Parenting and Yoga

I have been a parent now for over 26 years.  Do I have all the answers? No.  Have I learned from my mistakes and victories?  Yes.  Much of what I’ve learned around how to be a good parent is from working with parents over the last 20 years.  I can definitively say that parenting is much, much more than knowing how to effectively discipline.  What I didn’t know in the early years was the correlation between my state of mind and my children’s happiness.

I have raised 4 children; two of them step-children who lived with us most of the time.  Except for ongoing part-time work, for the most part I was a stay-at-home mom.  Although I’ve been blessed with a pretty easy going temperament, I noticed that some days I was less tolerant than other days and little things seemed to be bother me more.  Was it my children’s behavior or was it something that was going on with me, that made the difference?

When my 2 youngest children were very young, I started attending an aerobics program at our local community centre, three times a week.  Childcare was provided so it was perfect, and once they started school, I continued.  I got to know a lot of the other young moms and we regularly met for coffee after the class.  If you’ve ever read that exercising with a buddy is a great motivator, it’s absolutely true.  Without fail, I showed up 3 times a week because I so looked forward to the social part after class.  We all did.  The combination of the exercise and meeting my social needs I know, without a doubt, made me a more patient and loving mother.

As my children got older and issues sometimes became more complicated in my life, I knew I needed something more.  I decided to try yoga.  It immediately gave me a greater sense of calm and better awareness of the mind/body connection.  I loved the stretching and the feeling of deep relaxation.  I have been doing yoga now for about 15 years and although I still cannot get my head to reach my knees when I do a forward bend, the benefits are immeasurable.  I know it’s made me a better person.  I’ve had many, many different instructors who in their own way, have taught me something valuable.

Almost daily, I get emails promoting all sorts of different programs and products related to parenting or coaching.  Most don’t resonate with my general philosophy or my message but Yoga Parenting came across my desk recently and I knew for sure this was something I wanted to share with readers.  The program reminds us that if we’re not calm and at peace, our kids can’t be either.  I often tell my clients that those of us who are fortunate enough to raise children, are given an opportunity to become better people.  We want to be positive role models and present the best of ourselves to the people we love the most.  I speak from experience when I say that a regular yoga practice can help you become the calm, peaceful parent you want to be.

Both Parents Work Outside The Home – What Is The Impact On The Kids?

When I was growing up in the 60’s, my dad worked outside the home and my mom stayed home. We came home for lunch every day and Mom was always there and she was always there after school. That was just the way it was and that was pretty much that way it was for virtually all my friends. In fact, if I remember correctly, I only had one friend whose mom worked outside the home. She went back to work when my friend was 12 years old.

Today things are very different. Our new reality is that in most families, both parents work outside the home, at least part time and many families are headed by only one parent who in most cases, is working outside the home. My 1960’s reality is now very much the exception.

What is the impact on the kids when they’re away from their parents for sometimes, ten hours a day? I’ve often had parents of young children tell me they only see their kids for one or two hours a day. The bulk of the time, their kids are in the care of someone else. They might be with a nanny in their own home, in a daycare center or with a relative. Bedtime often becomes a very challenging time because the kids want to drag it out for as long as possible and parents who are out working all day long will often indulge out of guilt. Bedtime can be challenging for parents who are at home all day but it can be even more difficult for working parents.

When both parents work outside the home, they will often confess to giving in to demands just because it’s easier. They’re too tired to fight or negotiate. As well, they often confess to buying more toys and extravagant experiences because they feel guilty for being away for so much of the day.

If you’re a stay-at-home parent, that is your job and it’s more than a full-time job. I don’t have to explain. If you have a job outside the home which is full-time, you have two full-time jobs and there is no break in between. You have to immediately change hats. Children are self-centered and “winding down” after a long day at work is out of the question. They want you the minute you step inside the door. There are also bills to pay, phone calls to return, and time needed to catch up with your partner if you live with the other parent. Multi-tasking takes on a whole new meaning.

This new reality makes it necessary to radically adjust the expectations of both ourselves and others. We’re not super human and if there was ever a time to prioritize, this is the time. I remember giving a workshop to a large group of working parents once and one parent gave us a snap shot of her day. It began at 6am and ended at 11pm. It was non-stop. We worked together to see how she might make things easier on herself and everyone agreed that her first priority should be to hire a cleaner to do her house work. Several people said it saved them hours of time and was worth every cent. Other people suggested things like making meals ahead of time to store in the freezer. We also talked about letting go of any need to be perfect. The key word was DELEGATE.

