Thursday, November 15, 2012

a mother asks how to deal with the Santa Myth

Ok. This sounds stupid, but I keep being put on the spot about this and considering the time of year it’s just going to get worse! My DD is 3.5 and everywhere she goes there’s Christmas stuff. Last year she didn’t really know what it was all about, but now she’s at playschool and she keeps hearing stuff. Not only that, but at stores and with my friends she keeps being asked if “she’s been good this year?” And “what do you want Santa to bring you?” I’ve always prided myself on not lying to her, even if it means life being more difficult, but she’s getting all excited about Santa and Christmas and I’m torn. I don’t want to disappoint her and seem like a Scrooge, but I also feel really bad playing the game. Any thoughts?

First thought is, the question doesn’t sound stupid at all and good for you for following how you feel. The holiday season can be so full of joy, wonder and magic and yet, often when we have small children, it can also be stressful and based in the wrong focus. 3.5 is the perfect time to set the right tone for how you want the future holidays to flow and by setting the right perspective now, you line your child up to feel the wonder and magic and not have it backfire by finding out it doesn’t exist in a few years. Many a child has felt betrayal and lost faith in magic because of the Santa myth and it really doesn’t have to be that way.
I feel the concept of giving gifts at the holidays is simply an extension of the mystical elements of the season. Children love to receive presents (ok, don’t we all) and the joy of both giving and receiving is what the focus should be: Joy. Joy and appreciation. One of the things that always settle wrong with me about the Santa myth is that the appreciation for the giver is missing. It’s like the exchange is never finished when you can’t look at someone and thank them for their thought and consideration. Rather it can turn into a greed fest, with “what next?” being the common phrase. This can spread into how we approach life as well, as if we don’t stop to appreciate all of the wonders life has spread infront of us, we get into a rut of waiting for the next and feeling unsatisfied in each moment.
No matter what your spiritual belief is surrounding the season, there is a physical, magical reality going off that our family always takes part in. The fact that everything is dead, lying cold in the ground and yet life still survives. That a magic cord keeps life generating and that soon life will return again is pretty incredible. Seasons can make us aware of the magic and wonder of the world around us and there is so much to appreciate. No matter what your background, there is always a sense of light and hope. The world offers so many gifts and the exchange of gifts is simply another extension of that. Also, the feeling space/energy of the world always changes in the Christmas season. (Hence the phrase “I feel Christmas-y) Sights, smells, tastes all trigger a warmth and invigorating energy. Santa can sometimes get in the way of truly experiencing all sides of the experience.
Therefore, here’s what I suggest. This is what we have done with our own children and although they talk about Christmas gifts it’s been done in fun. I asked them after receiving your question whether they felt cheated by not being led down the Santa train, and they looked surprised at me and both agreed that they hadn’t missed it at all.
Talk to your daughter about Santa and how he derived from St. Nick. Tell her how long ago there was a man who saw poverty and people who lacked things and decided to share joy and lighten their load on Christmas. Tell her that since then, people have taken up his tradition and at Christmas they remember the joy HE felt by giving without looking for thanks or even without other’s knowing it was him. Be honest with her and tell her that a lot of children are told the he still comes into houses, but you don’t want to lie to her. Also encourage her to not talk about it with friends as they would be sad to hear he wasn’t real, but point out that there is so much magic around, you don’t need to lie about it. Rather you can play the game and she can even pretend if she likes and leave the cookies and milk. Hang the stockings, do the fanfare, but as an imaginary game, just for the fun of it.
If adults start asking her questions you don’t have to take part in it, but you don’t have to make it a big deal. For instance swooping in with replies like “She’s always good.” Or “oh her Dad and I are talking about what we’re giving.” Can divert rather than make it awkward.
It is so sad to see children suddenly “grow out of magic” when they find out there is no Santa Claus. They have been cheated as they have to relearn what they were born knowing: that we live in a world full of miracles and magic is everywhere.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Zoned out 7 year old has too much screen time

What are your thoughts about computer games and how much a child should be on them? My son seems to always be on a game of some sort. The minute he comes home from school I barely get a hello before he’s involved in something on the computer. It’s driving me crazy. If I make a big deal about them he just gets mad and upset, and if I ban them he droops about saying how bored he is and drives me even more crazy. I feel like he’s wasting his life away, when he should be playing. He’s seven next month by the way.

