Rituals and Restoration for Calm Care

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

We are parenting in the age of anxiety, promoting fear and depleting ourselves, as we try to make all the “right” decisions as we raise our children.  Many parents we see seem overworked and sleep deprived. As they run on empty, tempers flare and they get stuck in operational mode, delivering commands met with noncompliance. Would you believe that the problem is in our brains and our nervous systems?

When we are stressed and in “the red,” so to speak, meaning that we are feeling deprived, out of fuel and overly reactive, we have lost our center and cannot be calm.  It is impossible to be responsive, in a clear and confident reasonable manner when the nervous system in on SOS mode, shooting out adrenaline and cortisol into the blood stream.  The sad consequence is that our children and teens do not witness calm confident authority that is grounded in consistency and clarity. Parents end up doing what I call knee-jerk and mood-based inconsistent parenting that typically involves desperate threats and bribes, which in turn, increase oppositional behavior.

Along with losing the ability to say “go outside and play” and with the overwhelm of screens and activities to build portfolios, we have lost a few simple rituals that are so central to family sanity and sanctity.  Having dinner together, calmly is a major ritual and so is a calm bedtime routine involving story time and physical affection. Bath time is a ritual. Most people need a decompression ritual upon returning home after a day of productivity, so that would be another fabulous time to restore our central nervous system and shift the gears down into relaxation.

Visualize a rhythm of life that is about go-go-go, and now pause, shift into quiet and calm connection, refueling and connecting to the heart before you go-go-go some more. Sound enticing? Sound natural? And, so it is.  Without taking the time to stop, restore, breath deep and relax, we are overtaxing ourselves and at risk for power struggles that are a symptom of depletion.  We need LOVE.  In many societies, as the sun sets so do our engines slow down. This is the time for love, not screens and a second work shift. A time to dine, to laugh, to share stories and connect. A time to forget about the minutia and frustrations of the day and come ‘home’ to what really matters.

So, I invite you to take a closer look and observe the energy patterns in your family. Determine if there is overload and/or depletion, leading to symptoms of tension and anger. Typically it spills out in your tone and probable sarcasm, in your empty or absurd threats that speak to your overwhelm.  Only you can change the choices that are tied to the values you are living. Only you can determine what is truly important and what can be set aside, in order to create a family environment with a greater dose of calm, compassion and care- the best nutrients for cooperation and growth.

Yours,

Dr. Kay

Getting Ready for School: The Key to Your Child’s Cooperation

Monday, October 6, 2014

“Check the chart” is all you have to say in the morning. Imagine that. No nagging, no threatening or bribing. Just being present and “check the chart,” and your children will smoothly direct themselves through their routine to get ready every day.

The key to smooth transitions is consistency of your routine. Devise a simple routine with four or five steps at most, such as: eat breakfast, get dressed, brush teeth & hair, back pack by the door, hug ‘goodbye.” Keep it simple and sweet on a small poster.

Yes, I said on a small poster, so there is a visual cue sheet. That means list the steps, draw a symbol next to each step, such as a bowl of oatmeal at the end of the directive “eat breakfast.” Post the cue sheet somewhere practical, like the front door, or the hallway door, somewhere with easy access.

Why the chart? The chart takes YOU out of the dynamic for accomplishing the “get ready” tasks. In this manner, getting ready is not about pleasing you or resisting you; it’s simply about the objective to get ready. Imagine your boss has a project for you and she simply lays out the steps for you to follow every day in order to reach your goal. All you have to do is reference the sequence.

Effective behavioral management is matter-of-fact. Morning routines are routine. There is satisfaction in accountability of being capable. Not to mention, there is natural reward in a being done with getting ready because typically that would mean a little time left to play. In fact, building in a natural incentive, “when you finish your ‘get ready’ chart and your backpack is by the door,” you’ll have time to read your book or play your video game.

Too often children are presented with inconsistency, agitated or angry stressful commands to ‘hurry it up,’ and/or parents who are multi-tasking and thereby not present.

