Monday, October 3, 2016

Halloween Fun: The Toddler Edition

Many thanks to Amy Webb of The Thoughtful Parent for this article on Halloween and toddlers. Our own memories of fun Halloween's past and our desire for our children to have a great time may keep us from seeing how scary Halloween might be for a toddler.  Amy's suggestions can make for a very happy celebration for your entire family. 

By Amy Webb 

Fall also means fun holidays like Halloween. Most adults love Halloween and older kids too, however, it can be a little intimidating for toddlers. As adults, we often ramp up our expectations for cute costumes and picture-friendly moments that we will never forget. From a toddlers perspective, Halloween is odd--talking to strangers at houses, it's dark outside, and everyone is dressed up in weird (or scary) costumes. Here are a few ideas that will hopefully help make Halloween enjoyable and prevent some meltdowns from your toddler:

1. Explain the activities in advance. As much as you can explain to your toddler what's going to happen in advance if you are taking them trick-or-treating. Talk about that it might be dark outside, that people will be dressed up in costumes, etc.

2. Plan Halloween activities at a toddler-friendly time. Yes, we all love trick-or-treating, but if you wait until your toddler's bedtime to do it, it won't be much fun for anyone. It's okay to go out while it's still light outside or just go to a Halloween party instead. Many libraries host toddler-friendly Halloween parties during the daytime hours.

3. Don't stress over manners. We all want our kids to say "thank you" and "you're welcome" but in the midst of Halloween fun, might not be the best time to enforce those rules. It's great to encourage it, but if your toddler is overwhelmed by the situation, she probably won't remember her "please" and "thank you's."

4. Have low expectations. That super cute costume you bought a few weeks ago may not bring the same joy to your toddler that it does to you. When my son was 3, he wanted to dress up like Woody from Toy Story...until Halloween night. Then he refused to wear that costume and instead wanted to wear his Superman t-shirt with cape attached. I was disappointed but he never new the difference. He loved being Superman (with just a t-shirt) and all the neighbors thought he was adorable.

Sunday, May 29, 2016


In our over-scheduled, stressful, hectic world, our children need to experience the flow of summer.  Author and behavioral pediatrician, Dr. Tim Jordan, recently listed important reasons why kids need summer camp. He said, "Camp can be a time to slow down your pace of living. Kids today feel hurried and stressed out about trying to fit everything into their busy lives. Hopefully, most camps allow a more relaxed, less structured schedule so that kids can relax and slow down." Simply substitute "summer" for camp, and you know what I mean! Your children need unstructured play, and that play actually impacts their future happiness.  

Shifting into the summer schedule can be challenging for both adults and children.  With this shift, we alter the regular routines that we have followed during the school year.  Any time we have a transition – even a positive one – we experience stress.  Your child will feel this stress, too.  For the child who has difficulty with transitions, the shift into the summer schedule can be particularly stressful.  The stress our children feel may show up as increased misbehavior.

Here are some ideas for making the transition into summer smoother:

Talk about Changes Ahead of Time: Children can feel powerless when they experience unanticipated changes.  The more information they have ahead of time and the more opportunities to talk about the changes, the more powerful they will feel.  Talk about the details with your child.  Let them know how summer will be different from the school year, about any plans for travel that you have, and about how daily life will look.  

Provide Ramp Down Times: Remind them that summer will begin in three weeks, then two weeks, then one week, and so on.  Help them ramp down.  “Ramping down” is especially vital for children who do not transition easily.

Engage Your Child in Planning: If you have vacations, camps, lessons, or day trips on the agenda for the summer, engage your child in the planning.  Again, children will feel influential and valuable when involved in planning family activities.  They will also get excited!  Anticipation is a big part of the joy of it all!  

Stay in Touch with Friends: Your child will not be seeing the same people that he has seen on a daily basis since the school year began.  It is helpful to plan ways to stay in touch during the summer.  Have contact information on hand.  Scheduling a get together once a week, every two weeks, or on whatever basis works for your family can be encouraging.  It could be meeting for a movie each month or going out for pizza.  Your child will know ahead of time that he will be seeing his friends regularly.

