5 Strategies For Reducing Holiday Stress

The holiday season is officially here and with that comes our never-ending to-do lists leading to an increase in stress for most of us. Those who struggle with anxiety may be wondering how they are going to make it through the next month. Possibly, some of us are even feeling a sense of dread instead of the elusive holiday cheer.

If you’re someone who does feel anxious or more stressed this time of year, fear not. There is hope! There are many simple things you can do to help reduce your stress and anxiety so that you can enjoy spending the holidays with your loved ones.

5 TIPS FOR REDUCING HOLIDAY STRESS AND ANXIETY

1. Practice Mindfulness

To practice mindfulness means to increase your awareness of the present moment. It’s focusing on the here and now.

There are many ways to do this, but the simplest way is to breathe. Taking deep breaths helps you get enough oxygen into your body to help it function at its best. Without enough oxygen, stress can build up leading to physical ailments like heart problems, stomach aches, and trouble sleeping. If you can incorporate 5 minutes of deep breathing into your daily routine, you’ll more than likely notice a difference in your stress level after just a few days.

More Mindfulness Stategies:

  • yoga
  • listening to music
  • guided imagery
  • progressive relaxation
  • meditation
  • focus on your 5 senses

Check out The Mayo Clinic for more mindfulness exercises and how they can help you manage holiday stress.

2. Ask For Help

Most moms tend to struggle with this. I think it’s because society puts pressure on us to do it all and we’re afraid that we might look weak if we can’t. But that’s not true! As you’ve probably heard before,

“It takes a village to raise a child.”

That means that none of us can do it on our own. We just have to learn how to reach out for help without feeling guilty about it. In my experience, when I have asked my friends to help by grabbing something for me from the grocery store or watching my kids for an hour or two while I go to a Dr’s appointment, they have actually been more than willing to help.

Helping others actually makes people feel better about themselves and anyone who is a good friend will want to help you when they can. Plus you can return the favor and help them in the future.

3. Set Boundaries

During the holidays, it can be easy to fill up your social calendar almost every day of the week. Not only are there parties and family gatherings, but you may feel pressure to participate in every food drive or cookie exchange. There are also more community events this time of year like tree lightings and holiday programs at your church or school. Then you have to factor in the time it takes to get your holiday shopping done, write and send out cards, and decorate your home.

There just isn’t enough time to do everything! So we have to say “No” to some things. You may get pushback from family or friends if you decide not to send out holiday cards this year, but that’s ok. You can always send them out for New Years or try again next year to do them earlier when you have more time.

4. Take A Technology Break

We live in a society that expects us to be “on” 24/7. Not only do people want us to answer their texts and phone calls right away, but we’re also constantly being bombarded by new information on social media. Sometimes we just need a day or even a few hours to shut off our devices and unplug from it all.

I purposely leave my phone at home when I exercise because it’s usually the only time I can get a break. If I don’t do this occasionally I find myself getting easily overwhelmed, especially during the holidays. Another idea is to put your phone in another room and turn it on silent for a set amount of time. I know this can be really challenging, but I assure you the phone call or text can wait a few minutes.

5. Be Proactive

Building in time to your schedule for self-care is crucial this time of year, especially for those who struggle with anxiety. I suggest looking at your calendar at least once a week and finding time to exercise. Even if this means 15 minutes of yoga or going for a quick walk. I would even go as far as writing this time down in your calendar so that you are more likely to honor the commitment to yourself.

It’s also important to be aware of what you’re eating and drinking. Limiting your consumption of alcohol and sweets can be challenging with all of the parties and social gatherings this time of year. But having a plan for how you’re going to handle these situations ahead of time can be really helpful. Also, remember that it’s ok to say no even when it’s really tempting to give in. Practicing this with a friend or partner ahead of time can make these difficult situations a little easier to handle.

If you don’t have a support network to help, counseling is another great option for managing holiday stress! I’d be happy to help you figure out if it might be an appropriate time to seek counseling. I offer a free 10 minute phone consultation where we can determine if the services I provide would be a good fit.

You can contact me here to schedule your free consultation today.

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

If you’ve heard of impostor syndrome, chances are you’ve probably felt it at least once in your life. It’s actually a term that’s somewhat new to me. I first heard it a year or so ago when I was telling my husband that I didn’t feel like I knew what I was doing as a blogger.

He told me there was actually a name for that- Impostor Syndrome. It’s when people doubt their skills and accomplishments and they feel like a fraud. When I looked it up, I found out that it was pretty common for bloggers. It helped to know that I was wasn’t the only one who felt this way sometimes.

Now that I’m exploring my options for going back to work as a counselor, I’m starting to feel impostor syndrome again. I haven’t done it in so long and I’m afraid that I won’t know what to say or how to help. Plus how can I help others when I’m dealing with my own problems? Surprisingly, I’ve learned that many counselors feel the same way. The more I learn about it, the more I see that most people have felt like an impostor at some point in their careers.

Letting it stop you from trying the thing you’ve always wanted to do isn’t the only option though. I’ve been working through mine with my counselor and today I realized that for me impostor syndrome comes from being a perfectionist. I put too much pressure on myself to be perfect. So I don’t feel like I’m an expert because I’m not perfect.

But expecting perfection from myself or anyone else is unrealistic. No one is perfect! No matter how hard you try, you can’t know everything there is to know. So instead of focusing on what I don’t know, I’m working on paying more attention to what I do know.

pinterest pin Overcoming Impostor Syndrome

Fighting Impostor Syndrome

To overcome impostor syndrome, I’m working on reminding myself these things:

  • I have the skills I need to be a good counselor.
  • Not only do I have a Master’s degree, but I went through all of the steps to get licensed.
  • I care enough about helping others that I want to make it my job. That has to be a good place to start.
  • Before I had kids, I was building a successful private practice. My clients were coming back so they must have thought it was helping.
  • If I don’t try, I’ll never know if I could have been successful.

This is still a work in progress for me, but I will always have to keep learning and working on myself if I want to be good at anything.

If you’re trying something new or going back to work after some time away, maybe you’ve had the same fears I’ve had. What has helped you to work through the self-doubt?

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Understanding Your Child’s Personality

There are many types of personality tests out there. You may have heard the word Enneagram buzzing around, but I think it’s more than just a new trend. Knowing your child’s personality can be the key to helping you parent and to having a happier family.

If you can understand why someone is doing what they’re doing or not doing it can help you respond in a way that is more likely to make that person feel heard and understood. What parent doesn’t want to have that kind of connection with their child?

I’m not saying that you don’t know your child if you haven’t done a personality test on them. In fact you probably can predict how they will respond to any given scenario nine times out of ten. But do you know why they would respond that way? I’m talking more than understanding if your child is stubborn or easy going. More than if they are outgoing or shy.

Which Animal Are You?

A few months ago, my son came home from school excited to tell me about his day. This is kind of a big deal. Usually when I ask how his day was his response is minimal. I’m lucky to get more than something like, “it was good,” so I was eager to hear more. But as someone who studied psychology, he really started speaking my language when he told me that he took a personality test at school.

He wanted me to take the test too and had extra so that everyone in our family could take it. That night he kept bugging me to take it until I finally did.

Then when I told him my results he just said, “Ok” and walked away. Apparently he wasn’t asking us to take the test because it was for an assignment or homework. He was genuinely curious to know. This was the point that I realized my nine year old is starting to grow up. Maybe he wanted to know what our personality type was because he wanted to understand us better.

The test that we took was The Five Minute Personality Test. It tells you which animal you are most like. When my son told me which animal he was, it made so much sense to me. It has given me more awareness of why he is the way he is. Now when I start to feel frustrated, I remember that he isn’t trying to be difficult, he’s just responding because of the way he thinks about the world. It’s who God made him to be.

Knowing your child’s personality type doesn’t mean you have to change the way you parent completely. Of course if we could all wave a magic wand and know the right way to respond to our children in any situation that would be ideal. But that’s not really realistic. I think just being aware of what your child’s personality type is and noticing when it starts to come out is key.

When people can really stop to think about where others are coming from and truly empathize that is when relationships can thrive. It takes emotional maturity and effort to do, but just reading this post is a start.

4 Types of Personality Tests

I encourage you to take one of the tests listed below and see if you can better understand who your child or even your spouse is.

Maybe next time you have an interaction with them you will remember reading this and simply pause for a brief moment to consider their point of view. Not only how they think about the situation, but how God made them to think about the situation and that he purposely made that to be different than he made you to think about it.

1. Enneagram

The official RHETI can be purchased at The Enneagram Institute for $12. You’ll get a thorough print out of your results including what you’re like at your best and your worst as well as why you get into relationship conflicts and who you are most compatible with. You can also take a free version here, but the results will not include as much detail. There is a ton of information online and social media about the different enneagram types. My favorite accounts to follow on Instagram are @enneagramashton and @enneagramexplained.

2. Myers Briggs

The Myers Briggs Type Indicator explains how people perceive the world and make decisions. It assigns people into four categories: introversion or extraversion, sensing or intuition, thinking or feeling, judging or perceiving. Your result will take one letter from each category such as INJF or ENFP. This test can be really helpful in personal growth and improving relationships, but in my opinion it’s a little more complicated than some of the other personality tests I’ve taken.

3. The Color Code

The Color Code will tell you which color your personality is most like. This test is widely used in Europe by psychologists, government agencies, and universities to screen their candidates. Before you take the test, see if you can guess which color you will be: red, blue, white, or yellow.

4. The 5 Minute Personality Test

This test will tell you which animal you’re most like. I think it’s super easy to take this one to see what your child’s personality type is, because all you do is choose which adjectives are most like them on a scale of 1-4.

Once you determine which animal you are (Lion, Otter, Golden Retriever, or Beaver) then you can see what your natural strengths and weaknesses are. I found it helpful to know that my son who is a beaver, has the desire to be right. It’s also good to know as a parent that he needs security, gradual change, and time to adjust. As a beaver, he is likely to want stability, low risk situations, and tasks that require precision and planning.

When guessing how my husband would answer this test, I found out that his personality is most like the lion. The lions communication style is great at initiation communication and not good at listening. While I’m not sure that this is true 100% of the time, it does help when I feel like he never remembers things I tell him. He also needs to solve problems and wants direct answers. Knowing this about him can help me understand why he gets frustrated with me, the golden retriever, who tends to be indecisive and sacrifice results for the sake of humanity.

It may seem like our personality types are bound to clash, but you know what they say- opposites attract! At least now we can be aware that the other person isn’t trying to push our buttons. They are simply being who they are supposed to be.

Have you taken any of these personality tests before? Were you surprised to find out the results? Stay tuned for more about personality tests for kids.

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From Surviving To Thriving

Being a mom during the pandemic has brought its challenges for all of us. But if we can stop to take a minute to think about what we have learned before we go back to the busyness of life we may realize that it hasn’t all been for nothing.

When looking back over the past year about what I’ve learned, I can see that I’ve grown so much. The pandemic has been a life-changing experience for me. If it weren’t for us being on lockdown last year I may have never gotten to the point of depression where I finally admitted that I needed to take medication. I don’t know if it was the potential for losing someone or if it was the anxiety about whether or not we would get Covid every time we left the house. But I do know that the pandemic triggered something in me that made me feel helpless and hopeless at times.

As hard as it is for me to share this I think people need to know. if you’re in a dark depression, more than likely you may not be aware of it. You may not be aware of the potential for happiness. You may not be aware of what you’ve been missing.

That’s why I think my story is worth sharing.

It’s worth the risk of people looking at me differently. It’s worth the risk of hearing people say “Why were you depressed? But you’re beautiful and you have two beautiful children!”

Because somewhere out there may be someone that isn’t aware of the life they could be living if they accept that they need help. I recently discovered that when you’re in survival mode your brain cannot scientifically process emotion in a healthy way. When you’re responding with a fight or flight response you’re not thinking the way you would if you were calm and balanced. That’s what medication can do for you. It can give you the strength and mental clarity that you need to get back on the right track. So that you can then work through your problems or the traumas that you’ve experienced in your past.

You could spend hundreds of dollars going to see a therapist learning all kinds of coping skills, but if your brain isn’t able to process that information it won’t do you that much good. If the part of your brain that controls your behavior can’t connect with the part that controls your thoughts then you’ll never be able to take the steps that you need to actually live a happier life. Luckily for me I’ve found a good combination of medication and therapy that has enabled me to do the work that I need to do. Now I can focus on learning the coping skills that I need to move through and enjoy life happily.

I asked a few of my mom blogger friends what they learned about themselves over the past year and this is what they had to say.

6 Mom Bloggers Share What They Learned During The Pandemic

Jasmyn of Just Jass

What 2020 taught me was that we shouldn’t keep waiting to pursue something that we have been wanting to do! So many people had told me to start a blog and it took me 6 months and a pandemic to finally hit the launch button!

I’m so glad that I did because my blog has already presented me with so many opportunities and I’m getting to do something I love which is writing! As a SAHM, it has given me something to do other than being a mom. This has ultimately made me a much happier person to be around!

Check out Jasmyn’s blog Just Jass for more about her journey as a stay at home mom as well as tips and tricks on pregnancy and newborns.

Kelly at Mini Mischief Managed

After lock down, I was just as disappointed as my kids that the summer would not include the events, play dates, and scheduled activities we had grown used to. I was ready for a break from being the main entertainment for a three year old and twin one year olds. I was ready to have some of my activities back where I would recharge from the time with them all day. 

When it was clear summer would look nothing like what we hoped, I did two things: 

First, I let go of having a schedule and planning to do certain things each day. We went with the flow of how we were feeling, what the weather was like, and what sounded like fun. It was hard not to have the social interaction I was used to, but also nice to take each hour and day at the pace we wanted, without always considering timelines.

Second, I knew I needed something that wasn’t 100% kid focused to spend time on. Many of my hobbies before kids did not translate well to having kids around due to materials involved, set up, and time required. I needed to find something new that could be done at home. As an avid reader, an unofficial bucket list item has always been to write a book someday. Writing a book fit all my above criteria.

In November 2020 I published my book, “15 Ways For New Moms To Manage Stress & Stay Sane”. This book became a way to document and remember many of the things I did every day as I parented three kids under age three for over a year. It was also a way to connect new moms navigating the parenting world with the help and social support we were used to getting at a time they didn’t have access to it.

The journey wasn’t easy, but I loved having a finished project to show for the time frame when the pandemic affected so much in our lives. As humans, we are resilient; and as moms, we are some of the best at adapting. The best way to start is mentally re-framing your situation to what you can accomplish, and go from there!

Thanks Kelly for sharing your insight. You can follow her and join her online community over at Mini Mischief Managed.

Natasha from Mamahood Mindset

My little boy was just 10 months old when the pandemic hit and we were thrown into our first lockdown. Little did we know it would be a year of repetitive lockdowns and restrictions. As a stay at home mum whose partner continued to go to work, it has been a tough time with lots of challenges.

But amongst the challenges of having nowhere to go, I have learnt so much about mindset and how it can have a huge impact on our day.

I have come to understand how an affirmation can change your beliefs on a subconscious level and therefore change how you feel about a situation. Affirmations have helped me deal with:

  • Dealing with feeling as though I never achieve anything in the day.
  • Helping with anxious thoughts.
  • Feeling as though I always need to be doing something
  • Fighting against mum guilt.

Gratitude has helped me to see the good that is in my life. To be thankful for where I am and what I have. It has helped to lift my mood and has left me feeling happy with where I am in life.

Lockdown has shown me so much about myself and has set me off on a mindset journey that I am still learning from and enjoying. It has changed the way I think and has made me stronger. It has also changed the direction of my blog, and following a re-brand all about mindset and self care.

Check out Natasha’s blog over at Mamahood Mindset to learn more!

Yasmin from Lovely_MommaLife

The pandemic has taught me that life shouldn’t have to revolve around work. I have come out of the past year as a stay at home mom. It gave me a lot of time to reflect on what I want from life. When I look back on my life, what will I be glad to have done?

For me, I don’t want to miss out on my daughter’s milestones and stages before she starts school. I feel like I would miss out on this by returning to work, because I was finishing as late as 6pm. By the time I would get back that would mean missing a whole day with my child. I’d have to settle her to bed and then do it all over again the next day.

I had a lot of time while furloughed and then on maternity leave to see how life would be. It helped me to come to the best decision for me. There is no right or wrong to whether anyone becomes a stay at home mom. I just know that there is the best decision for everyone. Only we can decide what that is. So many jobs require a lot of hours, then add the commute and it feels like your life has to revolve around work.

The pandemic allowed companies to have people working in a different way. To work from home and here in the UK, jobs are still having people work from home mostly. It shows that things could change. We don’t need to spend a lot of time working in a set place and having to commute each work day. Depending on the role, we can work from home. It is so nice that many people have been at home more with their families. I feel like this would be so beneficial if it could happen more, no matter how little the steps.

Being at home every step of the way so far with my daughter has been incredible. My daughter Birdie is 7 months old now and she loves getting plenty of interaction with those close to her. Nothing makes her happier more than just having me there, smiling and playing with her. The lockdown did impact her ability to adjust to others. Now that things have eased, it is valuable to bring Birdie to baby groups. To enjoy play dates with other babies and people. It’s such a special time.

Yasmin’s blog is Lovely_MommaLife. Make sure to head over there to read more about her life as a stay at home mom and for some tips on self love.

Robyn at A Dime Saved

I learned that so much of parenting is in the attitude. If you make it fun, then it is fun. Your kids don’t need camp or fun vacations- if you make something exciting, they will think it’s exciting.

Kids don’t care how stupid or silly an activity is. They care that you are trying to have fun with them. When our kids look back at this period, they will remember all the fun family activities we did with them. They will not forget that we were positive and focused on our family, even when there was so much that we couldn’t do. 

Creating positive memories for my kids- no matter the circumstances – is the most important thing to me. Not only is it fun, but it gives them a sense of security. No matter how crazy the world is- we can still have a good time as a family. 

Our kids can do without a lot of things if they need to. We think they need a lot of stuff and a lot of stimulation. But the fact is that if kids have a loving environment, then that is enough. 

Check out Robyns blog A Dime Saved for tons of fun activities that you can do with your family.

Subarna at The Mommys Corner

Indeed this pandemic has taught us a lot. Our lives have been changed. We all went through a tough situation but it has taught us many life lessons that we kept on ignoring earlier. By God’s grace, we are doing well and I am thankful for that.

In my life, there is a sunny side to this darkness. I launched my blog last summer and it is going to be 1 year old very soon. I was a web developer before being a stay-at-home mom and I always wished to have my little corner on this internet. So I fulfilled my dream and started my blog TheMommysCorner. We often give excuses that we don’t have much time to pursue our dreams but it’s not true. We have enough time, but we lack enough desire to pursue our dreams.

What did you learn about yourself during the pandemic? Have you stopped to think about it? If so, we’d love for you to share your experience in the comments.

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It’s Ok To Admit Defeat

Ok so I know that phrase, “It’s ok to not be ok” is trending, but what does it really mean? For me, it means that it’s ok to admit that I can’t do it alone anymore. It’s ok for me to get help with depression and anxiety. The more I talk about it, the more I realize how many other moms with depression and anxiety there are.

I’ve struggled off and on with depression and anxiety since I was a teenager. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably already know this. It wasn’t until the past few years, that I accepted that it’s ok to admit it though. I spent so many years wanting to help others escape the pain of depression and anxiety, but I didn’t fully face my own issues until recently.

What that looked like for me was admitting that even though I had a Master’s degree in counseling, it was still ok to need counseling myself. For so many years, I found excuses for avoiding it. I have probably made every excuse in the book.

My Excuses Were:

It costs too much.

What if someone finds out?

There aren’t any counselors that I don’t already know.

What if they think I’m crazy?

I don’t have enough time.

What if I don’t like them?

I don’t need to pay someone to tell me to do what I already know I need to do.

But let me tell you this, now that I have found a counselor that I really like and the right combination of medicine, my only regret is not starting it sooner. A friend recently said that she wished when she had her first child that someone had pushed her a little harder to start antidepressant medication. Now that she’s on it, she can see how much it’s helping her.

Another friend said that once she started taking anti-depressants she thought, “Wow, is this how good everyone else feels? I had no idea how depressed I was before!”

Moms with depression can feel too overwhelmed to get help.

I know how hard it is to get yourself out of bed some days. Making yourself go through the motions to get your kids to school and make sure your house doesn’t burn down can be exhausting to any mom. Add depression to the mix, and it can feel almost impossible. So I get why reaching out for help can be the last thing you want to do. I promise it will be worth it.

Depression and anxiety can also make you think you’re a bad mom. If you’re already feeling worthless and hopeless, having kids who seem to never be satisfied can make you feel like you’re never enough. For some strange reason, there is a societal pressure to be super mom. We’re expected to get up at 5 am just so we can shower, wash our hair, put on a fresh face, pack our kids organic lunches, and send them off to school with bows in their hair and a smile.

If you struggle with anxiety, you already know that you second guess every decision you make. If you don’t you probably spend alot of your time comparing yourself to every other mom, wondering if you’re doing a good enough job. But I promise you, if you are keeping your kids fed and dressed (even if that means they wear pjs all day while doing virtual school), you are enough! If you’re feeling like you just can’t do it anymore though, that’s ok too.

Just because it’s ok to feel that way, to not feel ok or like you can’t provide your kids their basic needs anymore, doesn’t mean you have to suffer. Learn from my mistakes and admit defeat before you spend one more day suffering.

Reach Out For Help

If you don’t know where to begin, just try. Call your mom or call your best friend and tell them that you’re riding the struggle bus. I promise you that you are not alone.

The more you talk about how hard being a mom is, the more you will find that you aren’t the only one who struggles.

Here are 10 celebrity moms with depression that you probably didn’t even know struggled!

I’m not saying that you have to go see a counselor or take medication if motherhood feels like a struggle to you. There’s no mom out there who hasn’t struggled at some point since becoming a mom.

What I am saying though is if you are at the point where you just can’t do it anymore, it’s ok. It’s ok to not be ok, but that doesn’t mean you have to not be ok forever.

tip for moms with depression

Sometimes it’s hard to know if what you’re feeling is the sadness that everyone experiences at some point or if what you’re feeling is depression.

Healthline lists the following 8 symptoms that might help you decide if it’s time to get help:

Possible Signs of Depression:

  1. Hopeless outlook
  2. Loss of interest in things you used to enjoy
  3. Increased fatigue and sleep problems
  4. Anxiety
  5. Irritability
  6. Changes in appetite and weight
  7. Uncontrollable emotions
  8. Thinking about death more often

If you’re unsure, it doesn’t hurt to reach out for help either way. Even if the sadness or other emotions you’re feeling are not depression, it’s still ok to talk to a therapist. Or find a friend that you can share how you’re feeling with. If you don’t have a friend that you feel comfortable talking to, I’m always here to listen!

Make sure to share this post with other moms with depression and anxiety so they can see that they aren’t alone!

Pinterest 8 signs you may need help with depression sad mom and daughter trying to console her

The Rise Of Anxiety In Kids

You might not be surprised to hear that the rate of people who are experiencing anxiety has increased over the past year. It’s not hard to imagine why this would be the case given the uncertainty we’ve all been facing.

What I hadn’t considered is how much it has affected our children. The National Center for Biotechnology Information recently published a study conducted in China. The study showed symptoms of anxiety in kids increasing by 15.79% from 2019 to 2020.

Even though kids are less likely to get COVID they are still feeling the stress of it, like the rest of us. I do believe that kids are resilient, but I also think they’re feeling anxious more than we realize.

When I heard this, I started thinking about some of the challenges we’ve been facing in our house.

