Yes to crying!

We encourage crying in our family.  Not alone but with someone providing ‘love’ at the same time.  This might be a hug, labeling how they feel to show empathy or even just being there with them.

Crying is a physical way of releasing the energy from emotions that you feel.  And as emotions are ‘energy in motion’, it is very important to let these feelings out so that they don’t get trapped in the body.  Children innately know to do this.  It is only by adults telling them not to cry that we as adults forget how calm and clear your head can be when you’ve cried all the feelings away.

Of course we then talk about the situation that lead up to these emotions to understand better what just happened.  All in the name of better emotional intelligence!

Control, guilt, shame, anger

Speaking from first hand experience, it is much easier to work on yourself staying ‘cool’ when your kids try to steal your calm than trying to pick up the pieces, for your kids and you!

So how do you do this?
– Being ‘mindful’ is one way (link in comments to post about mindfulness).
– Dealing with your own emotions is another. Anger, control, guilt and shame, amongst other emotions, can all stem from not receiving enough love when we grew up, (even when we thought we did) OR particular events. This all affects how we respond to our own children when we get our ‘calm’ taken from us.

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It will always be easier to deal with any type of tantrum or emotional turmoil your child can throw at you, when you are not holding onto negativity from your own past.

How do you let go of this?
In a simple answer, getting to the source of your anger or your controlling issues or whatever it is AND THEN expressing it, will release that energy. You can express emotions through screaming (in an appropriate place!), writing it out, crying or even moving (say yoga poses).


Once you have released your what’s holding you back from the past, you will be amazed at the patience, understanding and calm you can have with your own kids. Then it just involves being mindful, to keep on top of your emotions.

Let me know if you want more information on this! 🙂  Heidi

I have an emotionally sensitive child

I have an emotionally sensitive child. And it is sometimes hard not to wear his emotions too!

Rather than ‘brush off’ his feelings with comments like ‘it’s okay’, ‘don’t worry about it’, ‘just let it go’, it works much better to identify with his strong feelings. I might say ‘you are really disappointed aren’t you?’, ‘that must’ve worried you a lot’ or ‘I know you wanted a turn first’.

Instead of firing him up more, he relaxes because he feels understood and supported.

This is one of the first steps in helping him to calm down and regulate his emotions. Without an understanding adult on his side, he is pretty much sure to ‘flip his lid’, where he can’t think straight, won’t let anyone in to help him and struggles to calm down for what seems like an eternity.

And of course, a hug to go with it brings even more success!

Who else can identify with one of these little sensitive ones?

Are you a mindful parent?

[Looking after yourself as a parent]  Do you find you’ve sometimes driven somewhere and don’t remember actually driving there?  Or end up ruminating on past events whilst doing the chores?  Do you spend more time planning the shopping list and weekend’s tasks in your mind than the time it takes you to actually just get in there and get it done?  Does your mind end up in a different place whilst reading the kids a book?  Read on to find out more about how to step out of your mind and into your life, and your important role as a parent!

What is mindfulness?

Whilst this term has many different meanings and people from all walks of life will practice it differently according to their circumstances, here are some ideas of how I, as a parent, have understood ‘mindfulness’.

Mindfulness means:

  • training your mind to be concerned only with the present moment
  • finding ways to turn your ‘monkey mind’ off, the one that keeps dragging your mind to chattering, negative or ruminating thoughts
  • judging thoughts and gossip about others no longer have a place in your mind
  • only being concerned with your own self and not the worries of others (whilst parenting does bring a sense of responsibility, we can also allow our children to live their own lives)
  • dealing with any task at the time and not spending extra energy planning for it ahead of time
  • like yoga, mindfulness is a ‘practice‘, so you are always learning to get better at it!

Don’t forget you can take a peep into the past or future when needed, but the main aim of mindfulness is to avoid getting distracted by anything that isn’t in the present.