Say Goodbye: Plan a “See Ya Next Year” ritual that you can do at the end of every school year.  It could be a pool party, year book signing, visit to the ice cream parlor, or a trip to the movies.  This event can be something that everyone anticipates, and it is a setting for saying goodbye for a few months.  You can keep a scrap book of each year’s event.  Rituals like this are unifying and calming.

Recognize Your Child’s Needs and Your Needs: All of us, adults and children alike, have needs.  When our lives change as they do when we shift from the routines of the school year to a different set of activities in the summer, our needs are not met in the same ways.  Your child may have felt very valuable in fulfilling his “school job.”  How will he get the need to feel valuable met during the summer?  He may have felt very influential with his classmates.  How will he get the need to feel powerful met while out of school?  Let’s take a closer look at our needs.     

Have a great summer!

Monday, February 8, 2016


The need to belong is immensely powerful.  In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown defines belonging as "the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us." Pam Dunn emphasizes the significance of belonging in her book, It’s Time to Look Inside.  She writes, “When a person’s need to belong is unfulfilled, like when they don’t feel like they belong in a certain group or when they feel judged, they will become either the bully or the victim.”   

Children experience their sense of belonging initially at home, then later with neighborhood friends, on teams, and at school.  We experience it as adults in our families, at our places of worship, at work, and in organizations such as book clubs, sports teams, and political parties.  That sense of belonging can get disrupted when we move or change jobs; when someone dies; when a new child enters a family; or when you get married or re-married.  A child’s sense of belonging can get disrupted when he changes grade levels or schools; when his friend moves away; when he becomes a big brother or big sister; or when his parents get a divorce.  Any time our orbit in our world gets shaken, our sense of belonging feels the wobble.   It could be, as Pam Dunn says, when we feel judged.  At any of those moments, we shop around to see how we belong in the new dynamic or our new “world.”

Parents can do many things to remain sensitive to their child’s need to belong.  When children belong, they feel encouraged.  They have a solid, safe, and secure foundation from which to spring.  They feel empowered to take healthy risks and to follow their soul’s desires.  They have the resilience to bounce back from a fall or try another avenue when their path is obstructed.  Here are a few things to consider. 

1.  Children belong when they feel heard and their emotions are validated
Listening, especially to the feelings behind your child’s words or actions, will make all of the difference in the world.  Listening means avoiding minimizing or dismissing experiences that may seem inconsequential to you as an adult and are big deals for your children.  An example is your child’s friend being absent from school.  For a young child, that absence may be earth shaking.  Your first response may be to reassure your child by saying, “It’s not a big deal. Jane will be back tomorrow.  It’s only one day.” Although true, your child will feel deeply heard by simply saying, “You must have missed her” or “Sounds like you felt sad when Jane wasn’t there.”  Go for the feelings behind the words.

2.  Children belong when they are encouraged rather than praised
Providing your child with usable information as well as feedback on his efforts – rather than on an end result such as a grade or the winning run in a game – are powerful tools for building belonging.  For example, notice the difference between saying “Great hit!” and “The way you focused on the ball from the moment it left the pitcher’s hand really worked for you in making that hit”.  Another example is to ask, “What did you do to change that ‘C’ to an ‘A’?  I noticed that you studied every day during the last semester.” That is much more powerful than praising the end result – the ‘A’.  Those examples focus on your child’s efforts and they give concrete, usable feedback.
3.  Children belong when their family honors peaceful problem solving
Your child will have disagreements with siblings and with you.  There is no getting around that!  Rather than you solving your children’s problems for them, teach them to resolve them peacefully themselves.  One key is to have an agreement in your family that if one person has an issue with someone else, he will address it directly with that person rather than talking about it with other family members (other than to get some assistance in solving it).  That agreement holds people accountable, prevents others from feeling judged by family members talking about them behind their backs, and shows that you honor problem solving.   

