Less is More! 5 Tips to Declutter your Words and Reduce Power Struggles!
“My kids just don’t listen!” is something I commonly hear from my coaching clients. Truth be told, I often feel this way myself!
Does this sound familiar? You find yourself talking to your kids in a lecturey kind of way. You get caught up in delivering continuous directions, reminders, rationales and lectures. Nag, nag, nag, nag.
And often, your kids may come back at you with the eye roll or ignore you with that glazed-over look. Sometimes they may reward you with a redundant, hollow 'uh-huh’ as a response. While other times, sass-talk is their preferred comeback.
No matter your child’s age, if your request doesn’t line up with their agenda, kids may just block out the noise. This delicate dance of parental requests and children failing to follow through can lead to a power struggle of epic proportions, leaving both parties feeling disappointed.
This frustration may have us thinking, “My kids just don’t listen” or “My kids are so difficult!” But is that really true? Children may feel difficult at times, but are they really difficult or are we just missing something? What if we made a shift to look at the situation from a different angle? A perspective that encourages us to approach our children with curiosity, empathy and compassion. A perspective that allows us to get to the root of the issue and remove the power struggle.
How would it feel to change the narrative using a positive framework that offers an opportunity for change and growth? For example, rather than thinking, “My kids just don’t listen,” try, “My kids and I are having a hard time communicating well.” This framework identifies communication as the problem, rather than the children.
A constant stream of telling our kids what to do is not ideal for creating independent thinkers, problem solvers and doers. Keeping communication short and sweet may be more helpful. Think of it like the Minimalist movement - Less is More!
The Minimalist movement is more than decluttering your space á la Marie Kondo. The idea of Minimalism isnot to declutter often, but to restructure your mindset to understand that less is more all the time. It’s about shifting your habits and beliefs around how you approach materials like your furnishings, your clothing, your foods, etc.
How would it feel to approach words in a similar way? Creating a shift in your mindset to declutter your language and let the important words take center stage. Communicating in a way that aligns with your values and supports the kind of people you would like your children to become?
Here are 5 strategies that use Less Words to get More Cooperation!
1 - Walk the Talk!! Your children may not hear everything you say, but they certainly see everything you do! And they are pickin’ up whatever it is you are puttin’ down. Think of it this way - a gardener tends very carefully to a newly planted seedling. For quite some time, it may seem as if nothing is happening until one day a shoot finally pops up! There was very important work happening below the soil that the gardener could not see! Be patient with your kids, model what you value and hope to take shape. Your kids are noticing and forming their roots, too!
2 - Connection is Key A child at play is a child with an agenda! It's tough for children (AND adults!) to stop an activity they are enjoying. Expecting your child to switch gears quickly can be tricky. A sudden pump on the brakes may certainly get some pushback! Take a moment to connect with your child before giving a direction or making a request. Click here for 10 Tips for Connecting with your child.
3 - Ask Questions & Get Curious Open-ended questions can help promote autonomy and strengthen problem-solving skills. By asking questions, the child is invited to become a part of the process. Some questions may look like this:
What will you need to do so you’re ready for practice? How much time should that take? What should you do next? How can I support you? What is your plan?
4 - Foster Independence You can reduce your language and promote independence with the following strategies:
Use a timer - You can use an oven timer, an egg timer, the timer on your phone or even a sand timer for visual learners! I love using timers because it lessens the power struggle by taking the parent out of the equation. Here are a few ways to incorporate a timer into your routine:
Set the timer for a chunk of time to complete an activity (For example, ‘2 minute tidy up’ or 20 minutes to focus on math homework, etc.)
Use the timer as a warning that a transition is about to happen. (I’m setting the timer for 2 minutes and then it will be time for lunch)
*PRO-TIP* Give your kids some control of the timer! Consider allowing your kids to help choose how much time they need, choose the sound/music for the alarm, or be the one who starts/turns off the timer.
Use measurable actions - If you don’t have access to a timer, consider using something physical or visual to measure time. For example:
“Three more pushes on the swing and then it’s time to go.”
“When this show is over, we’ll get ready for the tub”
*PRO-TIP* Allow your child some agency. Let them choose how many pushes on the swing before leaving the park; Let them click the remote control to turn off the tv.
Use a schedule - Create a list or picture schedule for simple routines. Children can quickly learn routines and build their independence as they follow along with a schedule. The best part is parents can use very limited language! Simple statements like, “What’s next?” or “Now what will you do?” may be all the prompting you need!