Computer games, and with that I mean Nintendos, Wiis, hand held devices and gosh knows what other electronic gadgets are out there for entertainment for our children, are one of a modern family’s greatest challenges. There’s something about them that always feels off to a parent, as we watch our children become emotionally and sometimes physically charged up by them or simply watch them get into what my children and I call “the zone”, where they seem to disappear almost entirely. However, the way I see it, is that computers and gaming doesn’t have to be a situation of do or don’t, they don’t need banning as such, rather like a lot of things they need shifting in perspective.
We live in a world that relies on computers, quite honestly I don’t know where I would be without mine. Computers have sped up our world, and now we seem to multi task, think and communicate faster than ever before. Our children came purposefully at this time. They choose this new age with all its gadgets and gizmos. Therefore, in some ways, if we full out deny our children a chance to take part in this new, than we hold them back from understanding how others work around them and possibly what they partly came here to experience. However, like you’ve said, it can feel like wasting a life away, zoned out in a different reality.
For me, gaming and computers, also TV if you want to add it to the list, provide an amazing opportunity for us as parents. It’s a great lesson of awareness for ourselves and for our children and communication about how things make us feel is paramount. Life is about balance, and if a child occasionally needs to escape reality and enter a different world via the computer, that’s one thing, but if he sees it as that, and decides that’s what he needs, that’s a different story. Choosing the zone, and feeling your way there is an empowering choice, whereas usually children just drift there out of boredom and not knowing what to do. Ironically, it seems that the more they use computer games as amusement so they aren’t bored, the more bored they get when they aren’t infront of the computer. It’s an addiction and like all addiction, understanding it and admitting it is the first step.
Now, to your son.
First, if he thinks that life is boring when the computer is off, then the computer will have a lot more appeal and he will push harder against not having turned off. If you are determined he has some off time, then you will have more resistance to it being on, and that usually will result in you getting what you don’t want: The computer will be on a lot! Therefore, the place to put the attention isn’t on how to get the computer off, it’s how to make life more creative and exciting for your son, so he gets a sense of how wonderful life can be without the addiction of a game. Shift focus on creating fun and he’ll be off fast enough. Bake together, do crafts together, get a sensory table going, get messy, start going for walks, hikes, go explore, remind yourself of what it’s like to be him and see the world through his eyes, what does he love (other than computer) and see if you can physicalize it. If he likes bugs and science take him to a discovery centre or for a nature walk, get him (AND YOU) to a library or to tours, anything that sparks life and fun. If you want him to live creatively, then get creative.
When you have him having fun away from the screen, then mention to him that you love having fun with him. Tell him how you feel the computer takes him away. Talk to him about the zone, or how it changes the feeling of the house and then ask if you can come up with a deal, about what sort of games he plays and for how long. Get him to talk to you about the games he is playing, ask him about what he learns, find out about his world and what makes him love it so and then come up with a compromise so you are treating his wants with respect and vice versa.
Be the balance not the resistance. Also be honest with him and yourself. My daughters were getting into the zone once and then when I opened up the topic they said, “but mom, what about you and Facebook?” I had to look within myself and realized that yes, sometimes I had zoned out on my newsfeed. So, we talked about it and as a family promised we would do our best to not be zoned out and be more aware of the house. It meant there was no pushing against, simply working together.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Mother of 4 struggling with depression

hello, I have just become a parent for the fourth time and I've been struggling with depression. If you have any advice i would be truly grateful.

