Sunday, December 30, 2012

Kids & Cabin Fever

Got Cabin Fever? …

You’re in good company! Let’s get right to some ways to work around it, yes?

The goal here is to make it fun AND productive … AND to build special bonding memories with your kids.

AND, if we make it easy to plan and execute, well … that’s just plain genius! So, get your genius on, and let’s build some golden memories while we wait for the snow to melt.

Keep in mind that the prep time can be as fun and valuable as the actual project, so pay special attention to those moments … great conversations can happen while doing the little things. That’s a creative way to get to know what’s in your kid’s head and heart casually … without them knowing it.

Building special moments with your kids while making birthday cards for friends and family members is the perfect way to combine fun and productivity. You are about to embark on a project that will make you proud now, and it will make your heart smile for the rest of forever!

Here’s a simple way to make that happen:
You will need:
o Your birthday calendar and address book
o Paper: various colors and textures are great, but plain paper works just as well, and you can spice it up yourselves by getting creative together!
o Pens, crayons, markers, even paint (depending on child’s age … finger paints work well for younger kids)
o Stickers, glitter, feathers, decorative scraps of just about anything
o Glue, scissors, tape, etc.
o Envelopes and stamps
o Imagination

• Make a list of upcoming birthdays; decide on whose card you will work on, then begin by folding your paper and writing their name vertically down the left side on front of the card. Use each letter of their name to write a word, sentence or poem about them. Remember that poems do not have to rhyme.

• Now write your birthday wishes on the inside of the card and decorate it with the fun items you gathered (above).

• Sign and date your card and put it in an envelope. Address it, stamp it (unless you are using Forever stamps, you might want to hold off on the postage stamp)

• Now you just file your cards away until it’s time to mail them! I use an accordion style folder with months labeled on the tabs to keep ours organized.
If you don’t have the time to do cards for the entire year, you can chunk this project down and do it quarterly, monthly, or whatever makes the best use of time for you and your family. My guess is that if you spread it out and schedule periodic times, it will become time that you and your kids will look forward to with great anticipation!

Wasn't that fun? ...

Now you've earned a cup of tea!

Mama ;-Deb

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Extracurricular Activity Overload~

This post was inspired by a listener of one of my weekly radio segments in Newfoundland. A mother wrote to the show's host asking about her 11 year old daughter who wants to sign up for everything; sports, music, art, any lesson or extracurricular activity she hears about she wants to try. The problem is that she never sticks to anything. At first the mother thought she just hadn’t found her “niche” yet, but after dozens of classes and thousands of dollars, she just can’t keep this up. Can we help?

My answer ... Yes! We can help here, but let's take a deep breath to help ease the frustration before we examine some simple solutions that might be being blocked by the haze of the overload.

OK, so you know that it is music to my ears when a child expresses an interest in extracurricular activities … especially those of an artsy nature! However, we must be just as sensitive to activity-overload as we are to coach potatoes who don't want to try anything!

It is important to help ‘round out' our children without burning them out. And yet it is not always easy to strike a healthy balance while doing so. We will address the issue of encouraging a 'disinterested' child in a future segment; for now, we will answer this mom, and try to find creative ways to get to the root of why her daughter wants to try so many different activities. And, just as important, why she doesn't want to stick with her commitment to pursue them.

You know that I love the toddler mentality which always asks, "WHY? WHY? WHY?" … The reason I love it so much is that it represents a natural and yet-unbiased curiosity which helps children learn, form and grow through the answers they get.

Exploration builds imagination which results in creativity. So, let's explore just a select few possible reasons, imagine what it might be like for this young lady, and then get creative as parents ... looking for answers to every "WHY?"

In this instance, this mom might find that her daughter's desire to enroll in so many activities stems from peer pressure. It could also be from a need to fit in to a particular group (band, chorus, cheer leading, etc.), you know that need for acceptance is so important in formative years … It could also very well be that ‘not fitting in’ to that particular group creates a lack of confidence resulting in a beeline to the exit door.

Often, a lack of self-confidence builds a downward spiral when a child finds that something is not coming easily to them. If this is the case, there are two angles I'd like to examine here; one is the fact that building her self-esteem can help in bigger ways than you can imagine (more on that later), and the second is to focus on nurturing something at which she is good at doing.

That second one is important because we tend to shy away from that which we do best since it comes too easily to us, and so we discount it. We often feel that if we are good at something, it must be common to everyone. That is not so; in fact, that at which we are good is usually our greatest gift meant to be shared with the rest of the world.

