Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A little vacation planning insight...

So, the good people at Home Away brought it to my attention that this little gem of a video existed.

I have loved Kid President's videos for a long time. And this just made me love him a whole lot more!

The message of "Whole Vacations" is one we need so much nowadays. It's sad that it's come to that....to have to remind us parents that our technology and screens are interfering with time spent with family. But yeah, it's true.

We went away for a week in December. Me and the hubby and all the kids. It was a lot of work. But it was SO much fun. Leading up to that, OBear had been very clingy and I think it's because I hadn't been spending enough one-on-one time with him. Within a day or two of having me all to himself, the difference in his behaviour was amazing!

Hubs and I had talked ahead of time that on this vacation we were there to BE with the kids. We agreed to limit phone use to only taking pictures and sending the occasional email to family back home to let them know we were OK.

It was hard to stop ourselves from going on facebook, I was guilty of posting pictures and updates during OBear's naptime, but it wasn't so bad because the bigger kids were with Papa having fun, so I didn't feel guilty!

It's so tempting to feel that you have to plan elaborate excursions and outings. But that's just so stressful and in the end, it has the potential of backfiring and leading to no one having fun. Like one day we went on this Catamaran tour. We ended up so seasick and the beach was too wavy to enjoy. We can laugh about it now, but it was pretty awful.

I'm not saying to not go and experience some awesome outings...just think about them carefully before you book them. Take into account your kids ages, and what you're hoping to get out of it.

With younger kids, less is more!

They just want to play and hang out with us. Keeping it simple is definitely more fun.

Anyways, I had not seen this video until recently, so I wanted to share it with you.


Hope you enjoy it too!

PS This is just a true blue share of some awesome insight from Kid President (I haven't been paid or compensated in any way). If you then go and check Home Away out for yourself and enjoy the process, you can come back and say thanks in the comments ;-)

XO
Kat


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Point Not Usually Talked About When Bringing Home Baby

I've had to do the whole "bringing home the baby" thing 4 times, 3 of those times to other siblings at home.

We want our children to make the transition as easily and smoothly as possible. We love them and don't want them to feel neglected or replaced.

I did some things right, and some things just went haywire.

I think a lot has to do with the siblings personality and coping ability. And their age, because usually age is somewhat related to emotional maturity.

And the point we don't usually talk about is that the biggest factor in how it all goes down is: YOU!

There are TONS AND TONS of resources out there on how to make the transition as smooth as possible. Loads of tips on how to help your child, what to say, what not to say, how to include them in the integration of the baby.

This info is all FABULOUS. Dr. Laura's book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings, has a whole, super helpful chapter on these tips.

But please, take it from me...YOU, the parent, are the key factor in how it will go.

How do you feel?

How are you feeling after the birth and how it went?

Are you happy? Are you stressed? Did you eat? Are you {somewhat} rested? Do you have help? Do you need to talk to someone?

Because the truth is that if you are tired, not nourishing yourself, feeling stressed and overwhelmed, etc, etc (you get the picture)....You are NOT going to be able to implement and follow through with all the amazing tips and advice you read and want to do.

So, here is my additional advice when it comes to adding a new baby to your family:

1. Prepare and become informed about birth. The more you are prepared and the more you know, the better able you will be to navigate decisions you may need to make. There will always be some decision or many decisions you will need to make during your baby's birth. You need to do your best to make informed decisions you will feel good about so you enjoy your baby's first days and weeks without feeling lost, regret, or angry about the birth experience. Birth is the first foundation block to the relationship you build with your baby...and consequently with any other kiddos you have at home. If you feel good after your birth, you'll likely feel good at home and have the emotional ability to cope with whatever parenthood throws at you!

2. Take care of YOU! It's not selfish to want to maintain some aspect of your most valuable and core personality, passions, hobbies, etc. The way you get to do them may change and you WILL have to learn to adapt. But it doesn't mean you have to give everything up altogether. Explore how to include your kids in the activities you enjoy. And it's also perfectly OK to want to do things on your own too. That's where it's great to share the parenting responsibilities with your partner, or someone else you trust to look after your kids while you take a break. Even if it's just a short but relaxing yoga practice in your bedroom while the baby is being held by someone else or sleeping. You will find a way to make it work, you just need the motivation to be willing to start. Also, something VERY important: Eat and drink!!! As in stay hydrated, not the other kind of drinking...wink...wink. If you're depleted and not eating wholesome, nourishing meals there is NO WAY you are going to be an optimal parent. And don't forget to get fresh air. Get out of the house at least once daily, even if it's in the driveway while your toddler picks up every flower or leaf or saves bugs and the baby's in a carrier or stroller. Fresh air and being outside are so energizing and can turn a bad day into a better day.