I would love to try and help. I have to admit I’m not fully educated on the medical condition of Post Natal Depression, so I have to stress that I’m not offering any medical advice. I can only comment on a few ways to shift perspective, possibly finding relief and moments of parenting joy.
I know how overwhelming having multiple children can be, especially when they are all at a very young age. It seems that your attention is always needed and the beautiful image of a new mother cuddling up to her newborn and spending time gazing in their eyes can seem very far off as you rush from child to child and then try to squeeze in dishes and dinner, let alone see a partner alone for 2 minutes! Within that constant juggling act we can lose a sense of self and start to feel like we’re drowning. You don’t mention the age of your other children, but no matter what, parenting a new born is such a different journey than parenting a toddler, and then again, the journey shifts when we hit school age. Each stage brings their own challenges, but also their own joys, provided we can find them in all the muddle.
Usually, my first advice is to find a moment to connect, to appreciate and go within, finding the calm centre of the real YOU so you can sense answers, but considering 4 kids and one a new born, let’s assume that that seems too much to ask. Without that moment how to find your core centre, so you can start to feel yourself again. For that is the key to it all. So often in those depressing moments we cry out that this isn’t the life we dreamed of, that we had ambitions that we feel we can’t follow anymore, or that we never get anytime, but at the root of it all comes the need to feel connected, to feel part of the flood of wellbeing that is ever flowing, and to feel ourselves, fully ourselves, not a robot in motion. It’s when we feel like we’re unfulfilled, and then start to look at others as the cause of that un-fulfilment so we feel helpless, that we truly sink into despair.
So, YOU. Wonderful, spectacular YOU. You need some expression and some wonderment. Let’s swerve from children for a moment, as really that’s probably what’s going on most of the time for you right now. You don’t have to feel your children have to bring you joy. You don’t have to feel like they are the be all, end all. You don’t have any emotional requirement put upon you. We’re here to feel good, that’s how we connect to our pure, positive, spiritual selves. (That doesn’t mean leave the kids in the house and go for a walk for any readers wondering at my concept of feeling good, it never feels good, deeply good to let others suffer, let’s just keep that clear). Focusing our thoughts, even in imagination can trigger feeling good emotions. We can remind ourselves of lying on a beach in the hot sun on a winter day and we will feel warmed. Take a moment to imagine a place that you love, even your partner’s arms in bed. Hold that moment in your thoughts, and don’t let any negative voice tell you that it doesn’t exist any longer since “the kids”. Life works in cycles, and the universe recognizes how we feel. By imagining things, scenarios, and moments that make your heart feel better you are training it to feel better and revel in new moments that feel good. Does that make any sense? Therefore start to compile a tool box of feeling good thoughts, jokes that made you smile, memories of when you first fell in love, a trip to…anywhere. That thought will trigger a feeling better emotion, starting to end the barrage of thoughts that can build up negative steam.
The same things go for appreciation. Now it’s too much to ask a tired mom to lie in bed before sleep and make a list of things you really appreciate (but if you can squeeze it in, great). However, there are moments of things to appreciate daily. Try to make it your mission to appreciate as many things as possible, and when you appreciate them, don’t just tick them off a list, let the appreciation be pushed a little bit to the point of your heart lifting slightly, or until you give a little gasp. If one thing doesn’t work, look for something else. It can be that first cup of coffee, seeing a sunset, lying on your pillow (aren’t pillows wonderful, really?), a comfortable chair, your favourite sweater, a dish your mother gave you, your friend’s wacky laugh. Throughout the day take a split second back over everything and see if you can appreciate it rather than run past in, or get upset about it. It sounds impossible at the start, but soon you will notice all sorts of things that you couldn’t have before… and yes, they will involve your children.