Here is where self-esteem building is critical. We must find ways to let our children know that they are great at something. This does not mean building false hopes; instead, be real about acknowledging their greatness, and also teach them to laugh when they flop. I believe that one of the most important things I taught my sons is to laugh at themselves first, before anyone else does because two things are certain; one, someone WILL laugh at you, and two, it won't hurt so bad because you already beat them to it ... At that point it's old news, right? ... And so you move on.

As parents, when we tell our children that they are good at something, we are often met with resistance because we are their parents, and they feel that we are 'supposed' to tell them how great they are. This is partly true; however, instead of telling them only with our words, we must demonstrate to them how and why they are great at _______.

I find that using other people in similar circumstances as examples is helpful because a third-party approach tends to remove the personal feelings and emotions from the situation. Sometimes that's best done in reverse by pointing out how they would not be perceived as _______ if they were not great at ________.

When a loving parent is doing more than puffing up their chest and simply telling their child how great they are, but instead, is pointing out facts in a conversation, it gives the child something to think about ... and they will ... on their own. There is no need for a response from your child here. (This is the point where you can leave them alone to do that thinking.)

No hovering, please~

Revisit the subject on a separate occasion. There is no need to try and get it all in during one conversation ... In fact, that is a sure-fire way to get them to tune out completely, and you will lessen your chances of ever being heard.

This approach builds independent thinking skills and self-esteem. Since the three main ingredients to building self-esteem are empathy, forgiveness and gratitude it helps to highlight these in your conversations. Show empathy for the field-goal kicker who had an entire game resting on his shoulders, only to miss the goal in the last seconds of the game. Instead of trash-talking, show forgiveness if this happened with YOUR team. And show gratitude for the points he did score in the game.

Similarly, when you interject these into your own daily activities with your child, and with your own personal and professional pitfalls and accomplishments, you are clearly demonstrating that this is real life, and this is how you successfully navigate through. This will instill self-esteem.

No matter what else you do, the most important element in developing self-esteem in your child is to be the example; walk, talk, do everything with empathy, forgiveness and gratitude.

That is a recipe for success for everyone! And it will help your child find their 'niche' a little more quickly, and on their own, yet with your loving support.

You know how I know this will work? Simple ... just look at how well you've done so far. Your child is great at many things, and I'd like you to take a moment to write down just a few of them ... Go ahead, write. OK, I'll accept just thoughtfully pondering it in your head.

I'll wait while you do so ...

I know that you've got a pretty good list going there, and you see, those things didn't just 'happen' ... It is not a coincidence that your child has so many great qualities; it is because of what you have done so far. You are better than you give yourself credit for, or you would not be worried so much about this, right?

Now, go do something wonderful for you ... to acknowledge and celebrate your great parenting skills. Sip a cup of your favorite tea, soak in a bubble bath, or call a friend you haven't laughed with in a while.

Have the confidence that because you are a great parent, this too shall turn out well. And if it becomes more than manageable, I know that you are smart enough to know, yet I will give you this gentle, loving reminder: seek outside help. Great and successful people have coaches, therapists and counselors to help them achieve greater success.

I believe in you~

Mama ;-Deb

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to Switch From Vacation Brain to School Mode

Transitioning kids from summer fun to a school year structure does not have to be difficult!

With the anticipation of a new school year comes the rites of passage that go along with stepping up a grade, or walking into a new class or school, or perhaps even starting school for the first time ever. So often, we focus on the ceremony of shopping for a new wardrobe, backpack, binders and markers, but we forget that we should spend some time acclimating our kids' minds for the classroom environment.

This doesn't mean we should hold mock school sessions at home for a month prior to the first day of school; we can ease their minds into 'school mode' without them even realizing it. You simply have to prepare a little and before you know it, you'll be slipping lessons into your everyday functions and passing them off as mere fun! Isn't it a delicious thought to be able to fool your kids into learning something? Well, it might be way easier than you thought possible.

The three most important things to remember are:
1. Make it fun!
2. Make it Fun!!
3. Make it FUN!!!

The fourth thing … dab their baby toe in first ... ease them back in ~ and yes, MAKE IT FUN!

Below are some quirky yet entertaining brain exercises for every age group.

Young kids:
• A trip to the ice cream stand(!) … or their favorite restaurant! … Woo-Hoo!… hold on, there is one caveat: everyone must only use their non-dominant hand (if you are right-handed, you must eat with your left hand and vice-versa).
• Folks at your neighboring tables might think you are nuts; however, those with kids will thank you when you explain what you are doing.
Benefit: This is a great exercise to engage both sides of the brain to get them working together to prepare for the transition to school-brain.

