TMIT?

Seventeen year old, Anna wrote her parents a note saying “{My younger sister} would kill me if she knew I was telling you this, but I am so glad you wouldn’t let us have facebook accounts.  I can see how I would get roped into it like my friends are.”

Fifteen year old Sarah was telling her teacher, “At first when my parents took my cell phone away, I thought I was going to die.  But after the first few days, I can’t believe how much better I feel.  Don’t tell my parents, though, they might not give it back.”

Thirty-eight year old Eileen just got back from a fabulous vacation with her husband and kids.  She says, “I think the main reason it was so great is we had no cell phone or internet access the entire time.  It was so relaxing”.

What are the consequences of our kids having access to electronic devices so many hours a day?  Texting instead of talking?  Soicalizing online with video games instead of creating games in person?  Building relationships over texts, facebook, and other social media sites instead of building relationships in person?

My main concern about kids and media has always been about what are they not doing.  When kids are plugged in, they aren’t using their imagination, they aren’t feeling their emotions, they aren’t learning to resolve conflict or entertain themselves, they aren’t learning how to self soothe (yes, even adults need this skill).  But since I have started my life coaching work, my main concern has changed. Being connected to so many electronic devices seems to reduce the feeling of joy.

Here is one teenagers description of what her life is like today.  “Your life can go from fine to misery to elation, all throughout the course of one English class.  You never know what people are going to post about you on myspace.  Will they make fun of your outfit?  Your day is ruined.  Will they post about the guy you hooked up with last weekend? Your month is ruined.  Will the guy you like change is relationship status? Awesome. Will that photo of you with your top off get spread around school?  Your life if over. There is no peace.  If you don’t text someone back right away, they think you are mad at them.”

I care about the social and emotional well being of you and your kids. I believe we have way more stress in our lives than necessary.  If you feel like technology is taking over in your home, I want to empower you to set some limits for you and your children (even if it seems like no other parent is).  Technology can be addictive.  Your kids will probably not set their own boundaries just like Eileen probably would have been checking emails and facebooking, if she could have accessed it on her vacation. You can limit all cell phones after 7:00pm.  You can prevent kids from having facebook or other social media accounts.   You can honor an electronics free day, one day a week. One hour of screen time a day is a popular limitation parents of younger children use.  Try it with older kids and yourself.

Sometimes it’s easier to make positive changes for our kids than it is for us.  Use them as a motivator to do something you intuitively know is good for your family. A little TV time while Mom is making dinner saves everybody from insanity.  Helping your kids feel socially connected and part of the mainstream culture is something they will thank you for.  Tune into your instincts to know how much is too much.  Ask yourself, would I take a photo of my child right now?  What activity did my child do today that was worthy of photographing.  Most of us wouldn’t think to take pictures of our kids watching TV or sitting with their DS, because intuitively we know it’s not a memory worth preserving.  We are much more likely to photograph them cooking their first batch of cookies, building a fort, putting on a dance show, creating an obstacle course, playing a sport, camping, sledding, making art, playing school, sleepovers, picking flowers, building a treehouse, selling lemonade, etc. Don’t let modern life take you away from your instincts about what is good for your family. You already know.

Wishing you lots of photographic moments this spring.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

What do you want?

What Do You Want?  A tropical vacation?  A night out on the town?  A new house?  To lose weight?  Flowers from your sweetheart?  $$$?

What do your kids want?  A new toy?  To play with their friend?  A day at the beach?  A puppy?  To play video games all day?  A cell phone?

There is a part inside us all that knows what is best for us.  I call this our inner wisdom.  Learning to understand how this inner wisdom communicates will save us a lot anguish.  Sometimes it’s through the body (My excema flares up when I even think about an old boss). Sometimes it’s through our memory (My inability to remember numbers is my inner wisdom’s way of saying, ‘don’t be an accountant’).  And sometimes it’s through our desires.

Ask yourself, “What do I want?” Then ask yourself, “What is the feeling I imagine this would give me?” When you figure out what the feeling is you long for, you can find many ways to satisfy this yearning? My daughter kept saying she wanted to go back to Hawaii.  She was four years old when she went so I was curious, “What do you remember about Hawaii?” She said she remembered eating donuts every morning.  When I asked her how do imagine you would feel to be in Hawaii again, she sighed a big sigh and said, “relaxed”.  This is her inner wisdom saying first grade is too stressful and she needs a break.  So I gave her a mental health day from school and had her play in the hot tub instead of doing homework.

