4 Ways to Incorporate Valentine’s Day Every Day

man and woman on beach at sunsetFebruary 14th comes and goes every year, but why is it that we tend to think of only one day out of the year to be romantic?  There is no reason you and your spouse can’t put a little of the Valentine’s Day spirit into your everyday lives. Especially when you have kids, it is important to maintain and work on your relationship with your husband or wife. A strong marriage, or relationship, gives your child a great sense of stability and support at home. Also, it keeps you and your spouse feeling connected, satisfied, and loved.  So take these tips, and put a little Valentine’s Day into your every day lives.

4 Ways to Incorporate Valentine’s Day Every Day

1) Don’t allow media at the table. T.V., phones and computers can be distracting, and isolating. By not allowing them to be on or near you and your spouse at the table, it allows more opportunity for talking, and as we all know, good and open communication is a key component to having a strong relationship. It is also a good way to reconnect with your spouse on an intellectual level. Bonus: if you are eating with your kids, they will be witness to (and hopefully participant in) your conversations.

2) Kiss, hug and hold hands. When you and your spouse are reunited at the end of the day, show that you are happy to see each other with a hug and a kiss. While watching t.v., or reading a book, hold hands, or overlap your feet. Even the smallest of touches can remind you of your physical attraction to one another. A nice little back scratching session can go a long way!

3) Every day, do at least one thing for the other person. Gifts are great, but it is the message behind the gift that is always the best; knowing that someone you love was thinking about you and what you would like. Think about what your spouse would like, and try to do something nice for them. It could be as simple as taking out the trash, cleaning up a mess that they were too busy to get to, cooking a meal, or simply not leaving your socks on the living room floor at the end of the night. You don’t have to make a grand gesture to show that you love, care, and think about the other person; small, everyday acts will build up, and paint the bigger picture of love.

4) Never go to bed angry. This is a classic, but it’s that for a reason. Couples argue and fight, but strong couples will take the time to work out their differences. Sure, you may not come to an agreement on your argument before you go to bed, but you can make sure that the two of you are calm and reassured that the love between you is strong before you fall asleep. This will allow you to sleep better, and wake up without any resentment towards your spouse.

The Myth of the Picture Perfect Family

mother with misbehaving kids driving her crazy
The other day I was just getting done feeding my 10 month old when my 3year old decided to climb up in the chair with us. We were having a nice cuddly moment, so I decided to take a picture of it. As a mom, you like to capture the “picture perfect” moments of sweetness you share with your young kids.

That’s when all hell broke loose.

My big kid became squirmy, claiming, “I don’t want to smile, I just want to play.” And my baby began exploring the features of my face; I had fingers up my nose, in my mouth, pulling at my lips and gouging my eyeballs.

Quickly, I snapped a picture of the three of us. You see my oldest pouting, and me making a painful face as my baby poked at my eye.  I instantly put it up on Facebook because it was real; it was a picture of my everyday life.

Picture Perfect for a Moment in Time

Our social media outlets are littered with pictures of perfect families. Families in sweet poses with majestic backgrounds, children sweetly smiling as the sunlight bounces off their faces. Siblings lovingly holding hands or hugging one another.

But these pictures are just of just one lucky moment in time.  You capture a fleeting moment of perfection hidden among thousands of chaotic moments. Every parent knows the feeling when all you want is a nice picture of your kids, and they just won’t cooperate!

Your finger is ready on the trigger, and you try to get them to stay still in one place, look at you and smile all at the same time. “Baby, look over here! Look at me! Smile for me! LOOK OVER HERE!!” You make the weirdest sounds and faces just to get them (all of them) to look your way at the same time.

What you end up with is roughly 20 pictures of blurry faces, half smiles, and uncooperative glances.  Then, if you’re lucky, one that is “worthy” of being shared on your Facebook or Instagram. That one magical picture when you managed to catch everyone looking and smiling.