One of my suggestions is to limit the number of extra-curricular activities your children are enrolled in. It means even more time away from parents and is often conducive to lots of quarreling when it comes time to get ready and get out the door. Instead of enrolling your children in baseball when they’re young, opt instead to play ball with them in your own backyard. Instead of putting them in art classes, do art projects with them at home. When they reflect on their childhood they’ll appreciate the time you spent with them much more than what they learned from the organized activities.

Parenting And Priorities

When I work with parents I always like to look at the big picture.  I tell clients that everything is interconnected.  All aspects of our lives affect our parenting so it’s never just about how to discipline effectively.

A common theme I hear is how busy parents are and there never seems to be time to just relax and enjoy each other.  Everyone is constantly coming and going.  It usually looks something like this:  Up at 6ish, shower and dress then get the kids up and ready to go to school or daycare, quickly eat breakfast then make a mad dash out the door to get everyone in the car so Mom and/or Dad can get to work on time.  When the work day is finished it’s then going from work to the daycare or after school care to pick up the kids then back home to get dinner ready.  After dinner it’s bath, stories and bed and then clean up and start getting ready for the next day.  For some people that takes a couple of hours because there’s bills to pay, lunches to make, laundry to be done, mail to go through, etc, etc.

We’re told over and over again that life is about balance and we’re happier if we can somehow balance our lives between work and fun.  It seems too many people never get to the fun part because if they’re not working at their day job, they’re working at home, managing the household.  How then can we achieve some kind of balance when there is only so many hours in the day?

As a parenting coach, my biggest concern is that with all the craziness that goes with a busy schedule we simply can’t be the best parents we can be.  A tired and stressed parent that feels pulled in multiple directions tends to yell more and is less tolerant than those that take time to nurture themselves in some way.  It’s all about priorities.  If you’re a parent with a job outside the home, then you have two full-time jobs because parenting and running a home is a full-time job.  In order to make more time for fun and recreation, we have to give up something else.  It might mean giving up some of the house work and hiring a cleaning service or it might mean choosing to live closer to work so you can cut down on comuting time.  It might mean considering part-time work instead of full-time.  Sometimes when you look at all the costs associated with full-time employment, part-time makes more sense.

Our kids deserve to see the best of us and it’s up to us to ensure we orchestrate our lives in a way that makes fun and relaxation a priority.  Take a hard look at all the things you do in a week – write everything down and see what you can either eliminate or delegate.  If you have young children, remember they’re only young once and what they want from you more than anything is your time and attention.  They won’t thank you for spending extra time at the office so you could live in the big house or own two big cars or have all the latest gadgets.  What kind of memories do you want to create?  Every single day we’re creating memories.  We want them to be positive.  What are the values you consider the most important to live by?  Are you living by those values right now?

Raising My Kids With Oprah

I remember vividly looking for something on TV while I was spending endless hours nursing my first born child, Claire in the mid 80’s.  I’d watched Phil Donahue from time to time but his show ended and was replaced by Oprah Winfrey.  I loved her instantly and I felt, like so many others, that she was like one of us.  She was someone I knew I could comfortably invite into my own living room.  She was real.  She was funny.  She was warm.  I absolutely loved the way she connected with her audience and her guests.  I was hooked.  Everyday from 4-5 for probably 20 years, I turned on Oprah.  I watched how the show evolved from a standard talk show with a bit of a twist, to what Oprah stands for now.  I confess I’m a personal growth junky so I would be riveted to the TV with the many guests she had who taught us how to live a better life.

My kids have grown up with Oprah.  Part of their childhood memories will be remembering me turning her on every single day.  When my daughter graduated, someone wrote in her yearbook:  “I’ll always remember coming to your house after school and watching Oprah with you and your mom.”  Many of her regular guests have become household names.  Like thousands of other people, I started a book club after Oprah started her book club.  I learned what a life coach was from watching her interview people like Cheryl Richardson, Debbie Ford and many others.  I became a life coach myself.