Sleep Regression

For example, my son has been waking up in the middle of the night more often over the past few months. He comes in our bedroom saying that he’s scared and ends up sleeping with us. While this could be attributed to a number of things, part of me wonders if it’s related to the pandemic. He’s also regressed a little bit and gone back to showing some symptoms of separation anxiety.

He doesn’t want to go upstairs in our house without an adult. Some separation anxiety is typical for young kids, but he had kind of grown out of that before the pandemic.

He used to feel comfortable going anywhere in our house as long as his older brother was with him.  Now he waits on the stairs for me to go with him even to grab something from his bedroom.

Using Art To Talk About Feelings

As a former play therapist, I’m always thinking about ways to get my kids to use art or play to show me what they’re feeling. When I recently attended a training on childhood anxiety, I was reminded about how kids need things to be tangible.  They don’t always have the language developed yet to tell you how they’re feeling. So giving them a way to show you what they’re thinking or feeling gives them what they need to communicate that with you.

When I asked my son the other day to tell me why he didn’t want to go in the bathroom without me, he said it was because he was afraid of monsters.  Instead of saying, “But you know monsters aren’t real,” I asked him to tell me more about it.

He wasn’t really able to tell me what the monster looked like, but I could tell he was trying to describe it. He paused for a moment and said that it was hard to describe. Then about 5 minutes later, he told me that it wasn’t a monster it was a bug.

I asked him if he could draw a picture of it, but he said he didn’t want to. I didn’t push him too hard, because I knew that wouldn’t help. So we talked about how he knows Taekwondo and he can fight any monsters that come around.

I also reminded him that if there are any bugs in our house, they are probably going to be tiny and he’s so much bigger than them. He kept asking me questions about bugs over the next few days. Anytime he did I answered them of course. The cool thing that happened was he slept through the night for a few days.

I also asked my other son to draw a picture of something he worries about. He doesn’t want me to share his picture, and I’m going to respect that. I was surprised to find out what he drew though and was able to give him some reassurance.

Name It To Tame It

What I’ve learned about anxiety is that talking about it doesn’t make it worse. In order to learn to manage it, you have to understand what’s causing it. That means figuring out what is causing the fear or worry, and then learning how to cope with it.

Prior to going back to school in October, my kids had been at home with me all day every day for 7 months. We weren’t really going anywhere and spending much time with friends. So naturally, they were more comfortable at home with me. It would be normal for going back to school face to face to trigger some anxiety for them.

The New Normal

Then when they did go back to school in October, there were all these new rules. Changes had to be made to keep everyone safe and school doesn’t look like it used to. Their old routines have been disrupted. Now they have to wear masks and sit further apart from their friends. Some of their friends aren’t even in the building!

My kids told me about a really cool game they play at recess where they use a pool noodle for tag. Instead of tagging each other, they touch them with a pool noodle. Even though this isn’t a negative thing, it’s still something different that they have to adjust to. They’re also only allowed to play with kids in their class at recess in a certain section of the playground. Every other year, they could play wherever they wanted and with kids from other classes in their grade.

To make matters worse, my kids have heard the grown-ups in their life talking about COVID and how many people have gotten it. Despite how much we’ve tried to protect them from the bad news, I’m sure they have overheard us talking about it.

The more you think about it, the more obvious it is why kids are more anxious.

We also have to remember how literal kids’ thinking is. It’s very black and white. So if your child hears you talking about how many people have died from COVID, it wouldn’t be unusual for them to automatically think their parents might die if they get it.

This is another reason why we need to be careful about what we say in front of our kids. I’ve tried really hard to remind my kids that even if mommy or daddy get COVID, we’ll probably just get sick. We’re healthy and we don’t have any pre-existing health conditions. But it’s not that easy for kids to make that connection if you don’t reassure them.

My Anxiety Monster

I also did the art activity that I referenced earl myself. I was surprised what came to my mind when I started drawing my anxiety monster. What I thought of when I was drawing it is how stressed and tired my anxiety makes me feel sometimes.

I started drawing my monster to be an old person with crazy hair, but then had a memory about when I was a kid and watched the movie Signs. There’s a scene in that movie where an alien crosses across the screen briefly. That part always freaked me out!

My anxiety looks like a green alien with his hands in the air

I think that drawing my anxiety monster brought out some fears that I have been trying to avoid thinking about for a long time! When I was a kid, I remember being afraid that aliens would come and abduct me in my sleep. Luckily I no longer have that fear, but apparently it’s still something that comes up for me sometimes!

The uncertainty and constant changes we’ve been facing over the past year have led to added stress for all of us. Some people may be better at hiding it than others, but I think it’s safe to say we’ve all been affected in one way or another.

I’ve personally been pretty proud of how well my kids have adjusted and adapted to all this uncertainty! Our school has gone back and forth from virtual school to in-person multiple times this year. Some weeks that change has come unexpectedly, and everyone has had to quickly adjust.

Thank goodness kids are resilient.

At the same time, that constant need to adapt and change their routine has been hard on them! So no wonder the rate of childhood anxiety is going up.

The good news is that there is hope. Taking time to talk to your kids about how they feel and empowering them to cope with their fears can help.

Strategies for managing anxiety in kids

Strategies For Managing Anxiety In Kids

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Books

There are tons of books that can help you start a conversation with your child about what’s causing their anxiety. Here are a few of my favorite:

My Monster and Me by Nadiya Hussain

Penelope Perfect by Shannon Anderson

Wilma Jean the Worry Machine by Julia Cook

Jonathan James and the Whatif Monster by Michelle Nelson-Schmidt

Worry Says What by Allison Edwards

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival

Workbooks

These are great workbooks for parents to do at home with their kids.

  • Worry Wars: An Anxiety Workbook for Kids and Their Special Adult by Paris Goodyear Brown

  • What To Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kids Guide To Overcoming Anxiety by Dawn Huebner

Art Activities

  • Worry Stone: When my son was having issues with anxiety about going to school last year his school counselor gave him a strategy that really helped him! She gave him a worry stone that he kept in his pocket and could hold when he was starting to get upset. He carried it everywhere and it really helped him a lot!
  • Worry Pet: Here’s a really cool similar strategy. If you’re feeling crafty, you and your child can make a worry pet. They can use take it to school to remind them to use their calm down strategies when they’re feeling anxious. It also helps them know that they have something friendly in their bag in case they need it.
  • Homemade Play Doh: You can make play doh with your kids and add soothing essential oils like lavender. Playing with play doh is a great way to pound out your frustrations or stress! Here’s one recipe for Calming Homemade Playdough by Brandi Brown.
  • Worry Worms– This is a great way for your child to tell you about what their worries are without even realizing it. It’s adapted from Paris Goodyear Brown’s book Worry Wars and an activity I used often with my play therapy clients. All you have to do is make worms out of construction paper and hide them around your house. Every time your child finds a worm, they have to tell you something they worry about. It’s an easy way to get the conversation about anxiety going with your child.

Mindfulness Activities

  • Here are 40+ Mindfulness Activities by fellow mom blogger Alice at Mommy to Mom. She breaks them down by age and even has some ideas for teaching mindfulness to your babies!
  • We love doing Cosmic Kids Yoga on Youtube. There are some really fun videos like Pokemon,  Minecraft, and Harry Potter that are great for little boys. They have tons of different ones for every age and interest though.
  • Calm Down Glitter Jar: This article from Kumarah Yoga teaches you how to make a calm down glitter jar. Depending on how flexible their teacher is, this is another strategy that your child could use a school.

Hopefully these strategies will help you and your child manage anxiety better. I have a few more strategies included in my previous post 8 Tips for Helping Kids with Back to School Anxiety.

If your child is experiencing anxiety or worry to the point where you feel like it’s beyond something you can help them with please make sure to seek professional help.

If you’re unsure if your child is anxious, here are a few common symptoms of anxiety in kids to look out for:

  1. Difficulty sleeping or frequently waking up in the middle of the night (after already sleeping through the night).
  2. Frequent stomach aches without an underlying medical reason.
  3. Clinginess to parents or becoming really upset when having to separate from caregiver.
  4. Explosive outbursts- this can sometimes be misinterpreted as misbehavior.
  5. Difficulty sitting still and/or constantly fidgeting.

These aren’t the only indicators that a child is anxious. Sometimes it can be hard to know if a child is struggling because many of the symptoms above can also be normal depending on their stage of development. Check out this article on Child Mind Institute for their advice on when to worry about an anxious child.

Calling your child’s pediatrician is always a great place to start. You can also find a registered play therapist on the Association For Play Therapy’s website here.

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8 Things To Say To Someone Who Is Depressed

If you’ve never actually been depressed yourself, it can be hard to know the right thing to say to someone else who’s going through it. But that doesn’t mean you can’t help.

Sometimes when I go through periods of depression everything just feels so hard. It can be a struggle to do little things, like going to the grocery store to buy a carton of milk. Every little thing can feel so overwhelming and huge. Sometimes when my depression gets really bad, all I want to do is sleep. This can go on for days. Fortunately though, or maybe unfortunately- when I get like this I know it’s going to get better, because I’ve been through it before.

Hope Shines Brightest In The Darkness

It’s not always easy, but I can usually see the light at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes it feels so far away and sometimes it does take time to get there. I’m not sure how much easier that really makes it, but it does give me a small amount of hope. And when my depression gets really bad, any tiny little bit of hope is enough to get me through to the next day.

Offering hope is important when someone is depressed

I was going through a dark period like this last week. I’m not sure what exactly it was that helped me climb out of it, but I did. Maybe it was buying myself a really expensive pillow, or maybe it was going for a run on a beautiful day by the river. It could have been the friend I reached out to who said what I really needed to hear. Maybe it was the fact that I was able to get an appointment to see a psychiatrist so that I can hopefully get on the right medication. I’m sure it was actually a combination of all these things, but after I reached out to that one friend it felt like a turning point for me.

She was the cheerleader that I needed to get me out of my funk. 

I’ve noticed how hard these episodes of depression can be on my family. And I can see how helpless they feel when they don’t know what else to do to help and they don’t feel like they know the right words to say. I’m sure other people feel the same, so I wanted to share some things that people have said that helped me. So that you can be the cheerleader that your loved one needs the next time they’re struggling.

8 THINGS TO SAY TO HELP WHEN SOMEONE IS DEPRESSED

1. It’s going to be ok.

2. I may not understand, but I’m here for you.

3. You are not alone.

Depression can feel SO isolating, but knowing that you don’t have to go through it alone can make a huge difference.

4. You matter to me.

5. Let’s go for a walk.

Get them out of the house. Being stuck inside is not good for someone who is depressed. 

6. You are strong enough to get through this.

7. Even though you’re going through this, you are still a good mom.

Mom guilt is bad enough on a regular day, but when you’re depressed you feel like you’re not good enough. You get into a spiral of negative thinking and then of course you feel like a horrible mom. Check out my previous post here for some tips on getting through mom guilt.

8. It’s ok to not be ok.

These are some of the things you can say to help someone who is depressed. But in the end, showing that you care is what matters most.

If someone you know is struggling with depression, help them get the help they need. They don’t have to suffer! Psychology Today is a great resource for finding therapists in your area or they can always talk to their primary care doctor.

Maybe there’s someone you know who you think might be depressed, but you’re not really sure. Here are a few signs and symptoms of depression that might help you decide whether or not you should talk to them about it.

COMMON SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF DEPRESSION

  • They stop wanting to hang out as much as usual.
  • Avoiding your calls or texts.
  • Frequently canceling plans.
  • Their mind seems to be somewhere else.
  • Constantly focusing on the negative.
  • Having a hard time getting things done at work, school, or around the house.
  • Has lost interest in doing things they normally do.
  • Doesn’t want to get out of bed and/or thinks about going back to bed when they wake up in the morning.
  • Headaches and muscle pain or other physical symptoms without a medical reason.
  • Sudden weight loss or gain.

Here’s an anxiety and depression checklist that might help you decide if you should be concerned. The National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) also has great resources including free online support groups.

If you’ve ever struggled with depression, what’s something that someone said that helped you?

pinterest 8 things to say when someone is depressed

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Living With Anxiety And Depression In Times Of Extreme Uncertainty 

You Are Loved

My Anxious Life

 

More Than Just A Mom

Have you ever felt like you didn’t know what to do with your life? If you’re a mom I’m sure you’re probably always busy. You have a never-ending list of things that need to be done like housework, grocery shopping, giving your kids attention, and trying to find time to exercise. Or you’re working a 9-5 job, but you just aren’t feeling fulfilled. Maybe that’s because you haven’t asked yourself the right questions to help you with finding your passion.

My inspiration:

I personally always thought I knew what my purpose in life was, but when I became a mom, it seemed so out of reach. For a long time, my dream was to be a pediatrician. When I was 8 or 9, I got a human skeleton kit for Christmas. I remember spending hours learning about all of the bones- what their names were and where they were supposed to go. Then I’d put the whole thing together and take it apart over and over. I was fascinated!

Seeing the movie Patch Adams inspired me to be a doctor even more. I wanted to be just like Patch Adams and open a clinic for sick kids. It was going to be a place that would be fun and kids wouldn’t be scared to go there. 10 years or so later, I still had that same dream. I started out college as pre-med, but after the first semester, I realized it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I hated chemistry and biology, and spending the next 7+ years learning about those subjects sounded daunting!

The problem was, I had convinced myself so early on that I had to be a doctor and had no clue what my other options were. I was also ashamed and thought everyone would be disappointed if I gave up on my dream so easily.

Luckily no one really cared!

Besides maybe volleyball, my favorite class at the time was psychology. I easily changed my major and then got my master’s in counseling. After going through multiple losses as a child, and then my dad in college, I realized what I really wanted to do was help people. I wanted to help kids who had experienced loss too. People were always telling me they thought I was good with kids and I really enjoyed being around them. So it felt like working with children in some capacity was what God wanted me to do with my life.

When I first became a mom, I was working part-time at a psychiatric hospital while trying to build a play therapy practice. Juggling two jobs as a new mom didn’t last long and I eventually closed my practice. Not only was I feeling burnt out and exhausted, but I was really self-conscious about the fact I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt like a fraud trying to tell other people how to parent. Honestly, all I really wanted was to be at home with my baby.

Changing Directions

At that time, I started working for an insurance company doing reviews for behavioral healthcare. Even though the job paid really well, I started feeling less fulfilled. That experience taught me that money isn’t everything and reminded me that what I really wanted to do with my life was make a positive impact.

When my 2nd son was born, we decided that the cost of daycare wasn’t worth the long hours and emotional stress my job was causing. So, I became a stay-at-home-mom. I remember thinking how great it would be to not have to “work” anymore. Being a full-time mom and housewife wasn’t all it had been cracked up to be though. We’ve all heard the term, the grass is always greener. It’s so true! Even though the 2nd time around with a newborn was much easier for us, I was always exhausted and constantly waiting for the day to end.

Starting Over

Our original plan had been that I’d go back to work once both our boys were in school.  When that time finally came, I had no clue what I wanted to do! I’d spent all those years in school getting a degree to become a counselor, but I just couldn’t see myself doing it anymore.

I got a part-time job at a church where I worked weekends, but that meant getting to spend less time with my family. Somewhere during that time I started blogging, but I wasn’t spending much time on it. Mainly because I didn’t HAVE any time!

Then my husband encouraged me to quit the job at the church and start writing more. It seemed like it could really be my dream job. The hours would be flexible and I could do two of the things I enjoy- helping people by sharing my experiences and writing.

Little did I know how much it would take to build a successful blog though. Finally now after about 2 ½ years it’s starting to feel more like I’m doing what I should be doing with my life.

Writing about the struggles of being a mom is therapeutic and it also gives me a sense of purpose. When I start to have doubts, I remember that maybe there’s a mom out there somewhere that needs to hear what I have to say. That drives me to make myself keep going.

One lesson I’ve learned is that you can always find a way to do what you love, but nothing in life is EVER really easy. Actually, the things in life that are worth doing can sometimes be THE HARDEST!

Here’s what helped me find my passion:

So many people have helped me figure out what to do with my life over the past 15 years since graduation. They all basically said the same thing, “You just need to find your passion!”

This topic was once a source of frustration and pain, because I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I felt like I’d spent my whole life trying to figure that out! At one point, I thought maybe I was meant to “just be a mom”.  There were times when it felt like I had even lost my identity completely to motherhood. Now I know that for that season of my life, my job was actually to be “just a mom.”

As I approach 40 this year, now I’m realizing that not everyone knows what they want to be right after college. Actually, I think most people change careers at some point, especially moms.

The more I thought about the question “what are you passionate about?” the more I could see that there were actually a lot of things. It took a few years for me to really figure it out, but my goals in life are pretty simple.

They fall into 3 categories:

  • Achieving World Peace
  • Saving the Environment
  • Finding a Cure for Cancer

Ok, maybe they’re not so simple after all. But there are little things I can do that will help make an impact.

I can help moms see that they aren’t alone by sharing my parenting struggles. I can teach my kids how to be more aware of how our actions harm the environment.

Sometimes I think I can help achieve world peace, but then I realize I can’t control how others think or what they do. What I can do is try to be a positive influence on other people.

Now I’m realizing that it’s ok that I struggled with finding my passion at first. At that time in my life, my job actually WAS to take care of my kids. That was the whole reason I became a stay-at-home mom when I did.

So, if you’re like I was a few years ago and just starting to think about what you want to do with your life at 35, you aren’t alone. Finding your passion can be really overwhelming at first! If you can find time in your busy schedule, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the questions below though. Maybe they’ll help you start to see what you’re meant to do.

Text HOW MOMS CAN FIND THEIR PASSION AFTER KIDS with image of a mom on a computer

5 Questions to Consider When Finding Your Passion:

1) What brings you joy?

What makes you happy and gives you the feel-good vibes? What makes you smile when you think about it? For me, it’s getting outside. I’m at my happiest when I’m outside, especially when I’m near water. Going to the beach or to the river by our house helps me feel calm and it makes me feel more grounded.

When I start to feel off-balance, I try to go outside for a walk or run. It’s not always easy with my kids’ busy schedules, but my husband knows that it’s something I need to do in order to stay sane!  Here are some other ways I stay balanced as a busy mom. 

2) What drives you to wake up in the morning?

Besides your alarm, what are the things that motivate you to crawl out of bed instead of hitting snooze all day? For many people the answer is money and for moms, it’s usually our kids. We usually don’t have a choice but to wake up and make them breakfast or to make sure they aren’t going to burn the house down.

Try to think about it differently though. If you had all the time and money in the world what would you want to spend your day doing?

3) What do you want to learn more about?

What are you interested in? When you were in school, what were your favorite subjects or the ones you were best at?

4) What do you wish you could do more often?

Again, forget about how busy you are and just think about the things you wish you had more time to do. If this season of your life is too full it’s ok. You can come back to them later when you have more down time.

5) What are the things you care about most?

Are there any causes that you want to get more involved in like rescuing animals or reducing pollution? Once you’ve spent time thinking about these things, find a way to do them more often. Maybe you can volunteer while your kids are in school or on the weekends. Or maybe you just spend time learning more about an organization that interests you.

Do what works for you.

If you don’t have time to volunteer right now, maybe you can donate money or resources to organizations that support these things. For you, it could be that being on a committee or emailing someone who works there to share your ideas.

I’ve been involved as a volunteer in many roles over the years as a stay-at-home mom. Sometimes the most valuable person in a meeting was the person who suggested a fundraiser that we hadn’t thought of. Or maybe they had a connection to someone who we didn’t and were able to start a conversation that we wouldn’t have had otherwise. Even if they weren’t able to see the idea through, there were others in the organization who knew of a group of people who could help.

Sometimes a little help can go a long way too. Part of my job when I worked at the church was recruiting volunteers to help with special events. Without the guy who came to help move heavy boxes for 30 minutes, we would have never been able to put on the Christmas event for our families. You might not realize it, but a few minutes of your time once a quarter can have a big impact.

Maybe you aren’t at the stage of your life where you have time to do what you’re passionate about. Or you might not have any clue how to figure that out right now. That’s ok. Being a mom is an important job too and it may actually be the most important one of all.

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Finding Joy In The Chaos

Finding joy during the chaos of the holidays can be almost impossible sometimes. It’s easy to get so caught up in your to-do list that you forget the reason you’re celebrating in the first place. 

The song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” has been playing on repeat in my head. It’s kind of like a slap in the face at times, because there’s a chance this year it really will be just me celebrating by myself. If we’re lucky, we may get to spend time with our immediate family, but it will be a little different. We won’t give each other hugs, and we’ll try to keep 6 feet apart.

There’s also a chance that I’ll be in quarantine in my bedroom if the COVID test I took on Friday comes back positive. It’s more than likely just a bad sinus infection for me, but there’s always that fear that I’ve got the virus.

Since so many other people are in the same boat, the testing sites are overcrowded with multiple hour waits. And test results that might normally be back in 3 days are taking 5. So my anxiety is a little bit ramped up right now. 

Remember last year when I wrote about Managing Holiday Stress? Well on top of all the usual chaos of the holidays, this year we all get to add in more things to worry about. 

For me the added stress is questioning: 

  • Do I have COVID or is it just a bad cold? 
  • Should we get together with our families?
  • If we do see our families for the holidays, what does that look like?
  • Should we order dinner so that we don’t have to worry about making everything and then having to change our plans at the last minute? 
  • Is it safe to travel across state lines?
  • What about that one relative who doesn’t believe in wearing masks, are we going to take the risk and see them?

So yeah, I think it’s safe to say that stress levels are at an all time high for us all.

Despite these things, I truly believe it’s still possible to have a Merry Christmas this year.
A few nights ago I watched the cheesy “chic flick” as my hubby likes to call them, “The Secret: Dare To Dream.” This movie is based on the book “The Secret'”, by Rhonda Byrne. 

The book is about the idea of positive thinking and how each of us has the ability to impact the outcome of our lives with our thoughts. It was a good reminder to me that life really is what you make it. It may seem cliche or hoaky poaky to some of you, but I think that if you believe something in your heart, you really can influence the way that your life turns out.

thinking positively despite others negativity

The thing is, it’s all about perception.

Let me give you an example. I have two boys who are close to the same age (6 and 8). One of them seems to approach most things in life with a glass-half-empty point of view and the other is usually a little more optimistic. 

I told a friend the other day that my oldest is my emo kid. My other son is super laid back and easy going. So when we deliver bad news to both of them, it seems like the older one immediately gets upset and starts to think the worst. The younger one, often responds with things like, “That’s ok. We can still have fun!” 

A change in plans.

We found out last week that my brother, sister-in-law, and their kids won’t be able to come for Christmas this year due to increased COVID cases where we live and potential exposures within our immediate family. We’ve been looking forward to them coming for a few months. We were all optimistic that if we were extra careful, and stayed home the weeks leading up to the holidays they would be able to make it. But sometimes the best laid plans fall to pieces. Understandably, they decided that it’s too risky to travel from Texas to Georgia given everything going on. 

I waited to tell my kids because I knew they would be disappointed. Plus the day I found out they weren’t coming was also the day of their holiday parties at school. They were super excited about being off for the Winter Break and I didn’t want to ruin that. 

The next day, my oldest must have heard our conversations and figured out what was going on. Either that or he put two and two together when playdates started getting canceled, school had to switch to virtual learning, and we started avoiding playgrounds if there were any other kids there. 

So he asked me if his cousins were still coming for Christmas. I had to tell him the truth and give him the bad news. I could see the disappointment in his eyes. So I gave him permission to be sad. I told him I was disappointed too, but told him that it just wasn’t safe to travel right now. He stormed off to his room and started crying. When I went in to talk to him, he said, “This is the worst day of my life!”

