Bedtime Special Time

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Have you had a hard day? Maybe you didn’t get the chance to connect with your kids as much as you’d like to. Perhaps you were busy with the school run, or work, and somehow connection took a back seat. I was having one of those days yesterday, and then I reminded myself that it’s never too late in the day to reconnect!

I set the timer for 10 minutes, and my daughter and I ended up surfing on pillows and imagining that the duvet was a house boat we were sailing on. That last minute dose of connection helped me to feel better about the way our day had gone, and more optimistic about the next day.

Our days aren’t always filled with connection, so if you’ve had one of those days try some special time at the end of it. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes and let your child decide what they want to do. Special time at the end of the day often has a different feel to doing it at other times, and it’s always nice to shake up the routine a bit and do things differently.

Children experience letting go into sleep as a separation, even if they are snuggled right beside us, so special time at the end of the day can be a wonderful way to increase our child’s sense of connection to help them sleep well.


 

The Flip Side To Being Told Your Child Has ‘Good’ Behaviour

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A few days ago I was travelling on a train from Scotland to London. I ended up having to move to another seat away from my daughter and husband, as another woman came to claim her reserved seat. A few hours into the journey another woman who’d been sitting opposite us, came up to me, and started gushing, ”I just wanted to tell you that you have the most adorable daughter. I hope she doesn’t feel embarrassed because I just can’t stop looking at her. She’s just so well behaved. In fact she is the most well-behaved child I’ve ever seen!”

I felt incredibly proud. Like all parents I get tired, I have grumpy days, and I can’t always be the parent I want to be. So it was really nice that someone recognised that I am doing a good job.

And it was also interesting that I noticed the flip side of the comment. We were only half-way through the journey.  I suddenly felt like we had a reputation to live up to! As the train became an hour late due to ‘hot tracks’ (I haven’t missed the classic British late train excuses!) my daughter did start to get bored and bounce around the carriage, and I began to notice how self-conscious I became.

I wanted to write this blog post for a few reasons. One simply to show just how amazing these Hand in Hand Parenting tools are. When we listen to our children’s feelings, it is reflected in their behaviour. This is the secret formula for getting comments like that by strangers!

The second reason is this. We as parents can often feel like we are being judged when we go out in public. Our fellow passengers want a few hours of quiet to read a book, or use their Ipad. Our society is adult-centric, and it can feel like it’s our job to keep our children behaving well in public, so that other adults can retain their sense of peace.

Our society focuses on parenting approaches that control behaviour. Time out, consequences, rewards, and punishments, are all parenting methods that focus on fixing our child’s behaviour. A lot of these methods come with the implicit method that our child is to ‘blame’ for their misbehaviour, and must be punished, fixed or taught a lesson.

This ‘blame’ culture is also implicit in how parents are judged for their parenting skills and their child’s behaviour. We feel bad when our children behave ‘badly’ when in actual fact it’s rarely our fault, but more to do with difficult and challenging life experiences that our child has or is experiencing. In reality whether we are in moments where are children are behaving well, or not so well we are all doing the absolute best we can as parents, figuring things out as much as we can with the information we have available to us.

When an adult comments on your child behaving ‘well,’ or behaving ‘badly,’ what that actually means is that your child feels good, or feels bad. Children naturally regulate their emotions, and their behaviour, by expressing feelings, but our cultural attitudes towards crying, or other expressions of emotion, make it doubly hard to parent. Our society expects good behaviour from our children, while often judging us when our children have the big meltdowns or wild play they need to feel better! It’s no wonder parenting is so challenging!

Children do need the chance to get giggly and run wild, to be ‘naughty’ in a controlled environment and to release all the feelings that cause their ‘off-track’ behaviour. We can do a lot of this work in our own homes, so that when our children go out into the world, they feel well-connected and their behaviour is more likely to stay on track.

Want to learn more? Check Out

Five Ways To Prevent Public Tantrums And Meltdowns 

The Real Reason Our Children Misbehave 

Why This Isn’t Another Article About How To Stop Tantrums

Diary of an imperfect mum
A Mum Track Mind

A Healing Conversation With My Daughter About Birth

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This post was originally published in The Green Parent Magazine 

One evening just before bedtime my three year old daughter and I did some special time together. (Special time is one of the Hand in Hand parenting tools where we spend time 1-1 time with our child doing something that they love.)

We put all her babies to bed, and then my daughter started getting ready herself. As I was helping her, she asked me, ‘’how did I fit in your tummy with all the food in there?’’

I explained to her that she hadn’t actually been in my tummy but in a kind of sack called the womb. She asked to see a picture, so I found one on the internet and showed her. She then asked how babies came out so I explained a bit about this, and she asked to see a picture. I found a diagram (instead of a photo, which I wondered if it might be a bit graphic) and showed her that.

Then she asked ‘’how do babies get in the womb?’’ I wasn’t expecting to explain the facts of laugh to my daughter age three, but I found myself explaining a bit about sex, and how a sperm from the daddy joins an egg from the mummy.

She then began asking detailed questions about her birth. I told her how I had wanted her to be born at home, but she had been late. The doctor’s thought that it would be safest to help her to come out, so we went to a hospital. She kept asking what happened next, and then what happened next. So I explained about the drug they gave me, about contractions, and how it had taken a long time.