• Of course, most tweens will also enjoy a trip to the ice cream stand or their favorite restaurant to eat with their non-dominant hand. However, we might need something a bit more challenging at this age level.
• If that is the case, play some fun word gameswith them to get their brain juices flowing. For instance, have them try to say their name backwards, then have them spell it backwards. Still using their name as the template for brain engaging fun, challenge them to hold an entire conversation over dinner while beginning every sentence with a word that begins with the first letter of their first name. For example, Debbie must try to begin every sentence with a word that starts with the letter ‘D’ … Do you understand what I mean? Did you try it yet? Don’t knock it till you try it. Difficult, huh?
Benefit: Nurtures creativity and independent thinking skills while engaging the brain in a 'working' mode.

Teens/Young Adults:
• This one might take a little homework on your part; however, like most activities involving our kids, the older they are, the more involved it typically becomes. Focus on something that your child is really into … music, reading, sports, etc. Research the newest/latest happenings which revolve around that particular subject and start asking them questions about it. For instance, if your kid loves baseball, identify his/her favorite players, ask them to recite their stats (RBI’s, ERA’s, number of home-runs) for the current season; if they are not a rookie, how do their current stats measure up to last season? What is their team’s current record; wins, losses, ties, and placement in the league. Quiz them on these stats. Same for music; pick a favorite singer or band, and their newest album; name all the songs on the CD; which were hits? Do they know their placement on the charts?
Benefit: Gently wakes up the sleepy-summer brain, and gets your kid thinking again.

These might seem like rather ‘mindless’ exercises; however, the goal is to get creative juices flowing to encourage their own individual learning styles. There is no better way to do that than to appeal to them with something that lights up their eyes, and to do so in a comfortable environment. Remember, you’ve got to keep their head in the game, or it won’t do any good.

Although there are many benefits to each of the examples above, the byproduct is that you will be spending top-quality time with your child. Keep in mind that free creative playtime is a great way to learn what is in your kid’s head and heart, no matter how old they are! ... BONUS!

Gotta run now, I think I just heard the class bell!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Mom's 5 Year Old Loves to be Outside...

Today's post comes from one of my radio interview listeners~

"I'm a stay at home mom with a 5 year old who loves to be outside. After a few hours, I'm tired and want to come inside; he cries and throws a fit. Help!"

As with most of my responses, I feel it's important to try and discover the reason for the fit; then it's typically easier to find the fix. In this case, we are thinking that this mom's son is having too much fun playing outside, and he equates going inside to putting the brakes on the fun.

With that said, perhaps it would work if, before going outside to play, Mom does a little pre-planning ...

Since we are talking about a five year old, we will use the outdoor activity of digging in the dirt as an example; however, you will be able to restructure this around many playtime activities. Before going outside, explain to your child that you are going to play together, and that you are going to plant some veggies or herbs or whatever ...

In advance, set up a play station (notice there are no title caps there!) inside by covering a table with newspapers, and arranging clay pots or plastic containers from last night's take-out. Then, head outside with some plastic containers and digging equipment. Remember to have fun with this ... and make it last for as long as possible. Look for worms, bugs, whatever ... and remember, it's OK to be grossed out by them, Mom!

Then, carry the fun (bug-free dirt, seeds, or small plants and roots) into the house. Now you can spend as much time as possible inside ... but still playing and having fun together. This will accomplish several things; my three favorites for this scenario are:

1. Distracting from the fact that you are coming inside,
2. Slyly demonstrating an indoor/outdoor connection, and
3. Teaching by turning this into a 'disguised' lesson in agriculture!

Later, as you watch your plants grow, you can build in nutritional lessons. And even later, cooking lessons as you use your homegrown ingredients!

Hint: if you are like me, and don't have a very green thumb, herbs are a great option ... especially hearty ones that grow under almost anyone's care :). I loved to do this with mint which grows like the weeds most people try to get rid of! We experimented with fresh-squeezed lemonade, fresh-brewed iced tea, and even cooked dishes!

Have fun with this, and please let me know how you spin this to work for you!

Meanwhile, happy digging~

Monday, July 2, 2012

Is Your Antenna Up? ... What is Your Parenting Style?

(OK, for those of you who don't recognize the image here ... they were called 'rabbit ears' back in the 'dark ages!' ... I will now choose to ignore the fact that I just dated myself, and will start right in to my article ...)

I don't know about you, but I believe that we have a tendency to make the simplest things in life so darn difficult! Parenting is one of those things ... and, well, perhaps it is at the top of my list because I am a Parenting Coach; however, it does seem to be a very common issue. With that said, I think it is important for us to acknowledge that we are all just doing the best that we can. And, for those of you who are looking for ways to improve that, kudos! Your antenna is up, and you are tuned in ... so, what exactly are you supposed to be listening for?

