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Conscious Mental Clarity (or How to Regain Your Positive Outlook When You Misplace It)

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If you truly want to change your life, you must first change your mind. – Unknown

I hit a rough patch last week. I was in what seemed like an endless loop of conflict with my children. I was overcome by anger, self-pity, guilt, shame and powerlessness over my parenting decisions, my past behaviors, even the choices that have led me to where I am today. I found myself turning more and more to distractions – sweets, television, internet – to avoid dealing with everything that was swirling around in my head. And on top of it all, I was disgusted with myself for not being true to my desire to live more consciously. I was a mess.

In my state, I turned to supportive online parenting communities for help (sometimes it is easier to reveal your messy insides to people who can’t actually see you), and while they were tremendously supportive, I realized that by addressing one issue at a time, I was missing the bigger picture. I was feeling bad for actions from my past, feeling guilt over their repercussions in the present, and not knowing how to atone for them in the future. I was trying to clean up small messes, not realizing that my whole house was a disaster.

Luckily, I finally opened up to my husband about what was going on and having all my messy insides seen and accepted, helped me to realize that things really weren’t as bad as I’d been making them out to be. And if my partner could still love me despite how awful I felt, then maybe I could, too. Talking things out didn’t make everything better in an instant, but it allowed me to crawl out from under the massive pile of garbage I’d been piling on myself for the past week and breathe a little fresh air. Feel some sunshine on my face. And come up with a plan to throw out the trash.

I’ve always loved new beginnings, fresh slates, opportunities to wipe away the old mistakes and start anew. Usually, my new beginnings coincided with some other external beginning – a new year, a new home, a new term at school, a new job, or even the start of a new week – but it occurred to me that I don’t need an external beginning to start fresh. All I need to to recognize the need for change.

I have a program on my laptop, a cleaner, that periodically reminds me that I need to clean my computer. When I run it, it erases all my browsing history, it empties my recycle bin, cleans out temporary files, goes deep into those files I don’t even know how to access to clean out bits and pieces of code or fragments of files that impede optimal functioning; it even performs something called a memory dump. I love running this program because it helps me feel like I am taking good care of my computer, helping it run at its highest capacity.

It was this image that gave me the idea for how to clear out my own mental junk. And when I started research it, it turns out that I am not the first to think of something like this.

If you ever find, or have ever found, yourself in a deep hole, under a black cloud or buried under a pile of your own mental negativity, try the following techniques to help get you back to a better place.

Open Yourself to a Fresh Perspective

For me, the first step was to feel heard and accepted. I’m sure I would have eventually come out of my negative state one way or another, but reaching out and allowing myself to be vulnerable (which wasn’t easy – I actually had to make a bulleted list on a napkin and pass it across the table for him to read – such is my aversion to vulnerability and outside inspection), gave me a different, more accepting and realistic, perspective on my situation than the one I’d been feeding myself for days.

I don’t have any clinical training, but just knowing how good it feels to share feelings of guilt and shame with my best friends and hear that they have felt the same way or done the same things, or accept and love me regardless, proves to me that there is healing power in this type of vulnerability and connection. The most important part of this is that the person from whom you are seeking support, acceptance or a new perspective, is someone who will provide genuine support and acceptance, be it a friend, family member or mental health professional.

Perform a Mental Cleanse

Of the sources I read on this topic, the most common suggestion was to somehow get as much as you can out of your head and on to paper. Outstanding things to do; feelings of guilt, shame, anger, sadness; old memories; current anxieties; sources of frustration; even positive feelings that may be buried somewhere under everything else. This can be done through stream of consciousness writing in a journal, a notepad, a computer; over one session or multiple days. The important thing to get it out of your head. As the author in Quick Brain Detox and Mental Reboot, states, the first time you do this, there may be a lot to process, but once this becomes a regular habit (assuming you want it make it one), successive detoxification yields a bit less over time.

For some, this stream of consciousness writing (or typing) may come easy, but others, like me, may need more structure. A long time ago a friend of mine shared a therapeutic technique that she liked to use when she felt stuck and using a somewhat modified version of her method, helped me to detox in a more structured way.