For each answer I gave there was another question from her. I described step by step what happened during the birth, in an age-appropriate way. I wanted to be honest, but I also didn’t want to flood her system with any information that would be overwhelming. The birth had been long and difficult and at one point her heart rate had dropped really low. I left that part out. I gave a short sentence or two of information for every question she asked, so that she felt in control of the conversation.

At one point, she looked upset, and I told her, ‘’did it feel scary to you? I’m really sorry it was scary.’’ She burst into tears and I hugged her. I explained that it wasn’t meant to feel scary, it was meant to feel safe. She cried for a while, and then asked some more questions.

I explained how when she was born they put her on my chest. She cried when I told her this and then asked what happened next. I explained the doctor’s needed to check her, so her dad had carried her to the other side of the room. She cried, and told her that her dad had been with her the whole time, that he’d been holding her hand, and talking to her. This made her cry even more. I explained how after that they gave her back to me, and she slept in the bed with me the whole night. She cried with relief. What happened next she asked. I explained how the next day she had woken up and smiled at me. She cried about that too.

In the back of my mind, I knew that this conversation was helping her to heal. Through Hand in Hand Parenting I have learnt, that crying isn’t always a sign that something is wrong in the present, but can often be a sign of healing from the past. Tears contain cortisol, the stress hormone, so when children or adults cry, they are literally releasing stress and tension from their bodies. Crying, in the arms of a loving adult, or laughter and play are part of our natural healing mechanism for recovering from difficult experiences.

Every time I offered reassurance to my daughter, every time I explained the safety of the situation, how their were doctor’s to look after her, and me and her dad were taking care of her too, she would let out another wave of crying. The more safety and reassurance I provided, the more she cried.

I knew it was important not to try and distract my daughter from this important conversation about birth even if it seemed to ‘upset’ her. I knew it was important to notice her feelings, and create the safety she needed to express them. I knew it wasn’t just answers she needed, but healing too.

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I hadn’t always felt comfortable telling my birth story, and I wouldn’t have always felt able to create a ‘child friendly’ version of it. I’d had my own strong emotions about how it turned out. I’d read so much about natural birth and how important it was for the baby’s well-being. I felt a lot of sadness that I’d ended up having an induction, and an epidural for medical reasons.

I talked a lot about the birth during ‘listening time.’ (Listening time is another one of the Hand in Hand parenting tools. It’s when two parents take turns talking and listening with each other about how parenting is going. The concept was developed by Patty Wipfler, the founder of Hand in Hand. She discovered that talking about how parenting was going with a caring listener could help her release the feelings that got in the way of her being the parent she wanted to be.)

Listening time allowed me to have a good cry to release the regret that I hadn’t had the kind of birth I wanted. It was a space to talk through my decision to go with the medical advice to have the induction, even though it hadn’t felt completely ‘right’ to me. I came to some level of acceptance that the birth couldn’t of been any other way.

After that I could focus more on the positive aspects, that I had trusted my medical team to keep us safe, that my daughter had been born healthy.

Processing the birth meant that when my daughter asked me about it, I didn’t feel too triggered and emotional myself. I had a coherent story in my head about what had happened and why. I could tell her that the doctors were nice, and had done everything they could to keep her safe. Because I was no longer overwhelmed by my own emotions I could provide the sense of safety she needed to release her feelings.

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Healing is important, because the way we come into the world leaves a powerful imprint on us. In The Secret Life Of The Unborn Child he explains how birth is a profound experience that shapes our character. Through his research with adult patients he concluded that ‘if we are happier, or sadder, angrier, or more depressed than other people, it is at least in part, as a result of the way we were born.’’

Through work with his patients he found that although they didn’t remember their birth consciously, they could recall what happened when under hypnosis. This suggests that they did carry the unconscious memories of their pre-natal and birth life. They carried the emotional content with them and this effected their lives.

I don’t think anything about our child’s destiny is as fixed as Dr Verny’s research suggests. Bonding, and connecting with our children is the foundation for processing and overcoming challenging experiences.

When ‘The Secret Life of the Unborn Child’ was published in the 1980’s, it was not widely understood that crying is healing. Even now, although awareness is growing, it still remains parenting’s best kept ‘secret.’

When our babies cry we tend to think of it as a negative behaviour that we must stop as quickly as possible. We try to meet the needs of our babies, and when we can’t identify a particular need we tend to rock them, use a pacfiyer, ‘’shhh’’ them, or ‘’bounce them. We feel like a wonderful parents when our babies are smiley and at ease, or terrible parents when they cry for no reason and we just can’t get them to stop.

When my daughter was born I knew a bit about the healing power of tears. I was aware that she would need to cry to recover from her birth, but I didn’t understand that I would be trying to stop her from crying without even being consciously aware of it. I found myself bouncing her on the train just to keep her ‘quiet’ or feeding her when she was tired rather than hungry.

When we become parents, we come with our own history of how we were treated as children. Our parents probably didn’t know much, if anything about the healing power of tears. We may have been ‘shhhed’ or rocked when we cried. As we got older we may have been ignored, hurt, or told ‘’don’t cry or I’ll give you something to cry about.’’ We internalise these experiences and see crying as a negative behaviour that we must get to stop, even if we decide to choose more gentle ways than our parents.

Through learning more about the healing power of tears, I was able to bring my awareness to moments in which I was stopping my daughter from crying without even being consciously aware of it. I learnt that if she cried about having her nappy changed, or having a top pulled over her head, she might be using these everyday situations as a trigger to release bigger upsets.