If you are like me, 'information overload' does one main thing ... it shuts me down. Once my brain gets over stimulated, it seems like there is no returning to rational thinking. As a result, I like to break things down into a simple formula, with a clear goal at the end.

Perhaps our goal here should be to merely get to know the different types of parenting, and try to fit yourself into one of those categories. Once you do so, you can then decide if that is where you want to be; if not, you can see what you might want to do differently in order to get the results you'd like to see in your child.

That might sound simple enough until you begin researching ... Well, I've done a little of that, and simplified it so that I could apply it to real life instead of the clinical studies. Here's what I've come up with:

While psychologists have designated three main types of parenting (Authoritarian, Permissive and Authoritative) in real life, we see that some parents are a combination of 2 or all 3, given the circumstances. Sometimes, you will have different methods between parents under the same roof, or with a split family.

This morning, during a radio interview, the show's host asked me the difference between Authoritative Parenting and Positive Parenting. I thought this would be a good time to lay this one out for a quick read. By definition, Authoritative Parenting is basically a form of Positive Parenting.

It is not my goal to debate parenting skills here. Again, instead, I am merely outlining the information, and giving you pause for thought.

Of the three types of parenting styles, the Authoritarian parent typically enforces strict rules with no input from children, their emphasis is primarily on bad as opposed to good behavior, and punishment is usually severe. Children rarely receive rave reviews for good behavior and may tend to have low self-esteem or may turn out to be very aggressive later in life.

Permissive Parenting is where parents let children have free rein; rules made are not consistently adhered to, and the parent gives freedom to the child without proper guidelines on what is right or wrong. As a result, children may find it difficult to follow rules in a different environment like school.

Authoritative Parenting is where the parents set rules and involve their children in making those rules. They reinforce good behavior (rewarding it), while correcting in a positive vs. focusing on repercussions of bad behavior. They monitor their child’s behavior closely, finding opportunities to "catch" good behavior as often as possible, and they communicate in a clear manner what is expected from the child so they understand the difference between good and bad behavior.

Again, Authoritative Parenting is really just a good example of positive parenting. With this approach, children tend to grow up with appropriate behavior ingrained in them, which helps enable them to fit in most environments and perform well in whatever they undertake. They also demonstrate traits like honesty, respect, and integrity, and are less likely to break rules. Benefits of positive parenting are clearly important in molding children to live up to their full potential and become worthy members of society. These are characteristics of a child with high self-esteem.

As a Certified Self-Esteem and Parenting Coach, I can go on and on about the benefits of raising a child with high self-esteem; however, the purpose of this article was merely an opportunity to get your wheels spinning and raise your antenna a little more. Once you are able to tune in to what is going on around you, and examine how you are reacting, you can choose whether or not adjustments are needed to help ensure that you will get the results you are hoping for.

When you are satisfied with those results, you've got a happy child, and well ... that makes for a happy parent!

Here's to happy parenting~


Monday, June 4, 2012

No More Pencils; No More Books ... Well, Sort Of~

As if the end of the school year isn't enough awesomeness for students ... how about making it more special for them? Look, they don't have to know that this is also a little scheme to keep them busy and out of your hair for a while now that they are home for summer break! (We'll keep that as our little secret!)

Yes, this little project is going to occupy them for a while; however, the true purpose is to create golden keepsake memories of this school year. Although their rooms are no doubt filled with mementos and souvenirs from fun times had, this will be their own personal recollection, from their eyes, from their hearts, and yes ... from their minds. It is a sneaky way to keep the mental wheels turning during break.

If you are a regular reader of my articles and posts, you know that my method of engaging little brains is to give them a subject that lights up their eyes, and makes their heart sing. We've got to make it personal to them, and it's got to be fun ... after all, this is summer; this is break time; this is the 'no work zone' for the brain ... yeah, right. Don't worry, they are easier to trick than we sometimes think.

It is good to do this early in the break while their memories are fresher, and while their level of excitement is high. No doubt they are excited about summer, and trust me, there is a lot of talk right now amongst them and their friends about every event that occurred this school year. This is a fabulous way to capture that excitement and passion!

Depending on your child's age and your schedules, this can be accomplished in phases or all at once. Either way, here is a brief outline from which you can work. I love outlines because they give a little direction while allowing creative freedom! In fact, I love outlines so much that the entire project is built around one :).