To clean your mental closet, figuratively gather a list of empty boxes labeled with the most important facets of your life, e.g. Physical Health, Mental Health, Spiritual/Emotional Health, Family, Friends, Romantic Relationship(s), Children, Home, Work, Pets, Recreation, Outstanding Tasks, etc. (everyone’s boxes will be unique) and give each box a line, half a page, or a whole page, depending on how much room you need. Then write down whatever thoughts some up for you as you consider each facet of your life, one box at a time. Once you have considered each box, check to make sure there isn’t anything you have missed (or put whatever doesn’t fit into a Misc. box).

Once you have all of your boxes from your detox, you can now take the time to sort through them, label them, and decide whether they are still serving you or whether you can take steps to get rid of them.

Other Resources for a Regular Mental Cleanse

In A New Kind of Cleanse, author Karolyn Gazella lists five inspiring action steps to take at the end of each day to “clear away space to make room for the positive.”

In the post, Reboot Your Life: 20 Mental Barriers You Should Let Go Of, the author lists 20 labels of things that, should you find them swirling in your brain, it would best serve you to dispose of.

In his post 7 Tips for Renewal, Dr. David Simon, Ayurvedic practitioner and author of Free to Love, Free to Heal, provides seven tips to help when you feel you need some rejuvenation, from physical suggestions regarding diet and exercise, to meditation and journaling.

In Spring Cleaning for Your Psyche (one of a series of posts on the topic), Dr. Laura of Aha! Parenting provides insight, advice and practical exercises for parents trapped in reactivity and negativity.

In Detox Your Mind in 5-Minutes: The Power of Quantum Cleansing, Dr. Alejandor Junger, provides instructions and a guided meditation for a quick five-minute mental cleanse.

In her post, Spring Cleaning for the Soul: Tidying Up Our Personal Closet, the author suggests creating a virtual vault for positive memories, because while a mental detox and rebook are important to clear out things that are holding you back, creating a store of positive memories (and their associated thoughts and feelings) can help keep the dark clouds at bay the next time they start gathering in your mind.

How about you? Have you ever felt stuck in negativity or reactivity? Have you found ways that help you break through and reclaim a more positive outlook? If so I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – March 2015

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Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” – Mother Theresa

This month was rough. The theme this month for my More Conscious Year was “Empathy” but I didn’t do so well. Mostly, we experienced a lot of struggles, conflicts and regression (my own…) and so this month’s inspirations are, perhaps, less inspiring, but more of a resource round-up – posts and advice that I found helpful in my parenting struggles this month. But the great thing about parenting struggles is that they are opportunities for learning and growth, as well as opportunities to find new resources for support (like this one on How to Be an Empathetic Parent Even When It Feels Hard).

I hope the following resources – on proactive planning for stressful times, positive parenting alternatives to knee-jerk reactions and some motivation and inspiration for those times you find yourself acting in less-than-positive ways – will be as helpful to you as they have been for me.

Proactive Strategies for Strong Emotions (Yours and Theirs)

In this great post, 6 Peaceful Solutions for Hitting and Anger, the author provides a few novel (at least to me) ways for children to safely express their big emotions. A few times since we talked about these, my daughter has voluntarily gone to her safe place or worked out her emotions through angry art without any prompting from me.

In Positive Parenting Connection’s post Making A Win-Win Parenting Plan, the author provides steps for making a proactive plan for stressful times, but also reminds us that most conflicts between parents and children come down to a battle of needs, rather than a battle of wills, and sometimes simply seeing both of these needs and trying to find a way to compromise and meet them both, can help more easily resolve the conflict.

I also love the advice and the visual Calm Down plan in Yummy Mummy’s post Steps To Help Calm Yourself Down When Emotions Rise Up.

If you are looking for resources to help your children with anger, this video, Just Breathe, might resonate with young viewers. In it kindergarteners talk about their experiences with emotions, breathing and mindfulness.

Positive Discipline Alternatives

52 Positive Discipline Tools from Positive Discipline

22 Alternatives to Punishment from the Natural Child Project

Positive Parenting Websites and Blogs from Force Free Parenting

5 Tricks to Help Create a Positive Relationship with Your Child from Natural Parents Network

Motivation and Inspiration for Difficult Days

Positive Parenting Connection’s post, Positive Parenting Isn’t Perfect Parenting and That’s OK is a great reminder for those challenging days.

This one is a classic, but if you haven’t read it already, it is a great motivator – Orange Rhino’s post, 10 Things I Learned When I Stopped Yelling at My Kids and Started Loving More.