Make schedules for wake-up routine, bedtime routine, or getting off to school. For older kids - after school/homework routine, getting chores completed, etc.
Creating schedules can be as easy as writing a list, creating drawings by hand, using cutouts from a magazine, or utilizing free websites like Canva to print out images.
*PRO-TIP* Laminate your pictures and use velcro to stick them to a surface. Your kids can remove each step as they move through the schedule.
5 - Allow Your Child Some Space Not everything is an emergency or a ‘must do right now.’ Reduce the power struggle by allowing your child some control when appropriate.
Consider giving your child a ‘needs to be completed by’ time to take the pressure off getting something done immediately.
Ask your child when they would like to complete an activity. (“Would you like to brush your teeth before or after you get dressed?” or “It’s your turn to walk the dog. When will you fit that into your afternoon?”)
If using a schedule, consider allowing your child to create the order of the routine. (You need to brush your teeth, put on pj’s and use the toilet before bedtime. What would you like to do first, second and third?)
Take the frustration out of communication. Less is more! Our kids do listen, we just have to speak less so they can hear.
Caught in a ParentingTidal Wave? 3 Tips to Help You Find Your Footing Again!
‘Life’ has been happening in my house, in a very ‘extra’ kind of way. My regular hustle-bustle has been met with challenges outside of my control, and keeping up with it all has been quite the task. I’ve found myself saying things like, “Ok, as soon as I get through (fill in the blank), things will slow down.” I’ve found myself feeling depleted, short-tempered, scattered, and just not feeling my best. You know when you’re burning the candle at both ends? Well, it’s like my candle has been completely engulfed in flames.
I know I’m in good company here. Many of my clients come to me with similar struggles. I often hear comments like, “I feel like I’m just putting out fires in my house!” or “We’re drowning over here.” So many of us are good, busy parents trying to balance everything, feeling spread too thin and then falling short where it really counts.
Many parents I know work so hard just to stay afloat of the nonstop demands, and the constant push and pull of their attention holds them back from feeling successful. These ‘tidal wave’ parenting moments make it hard for parents to find their footing, and nearly impossible to keep up with all the demands.
We operate as best we can in ‘survival mode’ to keep up when we’re feeling stuck and overwhelmed. We may find ourselves making decisions that do not align with our values. We may tend to go against our better judgment. We may feel short tempered, impatient and reactive rather than responsive with our children. Have you ever found yourself caught up in this tidal wave?
I had been treading water for quite some time before realizing I was truly over my head and getting tossed around my own tidal wave. Ideally, I’d like to have this awareness BEFORE getting completely caught up, but we’re all a work in progress, right?
Don’t let that tidal wave bring you down! Here are some tips to help you feel more grounded so you can find your footing!
Check-in with yourself
When you have the awareness that something is off, pause. Quiet the noise. Check-in with yourself. You are a good parent going through a tough time!
Get curious. Are you getting it all done? Are you getting it all done well? Is the pressure triggering you? Who or what may be suffering from your attention being pulled in so many directions?
How can you reframe these challenges and see them as opportunities for growth or change?
Reassess & Reprioritize
This is the great time to check in with your values. How well are you aligned with your values at the moment? Get a copy of my Values Wheel here to help you see where your alignment could use some adjusting.
Take some time to make a list of your priorities, keeping the highest priorities at the top of your list. Those last few items at the bottom of your list, go ahead and scratch them off! It’s ok! Toss the guilt and scratch them for now. They’ll still be there later when you have more bandwidth, or maybe you’ll find out they weren’t that important after all!
Know your resources. Is there a service that can lighten your load? Can you call on a professional for help or advice? (a teacher, doctor, house cleaner, delivery service?)
Reframe the thought “I have to…” into “I get to…” This simple shift in thinking may help you see your ‘must-dos’ in a new light.
Slow down. Allow yourself to tap into all your senses to notice the beauty around you, and indulge in some small moments of self-care.
Take control and be more intentional with your calendar. Buy yourself some extra time by chunking similar activities together and scheduling small moments of self care throughout the day.
Consider asking for help. (I am the BIGGEST culprit here! I find it so difficult to ask for help, but I am working on it! And, you should too.) Your friends and family truly want to help, you just need to communicate that! It might sound like this, “I could use some help and I’m not always comfortable asking.” It really can be that simple.