Hidding Behind the Perfect Picture

The point is, that no one’s life is as perfect as it may seem on social media. You may see all of the perfect pictures, but that’s because no one ever posts the horrible ones. No one wants to portray their lives as chaotic.  Nobody want to share their frustrations.

Especially when you don’t get to actually see your friends as much as you used to, and social media is your way of staying connected to the world, it is easy to get down on yourself about not being as perfect as other families seem to be.

One of my favorite quotes  says, Don’t compare your insides to someone else’s outside.” -Unknown

Pictures don’t tell the story of the struggles a family is facing, or how many sleepless hours they had the night before, or how many times they were just poked in the eye. Pictures are just fleeting moments of perfection that people want to remember because their lives are filled with imperfection.

You should love and embrace your imperfections as well as your perfections, and do NOT forget that nobody has it all together for more than a moment at a time.

Making Your Marriage Work

family-rolls-around-while-playing-in-yard
Family is important. Period. If you have a good, stable marriage and family life, your children will have the emotional support and positive role models they need to help them grow and develop into stable, functioning adults. We all know that family is important; we all strive to create a loving home for our children, but according to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50% of marriages end in divorce.

Some divorces are inevitable and for the best, as in cases of abuse, or other serious issues, but many divorces can be prevented. That’s what I want to discuss here.

Many people are in love with the idea of being in love.They grow up constantly searching for “the one,” and when they find themselves in a serious relationship, they tend to want to rush into forever.Well, what you need to understand is that forever is FOREVER.

Marriage Meets Reality

Why rush into something when you have your whole life ahead of you to figure it out?

Before you marry someone, you need to get to know them on the most personal of levels, you need to understand that there can be no secrets (past, present or future), and you need to have open and honest conversations about what you want out of life, where you want to go, what you want to do, what your values are, what you are willing to compromise, if your partner has the qualities and values that compliment and support what you want, and vice versa.
happy family reading a picture book on the couch
The only way to truly get to know someone and their core values and beliefs is through time; though many people will become engaged after only a year of dating, and that is simply not long enough.

If you’re already married, about to be married, or someday hope to be married, you need to know this: marriage is work, hard work.

Unfortunately, many people just don’t understand that you need to work at a marriage to keep it working.

Remember that boyfriend or girlfriend you had in junior high? Remember how hot and heavy you two were, holding hands all over the place? Then remember how you just slowly drifted apart, and you weren’t even sure if you broke-up until you saw him (or her) holding hands with someone else?

Marriage is sort of like that; if you don’t hold hands, you will just drift apart. You and your spouse should NEVER STOP DATING!

Just because you are married doesn’t mean that you should stop going out. Make sure you have a date night, at least once a week; kids make this even harder to do, so if you have kids, shoot for once a month or more. As people, we never stop growing and developing, so as a married couple, you should never stop developing and growing together.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Relationship

  • Talk about your lives, your days, your concerns, your dreams, your passions
  • Make plans together, make dinner together, make love together
  • Greet one another with a hug and a kiss, and part the same way
  • Always speak honestly and kindly to one another, even in while in a fight

Staying physically, emotionally and intellectually bonded with your spouse is crucial to keeping your marriage together and happy. If you and your spouse have begun to drift and you need help finding your way back to one another, more professional help may be needed to get you back on track. But asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of, it’s just something you need to do to work on your marriage. Think of it like taking your car to a mechanic; you need your car to work, and you need a professional to help you get your car working again.

Putting Your Family First

As I mentioned before, having kids makes things a lot harder for your marriage. Your parental instinct will be to put your kids’ needs first, but you need to put your marriage first.

I repeat: You need to put your marriage first.

You need to make your marriage your first priority because when your marriage is working and happy, your family will be working and happy. The American Psychological Association says:

Healthy marriages are good for couples’ mental and physical health. They are also good for children; growing up in a happy home protects children from mental, physical, educational and social problems.