Or for a side of humor with your supportive post, check out the Actual Pastor’s post, To parents of small children: Let me be the one who says it out loud.

And for any of you who may be stay-at-home-parents, here is a great newsletter read from Heather Forbes of Beyond Consequences, for those days when you feel like throwing in the towel.

More Conscious Parenting Resources

Doctor Laura of Aha! Parenting is offering her audio course Peaceful Parenting: How to Stop Punishing, Start Connecting & Raise a High EQ Child free (normally $59) when you pre-order her book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

In, 4 Mindfulness Practices to Move from Surviving to Thriving in Parenting, the author gives us a nice reminder of how the practice of mindfulness can positively affect our parenting.

What about you? Do you have any go-to resources for conscious parenting in difficult times? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – January 2015

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All the world is my school and all humanity is my teacher.” ― George Whitman

During the first month of my quest for a More Conscious Year, I’ve been steeped in knowledge and inspiration from a variety of sources. Since there is so much to share, I’ll keep this introduction short, only to say that I have learned lesson from my own experiences, from the experiences of others and from great conscious parenting resources available on-line.

Lessons Learned On My Own

This month I have been working a lot on practicing mindfulness and through the practice, I found that I have been more responsive, understanding and present with my children, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but had never really done consistently. The mindfulness practices have really helped me to be more conscious of my own feelings and to wait until I am calm to interact with my children. If you are familiar with mindfulness practices, or positive parenting practices, this probably isn’t news to you, but if not, it really works and it is wonderful to see the positive effects!

On one occasion, facing a situation in which I previously would have reacted in anger, I just sat with the feeling until it passed and when it did, I felt sad and helpless. The sadness and helplessness weren’t feelings I really want to feel when it comes to my children, but they were preferable to the anger, because I could simply accept that sometimes I don’t know what to do with my daughter’s behavior and that it brings up feelings of sadness that I can just acknowledge and let go. While, not really enjoyable, it was a much more positive experience than reacting in anger and suffering the consequences.

Lessons Learned from Others

This year, I have become a member of the Consciously Parenting Academy, a resource for parents run by Rebecca Thompson, Marriage and Family Therapist and Author of Consciously Parenting. As a member of the Academy, I am able to accesses monthly support calls with other members, whom Rebecca calls Tribe Members, and family and parenting e-course offered throughout the year. Tribe members also connect through a closed facebook group to offer support and ask for advice.

A thread on positive discipline recently struck me as being so powerful, that I wanted to share some of the responses as quotes here with you. While they are not in context, maybe one or more of them will resonate with something you are facing now or may face in the future (text out of quotes is paraphrased).

“Sometimes the moment we think we absolutely must do something is the precise moment where we need to stop ourselves. I struggle with this every day. I am often confused about what to do in that space between a behavior and my response to it. You are not alone.”

 When faced with difficult behaviors from your children “… it is okay to let (them) know that you need some time to process this but you will get back with (them). You can give yourself space to allow what has shown up to be felt fully so it can move to wisdom.”

As parents, we don’t always have to react to everything. When I was young…“…it was my thing and I didn’t need my parents knowing nor did I need their stress about it. I was investigating something on my own. That’s it. We are our own people after all.”

Lessons Learned On-Line

Carrie Contey, clinical psychologist and co-founder of the Slow Family Living Movement, recently offered a free on-line Webinar on Intentional Parenting. It included a lot of information on her year-long coaching program, Evolve, but in it, she also talked about her understanding of today’s parenting in a way that was really eye opening for me.

While none of the information was really new to me, the way she explained it, in such simple terms really resonated with me. In the video, still available to watch for free now, but only for a day or so (depending on when you read this), she talks about children’s behaviors in terms of brain states.

She explained that when children “misbehave,” they are simply reacting from a less developed area of their brain. And what they need from their parents at that time is not lectures or punishments, but connection to enable them to calm down enough to access areas of higher level thinking in which they can be more receptive to what we have to say.

She explained that we have three main brain centers: our brain stem (or reptilian/lizard brain), our limbic system (or emotional/mammalian brain) and our neocortex (or human/higher level thinking brain).

As Carrie explained it:

When our children are relaxed and happy, they are function from their neocortex. This part of the brain is driven to learn and in this state, what they most need from us is positive reinforcement and verbal communication.