Everyone is different and I have no idea what your desires are trying to tell you.  Here are some possible ones for adults that might spark your own insights:

  • Tropical vacation = I need psychological and phyiscal rest.
  • To lose weight = I need to feel like me (athletic, attractive, in control).
  • A night on the town = I need to feel carefree, important, socially connected, a break from responsibility.
  • A gift from sweetheart = I need to feel cared for, appreciated, valued.
  • A new house, kitchen, etc.= I want my outer world to reflect my inner world whether it is new, clean, different, modern, good for entertaining, etc.
  • To win the lottery = Freedom from money worries.

Once you realize the feeling you are after, you can think of many ways to get it.  Take a day off, reconnect with a hobby you used to enjoy, clean out a closet, invite friends over, buy yourself flowers, put music on and dance while you clean, go to yoga class, get a massage, or hire a life coach.

Kids are a little easier to read, here are some common ones for them that may or may not ring true for your kiddo:

  • Wanting to play video games for hours can be wanting an escape. Introverts, especially, will escape to this world to feel rested and renergized.
  • Yearning for a new toy can mean I’m ready for new stimulation and excitement.
  • Wanting playdates can be a yearning for more social connections, fun, and, for extroverts, an important part of learning.
  • Babies, puppies, and other cute cuddlies are a yearning for that loving, peaceful feeling. Pull out baby photos and home movies of your child and cuddle them on the couch, unless you have an endless supply of puppies and babies.
  • Wanting a cell phone can be a kids way of saying ‘I want to fit in with my peer group and feel connected to them’.
  • Repeating “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored” all day long, could be true, but it can also be a yearning for attention, excitement, social stimulation, or a change of pace.

Recognizing what kids are REALLY yearning for will save you money, time and frustration when you give them ‘the thing’ and they still aren’t happy.  By asking your kids what feeling they imagine this item will give them, you are helping them connect with their own inner wisdom.  When you can help your kids feel heard and felt, then you are giving them what they REALLY need to be happy.  Learn to listen to your own desires and follow the feelings you are after.  This will lead you towards true happiness for yourself.  And if you decide it’s time to plan a tropical vacation, my daughter and I would be happy to tag along.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Summer Camp Paranoia

I just put my son on the bus for a week of sleep away camp and I have had lots of emotions rising for me today:  sadness, sentimentality, and excitement.  Last year he asked to go, and I told him, “Mommy’s not ready yet.” I knew I had work to do on my fears around sending him.  I had all these thoughts swimming around my head like, “I’m the only one that can care for him” and “I will miss him too much” and “There’s too many things that can go wrong”.  I also anticipated many horrific situations like him drowning, being attacked by a bear, feeling like an outcast by other kids, you name it.  Before I could even think about letting him go, I had to deal with all these scary thoughts and limiting beliefs.
When we picture horrible things happening, our bodies react as though bad things are actually happening.  Our hearts beat faster, our blood pressure rises, our stomachs turn, we sweat, we enter the physiological state of “fight or flight”, JUST FROM OUR THOUGHTS.  Then our feelings become so uncomfortable that we shut them off by distracting ourselves with something else.  The problem for many parents, is that we imagine horrible things happening ALL THE TIME!  Constantly thinking, then avoiding these thoughts, puts us in a perpetual state of ‘fight or flight’, even in the absence of a legitimate threat.  The longer we stay in this sympathetic nervous system without having time to ‘rest and digest’, the harder it is on our bodies, our health, our weight, our ability to sleep, relax, and play.  This habit of worrying, then avoiding, is so well ingrained that we don’t even know we are doing it.
In order to work through my fears about summer camp, I had to calm myself down first.  Breathing (seems basic but you wouldn’t believe how foreign it is to worriers) is the most important thing you can do to move your body into ‘rest and digest.’ Other parents calm down with yoga, journaling, running, relaxing music, hot baths, even petting a dog can help.  Once you can notice your breathing is deep and regular, THEN can you access your logical brain and ask yourself the following questions.
1.  What is the worst thing that can happen?  (In my case that summer camp = imminent death.)
2.  What is the probability of this horrible thing happening? (the scared part of my brain says 1 in 1,000 although it’s probably rarer)
3.  Can you think of specific evidence or examples of times when nothing bad has happened?(although I’m sure bad things have happened at summer camp, I don’t know anyone that had a bad experience and most, including myself, loved it).
4.  Isn’t it just as likely that something good will happen?  (For this one I try to lighten the mood by making it a little absurd).  I decided it is just as likely that my son will be discovered by a talent scout (he HATES singing and dancing), as it is he will face death by summer camp.
Once you can laugh at your extreme thinking, you know you’ve got your power back.  Worry only gives us the illusion of power.  Real power (and you know we Mamas like to feel in control!) comes from being able to control your THINKING.  So take a deep breath, relax for a minute or two, and ask, isn’t just as likely good things will happen?