I learnt to explain gently what I needed to do, listen to her feelings and wait till she was ready and had stopped crying. It was wonderful to discover we could do something together, when she happy and at ease with the situation, rather than rushing through and forcing her to do something she felt uncomfortable with or distracting her from her feelings with a toy. I also learnt to understand when she was hungry, or when she was asking to feed for comfort- which in actual fact was a sign she had feelings to release.

My daughter grew into a happy, well-adjusted, child – at least most of the time! I noticed she could be much more flexible than I ever expected a toddler to be. As Patty Wipfler explains our children are naturally, good, loving and co-operative. It’s upset feelings that cause them to ‘misbehave.’ When our children are free of feelings they can be their natural, good, loving, co-operative selves.

Despite all this the path of healing is ongoing and never perfect. There were opportunities that I may have missed because I didn’t fully understand how to allow her to cry, or the times when I didn’t have the energy, or patience to listen.

When she started a playgroup at age three, the separation seemed to trigger some deep feelings about her birth. She wanted to play in a physical way that related to being born. She would constantly climb over my shoulder, and tell me ‘’it’s your new baby coming through,’’ then she would land on my lap and make ‘’goo goo’’ noises. One time she made my legs into a diamond shape and told me ‘’this is the house where babies live and there are no grown-ups, and then they come out and see their mummies.’’

The play suggested that she remembered life in the womb, and her birth, perhaps not completely consciously, but in way that she could channel into play. Here was a context in which she felt safe to explore what happened.

My daughter has had a fear of doctors which seemed to be another sign that she hadn’t fully processed what happened to her. Since her birth we have only visited the doctor for minor reasons, but on one occasion, we had to visit a different doctor at the last minute. She became agitated and started crying, and refused to walk when I told her it was a man doctor. Also, she loves Peppa Pig, and whenever an episode came on that involved a doctor or a hospital she would ask me to skip to the next one.

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A couple of days after the conversation with my daughter about birth we were watching Peppa Pig together. The episode where Pedro breaks his leg and goes to hospital came on. My daughter recognised it instantly, but instead of asking me to skip it. She said tentatively, ‘’I’m going to watch this to see what it’s like.’’ She watched it all the way through with a smile on her face. Since then she’s watched all of the Peppa Pig episodes involving the doctor or hospital. She’s also had a lot of questions about doctor’s and nurses, and she’s continued to work through her feelings through doctor play. Her inquisitive discovery of the world continues.

I knew then that our conversation about her birth had been deeply healing. It’s as if that night I gave her the language to make sense of all of those unconscious memories she had been carrying.

The conversation didn’t start with words, but with me just being there, doing special time with her, and playing with her dolls, letting her know that I was available to listen.

Healing doesn’t always happen the night we bring our babies home from the hospital. It can happen months and years later. It’s never too late. Our children might want to laugh, play, talk, or cry. We listen and let them be their own guide. With our love and attention, they can lead themselves to healing.

For more information about our children’s ability to heal and recover from the stressful events in our lives check out my blog archives, or pre-order my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

How Crying Builds Your Child’s Confidence

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Did you know that crying is one of the ways your child builds their confidence? Often parenting advice centres around avoiding our children’s feelings, and stopping tantrums. With Hand in Hand parenting we teach parents how to listen to their children, so that they can grow and shine, and be their natural, confident selves. 

On Friday’s my daughter goes to a playgroup. As we live in Switzerland, the group is in Swiss German, although my daughter does have an English speaking friend there.

Recently she’s begun saying that she doesn’t want to go, even though she’s been happy there for over a year. I feel reluctant to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. However when I ask if she wants to give up the playgroup completely she always says no, so I was pretty sure that the reluctance is more about fears and separation anxiety, than actually disliking it. I know she’s thinking a lot about starting Kindergarten in August which has increased her separation anxiety lately.

Yesterday her English speaking friend wasn’t able to go. As we walked up the hill to the playgroup she started complaining about how she didn’t want to go, and how tired she was I sensed that it wasn’t really she was tired, but that feelings were coming up about not having her friend there. So I set a limit, and told her that I was sure she could find the energy to scooter there.

She began crying, I kept walking, turning behind her and assuring her that she had the strength to catch me up. She cried for a while, and then was happy to keep scootering along.

When we got the playgroup, and it was the moment to separate from me, she started clinging to my leg. I unstuck myself, got down on her level, and told her that I was going to go. She started crying. We walked away from the other children and teachers for a while, and I listened to her. We went back and tried again. Still she was just staying stuck to me.

I knew she needed to have a big cry, to release whatever fears and anxieties were in the way of her enjoying the playgroup. But I wasn’t sure how to help her release those feelings. I also didn’t want to disturb the group.

In the end I could see no way out of the situation, so I decided that we would just go home. As we walked away my daughter started crying, and crying about how she did want to go! I listened to her until she had stopped crying. Then we went back over, and she chose one of the teacher’s to hold hands with. I left her happy and willing to give it a go.

When I came back later she was holding the hands of one of the other children. She had a big smile on her face. She told me she enjoyed it even more than when her friend was there! I think she actually liked the opportunity to connect with some of the Swiss kids as well, without her friend being there.