When our children begin to whine or cling, or their behavior otherwise changes from their happy, learning state, they are operating from their limbic system, or emotional/mammalian brain. Their behavior is a way of telling us that they need something from us – food, rest, acknowledgment, connection – to regulate themselves and return to a state of calm. In this state, what they need most from us is connection, what Carrie termed, “eye-to-eye, skin-to-skin, heart-to-heart.” She suggested parents slow down, get down to the child’s level and reflect, “Wow, you’re having a really hard time right now,” and take the time to help them regain balance. She emphasizes that in this state, children are not receptive to language, so it is best to limit speech.

When our children reach a state where they are kicking, screaming, biting (fight) or running (flight), they are operating out of their brain stem, or lizard brain. She states that children typically only act this way when they are really stressed (which can be quite often, inserts the mother of an intense child….), and in this state, what children most need from us is help with regulation. They need us to calm ourselves first, as this behavior often brings up similar fight or flight reactions in us, and then to help them calm themselves. Again, language doesn’t compute when children are in this state, and threatening behavior only escalates their feelings of fear, so they need help to return to a calm, higher-level of brain function.

The take away message for me was, when children act in ways that are distressful, it is not intentional “misbehavior,” but rather their reactions to stress from a lower level of braining functioning; necessitating, not correction, but a calming presence to get back to a higher level of brain functioning where learning can take place.

In the video Carrie, gave an assignment of starting to view your children through this New Paradigm lens and asking, “What does my little one look like in each of these three states? What do I look like in these three states?” And then noticing what helps each of you to stay, or return, to a regulated state.

Conscious Parenting Resources

In this beautiful post, Joy or Just Wait, Katie Wetherbee, contributing author at Power of Moms, shares a story of a conversation with parents of a newborn and the messages they often receive from other parents.

A Fine Parent, another site I discovered recently, described as a Life-Skills Blog for Parents, encourages readers to sign a Positive Parenting Pledge and follows up with blog posts and articles on Positive Parenting topics.

What about you? Have you read or learned any thing new lately that has helped you become a more conscious parent? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Thank you for Reading!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – September 2014

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“Parenting is one of the most challenging, demanding, and stressful jobs on the planet. It is also one of the most important, for how it is done influences in great measure the heart and soul and consciousness of the next generation, their experience of meaning and connection, their repertoire of life skills, and their deepest feelings about themselves and their possible place in a rapidly changing world.” Jon and Myla Kabat-Zinn, Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting

As the seasons change from summer to fall in our old neighborhood, we are consciously grateful for the “year-long summer” here in Southeast Asia that keeps the pools open and the parks welcoming. I have had to be even more conscious of my parenting this month, as we work to form and settle into a new routine. As the seasons change, as our circumstances change, as our children change, it helps to be conscious of the changes, how they affect our children and our families and how we can respond to them in a way that strengthens or maintains our family harmony. This month, I’ve tried to be more conscious of the changes by scheduling quality time, making self-care a priority and enjoying the fruits of my efforts as motivation to keep on track.

Scheduling Quality Time

One challenge I have been facing these days, common to most parents of more than one young child, is how to spend quality time with each and to make the most of the time we all share together. While, I know it is not easy, or even possible, for everyone depending on children’s ages and family circumstances, scheduling quality time has been a positive changing in our family. Because my daughter is in preschool in the mornings, I am able to spend a good portion of focused time with my son. Because he is our second child, and a much calmer, easy-going child, much of his first two years was spent riding around in my arms, chasing after his sister. But now, I can focus solely, going on morning adventures or just staying home and playing his favorite games. Through this time, we’re deepening our connection and making more happy memories.

With the morning over and both children home and awake, I had little opportunity for similar quality time with my daughter. Upon seeing how distressed she became when we arrived home and she had to immediately share my attentions with her younger brother, I found child care arrangement that would allow us to come home a little later a few days a week, so she has that special time just with me before arriving home, and it has made a tangible difference in how she greets her brother upon arriving home and in her disposition for the rest of the afternoon. And because I am able to spend the morning with my son, I don’t feel so guilty coming home a little later. If you don’t have the luxury of time, something as simple as turning off the radio in the car or taking a few minutes to play (or sit and talk with older children) when you are reunited may be appreciated. For ideas for scheduling one-on-one time if your time is more limited read Five Ways to Spend More Time with Your Kids When You Have No Time on Lifehack, Simple Ways to Spend Quality Time with Your Kids or for a more structured approach, read AHA! Parenting’s post on scheduling Special Time.