The benefits of mindfulness

  • it can be used as a wonderful stress-relief tool for personal or parenting issues
  • it helps us to improve the sharpness and clarity of our mind and in turn improves our memory
  • this sharpness helps us to stay on track in our busy days and become more efficient…at everything!
  • it helps us to notice how we react to our children, particularly in trying times
  • it allows us to slow down and take the time to appreciate our children (and our life)
  • it can be done discretely anywhere, anytime
  • principles can be taught to your children to help increase their confidence and resiliency

How do I become mindful?

The most difficult part is catching your mind when it is not in the present or playing up.  Whether your mind is stuck on past events, judging others,  worrying about things to come or just plain chattering away, the first step is to recognise when you are doing this.  Yes, this does account for the majority of people’s thoughts!  You might spend a week just naming any thoughts, be it judging, ruminating, worrying or chatter and planning.

As suggested in the book The Happiness Trap by Dr Russ Harris, take the time to sit back and allow your mind to let any thoughts come in.  As they float in, acknowledge them and let them float straight back out….then sit and wait for any others to come along…and do the same.  It is to demonstrate that you don’t have to ‘entertain’ any of these thoughts and will get your mind accustomed to ‘letting things go’.

Now let’s think of some thoughts that you will want to stop in their tracks!

  • getting annoyed by your husband’s dirty washing on the floor – talk to him about it later, but move on
  • planning what you will say to your annoying brother on the car ride there – with a clear mind, you will say it better at the time
  • ‘I can’t believe she just did that!!’ after your child poured water over the couch – you have dealt with it and know better for next time, move on
  • worrying about how you will deal with the evening witching hour whilst your husband is away – with a clear mind, you will deal with it better at the time
  • remembering how your life used to be pre-kids – give it a quick acknowledgement and come back to what you have right now..

So once you have identified a thought that isn’t in the present, how can you stop it…and where do you send your mind to then?  Below are some strategies on stepping out of your mind and into living life and being a parent.

  • Breathe! Place your hand on your belly and ensure you push it out as you inhale, pull it in as you exhale.  No shoulder breathing!
  • Take notice of your surroundings, your present moment.  What can you see around you?  The traffic lights? The clothes line? The trees? Your children? What can you smell? What can you hear?  This is the time to take the attitude of gratitude, which helps to move away from the negative monkey mind!
notice the small things

notice the small things

  • Breathe.  Check in.  Are you still breathing deeply with your belly and not your shoulders?
  • Feel your feet on the ground.  It can help to sit or stand up straight which brings your mind to attention and helps you to breathe with your diaphragm better too.
  • Now you might consider your feelings and thoughts.  What were those thoughts in your mind? Were they just cluttering your mind?  Did you have feelings attached to those thoughts?  It can be useful to identify any feelings you may need to deal with (that’s when you turn to the book The Happiness Trap for information on how to do this).
  • Next you might consider if your body was reflecting these thoughts and feelings.  Did you feel tension, strain or pain anywhere?  Did you feel any heaviness?  How were you breathing as you caught yourself?

How else can I help my mind?

Sometimes our children can bring on the thoughts, the planning ahead or the tension.  But they can also be the solution!

  • With an attitude of gratitude, take the time to notice your child’s eyelashes, their hair or the way they smile.  Does this calm you?

Other practices dedicated to focussing on stepping out of the mind are:

  • yoga
  • meditation
  • tai chi
  • reading books (have a look for Dr Russ Harris and Dan Spiegel)

Did you know most people can only stay focussed from six to ten seconds and then become distracted?  So you will need to really remind yourself to be present, regularly throughout the day.  You can set an alarm or put up a few post-its, ‘be present!’, ‘breathe’ around the house.  There are even mindfulness apps out there.  Before you know it, your mind will be clearer, your days will be easier and you will enjoy being a parent even more.  It’s never too early or late to start!