4.  Children belong when you model and experience your own self-acceptance
     In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown wrote, “Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are. It requires us to be who we are. Because this yearning [to belong] is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”  The most power thing you can do to enhance your child’s self-acceptance is to expand your own and then model self-acceptance around making mistakes, around feeling your feelings, and around being vulnerable.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My 2015 Gratitude List and An Invitation for You to Make Your List

Dawn Landau of Tales from the Motherland recently wrote, “This year, I reached out to a bunch of wonderful bloggers and suggested that we all come together and share gratitude. It’s about choosing happy, choosing positive, over the negative things that we could focus on. In taking time to reflect on things that made me happy in 2015, I feel grateful. If I express gratitude, I find myself feeling happy. Either way, it’s a win/win. I guarantee you that you will find yourself feeling good, smiling, feeling grateful and happy if you spend 10 minutes reflecting on positivity.”

Please accept my invitation for you to join in and make your 2015 gratitude list!  Here is how it works:
  • Set a timer for 10 minutes (timing this is critical)
  • Once you start the timer, start your list
  • The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015 or 50 things that you feel grateful for
  • The idea is to not think too hard
  • Write what comes to mind in the time allotted
  •  When the timer’s done, stop writing
  •  If you are a blogger and want to join this project: 
    • Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post into yours and the time to do that is not included in your ten minutes) 
    • Click here
    • That link will take you to another window where you can past the URL to your post 
    • Follow the prompts and your post will be added to the Blog Party List (Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015 and after that date, no blogs can be added)
    • Please note that only blog posts that include a list of things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for will be included 

50 Things in 2015 that Made Me Happy or that I Feel Grateful for
(in no particular order!)
  1. That my brother discovered what was going on with his body, handled the chemo, and is on the mend
  2. Having my awesome family to love and learn from
  3. The amazing National Parks in our country, in particular Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park  
  4. Your Infinite Life Training and Coaching Company – the amazing work, the wonderful courses, and the super amazing people
  5. The Peaceful Project and the new opportunity to lead this organization
  6. Our home with its wildlife and peace
  7. Our pets who are love on four legs
  8. Our friends to share the beauty of the world with
  9. Our daughter and her love of music
  10. Listening to our daughter play the theme from Charlie Brown on the piano
  11. Our health
  12. Hiking in Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon
  13. Watching our Koi swim
  14. Listening to our daughter’s choir and to Seraphic Fire – angels on earth
  15. Running farther than I thought I could
  16. Seeing my brother this year
  17. Dancing at our leadership conference
  18. Cosmopolitans
  19. My friend Ken distributing letters written by American children to people in France
  20. Being in the mountains
  21. Cooking good food for Thanksgiving and sharing it with friends
  22. Traveling with my family
  23. Seeing our daughter savor her independence in getting her driver’s license and traveling by herself to see her favorite band
  24. Watching the films Brooklyn and Hector and the Search for Happiness
  25. The cypress trees around the pond
  26. Listening to waterfalls
  27. Seeing deer in the wild
  28.  Getting cool new hiking boots
  29. Getting something special for my husband for Christmas and anticipating the look on his face when opening it
  30. The feeling after running or hiking
  31. Seeing people open their hearts in the courses we teach
  32. Having grants accepted
  33. Feeling my own heart open and seeing ‘reality’ in a new, different way
  34. Having a doctor who taught me how to change my health through what I ate
  35. Changing my health through what I ate
  36. Hearing my daughter and her friends laugh together
  37. Laughing at something my husband said
  38. Being out on the water
  39. Seeing old friends
  40. Binge watching Longmire
  41. Learning that there will be a Season 5 of Longmire
  42. Finding a haircut that I really like
  43. Leek potato soup
  44. Yoga
  45. Reading any book by Alexander McCall Smith
  46. Celebrating our 20th anniversary on February 25th
  47. Massages
  48. Going to Morikami Japanese Gardens with family and friends
  49.  Going to the Getty and eating lunch in the lovely restaurant
  50. Dreaming about my mom or dad