Staying Optimistic

My 6 year old walked in a few minutes later and asked what was wrong. I explained that his cousins weren’t going to be able to come for Christmas and his response was, “Oh….Hey mom can you read me a book?” Then he tried to console his brother and said something about how we could still do other fun stuff right? 

Both of my kids had valid responses to the situation and were disappointed, but one reacted with a more positive outlook than the other. Just like moms can also choose how to react to the chaos they may be experiencing right now- The chaos caused by all the uncertainty and fear that we’re facing. 

You can choose to react with sadness, disappointment, and anger. You can choose to get angry about your circumstances and blame others for why things aren’t going the way you hoped. 

Or you can choose joy.

Pinterest image that says finding joy in the chaos

You can celebrate the small things that are going right for your family. Celebrate that you can be together.

Find something small to be thankful for in each moment. It could be that you have food to eat for Christmas dinner. Even if it’s not the usual 5-course meal with all of your relatives. Maybe you can think of the bright side that you and your kids have more time to spend with each other this year rather than traveling from place to place to spend time with all the different sides of your family. 

If you decide to see your family, you can be thankful that you get to spend the holidays with them. And you can celebrate the fact that you’re healthy enough to be together.  

Moms, you can still make the holidays bright for your family this year, no matter what your individual circumstances are. Sometimes it’s hard to see the light in all the darkness, but if you take time to open your eyes you will. It’s there! 

Moving Forward

On that note, I’m going to be taking a few weeks off to reflect on 2020. As much as I just want to forget about this year altogether, it will be good to reflect on the good and the bad. How can I learn from my mistakes and parts of my life I want to improve if I don’t acknowledge them? 

I’m not going to dwell on the past too much though. Since there was so much to be sad about this year, it will be more fun to focus on the future. 

We’re all hoping that 2021 will be a better year. I think it’s looking like that’s entirely possible. Yes, I know the virus isn’t going away, but I have hope. I AM trying to put out positive thoughts that I want for 2021, remember?

What will you focus on this holiday season as we get ready to start a new year? Share in the comments how you’re going to celebrate joy and what you have to be merry about this holiday season. 

Get “The Secret” on Amazon here:the cover of the book "The Secret" by Rhonda Byrne

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Here’s Why Asking For Help Is So Hard For Moms

Why is it that every self-help article or book for moms reminds us that we have to ask for help yet moms still don’t do it?

For one thing, we all have this mentality that we should be super mom and that we have to do it all. Or at least I do anyway. Maybe that just comes from my competitive nature and the desire to be the best at everything.

I’m working on not comparing myself to others, but that’s hard to do! Especially when sometimes it feels like everyone else around me is happy and I’m not.

To make matters worse, moms are constantly being bombarded with more things to-do.

My To-do List On A Typical Day

“Mom I need more clean underwear! “

Suddenly I remember that I forgot to do that load of laundry before I ran out the door to carpool. Now I set out to move the huge pile of dirty clothes to the basement laundry room, sort it, remember to switch the clean clothes from the wash to the dryer, fold them or at least sort by person, then I can put some underwear in my son’s drawer.

As I’m going through the clean clothes I remember that my 8 year old has had yet another growth spurt and none of his pants from last year fit anymore. I make a mental note to shop online later and order him some more pants. Then I remember that the pants I ordered online last week from brands he usually wears were long enough but too loose in the waist. Maybe I can find some on Ama….I think as my thoughts are interrupted by my youngest son.

laundry piling up because the mom doesn't want to ask for help

“Mom, what are we having for dinner?”

Oh yeah, I’m getting to that, as soon as I finish the laundry. Crap I forgot about the dishes in the sink. As I’m going to the sink I remember that when I did the grocery pick up order this week they were out of low carb tortillas, so I have to run out to the store if we want to have taco night. I didn’t defrost any other meat and it’s 5:30, so that’s our only option.

Husband: “You know we could just get take out. That would be a lot easier.”

But we’ve eaten take out the past 2 nights and I know that’s not good for us. We were just at the pediatrician’s office last week and I had to fudge on my answer when the nurse asked how often we eat fast food per week. Plus it costs a lot of money. And if we want to stay within our budget this month we can’t eat out every single night!

mom on computer with kids climbing on her with text Here's Why Asking For Help Is So Hard For Moms

This is the constant battle moms have to face.

Figuring out how to do what’s best for our kids, but at the same time finding the best work/life balance. Which is another added stressor for many of us moms.

We’re constantly asking ourselves:

  • Do I go back to work full time or do I continue being a stay at home mom?
  • Do I take on more hours at work so we can be in a better situation with our finances?
  • Or do I continue working part-time so that I can be there more for my kids?
  • Maybe I should pick up a “side hustle” so that we can save even more. Plus my friend’s always asking me to join her business selling stuff. Then I could get it for free! (Ahem I’ve tried this one a few times!)

Another reason that we don’t ask for help is that we don’t see other moms doing it very often.

How many times have you seen a friend struggling and said, “let me know if you need anything” only to realize 6 months later that you never heard from them? Then you find out they were struggling a lot of that time and they didn’t reach out. They figured out how to make it through it themselves, or maybe they just didn’t want to ask for help.

Mom who is pretending to be brave and strong like a superhero.

Why is that? It’s not easy to admit that you can’t do everything it takes to be a mom on your own. We all want to show that we’re strong. Or we want to BE strong. We don’t want to admit defeat. Plus we know deep down that all the pressure we’re under is worth having kids. And we know that it’s not going to last forever.

There’s also the mentality for some that all of these things are our jobs as moms. So if we complain or ask for help we sound ungrateful. I personally also don’t really like burdening my friends or family with my problems. I feel like most of the time I created them, so why should I need help solving them?

Or maybe moms don’t like to ask for help because we’re ashamed. If we ask for help then we often have to explain why we need it. Then we wonder if we’re sharing too much about our personal life. This is probably more related to my own social anxiety than anything, but I do think more people struggle with social anxiety than not. Or at least a lot of the moms that I know do.

I know I will survive!

I’m pretty lucky to have some great friends and family who are willing to drop everything and do what they can to help me when I ask.  It’s not always convenient for them, but they will help anyway. They’d rather inconvenience themselves than see me suffer, because that’s what people who truly care about you will do!

I just have to actually ask. Otherwise, they won’t even know that I need help. Most of the time they’re either too busy or too distracted with their own lives. Plus, I do a pretty good job of hiding it when I’m struggling.

So, moms, I encourage you to get past your fears, your embarrassment, and your pride. Talk to your friends and family if you’re struggling. Ask for help. Find a therapist or call your doctor. You don’t have to suffer in silence. There is so much more to life than that! Sometimes all it takes is one call to help you get back on your feet.

If you know a mom who might need to hear this, be sure to share it with her! Sharing is caring!

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The Best Activities For Raising Grateful Kids

Inside: 5 simple activities families can do together to make sure they’re raising grateful kids.

Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like as moms we spend a lot of time thinking about what we don’t have. We think “if we just had enough money to pay for private school, everything would be perfect. Our kids would get a better education and it would set them up to go to college wherever they want.”

Or we think things like “If I had a better job, I could save more money for college tuition for my kids. Then they wouldn’t have to take out student loans like I did.”

We’re always comparing our lives to others– our houses, cars, jobs, vacations. We think if we could just have what they have, we’d be so much happier.

I daydream about how much better life might be for my kids if we had a bigger house with a fenced-in backyard……Maybe my kids would play outside more and they would play less video games.

I think about what it would be like to have a vacation home on the beach. A place we could run off to on the weekends without having to make a reservation 6 months out.

Sometimes I get carried away and let these thoughts consume me so much that I forget about all that we do have:

  • We have a place to live that that has heat in the winter and air condition in the summer.
  • There’s never a time that we have to worry about when our next meal will be.
  • We’re all pretty physically healthy, besides maybe needing to cut back on having dessert EVERY night.
  • We have family living close by that we get to spend time with whenever we want to. Not to mention babysitters almost anytime we need them.
  • Our community is safe and we have plenty of friends who live close by.
  • We have a school that’s actually in our neighborhood. It has the best teachers who genuinely care and want every child to succeed.

I could go on and on once I start thinking about all the things my family has to be grateful for. But the key is making myself think about what we do have instead of what we don’t have.
I want this for my kids too. For one thing, I don’t want them to be spoiled and entitled brats who expect to get everything they want. I also want them to appreciate that we are blessed and that not everyone has a playroom so full of toys that they couldn’t fit one more.

To teach my kids gratitude not only do I have to set a good example by practicing it myself, but I also have to find ways to show them how to be grateful.Give thanks messageNovember is a great time to focus on raising more grateful kids. Since it’s the month we celebrate Thanksgiving, we’re already thinking about gratitude a lot more. Your kids will probably learn about gratitude in school. If not, there will be plenty of shows and movies to choose from that focus on it.

So instead of getting caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holiday, like what you’re going to eat with your turkey and where you’re going to have Thanksgiving dinner, take advantage of this time to practice being more grateful.

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5 FAMILY ACTIVITIES TO HELP YOU RAISE GRATEFUL KIDS:

1. TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR

Help your family get into the habit of being grateful by making it a part of your daily routine. Pick a time that’s convenient for all of you to share what you’re grateful for. It could be while you’re eating dinner together at night or during your kids’ bedtime routine. Just try to be consistent and do it at the same time every day.

If you’re having trouble coming up with something to be grateful for, just start small. You can be thankful that you have clothes to wear or thankful that you have food in your fridge to eat.

Sometimes your kids might need you to help them come up with things they’re grateful for too. It’s ok for you to help them! Eventually, it will get easier and they will be more likely to share on their own.

2. MAKE A THANKFUL PUMPKIN

All you need is a pumpkin and a sharpie. Every day, each person in your family can write one thing they’re thankful for on the pumpkin.

Then you can use your thankful pumpkin as a centerpiece and conversation starter at Thanksgiving dinner. Everyone can take turns saying what they wrote and what being thankful means to them.

pumpkins for gratitude activity

3. TEACH YOUR KIDS TO WRITE THANK YOU NOTES

Call me old fashioned, but I love getting handwritten cards in the mail. Writing thank-you notes helps you express your gratitude to others. Besides, I just think it’s the right thing to do.

An easy way to raise grateful kids is to teach them to send a thank you note anytime they receive a gift.

When they’re younger, you can have your child draw a picture on the note and tell you what to write. Once your child can write on their own, even if it’s not perfect, let them! They’ll be practicing their writing skills without even realizing it, and that’s always an added bonus.

a grateful kid holding a thank you note

4. VOLUNTEER TOGETHER AS A FAMILY

Volunteering is a great way to change your perspective and help kids see how much they have to be grateful for.  This time of year, there are tons of great opportunities for your family to volunteer together.

Here are a few ideas:

– Volunteer to serve Thanksgiving dinner to homeless people in your community. Many organizations are already doing this every year and they always need help on holidays.

– Adopt a family and bring them what they’d need to cook their own Thanksgiving dinner. You can make the grocery list together and even go to the store as a family to pick up the supplies. While you’re there, talk to your kids about how other families at their school might not have Thanksgiving dinner without help.

– Organize a canned food drive in your neighborhood. Your kids can help you set up a collection station or make flyers to pass out to your neighbors. Go together as a family to delier what you collect to a local food bank.

– Get creative. Think about what your family likes to do together and find ways to serve your community doing it. Helping others who are less fortunate than you is the best way to teach your kids gratitude. They probably don’t even realize how much they take what they have for granted.

Pinterest image titled 5 Activities For Raising Grateful Kids

5. FIND A GRATITUDE ROCK

It doesn’t actually have to be a rock, but the point is to find something that you can use as a symbol to remind you to be grateful. I like the idea of using a rock because you could easily put it in your pocket. Then when you see or feel the rock in your pocket, it will remind you to be grateful.

Paint or use markers to decorate your gratitude rocks together as a family while you talk about the things you’re grateful for.

These are just a few ideas of things you can do to raise grateful kids. What other activities that teach gratitude have you done with your family? Share your ideas or traditions in the comments!

Living With Anxiety and Depression In Times of Extreme Uncertainty

My journey as a mom has been like a rollercoaster ride.

I’m happy to say that right now I feel like I’m coming to a smooth part of the ride. The part that’s after the thrill where you can sit back and enjoy the adrenaline high. The part where you don’t want it to end, but you know you’ll have to get off soon.

You might be wondering how this could be possible when we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Our world is filled with so much uncertainty, yet I’m feeling so good.

Back in March, this was definitely not the case. When quarantine started I was feeling ok. My 5-year-old had just broken his arm and needed surgery. We were stuck at home and I was forced to homeschool my kids.

My daily routine of getting up at 6:30, taking the kids to school, coming home to make a nice breakfast, going for a run or to a class at the gym, spending a few hours writing, cleaning up, and doing some laundry had all been thrown out the window.

I wasn’t even going to the grocery store anymore. I’d lost my girls’ nights out and couldn’t’ see my friends at playgroups or PTA meetings.

Despite all of this, I was still surviving and remained optimistic. I was getting my runs in when I could, but they slowly turned into walks.

Taking A Turn For The Worse

At some point, I started to have less energy. I’d drag myself out of bed in the morning, but I immediately couldn’t stop thinking about how good it would feel to go back to bed later that day.

mom struggling with anxiety and depression

I had no interest in playing with my kids. As the weeks went by, I was still going for my walks, but the whole time I was out walking I’d dread having to go back home.

I kept hearing from other moms and parenting experts that I needed to find a routine. They were saying that it would help us get through virtual learning and would help me feel better. I just didn’t have the energy to do it.

Then I started to dread everything. It felt like there’d never be anything to look forward to again. I felt so hopeless. I’m not going to say I lost hope, but I could see how some people in my situation could have.

Even though I had people all around me telling me how much they loved me, I just felt so sad.

Luckily, I had started going to a therapist right before all of this happened. So I had already built a relationship with her.

She had mentioned medication a few times in January when we first met. But I told her it wasn’t something I wanted to try. I’d tried medication before and didn’t like the way it made me feel.

As a good therapist should, she persisted. Finally one day, she pointed out that taking medication would be like giving me training wheels. It could help give me just enough motivation and energy to use the tools we were practicing during therapy.

How One Phone Call Can Mean So Much

Then a good friend called me. She’d noticed that I wasn’t the same and told me about her experience with medication. She told me how much it had helped her and gave me the name of her doctor.

I was able to get in the same week, and was started on an antidepressant right away. After just a few days, I started to have energy again. Then after a few weeks of taking it, I felt like another person.

During my therapy sessions, I started noticing myself falling into negative or anxious thought patterns again. This time my reaction was different though. I noticed when I was doing it and was able to stop myself. It finally dawned on me how that is the whole point of going to counseling!

There’s no magic pill that will solve all your problems. Taking medication was life-changing for me though.

Fighting The Resistance

It’s not easy to share my story with the world. But I know how long I resisted taking medications and how much it ended up helping me once I finally gave it another try. The only regret I have now is that I didn’t try it sooner.

Over the past few days, I’ve been hearing story after story of other moms struggling. I realized that if I let my fear of being vulnerable stop me from sharing, then I may be missing out on helping someone who really needs to hear that they aren’t alone.

 

Moms are struggling now more than ever! Experts agree that coronavirus is taking a larger toll on women, especially moms.

On top of all our regular motherly duties we are juggling virtual learning, keeping our kids’ safe, making sure the masks are always clean, and trying to figure out a way to maintain a socially distant social life.

I don’t know what I would have done without my husband a few months ago. Not only did he remind me that my family needed me, but he took on many of the household tasks I usually did.

I can’t imagine how much harder it would have been if I was working a full-time job on top of everything else.

It may seem like it’s easy for someone like me who is a former therapist to say how much it can help. But I’ve seen so many different counselors over the years, and it wasn’t until a few months ago that I really felt like it was helping.

Moving Forward

Part of that could be that it wasn’t the right fit. Or maybe I wasn’t doing the homework that I needed to really change. But I think this time, the medication really did give me the extra boost that I needed to move forward.

I’m not going to say that I’m completely cured. Medication isn’t the end all be all. There will still be hard days. Especially right now, with a pandemic that isn’t going away anytime soon.

My kids are going to be little for a while and are going to be needy. My free time will be limited and there will be other bumps and turns on the roller coaster along the way. There may even be times where the ride malfunctions and I’ll have to call for back up.

At least now I have this period where I’m feeling good to look back on. If I do start to spiral again, I’ll know that there is hope. I’ll be able to really say to myself this too shall pass and believe it.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please reach out for help. Even if you’ve tried getting help before and it didn’t seem to work. Try again!

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Pinterest Managing Anxiety and Depression as a Mom in Times of Extreme Uncertainty with a sad mom holding her son

The Secret To Raising Little Boys

What’s the secret to raising little boys?

Well it’s not rocket science. It’s not even really anything that profound.

It may be something you’ve already heard before.

Have you ever felt like you had to ask your child 10 times to brush their teeth before you could leave the house?

If you’re a boy mom, 28 may be a much more realistic number.

Until last week, I thought it was because my kids were annoyed by the sound of my voice and they must have been tuning me out.

I’ve considered whether their ears are super sensitive like dogs. Maybe when I ask them to do something important my voice is a super high frequency like a whistle would sound to a dog?

Or maybe they just like the sound of my voice so much, that they want to hear me say things over and over again?

I recently learned that’s not the case at all.

I heard a parenting talk by David Thomas, author of the books Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys (Tyndale House Publishers) and Are My Kids on Track? The 12 Emotional, Social & Spiritual Milestones Your Child Needs to Reach.

Thomas spoke about the different developmental milestones that children reach at each age. The main point that I took away from it was that 5-8 year old boys are mostly visual learners!

Back To The Basics

I wish I had heard this tip about raising little boys sooner. Even after two years of graduate school and multiple classes on child development, I didn’t realize how differently they learn.

So many meltdowns and power struggles could have been avoided in our house!

I probably did hear this back in Child Development 101. But sometimes you have to live it before it really sinks in.

What really made sense to me was when Thomas pointed out that if your child isn’t doing what you want them to do, it’s really your fault as their parent. It’s your fault because you haven’t set up their environment for success.

It may not seem like it sometimes, but kids actually want to make us happy. They truly want to be good.

So it would make sense that sometimes when they aren’t doing what we want them to, it’s because we have made it too hard for them.

Instead of engaging in power struggles with your kids about why they haven’t done what you asked them to do a hundred times already, make it easy for them to remember.

Boys have a larger part of their brains dedicated to spatial and mechanical functioning than girls do. This is why boys need to be able to visualize things in order to learn them.

Now it makes sense to me why when my husband was starting up his business, he had had little sticky notes all over the wall in our office. Each one had a different task that he wanted to focus on in order to be successful.

Set Them Up For Success

As parents, we can help set our children up for success by using visual cues and reminders around the house.

For example, you could put up a sign with a list of the 3 things your son needs to do in the bathroom before getting ready for school. Make sure to keep it simple.

You could use a small sign that says Flush, Wash, Brush.

A simple list of what steps are needed to get ready in the morning in your child’s bedroom can go a long way! For younger kids, you could use pictures of what the steps are.

Post a schedule near your child’s virtual learning space and make sure it’s visible all day. Here are a few other tips on setting up your child’s virtual learning space.

If you walk through your child’s elementary school, chances are you will see lots of bright and cheery pictures. In their classroom, you’ll probably see lists of expectations and schedules all over the walls.

That’s not just a coincidence!

It also makes sense now why the watch my son got for his 6th birthday was one of his favorite gifts. He didn’t take it off even at night!

It was pretty nice to tell him to check his watch when he asked what time it was every 5 minutes. But now I see why it meant so much to him!

Think Before You Speak

We can use this principle to help us be more proactive.

Instead of always saying things like “stop, no, don’t, quit,” we can show our children what we want them to do. You can easily do this by removing the things from their environments that you don’t want your child doing.

During virtual learning, make sure the only things that are in the learning space are school materials.

The secret to parenting little boys

Of course, this isn’t always realistic or possible to do. But I’m sure you can help by reducing at least some of the distractions.

Following this parenting tip doesn’t mean we shouldn’t set high expectations for our kids. It is a good reminder for why yelling doesn’t get you as far though.

I’m definitely excited to try it and hopefully save my breath a little!

If you enjoyed reading this, I’d love for you to share it with others who you think might need this tip for parenting boys too!

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The Top 10 Tips For Virtual Learning Success

Inside: 10 virtual learning tips to get prepared and set up your family for success. 

2 months ago, I couldn’t wait for school to start back up.

When it came down to deciding whether or not to send our kids back face to face or to enroll them in virtual learning, I was truly stuck though.

Neither decision felt like a good one. Luckily our school superintendent decided for us.

We live in the largest county in Georgia where classroom sizes are usually at least 20 and there are almost 100 schools. Many families have children at more than one school. Those same students ride the same buses, and some teachers even travel to different schools.

All these things paired with the number of COVID 19 cases in our county being on the rise when school started, led the school board to decide it wasn’t safe for anyone to go back to school face to face yet.

I was a little disappointed at first, because it meant I wouldn’t get my days to myself back.

After being stuck at home with my family for almost 6 months, I definitely could use some alone time. I thrive on having time to focus on the things I want to do.

What mom doesn’t?

But I was also relieved that I didn’t have to be the one to make such a huge decision for our family.

Last week was our first week of virtual learning. Despite some technical issues and boredom from my 1st grader, WE SURVIVED!

I know that this semester and really this year will be a learning process for all of us. In the end, it’s something that will only make us stronger. But I think we’ve learned a few things already that might make virtual learning easier for your family.

10 VIRTUAL LEARNING TIPS

1. SET UP A DESIGNATED WORKSPACE

I definitely waited until the last minute to do this, so if you’re starting to panic, don’t. Our workspace is nothing special, but it’s a room we don’t often use. So it was easy to clear it off and designate it for school.

workspace for virtual learning

We got some basic school supplies like paper, pencils, markers, erasers, folders, glue, and a pencil sharpener. Also, if you don’t have a good pair of headphones for your child, make sure to invest in a pair!

I put everything in a small crate and stackable bins like the ones below. Then I got a simple bookshelf to organize everything and make it easy to put it all away at the end of the day.

                                              

 

2. LOG ON EARLY

This might seem obvious, but we had to learn it the hard way. Even though you’ll be at home and won’t have to worry about finding everyone’s shoes, it will still take you some time to get ready in the morning.

I don’t know if it’s just my kids who aren’t morning people.

Or maybe my 6-year-old is the only one that needs 5 reminders to brush his teeth. But you won’t be saving that much time by doing school at home instead of in person.

Our schools are using Microsoft Teams. After a few days, I learned how easy it is to create your own meeting instead of joining the meeting your teacher started. If you log on before she starts the meeting, you’ll see a meeting request pop up on your screen though. So being early definitely helps in this case.

Plus if you have issues logging on and try to email the teacher once the class has already started, she may not see your email if she’s already focused on teaching the lesson.

Being online early will help you get your day started out with fewer frustrations due to technical issues.

3. MINIMIZE DISTRACTIONS

Having a designated workspace is the first step in helping to minimize distractions for your students. We try not to have any toys on the table when school is going on. If I sit next to my 6-year-old doing something he’s interested in, it’s distracting to him.

My 8-year-old doesn’t want my help and tells me he’s got it, but my 6-year-old wants me next to him all day.

So I’ve been sitting next to my 6-year-old with my computer. When he asks me what I’m doing, I let him know that I have work to do too. I have a little alarm clock next to his work station that tells him the time and his daily schedule.