Making Self-Care a Priority

Another challenge this month has been handling the stress of daily life in a healthy manner and not letting it adversely affect my parenting. Stress affects us all, regardless of our life circumstances, family situation or geographic location. If unchecked, it can easily bubble over into our parenting in the form of shorter tempers, less patience and less focused attention. In order to avoid this, I have been working to make my own self-care a priority. Whether it is relaxing over a cup of tea in the evenings after the kids are in bed, making time for regular exercise or taking a few minutes to journal during the day, a small investment in self care brings far greater rewards in the time I spend with my children. In her book, The Life Organizer,  A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year (gender specifics aside, this could also work for men), Jennifer Louden talks about the idea of Minimum Daily Requirements.  I love this term because, like food, water and shelter, your Minimum Daily Requirements are the minimum necessities to be your best self each day. While massages, vacations and therapy sessions might do wonders for our mental health, minimum daily requirements are more basic habits, integral to daily well-being. For me, exercise, getting outdoors, connecting with family and friends and finding time to reflect each day, keep me balanced. When I start feeling off, upon closer inspection, I usually find I am neglecting my Minimum Daily Requirements.

Enjoying the Fruits of My Efforts

Parenting, especially parenting high needs, spirited or other children with special needs, can be a demanding, often thankless job, with little immediate positive results of your efforts. However, once in a while, a spontaneous display of affection, an introspective question or an un-prodded act of kindness from our children helps us to see that something we are doing is working. I have had  a few such moments this month that helped to remind me that it is worth it to take the extra time and effort to be patent, to be kind, to be thoughtful in how I respond to and interact with my children.

After regularly discussing our snuggle tanks (discussed in Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014), my spirited four-year-old has become more conscious of her need for connection. While, she still has strong, emotional outbursts, now, sometimes, instead of being inconsolable or aggressive, she will come and say, “I need a snuggle,” knowing that a sense of disconnection is often the source of her upset and a “snuggle” is a great way to restore her balance. Additionally, after a few months of loving kindness meditation as part of our bedtime routine (Conscious Parenting Inspirations – June 2014), she noticed  a family in the rain and decided that she would send them loving kindness because they “only had a small umbrella.” And finally, as we have been connecting more though our morning and evening routines and our scheduled quality time, I have become the recipient of many more spontaneous hugs and kisses.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Have you had any Conscious Parenting Inspirations this month? If so, I’d love to hear from you!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting PEACE WEEK – Reasons, Rules and Reflections

 

 

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“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”Albert Einstein

The word retreat may bring to mind visions of peaceful solitude in a mountaintop meditation center or yogis practicing by the sea and sipping tea in a perfectly manicured garden. However, as Jon Kabat Zen writes in Everyday Blessings, The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting, “from the perspective of mindfulness, parenting can be viewed as a kind of extended and, at times, arduous meditation retreat spanning a large part of our lives. And our children, from infancy to adulthood and beyond, can be seen as perpetually challenging live-in teachers, who provide us with ceaseless opportunities to do the inner work of understanding who we are and who they are, so that we can best stay in touch with what is truly important and give them what they most need in order to grow and flourish.” While seeing all of our parenting years as a “retreat” may be a bit difficult, taking one week to work at being more conscious is more manageable and can be a great way to really focus your efforts in the area of conscious parenting. 

REASONS

Unlike people with unwavering self-control, I tend to need external motivation or accountability to follow through with most things I set out to accomplish – hence the need for this blog 🙂 My PEACE WEEK retreat idea is in that same vein. I try to be more conscious in my parenting on a regular basis, but so easily, it seems, I fall back into unhelpful patterns of behavior that lead to more struggle and less joy in my parenting and my relationship with my daughter. Sometimes a break or a mental check-in helps to get me back on track, but when I’ve fallen back into a long stretch of unconscious parenting, I need more than a gentle reminder to dig myself out. And typically it is when I find myself exasperated at my daughter’s rapidly de-escalating behaviors that I realize that it might be time for some recalibration. I usually make a note of the challenges we are facing and try to come up with alternative ways of addressing them. PEACE WEEK allows me to set a personal commitment, for one week, to really focus on my parenting in those moments and make changes where things aren’t working. Whatever structure, time period and guidelines motivate you to stick to a plan, should be those that you use in your individual PEACE WEEK (or ZEN WEEK, HAPPY WEEK, MINDFUL WEEK, etc.), should you chose to try one.