Monday, November 16, 2015

Giving Thanks

One of the most widely practiced rituals in the United States is happening next week when we celebrate Thanksgiving.  Rituals are connectors.  Children know what activities to expect from rituals, so there is a high degree of comfort and a sense of belonging.  Rituals are soothing and nurturing.  With this holiday in particular, children can get familiar with gratitude.  Here are a few suggestions for deepening the family connections this Thanksgiving:

Children who are involved in the preparations – from planning to shopping to cooking to serving – are invested in the celebration.  They will feel valuable for having made a contribution.  Have a family meeting to discuss the menu, and get feedback from everyone on their favorite foods to include.  You can begin the celebration early with your planning session, and your children not only learn your family’s rituals around food, but they also feel a part of your family team.

Create an activity that encourages everyone in your family.  In one of our parenting courses we practice doing an Encouragement Feast, which goes perfectly with your Thanksgiving feast.  In an Encouragement Feast, you form a circle with one person in the middle.  He faces a family member who tells him one thing she loves [appreciates or likes] about him.  He then turns to the next person, who also tells him one thing.  The person in middle does not say anything in response.  He continues around the circle until everyone has shared.  He then says one thing that he loves about himself.  Someone new comes into the middle and the process continues until everyone in the family has had an opportunity to be “it.” 

You can create a Gratitude Jar by placing an empty jar on a table along with index cards and a pen.  When someone notices an act of helpfulness or feels grateful for something or would like to express something to a family member, he writes it on an index card.  Before your meal, pass the jar around the table and read the cards.

May your Thanksgiving be full of gratitude and encouragement as well as delicious food!

Many thanks to Viva Magazine for allowing us to reprint this article by Maggie Macaulay, MS Ed, of Whole Hearted Parenting.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Privacy vs Safety: Which Prevails When It Comes to Teens Online?

 by Amy Williams

“Mom, what’s the difference between a glass that’s half full and one that’s half empty?”

My youngest child and I were cruising home in the afternoon traffic when this question came out of nowhere. I turned down the radio and contemplated his question as I slowed to a stop at a red light. Finally, I explained that it boils down to the perspective of the person holding the glass. This is actually an important concept, because a lot of heated issues are fueled by people’s viewpoint of a subject.

It’s all about perspective.

Take for instance, the divide between parents when we bring up the topic of cell phone monitoring. One faction believes whole heartedly this practice is spying and considers it a severe invasion of a teen’s privacy. While parents on the other side feel they are champions for their child’s safety.

This leaves us to question, “Is it right to invade a child’s privacy, even if it means protecting them from dangers in the digital age?” 

A Child’s Need For Privacy

It may come to a shock for many parents, but our children do need private time in their lives. For each stage of development the privacy requirements are different, but experts in child development advocate that young teens need solitude and their own space to help cement their self-identity. As a child transitions into adulthood, their bodies are seized with hormones, emotions, and the desire to find where they fit in on this big planet.

Privacy is crucial in this process, because it allows children to separate from their parents and seek their autonomy. Alone time allows adolescents an opportunity to ponder life’s big questions, figure out their goals, develop their beliefs, while making sense of their emotions.

For teens in particular, this desire to retreat can lead parents to question what activities their son or daughter is taking part in. Like it or not, we are raising digital natives who have developed a strong reliance on technology. This love of social media and all things digital has led many teens to open themselves up to a new world with adult content away from a parent’s watchful eye.

The Need For Online Awareness

This increasing need for privacy often leaves parents scrambling for information about their child’s activities. Parents need to keep open the lines of communication, but understand that teens are individuating and need the alone time. A teen’s withdrawing from mom and dad can debilitate open communication lines, which cause parents to seek information about their child by different means. Children need to understand parents don’t have overactive imaginations and do have a reason to be concerned when it comes to their teen’s online conduct.

Here are five legitimate safety concerns children face online everyday:

   Cyberbullying has happened to 52 percent of all teens.

   Only one out of ten cyberbullying victims seek help.

   One out of every four teens admit to sexting.