Securing cooperation in children requires calm confident presence. Manage your own time in a manner that brings you present so you are not agitated as you try to catch email, empty the dishwasher, pack lunch and shout out threats all at once, leaving you ineffective and depleted before your day has barely started.

Getting clear about the behavioral steps and subsequent directives, laid out in an easy schema on a chart, facilitates compliance. Your being calmly nearby and present, perhaps packing lunch or just being near your child, will pay off. When the get-ready routine goes smoothly without the yelling and tension, you will also spare some minutes to delete email or load that dishwasher. And if you don’t, those items are easily traded out for calm connection and compliance.

Home from College and Time to Incubate

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A friend of mine is “going nuts” because her son graduated from college and is “sitting around watching movies on his laptop.”  He is a product of Montgomery County in that he graduated with numerous honors from College, so he certainly proved himself capable within the structure of his undergraduate institution.  Now he reports to be “burnt out” and wants a break before heading to grad school.

How long do parents indulge such a break, and when he gets back up and running, does it have to be a job that meets his parents’ high expectations for another resume item? Should he really jump right back into more school?

No.  When young adults graduate from college, it is the beginning of growing up for many who have been coddled within structure, striving to achieve what is set forth for them while they remain financially, and often mentally dependent upon their parents.  It is just an undergrad degree and it takes time to incubate all that was imbibed while in school.  There are times for taking in and putting out, then time for restoration before taking in more and putting out again.

A generation ago, we did not think to “return home.” Not only would it be unthinkable to do so, we knew our parents “cut the cord” when we walked out the door post high school.  In a culture that promotes self-actualization as a prime value,  such parents were wise with respect to not having to remain “helicopter parents.”

Post college involves a few years of incubating and metamorphic struggle. This developmental period is the true test when “the rubber hits the road,” unless a young adult goes straight to grad school or otherwise is handed a position via a relative or friend. Such privilege to avoid developmental angst undermines an essential passage that actually cultivates a muscle called efficacy.

Self efficacy and competence is born out of genuine struggle and practice.  It is all about learning lessons by practicing and it takes a few years to grow up and authentically find your way without being defined by others. That growth involves periods of stillness whereby you reflect within the space called quiet.

Many young folks today are so flooded by anxiety that is the symptom that shouts, “I am already supposed to know who I am and have direction or I might fall into a black hole of the unknown,” that they’ll do anything, including resort to substances that aid in their escape  simply to avoid the angst that comes with the not knowing of practicing and risk taking, seeking and finding opportunities to grow on.

So, what was my advice to my friend?  Try giving her son the summer to ‘chill’ but he should get a job, any job, just to have some structure. And no, the job does not need to be the ideal job on his supposed career path. Just get a job because working is good for him.  Parents can set boundaries. For example, “we expect you to get a job and invested in a few activities while you adjust to post college and figure out your game plan.” Parents can, of course, require that a young adult pitch in at home while staying there rent free. Charging rent is also not an outrageous idea for the teaching of accountability once a young adult has a job.

The value behind the expectation to pitch in and pay rent is that it is time to “earn” a living and the beginning of building that sense of efficacy that comes when one earns his/her keep.  For privileged kids who have a safety net and all the creature comforts, there is enormous value in working, researching positions to try out and moving out of the home where mom and dad watch over you, fret and slip into the enmeshment of doing and thinking for you.

The incubation is a time of rest from four years of college. It is a time to reflect, practice, dream and envision a path that is your own while carving out the stepping stones to walk forward. My friend’s son has, I told her,  a good ten years to become whomever he is going to become professionally.  It is his journey to embrace.

 

 

When your little guy cannot control himself!

Monday, July 28, 2014

A mom came to see Dr. Kay last year, with a story we have seen countless times in our office. Her little guy who is but 5 years old and headed to kindergarten is adorable, creative and full of imagination. He behaves beautifully 1:1 and minds his manners. However, with his peers at preschool, he would get just a bit out of control with name calling, like “stupid baby” and with shoving or silliness that disrupts.