Even the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advocates the health benefits of marriage.

When your kids see you and your spouse talking to and treating each other with love and respect, they will learn to do the same thing. When you are happy with your marriage, you are more likely to be patient and thoughtful when dealing with your children.

Ever hear of the saying, “If Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy?” It’s true; happiness, like crabbiness, is contagious. YOU must decide what you are passing on to your family. And whether you are in a working marriage or one that is neglected, your kids will take note, and when they grow up and begin to look for a spouse of their own, they will look to you to see what a marriage should look like. What do you want them to see? So always be working on your marriage, for you, for your spouse, for your kids.

Always be working on your marriage, lest you find that your marriage is hardly working.

If you are struggling to find that balance in your relationships, I can help. I teach you communication skills and how to balance and prioritize and that will benefit your spouse and your children.

Parenting Tip #27: Keep the Kids Active

kids playing in the snowWinter break is coming up soon, and some parents may be thinking, “What in the world am I going to do with these kids while they’re home?!”  The best way to tire the kids out and keep them busy is to keep them active! Make sure the kids get outside for at least an hour every day for some free play time.

Kids need time to have free play; it is good for their development, mental health, and socialization.

But winter is cold… Fooey! We buy all sorts of winter gear for this exact reason.

Winter Ideas For Keeping The Kids Active

Coats, hats, scarves, snow pants, boots, long-johns, wool socks, gloves and mittens were all designed to keep your little ones warm while they play outside in the winter. Let the kids out in the yard to play, snow or not, they will be able to have fun outside.

Find a local ice skating rink, or sledding hill and take them out for a fun day. Maybe even go to a local nature trail and walk around looking for winter wildlife. Nothing wears a kid out more than playing outside in the fresh, cold air.

Helping Your Kids Cope With Sub-Zero Temperatures

If the polar vortex rolls into town again this year, and the temps never creep above zero, more than a few minutes outside may not be an option. There are still plenty of places to go to let the kids expend some energy like:

  • indoor playgrounds
  • indoor bounce houses
  • sporting complexes
  • gymnastic classes
  • roller skating rinks
  • ice-skating rinks

If you’re feeling extra adventurous, you may even want to find one of those indoor, year-round, waterparks! Moral of the story, no matter what your plans for winter break are, make sure they include physical activity; it will be good for your kids, and for your sanity.

The Gift of Giving

give your kids the gift of giving
No matter what religion you are, or are not, this time of year always holds a special place in people’s hearts.  This is the season of giving.  We gather together with our family and friends to eat, drink and celebrate the year. And usually gifts are exchanged to show our love, understanding and appreciation for others.

However, over the years, it seems that we have become a little blinded by all of the great sales, the presents, and by all of the stuff that we seem to have lost sight of the true reason for the season.  Giving has become less about your love, time and charity, and more abou the “fancy” things. The religious aspect of this time of year has been replaced with commercialism and Santa, and we have become so involved with thinking about what we want to get, we are losing sight of what we should give.

It’s time to refocus the meaning of giving.

We need to remind ourselves, and our children, that this is the time of year we should be thankful for what we have rather than expecting to get more.

We need to share our joy and love with our friends and family, making lasting memories and strengthening family bonds.

And we need to think of the less fortunate, and make charitable donations of food, clothing, toys, money or time to those who really need our help.

So take the time this season to talk to your children about the real reason you and your family celebrate this season; whether your celebrations are religiously based, family based, or charity based, make sure that your kids understand that this season is so much more than getting presents.

Try going light on the material presents, and instead spend more time together, sharing new experiences, playing games, being silly together as a family, or just talking and learning more about one another. Toys will only keep their interest for a few years at most, but the memories you make together as a family will last forever.