RULES or GUIDELINES

Once I have committed to another PEACE WEEK, I create a set of guidelines, that aren’t meant to be a cause for upset if they are “broken,” but rather to act as reminders of the things you want to do to help yourself be a more conscious parent.  

My PEACE WEEK rules this time around are similar to those from my previous PEACE WEEK:

  1. No Screen Time When Children are Present.
  2. Practice Pausing and Noticing My State of Mind Throughout the Day
  3. Limited Speech (Three Breaths before “Reacting”)
  4. Morning and Evening Self-Care (Morning Yoga / Evening Tea and Meditation)
  5. Quality Time with Each Child Each Day

This time, I also wanted to work to model our HUGS (not Hurts) approach to rising frustration, which I’ve been talking about and using with my daughter for a few weeks now, but haven’t been modelling it myself. Whenever my daughter starts to get frustrated or angry with her brother, I ask her “HUGS or Hurts?” and give her our four options for dealing with frustration (HUGS – H: ask for Help, U: Use your words, G: Go take a break, or S: Stop and breathe). 

Additionally, I wanted to try to more consistently use other conscious parenting techniques, such as using mantras, acknowledging positive behaviors, giving options, etc.) It is so easy to fall back to less conscious parenting methods unless we’re, well, conscious, and I’ve been conscious lately of my tendency to use a lot of threats or two unappealing choices to “motivate” her to do what I ask her to do. 

And finally, I wanted to try to use the same words when addressing similar behaviors to help ingrain them into her memory. When you repeat the same message over and over, in the same way, it has more of a chance of sticking with them, than if you alter your words every time.

Ultimately, like a fast or genuine retreat, I just wanted a set timeline and self imposed structure in which to hold myself accountable to the conscious parenting practices I seem to have lost somewhere in the Atlantic on the way to South East Asia.

REFLECTIONS

Probably the most important part of PEACE WEEK is your reflections, whether you jot them down throughout the day, or take time in the evenings to think through your interactions with your children, both positive and not-so-positive and allow yourself the time and space for creative problem solving, “aha!” moments, or mental pats on the back when something you tried worked well. 

I was going to share my personal reflections on my current peace week here, but ultimately, I want this blog to be helpful to others and my detailed reflections only represent the current situation in my unique family and are most likely not very interesting or helpful to anyone else, so I decided to spare my readers. However, if you have any questions or comments to share, I’d love to hear from you!

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you think you might benefit from a personal parenting retreat? If you try one, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

 

PEACE WEEK – A CONSCIOUS PARENTING RETREAT

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“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
Martin Luther King Jr.

The following is taken from The Conscious Parenting Notebook.

Before I had children, I attended a 10-Day Buddhist Meditation Retreat. Before participants could begin, we had a to sign a contract stating that we would commit to following all of the rules, which included following a strict waking, eating and meditation schedule; residing in monastic-style dorms; keeping a vow of silence; not writing, reading or using media of any kind and staying for the entire 10 day period. I was able to accept, if not enjoy, all of these rules, except the one that forbade writing. I knew that many thoughts would come to me throughout those 10 days and I knew that without recording them, they would be lost forever. I didn’t want to forget, so, clandestinely, I wrote and am glad that I still have those lessons and memories today.

I recently applied a retreat mentality to my parenting. My parents were coming to stay for a week and my interactions with my then three-year-old daughter had become a bit less than loving and empathetic. So I decided to take drastic action. I called for a self-imposed “Peace Week,” to focus on my parenting and work to improve my relationship with my daughter. My rules were as follows:

  1. No Sugar (outside of honey in my tea)
  2. Limited Computer Screen Time to 3 Times a Day (When I was not with my children)
  3. Limited Speech (I wanted to impose a no-talking rule, but found that to be too difficult)
  4. An Attempt at Conscious Awareness of My Own Moods and Feelings
  5. An Attempt at Conscious Kindness and Empathy in Responding to my Children at All Times

The limited sugar and screen time came out of my realization that when I was getting overwhelmed with parenting, I tended to seek out comfort or escape through sugar or email. Instead I used these urges as a reminder to check in with my feelings and reconnect with my children.