4. TURN OFF OTHER DEVICES

Unless you have a crazy amount of Wifi, having more than one person doing a conference call at once will more than likely cause some connection issues. I realized a few months ago that when I’m zooming it helps to turn off all the devices we aren’t actually using.

You can just turn off the wifi on your phone if you aren’t using it, but I also turn off all the ipads in the house. I put my smart watch on airplane mode and I also turn off all the smart TVs in the house. It’s crazy how many things in our house rely on wifi!

5. TAKE SCREEN-FREE BREAKS

Anytime my kids have a break in their schedule, we try to do things that don’t involve a screen.

mom helping child take a break from virtual learning

My 1st grader’s teacher told the class that they need to do something screen-free during their lunch and recess break. She also told them to read for 9 minutes before they can have screen time after school. This week, they have to read 20 minutes every day as their homework.

6. SEPERATE SIBLINGS

We started out with both kids in the dining room. Since my younger son does everything his older brother does, I thought he would get more work done if he was in the same room.

After the first day, we realized that wasn’t the case. My younger son didn’t like wearing the headphones all day and my older son figured out that his teacher couldn’t hear him speak when they were plugged in.

That’s all part of the process though, learning and adapting as you go!

We moved my younger son to the kitchen table so that they could both unplug their headphones if they wanted to. Having all of the school supplies in a small bin has made clean up at the end of the day easy.

7. BE PATIENT

Patience is not always easy, but again, we have to remember that this process is new for everyone! Especially our kids and their teachers.

Yesterday my son cried because he didn’t want to log onto school. His cousins are in town visiting and he said that school ruined his vacation.

We reminded him that he had an extra-long vacation this year and that it was time to go back to school.

I gave him permission to cry for 5 minutes. When the 5 minutes were up, I told him he had to stop and log onto school.

His school counselor taught us this little trick last year when he was having a hard time adjusting to school starting back after the Winter Break. Surprisingly, he doesn’t usually need the whole 5 minutes to cry. But if he did, he would have that time to get it all out.

8. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

Remember that you aren’t the only one trying to figure out how to help your child with virtual learning.

Not only is it hard on the teacher, but every other student is trying to learn how to navigate something that is totally foreign to them. So far, our teachers have been very patient, and I think they want parents to know it’s ok to not have it all figured out yet.

Sometimes, it might feel like you’re failing, but I promise, you’re doing it right momma!

Child doing virtual learning

9. STAY POSITIVE

We may not realize it, but our kids take cues from our attitudes. Try to stay positive and remind them that it’s ok if they don’t have all the answers.

My kids also do really well with positive reinforcement. We use rewards often, but if you don’t find this helpful, that’s ok.

I know that having time to play video games is worth everything to my kids. So before the first day of school, I told them that they couldn’t have screen time after school if they complained.

It worked really well the first day. The next day was a little harder and I realized I had to give them some time to adjust. But after this week, I’m going to be consistent about this rule!

10. DON’T BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP

I know all moms struggle with asking for help, but we need it now more than ever!

Find a community. We’re all relying on social media right now to connect with other moms. It’s definitely not the same as meeting in person with your friends, but it still can help you feel less isolated.

If there isn’t already a Facebook group for moms in your neighborhood, start one. Or you can even start another one that focuses only on struggles moms of school-aged kids have.

We have one in our neighborhood called surviving the pandemic with kids. We share tips about virtual learning, but also other challenges that have come up this year!

It takes a village! 

Some parents don’t have a choice but to work. If this is you, you will more than likely need to figure out a plan for getting help before you even get started!

I can’t even imagine how hard it will be for you to juggle your job, keeping your house in one piece, and now having to help your child with virtual learning.

Just remember that any help you can give them is better than nothing. Make sure to communicate any struggles that come up with your child’s teacher.

Communicate with the school administration and the school board. If they don’t hear from you, they won’t know what your struggles are.

What other virtual learning tips do you have for parents who might be struggling with the same issues as you? Make sure to share them in the comments!

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The Grass Is Always Greener For Moms

Has anyone been watching the Canadian tv series Workin’ Moms on Netflix? I first heard about it a few months ago when some of my friends recommended it.

At that point, I had kind of written it off since I wasn’t technically a “working mom.” I worried I wouldn’t be able to relate, and to be honest, kind of brushed it off as rude that they had their own tv show. Those working moms….

But since we’ve had more time at home lately, I’ve found myself binge-watching a lot of tv shows. Sometimes late at night (or in the wee hours of the morning) when I can’t sleep, I surprisingly get some time to watch tv shows that I know my husband will have no interest in.

As I’m sitting here now writing this, it’s, 5 a.m. and I’m doing just that. I’m noticing that the working moms’ club is definitely not exclusive to only moms who work 9-5 jobs outside of the home. In fact, it was never meant to be that way.

How so, you say? Well, because EVERY mom works.

Some may work part-time, some overtime, some even work multiple jobs. But most of us moms never really stop working! Especially if our kids are still little and really as long as they’re still living at home.

Once they go to college the work doesn’t actually stop. It just becomes “work” around trying to get our grown children to cut the apron strings. The focus of parenting changes to teaching them to support themselves without us physically being there every day.

Our Current Situation

With most schools deciding to go virtual in the Fall, the workload is suddenly feeling like it’s going to be even BIGGER for all of us. Parents are having to make really hard family decisions.

A mom struggling to work and spend time with her kid

Questions moms are thinking about right now:

  • How do I keep our family safe while still being able to provide for their needs?
  • Who will make sure my kids are where they need to be academically if they haven’t seen a teacher face to face in months?
  • Am I qualified to be my child’s teacher on top of everything else I already do?
  • Do I have the time, energy, and patience to teach them?
  • How will I get my “real” job done and make sure they’re still learning?
  • How can I possibly keep my sanity any longer?
  • What will all of this cost?
  • How long is it going to last? How long can we live like this?
  • Will people think I’m selfish if I prioritize what I want instead of what my kids need?
  • Is the risk of sending my kids back to school in person worth it?
  • Should we uproot our whole family and move somewhere else?

Some moms don’t even get to decide anything. The choices have already been made for them! Luckily I have a partner in all of this, but some moms don’t. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard that is for them!

For me, the question is whether or not it’s a good time for me to go back to work.

Outside of a few part-time jobs, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom for the past 5 years. It feels like I’m being forced to decide if going back to work right now is more important than the safety of my kids.

Then I start to think about not only my family’s physical needs, but also how much they need to be with their friends and how we all need a break from each other. What ends up happening for me, is I just get overwhelmed with all of the unknowns and what-ifs. I usually just put the decisions off and hope they’ll be easier later.

As I listen to other friends of mine trying to navigate making these difficult decisions for their own families, I’m reminded that the grass is always greener.

No matter what your situation is in parenting, there’s always going to be someone else’s life that seems better. It’s so easy from the outside to think others have it easier than we do, but in reality, we all have struggles. We all just carry them differently.

Moms who are jealous of each other

What we choose to share with others isn’t always the real picture. So, I think we as moms have to stick together. I’m sure I’ve said this before, but I’ll keep saying it… It takes a village!

Here are a few ways that we can help each other wade through these waters together.

I’m sure you can think of other ways to help the moms in your own life. I’d love for you to share your ideas in the comments!

6 TIPS TO HELP MOMS MAKE BIG DECISIONS

1. THINK ABOUT YOUR VALUES

What’s most important to you and your family? Make that your priority.

Take a break from social media so you can quiet all of other peoples’ opinions and focus on what really matters to YOUR family.

2. REACH OUT FOR SUPPORT

Whatever your situation is, you are not alone.

Some days it may feel like you’re the only one struggling with something, but I guarantee someone out there is feeling the same way. You just have to look for them!

3. GIVE YOURSELF GRACE

We won’t know all the answers right away and we may never know ALL the answers. Give yourself some grace to make mistakes and just try to put one step in front of the other.

Take it one day at a time right now. We don’t really know for sure what tomorrow’s going to look like anyway. So I suggest making decisions about the future based on how things look right now.

4. STOP JUDGING OTHERS

A friend of mine recently told me about how several years ago her daughter wanted to go further in gymnastics. She couldn’t though because the only thing offered at her gym was practice every day from 4:30-5:30.

And when she asked how working moms did it, she was met with an awkward glare. I think she described the other person as saying something like, “Oh you’re one of those.” Or maybe she just interpreted it that way.

A mom being hypocritical and judging another mom

The point is, every mom’s situation is different and we all are doing the best we can.

Aren’t we supposed to be on the same team anyway? So don’t judge other moms for the decisions they make for their families.

Chances are when you start focusing on yourself, making your own decisions will be a lot easier.

5. DON’T BE TOO SENSITIVE

This may sound like a contradiction, but what I mean is don’t take everything personally. Sometimes what may feel like someone judging your ability to be a mom, isn’t.

It may be your own insecurity. The person you’re feeling that from may even be projecting how they feel like a bad mom on you because they wish they could be more like you!

6. LEAN IN TO HELP

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! You may have never actually taken your next-door neighbor up on their offer to help watch your kids. Now is the time to do it. One day you can return the favor somehow.

Or hire help if you can. It’s ok to pay someone to come clean your house once a month if that will help make your to-do list a little shorter on the weekends.

Do what works for YOU! I’m not pretending to be an expert, but I do want moms to know that they aren’t alone. We have to stick together!

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Donuts For Lunch

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about how to limit screen time. Ironically after hitting publish, I immediately felt guilty. I didn’t even want to share the post on social media.

I felt like such a hypocrite!

Who was I to tell people how to limit their child’s screen time when I couldn’t even enforce those boundaries myself? I had the best intentions. But somehow I had lost all motivation to be creative with my kids. I lost the energy to put up a fight when they pushed back.

Somehow my kids had gone from getting a few hours of screen time a day to me letting them pretty much have as much as they wanted.

I felt like the world’s worst mom.

Why Moms Need Self-Compassion

Don’t get me wrong. I knew that it was ok to bend the rules right now. We’re all stuck at home and we can’t see our friends. But the amount of screen time my kids were getting was making me feel sick.

On top of that, when I was able to gather enough energy to make my kids turn off their devices they didn’t understand why. My 8-year-old started talking back. Taking away all the limits made them think they were completely in control.

But since we’ve been dealing with this pandemic, I’ve been trying really hard to give myself self-compassion.

That means forgiving myself. It means letting go of all the mom guilt. It means not holding myself to a higher standard than I would hold others.

If one of my mom friends called me and told me how horrible she was feeling about letting her kids have too much screen time while we’re in the middle of quarantine, I would tell her not to. I would tell her all the reasons she shouldn’t feel guilty and remind her that she’s doing the best she can.

WHAT IS SELF-COMPASSION?

Self-compassion is defined as extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering. It’s being kind to yourself and understanding that we’re all human and we make mistakes. No one is perfect and super mom doesn’t exist.

There will be days when I don’t get to the dishes until 10:00 at night and the breakfast crumbs will still be on the table.

It’s ok if we don’t get through all of the assigned school work every day. That won’t make me any less of a mom.

Sometimes we all just need a break. We need time to work through all the mixed up emotions we’re dealing with. We need time to ride out the storm. If letting our kids watch tv or play video games for 4 hours is the only way we can get through the day, it will be ok.

It’s ok if we eat breakfast at 10 am, have donuts for lunch, and pizza for dinner. We might even top it off with ice cream for dessert.

Because it’s not always going to be this way.

And tomorrow’s a new day. Just because 1 or 2, or even 4 or 5 days go by where my kids have what feels like way too much screen time, that doesn’t mean we can’t get out and do something awesome the next day. If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’m doing tons of fun stuff with them too.

There’s always tomorrow to go for a hike or a walk around the block. We can try the Pinterest craft or Youtube drawing tutorial another day. We always have the weekend to try a new recipe or play a never ending game of Monopoly.

What would giving yourself more self-compassion look like for you? I’d love for you to share in the comments.

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4 Quick Tips For Limiting Screen Time

I’m not going to lie, my kids have had more tech time lately than I’d care to admit right now. But they’re stuck at home for an indefinite amount of time with little breaks to get out of the house.

My 5-year-old has a broken arm and a cast up to his elbow, so we’re limited on what we can do. On top of that, we live on a busy street and our front yard is really steep. Our backyard is non-existent because our house is next to a creek. Plus we decided a few months ago to redo our back deck, and unfortunately it’s currently in pieces.

Eventually we’ll have a brand new back deck and hopefully will be able to enjoy the outside a little more. But for now, I’m trying to be creative and finding activities to do outside like chalk obstacle courses, animal charades, jump the river, shadow drawings, and basically whatever you can do on a giant grassy slope.

Playing Jump The River

Get two long sticks or pieces of rope. Put them about a foot apart and see who can jump across. Move the rope or sticks back a little further apart and try again. The person who can make the longest jump wins!

Shadow Drawings

Shadow Drawings

We’re lucky to live in a neighborhood with lots of trails and a beautiful lake, but everyone else has had the idea to use them too and that can make social distancing hard.

Despite my best efforts, there have been plenty of days over the past few weeks where we haven’t even gotten outside. I’m ok with my kids getting more screen time than usual right now, but some days I just want them to play.

As a former play therapist, I know the importance of play. I know that kids need to use their creative minds. I also know that play is their language when they don’t have the words to say what they want to. So I’m trying to encourage play as much as possible.

I will be the last to judge you if you let your kids have tech time all day, but sometimes I feel like my kids need a break from it.

If you need help getting your kids off their screens, I have a few tips that might help.

4 TIPS FOR LIMITING SCREEN TIME

4 TIPS FOR LIMITING SCREEN TIME

SET LIMITS

My kids get up around 7 am most mornings. I’m not a morning person at all. So they’re allowed to play video games or watch tv until I get up, but at 9 am they know they have to turn them off.

I’ve also made the rule that they can’t play video games during the week until they finish their school work. And then I try to limit their tech time to 1 hour. They usually get to watch tv at night before bed too.

2. GIVE THEM A WARNING

I try to give my kids a warning 5 minutes before their time is going to be up so there won’t be any surprises. That way they can finish up their game too.

3. BE CONSISTENT

I’m definitely not always consistent, but I try the best I can. If your child knows that when you say something you mean it, they are less likely to try to talk you out of it when you enforce a limit.

4. GET THEM STARTED

Sometimes if I have an activity planned like chalk painting outside. Once I get them outside they come up with other fun things to do on their own.

Here’s a super easy way to make chalk paint!

  • Put a few tablespoons of cornstarch in a bowl.
  • Add a few tablespoons of water.
  • Add food coloring.
  • Mix it up!

Chalk Painting

Chalk Painting

For more ideas check out Days With Gray. Beth has tons of fun activities to do with kids and her Breakfast Invitations make setting your kids up to play without screens easy to do.

What fun activities are you doing with your kids?

If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to share it with your friends!

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A Mom’s Guide To Surviving Quarantine

Inside: Tips for surviving quarantine with young kids. 

If you had told me a few months ago we would be forced to stay home and schools would be closed until further notice because of a deadly virus, I would’ve thought you were talking about a scene from a Sci-Fi movie.

When we were planning a trip to Jamaica for Spring Break last month, my husband casually mentioned getting travel insurance just in case the coronavirus became a bigger deal and we couldn’t go.

At that point, I had to google what he was talking about. I had seen a few memes on social media, but I was pretty clueless about what they meant.

About a week later, he started hoarding non-perishables in bulk from Amazon and I still thought he was crazy. Fast forward to today, and I’m glad we got the travel insurance. My only regret is not stocking up on more toilet paper.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard a lot of advice about everything from social distancing to protecting our health, mastering homeschooling and even parenting. Some of it has been good advice, and some bad. MOST if it has been well-meaning, but it hasn’t always been credible. The challenge is, figuring out who is right.

But the best thing I’ve read is that it’s ok to feel all the feels.

Recently I feel like I’ve been on a roller coaster of emotions. I’ve had feelings of sadness, anger, loneliness, hopelessness, joy, laughter, exhaustion, gratitude, confusion, and doubt. The reality is with at least another month of social distancing to go, I’m going to keep feeling all of these things and more.

I’m trying really hard to give myself self-compassion and grace. This pandemic is new to all of us. So we have to cut ourselves some slack. We’re all still figuring this out and adjusting to a new way of life.

If that means we allow our kids to play more video games and eat more sugar, it’s ok.

I’m trying to be more of a “yes mom” right now because I want my kids to be happy. Being stuck at home for weeks at a time is hard enough and I really want to try to make it fun for them.

Plus sometimes there’s really no way to get a break other than by letting them watch tv or play video games. If that means that I’m the world’s okayest mom, I’m fine with it.

So go ahead, feel all the feels.

But that doesn’t mean you have to let all those negative feelings rule your life.

How do we stop them though?

For the past few weeks, I’ve been trying to figure that out. I’ve written blogs on self-care and as a former therapist, you’d think I’d have this part down pat.

But a lot of my tips don’t really apply to this new way of life. I can’t go get a massage or a pedicure. Meeting up with my girlfriends for dinner is obviously out of the question. The gym is closed. I can’t really go ANYWHERE!

To be honest, there’ve been days when I haven’t had any motivation to do the things I know I should be doing to cope. But I’ve been putting one foot in front of the other and going through the motions, hoping that eventually it will pay off and I’ll wake up from this bad dream.

Finding joy while coping with quarantine

There have still been ups and downs, but I’m starting to figure out how to cope.

3 WAYS I’M SURVIVING QUARANTINE

How each of us copes with quarantine will be different. You have to figure out what works for you.

Here are a few tips to help you do that:

  1. Think about what makes you happy. What do you enjoy doing? Do you have any hobbies?
  2. What can you do to escape from all of the negativity and bad news?
  3. Learn a new skill. You could take an online class or learn how to knit. You can learn almost anything by watching YouTube videos.
  4. Do those things every day or as often as you can.

This is what I’ve been trying to do every day to help me cope:

  • Creating Art
  • Walking or Running
  • Reading

CREATING ART

For me, art doesn’t have to be anything fancy. If I think about it too hard, I’ll get hung up on being perfect and that’ll stop me from doing it.

Color Your Heart, is a great activity you can do every day that will be kind of like an art journal for how you’re feeling.

Here’s how you do it:
– Write down the feelings you’re having.
– Choose a color to go with each feeling.
– Color in your heart to show how you’re feeling.

Here’s the one I did earlier this week.

Color Your Heart Activity

My kids found it and wanted to do one too. This is a great activity for helping your kids express how they’re feeling and helps you open up the conversation if you haven’t been sure how to do that.

WALKING OR RUNNING

Just getting outside and moving has been a priority for me over the past few weeks. I usually prefer running, but since I haven’t had much energy lately I’ve been doing a lot more walking.

It doesn’t really matter though. Getting out of the house by myself and moving my body is what helps me!

READING

I love to read and get wrapped up in a book. Sometimes I stay up way too late at night reading, but I guess there could be worse things!

I just finished the book I Owe You One, by Sophie Konsella.
It’s a great book about love, empowerment and how our families make us who we are. It has a happy ending, which we can definitely all use right now!

If you’re looking for a book that’s a little more suspenseful, The Wives by Tarryn Fisher is for you. It will keep you guessing until the very end and you won’t want to put it down.

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I’m trying my best to find the good in every day and celebrate the small wins. I know there will still be moments of sadness, fear, and anger about our situation. But what matters most right now is that my family is safe. We’re spending more time together than we ever have and we’re trying to treasure that.

One day this will all be a distant memory!

If you enjoyed reading this, please share it with someone who you think needs to hear it!

3 TIPS FOR COPING WITH QUARANTINE

Feeding Your Baby Formula Doesn’t Make You A Bad Mom

If you’re considering feeding your baby formula, but worried it will make you a bad mom- think again. There’s hardly any information out there to suggest that choosing formula over breastfeeding is ok. That doesn’t mean it’s not. What’s really important is that your baby is fed!

When my 8-year-old was born, I really wanted to breastfeed but I just couldn’t.

I tried.

I really did.

Of course I’d heard about all the benefits of breastfeeding your baby, and I wanted those things. I wanted what was best for him. But continuing to breastfeed would have meant sacrificing so much.

He was never satisfied. We suffered through two hour-long breastfeeding sessions only for him to still be hungry when they were through.

I listened to my friends’ advice and asked for a lactation consultant right away while we were in the hospital. When we got home, I called the lactation hotline for more guidance.

We tried everything they recommended. I made an appointment with another lactation consultant in the hospital’s outpatient office. They showed me different feeding positions, taught me lots of tricks, and even gave me a nipple shield to help with latching. It helped a little.

But my baby still wasn’t satisfied.

He just couldn’t latch. I had plenty of milk and I was in pain because there was no release. But I would have endured all the pain in the world if he was getting the nutrients that he needed.

The bonding experience that everyone says you get from breastfeeding wasn’t there. It was quite the opposite actually. I was so stressed and resented every feeding session. I was constantly in tears, and my husband felt helpless because there was nothing he could do to help.

We Tried Everything

Finally I decided to try pumping exclusively. So that way at least my baby would be getting the nutrients of breastmilk. But then not only did I have to pump for 30 minutes every 3 hours, I still had to feed my baby. On top of that, I had to clean and sterilize the 50 tiny little plastic parts that the pump required to work. Oh, and we had the bottles that came in 5 different parts, which also had to be cleaned and sterilized after each feeding.

Mother pumping breastmilk to feed her baby.

By the time I was done with one feeding, it would be time for another feeding session. Plus because my baby wasn’t getting enough to eat, he didn’t nap well either. As a newborn, he was only taking one or two 20 minute naps a day. I really felt like I couldn’t do anything right!

I felt like a failure as a mom. 

We lasted about 4 months struggling to figure out breastfeeding and pumping.

Then I went back to work part-time and the only place that I could pump was my boss’s office. I worked intake at a psych hospital, and there was nowhere else private enough to go. I was constantly worried that my boss would forget I was in his office pumping and barge in on me. Plus I wondered if the sound of the pump would bother people in the next room who were in session. Needless to say, that didn’t last long.

At my postpartum check-up, my doctor said I had inverted nipples. She asked if it was something that I’d always had. Of course, I couldn’t remember. It could be a sign of cancer, it could be from all of the pumping, or it could be something I was born with.

I had to go to a specialist and have a biopsy to rule out cancer. Everything came back clear, but I still have to go back for yearly ultrasounds.

When I became pregnant again a few years later, my husband said, “I don’t think you should put yourself through all of that stress again! Why not just feed him formula?”

“Why Not Just Feed Him Formula?”

Was he crazy? I mean, I knew I didn’t want to go through all of that again, but what would happen if our baby didn’t get all of those nutrients that breastmilk provides? Is feeding your baby formula from the beginning even an option? 

Plus, I’d heard all the bogus claims like how breastfeeding makes your babies smarter. How could a mom deprive her child of that opportunity?

So I started doing research and not only did I find out that my husband wasn’t breastfed, but I also found out that feeding your baby formula is really ok!

Copy-of-MASTER-COPY-carly-templates-700x1550-2

The American Academy of Pediatrics does recommend breastfeeding as the best nutritional source for your baby. I’m not trying to tell anyone they shouldn’t do it.

But Harvard MD Claire McCarthy says we shouldn’t demoralize formula feeding. She points out that since such a strong emphasis is put on breastfeeding, it makes it seem like it has to be all or nothing. Then more moms give up trying because they think they’re failing anyway and they might as well not try.

Mom Shaming Carries On

But people still shame moms for choosing not to breastfeed. Hospitals don’t even offer formula as an option until you ask, and even then they might try to convince you to try breastfeeding.