This is how listening can turn things around. If I’d have quickly left her, and rushed off while she was upset, she might have stopped crying, but she wouldn’t have got to release her feelings. She might not have been able to enjoy the playgroup with confidence if she was still feeling upset deep down. It was so much better to listen to those fears, and anxieties so that she could choose to go, without me forcing her, and have a good time.

When our children are faced with new situations they may feel stressed or nervous, particularly if it involves separation from us. Crying, and tantrumming are all part of our child’s natural stress-release mechanism for dealing with their feelings. When we listen without trying to stop or avoid their feelings, we can help our children to embrace life and live it to the full.

I like to give my daughter as much choice as I can in her life. I like to respect her thoughts, and ideas. When she initially told me she didn’t want to, we could of just turned around and go home. But I sensed that this wasn’t her deepest desire, or need. What she actually needed was for me to set a limit, to give her a chance to try.

When I’m due to give a workshop, , I often get incredibly nervous beforehand. All sorts of thoughts and feelings flood through my head. One time I sat on a train going to another city to give a workshop, and felt like I wanted nothing more than to get off at the next station, and head home! But actually, once I begin a workshop, and meet all the lovely parents, I end up having a great time and feel so fulfilled after sharing the amazing Hand in Hand parenting tools. I leave on a high, and immediately arrange another workshop, then as the time grows near the fears rise again! It has got easier with time though.

If I avoided giving workshops, because of my feelings, I wouldn’t get the chance t face my fears, and grow as a person. I know I need to do the same for my daughter.

It can be hard to give kids the push they need to embrace something that seems scary at first, but Hand in Hand parenting has taught me how to do it with love.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach to separation anxiety, check out my article 20 Playful Ways To Heal Separation Anxiety, or Hand in Hand parenting’s online Healing Separation Anxiety Course

5 Tips For Creating Emotional Safety

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Emotional safety helps children feel connected to us and feel safe to tell us how they’re feeling. This helps prevent their emotions coming out in ‘off-track’ behaviour. 

Imagine the scene. Your child has just come home from Kindergarten. The Kindergarten teacher has told you that they were ‘as good as gold’ all morning. But now they’re home they’re having multiple tantrums, hitting their younger sibling, and throwing their toys around.

Or you leave the kids with your partner for an afternoon, and they’re perfectly happy and content. Then as soon as you come in the door they’re moaning, whining, and starting to cry. What on earth is going on? Does your Kindergarten teacher, or partner have superior parenting skills to you?

Absolutely not! And it’s probably quite the opposite. What’s likely the case is that you’ve created emotional safety for your children. They sense that you are there to listen to their feelings, and so they show them, sometimes directly through crying, and sometimes indirectly through their behaviour. They may keep those feelings hidden for as long as they can, and then let them out with the person who they trust the most.

Our children need a sense of connection, and emotional safety to thrive. Their limbic system, – the socio emotional part of the brain, is like a radar that constantly scans the environment to see ‘’am I safe here?’’ ‘’Who is taking care of me?’’

As long as a child’s limbic system feels well connected to others, they can think well, and their behaviour stays on track. But sometimes they may feel disconnected or experience emotional upset, that causes the feeling of disconnection.

When this happens the limbic system senses an emotional emergency, and then the pre-frontal cortex – the part of the brain responsible for rational, reasonable thinking can’t function well. Your child may start behaving in crazy ‘unworkable’ ways, in order to try and restore connection. So they whine or moan at us, and do things they know deep down are wrong like hitting, or they start crying. They usually behave in these ways towards their closest family members, the ones that are most invested in loving, and listening to them.

One of the things most parents do at some point is to try and stop their child from crying or tantrumming. They distract, reason with, or trying to ‘fix’ the situation as quickly as possible. However crying is actually a healing process, and if we can simply be there and ride out the storm of their upsets, then children can release the feelings that are behind their challenging behaviour.

When we practise creating deep emotional safety for our children, they can move away from ‘acting’ out their upsets, towards simply expressing their feelings instead.

Here’s 5 tips for creating emotional safety

  1. Let Your Children Have Their Feelings – If your toddler throws a tantrum, don’t try to distract them, or fix things instantly. Instead be there and listen. As parenting educator Dr. Deborah Macnamara says, ‘crying is not the hurt, but the process of being unhurt.’ Most of us grew up with our emotions being ignored, or stopped, so it can be hard to have patience with our children’s upsets. I like to think of them as nature’s behaviour regulation system. If we can stay close, and try to be calm, then our child can get their upset out, feel better and then behave better.
  2. Have Special Time Doing What Your Child Loves – Set a timer for 15-20 minutes and then spend time doing whatever your child wants. Shower your child with your love and undivided attention. When you do this regularly it lets your child know that there is a safe place to go to have your full attention and listening.
  3. Play and laugh together – Children often use play to work through issues in their lives. So if your child wants to play schools with you, perhaps there’s something about school they need to figure out. Children often get hurt when they feel powerless. Perhaps they got frustrated about doing what the teacher said, or another kid was aggressive towards them. Turning the tables in play and letting your child be in the more powerful role can be very healing. So let your child boss you around or be the teacher, or make ‘mistakes’ to give your child the upper hand.
  4. Set limits on behaviour and listen to the feelings – When we set limits, we can say no with love, and listen to the feelings. This allows your child to release any upsets that were causing them to behave in ‘’off-track’’ ways. This way of setting limits actually builds closer connections rather than causing frustration and friction between parent and child.
  5. Get Emotional Support For Yourself –  This kind of peaceful parenting isn’t easy. We’re often nurturing our children on a much deeper level than we experienced as a child. Do things that help you relax and feel nurtured. Spend time with friends, who you can talk, laugh and cry with. The parenting approach I teach – Hand in Hand parenting, also has a free  listening partnership scheme where you can exchange time talking and listening with other parents. This provides us with the emotional safety we need so we can then be more fully present for our children.