When I finally followed my own advice, I found that pushing pause on my newsletters and blogs would give back some time and relieve some of the ‘must do’ pressure I was feeling. By reassessing my values and reprioritizing my responsibilities, I gave myself permission to shelf some tasks and direct my focus where it was truly needed — on my relationships with family, friends and clients.
Reprioritizing can be scary at first. It may feel like you’re neglecting something, when in fact, you will actually be focusing your attention exactly where it’s most needed. Reprioritizing allows you to use your energy in the most productive way while still keeping your values intact. Toss the guilt, get clear on your values and priorities, and find your footing!
Are you looking for one small change to help you live a more positive lifestyle? A change that would not only help you, but a change that could benefit your whole family? If your answer is ‘Yes, please!!,’ let’s talk about reframing negative self-talk.
Many of us are familiar with an inner voice that likes to judge and hold us back. This judge feeds us negative thoughts and tries to keep us from reaching our potential. Do you know the judge I’m speaking of? Do you hear that voice right now?
Here’s the big problem with negative self-talk. Aside from it holding you from your potential, negative self-talk models an inner voice for your children. It projects a negative vibe in your home and models what self-talk ‘should’ sound like to your children.
If you want your children to be kinder to themselves, a great place to start is to be kinder to yourself.
Let’s debunk what you may already think about reframing! Reframing is NOT sugar coating. It is not falsely telling yourself everything is fine. Reframing IS about finding the good in your situation to help you see a more positive mindset moving forward.
To me, the best part of reframing is knowing it is something I have control over. I can acknowledge the ‘fake news’ my inner judge is feeding me and choose to find a better perspective. I have full control over how I want to perceive any situation and how I want to present myself to my children and others.
Are you ready to start reframing your self-talk to reflect more positive and energizing thoughts?
Five Tips to get you started - 1. Acknowledge your thoughts When you notice yourself going down a negative path, press pause and take a breath. Realize that your inner judge is trying to sabotage your thoughts — remind yourself you have a choice here! With this awareness, what will you choose to do with your thoughts?
2. Switch “I have to...” to “I get to…” This simple swap out changes an obligation into an opportunity. When you think to yourself “I have to,” your mind automatically thinks, ‘chores!’ and the adrenaline rush begins. By simply stating, “I get to,” you can shift your mindset to see the opportunities within your task.
3. Watch your language! Avoid words like ‘always’, ‘never’ and ‘should.’ Using absolute terms like these make phrases seem hopeless. They’re also inaccurate - there is almost ‘always’ an exception.
4. Be more open-minded. Before you decide how the outcome will turn out, why not smell the roses along the way. Try not to jump to conclusions. When we catastrophize our situations, we are fixed on only one outcome, when in reality, there are several ways a situation can go. A fixed mindset limits your possibilities. A growth mindset is open to an array of choices. What we focus on grows! Try to focus on the good and see the possibilities that may come!
5. Show some Compassion. Are you even aware of the words you use to speak to yourself? I‘m guessing you’d see things in a more forgiving light if you were speaking about a friend's situation. What words would you use to speak to your friend? Consider speaking to yourself in the same manner. The goal is healthy self-talk. Healthy self-talk will inspire your child’s healthy self-talk.
Let’s try it! Get a piece of paper, make two columns (or download my journal entry sheet here), and let’s start reframing! What are some negative thoughts you might tell yourself? Now, how would you reframe those thoughts for a friend? Love yourself & treat yo’self right with positive self-talk!
Reframing isn’t always easy, but it’s surely worth it! As it is with many things in life, reframing your self-talk takes practice. With repetition, your brain will begin to generate new neural pathways allowing positive self-talk and thought processes to feel more automatic.
Where will you choose to focus your attention? Will you choose to dwell on the negatives, or reframe and look towards the positives?
Are you a ‘resolutions’ type person? I used to be the ‘New Year, New Me’ type, but I’m scratching that and trying something new! This year, I’m going to be the ‘New Year, More of Me!’ type! I’m bringing in the new year manifesting more of what works well in my life, allowing me to feel my best, most authentic self.
What do I mean by, “More of Me’? In 2022, I’m going to be more my true self! Doing more of what makes me happy. Living more aligned with my values. Being more balanced with my time. Allowing myself more grace when things don’t work out how I’ve envisioned.