This little guy could share, take turns and manage frustration perfectly fine at home or in a structured setting. BUT, put him in with a group of kids in an unstructured situation on the play ground, at camp or at preschool, and watch out.  That is when his filter dissolved and the “stupid baby” spilled out.  He may push, shove or even spit.  His comments may not be situationally on-task, and he may look as if he is in his own world responding out of his own ideas, separate from the group activity.

This can be embarrassing for  mom and dad who are wondering where they may be going wrong.  Is this simply an immature child? Is this ADHD?  When he gets overwhelmed by crowds and “acts out,” is this a sensory processing problem?  Or is our son just full of the dickens, perfectly normal and in the habit of attracting attention in a negative manner?

First things first, pay attention to a child’s strengths. This little guy is best able to manage his feelings as well as the give-and-take of socializing when in a smaller more structured group. Yes, we expect that with maturity, he will better be able to manage how to direct himself and join others, as well as how to manage what is now overwhelming in a large unstructured situations.  With maturity comes the ability to calm one’s self  and step back rather than react. With maturity comes the ability to think in order to temper reactivity [take perspective and problem-solve]. And, with maturity, this little guy may be better able to verbally articulate and manage his own needs as well as the needs of his peers in a social exchange.

Is it ADHD? Everyone wants to know…

Well ADHD- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder- a neurological deficit that impacts self-regulation, can involve hyperactivity, impulsivity and/or inattention. The behavioral problems resulting from such difficulties would have to be seen across environments and persistently from early childhood to present, to some degree and in some expressed form.

While little ones with ADHD may be more prone to “melt downs” and being “driven like a motor,” older children may be more fidgety and inclined to daydream, interrupt and/or prone to excessive talking or to changing topics randomly.  Structure is key because it is far easier to manage ourselves in context of consistent direction, guidance and clear expectations.  It helps to be matter-of-fact, without a lot of talking and explaining. Just clear and simple and delivered with a good heart.  Scolding, threats or harshness typically evoke opposition, defensiveness and inability to cooperate.

Many children/teens or adults who are prone to acting out when overwhelmed, who may not be able to “filter” or “hold it together” appropriately in a social setting, lack patience and have a high sensitivity to the environment, thereby feeling easily overwhelmed. In essence, they may not be able to tune out sufficiently, in order to focus on what is at hand, in order to respond effectively. Or, on the contrary, they hyper-focus and are annoyed by extraneous factors that impede upon their intense needs.

Imagine if the brain cannot be turned off or down, it’s just impossible to redirect or regulate all that is going on inside at a really fast pace. This is when the “acting out” may occur, in the form of silliness, aggression or an outburst expressing anger and frustration.  And yet, there are also children without ADHD who have been accidentally reinforced when they act up and are silly because they are so darn cute and funny. This is a bit dangerous and confusing b/c on the one hand, they are encouraged and the other hand discouraged.

What to do?   There are many components to “out of order” behavior. There is hardwiring which involves neurology. There is temperament which involves one’s outlook and mood. There are hormones in the brain that impact our emotional responses, and there is our thinking which serves as a manager to our feelings as we sort through all the stimuli coming from both the inside [feelings, sensations, needs and desires] and the outside [stimuli and behavioral expectations, cognitive and emotional challenges].  Then, there is the environment that may pull for better or worse.

So, to sum it up, the more we are able to slow down and practice, the more likely we can think and manage behavior. Any overload may result in anxiety and an implosion.