I can’t remember how many nurses I had to tell when we were in the hospital with our 2nd that I was going to feed him formula. I think the question was asked at every feeding. And EVERY time it was like a stab in the gut to me.

I still feel guilty when I’m with my mom friends and they start talking about breastfeeding like it’s the only option.

Mom holding baby with a bottle of formula in front of her.
Listen, I now know that breastfeeding is hard, and it’s probably not easy for anyone. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t try or that you should give up easily.

What’s Important Is Feeding Your Baby

What I am saying is that it’s ok if you do give up. It’s even ok if you don’t ever try. Feeding your baby formula doesn’t make you any less of a mom. It definitely doesn’t make you a bad mom. If you decide to feed your baby with formula, you are still FEEDING your baby.

Actually, according to the CDC in 2018, less than 50% of infants are exclusively breastfed through 3 months and about 25% are exclusively breastfed through 6 months. You are not alone if you decide to choose formula.

We all have to stop judging each other and start being more supportive. Everyone has the right to decide how they want to parent their children!

Being a mom is hard enough without all the judgment!

So if you have a friend who is struggling to breastfeed, please please please don’t make her feel judged. The best thing you can do is support whatever decision she makes! It’s hers to decide.

Quote about not saying anything if it’s not nice

Share this with a friend that you think needs to hear it. No mom going through this should feel like they’re the only one. 

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pinterest image about how feeding your baby formula doesn't make you a bad mom

 

5 Reasons Yoga Is Crazy Good For Moms

I’m coming back to my series on self-care to talk to you about why yoga is the best form of self-care for moms. After last week’s scare, I needed to go to yoga more than ever!

It’s easy to skip my weekly yoga sessions, but when I don’t go I suffer for it. Not only does my anxiety start to ramp up, but my body starts to ache in places it shouldn’t. I’m more irritable and short-fused with my kids, so my family suffers too.

All moms can benefit from yoga. Our bodies go through so much when we have babies and they need self-love to get their strength back after carrying around babies for 9 months. Our organs and ligaments are moved and stretched in ways we never thought possible when we dreamt of having babies. Yoga can help moms realign their mind, body, and soul.

I used to think that you had to be super flexible and able to sit still for long periods of time to do yoga.

I pictured a yogi standing on his head or a buddhist monk sitting in silence bowing with his hands at his heart. Although that might be the goal for some types, it’s not always true.

Moms Can Do Yoga Too

Maybe my misperception about yoga came from the fact that the first time I went to a class, I found myself staring at the teacher with a lost in space look on my face for 90% of the class.

I think that time I had picked the wrong class. There are yoga classes that are tailored more to beginners though and some don’t require much skill at all.

I love to go to Yin Yoga at my gym. According to Yogi Approved “Yin is a slow, soothing, and meditative style of yoga that targets the deep connective tissues, bones, joints, fascia, and ligaments in the body.”

You hold most poses for around 5 minutes so that you can get deeper into each pose. The biggest challenge here is not wiggling and being still. But the best part about the class I go to is the teacher reminds you that it doesn’t have to be perfect.

Just showing up is an accomplishment and there shouldn’t be any judgment for how good our bad you do each pose.

BENEFITS OF DOING YOGA

The stress we endure as moms builds up over time. If we don’t do anything about it, it can be traumatic to our bodies emotionally and physically.

Our Yin instructor constantly reminds us that we should be doing something every day to reduce some of that stress that our body is holding. It can be as simple as taking 5 minutes a day to do child’s pose and focus on taking deep breaths.

5 Benefits Of Yoga For Moms

IT HELPS WITH STRESS RELIEF

By doing deep breathing and meditating techniques during yoga, you retrain your brain to slow down. Alot of different emotions can come up in Yin Yoga. Not only are you going deeper into poses, but you are going deeper into your heart.

Sometimes I start crying without warning. The first time this happened, I thought something was wrong with me! I was so embarrassed and tried to hide my tears, but the instructor must have seen me.

She said to let whatever emotions stir up be what they are. To notice them and be aware of them, but not to judge yourself for them. It can be really cleansing!

IT LENGTHENS YOUR MUSCLES AND MAKES YOUR BODY STRONGER

Yin yoga targets lengthening and stretching your deep connective tissue. The more you do this, the more you actually slow your body’s aging process. I don’t know about you, but after having kids, I feel like my body has aged 100 years so I can use all the help I can get to restore my youth!

IT HELPS INCREASE YOUR BALANCE

You won’t do too many difficult poses that require you to stand on your head during Yin Yoga, but staying in a pose for 5 minutes is still challenging. Some people even find this type of yoga harder than other types like Ashtanga which is super fast paced.

Mom learning the benefits of yoga

IT HELPS CLEAR YOUR MIND

How many hundreds of things do moms have on our mind at any given time? When you go to yoga, you are encouraged to focus on the here and now.

It may take you a few moments or even a few sessions to be able to turn off the never-ending to-do list in your head, but it helps to have a quiet space with little distractions.

IT CAN BE A PLACE TO MAKE FRIENDS

If you find the right yoga studio, it can be a great place to make friends with other moms who understand the struggles of mom life. You have to get out there and try to build your village.

People who do yoga are almost always more calm for at least a few minutes afterward. You can take advantage of that and strike up a conversation with the other mom’s in the class. You could comment on your neighbor’s yoga mat or ask them where they got their yoga pants. You never know. You might connect with someone new!

Yoga may not be for everyone, but for me it’s a must. If I don’t go to yoga at least once a week, I notice a big difference in my mood and my body. I hope you’ll give it a try!

Even if there isn’t a yoga studio near you, you can find some pretty good videos online. If you just can’t find the time to do it by yourself, there is a really cute program on youtube that you can do with your kids called Cosmic Kids. My kids love it!

Woman finding out the benefits of yoga for moms by doing it with her daughter.

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5 Quick And Easy Ways To Protect Your Home From Intruders

Inside: 5 things you can do now to protect your home from intruders and keep your family safe.

I never thought I’d have to write this. I wasn’t even sure if I should, but after how our neighbors reacted when I shared what happened to my family I realized I had to tell everyone.

On Sunday morning at 4 a.m., my family was violated in the worst way. We were robbed.

My husband and I had enjoyed a nice dinner out for Valentine’s Day and we got home late. We had a great time and went to bed feeling like we were on top of the world.

My mother-in-law was babysitting and she was spending the night. We don’t have an actual guest bedroom right now, so she was sleeping in the kids’ bed and they were sleeping on the couch downstairs. They love to “camp out” downstairs, so we usually let them on the weekends anyway.

The kids were literally a foot from where the intruder came in.

My husband and I woke up to our 5-year-old screaming that the burglar alarm was going off. We didn’t even hear it!

Luckily our alarm company responded right away. My husband ran downstairs and found the door to our back deck wide open. He shouted, “The police need to come!”

I’ll never forget hearing those words come out of his mouth. The alarm company dispatched the authorities and stayed on the phone with me while we waited for them to come.

My husband checked the garage and realized the garage door was open, so they must have left that way once the alarm went off.

When the police came, they asked for our IDs. We realized we couldn’t find our wallets anywhere and then we knew that they had been stolen.

We’re so lucky that’s all they took. We’re lucky they didn’t see our kids sleeping on the couch and freak out. They entered and exited our home so quickly, the kids didn’t even see them. We’re lucky for that too.

I’m angry more than anything.

It doesn’t even make sense why someone would go through all the trouble of breaking into someone’s home to steal a wallet. They used one of our credit cards to spend $87 at a gas station. What did they even buy for $87 at a gas station?

Luckily our bank recognized the transaction as potential fraud and alerted us right away. We canceled all of our credit cards before they could spend any more money. I hope that whatever they bought with that $87 was worth it!

I hope it was worth a family losing sleep because they don’t feel safe in their own home anymore.

Hopefully it was worth putting an anxious mom on edge so that she is constantly looking out the window at every car passing by.

I hope it was worth causing a dad to feel like he has to sleep downstairs with a crow bar to protect his family.

Clearly they have no heart for how it feels to have this happen to you.

I’d heard it before. That you feel violated. I’m not naive. I know that break-ins happen every day. According to Safeatlast.com, there are 10,000 burglaries in the U.S. every day.

Intruder breaking into a home

Here are a few other facts about break-ins that might surprise you:

10 Statistics About Burglaries

  • There are 2.5 Million burglaries per year, 66% of which are home break-ins
  • A burglary occurs every 13 seconds
  • According to the FBI, 65% of burglaries happen between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
  • Homes without a security system have a 300% more chance of getting broken into
  • 65% of burglars know their victims!
  • 85% of burglaries are committed by non-professionals
  • 65% of burglaries occur during the day to reduce the chance of someone being home
  • An average break-in lasts between 8 and 10 minutes
  • According to the FBI, the average loss per burglary is $2,416
  • Only 17% of US homes have a security system

Something good has to come out of all of this though. I’m not the only one that felt like it would never happen to me. That’s why I’m sharing our story.

So many of our neighbors have gotten security cameras and alarm systems over the past 4 days. If they haven’t, they are seriously considering it.

We had let our guard down. Having our home broken into, made us realize all the things we needed to do to put it back up. Learn from our mistakes and do everything you can to make sure your home isn’t an easy target for intruders.

I’m not saying that by doing these things, your house will never be broken in to. But there was less than 1 minute and from the time our door was broken, to the time these people peeled out of our driveway. Once the burglar alarm went off, they were gone in less than 40 seconds.

5 WAYS TO PROTECT YOUR HOME FROM INTRUDERS NOW

1. GET AN ALARM.

You can get a security system for as little as $9.99 a month. That’s the price of 2 coffees from Starbucks. Your home is 300% more likely to get broken into without it!

a security system that could be used to protect your home from intruders

2. SET YOUR ALARM TO GO OFF IMMEDIATELY IF THERE IS AN INTRUSION

We had ours set to delay for 30 seconds once the door was open when we were home, because we were always forgetting it was on and opening the garage door.

Chances are if it had gone off immediately, the burglar would have never come in our home. 30 seconds might not seem like long, but count for 30 seconds now. Think of all the things you could grab in your home with 30 seconds.

3. DON’T LEAVE VALUABLES, ESPECIALLY YOUR PURSE OR WALLET, VISIBLE TO INTRUDERS

You might think that your things are safe in your home. But we had left our wallets laying on the table with the blinds open right where the burglar broke into our home.

It only took 5 seconds for them to grab our wallets, probably even less than that. Who knows, but we think they probably shined a flashlight into the window and saw the wallets, making our home an easy target.

4. INSTALL CAMERAS NEAR EVERY DOOR

This may seem like overkill, but we HAD a camera by our front door. From what we can tell, the burglar never went in the front yard. They likely didn’t even know that we had a security system, because they went straight to the back door.

We now have a camera by every door, so at least if someone tries to break in we will get an alert.

5. INSTALL MOTION LIGHTS

We actually had a motion light near the door that was broken into, but we aren’t 100% sure that it was on. Another lesson learned the hard way.

I hope that this never happens to you, but according to statistics, 87% of break-ins are preventable. So please at the very least, don’t be naive. Know that it can happen to you and do something to protect your home from intruders now.

Share in the comments if you have any other tips to prevent break-ins.

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How Running Saved Me

Last week I wrote about how I’ve struggled with anxiety my whole life and how it has gotten worse since I became a mom. Running has helped me deal with my anxiety and keep it at a level I can manage.

I haven’t always been a runner though. I played basketball in high school and when our coach made us run suicides, I was always the last one to cross the line.

When I got to college, I realized I could go for a run without sprinting until I felt like I was going to puke. That’s when I found my love for running. I remember running through campus on Friday afternoons seeing all of the campers getting set up to tailgate during football season.

In the off season, I’d run with some of my friends to where the Florida Gator practice field was and sometimes we’d be lucky enough to see the players leaving the field. There are so many benefits to running that you wouldn’t think of. You can get to more places on foot than you can with a car!

Running To Explore

There have been times when we’ve been on vacation and my husband and I have run in places that we wouldn’t have normally seen if we didn’t go for a run. Once when we were in wine country, we ran for a few miles and explored some of the wineries we wanted to check out later.

There’s nothing like running down the Las Vegas strip before it gets too crowded. You will have to dodge a few homeless people and shameless promoters trying to shove their pamphlets down your throat. You can avoid some of it if you go early enough. If you get out before everyone wakes up from their hang overs, you won’t have to run as much of a maze dodging the sea of tourists.

In the summer you can find me running on the beach in the morning before it gets too hot. I love listening to the waves, the cool breeze next to the water, and the smell of the fresh salty air.

mom running on the beach to relieve anxiety

Running is good for bloggers too. Blogging can be really isolating at times. Being your own boss is awesome, most of the time, but sometimes it’s not.

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Somedays I wake up and I just can’t get motivated to write.

There are days when I literally want to crawl back into bed and get up on the other side to see if it feels any better. Sometimes it works, but that usually just makes me groggy and less motivated to write. On those days, the last thing I want to do is run! But if I can just get my shoes on and my butt out the door, that’s usually all it takes.

Once I get outside, I almost always end up running. It may only be for a mile or two sometimes, but even if I walk, I still feel better. Most of the time, I end up running more than I thought I could. I ALWAYS feel so much better after a run. Just being outside can be an instant mood lifter for me. I love the outdoors and need natural vitamin d to make it through my day.

But once I get my feet moving, the endorphins start flowing and

I forget about all the stresses of mom life for a while.

I do some of my best thinking during my runs. Until recently, I ran without my phone because it helped me unplug for 30-40 minutes a few times a week. Then I got some pretty sweet headphones for Christmas, and I’ve grown to appreciate running with music. Sometimes I prefer to be alone with my thoughts though. It doesn’t really matter, as long as I just run.

HERE’S WHY RUNNING HELPS MOMS

1. HELPS YOU FOCUS ON YOURSELF

When you’re running, you can’t see how dirty your house is and you can’t do dishes, fold laundry, or vacuum the floors. You don’t have to wait on your children or break up fights. It’s just you and the road.

2. GETS YOUR ENDORPHINS FLOWING

Runners high is a real thing! Scientists did a study on runner’s brains and found that their prefrontal and limbic systems were releasing endorphins that led to feelings of euphoria and calmness. Apparently, exercising with others or listening to music when you’re alone can increase the spike of endorphins too!

3. INEXPENSIVE EXERCISE

Other than having to get a pair of good shoes, running doesn’t cost you a penny! You can run anywhere and you don’t have to pay crazy gym membership fees. Moms don’t like having to spend money on themselves so this is important!

4. MODELS HEALTHY BEHAVIOR FOR YOUR KIDS

Your kids learn from watching you. If they see you taking care of your body and making exercise a priority, they will hopefully eventually want to do it too.

5. GETS YOU OUT OF THE HOUSE

You know that feeling when you get after being stuck at home with a sick kid for 3 days in a row? I do and it’s not fun! Getting outside to run when it all passes gets me back on my feet. If I can get someone to watch the kids so I can get a break before then, I will quickly take advantage!

6. HELPS PREVENT DISEASE AND ILLNESS

Regular exercise can help reduce your risk for heart disease and several cancers including breast, colorectal, and uterine cancers. It also helps your body regulate its hormone levels which not only reduces your risk for developing cancer, but also helps improve your mood.

7. IMPROVES MEMORY

We all know that mom brain is a real thing, but a study by the mayo clinic has shown that regular exercise may reduce improve your memory and reduce your risk for Alzheimers disease!

8. YOU CAN RUN WITH FRIENDS

It can be hard to keep a conversation going while running, but moms need someone to vent to sometimes. Your running buddy can be your biggest support. If you don’t have one, there are usually running groups you can join in your area.

So get yourself a good pair of running shoes and hit the pavement. If you can’t run, go for a walk. I promise you getting your body moving is worth the effort and you will feel better, even if only temporarily!

picture of mom running to relieve stress

Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days.

– Rob Haneisen

These are a few of the ways that running helps moms. If you’re looking for more ways to add in self-care into your daily routine, stay tuned. I will be featuring a series on self-care over the next few weeks. Make sure to follow @momlifewithp on Instagram so you don’t miss anything!

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My Anxious Life

Living with anxiety is not new to me. In fact, I remember the first time I realized I might have it. We were going down the escalator in Macy’s at Lenox Mall. Anyone in Georgia knows that Lenox is the busiest mall in Atlanta. Nothing specific really happened to trigger my anxiety, other than the store being really crowded.

The details are kind of a blur. But I remember feeling this overwhelming sense of panic covering me like a blanket. I started feeling like I was in another place- like I was about to pass out.

It was like I was outside of my body physically, but I fully knew where I was in my head.

mom who looks really anxious and nervous

I remember saying something to my husband about how I didn’t feel right and then I started to get really upset. He looked at me like I was crazy, but once he realized I wasn’t joking he said something that made me snap out of it. I don’t remember what that was either, but I think it had something to do with reminding me to breathe.

It wasn’t until a few years later that I realized I had a mini panic attack that day. I think I’ve always had some form of anxiety, but it’s changed as I’ve gotten older.

As long as I can remember, there have been periods where I’ve had trouble sleeping. As a little girl, everything had to be just right in my room in order for me to fall asleep. My stuffed animals had to be in a specific spot and the bathroom light in the hallway had to be on with the door opened just a crack.

When I was 8 or 9 I would sneak into my parent’s bedroom and fall asleep on the floor in front of their bed. For some reason, I just felt safer there.

Something was different about me.

I had plenty of friends back then, but I was always a little awkward physically. I had frizzy curly hair that I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to brush out.

It’s a miracle I didn’t get teased by more than
my brothers!!!

My growth spurt hit at 12 or 13 and I shot up taller than a lot of the boys in my grade. Along with that came huge hips and what I then called “thunder thighs.”

I wasn’t like the other girls in my grade- the ones that boys paid attention to. Those girls had straight hair and they were super skinny. I know now that the things I was ashamed of back then are what make me who I am.

I’m still working on my self-confidence, but I’m able to recognize that my thighs are strong, and my curly hair makes me unique.

But I also think that feeling so strongly about being different made me nervous. I remember lying awake late at night replaying all the conversations I’d had that day, obsessing over what I said or didn’t say. I’d stay up so late worrying that I couldn’t wake up on time for school the next day.

Once I got closer to graduating, I had more important things to worry about. I stressed over where I was going to college, what I wanted to be, and getting a perfect 4.0.

I know it’s not that abnormal to worry about those things, but I remember the only B I got in high school like it just happened yesterday. I’ll never forget how devastated I was! I think I took the obsessing and worrying a little too far.

Maybe I had anxiety back then and just didn’t know it yet.

What Is Anxiety Anyway?

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure.

I can definitely say I’ve been able to check all of those boxes at some point in my life. But now that I’m a mom, living with anxiety has taken on a whole new meaning.

What Anxiety Looks Like For Moms

It’s worrying that I yelled too much last night and I didn’t play enough. And falling asleep wondering if my kids know how much I love them.

It’s hearing a siren and hoping it’s not someone I love. This feels even worse if it happens when my kids are at school!

It’s thinking that my friends don’t like me anymore when I haven’t heard from them in a while. Then it’s checking my phone every 5 minutes to see if they texted me back when I ask them if they want to meet up.

It’s walking into a party praying that I don’t look ridiculously out of style in my jeans that never fit right after I had kids and my sweater from last season.

It’s hoping that my child isn’t being a mean kid on the playground, but being too scared that he is to intervene and find out. And if he is, it’s being too uncertain of my parenting style to know what to do or the right words to say.

It’s worrying that my son’s going to fall off the monkey bars and break his arm again. Or that my other son’s getting too close to the edge and will fall off too. Then he’ll end up needing surgery again and he’ll be so scared because of what he’s already been through.

It’s lying awake at night thinking of all the things I need to do, worrying that I’m going to forget one of them. Then finally getting up to make lunches at midnight or sign my child’s permission slip, because I don’t trust myself to remember.

It’s making my kids hold my hands extra tight in every parking lot and losing my cool when they don’t listen and run off.

It’s worrying that the car in front of me is going to slam on the breaks. Sometimes, when it’s raining really hard and I’m driving in it, it’s worrying that I’m going to start skidding across four lanes of traffic and end up in the median. And if I do end up dying, what will happen to my kids? Who will take care of them? Where will they live? Who will be there to see them graduate and help them plan their future weddings?

Sometimes, it’s not wanting to get out of bed.

All the time, it’s second-guessing myself as a mom. Wondering if I’m doing the right thing. Questioning if I’m feeding my kids the right thing- if I should be giving them more veggies and less candy.

Are these things all normal? Does every mom feel this way sometimes about their kids? I don’t know, but what I do know is that if you’re out there feeling this way, you’re not alone.

There Is Help For Moms Living With Anxiety

Mom feeling freed from her anxiety.

If you’re feeling anxious or worried enough that you feel like it’s stopping you from doing your job as a mom, please reach out for help. Find someone you feel safe talking to. It can make a big difference! Psychology today is a great place to start.

Some other things that help me are:

  • Journaling
  • Deep Breathing
  • Regular Exercise

Check out my previous blog on Self Care For Busy Moms, for more tips on managing anxiety as a mom.

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Let Them Be Little

Why am I always trying so hard to rush my kids to grow up? I put a lot of pressure on them to be “big” and do things for themselves.

That’s not always a bad thing. I know they need to learn eventually and if I’m always doing everything for them they never will. But sometimes I wonder if I’m stealing their childhood.

Is society’s sense of urgency making me parent that way?

When my kids were babies, I just wanted the sleepless nights to end.

Everyone would say things like:

“Enjoy the baby snuggles while you can. They’ll be gone before you know it.”

But I was secretly searching baby books for answers about when it would end.

I wanted to know what age they had to be when I wouldn’t have to wake them to feed them anymore. Then I wanted to know how much they needed to weigh before they could sleep through the night. Once I read that when a baby weighs about 12 lbs they can last all night without feeding. I became obsessed with how much they weighed after that.

When they were between 2 and 3 years old, I was researching what age to start potty training so that we could get out of diapers.

Once they were able to eat solid food, I was waiting for the day they’d be able to feed themselves. Then I was counting down the days until they’d be in school full time, so I could really get a break.

I think my youngest has probably felt this the most. Without realizing it, I compare what he can do to what his big brother can do. But I forget that his brother is almost 3 years older. I assume that because my oldest can go to the bathroom by himself, so should he.

I forget that he’s at a different stage developmentally and being potty trained is still a new-ish skill for him. As much as I want him to wipe himself and remember to wash his hands with soap without being reminded, he is only 5!

Can We Just Slow It Down?

Last week I had a moment where I realized I need to stop rushing my kids to grow up though. You know those moments as a mom where you feel like you just want time to stand still?

The ones where you picture your kids leaving for college and you realize that everyone was right….Your days where your kids are at home with you are numbered. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t get sentimental like this often, but every now and then I do. 

Sometimes I worry that my 5 -year-old missed out on a lot of the things that little kids are into like Mickey Mouse and Elmo. When he wanted to watch preschool shows, his brother would tell him they were for babies. Since he thinks his big brother hung the moon, he stopped asking to watch those shows.  He graduated right to super heros and Sponge Bob at age 3! 

Little brother and big brother
Dressing just like big brother

Goodbye Too Soon?

A few years ago, we realized that our kids were both really interested in Legos. The younger one was able to put together regular size Lego sets, so we decided to get rid of all of our duplo Legos. Ever since then, my youngest has asked why we had to get rid of them. 

This year, he asked for more for Christmas. When I was helping with the holiday party in his classroom, I noticed that he went right to the Duplo legos during the free play time. Plus any time I ask him what he does during centers at school, he says that he plays with the duplos.