Something I’ve learned as a runner is how important proper form and alignment are for your overall well-being. If you do not have strong form and your stride is out of alignment, you can create unnecessary wear and tear on your body as you rack up those miles. Over time, this unintended stress can take a toll, causing discomfort and injury, putting you on the sidelines for a while. Maintaining strong form while running helps keep the body moving efficiently and balanced, feeling good and spared of unnecessary injury.
Much like running, maintaining your form while engaged with your children can help you to parent efficiently, feel good with your decisions and be spared of unnecessary ‘emotional injuries’, or hard feelings. I often discuss how parents can work on their form and alignment with my coaching clients. (You can read more about my thoughts on ‘parenting form’ here).
Looking back on the past year, there were times when my form was certainly slacking, leaving me feeling unsettled and disjointed. When I looked a little closer, I realized I wasn’t being true to myself during these moments. There were boundaries I didn’t protect. There were times when I drifted away from what I valued, allowing my priorities to become shifted. And, no surprise, these were also the moments my anxiety stepped up a notch and self-doubt crept in.
Fortunately, there were also many good moments in 2021! I shared lots of laughs and fond memories connecting with my family. I’ve grown both personally and professionally. I’ve had inspiring, creative moments that nudged me to reach outside my comfort zone. And, no surprise, these were the moments when I felt proud and energized! Looking a little closer, it was clear these were the moments I was living according to my values and being true to myself! This is what I’d like to bring into the new year!
How do I get more of that? How can I find what works in my life and bring more of that into my day to day?
These are some reflection questions I considered to inspire my intentions for the new year ahead:
When were you the happiest and/or most satisfied during the past year?
What was it that made those moments feel that way?
What did you value about those moments?
What is already working here? How can you add to this momentum?
How can you create space for more of this in your life moving forward?
How will you protect what it is that’s important to you?
After reflecting on these questions, my intention became clear. I would like to spend 2022 living more aligned with my values and priorities, allowing me to live authentically! New Year, More of Me!
So, how about you? How do you intend to approach the new year? Will you choose to reflect and find your intention for the year to come? How will you present as your best self in 2022? I’d love to hear your intentions!
When I was a classroom teacher, I would overhear recess conversations debunking Santa-isms among my students. There were the students who were the sources of info, there were the hard-core believers who wouldn’t listen to such blasphemy, and those who were on the fence and looking for confirmation from a reliable source! Ridden with anxiety over the outcome of these conversations, I would redirect the children and ask them to save those discussions for their families at home. I didn’t want to touch those conversations with a 39 and a half foot pole!
Whether Santa visits your home or not, chances are your family has had a discussion about the Jolly Ol’ St. Nick. Is he real or not real? Are we lying or are we creating holiday magic? Why does he visit Tommy’s house and not our house? How should we handle it when our child starts to question the magic?
This can become a highly charged topic with adults feeling very defensive of their position towards the man in red. And, rightly so. The discussion may tap into one’s emotions, reflecting on their upbringing and their feelings towards holidays and traditions. It may tap into parental instincts to protect one’s child and their feelings. Emotionally charged topics have us feeling watchful, ready to protect and defend what’s important to us!
But when I think about this in a broader light, and pull back the lens, I’m able to reframe the situation. Can there be space for everyone to have their own beliefs? Does it have to be so binary? So right or wrong?
Can there be space for everyone to have their own beliefs? What if, instead of shutting down the conversation with my students, I had made a safe space for them? A safe space for each student to hold and honor their own beliefs while simultaneously honoring another student's position? What if I had offered space for guided conversation that would incorporate the gifts of respect, tolerance, compassion and empathy? A space where everyone could feel heard, understood and accepted no matter what their beliefs were at the time.
Think about it, which snow globe would you rather live in? Snow Globe ‘A’ → Joey believes in Santa and thinks anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong and worries for them. Tommy does not believe in Santa and feels anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong and naive. ~Or~ Snow Globe ‘B’ → Joey believes in Santa and thinks it’s ok for others to feel how they’d like because all families are unique. Tommy does not believe in Santa and thinks it’s ok for others to feel how they’d like because all families are unique.
Grab a Cocoa & Ask Yourself... Can you reflect on your own emotions for a moment? What feelings are bubbling up for you?
What message are you sending your children with your reaction to this topic? Does your reaction match what you value around respect, tolerance, compassion and empathy?
