot and I’m thirsty, water is the best beverage on the planet!

I’m wondering if you could increase your child’s happiness by offering a contrasting experience.

I’m going to tell you a few different scenarios of other moms who were in your shoes. Surprisingly, they found homeschooling scenarios worked for them.

I can’t tell you what is right for you or your child. Only you know what’s best for you and your situation, but perhaps these stories from others will help you access your own wisdom.

My Son

My son incurred a head injury when he was 11 and could no longer function at school. ‘

His hormones were completely out of whack (cortisol through the roof and almost no adrenaline).

He couldn’t sleep at night, couldn’t get up in the morning, and felt easily overwhelmed and overstimulated.

He accrued many absences the first quarter of sixth grade and trying to keep up with assignments was stressing him out.

By November, it was clear: he wasn’t getting better.

We pulled him out and finally treated the concussion we should have treated back in May.

He enrolled in an online school, I worked from home, and he continued to play soccer.

By April, he was well enough to go with his class to 6th grade science camp for a week in nature. The more downtime he had, the more he could recuperate.

Life at home with mom for six months made him appreciate his classmates and the structure of school. He returned to school for 7th grade and stayed.

Sheri

Sheri pulled her son out of middle school at his request.

Her job allowed her to work remotely so she enrolled him in a Shakespeare theater program where he read, studied, performed, fundraised, learned set design, etc.

He got to study every aspect of theater with others who shared his passion, while she worked on her laptop and phone.

For the other subjects, he worked online or with a tutor at the kitchen table. It’s been a few years and he has no interest in going back.

Katherine

Homeschooling versus M,iddle School Misery

Katherine’s daughter’s anxiety was unmanageable. She felt pressured and was missing lots of school due to headaches and other vague symptoms.

Katherine found a retired teacher on Craig’s List with dyslexia training who was willing to come to her house for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Her daughter missed her friends and did not like this new arrangement.

She still saw her friends after school and at gymnastics, but she relaxed, worked hard to get caught up academically, and learned to manage her anxiety.

The next year she felt stronger, more capable, and ready to return to school.

 

Eileen

Eileen’s 6th-grade daughter was sinking into depression.

Everything about school seemed like a chore: the work, the social dynamics, being pulled out for extra academic help.

Her parents pulled her from school and divided up her studies between mom, dad, and grandma.

They increased her time at her favorite horse ranch to 12 hours a week. To their delight, they watched the light come back in her eyes.

They don’t know what they will do next year, but they will let their daughter’s happiness and mental health guide their decisions.

I hope these examples of other moms give you support and guidance as you make a difficult decision.

Supermom Kryptonite – information overload 

Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity.

Too much information causes a bottleneck in the brain. This thus increases feelings of stress and overwhelm and reducing the quality of our decisions.

The amount of information that we take into our brains continues to skyrocket.

If you think of a typical newspaper being about 85 pages, in 1986 we received about 40 newspapers full of information every day.

In 2007, this rocketed to 174 newspapers full of information we are taking into our brains every day.

Having too much information streaming in not only affects our children’s mental well being but ours too.

When we are trying to make important decisions, like what to do about our child’s education, it’s easy to get bogged down in information and choices.

Be wary of spending too much time online, googling, and gathering information.

The world is changing fast. It’s more important than ever that you slow down, focus on your child’s well being, and listen to your gut intuition.

Which leads me to recommend today’s supermom power boost, Forest Bathing.

Forest bathing
My happy place

Supermom Power Boost

Forest Bathing basically means to go into a forest and stay awhile.

Breathe. Sit. Walk. Savor.

Since I am writing this from my campsite in a magnificent redwood forest on the California coast, I couldn’t help but choose this for today’s power boost.

Forest bathing is a technique that originated in Japan during the 1980s and is suggested for preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine.

Researchers in Japan and South Korea have gathered significant scientific literature on the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.

Forest bathing (immersing yourself in a forest) is shown to have several benefits. It boosts immune system function, reduces blood pressure and stress, improves mood, sleep, and energy levels.