If you have a little one who is in overdrive and possibly receiving attention and reinforcement for all the wrong behaviors as he tries to manage an overwhelming environment full of demands, here are a few tips for helping your little guy manage himself a little better:

  • Pay close attention to the environments that bring out the best and adjust the environment so his anxiety does not spike. So, if a harsh critical teacher is resulting in your son’s chewing his fingers and going into “fight or flight,” work with that teacher while also working to help your child cope.
  • Seek professional help that will enable your child to build tools for managing his feelings prior to overwhelm.
  • Teach your son to ‘stop and think.”
  • Keep play dates and social events brief and fairly structured.
  • In the face of an acting out, simply correct and redirect your son and avoid long lectures or too much talk! It is not about punishment. It is about “start over,” “stop and think,” “what can you do now?”  or simply direct his focus on what he needs to be doing and step over any commenting on the negative behavior which can accidentally reinforce it.
  • Use a calm voice of authority. Say what you mean and mean what you say, and that is not “mean.”
  • Save the talk for an indirect story or a revisiting later, not in the middle of a reaction.
  • You can offer empathy while giving a directive, i.e. “you are frustrated but you can finish putting the game away”
  • Avoid personalizing. A child is not behaving FOR you, so try to avoid directives that end with “for me?” or “you’re making mommy mad” kinds of comments. Stick to behavior, “the coat belongs on the hook” or “three more bites and your done.” Stay neutral [and that is not robotic], just objective specific language. “That was good” means very little. But, “you were patient with your brother at lunch today.”  You do not need to end it with “and that is so great.” They do not need to always be ‘good’ and ‘great’. They just need to learn to master themselves and get along.
  • Separate behavioral management for doses of love and praise. Save the love and praise for other moments. When correcting and redirecting behavior, you are guiding your child so he can better build an internal muscle we used to call self-discipline. We now call it self-regulation.   And, that is an essential tool for getting along in the world.

 

 

My Daughter is Mean

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Sometimes a mom will arrive in my office quite distressed and embarrassed by her daughter who has “no filter.” This might be the girl who is aggressive on and off the soccer field. Or, the one who says “who cares?” when her peer shares something dear to her heart.  She may be the child who shuts down and sneers at her mom or anyone else who gets on her nerves.  This can be embarrassing and as a parent you might feel as if you have to go around cleaning up her every social faux pas.  When it comes to “what are little girls made of,” it may not be “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  How does this happen? Is it the parents’ fault? Can something be done about it?

The challenge parents face when they try to turn sour to sweet is this. The child who is bossy or blunt and often harsh or rude may also be, paradoxically, anxious and socially awkward as well as sensitive. She may know very well that the wrong words come out of her mouth, and she may feel she has little control over it.  Many human beings with this kind of impulsivity or lack of social sensitivity try to become comical in an effort to buffer their abrasive nature. Others shut down and claim to “not care.”  Most are acutely aware when parents disapprove, making frequent comments and/or lecturing about manners to no avail.

Lessons and growth do not always come from the parent. Yes, you can make a brief non sarcastic comment or observation as long as you do not do this incessantly. Something like, “when you said ‘shut up’ to your friend in the car riding home, you likely hurt her feelings,” or “saying ‘shut up’ when you are feeling annoyed or impatient may not going to result in sustained friendship for you.”

When you drop observations ever so briefly to avoid obnoxious lecture-mode parenting, say more! What can she do if she actually puts the brakes on her mind and mouth?   “So, when you feel your friend is being ignorant, you could be quiet,  just go somewhere else in your head or you could change the subject.”  Then it is time for you, as the parent, to change the subject and move on. I call this “drop, download then depart.”  The point is to hold up the mirror and allow space for your daughter to reflect and catch the download.  To keep talking is to risk dismissal. Then all your daughter is at risk for hearing is your disappointment rather than the lesson. Challenging but more powerful.

Notice that in my example the mom does not personalize, meaning, she does not say “what I suggest you do…”  Danger!  To parent in accordance to your opinions and wisdom means your child has to be you or imbibe your wisdom rather than feeling empowered to catch her own flaws and find a way to become better, thereby owning it as her own correction.

Your job is to observe, acknowledge damage done in a poignant manner without much drama or insult. Touch down with your comment, stated objectively without tone, and carry on!  This leaves the ball in her court and it’s then time for her to wrestle with her social challenge.  Your a guiding post and always  her guardian angel who has her back.