3. This is gonna sound cliche, but don't be afraid, ashamed or proud to ask for help. You don't get a medal for trying to do it all. You just get burnout and possibly adrenal fatigue. So yeah, just don't. Look at your life and your chores, responsibilities and keep the ones that are super important to you and delegate the rest. If you've got too much on your plate you're gonna feel overwhelmed and obliged to do it all, and your kiddos are the ones that get the brunt of that stress...oh yeah and don't forget about your adrenals.

4. I'm really bad for this one STILL. But make sure you get some regular exercise. When I do this, it changes my whole perspective. And when I don't I wonder why I feel so rundown, so not myself and pessimistic. So then I say, "Oh yeah! I need to exercise!" Sheesh, you'd think I would have learned by now.

When you are a parent who looks after YOU, you will be so, so much more able to run a smooth household. Your kiddos will feel that, feel the low stress environment and you will be able to implement the helpful ideas to help begin and nurture a strong bond between siblings.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Deeper Lessons We Learn From Sharing

I don't know about you, but when I was growing up, we were taught that if you had a toy or item you were playing with and another kid wanted it, you relinquished it over to them so they could have a turn. I remember this pretty much sucked because usually I was enjoying playing with it tremendously and then had to lose that joy to hand it over. Then when I became a mother, I really had the belief that I HAD to teach my daughter to share no matter what. When you see sharing from a kid's point of view you realize that it's no wonder kids may resist sharing!

{Just imagine if as adults we were expected to take turns with our phones, cars or clothes! It's kind of ridiculous and funny when we think of it that way.}

BUT...

You also want to teach your kids that it's important to learn how to take turns, to have patience, and to have coping skills and tools to negotiate the whole art of toy and cool stuff management. We also want to teach our kids that we can't always get what we want when we want it.

Certainly the old-school thinking isn't enough to actually teach kids all of that because you're just teaching them that they HAVE to take turns by handing the toy or coveted item over to someone else.

So how can we teach sharing with empathy, coping skills, and the art of negotiation?

Well, at least in my house it's a combination of communication, natural consequences (with a little chat after to explain why and how it happened), and parent-guided mediation between kids.

But sometimes the towel gets thrown in...

And the kids do fight sometimes...or other times what we've practiced seems to come through and I get to witness the miracle of them negotiating and being empathetic as they decide how to share.

One thing that has REALLY made a huge difference is to make clear that some toys are not for everyone to use, with these special permission is needed. At first this was hard for me because of my internalized beliefs around sharing (e.g. that everyone can have turns with anything). So I had a bit of guilt around this when I initially was introduced to the idea that kids don't ALWAYS have to share. That it's OK to have extended turns, to have special items that require permission from the owner to touch or use.

But it makes sense.

And Dr. Laura explains it so well in Chapter 6 of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. She even has scripts and examples of how to teach kids effective sharing.

The other great thing about this chapter is that it has a list of simple but effective sharing guidelines that will help kids understand sharing and feel good about it. I won't list them all, but my favourite ones are

"In our family the person using something can decide how long their turn lasts. At the playground we take shorter turns so everyone gets a turn."

And

"With visitors, we put away toys that are hard for us to share. When visitors are here, we take short turns, so everyone can enjoy playing in our home."


So once I let go of that guilt and that expectation that I was supposed to have kids who readily handed things over, I was able to see things from my kiddos' perspective, and I got to heal that inner child part of me that never got a chance to learn that.

The key here is to realize that teaching about sharing is only the surface lesson. The deeper, more important lesson, is to teach kids to see another person's perspective (empathy) so that sharing actually becomes an act of empathy, not just social norms or expectations. When kids learn this deeper lesson of empathy, they actually are MORE willing to share something, even special items they treasure, because they can relate and empathize with the kid they're sharing with. This teaches them that happiness can come from receiving, but is multiplied when we also get the chance to give. But the MOST important lesson they learn is empathy itself. So many problems in people's lives have to do with the lack of empathy, the lack of skills in communication that stem from not having received empathy ourselves or of not knowing how to have empathy for others. The more empathy we can teach kids, the more peaceful and stronger their relationships will be.