For more information about using Hand in Hand Parenting to help children with their feelings check out my book Tears Heal: How to listen to our children

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15 Playful Ways To Get Children To Walk

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When our kids first learn to walk, they may be so determined it’s hard to stop them. However once the novelty wears off there may be moments when we’re on our way somewhere and they get grumpy, whiney and don’t want to walk.

Sometimes it could be that they’re just genuinely tired. At other times they may simply get bored. Walking in a straight line can be pretty boring for a child! It could also be that they are feeling disconnected,  or are experiencing upset feelings. They may start telling us about their feelings through being grumpy and whiney, and wanting to be carried.

Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection shared with me that we can become aware of when children are using the movement from the walk as a means of letting us know they need to be listened to. Sometimes we can use staylistening, to help them through these difficult moments. At other times laughter and playlistening will seem more appropriate.

If we need to get somewhere, and our child just doesn’t want to walk, or we are physically exhausted and just can’t carry them anymore, a little bit of play can help give children the burst of energy they need to keep going. Some of these tips can be used for when you just want to get home from the supermarket. Others can help everyone enjoy family hikes in the countryside. Repeat each one as long as the giggles are flowing, and you are going in roughly the right direction!

  1. Mummy limpet and baby limpet – In this game. We pretend we are the mummy or daddy limpet, and our child is the baby limpet. We tell our child in a playful tone that they must stay stuck to us the whole time and we really hope that they don’t get unstuck and run away. This is the ideal invitation for them to do just that. We can chase after them saying, ”oh no! My limpet’s running away, I need to catch her and get stuck again.” We can also play when we get unstuck from our child, and go forward a metre or two. We can then call out to our child, ”Oh no, I got unstuck! Quick catch up with me!”
  2. Runaway Buggy – Exercise keeps me sane and as we live in the countryside, I like to go on a walk most days. I have encouraged my daughter out of the house by taking a buggy where she can sit and eat snacks. Eventually she gets bored and actually wants to walk. Sometimes she needs a bit of persuasion, so we play runaway buggy, and I ask for her help to chase it.
  3. Buggy Races – I sometimes pretend to speak in the voice of the buggy, and ask my daughter to race her. Then the buggy makes the mistake of starting to race even though she’s still sitting in there. This makes her laugh. Eventually she’ll get out and want to do a real race.
  4. Make it Fun Melinda Taylor Shoutens of the website More 2 Explore says ‘ We bring loads of snacks. The children collect sticks. We bring bubbles and stop for breaks. We also search for treasures along the trail and seek out wild life. ”
  5. Go Somewhere Fun And Child Friendly – Choose somewhere with interesting things to look at along the way, for example this Adventure Dwarf trail in Muggenstutz, Switzerland was recommended to me by Melinda Taylor Shoutens. It has been designed with little hikers in mind.
  6. Try A Treasure Hunt – Ariadne Brill  says, ”For a simple scavenger hunt, for example, we have drawn pictures of things we think we might be able to find along our walk. Sometimes we even draw super silly things like a purple elephant, and then of course I get to pretend to just have seen it and spark up more curiosity and the need to keep walking.”
  7. Bring Binoculars and Magnifying Glasses My friend Karin recommends bringing along these gadgets to make exploring a bit more interesting. You might also want to try books in the I-Spy Series where you go into nature and tick off the thig
  8. Try Geocaching – Geocaching is a real life treasure hunt, with lots of tiny boxes hidden in millions of places all over the world. Walking to get from A-B may not be fun, but hunting for treasure is! For more info see the Geocaching website.
  9. Runaway ball- This one is good for the countryside, but not so good on a busy street! Have a ball in your bag, and when your child starts complaining about being bored or tired get the ball out and throw it down the path. Then you and your child can chase after it. Repeat!
  10. Silly Legs – Have your legs suddenly walk backwards, or sideways, or in zig-zags and then tell your child, ”oh dear! My legs have started going all wrong. Can you help me please?” They will enjoy being in the more powerful role as they sort your silly legs out. If you try the sideways walk you might want to tell your child that you have turned into a crab. Say, ”come on baby crab.” If they’re still going forwards you could say, ”hmm. This must be a human child, she doesn’t seem to be walking right for a crab.”
  11. Crazy Wind That Blows You Along The Road – Ask your child if they can feel the wind blowing. Tug at your child’s hand and tell them that there’s a wind blowing your down the road. You’ll get where you need to go much fast with a crazy wind blowing you.
  12. Silly Scooter – If your child has a scooter with them that they no longer want to ride you could turn it into a silly scooter. Have it jump down the road, or land in funny places, or go backwards or sideways, and ask your child to help catch the silly scooter.
  13. Pull Along Stick – If you’re in the countryside, find a stick and pretend it is a train, or bus, that will pull your child along. Have the stick go really fast to add excitement. Or have it go really slow, and start complaining to the train saying, ”Excuse me train. I need you to go a bit faster than this!” This put you in the less powerful role, so is likely to get your child giggling.
  14. Fast Bit – When you are walking along the street, and your child is complaining about being tired tell them that you think you are coming up to a fast bit. Then pull your child’s hand and start running. Build your child’s sense of anticipation, and put yourself in the less powerful role by saying, ”I hope that’s the end of the fast bits for now. Oh no! There’s another fast bit.”
  15. Jungle Walk – From Hand in Hand instructor Skye Marilyn Munroe of Nurturing Connections.We live at the top of a hill ( the things you do for ocean glimpses !)
    At the bottom of the hill is a playground. Mr 4 is super keen to walk TO the playground, and does it without a worry.The walk home is not always as pleasant. Mr 4 has been VERY interested in jungles of late…”Oh no!” I exclaim “We are stuck in the middle of the jungle, how will we ever get out of here & home?! Please help me Mr Explorer!” “FOLLOW ME!” He cried, immediately buying into it.We trekked through the arduous jungle, fighting through tangly vines, dodging coconuts thrown by the cheeky monkeys and freezing like statues anytime a dangerous jungle animal ( aka car) approached. We even had to do a tricky river crossing (zebra crossing) We ran, we stalked, we crawled our way to safety (home).It was super fun and we made it home in record time!