I haven’t been watching Oprah as religiously as I did before because when Dr. Phil started his show, I felt I couldn’t justify watching TV for 2 hours straight, during the the afternoon.  On Wednesday, she’ll be airing her very last show.  It’s going to mark the end of an era.  I’ll be watching the last few shows for sure and I know her parting words will stay with us forever.  In some way, Oprah has touched us all.  We’ve cried with her, laughed with her and grown with with her.  There’s much more of her to come, but afternoon TV won’t be the same without her.

Parents Hooked On Video Games

Last week I was leading a parenting group and we started discussing video games.  We weren’t talking about kids playing video games, in this case we were talking about husbands.  There were three women who said their husbands spent countless hours in front of a video screen playing games.  As my own husband has never even held a controller in his hand, and has absolutely no interest in learning, it’s something I’m not able to relate to.  I have sons though that play video games.

As I was listening to these women express their frustration around the hours their husbands spent playing games all sorts of things went through my mind.  There’s the issue of one parent doing the lion’s share of the childcare while the other parent is playing a game.  There’s the focus and energy  put towards a virtual world rather than the real world.  Is this another addiction?  Will these parents look back once their children have grown and regret the hours they chose to spend in front of a screen instead of being with their growing children?  We can never get back those years.  What is it doing to their relationships with the most important people in their lives?  How is it contributing to family  harmony?

We parents are our children’s role models.  Everything we do we have to ask ourselves if this is what we want to teach our children.  If you’re a parent who spends the evenings and most of the weekend playing a video game, what are you teaching your children?  The moms who were talking to me had very young children.  They weren’t anywhere near old enough to participate in the games and won’t be for many years.

What I think can easily be called an addiction, is resulting in complete disengagement with the real world.  It’s a very effective form of escape.  What are these husbands escaping? From a health perspective,  how is it affecting the mind, body and spirit of a person who spends six or seven hours in front of a video screen interacting with a virtual world?  The real world is a magical place and when we choose not to embrace it, we miss out on more than we can ever imagine.

We Just Had A New Baby And Our First Born Is Behaving Badly

I recently had a mom of a seven year old girl tell me she was having a lot of problems with her daughter.  She wasn’t doing the things she was asked to do, she was arguing a lot, and generally challenging her mother with virtually everything.  I also had a mom of a five year old girl tell me she was suddenly having problems with her daughter not wanting to go to school.  She too was acting out a lot.  Both these little girls have something in common.  The mom of the seven year old also has a two year old and a new baby.  The mom of the five year old has a new baby as well.  When I suggested the new arrivals might be the cause of the misbehavior, and helped them to see life from their daughters’ perspective, they agreed competing with a new baby was probably a big contributing factor.

Babies require constant care and attention.  They’re totally dependent on an adult caregiver, which usually is the mother.  Older children, who were once the center of attention and were used to their parents always being there for them are going through a major transition when a new baby comes along.  They all of a sudden have to hear a lot of “You’re a big boy/girl now.  You can do that by yourself” and “I can’t come right now.  I’m busy with the baby”.  Their interpretation of that is often “The baby is more important than you.”  Of course we know that not to be true, but in the mind of a young child,  it feels very real.  They will do whatever it takes to gain back the attention they’ve lost.  Sometimes that means acting like a baby.  Sometimes it means becoming rude and hostile towards their parent or parents.  Sometimes it means acting out on the baby.  We will for sure give a young child undivided attention if they act out in a way that demands we stop everything and talk to them.  Even if it’s negative, it’s better than nothing.

One thing I often suggest to parents who have recently had a second or third child, is to try and arrange one on one time with their older child where they don’t have to always compete for time and attention with the new baby.  If one parent can stay home with the baby, take the older one with you to do an errand or go for a bike ride or spend an hour together in the park. Do something that sends the message:  “You’re the most important person to me right now.”  They’re less likely to seek the attention they want, in inappropriate ways.

What Do Kids REALLY Want From Their Parents?

I’m going to make the assumption that all of you reading this have said at one time: “I just want the best for my child”. Have you ever stopped to consider what you really mean by “the best”? Do you feel everything you own that’s associated with parenting, should be “the best”? Do you feel they should be attending “the best” preschool or “the best” private school? Do you feel you should be living in “the best” neighborhood? Do you think they should always be having “the best” teachers?