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

The false joy hangover

You worked hard all day, doing things for everybody else.  The kids are finally asleep. Your emails, dishes, laundry and paperwork are as done as they are going to be tonight.  You finally sit down to take a little time for yourself and you settle in with your favorite chocolate chip ice cream and some R & R.  The next morning you feel like crap because you know you the entire container of ice cream is now sitting comfortably around your midsection.  This is what I call the false-joy hangover.

We need joy in our lives and your essential self knows it.  But in this productive, hardworking, don’t you dare take time for yourself culture, it is rare to find a parent who admits to regularly taking time out to do something they truly enjoy.  When I ask my clients what they do that feels like play, they hardly understand the question.  “I can’t take time for that” or “I wouldn’t have any idea what to do with myself” or “that would be selfish”.  It’s fear that keeps them from seeking and making time for joy.

In the meantime your essential self is looking out for you and sneaking joy in as best it can.  Over-eating, over-drinking, over-spending, or over-indulging leads us into false joy.  False joy leaves you with a hangover of guilt or regret.  It can give you buyer’s remorse or a compulsion to keep a secret.

Mary works full time and is the Mom of two young kids.  She is tired from burning the candle at both ends and finally manages to take a day for herself.  She give herself a shopping spree at her favorite store.  She has a great time buying beautiful clothes but by nightime, starts to feel guilty about the money she spent.  She ends up hiding some of her purchases in her car so her husband won’t find out.

Mary felt a ‘high’, followed by a crash.  This false joy hangover leads to a lot of negative self talk (“why can’t I do better?”  “I should be able to control myself”) which then leads to feeling crappy, which makes us yearn for more joy, which we don’t have, so we seek it however we can and the false-joy hangover ensues.  When people try to eliminate their false joy, without first bringing in more authentic joy, their success doesn’t last but the negative self talk sure does.

Authentic joy fills you up and expands to everyone you encounter.  It fills your cup up so much that it overflows and creates a positive effect.  Go slowly at first. Take your time.  Some Moms are scared they might jump on an airplane and never come back.  I think, just asking the question, helps our essential self feel heard.  Notice when you lose track of time, feel connected to the present moment, or a memory brings tears to your eyes.  Slowly bring in more of those kinds of joy filled activities and your craving for false joy will subside.  Ask yourself, “What do I want right now?”.  It may be to do exactly what you are doing.  Wh knew those nasty hangovers may actually be trying to help us?

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

New Year’s Resolution

I have a theory that everyone’s New Year’s Resolution are essentially  the same.  Some people say they want to find a new job, lose weight, get organized, be a better parent, keep the house clean, create a better relationship, etc.  Really, I think what we all want is simply to FEEL BETTER.

I decided that teaching my daughter to become a more respectful and polite little girl, would help me feel better.  Although loving and kind to us, my daughter couldn’t muster polite social graces for grandparents, family friends, other parents, and strangers.  Many times, parents expect their children to know how to behave in social situations.  I realized this was something my kids needed to be taught so I embarked on “how to be polite” lessons.  The more I instructed, role played, made suggestions, gave reminders, the more it backfired.  My daughter went from being tolerably shy, to being queen of disrespectful irreverance.

Although an irreverent sense of humor is almost a prerequisite in my house, the poor social graces were making me feel horrible.  I stumbled upon Jennifer Kolari’s fabulous book called Connected Parenting.  She talks about mirroring your child’s thoughts and feelings to help them understand, organize, and regulate their own emotions.  Intuitively, I knew this would work.  What surprised me was how quickly and easily it worked in comparison to the years of effort I had been putting into “teaching” my child how to be polite.  I started saying things to my daughter like, “You felt uncomfortable when he asked you how old you are.”  and “It’s not easy to start talking with someone you don’t know very well.” and  “Always saying ‘thank you for having me’ at the end of a playdate must be really boring”.  This mirroring takes practice but WOW does it ever work!  Suddenly my daughter is able to articulate her inner world so much more clearly!  She now says things like, “I don’t understand what I did that wasn’t polite”.  This invitation to educate my daughter at a time when she is ready and willing to listen, is much more effective!

It turns out having a more respectful daughter did not make me feel any better.  What makes me feel on-top-of-the-world better, is feeling like I am being MY best.  This “mirroring” approach to parenting is perfectly aligned with who I want to be as a parent.  When I “mirror” my kids, I feel tuned in to my child, I trust my intuition, I feel smart, loving, kind and I am being the kind of person I want to be.  The fact that this approach helped me accomplish my goal, only served to validate my instincts.

