Stress Less Parenting

Bringing the joy back to parenting your children.

Just read something on another blog I felt compelled to share: “it’s our responsibility to teach and train our children, and that requires time and effort.”

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Starfish Poem (author unknown)

Once upon a time there was a wise man

who used to go to the ocean

to do his writing.

He had a habit of walking

on the beach

before he began his work.

One day he was walking along

the shore.

As he looked down the beach,

he saw a human

figure moving like a dancer.

He smiled to himself to think

of someone who would

dance to the day.

So he began to walk faster

to catch up.

As he got closer, he saw

that it was a young man

and the young man wasn’t dancing,

but instead he was reaching

down to the shore,

picking up something

and very gently throwing it

into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out,

“Good morning! What are you doing?”

The young man paused,

looked up and replied,

“Throwing starfish in the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked,

why are you throwing starfish in the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out.

And if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But, young man, don’t you realize that

there are miles and miles of beach

and starfish all along it.

You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely.

Then bent down, picked up another starfish

and threw it into the sea,

past the breaking waves and said-

“I made a difference for that one.

What we do has such a profound effect on our children, that it can sometimes feel overwhelming – When to wean? Are her naps long enough? Are they too long? Am I spending enough time with him? Which school? How do I protect her from bullies and mean friends? And on and on.

Just for today, try to make a difference… just for today. Don’t worry about every starfish on the beach.

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Nix stress in seconds

When a hectic day has you on edge, try this: Rub your hands together until they’re warm, then place your right palm on your forehead and your left palm on the back of your head for 10 seconds. Exhale as you rake both hands through your hair, then shake your hands and imagine your worries falling off your fingertips for 30 seconds. This exercise will increase circulation and relax tight muscles.

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A simple decision tree


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Encourage the imagination

Encourage the imagination

Stories are opportunities for great learning, especially those in which the child listens and must use their imagination to see the characters and situations in their mind. Imagination is one of the most powerful tools that we humans have in helping to create what we want in our lives.

Studies of brain wave patterns have brought to light the ease of programming the subconscious mind. One of the initial studies was to determine if the mind can distinguish fantasy from reality – if it accepts as programming what is real or if it also accepts what isn’t.

In this test, subjects were placed in a room and wired to an EEG machine. The researchers then created several situations to see what affect the event had on the brain-wave patterns of the subjects.

For example, someone ran into the test subject’s room and performed a dance, a dog barked, or a color was created on a screen. As each situation occurred, the test subject’s brain was monitored and marked as to which situation created each brain-wave pattern. The next step was to have the subject mentally recreate the situations, imagining them as they were described by the researchers. For example, the researcher might say, “I now want you to imagine you are watching a woman doing a dance. See it in your mind, fantasize it, conceive it with as much imagination as possible. OK, now imagine you hear a dog barking.”

While the subject was concentrating on the imagined situation, his brain wave patterns were again being recorded. The test results showed that exactly the same brainwave patterns were evident when the subject actually experienced the situation as when the subject only imagined it. The brain waves were identical, so the computer part of the brain was obviously incapable of telling the real from the imagined.

Using this knowledge

So, our imagination is a powerful tool. The more we use our imagination, the better it performs, and the stronger it gets. The more we can perceive these fantasy stories in our minds, the better we get at creating mental images. The part of our brain that can’t tell the difference between fantasy and reality actually can assist us in coping, performing, and dealing with life and what we want out of it.

If we can see ourselves being successful at a task, having higher self-esteem, more confidence, performing better in sports, etc., we will. In order to program this part of our consciousness to work for us, we must first see ourselves performing successfully in our minds. All of this starts with using a good, active, well-exercised imagination. Then, as parents we can encourage our children to actively see themselves performing well in their studies, sports or activities. We can encourage them to be proud of themselves and seeing themselves as being strong, healthy and balanced individuals. These are all tools that can help our children cope in a way that helps them achieve their best life possible.