You’re going to be a big sister! Now here’s what’s going to change…

As the nine months draws to an end, most parents start to feel the nerves of managing one child (or more!) AND a newborn.  Yes it does come with challenges, logistical craziness and plenty of work in helping your older child through, no matter what their age,  but keep in mind it is still a very special time and hopefully an exciting event for your child!

The good thing is, you can start to make small changes before the baby arrives to help prepare your child for what will eventually be the ‘new’ way of life.  Do talk about the pros of the little brother or sister’s arrival but remember playing cars and tea parties will be YEARS from now!  Your child needs to know what will happen from day one, particularly what will affect them.  

Change helps us to learn and grow....

Change helps us to learn and grow….

You can start by slowly introducing some of the changes below and providing pieces of information about the ‘new’ way of life…and repeat as much as they need!  

  • Prepare for the whole family to have a shake-up to their routine for a while.  You can start talking to your child about what might change for them, such as coming to watch the baby have a bath before their bath or explaining that Mummy or Daddy might have a sleep in the daytime.
  • Prepare to be breast-feeding at any time of the day, including right at your child’s bath, book or going to sleep time.  You can change up any routine now by having your husband step in (or you if you don’t normally take that activity, as down the track your husband might be doing the baby settling which gives you a chance to spend time with child 1).  Encourage independence in any activity that your child is close to, such as scooping their own food or taking off some of their clothes before their bath and putting it in the laundry.
  • Prepare to need quiet while someone is trying to settle the baby.  You can start practicing being quiet with your child, practicing for when baby arrives.  Doll or teddy play is great for this or even making a game of tiptoeing to the bedroom.
  • Prepare to be needed in two places at the one time.  You can start making your child wait that bit longer before you get to them or getting them to set themselves up for say book time or at the dinner table.  Again, think encouraging independence in any skill that your child is close to mastering!
  • Prepare to be busy.  You can start thinking about new routines now.  This might be cooking dinners when your child sleeps/rests, to avoid super-crazy witching hour or if you need to go hard at improving your child’s sleeping habits.  Reconsider any changes to your child’s life for the first little while, such as toilet training, moving to a bed, mostly as you will have less time and emotional energy to deal with these.
  • Prepare for a family full of emotion from tiredness to jealousy!  You can prepare your child by either talking to your child about the feelings that they might face (Trace Moroney writes a great series of books ‘When I’m feeling… kind, lonely, sad, jealous, happy, angry, scared, loved’) or prepare to give out many hugs and special time for your little one if they are too young to understand the words for these scenarios.  The most important thing is to be HONEST.  When you sit down and think about it, there might be few ‘pros’ for your child to have this new baby in their life so it is important not to pretend it is anything other than how your child is feeling that it is.  Jealousy and loneliness COULD be on the cards but on the other hand, your child might enjoy helping out and being the big brother/sister!
  • As mentioned in many of my posts, drawing is a great way to help your child talk things out whilst keeping their attention.  You might do a stick figure drawing and say ‘remember when you were in your room today whilst Mummy was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) Did you feel jealous that Mummy wasn’t there playing with you?’ or ‘remember when Mummy couldn’t get to swimming today because she was feeding little bubby? (drawing as you go) How did you feel taking Daddy instead? (you might let them draw the smile/frown or give them options of ‘excited’, ‘sad’, ‘both’).  Drawing brings past events (even from 10 minutes ago) to a concrete level for your child to think about more easily.  It also lasts longer in front of them than words that come and go.  And it can end up being a ‘special activity’ they get to do with Mummy or Daddy.  Link here to find out more about drawing conversations with your child.

Above all, patience and understanding is really needed, which can be extremely hard when you are exhausted.  You can only do your best and remember, all the first-borns in the world have had to go through the same thing!  ‘You’re going to be a big brother. What do I say next?’ also has information on how/when to break the news and preparing your child for the birth.

Come and visit I Raise My Kids at Facebook and Google+ 🙂

Saying it with a pen – coping with disappointment

Coping with disappointment is related to ‘difficulty adapting to change’, when a change happens that the child wasn’t expecting!  Spirited children find it even harder to cope with change and disappointment as they go into almost a flight/fight/freeze reaction where they cannot think logically or clearly.