What are your family values around tolerance, respect, compassion and empathy? How do you practice these values? How do you model these values for your children?
If you’re feeling emotionally charged around this topic, can you find a reframe that will help you shift your perspective?
Respecting others’ opinions towards this topic can be a great opportunity to highlight how every family is unique and special.
Having conversations that allow space for differences in faith, beliefs and family practices will be a great life skill for my child.
Tolerance. Respect. Compassion. Empathy. If we are not teaching our children at a young age about tolerance and understanding, when will they begin to engage these virtues? These are concepts that have to be modeled and practiced to be absorbed and lived. If we can model and practice these values with our children, we will be setting the stage for a kinder, more compassionate future for all.
If you know someone who would appreciate this blog, please feel free to share it!
Also, click here to learn how you can prepare your mindset, get a better perspective, and be ready to handle tense holiday situations with grace and clarity!
Do you love 'The Holidays' but dread the way these special days unfold for your kids? Are you apprehensive about the change in routine for the winter holiday season? If so, you are not alone, my friend! You are not alone! While the holidays can be a joyous time to spend with family and loved ones, the events may also involve some tense moments and conversations.
When my children were younger, my husband and I would have mixed feelings towards the holidays. While they were fun in many ways, all that ‘fun’ would throw our kiddos for a loop! After the anticipation of the special events and having all the said ‘fun’, we’d spend the next few days recouping from the ‘holiday crash.’
Each year, we’d cross our fingers hoping things would just work out and our kids would go with the flow. But that rarely happened. It was the same ol’ pressure cooker of events. The lack of routine, uncomfortable clothes, large groups, noisy atmosphere, different foods, late evenings — it was all too much for our kids. They’d cry and tantrum, be difficult, consume too much sugar, become overstimulated and ultimately get in the car and cry the whole way home from being over tired and uncomfortable in their own skin. The next few days would be spent trying to get back on a schedule and sort out a dysregulated sensory system.
We felt so much pressure on us as parents — more than likely, all in our heads, but nonetheless, we felt the pressure! Trying to manage the tantrums, listening to everyone’s ‘best parenting tips’, getting upset with our kids’ behavior (and each other!) and wondering why we were failing, what were we doing wrong, and what was wrong with our kids?
Nothing. There was nothing wrong with our children. There was also nothing wrong with us as parents. We just needed to be more ‘strength-focused’ and aware of our abilities as a family. We needed to be clear on our values and priorities, and feel comfortable and confident with our own parenting decisions. We needed to take some time to prepare our mindset and have a better perspective for the day ahead.
The main idea surrounding the holiday season is CONNECTION! If you’re putting out fires all day, feeling stressed, overwhelmed and stretching yourself too thin, well then, you’re missing the point of the season.
Are you looking to prepare your mindset and have a better perspective on the day? Are you interested in handling tense situations with grace and clarity? I’ve created three self-reflection questions to help you prepare your family for a better experience.
How can you prepareyourself to feel comfortable and grounded in your decisions and your parenting this holiday season? Can you...
Keep in mind your values and priorities?
Remember you are the parent and know your children best?
Understand that you are not responsible for how other adults choose to react to their feelings?
Prepare for unsolicited advice with a kind remark that appreciates how others choose to parent while affirming your own choices?
Find a way to incorporate small moments of self-care into the day? (Step outside for some quiet, practice your breathing, etc.)
How can you shift your mindset and have a better perspective this holiday season? Can you…
Remind yourself that holding boundaries is a form of self-care?
Find a mantra that gives you peace and clarity?
Keep in mind, if your child is challenging, it’s because she is having a hard time, not giving you a hard time?
Allow yourself some grace if things don’t go as planned?
How can you make the day easier for yourself and your child? Can you…
Work your arrival/departure around your child’s sleep schedule?
Remember this is not forever? Lean into the change of routine knowing this is temporary. You will turn this ship right-side-up again soon.
Plan for breaks (take a walk, find a quiet room for a book, etc)?
Help prevent a sensory overload? Consider packing a cozy change of clothes, some familiar foods &/or noise-canceling headphones?
Allow these questions to guide you, and ultimately, trust your gut! You know what is best for your family and what you can manage. When you are true to yourself and your immediate family’s needs, the time you spend with loved ones can feel much more special and meaningful.
One more thing - if you're looking for ways to connect with your kids, download my free e-booklet here! You'll find 10 tips to help you connect with your children to help keep behavior from escalating. It could come in handy this holiday season!