So Santa got him a set of duplo Legos. They must be his favorite gift because he has played with them over and over again. Instead of spending a few hours putting together a Lego set and then losing interest when it’s done, he creates something new every day. 

Last week I noticed that the instruction booklet that came in the duplo Lego box had a piece missing. The missing piece was the part that said the age range was 1 ½ +.

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Lego instruction booklet

I know the plus sign after the 1 ½ is open-ended, but I wondered if my 5-year-old read it differently. Did he think his brother would think he’s a baby for playing with them?

It made me realize that he might need permission to just be 5. He might need me to give that to him. So I thought of a few things I can do. 

6 Tips For Giving Your Child Permission To Be A Kid:

  1. Build-in time for pretend play. Sometimes if I’m not careful, my kids will go days in a row where they don’t actually play with their toys. We’re always rushing from one activity to the next after school and on the weekends. Then when we’re at home, it’s easy to just turn on the tv or let my kids play endless amounts of video games. I “try” to set limits on screentime and when that time is up, I tell them to go in their play room and play. Sometimes they resist and complain that they’re bored, but I show them how they can use their imagination.
  2. Play more. My goal is to actually sit down and play with my kids, when I can, at least 30 minutes a week. During this time, I make sure to turn off all devices and play whatever they want me to.
  3. Organize their toys and make them easier to find. By helping my son find his Paw Patrol and PJ Mask characters and putting them in a special place, he’s more likely to go play with them when he’s bored. 
  4. Talk about how it’s ok to like toys or shows that older siblings might say are for babies. I’ve had to remind my 5-year-old often that he’s not a baby even if he likes different things than his brother.
  5. Watch Peter Pan and sing ‘I’ll never grow up’. This one’s a classic and always makes me wish I was still a kid. 

In the end, I also have to stop putting so much pressure on myself to be the perfect mom and feeling guilty about how I might’ve messed up. Deep down, I know that I’m doing the best I can and my kids know how much I love them.

If you enjoyed reading this, be sure to follow me on INSTAGRAM, so you’ll know when new posts are up!

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For the past year and a half, we’ve been taking my 5 year old to different specialists trying to figure out how to deal with his sinus issues. Apparently he takes after me with eustachian tube issues, which causes fluid to build up in his ears.

When that happens he feels like he’s underwater and can have a hard time hearing people speak from far away. He’s a boy and he’s also only 5. So it’s hard to discern when he isn’t following directions because he can’t hear me or if he’s choosing not to.

Yesterday, I took him to the ENT because I thought maybe he couldn’t hear me again. BUT, that little stinker passed the hearing test with flying colors. The doctor said his ears looked better than they did the last time we were there a few months ago. The audiologist commented that it must be selective hearing and that she couldn’t help me with that. She said if she could figure out how to she would be a millionaire.

I walked away from the appointment feeling a little embarrassed. Especially when I had just finished having a conversation with the nurse practitioner about how I have a parenting blog. But I swallowed my pride and took it as an opportunity to step back and think about how to handle the fact that my children don’t listen to me.

I’ve actually been pretty frustrated recently with both of my kids, because when I ask them to do something they whine, complain, ask “WHY“?, and try to negotiate with me about what they should do instead. My mom even offered to give them $20 to use at their school’s upcoming holiday shop if they can go a week without arguing or trying to negotiate with me.

Getting Your Kids To Listen Using Positive Reinforcement

Behavior chart that helps with getting your kids to listen using positive reinforcement

RECOGNIZE THE FEELING

It’s important to help your child see that you get them and that you aren’t totaling ignoring how they feel. Life is hard and if we teach our kids to learn how to express their feelings when they are young, we’ll help set them up for success later in life. It’s been my experience that if you ignore the fact that a 5 year old isn’t listening to you because they’re more interested in what they’re doing, it will only make things worse. He’ll just feel frustrated and will likely do one of two things:

1). He’ll stuff his feelings and end up resenting you.

2). He will have a meltdown trying to test if you’ll give in and let him do what he wants.

Instead, you can recognize the feeling and try to help your child deal with it. My 7 year old was getting really discouraged about having to restart the 7 day clock to earn the $20 my mom promised. He said that if he had to keep starting over, he’d rather just give up. So I reminded him that it’s hard to change a habit and that we could figure out a way for him to do it.

I saw that he was holding his breath and trying really hard not to argue with me when I reminded him about the deal. So I said, “That’s it! Do that, when you’re frustrated. You can put it in a bubble or hold it in your mouth instead of saying what you want to say out loud.” I also told him that he could count to 5 or count to 10 if he needed to.

When getting your kids to listen you should recognize which of these feelings they have

GIVE A CUE

We also decided that I would give him a cue if I thought he might try to argue with me about something, but that I would only do this once a day. If I had to remind him more than once then he would have to start over.

So we decided that I would say, “poop” because….well he’s a boy and that’s what he wanted the cue to be. I had to bite my tongue and not interject that I thought that was the worst idea, because I knew it would also kind of make him laugh if he heard me say poop.

Getting your kids to listen makes moms feel happy

NOTICE THE GOOD

This morning when I was helping my 5 year old get dressed, I tried this strategy. I got a good night’s sleep last night so I think I was being a little more patient than normal. Plus, we weren’t in a huge rush to get out the door like we are on school mornings so that probably helped a bit.

When my son turned off his iPad when I asked without complaining I said, “I like the way you did that without complaining!” The more times I can catch him doing what I want and point it out to him, the more likely he is to continue doing it.

Using positive reinforcement, like praise can help you increase the behavior that you want (in this case listening to you). Your child’s brain will start to connect the action with the reward. Then they will hopefully start to do it more often on their own.

I hope this helps you get your kids to listen to you. If not then hopefully at least you can appreciate my parenting struggles and maybe get a laugh at my expense!

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Pinterest pin: Parenting- Getting Your Kids To Listen Without Yelling + boy sitting outside on grass
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The Best Positive Parenting Strategy For Getting Kids To Listen

Recently I polled my readers in my facebook group about what parenting topic they’d like to read about. Several moms responded with something to the tune of, “Help me with my stubborn child!” I had to laugh because I didn’t really have an answer. This is something I struggle with almost daily.

I think that’s mainly due to the fact that I myself can be pretty stubborn. My husband and I butt heads, because we are both stubborn and neither one of us wants to give in even when we’re wrong. So unfortunately I think my children are doomed to inherit some of our stubborn traits.

Being stubborn or strong-willed as a child isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. It could even be an indicator of future success according to a research study published by the American Psychological Association. But as a parent it can be really frustrating. Approaching stubbornness using positive parenting solutions can help.

I’ll never forget a time years ago when a mom I was babysitting for asked her son if he wanted a spanking. I laughed to myself when he said yes. Then he continued to misbehave and she had backed herself into a corner.

The only way she could deal with his misbehavior in that moment was to spank him. The option for him to make a good choice and change his behavior was pretty slim, since she had already set him up to fail.

Granted, he could have said no and made the decision to stop throwing toys at his brother, but he didn’t. Sometimes the way we say things as parents can set our kids up to fail and we don’t even realize it.

Different Parenting Styles

Just like the world is full of different types of people, there are different styles for parenting kids. Depending on your personality and your upbringing you may lean towards one or the other.

I prefer to use logical consequences and positive parenting styles. Since I’m realizing my kids have sensitive personalities, I also try to avoid yelling as much as possible. (Although, let’s be real, I do lose my cool and yell sometimes, especially when I’m trying to get them out the door.)

I also don’t believe in spanking my children. I’m not going to get into too much detail about why now, but I don’t think it helps. I also don’t want my children to grow up to be afraid of me.

When I was working towards becoming a registered play therapist, I learned about child psychologist Garry Landreth. I quickly realized that the way he approached parenting and therapy with children aligned with me. He believes that if we can understand the way a child sees the world, then it will help us understand why they behave the way they do.

The Choices, Cookies, & Kids Method

Landreth developed the positive parenting solution Choices, Cookies, & Kids when his 3 year old daughter had her hand in the cookie jar. He realized that in order for her to become a successful adult later in life, she needed to learn how to make the right choice on her own.

So instead of blurting out his usual response, “No, you can’t eat all the cookies,” he decided to give her a choice. He told her that she could choose to eat 1 cookie or that she could choose to eat none of the cookies.

Choices, Cookies & Kids involves using statements that help your child learn how to control their own behavior. If we are always telling our children what they can and can’t do, they’ll never learn resposibility. And it will be harder for them to know how to react when we aren’t there to tell them what to do.

HOW TO OFFER CHOICES:

  1. Offer two choices. One of the choices will be the “right choice” and one will be the “wrong choice” that will result in a consequence.
  2. Follow through with the consequence. Make sure to do what you said you would if your child chooses the wrong choice.

For example: Instead of saying, “Do you want a spanking?” the mom I mentioned before could have said this:

“It’s not ok to throw toys at your brother. You have two choices:

1). You can either play nicely with your cars and choose to continue playing with them,

OR

2) You can choose to keep throwing cars at your brother and choose to have them taken away.”

Notice, how many times I used the word choice or choose. This is key, because it reminds your child that you are putting the responsibility on them.

USING CHOICES TO MANAGE TANTRUMS:

Now let’s say that your child is throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store, because they want you to buy them a toy. If you wanted to use this method instead of simply saying no, you would say something like this:

“I can see that you really want a toy, but we’re not getting any toys today. If you choose to scream you will be choosing not to watch tv for the rest of the day. If you choose NOT to scream and yell, you will be choosing to watch TV when we get home.”

If your child continues to throw a fit, then you would respond with, “You’ve chosen to give up TV for the rest of the day.”

If your child stops crying and calms down, then you would say, “You’ve chosen not to yell and scream, and now you can watch TV today!”

** You can use whichever consequence will have the most affect on your child. I allow my kids 1 hour of “tech time” a day and they really look forward to it. So I use this consequence most of the time, because I know it will usually work.

MAKING IT WORK

Be sure to be consistent and follow through with the consequence. If you don’t do what you’ve said you are going to do and allow your child to watch tv later in the day, this won’t work.

This may be really hard at first. It may seem like it’s too much trouble and you might feel like it would be easier to revert back to your old way of handling misbehavior. Any change is hard and your child will need to see you follow through with this technique a few times before they learn how it works.

IT’S WORTH IT

For me, the challenge to adjust my thinking is worth it. Using positive parenting strategies helps strengthen my relationship with my kids, because they feel heard and understood. When I’m using these positive strategies instead of reverting to yelling and threatening, everyone in my family is happier! Who doesn’t want that?

Let me know in the comments if you try this and how it works!

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6 Reasons To Stop Cleaning Your House Before Play Dates

Ok I know what you’re probably thinking. Not another one of those blogs where she tells me to do the opposite of what I really should do- like the one about how to have fun at the playground. Because, why would I tell you to stop cleaning your house?

I’m serious this time though. Let me tell you why.

I’m in a local moms club and we have play groups where groups of us with kids who are close in age meet up once a week. A few months ago, I was at playgroup at a friend’s house. One of the other moms commented on how clean the house was.

She said, “It looks like no kids live here! I really wish other moms wouldn’t clean up so much before we come over. It just makes me feel worse about how messy my house is!”

This is not the first time I’ve heard a mom say that. In fact I remember hearing people say the same thing when I started doing playgroups almost 5 years ago. As much as I agree, it’s so hard for me to do!

I remember a few years ago when my son had his first play date without me at a friend’s house. It looked like a cheerio bomb had gone off and there were toys everywhere.

At first I was a little shocked, but then the mom apologized for the state of her home. In my head I was thinking, “Thank you! Thank you for not cleaning up. Thank you for making me feel better about my own house.”

Stop Obsessing Over The Mess

Yesterday, a mom friend and her two kids were coming over for a playdate. All day I was obsessing about what a mess my house was. I started to notice all the piles of board games and coloring books that I needed to go through and reorganize.

stop cleaning your house before play dates because it will just get messy again

Then I realized I was letting myself get too stressed out about cleaning my house for a play date.

I remembered the conversation I had with my friend at playgroup and decided to try to let some of the mess go. Of course I ended up still cleaning up some of it. But I took some of the pressure off myself for my house to be spotless.

The funny thing is, when my friend came over I really don’t think she even noticed the mess. I had planned to apologize to her about how my house was a disaster, but when I looked around it didn’t even look that bad!

The more I think about this, there are so many reasons you shouldn’t clean your house before a play date. Here are just a few:

WHY YOU SHOULD STOP CLEANING YOUR HOUSE BEFORE PLAY DATES

It Makes Others Feel Guilty

If you host a play date at your house and it’s spotless, your friends will probably feel like my mom friend did at play group.

They might wonder how you have it all together and question why they can’t seem to ever keep their own house clean. Outside of their being food all over the floor and bugs everywhere, your friends will feel more comfortable if it’s a little messy!

Someone Has To Break The Cycle

It only takes one person in your circle of friends to not clean their house before the play date to give others permission to do the same. But if you do clean up, then the cycle will keep going and everyone else will feel like they have to. So, be the one to break the cycle.

As hard as it is sometimes, it actually feels pretty liberating to let some of the mess go. Plus, if your friends are going to judge you for the state of your house cleanliness, are they really true friends anyway?

It Takes Away From Your Kids

Always stressing out about cleaning your house takes away from the time that you could be spending with your kids.

No mom has ever looked back on her life and regretted spending too much time with her kids.

As hard as it is to let the mess go in the moment, you will miss out on so many experiences with your family if your constantly cleaning.

It’s Just Going To Get Messy Again

Unfortunately, even if you do clean up, your house is just going to get messy again. A fun play date ends with toys everywhere and dress-up clothes off their hangers. It means that the toys were actually played with.

Kids making a mess on a playdate which is why you should stop cleaning your house before playdates

No One Will Notice Your Mess

We always notice the things we don’t like about ourselves more than others do. The same goes for the things we don’t like about our homes. Chances are no one but you will notice the crayon marking on the wall behind your couch or the crumbs of food under your dining room table.

Yesterday, my friend never batted an eye about the mess in my house. It really wasn’t as bad as I thought anyway.

Too Clean Is Not Realistic

Do you really want your friends wondering if you actually live there because your house is TOO clean? Kids learn by making messes. They wouldn’t have the experience of making cookies with you if you didn’t let them make a mess in the kitchen with the flour.

Kids make a mess when they play too. They have to dump out the whole bin of action figures to find the exact one they are looking for. They need to line up every single hot wheels car to have a car race, or else it just isn’t the same! Let them live!

We might have a slight toy car addiction!

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You’re Doing It Right Momma

Last week I had back to back school conferences with both of my kids’ teachers. I didn’t plan it this way. I didn’t actually realize what I’d done until I got a reminder email from one of them. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

You see, the day prior I had one of those days where I felt like a failure as a mom. We had been at a birthday party where there was a piñata. I like piñatas because my kids LOVE piñatas. They go all out crazy anytime there is one.

My oldest takes it one step further than most though. Granted he was literally the 2nd oldest kid at the party and the tallest by at least 4 inches, but he truly let his greedy side show up to this piñata party.

Once the piñata was busted, the chaos ensued and the feeding frenzy began. After what had to have been no more than 2 minutes, my child walked away with about a pound of candy and toy trinkets. There were probably half a dozen other kids crying that they didn’t get a single thing!

Even though the competitive side of me wanted to shake my son’s hand for winning this “piñata game” and getting in there to claim his prizes, the bigger part of me was appalled.

So I did what any right minded mom would do and started grabbing handfuls of his candy to give to the less fortunate smaller kids who didn’t get any. Of course after he realized his loot was cut in half, he wasn’t happy with me and walked away pouting.

When I asked him where his goodie bag was, he said that since I gave most of his candy away he gave the little that was left to his brother and threw the bag away. This only made me feel like I had raised an even bigger brat so we left the party fighting. I complained to my husband that night and he had a talk with him about sharing.

School Conference Day

The next day, I met with my other son’s teacher first. She had only good things to say- that he’s excelling in every subject, he’s a good listener, and is a joy to have in class. She asked what we were doing, because she wanted to do the same thing when she has kids of her own one day.

Then, I met with my oldest son’s teacher and she also had glowing remarks! I already knew he was doing well academically, but it was her comment about his character that really surprised me. To be completely honest I know he’s a good kid, but I didn’t expect her to say that he was one of only a few students she’s ever had who is truly a good person.

I needed to hear these things. It’s not that I don’t think I’m a good mom. I know I’m doing an ok job, but it feels really good to hear from someone else that I’m raising such kind and considerate children. I actually felt a little guilty about getting so mad the day before. But I’ve already told you that I struggle with mom guilt. You can read all about that in my previous post here: https://momlifewithp.com/mom-guilt-how-to-deal-when-it-strikes/.

Hearing Positive Feedback From Strangers

This past weekend we were eating breakfast at a tiny crowded coffee shop in Ashville. The boys were smearing muffins into the seat cushions, standing up in their chairs, and using really loud voices. The table next to us felt so awkwardly close that I had a hard time not eavesdropping on the ladies who were sitting there.

When we were getting ready to leave, one of them looked at me and said, “You’re doing a good job. Your kids are really well behaved.” What?!?! These two? Was she in the same restaurant I was just in? I couldn’t believe she said that, but I thanked her and walked away feeling again like maybe I AM doing something right.

As moms we don’t hear what we’re doing right enough. This job doesn’t come with a yearly performance evaluation where we get a raise if we’re meeting the company’s standards. So to all the teachers out there, tell your students’ parents when they’re getting it right. Tell them as often as you can, not just once a year at the parent/teacher conference.

Husbands, tell your wives they’re good moms. It may seem obvious to you, but she needs to hear it because she doesn’t always believe it. This goes for everyone, if you see a mom in public tell her she’s doing a good job. Even if her kids aren’t being perfect angels. If they’re eating their food and not throwing it at you, she needs to know she’s not screwing it all up.

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10 Things Moms Wish Someone Had Told Them About Being a New Mom

The first few months of motherhood can be one of the most amazing yet hardest parts of a woman’s life. There are so many new experiences that you don’t expect and don’t know how to react to. There are moments of doubt, confusion, uncertainty, and overwhelming fear.

But once you realize that you aren’t alone and that what you are going through is normal it is such a relief! For some reason we don’t talk about these things until after the fact. Maybe it’s because we don’t want to scare women away from motherhood. But I want moms to know that they aren’t alone, which is why I started this blog in the first place.

I think I’ve kind of buried a lot of the memories of the newborn phase or maybe it’s all a blur because I was so sleep deprived. So I asked some of my mom friends what they wish someone had told them before they had kids.

Here’s what they had to say:

10 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Became A Mom

It’s Lonely:

There will be days and night that seem to run together in the beginning, and you’ll feel so alone. You’ll feel like you’re never going to get out of the house, but then one day you’ll get out of the newborn baby fog and you’ll feel comfortable leaving the house with them. You’ll be able to do a little more outside of the house each week, and eventually things will start to feel normal again. 

I joined a local Mom’s Club when I had my 2nd and this really helped force me out of the house. I highly recommend it if this is an option in your area.

Breastfeeding is Hard:

Before I had my first child, I don’t remember anyone telling me how hard breastfeeding was. For some moms, it just doesn’t work. It’s ok to switch to formula at ANY time. Your baby will be fine as long as you are feeding him something.

See a Lactation Consultant:

If you do decide to continue with breastfeeding though, there is help out there. See a lactation consultant. Call the hospital and they will help you schedule this. Some insurances even cover it. There are also support groups for breastfeeding mothers and this can be a great way to meet other moms who are going through the same issues.

Cluster Feeding is a Thing:

There will be days when your baby wants to eat in between feedings and you’ll feel like all you’re doing is feeding them. They may want to eat every hour. There is nothing wrong with you or your milk, it’s just something that some babies do. The good news is that they often store up for longer sleeps when they do this!

It’s Ok to Not Love Every Moment of Motherhood:

There will be hard days and times where you don’t love being a mom, but that’s just par for the course. You are not alone in feeling that way and it doesn’t make you a bad mom. It’s also ok to feel sad.

Postpartum depression is more common than you think- it affects up to 15% of mothers. With PPD feelings of sadness are more extreme and they begin to interfere with your ability to take care of yourself and your baby. If you think you might have PPD, you can learn more here and find out how to get help.

You Have To Accept Help:

People will offer to help and you have to let them! You can’t do it all alone, especially in the beginning when you’re still trying to adjust. If your friend wants to come over and help, put her to work so you can take a nap. Let her do a few loads of laundry. Let her hold the baby for a few minutes so you can go take a shower. It doesn’t make you a weaker mom, it will make you stronger when you can come back refreshed!

It takes a village! Read about how I found my village in this previous post: https://momlifewithp.com/how-i-found-my-village/

It Might Feel Like It’s Getting Harder At First:

Around week 2 the baby might start being awake more during the day (and unfortunately at night too). This is also around the time your adrenaline rush starts to wear off and you start to feel the effects of sleep deprivation catching up to you. This is when you need to reach out for help.

Your Baby Will Be OK:

Having a baby will be terrifying at times. So many of my friends referenced this part, but they want you to know that you don’t have to be afraid. Your baby will be ok and you are fully capable of keeping them alive! Each day will get easier and you’ll look back one day and see what a great job you did.

Trust Your Gut:

There are endless amounts of parenting books (and now mom blogs) out there. A lot of them will give you conflicting advice. Sometimes it will be better to just ignore it all and trust your gut. If you think you want to let your baby cry it out, do it. If you’d rather go in and hold her every time she cries in the middle of the night, DO it! Neither way is right or wrong and you have to figure out what works for you.

It Will Get Easier:

It might be really really hard in the beginning, but it will get easier. People wouldn’t keep having babies after their first time around if this wasn’t true. This was one of the best tidbits of advice a fellow mom gave me when I was a newbie. Hold on to this and know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Share in the comments if you have anything else to add to this list. The more we can share to make it easier for new moms the better!

4 Common Myths of Self-Care

Inside: Debunking 4 Myths about Self-Care and how to avoid believing them.

Most of us know the importance of taking care of ourselves. Even though we often don’t always make the time, moms especially know that we have to take care of our own sanity so that we can take care of our family. But we often make excuses about why we don’t engage in self-care as moms.

These are some of the common reasons that people don’t spend as much time taking care of themselves as they should.

4 Myths of Self-Care Debunked

1. It Costs Too Much

While it may sound nice to get an hour-long massage and a spa pedicure once a week, its not the only way to practice self-care. There are tons of things you can do for yourself to help relieve stress that won’t cost a penny!

One of my favorite stress relievers is taking a warm bubble bath and leaving my devices in another room so I’m forced to just relax for a few minutes. Don’t forget to lock the door so your family will leave you alone!

Mom taking care of herself by doing a face mask.

2. I Don’t Have Enough Time

Again, you don’t have to get crazy here. The point is to find an amount of time that works for you and make sure you stick to it. The best thing you can do is schedule at least 30 minutes a week that are devoted to doing something that you enjoy. The more time you can do it the better, but it’s ok to start small.

3. I Don’t Know How

I struggle with this sometimes, especially since it’s so hard to slow down when I have the time. I used to avoid going to yoga classes because I was afraid that it was too hard and I felt like I couldn’t get into it mentally. A good yoga instructor will encourage you to come as you are and not judge yourself for being anxious. Just showing up for the class is better than not even going and I often have to remind myself that.

But self-care is also subjective. So if yoga is not your thing that’s ok. Maybe self-care for you means going for a walk and paying attention to your surroundings for 15 minutes.

Sometimes self-care simply means saying, “No” when someone asks you to do something and you feel like you already have too much on your plate.