I hope these ideas making walking with kids more fun and playful. To read more of Ariadne brills wonderful tips check out Fun Ways To Motivate Children To Take Long Walks. You might also like, Sensory Walk: A Sense Of Touch Walk

Diary of an imperfect mum

A Mum Track Mind

How Listening Transforms Anger To Sadness

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The other day I was feeling angry. I was stressed about getting the house ready for visitors. I was stressed about getting out of the house on time to go to the supermarket. I was snapping at my daughter, and although I kept apologising afterwards those apologies were starting to sound pretty meaningless as I repeated the same mistake over and over again.

I had the sense to tell my daughter that it wasn’t her fault, that I just hadn’t had enough listening time. Then I sent a message to my listening partner, and we arranged a ten minute listening time while my daughter watched TV.

As soon as I started to talking to my listening partner I began crying. I started talking about how in August my daughter would be starting school, and how much this worried me. I talked about the different choices I had, and how one that had seemed like a great choice, turned out to be not so good after all. I grieved about how much I wanted to homeschool but couldn’t unless I moved. I cried and cried as my partner just listened.

I hadn’t realised that beneath all that anger was this grief about our school situation. I had been so busy getting on with doing stuff, and caring for my daughter’s needs, that I didn’t have the time to think, ”oh, I’m stressed out and snappy, it must be because I’m sad beneath the surface.”

After that I was in a much better mood.The school situation hadn’t been solved, but I’d let go of some of my feelings.I remembered I wasn’t alone.  I could think more clearly and connect much better with my daughter.

Hand in Hand parenting is a very special kind of parenting approach. It really begins when you seek out the support you need and parent yourself. When you understand and process your own emotions.  Only then can you truly listen to your children’s emotions.

Next time you or your child get angry, remember this, that there’s sadness beneath the surface. When we have the connection we need to release our feelings, we can heal and move on.

Need more help for your own anger? Check out 15 Tips To Stop Shouting At Your Children, and Hand in Hand parenting’s online self-study course Building A LIstening Partnership

Need more help for your angry child? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s angry child articles

The Time To Listen To Tears

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A few days ago my daughter fell down hard on her knees outside our apartment. Afterwards she walked a few steps, and then was crying so much that I picked her up and carried her home. She kept crying for a long time, and then after that she didn’t want to walk. I wanted to take her leggings off to spray some antiseptic on them and it took a long, long time and lots of staylistening for her to feel comfortable for me to even do this.

It didn’t occur to me that anything was broken. Although the crying was initially about the pain, it also seemed to be emotional, about the shock of what happened and the fear of seeing blood.

When the next day she still didn’t want to walk I put her in her buggy and took her to the doctor. When the doctor started touching her legs,  she screamed and started crying and crying. I listened to her, and tried to explain that the doctor needed to look at her legs. She kept crying and crying, holding out her arms to me.

I tried to explain to the doctor, that she ‘just need some time.’ I knew that if she had time to express her fear, she would then feel okay about being examined. The doctor immediately snapped back, ”I don’t have time, I’ve got patients to see.”

This was why I hadn’t immediately rushed out to the doctor’s the day before. Doctor’s don’t have time. They are busy, hardworking people, and the average GP (general doctor in British English) doesn’t have the time to consider feelings as part of their patient care.

However, I think this is a mistake. Crying is an important part of our physical health. Dr. Deanna Minich says, ‘crying is a form of detox in which we let go of our stored emotions and inner pain. It also literally eliminates inflammatory compounds, cytokines and chemokines. People who cry easily in response to emotion might even have fewer symptoms and better health than those who restrain their tears.’

The doctor was thinking about the physical well-being of my daughter but what he didn’t understand was that her crying was part of her body’s natural healing ability. If we interrupted her crying we were actually interrupting  the healing work she needed as part of her recovery process.

I wanted to be my daughter’s advocate, I wanted to be able to let her cry for as long as she needed without anyone distracting her or trying to fix, and without anyone forcibly removing her leggings and examining her before she was ready. However I also knew that unfortunately most people don’t have time to listen to children.