The turkey has been ordered, the soup has been planned, the shopping list has been prepped and the holiday cocktail has been chosen! Bring on Thanksgiving!
I usually focus on the word ‘gratitude’ during the Thanksgiving season, but this year I am feeling ‘connection’ as my word for the holiday.
At the heart of every relationship is connection. Connection is the energy that draws people together. It establishes a bond and trust, a foundation that relationships are built upon.
It’s important to remember that connecting happens in both good and difficult times. When a friend is going through a tough time, we connect and support them. But so often, when our kids are having a tough time, we disconnect and expect them to work out big feelings alone.
Why is connection different with our adult friends than it is with our children?
We all love those magical moments with our kids when we’re bonding and making lifelong memories! Holidays, family vacations, special events, cuddly time at home...all the warm and fuzzies, yes?
But, what about the not-so-warm and fuzzy moments of parenting? Getting everyone out the door for school, screen time battles, sibling shenanigans, transition time meltdowns, power struggles, enter your daily parenting struggle here _______ .
These moments can push us to our limits. We may find ourselves overwhelmed and frustrated rather than ready to dig deep and connect with our kids. Surprisingly, these are the moments when our children need us the most! Kids need the help of parents and caregivers to navigate their big feelings.
Research has shown when we connect with our children on an emotional level, we actually shape the structure and function of their brains.
When we connect with our children, it helps further brain development, models problem-solving strategies, establishes trust and so much more.
If you’re looking for support to connect with your kids — even during those difficult parenting moments — I have you covered! I have created a quick read e-booklet with 10 tips to help you connect with your child, even during those tough moments. You can download your e-booklet here.
Help! My Kid Hates Halloween! A Little Hocus Pocus to Make the Day Easier
“Why is it so hard for my kid to enjoy Halloween? All these other kids are having such a great time, I really don’t want my kid to miss out on the fun!” If you’ve caught yourself saying these words, this blog is for you!
Halloween can be the perfect storm for children who struggle with changes in routine, social gatherings, crowds, surprises, following directions and/or impulse control.
The sights and sounds, the anticipation and excitement of the day, large groups of people, and wearing an uncomfortable costume for hours! Not to mention the pressures associated with trick or treating — running from house to house, talking to strangers and eating your way into a sugar coma!!
The expectations of the day — while considered ‘fun’ to many — may come off as a threat to your child’s sensory and nervous systems. Once the fight or flight response is activated, watch out for the Halloween overload!
If you’re looking for some ways to help your child navigate Halloween with less tricks and more treats, I’ve got you covered! Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you get below the surface of your child’s struggles with Halloween.
Start with a reframe- Can you frame the situation in a way that helps you get curious about what’s going on underneath the tantrum, tears, fear or yelling? Remind yourself that your child is not giving you a hard time with Halloween, your child is having a hard time with Halloween. The reframe will allow you to feel like you and your child are working as a team towards a solution.
Connect with your child- The anticipation and excitement leading up to Halloween is often accompanied by a slew of mixed emotions. Excitement can quickly and easily switch to overwhelm!
Think about those last-minute tears over a costume, “Why are you crying about being Spider-Man??? You’ve wanted to dress as Spider-Man for weeks!!”
Rather than responding with a logical lecture, try connecting with your child to help them sort through their feelings. When children feel affirmed and understood, their emotional brain will start to feel soothed, allowing your child to start feeling calm. Connecting with your child builds a foundation that fosters trust, a positive self-image, and open communication.
Looking for some great ways to connect with your child? Get my free tips here.
Follow your child’s lead- Is your child pushing back on wearing a costume? Does your child want to Trick-or-Treat or would they rather stay home and hand out candy to others? Is it too scary for your child to walk up to a decorated house and speak to strangers? Does the idea of a school costume parade seem fun or would your child rather be a spectator? Is the smell and feel of pumpkin innards too overwhelming for your child to make a jackolantern?
Forcing your child to participate in activities that don’t feel comfortable may lead to further pushback and fear. Can you allow your child to have some autonomy over the day and choose a level of participation that feels right for them?
Let your child know how impressed you are with their ability to make good choices that feel right for them. You may even notice your child step outside their comfort zone when they feel safe and supported!
By the way, if you’re looking for some easy costume ideas that cater to a child with a heightened sensory system, check out these ideas here.