And I love seeing this happening in my kids. They are (usually) so happy to share, even special toys, with each other and when their friends come over to play. In fact, they usually send their friends home with a toy!

Another important lesson I wanted to teach my kids was not to become, for lack of a better way to say it, pushovers. When you expect kids to just hand stuff over, perhaps the underlying lesson we are teaching them is that their needs and point of view may not matter as much as meeting the expected social norm.

{This is something that I am STILL working on personally. I still get that tightness in my throat when I want to say something but hold it in because I erroneously feel I will be failing as a person or not meeting social expectations.}

So I wanted them to know how to express what their needs are, to stand up and stand strong, and how to communicate and effectively negotiate taking turns. And how to establish healthy boundaries and say "No thanks" when needed. Because, yeah at this age, it's just about toys...but when they are older these are skills that are going to be extremely necessary and very useful to have.

We're working on all this. Just as we make great strides forward, we seem to start from scratch again because we have four kids at different stages of development. We move forward with the older ones, then the little ones begin their learning journey from square one. But it is super cool to see my two older ones help the little ones by example or by actually helping them negotiate and communicate, I have hope that in the end I'll look back at this phase of my life and be glad I did it this way!


Friday, August 21, 2015

Time Is My Kryptonite For Peaceful Parenting

It's no secret that I've been loving Dr. Laura's new book Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings.

It's also no secret that I have four kids, run my own businesses and spend most of my time dealing with food, messes, and all the assorted issues associated with having kids.

So time is a luxury I often don't often have. I find myself staying up late most days to accomplish tasks that didn't get done during the day (like writing these posts!).

Parenting is a gig that you're in 24/7. Peaceful parenting even more so (in my opinion) because you just can't say I'll deal with it later or just separate everyone and send them to their rooms.

Why?

Well, because it doesn't really solve the issues and won't teach anyone anything beneficial.

In Chapter 5, Dr. Laura explains why when teaching children to resolve conflict, you just can't take any shortcuts.

So what's a busy parent to do? What about the times when ALL HELL breaks loose at the SAME time and you have a poopy diaper to change, children yelling and trying to hurt each other, supper on the stove, a 3 year old who is cutting her hair and you as the parent have to deal with it by keeping yourself calm and with empathy, compassion?

The truth is, it's really HARD.

But it's not impossible.

It does take practice and definitely some RE-TRAINING of our minds.

This Chapter, like Chapter 4, has scripts and scenarios to give you lots of tools and ideas to work through and implement.

But in addition to that, I'd like to share that it's not as easy as the scripts make it seem.

You WILL have to fail first before you succeed.

You WILL wish you could and most likely actually just quit and send the kids to their rooms or timeout.

You WILL loose your cool and yes, maybe even raise your voice.

But then...

You WILL realize you CAN do it differently.

And that's why Dr. Laura is so great. She has empathy not just for kids, but for parents too. She KNOWS it's so hard to do the whole peaceful parenting thing. But she also has a way to explain why it IS SO important to parent this way.

So just like I tell myself, hang in there. It is worth it in the long run. Take the time (again with the time thing!) to practice and practice the reels in your mind and change them to a more calm, less reactive version of Mama. And once you do, you'll realize it comes easier and doesn't require much for you to dissipate and resolve a situation.

So what did I find helpful?

Be aware and mindful of what your kids are doing, saying and feeling. Almost always an escalated situation could have been halted if a child had their needs met. Hunger, thirst, sleepiness...and all that, are major triggers. If you know your child is experiencing one of these primal states, you also know they won't have the patience or know-how to deal with the emotions that come when their little sister or brother ruin their game, take their toy or just say "the wrong thing". But here's the thing: if this happens and a primal need triggered a fight or argument, take a few moments after it's resolved to teach your kids WHY it happened. Explain to them that if they get too hungry, thirsty, etc...they will not have patience and get cranky. Once I began explaining this to my kids, they put the two together and now the older 2 are very good about taking care of their needs (mostly on their own, but sometimes they do ask me for help if it's something they can't do). I'm still holding out on the younger two...have a ways to go!