Luckily the doctor decided that since she was crying so much we were better off going to the children’s hospital. On the way my daughter was able to cry some more, while I reassured her. By the time we got there she was calm. We had a wonderful doctor who used humour and connection with my daughter. He talked to her and asked her questions rather than me and my husband. The respect he gave her helped her to feel safe. She didn’t cry at all as he pressed the different parts of her legs to check them.

There were no broken bones, and she simply needed to rest until the swelling went down.

The next day she had much more movement in her legs. At one point we had to go out, and she got very agitated about her blanket not being in the right position on her buggy. I sensed she had some more feelings under the surface, so I set a limit with her and I told her I would help to fix it. She cried, and as she cried, and kicked and moved her legs much more than she had the day before. She told me, ”I’m never going to get back to normal.”

I was glad I noticed this ‘broken cookie’ moment and realised that the upset went much deeper than the position of her blanket. I was able to reassure her that she was healing, and already doing much better. At one point she ran across the room in anger,  cried some more and then asked me to come and hug her. It was amazing to watch this natural healing process in action, and how expressing her feelings, helped her feel more confident and find the movement again in her legs.

This is why the greatest gift we can give our children is to find the time to listen to their tears. Doctor’s don’t have the time, with packed schedules and many patients to see. Teachers rarely have the time, with the needs of 20 or 30 children to consider. Everyone does their best, but we are living in a world where the majority of people just don’t understand the importance of listening to tears. I hope one day they do. What a happier and healthier world that would be.

Would you like help to prepare your child for doctor visits? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s free podcast here

Learn more about how setting limits helps children heal with Hand in Hand parenting’s free setting limits e-book or the online self-study course, Setting Limits And Building Co-operation

Life with Baby Kicks

15 Tips For Getting Out Of The House With Kids

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Thanks to Crappy Pictures for this image.

One of the biggest shocks to me as a parent was just how getting out of the house suddenly turned into mission impossible. Speaking to other parents I know I’m not alone in this!

Our children just aren’t born for our busy, modern society. They like to take their time, and get deeply involved in play. It must come as a complete shock to them when we start hurrying them out of the door, and lecturing them about being ‘on time.’

I’d love to live in a world where my daughter could take her time,  where I could just open the back door and she could run out and play with other children all day.

Unfortunately our world is not that simple. Most of us out of necessity have to, at least some of the time, get our children out of the house. And we a have a time limit.

Luckily Hand in Hand parenting has some amazing tools to help us complete this challenge. Follow these steps to get your children out of the house. There are lots of playful tips here so if you use them all you might be in for a very long getting ready process! Incorporate them here and there whenever it seems necessary to add fun and connection into your daily routine.

1. Don’t underestimate the scale of this challenge! – It seems like the simplest thing in the world. Putting on clothes and shoes, opening the door and leaving the house – before having children. Afterwards life will never be the same again. Be easy on yourself, and forgive yourself for the times you’ve snapped and lost your patience. Children’s brain’s aren’t really wired to be rushed about from place to place. But because of our lifestyle’s it’s often a necessity. So, if it gets hard, don’t think of it as some sort of ‘failing’ in you as a parent. Caring for children and their emotional lives is one of the most challenging jobs in the world.

2. Instead, seek support. Get some listening time. When we have a parenting difficulty that recurs day after day we’ll often find that as time goes on more and more feelings build up inside of us. The first step towards change is to have somewhere to take these feelings. Having another adult who can listen as we talk, moan and express how we feel means that these feelings will come up less and less in our life. So have a laugh and a cry about how hard it is to get out of the house. Then notice how your perspective shifts after being listened to. When we clear out our mind of upset we can think more clearly and can often come up with playful and creative ways to deal with the situation.

3. Have lots of connection the day before – Connection helps our children to co-operate with us. If your child feels disconnected you can bet they will tell you about it by refusing to put on clothes, clean teeth etc. Any time we connect with our children it is an investment of time that will make things go more smoothly the next day. Do some special time the day before, and plan for regular roughhousing before bed. Bedtime is the ideal time to add in extra giggles to not only make your child sleep easier, but also give children the connection they need to co-operate the next day.

4. Have a bed party – While your child is sleeping, arrange every single fluffy toy they own on their bed. As your child slowly wakes, make up a silly song like ‘welcome to the bed party,’ and have the toys throw and catch balloons. Do silly thing that make your child laugh.  Perhaps they start trying to lift your child’s pillow up instead of a balloon, or all the toys decide to leave the party by hiding under the pillow. This is the perfect alarm clock for our little ones. You can read more about this idea here.

5. Have a puppet or fluffy toy do the getting ready tasks – After hosting the bed party, have your child choose a toy to get them ready. Have the toy say silly things like, ”now I’m going to take you to the pee-pee otorium,” and ”welcome to the restaurant now I’m going to show you the breakfast choices.” Everything goes a little more smoothly when a friendly toy is the one doing the talking instead of a nagging parent!

6. Have a getting ready song. We like Hit The Road Jack By Ray Charles. If you want to add in some playfulness, you could try pretending the song is making you put on your coat and shoes, but have the song get it all wrong, for example by making you pile ten jumpers on top of you, or put on your child’s shoes.