Protecting Parents from the Inevitable Tantrum

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Let’s face it…we parents often set ourselves up. We know we are tired and our better brain knows that our children may have limited capacity to handle the expectations  put upon them. You often want control in a situation that demands more forethought, more structure and more strategy.

Yet, we carry on, plowing through to some ideal ‘happy’ that should happen for the birthday party or the family dinner, only to make our child and ourselves miserable. We come undone right in the process of trying to make life just right….until the child acts out to show us THIS IS NOT WORKING. You may find yourself as mad at your child as you are at yourself, and it all comes out in a tantrum.

Despite our best intentions, when it comes to the challenging child who is hypersensitive or any child [or parent] faced with too darn much, we may keep re-enacting the escalation cycle. And, dramatic punitive responses to a child’s misbehavior only serve to “add fuel to the flames” of frustration-fury.

So, Sammy is three years old and an excitable sensitive child. When he faces transitions or when in a larger group, he is at risk for becoming impulsive. He may pinch, poke, grab or call attention to himself in a fashion that exhibits his inability to self-regulate.  He is bright and anxious, combined with that sensitivity- a perfect mix for knocking over the drinks mom just set down or the blocks his cousin just stacked.  Why not walk by his little sister and accidentally step on her? And, now comes the out-of-control and needs-for-control swing dance of shame.

Sammy has become unruly in front of his guests. Mom needs to step in to control Sammy and to demonstrate she is aware that her son is “inappropriate.”  She lets him know, out loud, that he is going to have to take a “time out” and thereby be removed. We all know what happens next.

More primitive noises and running from mom. More embarrassing chaos, followed by some kind of top-down final solution. Sammy is now in his room, red in the face with rage and feeling like the victim. Mom is unable to cook or be with guests, as she has to pin him down or keep him in his time-out space, preventing further kicks and punches.  Every effort to say “when you are calm, we can go back,” triggers another primitive outcry.  This goes on for awhile before Sammy can leave, and even then, his armor is so thin, he has little capacity to manage his behavior above and beyond emotional impulses which remain raw. The next glare from mom or corrective plea could trigger yet one more outburst.

What to do?  THINK a great deal, in advance. Find the time to THINK and PLAN.  Sammy may need a slow morning or extra nap prior to a social event. He may need a small calm event only at the age of three. When small and calm are impossible, what is the strategic game plan. Who is going to be in charge of Sammy and what structured activity is he going to be engaged in. Do not expect a three year old to manage play with is younger sib and/or guests, on his own. No way. Set up a structured activity and have an adult be PRESENT and calm to manage the activity. Move through the planned activities in a short amount of time and keep the entire time on the shorter side.

When Sammy’s engine is waring down, direct him to the sofa or a back bedroom for some down time with an older teen to watch over him, so he has quiet attentive care.  Avoid verbal corrections that could provoke shame publicly. When needing to correct or redirect, do so with calm centered clarity that commands compliance. Do it without screaming. Be present for Sammy and this will help him redirect  and allow him to resist any acting out. You are holding him in place because he is three years old and absorbing the excitement. You are forthcoming out what is happening and what he is to do. He has a guidepost and that keeps him centered. Should he need removal; there is more support and direction than scolding and shame.

With the holidays upon us, take the time to THINK so you can plan and strategize about structure and prevent explosive tantrums that fester in cycles of escalation.  Be careful and take care of yourself and your resources so you have the capacity to THINK and PLAN to be PRESENT.

 

Teaching Teens to Meditate for a Sense of Safety

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

We see quite a few teens who are under stress. They feel insecure in knowing who they are…because they are in adolescence and naturally uncertain. They live under enormous academic and social pressures to perform and often tend to think in a largely “black and white” linear fashion about “success.”

We see teens with anxiety and depression, exhibiting feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness and a sense of not belonging. Crying spells and fatigue are pronounced, and many teens are turning to behaviors such as drinking and drug usage, food restriction or binge eating, cutting, as well as self-disparaging thinking patterns.