4. Self-care is Selfish

This is probably the biggest myth of self-care on this list. Taking care of yourself is not only unselfish, but it’s also vital to keeping your self sane so that you can be a good mom.

As psychotherapist, Jenn Bovee says, “YOU deserve to take care of you, just as much as others deserve to have you take care of them. That means you CANNOT come last. You are not “bad” or self-indulgent” if you put yourself first. I don’t care what you’ve been taught.”

Check out my previous post on self-care for my favorite ways busy moms can take care of themselves.

Can you think of any other myths of self-care? Let us know in the comments below what has been holding you back from practicing it regularly yourself. Chances are you aren’t alone!

4 Myths About Self-Care with mom doing a yoga pose on beach

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Why Moms Should Avoid The Comparison Trap

Inside: Why you should stop comparing yourself to all the other moms out there and trying to be someone that you’ll never be. This content may contain affiliate links.

It’s so easy to look at the other moms around you and think, “Gosh she has it all together. Why can’t I get my kids to sleep through the night at 6 weeks?” or “I can’t believe I’ve fed my family fast food 3 nights this week and she cooks delicious organic meals every night! How does she do it? Why can’t I be more like her?”

“Why can’t I manage working full time, keep my house clean, and make my family happy all the time?” Do you realize that no one is able to do that? If any mom makes you think that she can, she is fooling you!

Are you one of those moms that is jealous of your friend who has a baby and then immediately looks like she did before she got pregnant? Is all you can think about why you still haven’t lost the 40 pounds you gained when you got pregnant with your toddler who is now 3. Well guess what….just because she looks like she’s back to her normal pre-pregnancy weight, doesn’t mean she is. Even if she is back to her “pre-pregnancy weight” that doesn’t mean she’s completely happy.

Maybe she’s starving herself and working out while her baby is napping, but then she snaps at her family because she’s not taking time to rest when the baby sleeps. She might even be thinking that she wishes she could be more like you, because you always seem to have the most patience with your kids.

Despite the pounds on the scale, it’s really irrelevant.

Each of our bodies is different and we can’t make them into something they’re not. I was in a fitness class the other day and the instructor made a point to say that we shouldn’t compare our bodies and our “progress” to the person next to us. We can all do the exact same work out and eat the exact same thing all day and still look completely different.

.

God made us the way we are SO that we would all be different. Can you imagine how boring our world would be if we all looked the same?

A few years ago, I attended a small group study led by Sandra Stanley on her book The Comparison Trap. It’s a 28-day devotional where she explores what the Bible says about how God made you the way that you are.

One of the devotionals studies Ephesians 2: 10 It says, “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” What that means is the good things that God’s picked for me aren’t the same for you. Instead of saying, “Why not me?” remember that God has something else planned for you, something that’s even better for you based on the gifts, skills, and temperament that he gave you.

God knew exactly what he was doing when he made you. If you try to be someone else you’re always going to come up short. You’re going to exhaust yourself spinning your wheels trying to be someone that you weren’t created to be.

The Family Looking Up Blog interviews Sara Payne, about what she believes are 3 ways that moms can avoid the comparison trap.

Sara points out that often when we are comparing ourselves to others, we’re comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. And that’s just not fair for either person! She challenges moms to celebrate other moms successes and to look at them as being allies not enemies.

Unfortunately for moms today, with social media constantly at our fingertips, it’s so easy to get caught up in the comparison trap. But that doesn’t mean we have to stay there. We just have to make a conscious effort to get ourselves out of it.

I got this sticker from The Comparison Trap study that says, “You’re fine because you’re mine.” I put it on my mirror in my bathroom so that I would see it everyday.

A sticker that says "You're fine because you're mine."

There might be days that go by, where I just wash my face and brush my teeth without and even acknowledging that it’s there. But on the days that I do see it, it’s a good reminder for me that God made me the way I am and that he made me this way on purpose.

What’s something you can do to help yourself avoid getting stuck in the comparison trap?

How To Fill Your Child’s Emotional Cup

Have you ever noticed that when you’re busy your child seems to need your attention more? You’re probably not imagining it! When you aren’t giving your child attention, they might feel like their emotional cup isn’t being filled. Let’s talk about how to fill your child’s cup.

I’ve noticed over the past few weeks that my 5-year-old has been extra needy. I thought once school started it would get easier, but now he’s cranky and challenging me even more when he gets home from school. 

I remember learning somewhere in my training to be a therapist that if you’re feeling annoyed by a child, they’re probably needing your attention.

So I’ve been trying to let my son help with little tasks and include him in making dinner when I can. Somehow that always seems to backfire though!

Making Lemonade

Last week for example, he noticed a lemon on the counter and asked if we could make lemonade. I was hesitant because I knew how messy it would be. Then I remembered a few days earlier I had told him that maybe we could make homemade lemonade one day. So I reluctantly agreed.

I let him squeeze the lemon juice into a cup and then pour it into water bottles for he and his brother. He seemed to be having fun but insisted on adding more sugar. I could feel my temperature start to boil as I envisioned the sugar getting all over the floor. 

I tried to take a few deep breaths and remember that I was doing this to connect with him. Fortunately, no sugar was spilled, but my son didn’t really like the lemonade because it was too sour!

After we made lemonade we went to Barnes and Noble to pick out a book. Both my sons had earned a free book for completing their summer reading program.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult this little outing was!

They were fighting over who got their shoes on first before we even got out the door. When we got there, my 5-year-old wanted a book that wasn’t on the “free book” list. He repeatedly asked why he couldn’t pick out a different book.

Despite multiple threats to leave with nothing, they eventually decided on their free books and we got back into the car to head home. My 7-year-old accidentally sat in the opposite booster seat that he rode in on the way there and unknowingly drank the rest of his brother’s lemonade.

You would have thought he killed his dog! The waterworks ensued and just when I thought he was over it, the 7-year-old shouted, “Heyyyyy!!!!!!! Charlie!!!!!”

The 5-year-old had poured the little lemonade that he had left onto the 7-year-old’s head. I was livid! I was so over his misbehavior at that point that I invoked the smack down of all punishments- no tech time!

Commence World War 3

Let me just say that the car ride home was way less pleasant than on the ride to the bookstore where both kids were happily drinking their homemade lemonade and dreaming of the new book they’d soon be getting.

Child who looks angry and needs their cup filled

Not only that, I then had to deal with the ramifications of taking away the 5-year-old’s screen time while his big brother still got to have his. It felt like more of a punishment on me, then towards him.

I began to think maybe trying to go somewhere as simple as the bookstore in the afternoon on the first week of school was too much? Was I being too harsh?

A few minutes later, my husband came home from work and I was practically in tears. He gave me a break and took the boys out for pizza so that I wouldn’t have to cook and I stayed home to try to relax a little.

When I have free time, I often find myself looking at Pinterest so that’s what I was doing when I stumbled across this picture. It all started to make more sense! You can find the downloadable pdf here: https://upbility.net/blogs/news/the-emotional-cup#comments.

How to fill your child's emotional cup, what empties the cup, and ways children deal with an empty cup.

My 5-year-old was acting out because he needed his cup filled. He was exhibiting all of the signs listed!

Ways That Children Deal With Having An Empty Cup

  1. They steal from other people’s cups or steal from their happiness- like when my son poured the lemonade on his brother’s head.
  2. Misbehave to get your attention and show that they need a refill. This was definitely happening!
  3. Seem to have bottomless cups, or need constant “topping off.” Do you ever feel like the more attention you give your child, the more they seem to need? It’s because their cup is empty and far from being “full.” So adding a little attention (even when it feels like a lot to you) isn’t enough.

What Empties The Cup?

The cup is a metaphor for emotions, so if a child’s cup is full they are content and happy. What leads to an empty cup will vary for each child. I eventually realized that my son’s cup was probably feeling empty because he was stressed by the start of a new school year.

He was having to make all new friends and adjust to a new routine in a new classroom. It might have even felt a little lonely for him. He was also definitely exhausted from having to get up super early and spend 7 hours in school.

How To Fill Your Child’s Cup

So now that I know his emotional cup is running on empty, here are a few ways I can try to fill it:

1. Encourage Play

It would be so easy to let him watch tv or his iPad when he gets home from school to veg out, but I’ve tried to maintain consistent play dates at least once a week and encourage him to actually play with his toys with his brother.

2. One on One Time

Last week my oldest had a play date at a friend’s house so my youngest and I were able to have some 1:1 time. We went to a splash pad, got ice cream, and went on a play ground for a while. It was challenging for a bit, because his cup was so low that he demanded even more of my attention now that he was getting it.

But I know that it was just what he needed and we did have a good time. Plus, it’s so much easier to manage one of my kids compared to having both of them by myself!

3. Love and Affection

I’ve always tried to tell my kids I love them, but I’m working on making a more conscious effort to say it more often.

4. Connection and Friendship

My son got to have several of his school friends over this weekend for his birthday and I’ve seen a huge difference in his behavior. It’s probably a combination of all of these things, but I know that being the center of attention helped fill his cup.

5. Doing What They Love To Do

How often do you let your child choose the activity for a family outing, without influencing their decision at all? This is a hard one, but can really help fill their cup and will be worth it in the long run!

If you think your child’s cup may be empty, think about whether they may be experiencing stress, loneliness, or fatigue. Then you can implement some of these strategies to fill their cup back up. Let me know which ones work for you!

5 tips for filling your child's emotional cup with mom reading to child

Related Posts

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Momma, Stop Putting Too Much Pressure On Yourself

I’ve been trying to come up with the perfect blog post and I realized that maybe I should share about my experience, because maybe there’s someone else out there that needs to hear this.

I’ve always been kind of a perfectionist. When I was in high school I had straight As (except for ONE B in AP Biology) and when I went to college I remember getting my first C. I was devastated and obviously will never forget it! Yet I still got my Masters degree and had plenty of success getting jobs when I graduated.

Blogging is a lot harder than it seems and some days I wonder if it’s too much for a perfectionist like me. You have to not only write good content but also figure out how to drive traffic to your blog. That means posting on social media.

So I’ve been trying to grow a following and post consistently in my facebook group and on Instagram. I’ve been trying to learn how to use Pinterest for marketing and there’s also Twitter, but I haven’t even begun to really use that! I have a goal in my head to post a certain number of times a day on each of these platforms and it adds up to a lot!

I also put pressure on myself to try to keep the house clean, make sure there aren’t dirty dishes in the sink, keep up with the laundry, cook healthy dinners, and give my kids attention when they get home from school.

On top of that, I also want to be involved at my kids’ school. So I joined the PTA and this year I agreed to take on the role of treasurer. I’ve been feeling guilty about not keeping the records up to date and having our available balance on the top of my head to tell the President when she asks me. She doesn’t even expect that from me. I put that pressure all on myself!

I’ve also been trying to work out, because exercise makes me feel better and releases stress, but I have to find time to fit it in. If I go to the gym, that takes up a big chunk of my day, causing me to feel more pressure to fit in the other things on my to-do list in a shorter time period.

Today I went for a walk, and I kept thinking that I needed to run because I wasn’t going to burn enough calories if I walked the whole time. I was meeting a friend for lunch so I only had a limited amount of time and I could run further than I could walk in that time.

So I was running for 1 minute intervals and then walking until I felt like I could run more. After about 20 minutes of doing this, I had the thought that I should stop putting so much pressure on myself, even in my work out. I decided to walk and just try to enjoy the moment.

When I allowed myself to walk the whole way instead of trying so hard to keep up with my run/walk/run intervals, that’s when my thoughts cleared and I started to have ideas for what I could write about. I finally thought of the answer to the parenting question that was posted in my facebook group.

The reality is, I can’t be perfect at all of these things! No one can be perfect at everything. If I keep putting pressure on myself to be perfect at all of them, I’ll end up burning out and not being very good at anything. But once I took some of the pressure off myself, I was able to do one of the things I wanted to do.

Wonder Woman is my favorite super hero, partly because I want to be like her. She has super human strength and can do anything. But I have to remember that she’s not real. She’s a comic book character. It’s not realistic for me to conquer everything and to be perfect at all of it. The perfect mom doesn’t exist!!!

8 Tips for Helping Kids with Back to School Anxiety

Inside: Tips to help manage back-to-school anxiety

Now that it’s August, summer is coming to an end. Which means the first day of school will be here before we know it!

If your kids are like mine, going back to school can stir up alot of different emotions! My kids are sad that they won’t get to stay up late and sleep in as long as they want.

My 4-year-old is worried that he won’t make any friends. I’m pretty sure was friends with almost every child in his class last year. But he’s also shy at first and starting over with new classmates can be intimidating for a 5-year-old. He’s also nervous that he won’t know what he’s supposed to know in Kindergarten.

Sometimes kids aren’t able to tell us they’re feeling nervous, but they might experience physical symptoms of anxiety like frequent stomach aches or headaches. This chart from Anxious Toddlers shows some other ways that anxiety can affect the body.

All of these feelings are normal and ok. But they can be overwhelming for children and their caregivers who don’t know how to help. Here are the things that have helped me and my family prepare for the first day of school.

8 Tips for Helping Kids Deal with SCHOOL ANXIETY:

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1. Take a Trial Run

Most schools have Open House where you can go meet the teacher. You can also find out where their classroom will be and learn what to expect on the first day. This might help kids who are nervous about not knowing what to expect, especially if they see that some of their friends are in the same class.

2. Plan a Play Date

Our school has Facebook groups for every grade level. Sometimes the parents arrange play dates prior to the first day of school so the kids can get to know each other. It’s also a great way for the parents to meet and talk about questions or concerns they may have.

3. Draw a Picture

Color Your Heart is an activity that helps kids name and express the feelings they’re having when they’re too overwhelmed to put them to words. Check out my previous post here on how to do this activity with your child. Older kids might be able to draw a picture of what they think the first day of school will be like. Both of these activities can be good ways to help your child let their guard down and open up conversations about why they are feeling anxious.

4. Read a Book

The Kissing Hand tells a story about Chester the raccoon, who is nervous about going to school and leaving his mom. She tells him about a family secret called the Kissing Hand to help him feel her love anywhere he goes through where she kissed his hand.

I also love the book On The First Day of Kindergarten. It’s great for nervous or excited kids who are about to go to Kindergarten and don’t know what to expect. It’s adapted from The Twelve Days of Christmas song and points out that even though saying goodbye to your parents is hard, Kindergarten is full of fun.

5. Practice Coping Skills

Worry Wars, by child therapist Paris Goodyear Brown, is a great activity book with practical ways to help children with anxiety battle their fears. The activities are designed to be fun and easy enough for parents to be able do them at home with their child.

6. Relaxation Exercises

Lori Lite, a parent whose own children struggled with anxiety, created a collection of relaxation CDs for kids called Indigo Dreams. They include stories about animals that introduce stress management techniques to kids in an entertaining way. Her website Stress Free Kids has other great resources to help kids with anxiety including games and coloring pages that go along with the cd.

7. Make Sure Your Child Gets a Good Nights Sleep

Try to start getting into a healthy bedtime routine a few weeks before school starts so that the adjustment to waking up early for school isn’t as hard. Then stick with it. It may seem like kids resist routines at first, but once they become habit they help them feel safe and secure.

8. Increase Their Confidence

People with low self-esteem think they aren’t good enough. They’re also always afraid they’re going to fail, which can lead to a vicious cycle of increased anxiety.

As a parent, you can help your child see that they’re capable of succeeding in school. Here are a few ways to do that:

  • Make a list of all the things they’re good at.
  • Write down everything you like about them and help them come up with a few things others might say.
  • Remind them that you love them unconditionally and that you always will even if they make mistakes.
  • Tell them you’ll be there to help even when it gets hard.

If you think your child has overwhelming anxiety that’s interfering with their ability to attend school or social events, I recommend seeking professional help. You can find a listing of credentialed play therapists in your area who specialize in working with young children at www.a4pt.org. Your pediatrician can also be a great resource to help you decide if your child needs additional support.

If you enjoyed reading this, check out some of our related parenting topics:

Getting Your Kids To Listen Using Positive Reinforcement

Using Positive Parenting To Manage Child Behavior

A Mom’s Guide To Making A Day At The Playground Fun

Mom Guilt- How To Deal With It When It Strikes

Last night I had major “mom guilt.” We’ve been really laid back about letting our kids stay up late this summer and now they are totally out of their routine.

I’ve been dealing with mom guilt since I became a mom.

After he was born, I felt guilty when he wouldn’t nap and I had to let him cry it out for a few minutes just so I could take a break.

Of course I felt even more guilt when I switched to formula feeding at 5 months because it was too much. At every feeding I was pumping, then feeding him through a bottle, and then had to wash the pump parts. I should have earned a metal for all of the effort. Instead I allowed myself to feel bad about giving up.

I felt guilty when I let him sleep in the swing for the first 4 or 5 months of his life. Even though that was the only way to get him to sleep.

 

When my 2nd son was born, I felt guilty for not even trying breastfeeding.

Because of all the challenges I had with my first, we decided to go straight to formula. Even though this was what was right for our family, I felt guilty for not trying to breastfeed. I also felt guilty for not giving my oldest enough attention and having to split my time and energy between them.

Lately, I feel guilty when I allow my kids too much screen time and when I let them have too much sugar. No matter how hard I try as a mom, there’s always something making me feel like I’m not doing enough.

I’m sure there are many other reasons I’ve felt “mom guilt.” It would be impossible not to.

An article on Huffpost by Taylor Pittman, 5 Ways to Cope When Mom Guilt is Getting The Best of You, quoted tennis star Serena Williams’ post on Instagram about how she felt guilty for not spending enough time with her daughter. She’s a famous athlete, and no doubt she has had to sacrifice a lot of family time to get there. Yet she hasn’t missed a day of spending time with her. Her post had over 3000 responses last year of other moms saying that they’d also missed their kids’ important milestones and had experienced feelings of guilt.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I just was in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom. I read several articles that said postpartum emotions can last up to 3 years if not dealt with. I like communication best. Talking things through with my mom, my sisters, my friends let me know that my feelings are totally normal. It’s totally normal to feel like I’m not doing enough for my baby. We have all been there. I work a lot, I train, and I’m trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means although I have been with her every day of her life, I’m not around as much as I would like to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing. Whether stay-at-home or working, finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. I’m here to say: if you are having a rough day or week–it’s ok–I am, too!!! There’s always tomm!

A post shared by Serena Williams (@serenawilliams) on

Pittman also writes that the best way to deal with mom guilt and these feelings of inferiority is to stop comparing yourself to Hollywood’s take on the perfect mom. Carol Brady doesn’t exist and we have to stop trying to be someone who isn’t even real! 

Here are 3 questions to ask yourself when you feel guilty:

1). Am I providing my kids their basic needs? If you are giving them food, drink, shelter, and love then you are doing a good job as a mom and you don’t need to feel guilty.

2). What do I need right now? It’s so easy to focus on what your kids need and forget that you as a mom have needs to. Sometimes the feeling that you can’t measure up is a result of burn out. What you may need is to take a few minutes to fill your own cup.

3). If one of my friends was feeling guilty about this would I tell her not to? If the answer is yes, why are you holding yourself to higher standards? I’m not saying you shouldn’t strive to be better. But you have to cut yourself a break when things don’t always go as planned.

What do you struggle with feeling guilty about most as a mom? Have you found anything that helps you get past it?

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When Life Throws You Lemons, It’s Ok To Not Make The Lemonade

You know that saying, “When life throws you lemons, you make lemonade?” Recently, I felt like I’d had a bucket of lemons thrown at me and this time I did’t want to be Positive Patty about my situation.

It wasn’t working overtime 3 weekends in a row in April that killed me. It wasn’t even the fact that my husband traveled 3 out of 4 weeks in May that set me over the edge.

I survived the 1st grade field trip to the Puppetry Arts Center; kudos to the teachers that take care of my kids every day. I met with both of my kids’ teachers to hear about their progress this year and helped plan the 1st grade end of the year party.

I attended the pre-k party and two awards ceremonies. Plus I toted my kids to swim practice for an hour and 45 minutes after school every day the last two weeks of school.

Then I even made dinner, put them to bed, did the dishes and laundry. All the while by myself as my husband was out of town. 

The first day of summer break started with my kids waking up at 5 a.m. and fighting non-stop.

I soon started to question my decision to go back to being a stay-at-home mom for the summer.

Then we spent the entire weekend at the pool. We got to catch up with friends and get some natural vitamin D. My son and I both were even doing back dives off the diving board.

Things were looking up.

The next day was the first “official day of Summer” (the day after Memorial Day) and my 4 year old broke his arm jumping on the bed.

Because of the severity of the break, he couldn’t get a waterproof cast. So my dreams of spending the summer at the pool with my friends went out the window faster than I can say, “Yay Summer, ” (insert eye roll).

breaking an arm is when life throws you lemons

Don’t get me wrong, I know it could be worse. I know I should be grateful  this didn’t happen during the last week of school madness.

I should be grateful it didn’t happen when my hubby was out of town. And that even though his arm is broken in two places and the bone was bent, at least the bones were still intact.

At least he still has one good arm, and he didn’t have to have surgery to put pins in, but it still sucks!

And I’m giving myself permission right now to have a little pity party that life has thrown me a bucket of lemons and to be mad about our current situation.

Tomorrow I will put my happy face back on for my boy and tell him it’s going to be ok. I’ll find something fun for us to do that doesn’t involve water or being outside in the heat. Something that doesn’t involve running, climbing or jumping.

I’ll give him an extra hug and tell him how much I love him.  That I’m here to help him navigate the challenges of playing legos, going potty, and eating ice cream with his left hand.

I’m also going to give myself grace to be ok with a little extra tech time this summer.

The grace to be a little jealous when everyone’s social media feed is covered in pool photos and we have to miss all the neighborhood pool parties.

Sometimes, when life throws you lemons, it’s ok to throw them out with the trash. You don’t always have to make lemonade.

I’m not in control.

Part of me thinks maybe God just wanted to remind me that he’s in control and I am not.

I think I jinxed myself when I had a little mommy meltdown on that first Friday school was out.

I had a “come to Jesus” meeting with my kids about how they were going to treat each other. We discussed that they were going to have to earn tech time with good behavior and doing school work.

Then 5 minutes later they were hitting each other, and I screamed, “I feel like I have no control!”

Yep, that’s what I get for trying to control my kids and make them sit quietly in the car.

The reality is that kids will be kids and all I can do is try to do the best I can.

Although this summer may not be what I had pictured in my mind, it will be ok. I’ll make the best of it. The cast is only temporary and this too shall pass.

Plus, luckily I have my village of moms to help me get through it.

Using Art To Talk When Kids Lose A Pet

Losing a pet is something you never want to deal with, but unfortunately it’s part of having them. When you add kids into the mix, this can be even harder. Finding the words to talk to your kids when you’re dealing with your own grief can feel overwhelming! But this art activity can make it easier for kids to share their feelings without having to push them to talk. 

When we had to say goodbye to our dog Andre after having him for almost 14 years, I learned how to do this the hard way. Even as a former child therapist, I had no idea how to talk to my kids about death. I’d never had to do it before. Plus I didn’t want to say anything that would upset them more. We had talked about our loved ones who are in heaven, but they all passed away before they were born.

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My mom is a retired elementary art teacher and although I’m not as talented as her, I do have a love for art. When we don’t have the words to talk about how we’re feeling, we can use art to express ourselves and uncover emotions that we didn’t even know existed. Young children haven’t developed the words to express how they’re feeling and art is a great way to help them do that!