Here’s the funny thing about children. They mirror how we feel, especially when they are younger. They match us, rather than try to help us. When you think of being in an argument, it takes a lot of practice to not match the other person emotionally. If someone is mad at you, it’s easier to fall into getting mad back at them, rather than walk away. Young children react like that too, so if life’s overwhelming to begin with, often our children feel it, get overwhelmed and then it really does go into a spiral. When you start to take a moment to appreciate each moment than there’s a feeling shift. When you start to feel a spiral, change the feeling space, grab everyone and go for a walk, put on some uplifting music that has always made you feel better, eat something that you love, leave the housework and play dress up with your children, even ask your kids to tickle you if you think it would make you laugh. The children will react to the new feeling space you set and they will then mirror it. Life gets easier.
Young children sense your pain and when I say they mirror it doesn’t mean they don’t want to help, they just don’t understand how to. It’s not their job to make you feel better, that’s no one’s job, but it will feel better to involve them. Tell them you’re trying to make yourself feel better, and you are looking for things to feel good about, ask their help. It’s a great car game to look for things to be thankful for, or things that make us feel good. We also learn a lot about our children when we hear what does it for them. Share with them, join in with them. They can also help with the other overwhelming parts of life by putting away toys, or watching the baby, they can set tables, or turn off tv’s. Children thrive in a group effort, and if they've been feeling your pain, they will want to help, if you suggest how they can. Your baby might seem to hold up the ship a bit, but if you take midnight feeds and focus on the fact that it’s the only one on one time to connect to them, then take a soft moment to remind yourself that babies have just come and therefore are spiritually connected almost all of the time. They let us know when they aren’t! Appreciate how simple things are, how clear for them, and let yourself sink into how they feel, in the warmth of your arms. Count his/her toes, kiss their hair, and watch their movements, you were like that at one point to.
It’s a question of little bit, by little bit, moment by moment. It doesn’t need to add up, we never need to fully know where it’s going, but when we appreciate the little things, even the fact that our bodies can grow other bodies inside of ourselves, and that we create new organs to feed and nurture it, and then give birth, and then provide nutrition for it, then our truest parts of ourselves scream out that Yes, we are part of something beautiful and wondrous. We don’t need to figure it out, we just need to feel a bit better and than a bit better to let life flow through and balance/wellbeing to be restored. Your children chose you before they came. Not because they knew you would be super mom and do everything perfect straight off, but because you are YOU. They know you as you and they knew the experiences you could create TOGETHER. They knew that together you would take each other to new places and new growth and that’s what this whole process is all about. You are doing exceptionally well! You are doing great, being YOU! Even just by saying I want to do better you offer the request up and it will be heard, you just have to feel your way there, feeling better little bit by little bit, appreciating and savoring.
I hope this helps a little bit. Please let me know, and if you have any questions, or want to discuss anything at anytime, just write. You aren’t alone in this, we’re all in this together. We raise children for the same generation and together we are working for feeling better options. Be well and thrive.