The limited speech came from my awareness of my tendency to lecture my daughter at a level above her age and maturity when she did something I had asked her not to do, and I thought that silence or at least a pause in my initial reaction would be an improvement.

The conscious awareness of my own moods and reminder to act with kindness and empathy to my children came from the fact that I knew that my moods greatly impacted how I treated my children and I wanted to work on being more responsive to them and the situation rather than reacting based on my mood.

Throughout the week, I kept a journal and each evening, I would write down the things I did well, the things that I could improve and insights I had gained. It was a lot of work and I failed and faltered a bit, but through reflection on those times, as well as the positive ones, I learned a lot. And most importantly, by the end of the week, I had improved my relationship with my daughter and gained a lot of new knowledge in the process.

Thanks for Reading!

What about you? Do you think you might benefit from your own unique PEACE WEEK? Do you have questions about how to start? I’d love to help. Or do you have other Conscious Parenting ideas that help bring you back into balance when you find yourself parenting unconsciously? If so, i’d love to hear them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Parenting Inspirations – August 2014

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If at first you don’t succeed.Try, try, try again. – Fredrick Maryat

August has not been my most Conscious Parenting month. At least it hasn’t ended very consciously. And for that reason, I’m starting a new PEACE WEEK, a self-designed, at-home, parenting retreat which helps me sit back and focus on my children and on how my moods, energy, words and behaviors affect them. My first PEACE WEEK was a great success, but it was a while ago, so I definitely need another parenting tune in. Stay Tuned for more PEACE WEEK posts this week.

However, before things started going downhill, I did remember to use some of my more helpful conscious parenting practices and they typically work when I’m conscious enough to use them. Here are a few, mostly for addressing frustration in younger children.

Do you need help or time?

When my four-year-old isn’t able to do something the first time she tries it, she immediately launches into an angry tirade about whatever the “bad” thing is not doing what she wants it to. Instead of launching into an over-her-head explaination about how things are neither good nor bad, or the concept of “operator error,” I try to remember to ask her, “Do you need help or time?” She usually answers, “TIME!” and will continue to struggle until she figures it out, but once in a while she will ask for help and I will step in. Asking that simple question allows me to keep from getting caught up in her frustration or rushing in to help. It also allows her to stop and think for a minute, which sometimes allows for a pause in the tirade, and gives her a feeling of control over the situation.

It seems like you are having a hard time right now, is there something I can do to hep?

This is one that I should be using more often, but haven’t put into use much yet. A lot of scenarios I envision using this in are tantrums in public, where I kneel down, look her in the eye and say the above quote. And in my dream scenario, she stops screaming, sniffs, gives me a big hug and says, “I love you, Mommy!” But up to this point, the actual scenarios play out more like you would imagine – a mother with a bag on one arm, a toddler in the other, hissing threats to a screaming child in the middle of a horrified crowd of onlookers. And so I refer to the initial quote in the post, “If at first you don’t succeed…”. 

Snuggle Tanks

There is a lot of talk in the world of relationship self-help of “love tanks” that affect our moods and our feelings towards our partners. In our family, we call it a “snuggle tank,” and (again, when I am conscious enough to remember…) We’ve talked about how we feel when our snuggle tank is full and when it is low or empty. One day we drew a picture, and hung it on the wall, listing all of the things that fill her tank (playing with friends, reading books, swimming, time with Mommy or Daddy, etc.) and all of the things that deplete it (being overtired, being scared, receiving unwanted attention, etc.). I try to catch her as soon as she starts to act off in some way and ask how her snuggle tank is doing. If I catch her in time and she’ll let me snuggle her for a bit, sometimes, it helps. It also helps to be proactive. Just being conscious of the things that fill and deplete her and making sure to try to avoid or limit the latter, can help avoid unnecessary stress or frustration (for both of us!).

Conscious Parenting Resources

This month, I’ve been listening to a few of interviews on the free Mastering Motherhood Summit for helping Mothers find balance in their lives. It isn’t specifically on Conscious Parenting, but is a free positive resource for parents, so I thought I would share.

I also recently read an inspiring post on Seven Ways to be a Healthy, Happy, Mindful Mama.