Make a Plan- Can you prepare your child for what the day will bring — perhaps even break down the day into smaller chunks and explain what specific events will look and feel like? Is there any space in the day’s events where you can allow your child some choices?
As you work out your day, put your ‘sensory glasses’ on to anticipate any triggers that may affect your child. Are there any measures you can take to help reduce your child’s exposure to these triggers?
As you’re planning your Halloween celebrations, consider building in enough quiet and downtime to keep stress low. For example, your Trick-or-Treat plan may look like this:
Pack a bag of supplies for trick or treating (flashlight, glow necklace, water bottle, etc) earlier in the day.
Quiet time before eating an early meal
Allow yourself ample time to get dressed up and ready to go.
Work out a route that feels safe, manageable and easy to get home if things don’t go as planned.
Create boundaries- As the parent or caregiver, you will want to establish a boundary around the events of the day. By envisioning your day and considering your child’s abilities, you may be able to establish boundaries that will help you avoid potential meltdowns. Keep in mind, you can be loving and affirming to your child’s feelings while still holding a boundary.
Some boundaries to consider -
If you have a child who tends to run ahead, consider bringing a wagon or a stroller as you move safely from house to house. Make it clear to your child when they will be seated for a ride and when it’s ok to walk.
Know when it’s time to go home. Do you know how much time your child can last before feeling overwhelmed? Will you plan your day around mealtime to avoid a hangry child? Would lit-up street lights be a good visual cue for your child to understand when it’s time to go home?
Would your child benefit from taking some breaks? Can you strategically plan for breaks along your route? Consider working in bathroom breaks and water breaks to get a few minutes of quiet to help calm the nervous system.
Keep as much routine as possible - Structure and routine help children feel grounded and safe. Some children feel lost when the day’s order becomes disrupted. Is there a way for you to maintain some routine while incorporating the special events of the holiday? For example, consider finishing up Trick-or-Treating early enough to get home and maintain a regular bedtime routine.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself! It is not easy to stay calm when your child is working through some big emotions. Self-care allows you to parent from a place of abundance rather than frustration. Can you slow down and find an appreciation for something that brings you joy? A few deep breaths, a cup of tea, a piece of dark chocolate - you get the idea! Big indulgences are fun, but these small appreciations can help you find some clarity during a tough moment with your kiddo.
If your child struggles with all things Halloween, keep in mind, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! Trust me as a Mom who has been there myself!
Remember, your child is not giving you a hard time, she is having a hard time managing Halloween. Trust your gut and find what works best for you and your family — even if that means creating new traditions and activities! With a little planning and mindfulness, you’ll be able to work as a team to make Halloween a treat for all!
Leave a comment and let me know how you plan to take on the night?
I have a ‘people pleaser’ personality and the last person I tend to please is myself. Which, for obvious reasons, rarely works out in my favor. I’m also a procrastinator, so let’s just add that fuel to this already smoking fire. ;)
I’ve done a lot of work creating personal boundaries and expectations, and follow the motto, “Be kind to yourself.” But I’m going to share a trick - a reframe - that has been so helpful in ‘allowing’ me to put myself first.
I think of myself as three separate people, Past Rebecca, Present Rebecca and Future Rebecca. I know, it sounds a little whackadoo. But, stick with me here. People pleasers and procrastinators, I’m talking to you!
Whenever I’m faced with a task I can do now or put off, I think about ‘Future Rebecca.’ I think about how busy she can get and how she could really use a break. It would feel good for Present-me to take something off Future Rebecca’s plate and make her day a little easier!
It’s totally a win-win. Present-day me feels good about helping someone else, and Future me is psyched the work is handled! I even verbally thank ‘Past Rebecca’ for helping a sista out!
Reframing my thoughts on procrastination has allowed me to be a ‘people pleaser’ for myself! Hello, self care!
My kids also like to put off tomorrow what they could do today, so I’ve been pumping this message their way. It has been inspiring my kids to help out their best friend - their future selves! Do you have any traits that hold you back from reaching your full potential? How could you reframe those traits in a positive way so they would serve you well?
Imagine you’re meeting with a close friend for a coffee date. While sipping your coffee you begin to discuss an event that is heavy on your heart. An experience that really stirs up emotions as you are still trying to make sense of it all.