Master 3 had been watching Playschool, one of his favourite dinosaur episodes and always loved to dance to the dinosaur songs with his dino tail on.  Unfortunately, if the tail isn’t on as the song begins, a meltdown occurs.  It is easy to say ‘calm down’, ‘you’ve missed TWO seconds of the song, don’t worry’, but Master 3 has ‘flipped his lid‘ (as The Whole Brain Child calls it) and he cannot think clearly or logically from then on.  No matter what we do!

So!  One day, having had enough of it, I announced we were doing a drawing to set Master 3 up for success the next time.  This time was lost, but at least I could prepare his brain better for next time, before he had another ‘dino meltdown’!

If you haven’t already, you can also refer to When in doubt, say it with a pen! for a run-down on the benefits of drawing with your child 🙂  This is how this drawing went…

First

the meltdown

the meltdown

Square 1. Master 3 watching Playschool

2.  I asked how Master 3 felt in this scenario – he responded ‘sad’ so I prompted ‘but what made you sad’ to get him talking more – ‘no tail’.

3. I drew Mummy running to get the tail but Master 3 still crying.

4. I asked Master 3 how he felt after Mummy went to get his tail – he responded ‘sad, I didn’t like missing out on the song (without the tail on)’

5. So I drew Mummy trying to give him the tail so we could go back to that part to talk about it more, as Master 3 just couldn’t calm down even though he had the tail and the song was still going.  He responded ‘too sad to dance to some of the song’.  His words.

6. We finished the drawing with how the scenario ended, Master 3 still upset.

Second

take 2 - the fairytale version

take 2 – the fairytale version

Square 1.  I started the drawing with ‘Master 3 is happy his dino song is on!!’ and drew a happy face to start the drawing.  This had Master 3 laughing just thinking about it, almost relieved he didn’t have to get upset.  I asked him what he needed to say – he came up with ‘mummy get my tail please!’. Nice.

2. I wrote what Master 3 might say ‘put it on quick, I’ll dance to some of it, with my tail’.

3.  Master 3 again, so happy to see himself happy and dancing at the end of this story.  We compared with the ending of story 1.

Third

the what if version

the what if version

The most important part – thinking about what variations of the fairy tale version might happen, so we don’t get another surprise next time!  Mental practice for the not-so-planned times is SO helpful for children who don’t cope with change and disappointment well.  Knowing that Master 3 was primed for me to put his tail straight on, we talked about what happened if the tail wasn’t right there in the room.

Square 1. ‘Mummy get my tail please’

2. Mummy running for the tail – the key point here – Master 3 still SMILING!

3.  I asked Master 3 what he would do in the meantime – ‘I might dance until my tail comes’.  He’s getting it!

4.  Mummy putting the tail on – Master 3 still happy (‘not like that first story!!’)

5.  Hooray, Master 3 is STILL happy.

 The other day, we had success!  Master 3 stayed calm and said to Master 1 ‘You just dance and mummy will get a tail for you’.

problem solved!!!!

problem solved!!!!

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When in doubt, say it with a pen

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[18 months on]

All children will understand what you say better when they see it.  As with signs for little ones, simple drawings can help your child to REALLY understand.  And anyone can draw stick figures!  Your child may end up drawing for you.