Go on YouTube and make a playlist of videos you wouldn't mind your kids watching...music videos, kid songs, funny animals, whatever! You can set the privacy setting to 'private' and then play it whenever you need a few minutes of quiet. Yeah, I know it's like using the Internet as a babysitter, but it works and it's not like they are watching unsupervised, commercial-full shows. If you have Netflix or some other streaming site, that works too. But I like the YouTube playlists because you can have variety and set it to however long you want. I especially do this during meal prep times or when I need to put the baby down for a nap.

Find shortcuts in your life that will make the times of day when things usually fall apart a bit easier. For example, is dinner time hell at your place too? For some reason that is the time everyone is tired, hungry, needs something ALL AT ONCE. And I'm trying to get supper ready and getting interrupted. So. I said enough is enough. Most days I'm on the ball and have supper planned and prepped WAY BEFORE dinnertime. That way I just have to take a few minutes to put the final touches together and this leaves me more time to be attentive or if the kids are having a good day, I can take a few minutes to chill out (happens once in a blue moon, but I'll take it). I know it's tricky when you work full time and are getting home late, or you have to take the kids to classes...but there are always ways to find shortcuts. Freezer meals, batch cooking, or making a healthy twenty minute supper (yes, it's possible!). Breakfast for supper is always a favourite at our place for a day when planning ahead didn't go so well. Get yourself on Pinterest or some other Internet sites, and look for recipes and ideas for healthy, easy meals.

And that leads me to my last point: kids are what they eat. Doesn't have much to do with actual 'time' but when we think about it it can save you a lot of meltdowns and free your day of unnecessary cranky times.  If they are not well fed, and I don't mean just 'not hungry', I mean fed foods that will nourish and fuel their little bodies and brains...they are going to show it in their behaviours. It's truly amazing, but not surprising, how the food we eat affects our mood, behaviour and of course our health. This applies even more so if a person is eating foods they are sensitive to but don't know it. If you notice your kid goes bonkers or their mood changes noticeably after eating a certain food, you may want to try eliminating it and see what happens. For example, my oldest doesn't do well with dairy. She's not allergic, but she definitely has some sort of reaction. She will get SO irritable and complains her head hurts. With my older son, it's wheat. He gets hyperactive and will also break out in eczema a couple days later. Of course we all know the classic sugar high. And that applies to all kids and even adults. I am definitely not one to always remember this food point. I love that I can just give them a granola bar when I'm busy with something. BUT I almost always pay the price later when they come down from their sugar high. I'm trying to make a point to batch bake my own granola bars, protein balls, and other healthy snacks from scratch so I know what's in them and can control the amounts of the usual suspect ingredients. However, this isn't always happening because I'm drowning in laundry or dishes or spilled water or some other mess. Maybe my fairy godmother will come and help? Nope. I just have to remember to delegate and maybe while the hubs folds the laundry I can whip something up. Or heck, maybe I should cut my Facebook time in half and use THAT time for a better purpose?

I don't have other time solutions right now, but if I think of any, I'll let you know. And if you have any, I'd love to hear about them.

Chapter 6 is next...see you then!

XO

Kat


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Theories On Toddlers

My toddler: he is cute, isn't he?
Why is it that my baby sniffs me out of the entire household of people...and almost always at very inopportune moments?

Why does he pull my hair and pinch me when I'm holding him?

Why does he refuse to play along at peek-a-boo, pat-a-cake or some other fun, silly game while I make a fool of myself trying to entertain him during a busy time or a grocery store trip or whatever thing I am doing that NEEDS to get done?

Why does he come find me when I'm trying to use the bathroom? How does he even know!?!?

Why does he go from happy-kid to most unhappy kid in a matter of seconds, when I'm making an important phone call or need to do something important?

Or he could be the happiest boy, playing and listening to his Daddy, and as soon as I come home or walk in from another room he changes into some version of toddler that I'm sure even Mary Poppins wouldn't enjoy.

Did I mention trying to use the bathroom? This kiddo has a knack for finding me in the middle of wiping! Which sucks because when he tantrums because I can't pick him and throws himself to the floor....well, I really CAN'T pick him! He then gets even more mad that he has to wait until I wash my hands. Oh my. Mornings at my house are fun.

But seriously, why does this happen?

I have a few theories...

Theory number 1:
(The one my husband uses to make me feel better)

He just loves me so much, he always wants to be near me.

OK, thanks kiddo, I love you too. But you don't have to turn into a complete little a-hole to tell me so. If you really love me, well, there are lots of other ways you could show me. The most important being not trying to climb on my lap while I'm trying to wipe my butt!