Using “Color Your Heart” to Process Losing A Pet

Color Your Heart is an activity that I used often in my play therapy practice. What I love about this activity is that it’s super simple and doesn’t require any artistic talent. It also helps you name your emotions, which is a great way to help kids develop empathy. Here’s how to do it:  

Step 1: Lay The Groundwork

First, I asked my boys if they wanted to do an activity with me. Sometimes they’re really excited about doing crafty activities and sometimes it’s a struggle to get them onboard. Luckily this time they were interested and it didn’t take much convincing. 

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies 

Next, I got out a few sheets of blank paper and some crayons. On each sheet of paper I drew a large heart and a few small boxes to the side.

Step 3: Name Your Feelings

I started with my youngest because I knew that he was likely to copy whatever his brother said, and I wanted to get genuine answers from him. I asked him to tell me which feelings he had in his heart. 

Then I told him to color in the box with the color that he thought went with that feeling. I let him know that he could choose any color he wanted for each feeling. First, he said he was happy and excited. And then he said, “Is it ok if I put one that’s not nice?”

I told him that we could write down any feelings that he was having and it didn’t matter what kind they were. So then he named worried, mad, and sad. It was important for him to get permission to express negative feelings too. People are often afraid to share these emotions, but keeping them inside is unhealthy. The earlier we can teach kids that it’s ok to have them, the better they’ll be at coping with them. 

Step 4: Color It In

Once he was done listing the feelings in his heart, I asked him to color it in with the colors that showed how he was feeling.

Since he chose green for excited, he would color in a little bit of green if he was feeling a little bit excited and a lot of green if he was feeling really excited.

Step 5: Process The Feelings

As he was coloring my son started to tell me about why he chose the feelings that he did. If he didn’t, I could have given him a little encouragement to share by saying things like, “You put a lot of red! Can you tell me about that?” or “Do you want to tell me about the colors you put in your heart?” 

blog heart activity2I also had my older son do this. He had an easier time sharing why he chose the feelings that he put in his heart. I expected that though since he’s almost 3 years older! 

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I’m really glad that I did this activity with my boys. They both ended up telling me unprompted that they put sad in their hearts, because they were sad about our dog dying.

It gave them an easy way to get the feelings out that they were keeping bottled up. They also began to ask questions later that day about death and dying. I think this activity opened the door for them to talk about things they normally wouldn’t have. They both shared about experiences they had at school that day that I otherwise wouldn’t have known about.

Adults can do this activity too!

Just because we grow up and learn how to express our feelings doesn’t mean it’s always easy. Using art to express ourselves can be a really powerful thing. I encourage you to try art therapy yourself! You can find some easy art activities on Pinterest that don’t require a lot of supplies.

If you’re interested in learning more about how to use art to express yourself, there is a great book called Visual Journaling, by Barbara Ganim that can help you get started. This book includes simple art activities that teach help you use images instead of words to dig deeper into the part of your brain where your feelings are stored. It can help adults manage stress and anger, which is something we all need at times! 

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Self Care For Busy Moms- My Top 8 Tips

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Engaging in self care can be so hard when you’re a busy mom. We get so busy taking care of our kids, that we often forget to take care of ourselves. But if we don’t, stress builds up and our families suffer!

Self care for busy moms means remembering to feed ourselves, getting enough sleep and loving ourselves despite our mistakes and flaws.

How many times have you heard a new mom say they forgot to eat lunch?

I struggle with this myself, but one thing that has helped me is to make a list of activities that are instant mood lifters. That way when I do have time to myself I don’t end up wasting it trying to figure out what to do. Or I don’t waste it by doing chores around the house instead of taking time to relax.

When I was a child therapist, I often used I used the metaphor of the oxygen mask with parents. When you fly on an airplane they tell you during the safety announcement that if you’re traveling with small children you should put on your own oxygen mask and then help your children put theirs on. That’s because if you don’t, you will pass out and won’t be able to help your kids.

Here are 8 SELF-CARE TIPS for busy moms:

1. Exercise

I love to run and always feel better after I do. Running increases the endorphins that boost seratonin in your brain. Serotonin is known as the “don’t worry be happy” neurotransmitter.

Sometimes exercise can even be more effective than medication at increasing seratonin levels. If I don’t feel like running, I still put my running shoes on and go for a walk.

running is one to get self care for busy moms

2. Write In A Journal

Writing can be very therapeutic for me, when I actually slow down enough to do it. This is a big part of why I enjoy blogging.

When I journal, I try to just write whatever comes to my mind and not worry about if it even makes sense. My journaling is for me and not for anyone else to read. This can be a really powerful self care tool for moms who feel isolated much of the time.

3. Deep Breathing

Our brains need oxygen to function properly. Most of us don’t get enough oxygen to keep stress at bay by the breath that we take day to day.

There are some great relaxation apps out there, but my current favorite is the Breathe app on my Apple Watch. It guides me through a deep breathing exercise for one minute, and vibrates when I should exhale. The best part is that my watch reminds me to do the exercise every day so I don’t forget.

4. Yoga

Yoga has so many health benefits, but the biggest one for me is how it forces me to unplug from technology and focus on my breathing.

I really enjoy taking a yoga class at my gym that’s an hour long since sometimes it takes me a while to clear my head. The instructor has a very soothing voice. She uses guided meditation along with relaxing music to help you center and ground yourself.

5. Get Some Vitamin D

Our bodies need vitamin D to produce that “happy” chemical serotonin that I mentioned before. Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood disorder featuring depressive symptoms that occurs during the dark times of the year where there is little sunshine.

We can get vitamin D naturally though sunlight, but for most people that’s not enough. I take vitamin D at least October- March, but recently have been taking it year round and it’s really helped me.

Talk to your doctor if you’re concerned about your vitamin level and they can run bloodwork to see if it’s low.

a girl reading a book- a good way to engage in self care for busy moms

6. Read A Book

There’s nothing like a great book to take you away to another place for a while. I check out books digitally for free from my local library using an app called Libby.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin is a great book that helps you see how small changes can make a big difference on your outlook of life and lead to a better version of you.  

7. Try Aromatherapy

I love to take a warm bath with lavender oil or yummy smelling candles burning. Cedarwood is another essential oil that helps me relax. I put it on my forearms and take some deep breaths until I start to feel calm.

candles are a great way to engage in self care for busy moms

8. Seek Professional Help

As a former therapist, I am a big proponent of seeking therapy when you need it. Unfortunately there is a stigma surrounding mental health and too many people suffer in silence. 

A mental health therapist can be a good resource for helping you talk through challenging seasons in your life. They can also keep you accountable to make sure you are engaging in self care. Psychology Today is a great resource for finding counselors in your area. 

I’ve written several posts about how I’ve dealt with my own depression and anxiety. Here are a few that you might find helpful if you’re struggling:

 Living With Anxiety and Depression In Times of Extreme Uncertainty

My Anxious Life

How Running Saved Me

May The Force Be With You

These are some of my top choices for self care that help me make sure I’m getting enough oxygen. I’m always working on growing this list. I’d love for you to share your favorite self-care tips for busy moms in the comments!

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6 Ways To Survive Meal Time With Picky Eaters

Inside: Meal time with kids who are picky eaters can be a challenge. Here are a few ways to make it easier for your family.

As much as I love to eat and try new foods, I don’t consider myself a good cook. I can follow a recipe, but if it has more than 5 steps I get easily overwhelmed. So when I spend the energy to make dinner for my family and they don’t like it I get more upset than I probably should.

My four year old has entered the picky eating phase. So most of the time we stick to the same 4 or 5 meals that I know everyone likes to eat- tacos, pita pizzas, spaghetti, or cheeseburgers and hotdogs. For someone who likes to try new foods, this can get very boring!

Luckily my seven-year-old went through a similar picky eating phase that he has mostly grown out of, so I know there is hope. I’ve started trying to branch out with our menus, but it feels like a never-ending battle sometimes.

boy who is a picky eater crying over a bowl of salad

Right before Thanksgiving my four-year-old made a pumpkin pie with his class at pre-k. He came home from school that day really excited about it. So I thought it would be nice to make one together for our family Thanksgiving dinner. It was a simple pumpkin pie recipe with graham cracker crust, pumpkin pie filling, instant vanilla pudding, and whipped cream.

I purchased all of the ingredients and set out to make the pie with my kids. After washing his hands, getting a band-aid for his “boo boo,” a potty break, and washing hands again, my four-year-old said to me, “Mommy I didn’t like the pie I made at school.”

Are you kidding me?

I could have let this derail me and given up on making the pie, but we made it anyway. My older son and I licked the bowl and it was quite good. I don’t even remember at this point if my four-year-old ate the pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving, but the rest of us enjoyed it. The point is, don’t let your tiny dictators stop you from cooking or baking what you want.

6 TIPS To Make Meal Time With Picky Eaters Easier.

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1. OFFER AT LEAST ONE THING YOU KNOW YOUR KIDS WILL LIKE

Whenever I try a new recipe that I’m not sure whether or not anyone will like, I make sure to still offer at least one thing I know the rest of my family will eat. My kids will eat just about any fruit, so we always offer fruit with every meal. This way I feel like they aren’t going to starve if they don’t eat the main course.

2. STAY POSITIVE

I know it can be frustrating and easy to raise your voice when things don’t go as planned, but engaging in a battle of the wills with your kids often doesn’t do anything other than get everyone upset. Try to start out positive, hoping that everyone will at least try what you offer.

If they don’t, it will go much smoother if your response is, “That’s ok.” It’s important for children to develop a healthy relationship with food at a young age. But if all they remember about meal time as a child was fighting, that’s not going to help.

3. TRY REVERSE PSYCHOLOGY

toddler who is a picky eater crying and refusing to eat

This may sound counterintuitive, but it worked for us. When my now seven-year-old was four, he would gag himself when we made him eat something he didn’t want to eat. One day, my mom said to him, “You won’t eat that!” and it had the opposite effect. He ate it!

So for several weeks we dared him not to eat his meat and it got him to try it. He realized that he loved ground beef and now his favorite food in the world is cheeseburgers. I promise there is hope for those of you out there struggling with picky eaters!

4. USE A REWARDS SYSTEM

My kids are not only competitive, but they love positive reinforcement. This can work in our favor or against us. The way we use it at mealtime is by offering a small dessert if they eat a “good” dinner. A “good” dinner to me doesn’t necessarily mean cleaning your plate, but at least trying a few bites of vegetables and every food offered.

You can also use a sticker chart and give your child a sticker for each day meal time goes well. Then when they have a certain number of stickers they can earn a reward. The reward could be something like an extra book at bedtime, a small toy, or letting them choose a family outing that weekend.

This magnetic chart is a great tool that you can use to track your child’s cooperation at meals.

It has different categories like Healthy Eating and magnets that say “I ate my veggies” and “I ate a healthy dinner.”

5. MAKE IT FUN

Kids love to play games! You can help them develop healthy eating habits and have fun at meals with games like these:

                                                

You can also get a fun plate like this one:

Who knows. Going against the rules and letting your picky eater play with their food, may be just what they need to get them to try something they don’t like. Parents.com even says it’s ok. 

The first time my youngest actually ate vegetables was when he did a taste test at school. They tried different things like carrots, peppers, lemons, and other foods with distinct tastes. Then they talked about how they tasted and drew pictures of them.  

6. DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU

Too often in the beginning as a mom, I would google things like the best way to get your child to sleep and come up with so many conflicting answers that it stressed me out even more. If it works for your family to cook separate meals for your kids, do it. If you’re a believer in sending your kids to bed hungry if they don’t eat what you cook, then so be it! 

I have two very strong-willed boys, one who will sit at the table for an hour chewing the same bite just so he doesn’t have to swallow it. So forcing my kids to eat something doesn’t work for me.

Most importantly, don’t give up. If you are in the midst of the challenging phase where you dread dinnertime because you’re afraid it’s going to be a struggle, just remember this too shall pass!

Share in the comments what has helped make mealtime with the picky eaters in your family more manageable.

Dad trying to feed a toddler who is being a picky eater and refusing to eat

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10 Tips For Surviving Road Trips With Kids

The Youngest Child Syndrome

 

10 Tips for Surviving Road Trips With Kids

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Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about taking road trips with kids. I’ll never forget the first time we took my now 9-year-old to Chattanooga for the night.

He was probably 6-months-old at the time, or whatever age it is you start teething. My husband and I wanted to get away for the weekend and Chattanooga is only a few hours from where we live.

So we found a reasonable rate for a hotel, not far from all of the restaurants and shops in the downtown area. We packed all the supplies we thought we’d need- formula, extra outfits, diapers, even extra crib sheets. We thought we had everything. So we set out for Tennessee, full of hope and a sense of adventure.

Things Don’t Always Go As Planned

An hour and a half in and we were ready to turn around and go back home. The baby cried most of the way there! We somehow came to the conclusion that he must be teething. So we found an exit with a baby store where we thought we could find something that might help.

It just so happened that there were restaurants right next to the store. We decided a little snack and maybe an adult beverage would help our moods, and it did. I don’t remember much else about that trip except that we got some sort of natural remedy for teething, some baby toys and teethers, and a sleep sack because we realized we forgot to pack one.

Since our family loves to travel, there have been many more trips and forgotten baby supplies along the way.

I’d like to think that we’ve become better packers, but in reality I think I’ve just gotten better at planning. I’ve also lowered my standards for the perfect vacation. More importantly, I know now that most everywhere we go will have a Target or Walmart nearby.

I’m going to share with you my tips for surviving road trips with kids so that you don’t make the same mistakes that I have!

10 TIPS FOR SURVIVING ROAD TRIPS WITH KIDS:

1. Start Planning Early:

I am a planner by nature, so my mind is at ease when I know where we’re going at least a few months in advance.  I also always like to make packing lists for what we’ll need to bring. When we go on road trips, we usually find a house to rent on VRBO. Most of them list any baby or kid items they already have in the house. Then I can try to borrow or buy what we might need that they don’t have.

If you’re renting a house, make sure to find out what appliances they have ahead of time. Then you can bring your own coffee if they have a coffee maker. If they have a washing machine, you can make sure to bring laundry detergent.

Toy Car on Road Trip With Kids going across a globe

2. Plan Stops Along The Way:

We usually go to the beach in Florida every summer, and it’s about an 8 hour drive (without kids). The past few times, we have stopped about an hour away from our destination at a grocery store to stock up on what we’ll need for the week. Not only does this break up the driving a little, but we can usually save a little money this way. The grocery stores near the beach usually jack their prices up. Plus, the stores at the beach are always so crowded you can barely walk, especially when it’s Spring Break or the middle of Summer.

This is where planning comes in handy and I have my trusty list of the essentials for a week of vacation with kids. We always bring a big cooler so we can buy the cold items we need. Since most places we stay at the beach have full kitchens, we tend to try to plan at least a few meals to cook there so we don’t have to fight the crowds at the restaurants every night. Eating in a few nights is another way we save a little money too.

3. Talk To Your Friends:

The beauty of technology is that you have instant access to your friends who live all over the world. More than likely, someone you know has taken their kids where you’re going before. We always like to be adventurous when we travel and try new places that we stumble upon, but it definitely helps to have a few ideas tucked away just in case you get stuck. Plus there are some restaurants or attractions you might really want to go to that might require a reservation ahead of time.

You never know, if it’s Spring Break, some of your friends might be traveling to the same area and you can plan to meet up. It can be great to meet up with other friends with kids when you’re in a different place and get a little taste of home. Plus, if your kids are like mine, they love having other kids to play with, so its instant entertainment for them.

4. Snacks, snacks, and more snacks: 

You can never have too many snacks. When my kids were babies, we had these Munchkin 2 Piece Snack Catchers. They are great because they have two handles that are easy for little hands to hold while they’re learning gross motor skills. They also have soft flexible flaps that keep snacks from dumping out, while still giving them access to get their snack without any help! They’re perfect for dry snacks like cereal or these Happy Baby Organic puffs or yogurt melts.  

Now that my boys are older, they can use a ziplock bag or these zipper reusable bags from Growing Up Green that are even better for the environment! 

I always try to pack at least a few healthy snacks since I know that it’s inevitable that we’ll give in to the plea for candy at one of our many pit stops. It makes me feel better to know that I’m at least trying to encourage some non-sugary foods. I usually let my kids help pick out some snacks to pack so that they can’t complain about their options. Although, I’ll admit this doesn’t guarantee a whine free trip.

OUR FAVORITE SNACKS FOR ROAD TRIPS WITH KIDS

  • Granola bars
  • Homemade trail mix- We like to do raisins, Cheerios, and M & Ms.
  • Applesauce pouches
  • Fruit- Apples and bananas are easy for traveling.
  • Lollipops- What kid doesn’t love candy? Lollipops tend to keep them quiet a little longer! If you want something a little healthier these Yum Earth sugar free lollipops are pretty good. My kids approve of them and they don’t even realize that they’re sugar free!
  • Try to stick with dry non sticky snacks to avoid more mess than necessary.

5. Check The Weather

Obviously the weather man isn’t always right, but it helps to know ahead of time whether or not you need to pack long sleeves and pants or shorts. Especially since kids grow so fast and you may need to get a few things ahead of the season if it will be warmer or colder where you’re going.

I always try to pack at least one jacket or pair of shorts for each person just in case there is unseasonable weather that wasn’t predicted when we get there. Again, most towns have a Walmart or Target if you get desperate. Heck you can even order Amazon and have it delivered to you at your destination!

I also recommend packing a small bag with a change of clothes and making sure it’s not buried at the bottom of your car in case of emergencies while you’re on the road. Nothing is worse than having to dig through suitcases at the rest stop when someone has a potty accident. If you’re anything like us, we pack our car to the brim. Sometimes moving one suitcase can cause everything to tumble out like dominos all over the parking lot!

6. Take A Field Trip To The Library:

I’m so blessed to have two kids who love to read and nothing is better on a long car ride than a new book. Our library allows us to check out an insane amount of books at once, which comes in handy now that my oldest is flying through chapter books.

Just make sure you keep up with them so you don’t end up having to pay the library for lost books! I also like to remind my kids that library books are only borrowed and we have to take good care of them, so that they’ll let us keep checking out more. This helps them learn how to treat books so that they last longer and teaches them responsibility.

two boys on a road trip playing with toys

7. Bring Travel Games and Accessories:

The possibilities are endless on this one. Melissa and Doug has some great books with activities for the car like Water Wow and Color Blast. My 6-year-old also loves to play with Wikki Sticks. They’re a little wax stick that your child can mold into whatever shape they want and they leave no mess. Plus they’re reusable and you can even get a book that your child can stick them to and practice their shapes, letters, or numbers. They’re great for motor skill development too!

My kids also love sticker books, coloring books, mazes, and word searches.

You can even get a little lap tray like this one that has a compartment for storing small toys like little cars or legos. Some have a pillow on the other side that makes them comfier to hold.

8. Pack A Travel Potty:

Even if your kids are past the stage of potty training, a travel potty can come in handy for those long stretches of road trips with kids where the exits are few and far between. Don’t forget to pack lots of wipes, napkins, and some sort of disposable bag to store your trash for those unavoidable messes along the way.

9. Download Movies:

Let’s face it, there are times when you’ll be desperate and you’ll have to turn on a movie for your kids. If you’re going on a long trip a 2 hour movie can go a long way. Netflix allows you to download movies to your device ahead of time so that you can just press play when you’re ready to watch.

If you have a built-in tv in your car, even better. Most libraries have DVDs that you can check out, but just pay attention to the due date. Ours only gives us a week for DVDs, but I can renew them online for another week if we’ll be gone longer than a week.

My kids usually get tired of movies after a while, so definitely don’t rely on this alone to entertain your kids.

10. Lower Your Expectations:

I know I mentioned this already, but you can’t expect road trips with kids to go as planned and for everything to be perfect. I’m not saying you can’t still have a good time, but don’t expect to come home feeling like you’ve been to the spa for a weekend.

Once I finally realized this, I was able to enjoy our vacations more- though most of the time I feel like I need a vacation after a vacation with my family. If you can, build in a little time to recharge the day after you get back from your trip before you have to go back to work. Even if it’s just a few hours to get caught up on laundry and listen to music on your headphones while you do it.

Let us know in the comments what you’ve learned from traveling with kids that you wish someone had shared with you. Happy Trails to you!

Our Favorite Things To Pack On Road Trips With Kids

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10 tips for surviving road trips with kids

 

The Hardest Job I’ve Ever Had

I always thought being a stay-at-home-mom was the easiest job you could ever have.

I remember talking to a friend who had two kids who didn’t work outside the home. Anytime I’d ask how she was doing, she’d say how busy she was. Then she’d go into all the things she was doing with her kids- running them around town, trying to cook her family healthy dinners, helping them with their homework, and then at some point I’d tune out.

I’d think to myself,

“How could she be so busy? She has the life any mom would dream of!”

Then after I had my 2nd kid, I decided that going to work full-time and having to pay to put two in daycare just didn’t make sense anymore. Kuddos to those out there that do it. I’m not judging you!

It just didn’t work for our family. I wasn’t feeling rewarded enough in my corporate job for it to be worth it for me. So we decided to take our 2 year old at the time out of day care and that I would stay home with our 2 boys.

Never in my life have I had a harder job before.

I’ve had some pretty tough jobs. Like when I worked as a counselor in inner city Atlanta. I went into peoples homes and taught parents ways to deal with their child’s behavioral issues while fearing for my safety as I heard gunshots outside.  

I also worked at a psych hospital where I saw people in full blown psychosis. My job was to convince them to stay in the hospital for a few days so that a doctor could adjust their medication. But first I had to get them past the fact that they thought Jesus was going to come save them from the fires of satan that they felt burning inside of them.

Neither of these jobs were as hard as being a stay-at-home-mom.

Being a mom is a hard job period.

Whether you work full time outside the home, work part-time, or you’re a full time stay-at-home mom. It’s just hard. I’ve done all 3 and I have to say that now I get why my friend was always so busy and exhausted.

The days are long.

As a stay-at-home mom, sometimes it feels like you wake up in the morning and all you can think about is how much longer it is until your husband comes home from work so you can get some relief. Then you realize that it’s only 10 am. The fact that your kids are already on their second breakfast and their fourteenth fight, makes it feel like the day’s never going to end.

The highlight of your day is when you get to see your mom friends at the playground. Even though you won’t get to actually complete a sentence in your conversations.

At the end of the day, I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to quit my job and be at home with my boys while they were little. I wouldn’t take that time back for anything and I hope that one day they’ll appreciate it too.

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Now that both of my kids are in school full time, I’ve gone back to work part-time. It’s been a good balance for me, because I still get afternoons with my boys. Right now I have Fridays off and I can spend them doing whatever I want.

Self-care is important!

Usually for me that means going to the gym, running errands, catching up on laundry, and volunteering at my kids’ school. But sometimes I actually do things that help me feel recharged. Sometimes I go to lunch with friends, do yoga, spend time writing, or just relax doing nothing.

I wouldn’t be able to survive mommy-hood if I didn’t take time to take care of myself and accept help from others.

I really struggled with this at first, but I’ve gotten better and now I know that it’s a must. Sometimes it means asking my mom to babysit so my husband and I can have a date night. Sometimes it’s as simple as letting my husband cook dinner (or order pizza) so I can have a night off.

I have to allow myself a break so that I can be a better mom when I’m back in it. Even if it means letting the laundry pile turn into more of a mountain and the dishes overflow in the sink so that I can go get a massage on my day off.

I hope you find what helps you recharge and that you’ll ask for help when you need it. I also hope that I can give you some tips to make being a mom a little easier.

Let me know in the comments what your favorite ways to take care of yourself are.

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I always thought being a stay at home mom was easy. But this is why I soon realized that being a mom period, is the hardest job I've ever had! #momlife #stayathomemomstruggles