Changing Selfies into Happy Family Moments

family taking a group selfieMy sister sent me an article called “7 Tips for Parents with a Selfie-Obsessed Child.” It was an interesting read discussing concerns about kids who take too many selfies. Such concerns include, falling prey to online predators, cyberbullying, and developing body dysmorphia. Mjmiller gives several suggestions on how to limit the selfies your children take and post by suggesting that parents get involved, set boundaries, focus on character building, teaching kids to value relationships, keeping your kids occupied, and promoting balance. Great! I completely agree that setting limits, teaching and focusing on values and real personal relationships are the first and best steps to take, but kids are still going to want to take pictures and post them on social media, so what do we really do? Here are my suggestions:

1) Make your selfies mean something

There is a new “movement” going around on social media where you perform one act of random kindness (ARK), take a selfie holding one finger up, post it describing your random act of kindness and challenge your friends to do the same. Encourage your child to join the movement at www.arkprojectnow.com (#JustDoOne).

2) Change “SELFies” into “USies”

Why take pictures of you all by your lonesome when you can get a whole group of friends together? Encourage your child to be more social (in real life, not just on social media) and spend time with friends. And if they feel the need to take pictures, then make sure they get the whole group involved.

3) Teach your child about discretion 

Children need to be taught to have a filter. Do we allow our three-year-olds to go around calling people fat, smelly, or weird looking? No; we teach them to have a filter. We need to do the same for our children as they get older. Does everyone on social media need to see the way you did your make-up? No; don’t post a pic of that. Does the world need yet another selfie of some adolescent looking at himself in the mirror of his bathroom? No; don’t post a pic of that. Were you scuba diving and got up close to a whale shark? Cool! Not many people have that opportunity, go ahead and share that one!

Selfies and sharing pictures on social media are never going to go away, but we can change our perspective and our children’s perspectives on them. Bottom line, YOU, the parent, are the best teacher that your has, and YOU need to be involved in what your child does so that you can set guidelines, teach lessons, and share your values.

Being Thankful

today and every day I am thankfulEspecially with all the added commercialism and consumerism around the upcoming holidays, now is a great time to emphasize genuine thankfulness and gratitude with your children. I say emphasize because being thankful and full of gratitude are concepts that should be talked about, taught and discussed in everyday life, not just around a particular holiday.

I hear so many parents talk about how they don’t want their kids to be spoiled, how they want to show their kids how to be charitable, how they want to raise their kids to be thankful; but then they always end their sentences with, “….this holiday season.” “I want to teach my kids to be grateful this holiday season.” Why? Why would you want them to be thankful and caring for just a few months? This is something that should be taught and demonstrated all year round.  Here are some ways to teach your child about being thankful, gracious, charitable and caring throughout the whole year:

1. Every season, go through your closets.

Every season, go through your closets. Have your child help, and decide what you didn’t wear too much and what doesn’t fit anymore and donate them to a local church, shelter or charity. A good way to keep track of what you don’t wear would be to hang your clothes up with the hangers facing the wrong way, then when you wear an item, turn the hanger the correct way. Then, at the end of the season, you can clearly see which items you didn’t wear because those hangers will still be facing the wrong way.

2. Participate in, or start a canned food drive.

You and your child can go through your own pantry, and even go to the grocery store to buy canned food items for those less fortunate. Bring your child along when you drop the donations off at a shelter or food pantry so they can see first-hand that they are helping people to feed themselves and their families.

3. Clear out excess toys at least twice a year.

Kids grow, develop and change quite fast throughout the course of a year, and so what may have been the most coveted item at Christmas may be old news come July. Have a discussion with your kids about how lucky they are, and how other children hardly have anything. Ask them to go through their things and decide what they would be willing to give to less fortunate kids. If they are having trouble, ask them to remember how happy an item made them when they first got it. Then ask if they still get feel that happiness and joy when they play with it; maybe you have to remind them that it has been at the bottom of the toy box for months. Finally, ask them to pass that happiness and joy to another little boy or girl who would really love it.