We all know parents who spend thousands and thousands of dollars on clothes, gadgets, lessons, toys, equipment, and electronics. Maybe you’re one of them. If they were to be asked why they’re spending so much money on all these things, the answer is likely to be “We just want the best for him/her”. I truly believe they do want the best and their intentions are nothing but honorable. Often times parents will consciously provide things their parents couldn’t afford so they make an effort to ensure their own children don’t “go without”.

One of the things parents hear all the time is “I WANT”. When we take our kids to the store they want candy, a toy they’ve seen on TV, or something one of their friend’s maybe has. It’s either “I want” or “Can I have….?”. We’re put in a position of either saying no or giving in to their pleas. Kids are very good at making us believe they should have whatever it is their asking for because “Everyone has one” or they tell you they “really, really want it”. Or, often you’ll hear “You never buy me anything!” We don’t want our kids to be left out nor do we want them to think they’re neglected in any way. Let’s face it, we often give in because we love to see the smile on their faces and experience their feeling of joy.

Many parents I’ve worked with admit to buying far more than their kids possibly need but often they do it out of guilt. They’re away from them for long periods of time and buying them something they like, eases the guilt; temporarily. As well, it’s much easier to give in to a whining child when you’re tired and have put in a long day. You simply don’t have the energy to negotiate or listen to persistent begging and whining. It’s just too much work.

Parents who enroll their kids in multiple activities at once will say they want to expose them to a variety of things so they can choose later on what they really like. They want to provide them with enrichment and opportunities that could potentially advance them in life. Some have told me they feel pressured to have their kids in a number of different activities because they feel judged if they don’t.

When it comes right down to it, do kids REALLY want all these things and experiences? Do they feel happier and more loved and cared for? It is our responsibility to create an environment for them that is stimulating, with toys and games that are age appropriate and conducive to social, intellectual and emotional development. Beyond that though, what they REALLY want is our presence. They want us to be engaged, to listen to them, to respond to their questions and comments; notice what they’re doing, and be there to hold them and touch them. They want our support and encouragement.  They want us to be present. I’ve often suggested to parents that one of the nicest things you can do for your child is just sit with her/him on the couch and cuddle up in front of the TV together or play a game together. It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or extravagant. They love it when we spend time with them at the end of the day before they go to sleep. Think back to when you were a child. What are your fondest memories? Very often your best memories were around just doing very simple things with one or both parents. You remember the connection and how much it meant to you. Seldom do our fondest childhood memories revolve around things or time spent under the guidance or direction of someone else, unless it was a grandparent or favorite relative. We owe it to our kids to put aside a little bit of time everyday when they get the clear message that nothing else matters to us right now, but them.

Parenting: Finding Time For Creativity

Like most people, the arrival of the New Year moves me to do some reflection of the previous year and have thoughts around my intentions for 2011.  I like to document my successes rather than my “failures” or what didn’t go well.  For me, every new client who gained some valuable insights from me that they can easily put into action, was a success.  Programs I led that went smoothly and were a positive experience for me as well as the participants, were a success.  Maintaining my exercise regime throughout the year, was a success.  There were many things.

I was recently reminded of the value of creativity and how participating in something creative, nurtures my soul.  I love to scrapbook, especially cards, and I’m becoming more and more interested in playing around with photogrpahy.  I also love to decorate.  There is something tremendously satisfying when you give yourself a chance to unleash your ideas and implement them.  It’s freeing.  There are no rules or restrictions. The great thing is, there are many, many ways to express ourselves creatively.

As a parenting coach, when a parent comes to me with problems they’re having with their kids, I like to approach it holistically.  Offering alternative ways to discipline is only one dimension of the whole picture.  Very often as we get further along in the coaching process, I sense there’s something going on in the parents’ lives.  It might be with just one parent, or it could be with both.  Often I sense there’s something missing in their lives and they feel unfulfilled.  The feeling of lack of fulfillment leads them to lash out at their kids because they’re frustrated.  Usually kids are just being kids which means messes, tantrums, loud noises, fighting between siblings, lack of compliance and so on.  If we have a general feeling that something in our lives is missing, our tolerance for a lot of the normal chaos that goes along with family life, is very low.  When I take the time to address that part of a parent’s life that might be calling for attention, virtually every single time, we discover they have given up a hobby or not pursued something they’ve always wanted to try.  Most of the time what’s missing, is some form of creative expression.  Yes, having kids means our time is no longer our own.  We simply can’t absorb ourselves in our own passions when we have young children to care for.  Once we realize though, that choosing not to put time aside to do the things we love, is having a negative impact on our parenting, we make adjustments.  We find the time.  Any gift we give to ourselves, we also give to our family.  We are simply able to present our best to the people who matter the most.  This year, take time to figure out what’s missing in your life and find a way you can fit it in.  Make time to express yourself creatively.