Being in the woods is shown to increase focus, especially in children with ADHD.

For moms, trying to make important decisions, there is tremendous value in cutting out all external input and listening to your own gut intuition, voice and values.

Let the forest shift you into a relaxed, receptive state FIRST. You will then notice how your creativity and quality of thinking improve. 

Quote of the Day:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein 

He did everything right, but still didn’t get in to the college he wanted.

Today’s Question: On College Disappointment

My son is finishing up high school and did everything he was supposed to do. He worked hard, got good grades, did extracurricular activities, volunteer work- you name the hoop, he jumped through it. The university that he had set his heart on did not accept him and he is suffering from college disappointment.

He got into his “safety school” but he’s really not excited about it. I think it bothers him that so many of his classmates are going there. They offered us some great financial incentives so it makes sense for him to go there, but it’s a little to close to home for his liking.

I just wish he were happier. He’s got all these end of year celebrations coming up but there’s a dark cloud over him that’s keeping him from enjoying his accomplishments so far. I’m so sad for him. What can I say to cheer him up? -Anya

Parent Educator Answer:

Most of the advice you would hear from a parent educator when a child just came from college disappointment is the same advice you’ll hear from other parents. “He’ll be fine.” “Once he gets in there, he’ll realize how different the experience is and make it work for him.”

When these attempts at “cheering up” don’t work, it’s probably best to meet him where he is.

Agreeing with him by saying, “This totally sucks” or “It’s so disappointing” will help him accept his emotions, feel supported, and move on when he’s ready to move on. Being compassionate towards him teaches him to be compassionate towards himself.

Lots of people encounter a situation like this and think, “I’m such an idiot” “I suck” “Why did I think I would ever get in” and other self-defeating comments.

When we are our own cheerleaders, we can take chances and try new things, knowing we have our backs. The more we model this to our kids, the more they will learn to do the same.

There’s nothing wrong with being disappointed. If you are going to have ambitions, goals, and dreams, you are also going to have disappointment. It’s a natural part of the human experience and nothing has gone wrong here.

college disappointment

Life Coaching Answer:

The life coach in me has A LOT to say about this, starting with, I’m so sorry, Anya. It’s so hard to watch our kids work so hard for something that they really want and not get it.

It sounds like he found a school that really resonated with him and seemed like the perfect match. It’s hard to have figured out what you want and do everything you were supposed to do, and still not be able to get it.

I’m going to guess, Anya, that you live in a part of the country that participates in a “crazy college culture.” There are places in our country where people place A LOT of importance on which college children are attending.

It’s become a marker of success FOR THE PARENTS and THE SCHOOLS, as well as the kids. This is so screwed up. GRADUATION is the marker of a successful high school career! People are stressing their kids out, putting so much pressure on them, making them believe where they go to school is vital to success in life.

Do you know what the #1 predictor of success in life is? It’s not where you go to school. It’s not what kind of grades or test scores you get.

The #1 predictor of success in life is social and emotional well being.

When we, as a culture, prioritize grades, hard work, and competition over relaxation, peace, and kindness, we may actually be hindering the success of an entire generation by increasing their stress levels.

The purpose of higher education is to diversify your thinking, build a set of skills, and deepen your education in one specialized area for the purpose of employment.

You can do this right now, for free.

In the “olden days,” you had to go to a university in order to access this knowledge and higher wisdom. With Kahn Academy, Youtube, and free online universities, you do not need to leave your bedroom to learn the content you want to learn.

Pretty much anything you want to learn can be acquired online, anytime you want.

Today, the value of going away to a university is more about personal growth. Our kids are sheltered without a lot of opportunities to test their mettle.

We don’t send them away for a month at a summer camp, or to a grandparents farm anymore. We don’t let our kids travel alone, or even take a bus to the city by themselves. Today’s teens are even delaying getting jobs and driver’s licenses.

Going away to school has become a rite of passage into adulthood. It is personal growth and independence that has made going away to college so important, (but only because we stopped giving them other opportunities to grow).

My hunch is that the reason Anya’s son doesn’t want to go to this school is he feels it’s stifling his growth.