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Expanding Your Ability to Feel Good As a Parent

Kids' Relaxation

Feel good in your parenting life and expand your ability to enjoy your relationship with yourself and your child.  I recently re-read The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks and became inspired to practice expanding my capacity to feel good in life.  I love this book and believe that it can be applied to any area of life where you would like to experience a quantum leap of success and wellbeing.   In Chapter One, Preparing for Your Big Leap, Gay provides the following easy tool that only takes a moment of practice.  I have adapted it and feel it can be easily applied to your parenting life and relationship with your child.  The more we practice and rehearse any skill, the more opportunity that skill has to expand in our life.  Practice and attention invite expansion of experience.  Try the following brief exercise today and begin to set the stage…

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Your Mind is Your Playdough!

What if we gave children the analogy of likening the mind to big hunk of playdough? Essentially that is the case. Brain research is exploding with tales of neuroplasticity and our awareness is expanding with the knowledge that our brains are continually developing and changing based on what we are programming them to do. Therefore, we have a giant opportunity to be very mindful, pun intended, about what we are putting into both our own and our children’s minds.

So, I encourage you to remind your child this week, that they are the masters of their thoughts. They have the power to program their minds for feeling good, for feeling calm and relaxed whenever they want to. And it is as simple as differentiating the feel good thoughts from the ones that don’t feel good and making a choice to practice the feel good thoughts if they want to feel good. In my house, when we entered a period of negative thought, we would say, “no more stinking thinking, I choose to feel good.”

Because the concept of positive thinking is often a little abstract for children under the age of six, you can make it more concrete by creating fun activities around planting positive thoughts. Here is one idea:

Get out your colorful playdough and shape it into little brains. (This can be an excellent opportunity to discuss cerebral anatomy as well). Take a toothpick and carve in little grooves so it will look like a real brain. Then talk about how our brains respond and are shaped around the thoughts we have. The more we think calm, relaxing, feel good thoughts, the more we feel calm, relaxed and actually feel good. The brain is trained by what we think. And our feelings are related to how we think. If we think lots of stressful thoughts and repeat them over and over, our brain will be trained to think stressful thoughts and then we will begin to feel more stressed a lot of the time. But, if we catch our brain thinking stressful thoughts, we can say “STOP” to our brain and give it a better, more positive, feel good relaxing thought to think. If we practice these relaxing thoughts over and over, then we will begin to feel more relaxed. Here’s an example of a relaxing thought: “I remember to take a deep breath and count to three when I feel angry.”

Discuss how we can pay attention to our thoughts and shape our brains around positive, feel good thoughts. Have some little slips of paper with both positive and negative thoughts written on them. Pass some out to each person and share how you would feel if you were thinking that thought. Your mind is your playdough! Feel good as you shape it around positive, calm, relaxing, feel good thoughts!

An excellent book that addresses the difference between positive and negative thoughts, is Meet Thotso, Your Thought Maker by Rachel Robb Avery, Nancy “Fern” Bennett Phillips, and Rebecca Davie Hazen. You can buy it on amazon or visit their website at Kids love the interactive nature of the book and the fun way it depicts sunshine thoughts, boo boo thoughts, and bandage thoughts.

via Your Mind is Your Playdough!.

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Make books part of kids’ summer

Educators have good reason to stress the importance of summer reading.

Reading skills, like sports skills, diminish if they aren’t exercised regularly.

In general, children from low-income families lose about three months of reading growth during the summer months. Middle-class kids gain about a month during the summer. This creates a four-month gap every year or a year’s reading gap every 2.5 years. That means that by sixth grade, low-income kids are two years behind middle-class kids in reading skills.

All this occurs regardless of which schools kids attend.

The good news is there are plenty of fun ways to keep kids reading all summer long. Here is a list of summer reading programs in the Austin area.

Not in the Austin area? Your child’s school library is a great place to start, or google “summer reading programs.”

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