One profound coping tool that Dr. Kay Abrams shares with teens is the notion that simply breathing, slowly, in and out of their nose, with eyes shut, can calm the nervous system and lead them to a sense of safety. When we breathe in deeply, we ask our sympathetic nervous system- the one that is all about “fight of flight”, to quiet down and take a break.  When we can go inward and find calm, we are no longer vigilant and reactive. There is safe refuge to tap right inside of us, at any given moment. The more you practice this “muscle” of calming, the greater your ability to manage feelings of anxiety.

Furthermore, the more you practice quiet calm, with television, phones and all screens OFF, the greater chance you come to realize that it is through quieting our minds that we are grounded in our bodies and find our center, for stabilization and peace.  To quote a yoga teacher I recently heard at Vista Yoga in Atlanta, Georgia, “imagine you are part of the great ocean…each one of us is just a drop in the ocean, but you can find peace just relaxing into the greater ocean that holds us,” and “imagine you are an expansive wall. Every experience you have, positive or negative, every story you tell yourself is like paint on that wall, but the paint can be removed and there you are, expansive and clean and clear…at peace, standing strong.”

Teens need to know that there is a lot of noise in their heads, a lot of projection and fear. But, in their core center is a self that can stand still and strong and calm. There, they can find safe refuge for restoration as they face the challenges of their everyday world. They can learn to respond, rather than react, as they move forward. In this manner, they stand a better chance to thrive and develop with less fear and greater calm.

The Power of Your Presence

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Dear Parents,

 

In addressing how to be calm and confident when managing children, I often impress upon parents the power of their presence.  When you are mindful and present, when you have what I refer to as “pure resolve” in your understanding you are “on the job” without a wish to be elsewhere, without distraction or even a tinge of resentment, children know. Much of misbehavior, testing and provocation stems from a parent-child scenario whereby the parent is overly reactive after being detached.

So what does it mean to be present? It means you are adept at putting other thoughts and needs aside and coming to BE in the present as you manage your children. It means you are physically there….just there. It does not mean taking over, nagging, hovering or talking. In fact, your presence is powerful in its quiet calm, not in reactivity and anxiousness.

Play around with your mindfulness and see what happens. Choose a transitional time such as getting ready to go in the morning, homework time or bedtime ritual. Let go of all your other duties and responsibilities, both mentally and physically. No screens, no checking email, no multi tasking. Practice being 100% present in a resigned, peaceful manner. Be clear and calm about the expectations in your system, i.e. “it is time to get ready for bed…time for your bath and then some reading together.” Keep the communication simple and straight forward. Avoid long lectures, discussions or negotiations.

A study published recently in the Journal of Child and Family Studies provides a more extensive examination of the possible benefits of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and their parents [S. van der Ord & S. M. Bodgel (2012). The effectiveness of mindfulness training for children with ADHD and mindful parenting for their parents. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 21, 139-147]. Participants were 22 8-12 year old children diagnosed with ADHD and their parents. The study was conducted at an outpatient mental health clinic in the Netherlands.

Children and parents were randomly assigned to receive mindfulness training or to a wait-list control condition; the majority of children were already receiving treatment with stimulant medication and remained on medication during the study. Mindfulness training consisted of 8 weekly 90 minute group sessions – the child group included 4-6 children and the parent group included the parents of these children. Children and parents were given structured assignments to complete between the sessions that focused on practicing the skills they had learning in each group meeting.

Mindful Child Training

In mindful child training children are taught to “…focus and enhance their attention, awareness and self-control by doing mindfulness exercises during the training and as homework assignments.” The exercises include sensory awareness exercises, body awareness exercises, breath awareness exercises along with breathing meditation, yoga, and exercises that promote awareness of automatic responding.

You can find a nice web site on mindfulness for children developed by the Greater Good Science Center at UC-Berkley athttp://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/tips_for_teaching_mindfulness_to_kids

Mindful Parenting

Mindful parenting is “…a framework whereby parents intentionally bring moment-to-moment awareness to the parent-child relationship.” The goals of the Mindful Parenting program used in this study were to help parents learn to …

1. “be deliberately and fully present in the here and now with their child in a non-judgmental way”;
2. “take care of themselves”;
3. “accept difficulties in their child”; and,
4. “answer rather than react to difficult behavior of their child.”