Drawings might be to:

  • show your child what is expected for the appropriate behaviour (eg. we use gentle hands, when do we kiss someone)
  • explain what might happen (eg. going to the doctor)
  • talk about what did happen (eg. what happened with a fight at school)
  • list what will happen (eg. activities to be done in the day)

Some of the benefits of drawing:

  • the child is more willing to talk about tricky topics as they tend to get caught up in the details of the drawing.
  • you can really get to the bottom of things (discovering who did what, what was said, how your child felt)
  • you can help them to see how others felt and take a view point of someone else.
  • you can really get your own points through to your child by making it concrete, through drawing.
  • it takes away the need for a lot of language – kids who have trouble putting thoughts into words or sequencing events can have it ‘scaffolded’ by drawing step by step, with your guiding questions.
  • removes the need for eye contact.  Boys especially find it easier to have a conversation side by side rather than facing eachother.  The paper gives you both a place to focus.
  • you can come back to it again and again which is much easier than using just words.  But once you have drawn it, it can also be easier to use words to say ‘remember when we drew about Alex’s feelings?’..
  • when your child contributes, it helps their brain to remember and to really understand.  YOU can be sure they understand…by them contributing…a lot more sure than when you just tell them.

The drawing can take any format.  ‘Comic strips’ are ideal for many of the above which allows you to talk about things step by step, in boxes.  This allows you time to talk whilst you draw or time for your child to sequence what happened when.  But a drawing using symbols and stick figures, however you see fit, will surely help your child.  Watch for more posts on different examples of drawings.

This is how I usually do it.

1. I have a quick think about how I will approach the subject (ie. tackle it in a way that is certain my child will understand) and what I will draw.  I grab a pen and paper.  Generally I have a notepad handy that all of the drawings accumulate in!

2. Announce to my child, ‘I want to do a drawing with you’.  Get comfy.

3. Give the drawing a title or tell my child what we are going to draw about.  For example, ‘remember when you ripped your book before? I want to talk to you about it more’.

4. Start drawing!  Remember to talk while you are drawing (‘this is you and this is Johnny’, ‘here is Mummy, I wonder what she thought’, ‘that’s the other kids over there’).  The more you talk, the less details you have to put in (eg. ‘the other kids’ might be a quick scribble).

Things to include in your drawings:

  • People – signal a person with a feature such as hair or dress or an initial letter if your child is up to that
  • Talk bubbles – a normal speech bubble
  • Think bubbles – signalled with the 2 little bubbles leading to the bigger one
  • Colour – this is definitely not necessary but when you have the time and feel it might really help, they can be really powerful (eg. getting your child to choose a colour for how they felt and talk further about emotions, using red to stand out)

The most important part

Get your child involved as much as possible.  They should be the story teller, you are just guiding them by asking questions and doing the drawing.  For example:

  • Do you remember what happened next?  What did you do next?
  • When mummy came in, how do you think she felt?
  • How did you feel?  What did you say?

A drawing should never be negative – only a chance to point out what a child could do differently next time or to bring to their attention how other people felt…

The more you do this and the older the child gets, you can start to let them take the pen and do the talking.  You will be surprised as to what they will reveal!  They may need their own notepad or even a little whiteboard.

Here is a list of other I raise my kids’ posts that show how you can use drawings to communicate with your child..

Introductions to my new teacher

Saying it with a pen – appropriate greetings

Saying it with a pen – coping with disappointment

Saying it with a pen – starting school

Saying it with a pen – rules for a big brother

Turn-taking rules

What drawing could you do with your little one?

🙂 Heidi

So much to love about ‘I Grow in Grandad’s Garden’ – Australian children’s book

[3 years +]

Have you thought about your child’s emotional development?  Are you looking for ways to get your children to talk to you more about their worries, hopes and dreams?

This book, I Grow in Grandad’s Garden is highly recommended to do just that! Written by Brian Andrew, it takes the readers on a journey, with his grandaughter, through his garden in Brisbane, stopping at the ‘think and thank seat’, ‘the let go log’ and more…  The native trees and animals really set the scene.

It features interactive questions that get kids talking about what makes them happy, sad, afraid and excited.  All designed to help you get your child used to talking to you about what they are thinking and feeling.  There are also other books in this series, I’m yet to seek out.

You can see more on the website http://www.grandadsgarden.com.au and youtube clip about it http://www.grandadsgarden.com.au/GG/utube-video.  You can buy it online or better yet, reserve it online at your local library.

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