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The best thing to ask your kiddos when they get home from school is……

Ready for it? 

NOTHING!

How about that? 

Instead of asking them….

  • How was your day?
  • Do you have any homework? 
  • How are you feeling?
  • What grade did you receive on your test? 

Tell them….

  • I’m so happy to see you. 
  • I missed you! 
  • The house/apartment just got a little brighter with you in it. 
  • I’m noticing you look a little worn out. I’m here if you need anything.

And if you must ask them something….

  • Can I make you a snack? 
  • Did anything fun or unusal happen today? 
  • Which friends did you play with at recess?
  • Do you need any support from me this afternoon/evening?

The transition from school to home can be a tricky one for our kiddos.

They have been working hard all day trying to do the right thing, say the right thing, answer in just the right way…

Bombarding them with intrusive questions the second they walk through the door or get into the car tends to shut them down. The opposite of what we all wish for right?

Instead, use the power of mindfulness to tune into yourself and your kiddos.

Pause… notice your breath… ask yourself… “what’s most important now? What does this moment ask of me?

I find that if I stick to this, my boys will eventually offer up how their day was. Yes, even my teenager. It might not be until bedtime… but it happens. 

Let me know how it goes! 

With Love,

Michelle

 

 

 

Anyone else counting the days until school starts again?

I LOVE the routine of the school year. Sure…sometimes someone is home sick or some other bump in the road appears, but in general I have some semblance of certainty as to when I can get my work done. Then the weekend comes and we can PLAY! I also LOVE working from home…but not so much during the summer months. And yes, I’m sure if we were heading off to some tropical location or lake house for the summer I might feel differently. But alas…that is not the case. Mindful parenting in just harder when the kids are out of school, let’s face it. 

So what to do?

I’m leaning in to some old standbys here because they are just so good. 

Breathing 

My kids have interrupted me about fifteen times today while I’ve been in the midst of some kind of creative work. After the fifth time or so I caught on to the tension I was feeling each time the door started to creak, so I began to focus on one inhale and one exhale each time that door began to swing open. All of a sudden I was a little bit happier to see them. 🙂

Gratitude

I’ve started a little notebook where I’m jotting down everything I feel grateful for a few times a day. Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain and unshackles us from toxic emotions. It’s hard to be all grumpy about summer when you are writing down what you are grateful for. Plus, who is grumpy about summer? So strange right? 

Taking Mini-Breaks

I mean duh…this SEEMS so obvious. I’m fairly sure I have been hiding out in my office to avoid listening to my children tell me how bored they are…which leads to less breaks than usual. I started taking a walk in the sunshine mid way through my workday while reminding myself how valuable boredom and mind wandering are for my children. Let them be bored! It’s good for them. Really it is. My little walks also help soothe the guilt I might be feeling about us not being on vacation this summer.

And about that GUILT… I can hear you thinking “why should you be guilty about not going on vacation?”

You are so RIGHT

If I get still and u-turn around to what is going on within me, it’s pretty clear I’m stuck in the loop of my mind telling me what we “should” be doing this summer. As if anything should be any different than it is right now. I can also sense a longing to slow down a little more with family and friends. It’s so easy to see the to-list and just keep going… and then feel guilty afterward. So silly we are. 

With all that said, I am going to continue breathing a little more intentionally, focusing on what I’m grateful for, and taking more breaks. Will you join me? 

These long days and warm nights aren’t so bad either…

How is your summer going? 

I’d love to hear stories of sun, struggle, fun, and bored to tears kids driving you nutty. 

With Love,

Michelle 

Four Steps to Diffusing Big Emotions

One of the most common requests I receive from corporate clients and stay at home/working parents alike is to help them manage their response to stress. Personally, particularly on school day mornings, as I’m trying to get my kids out the door and myself to work, having the ability to bring it down a notch is absolutely critical. No one can find their shoes, the dogs are barking, the waffles just burned, and I’m running late to see a client. The best parts of me can be pretty hard to find in those moments.  

It’s perfectly normal for us to experience stress, and some measure of stress is actually good! It can motivate us and spark us into action. However, when the level of stress we experience passes our ability to skillfully deal with it, then it’s important to have some skills to help in that moment.