Because parenting stress can contribute to over-reactivity on the part of parents, dealing effectively with stress was an important focus. Parents were also taught how to encourage their child to do meditation exercises at home and how to meditate with their child.

You can find a very informative article on ‘mindful parenting’ at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2730447/

Creating Peace in Your Home for the Holidays

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Dear families,

 

The holidays are filled with stress. Parents are transitioning from work and trying to unwind.  Your children and teens get a “break” but likely have exams to prepare for if they are older.  You may be traveling or having family in, and you likely have a lot of last minute preparations to get done.

Transitions are not only challenging for children. Most adults misbehave during transitions when we have failed to set up realistic expectations or failed to anticipate our needs.

The following bullets are for you to reflect upon during the holiday season….

  • Try unplugging from email and your “to do” list altogether. Genuinely walk away and let it be. When you return, you may be all the more able to delete and purge what no longer feels pressing
  • Be sure to bring yourself to the present entirely by listening and engaging your friends and loved ones
  • Get sleep, breathe deep and take in real food, slowly
  • Step outside for fresh air with your kids and your spouse or by yourself to just stretch your legs
  • Read a good book and keep the television off
  • Seek to help others feel that they matter to you
  • Create a quieter and less rushed home environment. Be less concerned about control and your task list and more connected to your heart and just relaxing into anything loving, joyful or playful

I know it sounds impossible, but your body and your central nervous system are habituated to being all cranked up. No amount of wine, chocolate or television is really going to bring you into a sense of fullness in your heart. Slowing down and noticing all that you are grateful for, being present to connect, take interest and play is what will shift your energy from frenetic to calm connection and care, so you may feel some peace for the holidays.

And, don’t forget to meditate about how to live your life a bit different in 2013 so you are less tense, anxious and stressed! Cut something out. Lower your expectations. Figure out a creative shortcut. Delegate.  Get off your screens as I am vowing to do right now.

Yours,

Dr. Kay

Parenting with Confidence

Monday, August 20, 2012

Children are very intuitive. They become difficult to manage when they sense that their caretaker is not really present. Parenting with Calm Confidence is all about your nervous system!  We have a central nervous system, composed of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Our sympathetic nervous system [SNS] is all about “fight or flight”. It is activated whenever we are reactive and tense, facing stress and challenge.

Unfortunately, most parents are managing their children with their SNS cranked up high, putting parents and children at risk for way to much reactivity. Before you know it, managing your home and children becomes a daily drama of whining, screaming, begging and bargaining. Too much drama! And, children get quite attached and desensitized to the reactivity. Trust me, it is going to drain you more than them….

When you face your day as a parent or even your morning or evening shift, so to speak, how do you prepare yourself mentally and physically for the pure resolve of being present with your children. Breathe deeply for 5 or 10 minutes to a slow count of 5 or 6, in and out, through your nose, prior to getting up to face your day. Calm, slow, intentional breathing to activate your Parasympathetic Nervous System [PNS].  In this manner, you will be like a calm pilot or nurse who has to face challenges with nerves of steel.  Managing children with calm centered energy means “you rock” with centered power.

No distractions, no resentment expressed in body language or sarcasm. Just calm and pure presence as you manage your little ones. I promise that if you are genuinely present, like a nursery school teacher, with a voice and body that says, “I am here to be present.” In this manner, it is easier to manage little ones who know in a millisecond when their caretakers are preoccupied. Give it a try and come down slow, low and matter-of-fact with your commands and directives. No threats, just simple calm commands with long pauses in-between. Use your voice coming down slow and low with less than ten words.  You will be surprised how it is actually your powerful energy delivered straight to the heart and mind of your child, like an umbilical cord enlivened to direct and guide them that WORKS.  No candy, not applause, no bargaining necessary.