   Sexting, even if it is consensual, can lead to serious legal consequences. These can range from one or more of the following: being categorized as a felon, charged with distributing or possessing child pornography, and requiring to register as a sex offender.

  Social media sites have the potential to increase a child’s exposure to predators and strangers. Many anonymous apps use geographic location to pair up strangers or sort them into groups.

Six Strategies To Keep Children Safe And Respect Privacy

It’s easy for parents to read the statistics and begin to panic in fear. However, we need to realize that technology can provide great learning opportunities to teach self-management and personal growth. We need to retool our process of reacting to situations and begin looking for ways to embrace technology rather than be afraid.

Listed below are six methods to empower teens with the cyber skills needed to thrive in our technological society while respecting a child’s need for privacy:

   Start social media etiquette when a child is young and grow on this foundation. If you wait until there is a problem, you are too late! A good rule of thumb is to only post items Grandma would be comfortable stumbling across. It is called SOCIAL media for a reason and anything they post is never truly private.

   Inform a child about the possible reasons to be alert with their favorite apps. Awareness will help children develop skills to avoid common pitfalls like security or tracking settings.

 Strive to create open communication that doesn’t include blaming, shaming, or lecturing. Be honest and encourage teens to share his or her concerns. Focus on listening and being there for support.

   It sounds simple, but follow a site’s recommendations for age guidelines. A lot of trouble stems from children who are not mature enough to handle the responsibility of social media.

  Restrict devices to common living areas and limit data plans. One study found that the greatest deterrent to sexting wasn’t parental monitoring, but limiting the amount of data available to teens. Everything in moderation, right?

  Introduce the privilege of using social media slowly and in line with a child’s level of responsibility as a child shows mature judgment skills. This will avoid the need to snoop through emails, texts, and stalk Facebook pages while still allowing age appropriate access to learn social media skills. Many parents develop a social media contract to help with this process.

Privacy is more than slammed bedroom doors or hidden diaries, it is an essential part of children becoming their own person. This allows them the chance to reflect on the person they are becoming. As much as parents don’t want to admit it, this need for privacy is signalling emotional and social maturation.

Even with technology thrown into the mix, online dangers are only a matter of perspective and can be used to encourage life lessons ultimately setting a child up for future success.

Amy Williams is a free-lance journalist based in Southern California and mother of two. As a parent, she enjoys spreading the word on positive parenting techniques in the digital age and raising awareness on issues like cyberbullying and online safety. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

We Do Care What Others Think

I’ve noticed some advice being given to teens lately.   The advice is offered when a young person comments on how someone reacted – at school, on the bus, at a sleepover – to something she said or wore or did.  After getting a different hairstyle, maybe someone said, “What did you do to you hair?”  In response to a new outfit, maybe someone commented, “What’s up with the weird shirt?”  Or after test results, maybe someone asked, “Didn’t you study?”  The advice from the adult – to the cascade of emotions the teen is experiencing – is to say, “Oh, you shouldn't care about what other people think” or “It doesn’t matter what other people say [do, feel, think].”  Is “not caring” the advice that we really want to give adolescents (or anyone for that matter!)?

The thing is – it does matter to us what other people say, do, and feel.  We care, and we want our children to care.  As a young person, I remember being told not to care about what someone else had said, and I couldn't even fathom what that meant.  I don’t think other teens get it either.  It isn't useful or helpful information.  It doesn’t offer a jumping off place, the start to a journey, or the beginning of a conversation.  In fact, it ends a conversation very quickly!    

Instead of asking your child not to care, teach him to honor what he does, thinks, and feels. Teach her to go inside to explore what she feels unsure of, what she is judging herself about, and where she can increase her self-acceptance.  Pamela Dunn, author of It’s Time to Look Inside: To See Yourself and Everyone Through the Lens of Magnificence, says, “We do care about what other people think and that is exactly the reason it is bothersome so you can’t NOT care as it goes against a core value.  Get stronger from the inside out about who you are.”

That is the magnificent opportunity!