4. Demonstrate what you are teachin

You can demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude every day. When your kids give you something, or help you out, say thank you and mean it. Say thank you to the checkout girl at the grocery store; say thank you to the man who held the door for you. When you sit down to dinner with your family, talk about the good and bad parts of your day. Make sure to tell everyone what made you thankful that day. This doesn’t just have to be a Thanksgiving tradition, make it a daily tradition. Before bed, you can tell each of your children something about them that you are thankful for. “I am so thankful that you helped me put the groceries away.” Or, “I am so thankful for the way you were helping your brother with his homework.

Sincerity is Key

Please don’t coerce your child to be thankful, gracious or charitable for the season with the promise of lots of presents from Santa. Teach them to be genuinely thankful, gracious and charitable in their everyday lives. This is not a seasonal thing; and the world would be a better place if people stopped acting as if it were.

Stress Can Spread

Stress can seep into our lives from every aspect imaginable. Stress comes from work, home, kids, money, events, family, spouse, health, etc. It’s normal to feel some sort of stress on a daily basis. But if you let that stress be the focus of your day, then all things can unravel.

Where is your focus?

Have you ever noticed that on the days when your stress level is high, nothing seems to go right? That’s because stress is contagious. No matter what your stressor is, if your mind is preoccupied, you will probably not have the mental capacity to get other everyday tasks completed properly.

It is when you are thinking of other things that you forget about what you are doing.  You forget that the water is hot, and burn your hand at the sink. Or you drop the glass because you aren’t paying attention to your hand-eye coordination.

It’s when you’re rushing around that you stub your toe, or you can’t find your keys because your mind is racing. Your mind is stressed, and therefore can’t think and process clearly. This stressed behavior can spill over to your children as well.

Are your children learning how to stress out?

Kids are very observant, and they definitely take notice. They notice when you’re stressed, how often, and what tends to trigger it. They also notice how you deal with it.

Kids learn more from their parents’ actions than they do from their endless lists of “Do’s and Don’ts”. They tend to internalize your stress, slowly making it their own.

If you are constantly stressed over your performance, your children will take notice.  They learn that it is of upmost importance to be perfect in all you do. This, in turn, causes them to become stressed about being perfect in the things they do, school, sports, etc.

However, children don’t always show their stress as we do. They may internalize it, so stomachaches, frequent headaches and bedwetting can be signs of stress.   If you see your child becoming more and more stressed out, click here for ways you can support them.

Remove yourself from the stress.

The good news is that there is something you can do.  You can take a deep breath, and remove yourself from your stressor. Your kids notice your stress, but if you take time to calm yourself, slow your mind, and work through your stressor, your child will notice that too. Teach your children that it is ok to be stressed, but that the best way to deal with it is in a calm, rational manner.

If you are stressed when you come home from work, or if the kids are driving you crazy, let them know.  Calmly tell them that you are feeling a little stressed and that you need 5-10 minutes of alone time to decompress. This alone time can do wonders for rejuvenating your spirit, and getting you back to a better mindset so you can be a good role model for your children.  Acknowledging your stress, and taking time to decompress will allow you to move through it, and past it, more quickly.

Consistency is Key

Portrait of cute happy 4 month old baby girl with funny hatChildren are smart, and even toddlers know if an adult is susceptible to giving in, or going back on their word. Young children throw fits and tantrums because their feelings and emotions are too overwhelming for them to handle, so they just sort of explode. This is normal, but how you handle it is of the upmost importance.  Consistency is the way to go, all the time, every time.

When a Tantrum Happens

Tantrums should be ignored; let your child know that you are willing to talk to them about the situation after they calm down. If you are consistent in never giving into a tantrum or fit, your child will learn that tantrums don’t work as an effective means of getting what they want. However, if you try to negotiate, or give in to the screaming, crying, and yelling just once, you are sending the message that if the tantrum is long and loud enough, you will eventually cave. And if that happens, you can rest assured that the tantrums will continue well into the future, past the normal stage of child development.