Thanks for Reading!

How about you? Have you found any inspiring Conscious Parenting resources or tools that work for your family? If so, I’d love to hear about them!

Sharon, Author, The Conscious Parenting Notebook

Conscious Nutrition for Kids (and Adults)

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“The food you eat can be either the safest and most powerful form of medicine or the slowest form of poison.”Ann Wigmore

We recently moved abroad*, and moving from a home we had lived in for three years, in a country we were both raised in, to a country we knew very little about, made our basic needs a more immediate priority. Instead of worrying about finding fun places to go for weekend outings and finding time to schedule dinner with friends, we were back down to worrying about our basic needs for nutrition and sustenance. While three of our family of four are more adventurous eaters, open to new things, my 23-month-old son, a picky eater at home, began to refuse anything I offered him, even things he previously ate at home. Desperate to find ways to keep him healthy and thriving in our new environment, I pulled out a few of my Healthy Momma tricks and to my great relief, they worked. Tweaking a few of my recipes from home to the ingredients we could find here (and a few we packed for the move), I have been able to keep my son’s nutrient intake high, while we work to find more local (and imported) food that he will eat happily on his own.

Here are three of my nutrition packed recipes if you are concerned about your little one’s eating habits.

Nutrition Packed “Pop-Pops”

My go-to staple for easy nutrition for kids is what my daughter long ago christened a “pop-pop,” which is basically a frozen smoothie. The recipe may change from week to week depending on what I have on hand, but the result is always the same – a sweet, healthy treat that my kids ask for on a daily basis. For the base, I typically combine yogurt (or Greek yogurt), Almond/Soy/Milk, orange juice and a banana. I then throw in whatever fresh or frozen fruit I have on hand – berries, peaches, pears, plums, pineapple, mango, melon, etc. Once that is all blended, I throw in some previously blanched and frozen kale (prepared this way, they’ll never even notice it in the final product!). Finally, I add chia seeds (for their high nutritional content) and a few scoops of green super food powder. I mix everything in a blender and then pour it into plastic popsicle molds. An hour later, I have children clamoring for my super healthy “dessert” and I couldn’t be happier.

Healthy Banana Pancakes

Pancakes are often another favorite of childhood and are another great place to “hide” lots of healthy ingredients (unfortunately this one isn’t gluten free – but it could probably be made with gluten free ingredients). I typically put honey (or you could use Stevia) into our pancakes, so they don’t need an additional sweet topping, but again, this recipe is open to interpretation and can be made, and enjoyed, in a variety of ways. The pancake base is typically the same – whole wheat flour, wheat germ, flax seed, hemp hearts, oats and almond/soy/milk. Then I add thinly sliced bananas, crushed walnuts and a few squirts (or teaspoons) of honey. It takes some experimentation with the ingredients to ensure a firm, well-cooked pancake, but my rule of thumb is typically 1/2 flour to 1/2 (all other ingredients – with the exception of the bananas and walnuts). Once everything mixed together, you can cook them like regular pancakes and either enjoy them hot, or freeze them to re-heat later for a quick, healthy breakfast or snack.

Versatile Vegetable Broth

We used to have a big back yard with a small corner set aside for a compost pile and a small garden plot to use it in. When we moved to a neighborhood with communal green space, we lost our compost avenue and I found myself feeling wasteful every time I peeled a carrot. One day I decided to start saving all of the peels, ends and other veggie parts that we didn’t eat and cooking them up in a big pot of broth. From there, the broth went into my ice cube trays (a cup of broth makes seven cubes) and then into freezer bags for easy use. Once I realized how easy it was to make vegetable broth, I started throwing “veggie cubes” into everything. When I cooked beans, lentils, rice, quinoa or anything else that required water, I would throw in a few for a little added nutrition. And of course, they are great for making soups that call for broth as well.

If you are interested in reading more, here is another post on “sneaky” ways to add nutrition to your family’s diet.

Thanks for reading!

What about you? Do you have any healthy child-friendly recipes that are enjoyed in your family?

*I apologize for any confusion with recent posts. I am keeping a separate blog for family members about our life abroad and a few of those posts have been mistakenly posted here. Sorry for the confusion. I will be more conscious about where I publish my posts in the future!

Sharon, Author, “The Conscious Parenting Notebook