What else can he do that would be a growth opportunity for him? Could he take a gap year and travel? Could he join the peace corps? Teach for America? Become an au pair or teach English in another country?

If he really has his heart set on this dream school, he could get an apartment and attend a junior college nearby.

How about starting his own business doing something fascinating? Take up a new sport, job, or hobby? There are lots of ways to grow and explore one’s independence.

Our higher selves will rebel if we try to be happy about staying small. We are meant for continual expansion and growth at every age and stage of our lives. Help him think creatively about growth and you’ll see the light come back in your son’s eyes.

Think of your high school senior like a hermit crab who has outgrown its shell. As scary as it is to venture out into the unknown and try out a new shell, but it feels better than staying stuck in a shell that has become too small for him.

The way to help a hermit crab find a new shell, is to present him with a few different options with varying sizes, shapes, and thicknesses. He thought he found the right shell, he thought it was going to be perfect but it wasn’t.

Maybe it will be the right shell after a year of growth? Or maybe, after a year of growth, it won’t feel like the right fit anymore.

The important thing is to be patient and let your hermit crab be uncomfortable. Let him be disappointed. This discomfort is what will motivate your hermit crab and when he is ready, he will choose another shell.

I think it’s great that the system failed him at a young age. It was going to happen eventually.

I have so many clients who play by the rules and do what they are told, hoping for some future reward that never comes.

Better to learn now, that the key to happiness is making the systems work for you instead of you believing the key to your success and happiness, is in the hands of a system.

Supermom Kryptonite: Trying to fix a problem that isn’t yours to solve.

Anya is trying to fix this college disappointment for her son, understandably, but the effort of trying to solve a problem that doesn’t belong to her, will exhaust her and drain her energy. When a loved one is suffering, there are two ways people try to help that really aren’t helpful.

We feel bad for them

Many moms try to help by “feeling bad” for the suffering person. We think, “My son is so sad, I’ll feel bad along with him, so at least he’s not alone in his suffering.”

There’s this underlying belief that a mom shouldn’t be happy if her child isn’t. We feel guilty being happy when our loved ones are suffering but having two suffering people really doesn’t help.

You feel better because you think you are being a good mom, but your son feels even worse because now he’s responsible for creating a dark cloud over two people instead of just one.

Tell them what to do.

It’s so easy for us to see what someone can do to improve their life!

We hate watching them suffer, so we try to move into their life and take over: telling them what to do, how to feel, and even taking actions for them.

This ends up being a lose-lose situation. They feel disempowered because they can’t solve their own problems, we get annoyed that they don’t follow all our great advice.

Supermom Power Boost:

The way to help suffering loved ones is today’s supermom power boost. There are three things to think about when we watch someone we love going through a hard time.

1. There’s a reason they have a problem.

There is a skill set they need to build in order to solve the problem. It’s not that they need an immediate solution, it’s that they need to grow a capacity.

In Anya’s son’s case, if he had experienced many disappointments in his life, this college disappointment wouldn’t have been a big deal.

My guess is that it’s his first big disappointment, so he needs to decide what he’s going to make it mean and recalibrate his expectations with the reality he is experiencing. This skill set will serve him well and now is his time to develop it. 

 2. “Troubled? Then sit with me for I am not.” Hafiz (*I think I said Rumi in the podcast…oops!) 

Have you ever had a problem and someone else was more upset and worried about it than you were?

It feels icky. What helps our loved ones who are suffering, is for us to remain peaceful and untroubled.

We can hold the space for them to feel whatever they want to feel, while also letting them work it out on their own and making their life even better.

Do you know someone who is suffering? Picture your loved one standing in front of you, strong and peaceful, with an open, empty suitcase at their feet.

Imagine taking your worries, your fears, your sadness, and placing it inside the suitcase. Watch as your loved one closes the suitcase, thanks you, picks it up, and walks away. This is their problem to solve. You can give them advice if they ask because that’s a sign they are ready to hear it.

 

Quote of the Day:  “Every success story is a tale of constant adaptation, revision and change.” Richard Branson