A Special Christmas For Us

Where does the time go?  Here we are on the day before Christmas, 2010.  I’m hosting Christmas Eve dinner tonight for my family and then Christmas dinner will just be the immediate family; being my husband and I, our four adult children and our seven year old grandson.  I usually have everyone for Christmas dinner but I realized breaking it up will be much more comfortable for everyone.  There will be room at the table for us all to sit comfortably instead of some eating at the coffee table in the living room.  I’m making a seafood casserole for tonight and tomorrow will be the usual turkey.

This is a very special Christmas for us this year.  My step-son will be with us for the first time in many years.  He’s been struggling with addictions for the last ten years and we weren’t sure if we’d ever see him back in Vancouver.  It’s been very, very difficult for my husband as well as for the other kids in the family; especially his twin brother.  We’ve been reminded that miracles do happen.  Adrian has been home since July and has been clean and sober for almost six months.  He lives in a recovery home and is completely committed to regaining his physical and mental health.  I can’t tell you how wonderful it is for us to have him back.  He has a piece of paper on the wall in his bedroom that says:  “I will never ever take my family for granted again.  I am truely blessed.”  He wrote that soon after he returned to Vancouver in the summer.  We couldn’t be more proud of him and we too feel blessed.

Thank you to all of you who follow my blog.  I appreciate you a lot and extend warm holiday wishes to you and your families.

Dr. Oz Busts Some Common Myths

Tomorrow on the Dr. Oz Show, we’ll learn that many of the things we were told growing up, were actually wrong.

“Myths Exposed! Everything Your Mother Told You Was Wrong”

Does mother really know best? Dr. Oz busts the most common wellness myths.

He is joined by the guy who makes science fun, special guest, Science Bob.

Myth 1: Eating too much sugar makes you hyper.

Using a chemical experiment with a vegetable and a gummy bear, Dr. Oz and Science Bob show that even though the sugary treat gives off more energy than the vegetable, it does not directly affect the hyperactivity in people. Dr. Oz says that hyperactivity, especially in children is more commonly caused by the environment in which they are in. More often than not, children consume more sugar at birthday parties or on special occasions, where the environment calls for them to be hyper regardless.

Myth 2: Sucking in Helium kills brain cells and causes brain damage.

Dr. Oz and Science Bob say that the reason Helium makes your voice higher is because it is seven times lighter than oxygen, so it goes through the vocal cords faster, suppressing the low sounds and releasing the high sounds, which makes your voice sound funny. Another chemical, Sulfur Hexafluoride is heavier than air and has the opposite effect of Helium, making the voice sound deeper. Dr. Oz says the amount you take in from sucking on a balloon is not nearly enough to cut off circulation of oxygen to the brain, and therefore, you do not kill brain cells or cause brain damage with this small amount.

Myth 3: You can catch a cold from being cold. Better bundle up outside!

Viruses and bacteria are airborne and can get under mucus membranes when you are exposed regardless of the temperature. So whether you bundle up outside, or not, you are likely to be exposed the same amount as if you were sitting inside. Dr. Oz says that you are actually more susceptible being inside because you come in closer contact with others and there are more surfaces for germs to live on.

Myth 4: Applying Hydrogen Peroxide to cuts prevents infection.

The body releases a chemical that neutralizes hydrogen peroxide before it is able to get in a cut and burns to water and oxygen (which is why it fizzes up like that!). Dr. Oz says that surgeons use hydrogen peroxide in big open wounds and infected sores to clean, but on an everyday cut it kills bacteria along with healthy cells, which is not beneficial. Dr. Oz says his rule of thumb is “If you can’t put it in your eye, don’t put it on a wound.”