• First, ask your child to list out some memorable events from this school year whether it was as big as the prom, or as small as a sleepover. There really are no small memories when they involve fun times or matters of the heart.
• Ask them to arrange those memories in order of when they happened, creating a sort of timeline. Each event at this point should be numbered in outline form, as each one will be the title for that category.
• Then ask your child go through, and under each category title, bullet out (A,B,C…) certain details from each event. It is most effect in this phase to only use one word to quickly jot down seedlings of ideas.
• Next, they will go through the outline, beginning at the top, and turn each bulleted item in to a sentence.
• Later, they can sequentially turn each sentence into a paragraph.
• Eventually, it will become apparent that this ‘outline’ is turning into a book.

You see what we did there? ... Yep, we just helped them write a book about this school year, and what they learned personally. This is a book about their personal growth this year, from their heart, through their eyes. It will help the lessons sink in, too, because they don't really know that it is part of the purpose here. This is much better that the class yearbook, yes?

Now you can simply keep this in raw form, or you can go to whatever extent you choose to bind it professionally. I’ve got plenty of input here if you’d like … just feel free to contact me and I’ll be more than happy to share my thoughts and experience with you. However, if this is as far as the project gets, know that you’ve accomplished a few pretty important things already.

Your child used his/her brain (both left AND right … which makes me happy!), they relived memories which are important, they memorialized some big events as well as some ‘small’ happenings which could be huge turning points, this helped some important lessons sink in, and (last but not least!) they were busy (AKA out of your hair!). This is not just a great way to turn idle moments into productive time spent for today, it creates golden memories for tomorrow … in keepsake form!

This just might be the way you choose to begin each summer from now on! Regardless, make certain you enjoy today's moments with your kids, soon these mementos will be all that's left of their childhood!


Friday, June 1, 2012

Mom/Dad ... Can we Talk?

What do you do when your child tells you something that stops you in your tracks? Whatever it is, perhaps it's a deep, dark secret that you never expected; perhaps it's a lifelong dream that you would never have guessed; perhaps it's _________________. Fill in that blank with whatever it could be that you just did not see coming.

What do you do? Well, I hope that first, you hug your child, let them know that you LOVE them, and then thank them for telling you. That's big, don't you think? Sometimes we allow ourselves to get hijacked by shock, fear, drama ... when what we really should do is look at the real, simple, raw truth first: Your child trusted you enough and had the hutzpah to come to you with his/her issues. Second, and I'm going out on a limb here, but ... whatever the issue is, I'm guessing that it did not change your love for him/her. Please say that out loud to your child.

Then you can begin laying whatever groundwork is needed to deal with whatever issues surround the circumstance at hand because only then are you doing it openly and knowingly with unconditional love and acceptance. Although you might not understand, and perhaps you don't fully accept whatever 'it' is, you have at least accepted the message at this point, and sometimes that is all that is needed ... for now.

Like anything else, you will navigate through this one step at a time. Seek professional help if/when needed, but please, oh please, never lose sight of the fact that you LOVE this child ... and please, oh please ... don't let them lose sight of that fact, either!

If your child has not opened up to you, yet you suspect there is something they are trying to broach, perhaps you can just periodically mention that you sense something 'in the air' and want him/her to know that you are there when they are ready to talk. Although it might take a while, at least they know that you are 'in tune' and open for reception.

Even when they feel that they are ready to share, they might have difficulty beginning; it might help if you simply put your hands on their shoulders and tell them to just say the first word, and the rest will flow. Now, listen ... really listen ... with an open heart. Don't be shy about asking questions ... just be aware of how a barrage of questions might make them feel. Respect is a huge component to open lines of communication. You've got to know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em.

If you are an avid reader of my posts and articles, you know my 3 steps to open communication:
-Common, everyday chit-chat

Try to keep it light, short, and not so oppressive. Who wants to 'open up' to a long, dark 'talk?' It's the common, everyday chit-chat that breeds comfort and continued communication. That's the space where the best relationships are formed.

With that said, perhaps you can let your child know that you have a ton of questions swirling around in your head, but you don't want to deluge him/her. Suggest that you select three questions each week to ask so that this is not the only thing you talk about with him/her. This will help you home-in on what is important to you, and it will help ensure that your relationship remains solid. The foundation of your relationship was built upon a lifetime of experiences, and I'm guessing that you don't want this newly discovered circumstance to become the focal point of your relationship from this point forward.

You may have to remind yourself to continue to nurture all elements of your relationship as you always have. Put effort into doing what you have always done with your child; don't make this situation all there is to your time together, and try not to bring your questions and comments into every conversation. It is important not to lose the connection you already have while building a connection to work through a new situation.

And, whatever else you do, please remember to continue to build your child's self-esteem. This will help ensure that s/he has the tools to navigate through life successfully, and with velocity! There is no better time than now to work on that!

As always, feel free to email me ( if I can be of further help to you.

Until next time, here's to just loving our kids~