Being Consistent Across the Board

Consistency is key throughout your child’s growth and development. This is especially important if your child has another caregiver during the days. Make sure that you and all the other caregivers (other parents, grandparents, nannies, etc.) are all on the same page. Discuss acceptable limits you want set for your child, and how you expect everyone to handle difficult situations. If you are all on the same page, it makes it more difficult for your child to get away with things you wouldn’t approve of when you are not around.

Consistency is the heart of routine, and children need routines; they find comfort in knowing what to expect throughout the day, and what is expected of them. If you expect your children to do chores, be consistent about it and make them do those chores every day. Eventually, it will become a part of their routine. You also need to be consistent with your word. If you say, “No,” make sure you stick with “No” every time. If you dole out a punishment, stick to it no matter how much they argue or fight it; this gives you credibility as a parent. You don’t always have to be right, you just have to be consistent.

Is Lack of Sleep Causing My Child’s Bad Behavior?

infant sleeping peacefully through the night
Just like anyone else, a child cannot be at her best if she isn’t getting a good night’s sleep, or have a regualr bedtime. We all want our children to sleep well; not only is it good for them, but when they sleep well, we parents sleep well. A lack of sleep leads to a child being over tired, irritable, over-emotional, and lathargic.  Sometimes overtiredness presents itself in the form of uncontrollable energy followed by large, dramatic melt-downs.  So before you start to think that your child has a behavior issue, first check to see if your child is getting enough sleep on a regular basis.

What Bedtime Does A Child X Years Old Need to get Enough Sleep?

Kids need more sleep than you think, and just because they seem fine to stay up until 10pm doesn’t mean they should. The proper amount of sleep aids in better development, and a more functional child.

  • Babies under 1 year old need to sleep about 14-15 hours every day that includes naps and night sleep
  • Kids who are 3-6 years old still need 10-12 hours of sleep a day that may or may not include naps
  • 7 to 12 year olds require about 9-11 hours of sleep each night
  • Kids older than 12 can get by with a good 8-9 hours of sleep each night

4 Ways to Help Your Child Sleep Better

Have a consistent bedtime routine

Kids are creatures of habit, and they also cannot be turned off like a switch, so bedtime routines are perfect for allowing time to calm down and get ready for sleep.
A bedtime routine may only be 5-10 minutes long, or it could be 30 minutes long. It all depends on what works for you and your child.

Activities that are great for a bedtime routine can include a bath or shower, cuddling, talking, reading, singing quiet songs, or yoga. Whatever bedtime you and your child like will be perfect. Just remember to make them calming, not stimulating activities, and do them the same way every night.

Consistency with a bedtime routine is key to cueing your child’s body and mind to get ready for sleep.

Music or white noise

Sometimes it’s hard for kids to fall asleep if parents, older siblings, or crying babies are still awake in the house. Having soft music or white noise playing in your child’s room can help to block out the other noises around the house, and aid in calming your child’s mind. And when minds are calm, they can drift into sleep.

Lavender

Lavender has long been used as a home remedy to promote relaxation and improve sleep quality. In the old days, people would fill their pillowcases with lavender flowers, but today you can just spray some lavender scent on the pillowcases. There are also lavender bath washes and lotions you can use on your child before he goes to sleep.

Ensure your child is getting enough sleep by assigning a proper bed time

Suggested Bedtimes by Age:

8-10 months                       5:30-7:00

10-15 months                    6:00-7:30

15m-3 years                       6:00-7:30

3-6 years                              6:00-8:00

7-12 years                           7:30-9:00

If your child doesn’t seem well rested in the mornings, you may need to re-evaluate bed time. Try adjusting the bedtime by 30 minute incriments, and be sure to give the new bedtime a few days of trial before switching it again.

The parenting techniques I practice and teach through Working With Parents help with children’s bedtime compliance, so if this is a problem you need help with, please click here for our services.