You begin discussing this sensitive topic with your friend and she says, “Oh, sweetie! We’ve already gone over all this. Why don’t we talk about something happier!!” as she takes a sip of her coffee. Or perhaps as you are rehashing your experience, your friend tries to give you all the possible solutions with, “This is what you need to do...you should….”
How would that feel for you?? I’m assuming you’d feel dismissed, misunderstood, not truly seen and perhaps even embarrassed. I’d also venture to guess you’d be reluctant to share your true feelings and emotions with this friend moving forward.
It may be tough to picture yourself saying these things to a friend because it lacks care and concern. But have you ever found yourself saying these things to your child as they were retelling a story? Especially when they were resharing an experience for the umteenth time? Or maybe you have ‘yes-ed’ and ‘uh-huh-ed’ them as they retold what happened? I know I certainly have!
Many times a child's perception and worry may seem irrational to adults, but these struggles and emotions are very real for the child. When we don’t allow our kids the space to express what they’re feeling (over and over again!), it sends a message that could leave them feeling unseen, misunderstood, and embarrassed. Similar to our feelings towards the friend at the coffee shop, children may also choose to withhold from sharing in the future. They may even act out to win your attention or have a meltdown from remembering the emotions of the event.
Reflecting on the coffee shop scenario — Many of us may appreciate a friend who would carefully listen while we vented. A friend that may offer up a hug. Perhaps a friend who would say, “Those are heavy feelings you’re dealing with. I’m really feeling for you because I know you’re going through a lot right now. What can I do to support you?” These simple sentences offer you the space to feel validated and understood.
Why Is This Important? When we are dealing with big emotions, our brains work diligently to try and make sense of it all. Our right-side emotional brain is heavily engaged, replaying the scenes, feelings and sensations over and over again until the left-side rational brain can process and digest the information in a sensible way.
The problem is, a child’s brain is not fully developed until they are in their early twenties. Children do not have the capacity, life experience or coping strategies of an adult to sort through big feelings systematically.
Fortunately, there are ways for parents and caregivers to help children fully integrate these big feelings and experiences. In the book The Whole-Brain Child, authors Dan Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D., state, “In order to live balanced, meaningful and creative lives full of connected relationships, it’s crucial that our two hemispheres work together.” They go on to say, “We want them to become horizontally integrated, so that the two sides of their brain can act in harmony. That way, our children will value both their logic and their emotions; they will be well balanced and able to understand themselves and the world at large.”
So, how do we achieve integration of the left and right-side brain? How do we help our children feel understood and supported while helping them make sense of their feelings? How do parents and caregivers find the energy to stay calm and focused if (and when) your child becomes emotional while working out these big feelings?
Here are some tips-
Connect - When you or your child start to rehash an event, get down to their level, make eye contact, offer a hug. These actions will validate your child’s feelings and let them know you are there to support them.
Retell the story - Affirm that you have heard your child. “Yes, when the balloon popped, you jumped and started to cry. The noise was very loud and shocking for all of us!”
Make sense of the situation - Once your child feels seen, understood and calmer, you can bring the logic in. “Balloons are very loud when they pop, and I know they’re not dangerous. Sometimes when I realize I’ve been startled by something silly like a balloon, I take a deep breath and start laughing! Holy Moly! I can’t believe that tiny little balloon just made me jump like that!”
Find the good - Teach your child to reframe and find the good in a situation. “I’m so glad we were with friends and family who helped us feel safe when that happened!”
Make a plan - Allow open-ended questions to help your child generate their own ideas and solutions. “I wonder how it will feel the next time a balloon pops near us? I wonder what we could do to be ready if that happens again?”
Don’t force it - Find opportunities to talk that are not forced. Some opportune moments are those that don’t require direct eye contact. Playtime, a ride in the car, bedtime and bath time can be great opportunities to have these talks with your child.
Self Care - It takes time, energy and patience to support ourselves AND our children through emotional and stressful times. Practicing self-care will help you feel energized and give you the strength to be calm and present during these heavy moments.
Research suggests when parents put their child’s experiences into words, it activates brain calming neural pathways. I know it can feel like a challenge to remain patient while guiding your child through this process. But I can say with confidence that the time you spend integrating their emotions will be quicker (and more productive!) than the overreaction you may encounter due to dysregulation. And most importantly, this process will strengthen the bond with your child, establish trust and increase their likelihood to share feelings with you as they grow older. Now there’s a win!
What is your typical go-to response when your child needs to rehash an event? How would it feel for you to test drive one of these tips?