It struck me this week that during the week of Christmas and New Year’s, we spend a lot of time thinking about time. Let me explain. In the days surrounding Christmas we spend a lot of time in the past. We focus on holiday traditions, eat favorite foods, hang handmade ornaments and tell stories of our favorite Christmas memories. In the days following Christmas we take a couple days to reflect on the year, on all that has happened, on how much bigger the kids are, on how things have changed and possibly how things have stayed the same. Then we get to New Year’s Eve and we start thinking about the future and all the hope and opportunity the new year is going to bring. We think about things that we would like to change or enhance or add to our lives. It seems to me that we all do this little dance from past to future every year without really giving it much thought. With all this focus on what did happen and what’s about to happen, it’s easy to see how what is happening right now is overlooked.
Over the years, I’ve tried many different things with my kids related to goals, chores and the like. These ideas have lasted for a little while, but then eventually fall by the wayside as life gets busier and the effectiveness wears off. This year, now that they are older (8 and 12), I’m going to try something different. Starting on the first, we are going to have a family journal time at the end of every day. I have new journals for each member of the family that will be used only this activity. I have multi-colored pens to pick from so it seems less like homework and more like an art project. To get started, I pre-selected questions based on each child and what I think will benefit them the most.
My son, who is 8, will answer questions about himself:
What is one thing you did well today?
What is one thing where you could have tried harder?
What is one thing you need help with?
My daughter, who is 12, will answer questions around social dynamics:
How were you a good friend today?
What did one of your friends do today that showed they are a good friend to you?
Name one thing that felt really good today and why? (Or didn’t feel good and why?)
My husband and I will answer questions around reflecting on our day:
What did I do today that brought out the best in me?
What did I do today that made me happy?
This will definitely be a work in progress. I would like to stick with these questions for thirty days before mixing them up, but we’ll see how it goes. We might change things up and make some days theme days, like on Sunday answering questions about what we are grateful for or what things do we want to accomplish this week. Or maybe the kids will come up with their own ideas for questions to answer. I know that some days are going to be really hard to motivate them to do this after long days at school, practice, etc. but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there. (Slowing down on busy days might be the most important days to do this kind of exercise.) I’m excited to try it and see what happens. If this sounds like something your family could benefit from, then join us! I will be checking in on the Facebook Moms page and will post a mid-month update in the blog on our progress. If you have other activities you are trying with your kids, please share them in the comments below, we want to hear what’s working for you.
Cheers to a happy, healthy and joyous New Year!
I’ve updated my Books I Love page with some of my favorites from 2016, check it out by clicking this link If you have a favorite parenting book that didn’t make the list, I’d love to hear from you. Send me a Facebook message or email with the details!
Today is a very special Saturday so I will keep this short. As I wrote down the title for this blog I originally named it “Christmas Wish”, but then I realized a wish implies something you don’t have but hope to get.
So this is not a wish, as these blessings surround you every day, it’s just that sometimes it takes a holiday to fully appreciate them.
As you go about your day, watch out for the following Christmas Blessings. When you see them, stop for a quick second, say to yourself “This is a blessing”, look around and feel all the warm emotions of the moment, then go on with what you were doing. It’s as simple as that.
Blessings can be found:
Now I must go, there are cookies to be made and presents to be wrapped.
Cheers to you and a day full of blessings and joy.
Two simple words, “I forgot”, can trigger a wide variety of emotions. If you forget your phone at home as your rush out the door, your forgetfulness triggers feelings of panic and anxiety over what will happen if you do not have it all day. If you forget to take out that one red sock, you feel frustration. I’m sure we’ve all felt the sadness and disappoint that comes when you forget to sign up for something in time and your child misses out on a missed opportunity. And then, especially around this time of year, there is always that feeling of worry that you are going to forget to buy a present for someone.
All those feelings are around things that we’ve forgotten to do. What about the spectrum of emotions when someone else says “I forgot”? If a friend forgets your birthday and calls a day later, you feel compassion, understanding and are touched by their admission. If a fellow parent agreed to pick up your child and then forgot, you will feel everything from rage to fear to nervousness to panic and everything in between. Or what about when you make plans with someone, only to receive a text apologizing that they forgot and are now double booked so they cannot come? That scenario can lead to disappointment and can spiral into so much more if you let your mind run away with it.
Why all this talk about forgetfulness? Because it’s a phrase that I’ve been hearing on a weekly basis with my twelve-year-old. The phrase has been spoken so many times that I feel as though I have gone through each one of the emotions listed above. Frustration is the most frequent feeling, especially when it relates to school work. Forgetting to do homework or to turn something in seems like a simple task from my adult perspective. What I have had to recognize is that this is not an issue of will, it is an issue of skill. Junior high is a whole new world with different teacher personalities and teaching styles. Add in the social aspects, which often supersede everything, and it’s easy to see why things slip through the cracks. So what do we do? First approach the situation with compassion, leave the frustration, anger and fear at the door because they are not going to help this situation. Have a heart to heart conversation to find out why your child thinks that they are having trouble remembering (the reason may not be what you think it is). Next, brainstorm ideas with your child on what things would help them to remember. Maybe it’s writing more things down in a planner or setting a reminder in their phone or making a list of the 3 things that they must get done today. Or, together you could go the store to pick out different colored folders and bright sticky notes that will help them stay organized. Your child must be actively involved in the solution or else it will not work. And be prepared, the first try might not work. You need to be prepared to try a few different things before one of them really sticks.