7. Beat The Clock. Hand in Hand instructor Marilupe De La Calle says, ”We pretend that the clock is an actual person who’s trying to beat us. I say, playfully: “Oh, no! the clock is already eating his breakfast”… and my girls rush to the table. Then I keep going…”He’s putting his shoes on!! quick, put yours on!”…”Oh, he is already in his car!!!”..My girls love to “get him.” We win if we get to our destination on time.

8. Beat The Song From Marilupe De La Calle. Another trick we use is to play a song on the music player and we try to get ready (get dressed, hair done, shoes on) before it’s over. My girls get to choose the song, and this is especially funny when they pick a silly one, like a Christmas song in March.

9. The Confusion Game  Hand in Hand instructor Skye Munroe of Nurturing Connections says,  ”I like to pretend to be confused about the process – things like “ok ok I know we need to get somewhere right now , I just can’t remember what to do … Hmm ok maybe I have to open this big silver thing ( fridge) and it will be able to help me ?”
My gems will then be giggling and saying things like “no no we have to put our shoes and coats on and go out the door” and then I may open a cupboard door or similair – just goofing around so that the kids help ME ( us) get out.”

10. Squeeze in some special time. Even five minute can make a difference as this story from Hand in Hand instructor trainee Isabela Budusan shows. Starting the day with special time can be really effective. If you start the day with a bed party, you’ll already have started the day with a dose of connection, so you might want to move onto doing all the getting ready tasks, and then have special time right before leaving the house.

11. Music Montage from Ariadne Brill of Positive Parenting Connection. One of our favourite ways to get ready without struggles is to do a music montage (just like those fun scenes in movie). We choose one or two favourite songs to get shoes, coats, bags in order and dance and get ready at the same time. When the song is over we meet by the door.

12 The checking game From Ariadne Brill. Something we did when my boys were 2 and 4 years old was an airplane pilot check list. “One shoe on? Check! Another shoe on? Check! Coats? Check! A toy to bring along? Check! Everyone ready? check! Everyone buckled? Check! the children loved this game, especially if we built in silly moments like jump three times to get to the door? Check!!” feel free to edit as you need!

13. Lets leave the house – Put on a playfully serious voice and tell your child it’s time to leave the house. Take them by the hand, and lead them to the door the bathroom, and say, ”oh whoops! That’s not the way out of the house.” Repeat with other doors for different rooms, or wardrobe doors, cupboards etc.

14. Pack a silly bag – Pack a silly bag the night before full of random objects. Start talking about how you need to take this bag for you and how you need to check the objects. Pull out a swimming costume although you’re going to the park, a winter hat and gloves in summer, or some rocks from the garden. Act all surprised and confused as your child laughs and laughs.

15. Make Time For Big Feelings – If your child has a big meltdown at any time during this process it’s counter-productive to try and distract them or stop the tears. There’s a lot of articles out there about how to stop a tantrum, but this is why I recommend going with the flow and allowing feelings. Even if we do end up being late, our child will be in much better emotional shape to enjoy their day when they’ve release those feelings.

I hope these tips help the getting ready process become a joy for you and your children. If you try them out I’d love to hear about how you get on. You can let me know in the comments section below. And if you come up with any fun and playful games of your own I’d love to hear from you too!

A good morning starts with a good night’s sleep! If you need some help in this area check out my 5 Sleep Secrets For Peaceful Nights and Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course Helping Young Children Sleep

The Secret Diary of Agent Spitback

The Power Of Saying Yes

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This week I was wondering why my daughter and I were feeling disconnected from each other. We’d been busy, and so much of my time was spent figuring out how to get us out the door, how to use giggles to get her to co-operate etc.

Suddenly I was realising that I was focusing so much on what to do to ‘make’ my daughter laugh, that I was forgetting about the other Hand in Hand parenting tools!

After my daughter came back from her playgroup I decided that the rest of the day would be a ‘yes’ day – a simply and powerful concept I read about on the Abundant Mama’s blog.

I felt like I’d been in a battle all week to control screentime, so the first thing I decided to do was let my daughter watch the screen for as long as she wanted. I realised that I actually do want her to get to know the feeling of having ‘too much screen,’ so that instead of me telling her why it’s important to get off the screen she can actually feel the effects for herself, and judge for herself.

After two hours my daughter came to me and asked for special time. I decided we would do a longer hour special time. We played Lego and made pretend birthday parties for each other, by wrapping up her toys.

There was not a single power struggle, simply because I’d let go of my need to control, and in it’s place came connection. We simply enjoyed each other’s company.

I think there are important times when we should set limits, that Hand in Hand covers in their free setting limits e-book. But children need us to say yes a lot of the time. When we learn how to listen, our children can release the feelings that get in the way of their thinking. Then they can actually have good judgement. We can help build, happy, confident children when we trust their thinking, and respect their choices.

Yesterday was a ‘yes’ day, and I’m thinking how I can incorporate more and more ‘yes’s’ in our lives. It’s not always easy,  life puts many constraints on us, so that we are sometimes forced to say no. But living lives with more freedom, joy and ‘yes’s’ is my aim!

The tools from Hand in Hand parenting really do work, and often what’s happening when they aren’t working is that we’re neglecting one or more of the tools. So if you’re having a challenging day, or week, you can ask yourself, which tool aren’t I using? Which one would help now?

If you’re new to Hand in Hand, you can read all about the parenting tools here

Want to know more about how and when to say no to children? Check out Hand in Hand parenting’s online self study course on setting limits