A useful skill to self sooth on the spot is to label our emotions. A study done back in 2007 by Matthew Lieberman and his colleagues looked at functional MRI images of people who were emotionally triggered. They found that if you labeled your emotion by simply saying sadness, frustration, anger, or any other emotion, this had a direct effect on calming the amygdala which is the alarm center of our brain that goes crazy when we are stressed. Labeling the emotion decreased the activation of that alarm center. When we identify our emotions we miraculously stop being identified with them! Self soothing 101.

To help my clients (and myself) practice this technique I like to use the acronym STOP.

S- Stop. Pause. Don’t do or say anything else! Seriously. Don’t.

T- Take a breath while focusing on a long exhale.

O- Observe the emotion present. Label it.

P- Proceed, with lower emotional reactivity and a more sane response.

Now go do life and keep this little mindfulness hack in your back pocket….. What we practice grows stronger! 

The 4 Telltale Signs of a Good Enough Mindful Parent

A mindful parent is wise, calm, and always knows just what to do in any given parenting situation. Right? Right? Maybe not so much.

I began focusing on parenting mindfully about eight years ago, and at that time one of my main goals was to stay calm and not get angry. How do you think that worked out for me? Well…I pretty much ended up feeling like a failure every time I didn’t feel calm and got angry. For the record, I don’t recommend stuffing anger in the name of mindful parenting.

As the years went on, I came to understand that mindful parenting is more about allowing the messy parts of our lives to wake us up moment by moment. It’s the anger and other uncomfortable feelings, emotions, and reactions that actually lead us to our mindfulness.

The more awareness we bring to our struggles, the less of a vice grip they have on us.

Our children are masters of presenting these struggles to us in regular doses (for our own good as it turns out). They offer up a steady drip of where we have yet to grow. Can you see how our children are our master teachers? They trigger us in all the right ways to point us towards our greatest possibilities for personal growth, if only we can view our triggers through this lens. Easier said then done I know…but no one said it was going to be easy. Stay with me…

So what can we expect to see from the Good Enough Mindful Parent? Ready for the four things?

#1 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent takes the time to practice mindfulness (the more the better but we are going for good enough here). We notice the water on our skin while in the shower, name the emotions we are feeling throughout the day, and sit in silence for a few moments (or hours) just noticing our breath. We don’t beat ourselves up when we loose our mindfulness and trust it will come back. In fact, simply noticing that we are not mindful IS mindfulness. You did it!

#2 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent works to view difficult behaviors through the lenses of emotions and needs. We identify the emotion present in our children; such as they are angry, frustrated, exasperated or sad. We then identify which one of their basic needs is not being met, such as the need for connection, safety, play or freedom. From this perspective we can soften around our children’s (awful) behaviors and move right into deepening connection with them. Perhaps we hold out our arms for a hug or offer them a snack to counteract the blood sugar dip that had caused the awful behavior. On the days we are completely spent and barely have any patience we immediately forgive ourselves and move on to #3.

#3 The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent takes care of their body, mind, and spirit. You have heard of this idea yes? Self Care. The whole “put on your own oxygen mask first” thing. We simply can’t be aware, perfectly present, and unwaveringly patient when our tanks are on empty. Although a spa day would be lovely, we are going for good enough here remember. Wash your hair, take a walk, practice yoga, or call a good friend. Whatever fills up your tank do that.

#4- The “Good Enough” Mindful Parent expects to make mistakes. And I mean make mistakes daily! What our children need most is help from us to explore their own inner worlds. When we completely blow it is the perfect time to help our children grow (while subsequently crawling out from that pile of guilt we are hiding under). The trick here is to calm down before moving forward. After the amygdala hijack in your brain is over and your cortisol levels have lowered, talk through the blunder with your child. It might go something like this…”Wow, I really screwed up earlier. I should have noticed how angry I was getting and stepped away to take a few breaths. I wish I had caught the anger monster before it exploded. I’m sorry. Are you willing to tell me how my anger affected you?” On the days we are too spun around to admit to our mistakes we get a good nights sleep and start over tomorrow.

So there you go…let go of the idea of a perfectly mindful parent. They don’t exist. The Dali Lama doesn’t have children. Just saying.