So go get that job, lose that weight, organize that home.  Just remember that feeling better, is about you, being the person you were meant to be.  Start today by writing down 5 ways in which you were better today than yesterday.   Brag about yourself to your kids.  Do things that make you feel better.  Repeat.  Call me when you reach enlightenment.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

Overcoming anxiety

My husband has been declined for health insurance three times in the last three months.  A year ago, this would have sent me into a cloud of anxiety as dark as the Iceland volcano.  When I am worried, I try to control things I have no control over like whether my husband talks on the phone while driving, wears his seatbelt, eats fruits and vegetables, gets enough sleep, etc.  Trying to control things that I cannot control gives me the illusion of power.  What it gives me in reality, is the feeling like something bad could happen at any moment and it’s up to me to prevent it.  Living in a state of almost constant stress has many negative side effects, including being called a micro-managing worry-wart by one’s beloved.

In the last year, I have learned how to have a thought without attaching to it.  I can picture my husband getting into a skiing accident or crashing on the bay bridge (oh, yeah, my worrying lizard brain loves drama).  Now, I notice what I’m picturing or thinking, without reacting to it as though it is truly going to happen.  I just finished reading, My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor, where she talks about a 90 second window between thinking a thought, and having your body react to it as though it is true.  It is in that 90 second window, you can choose to believe your own thinking, or not.  When I see these dreadful scenarios play out in my mind or think that something bad will soon happen to me, I just smile, take a deep breath, and thank my little worrying lizard brain for trying to keep me safe.  If I question my thinking from a calm place, it’s easier to see logic and reason.  Is it true that something bad is about to happen?  Is it true I am the only one who can prevent it?  Is it true that if something bad happened I wouldn’t be able to cope?  When I stay calm, evidence to the contrary is easy to find.  My husband has gone three months without insurance and nothing bad happened.  He’s been driving for 24 years and has never been in a car accident. If something horrible happened, I would rise to the occasion and deal with it.  I don’t have to start dealing with it now, in anticipation of it happening.

If you can catch a worry, notice it, breathe deeply, thank your brain for trying to keep your safe, look around you and question it, is it true?

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me

My 40th Birthday

Boy did I stress out about turning 40 this month!  Not because of getting older, but because I couldn’t decide what to do for my birthday!  Because it was “the big 4-0”, I felt a lot of pressure to do something big.  I had all these voices in my head saying “You should have a big party to celebrate with all your friends” or “You should do something big, different, exciting, etc.”.  These messages were coming from my ‘social self’.  The social self is the part of me that is defined by my parents, my culture, my language, peers, media, etc.  Developing ones social self is very important and a large part of our work as parents, is teaching these cultural norms to our kids. “We don’t hit when we are angry”, “we don’t throw food on the floor”, etc.  A crucial part of our child’s emotional well being is to feel accepted and respected by his or her culture.

An equally important part of our well being is to listen to and respect our ‘essential self’.  This is the part of us that would have been us no matter who our parents were, what language we spoke or what country we were born into.  This is the part of you, that is essentially YOU.  The essential self is easy to spot in children and how different one can be from one another.  Some kids prefer dancing, art, building, running, some love attention while others shy away.  When we enter the “tween” years, the social self grows stronger.  Do remember wearing matching clothes?  Only wanting to eat the same foods as everyone else?  Camoflauing is the word we use to describe the way many kids want to avoid their essential self and identify more with their social self.

I had a strong social self until my mid-twenties when I gave myself permission to reconnect with my essential self.  Many of my decisions, these days, are based on what I feel is most aligned with my essential self.  Which is why it surprised me so much when this 40th birthday rolled around and suddenly I felt really torn about how to celebrate.  Once I realized that I was in a battle between my social and essential self, it became clear what to do.  Many of my life coaching clients struggle because they have listened too much to their social selves and feel disconnected from their life’s purpose.  Your essential self always has your best interest at heart and learning how to listen to it, is a wonderful journey that reconnects you to your ‘right life’.

So, I ended up having a fabulous 40th birthday.  I spent the day, all by myself, at a wonderful spa.  Then the next day, I met a group of friends out for some good food, drink, and wonderful conversations.  No big party, no big adventures, no cake (my essential self will take fish tacos over cake any day!).  But my essential self felt very loved from family and friends, but more importantly, from myself.

 

Want to give life coaching a try? Schedule a free discovery call at www.LifeCoachingforParents.com/work-with-me