“I forgot” by definition, is unintentional. They aren’t doing it on purpose (even though it may feel like it at times). We can only help them when we meet them at the level where they are at and build from there. We didn’t become multi-taskers overnight and can’t expect that they will either. Ultimately though, it’s up to your child. You can’t do it for them and that’s a hard lesson to learn as a parent. The older they get the more you realize you can advise, but it is their experience and one they must learn all on their own.
Feeling frustrated with a situation with your kids, but not sure what do to to do next or how to get started? Direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time to talk.
A couple weeks ago, I challenged all of you to look for joy throughout your day. How is it going? Many of you may have experienced that when you focus on something like this, it seems to pop up for you all over the place. I have received multiple texts from friends and posts on my Facebook page with pictures of joy. In each instance, I’ve taken a pause and thought “how much joy am I feeling right now?” Most of the time I was wrapped up in the day to day, not particularly joyful, but when the pictures reminded me of joy, my mood was instantly elevated.
I started reading a new book appropriately called “The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World”. In the book co-author Douglas Carlton Abrams sits down with two of the most influential spiritual leaders of our time, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and talks to them about finding joy in a world where there is so much suffering. The book is a fascinating read and you can feel the mutual respect these two leaders have for each other. A concept that comes up often in the book is the difference between joy and happiness.
“Joy”, as the Archbishop said during the week, “is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstances, joy is not.” This state of mind – and heart - is much closer to both the Dalai Lama’s and the Archbishop’s understanding of what animates our lives and what ultimately leads to a life of satisfaction and meaning.
A little later in the book, the Archbishop gives a description that I think we can all relate to:
Joy subsumes happiness. Joy is the far greater thing. Think of a mother who is going to give birth. Almost all of us want to escape pain. And mothers know that they are going to have pain, the great pain of giving birth. But they accept it. And even after the most painful labor, once the baby is out, you can’t measure the mother’s joy. It is one of those incredible things that joy can come so quickly after suffering.
The book’s wisdom is so simple, it will make you wonder why we often make finding joy in our own lives so complicated. As the spiritual leaders explain in the book, joy is a state of mind. Even on the days when you feel joy has abandoned you, if you can gather yourself to do something that will bring joy to one person, you will start to shift the tide. You will feel that joyful spark within yourself. It may sound cliché but the more joy you give the more joy comes back to you. Don’t believe me? Try it and see what happens, you’re bound to be more joyful then when you started.
I find so much joy in good conversations! When’s the last time you had a really good conversation about something that mattered? Give yourself the gift of a good conversation this week, dive beyond the surface of the busy day to day and talk about something more. Not sure how to get started? Direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week to talk.
On a daily basis, I work with a lot of numbers. I didn’t set out to find a corporate number crunching job, it just evolved into that over the years. I run lots of reports, spend a lot of time in Excel, create lots of graphs and try to explain the cause behind the results. Often, I’m asked what’s the ROI (return on investment) to prove to our clients their money is well spent and we are delivering the results they expected. When you spend nine hours a day, five days a week doing this type of work it’s hard for it to not spill into other areas of your life.
How many of us think about ROI as it relates to our children? I’m sure we’ve all imaged what it would be like if our child was a star athlete or performer and the house they’d buy us with their first big check. That kind of ROI would be very clear cut. But what about the times when you’re thinking - I left work early, drove them to practice, got the materials for the school project and made dinner - what ROI do I get for that? Maybe a “thank you” if I’m lucky. As parents, we know that all of this is just part of the job, but that’s a hard thing to remember when you are tired and in the thick of it.
Maybe you are thinking, this doesn’t apply to me. I give to my children freely and have never thought for one moment about what kind of return I’m getting beyond hugs and love. That is a fair response, so let me put things another way. When your child plays with their toys, do you want them to clean them up afterward? If they don’t clean up, what happens? Do you happily do it for them, never giving it another thought? Or do you push and prod (and maybe even punish) them when the job doesn’t get done? What about this scenario - when your child goes to school, do you want them to try their best to get good grades? What happens when they bring home a grade you know does not reflect their potential? Do you brush it off because it’s no big deal? Or do you take away screen time until the grade comes back up?
Whether you realize it or not you have set specific expectations for your child (and everyone else in your life, but we’ll focus on your child for this blog). These expectations are the “return on investment” you are expecting to see. When expectations are not met, we react and often not in a good way. Many expectations are formed within our heads without us giving them much thought. It’s only when you are disappointed that something didn’t work out the way you wanted, that you realize you had the expectation in the first place. It takes a lot of practice to identify those expectations and then decide whether the return you thought was important is really necessary.
When I talk to my clients about ROI, there is money at stake and they need to see they are receiving value in return for their investment. As a parent your investment involves not only money, but time, energy and most of all love. Love is unlimited. You have an endless supply. You will never run out. If you never run out, then does it matter what you get in return?
The holidays are here! Let’s set up time to talk. Direct message or email me at balancedheartcoaching.com and we’ll set up time this week to get you ready for whatever might come your way.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.