And wouldn't he love his Daddy just as much? He is an angel baby when Daddy is on duty. Why don't I get that toddler special treatment?

Theory number 2:

It's karmic payback for being rude, disobedient, rebellious and doing stupid stuff to my own mother.
Oh Karma, you really are a bitch. I get it now. Sorry for reals, Mama.

Theory number 3: 

It's a challenge, a test I need to pass in order to continue to be a VIP in the toddler's life. You know the whole we vent and show our true emotions with those we feel the most safe with? Maybe little toddler brains and hearts work the same? He trusts me so much (heck I grew him inside me!) that he knows he can be a little a-hole and if I continue to look after him after these episodes, I deserve and have earned the right to continue to be his Very Special Mama.

Theory number 4:

He has to mark his spot in the order of siblings. Being the smallest, he has to make the biggest impact.

This may hold true, except that I remember my first behaving similarly during her toddler years, not to the same degree, but still showing a-hole traits on a somewhat regular basis...so not sure if this theory holds true.

Theory number 5:

It's just part of being a toddler.

But that's not much fun. So I like the others a bit better ;-)


That's all I got. Have any to add?

All in all, whatever the reason or reasons...it's tough to be a parent most times. I take the good with the not so good, and it helps to maintain the attitude of:

There's always chocolate (or wine, or whatever you enjoy!) at the end of the day when they're all asleep!

But seriously, I enjoy my littles, they really grow up too fast. And I remind myself that what I do today and the way I interact with them will pave the way for my tomorrow (ahem, I'm looking at you teenage years!). So I will look the toddler in the face and just say, "I love you and I embrace your tantrum because you're safe with me." 

The goal is to be a happier Mama...and just maybe get some good Karma in return (I probably have a big debt to pay after my teens).


Xo
Kat




Friday, August 7, 2015

The Phrase That Changed Our Game

This post is written as part of the Round Table Discussions with Natural Parent Network volunteers. In an effort to discuss, support, and promote a kinder, more gentle world, we are taking an in depth view of various books. Our current book is Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings: How to Stop the Fighting and Raise Friends for Life by Dr. Laura Markham, author of Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids: How to Stop Yelling and Start Connecting. We hope you will join us with an open mind and a desire for change and growth.


Hello again! I'm back with my thoughts on Chapter 4 of Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham.

This Chapter provides scripts, tools and tips on exactly how to do emotions coaching AND what to say. Which is great because I can attest to what it's like to have your brain go blank as your kids are crying or arguing on who gets to pick what show to watch. Or whatever conflict situation is escalating in your kiddo-land.

I re-read this Chapter because I wanted to really soak in the scripts and imagine myself actually saying the words.

But as I read and read, one thing popped out at me over and over.

The idea of teaching your kids that the situation of conflict they are having with each other is a problem, but it is not an emergency...and most importantly, that it CAN be solved.

Bam.

I admit that I had never before thought of things this way.

Not because I thought the conflict of kids IS an emergency, but because I don't think I had really seen it that way, from their perspective. And of course to kids, their tower getting knocked over, their lego getting broken apart, losing their favourite stuffie, or having their baby brother pull their hair IS AN EMERGENCY.

Dr. Laura explains that in order to effectively emotion coach our children we need to stay calm, model the behaviour and teach them that we empathize with them. We know it sucks. But that it is not an emergency and that they can solve it (with our help if needed).

It's awesome because I've been going around saying, "Remember, this is not an emergency, I know it feels very awful, but there is a way to solve this problem." And variations of this.

And the cute and hilarious thing is that now I hear my 3 year old going around saying this message too. I don't know if she gets it fully yet, as she still screams bloody murder for the slightest thing, but at least it's beginning. The seed has been planted!

I've been enlightened with this phrase for 4 days now. I see it making a HUGE difference. The kids calm down faster, probably because I am calm too. But it really has helped them (especially the older 2) to put things in perspective and I notice it puts their mind into problem-solving mode vs. react mode. Which is definitely easier and less loud for me.

And I've adopted it too for my internal self-talk:

"Kat, the sink is full of dishes? No one has tidied their laundry off the floor? You still have loads and loads of laundry to fold and you're exhausted? Remember, it is not an emergency. Stay calm, chill out, find a way to solve it."

I am LOVING this new phrase. It is SO zen.

<3 Kat