Friday, November 2, 2012

2 year old stages of "I want" and tantrums

My son just turned 2 and in the last week he's changed so much! He's learned the concepts of "mine" and "I want it" and has strong reactions when he can't have certain things. He has also learned to hit a bit in anger. Any tools you can offer? Any inspiring thoughts for my moments of despair?

The age two has such a bad reputation. With two years of experience behind observing and creating opinions around things, a child suddenly starts to understand how things work in the world and they want to be more involved. It can often seem unfair to them how we’re in charge of what they can have, what they can’t, and when they can or can’t have something. Quite honestly, your son sounds advanced if he’s fed up with observing already. He sounds like he came eager to take part in the world and being part of the things in your day to day living. With his demands must come with a certain amount of understanding and that very well may be your key.
In my book I call 1-2 years old the Interpretation stage as within that time we take what we’ve observed and interpret how and what it means to us as children and as humans. Therefore, when he asks for something, he’s interpreted that he wants it, and he’s observing how he’s going to get it. You can help him explore differently, because when he’s exploring stuff (just like when he was smaller and would explore the cupboards and the floorboards as he crawled around), he’s interpreting more and growing more, which is what he’s probably wanting. Often people sneer at the power of choices, and many a time I’ve had people tell me I give our children too many choices, but they work. When we listen to what our children want, and if they really can’t have it, we can distract them with a simple redirection of “well, no you can’t have that, BUT you can have this or this, which would you like?” Suddenly, our children can feel part of decisions and how the day is going to work. Same goes with the cry of “I want…” When our children say they want something, they are working for the feeling of what it would feel like if they had a certain thing. We can empower the want by finding something else that will give the same exciting satisfaction, but not the thing we don’t want them to have. For instance, when our son was 2 he loved the blow dryer. He’d tried it out once when my husband was drying something and after that, he wanted it passionately. He then kept finding it, and trying to plug it in. DANGEROUS! It wasn’t a question of letting him have it, but he would flip if we said no. So, first we found a toy one, which was a little help as long as the other one was hidden, but then we let him discover vacuuming. I had a little vacuum that didn’t work too well, and when I vacuumed with the larger one, he followed me with the other. It was the same sensation of the blowdryer, and yet he wasn’t plugging it in, and he was helping me, taking part in the house and doing what grown-ups do. I’ve also notice, that when children are involved on this level, their drive to become involved on this level diminishes, it’s no longer the challenge to overcome, so they head back to their toys or play satisfied.
With the hitting in anger, don’t take it personally. It probably relates to the frustration of not being able to take part in decisions within the day. Before an I want, or a flip out, start involving him with simple things. (“Do you want to wear this shirt, or this one?”) or even asking him to help for simple tasks, like shovelling snow (if you’re doing that yet) or raking leaves. You can also try copying play, such as getting him to wash toy dishes while you do the real ones, or a toy broom. Try to grab a few times in the day where you play with him at a game he likes or he can pick, so you enter his world where he has control and then in your stuff you’re in charge. It means you can make life a team effort, rather than one based on control and hierarchy.
Yes, a child changes when they hit two, and it seems impossible for them to want to be part of life so much for what seems like such a young age. But sometimes a spirit comes who wants to grow fast and they absorb things quickly to get ahead. Sometimes we have to make the leap and just see them as a go-getter and it means treating them a little older than the calendar says we should. That means empowering them a bit and then explaining to them why we say no about other things. (Another example was when our son wanted to play with the blender. I told him no, and then explained how it could cut his hand off if it turned on. After he understood my no, he never asked again.) When we explain why we say no, rather than just sounding like we do it randomly, our children respect them more. They know about getting hurt, when we apply the same concept to things that COULD hurt them, they suddenly don’t want it. Saying no to things like going to the park, or having cake for breakfast can need more of a distraction, although tummy ache is a good try.
Talk with him, play with him and respect where he’s coming from. At the same time, don’t feel you have to give in, just explain why you are saying no and distract onto the next best thing.
Hope this helps. Keep me posted on everything and if you want to chat more or give more information than just say. Be well, happy and thrive.

But what about tantrums?

We tend to feel like our children need to be connected all the time for us to be doing a good job, but really, at the root of it all, it’s not our job to get our kids connected. When they are disconnected from their true selves we can offer options and jumping off points that will help them feel better, but if they don’t want to go there yet, we can love them and hold them, and know their pain, but they have to make the leap. It provides them with the early experience to be aware of how they feel. Tantrums are a great way our children express their offness. Therefore, when your son has a tantrum, and you can’t give in because he really can’t have what he wants and distraction won’t work, it’s because he’s hurting so much from the disconnection, he can’t see his way out. Now often it might not actually be from the thing he’s flipping out about. Often that has come from the emotional journey all day and the law of attraction has brought the scenario to the full blown out state, so therefore it’s not just a question of a quick fix to what he’s flipping out about, it reassuring him that everything is alright, safe and secure and getting him back into the feeling of wellbeing.
Tantrums are a hard one as there’s no generalized rule. It depends on the journey and his build up to it and what he needs.
My favourite tool is to quiet yourself when he’s flipping out, close your eyes and try to feel what he’s going through as you hold him in your arms or sit beside him, depending what he lets you do. Suddenly you can get a sense of what it’s about and the solution falls into place. Also, hold an image or feeling in your inner self of who you know your son really is, that way he can sense it and feel his way back. Not only will the energy shift in the room, but you will be connecting yourself, providing him with the example and also opening yourself up to what’s needed in the moment.
I find that being aware of energy is important in a tantrum moment, as it becomes easy for us to fall into the same feeling space as our children are in. We can get panicky and disconnected. In order for them to feel their way back it’s important for us to stand in a different feeling space, if that makes sense. We can be calm and secure, providing love and warmth, or if it feels right, create a feeling of lightness to balance things out. Often a change of scene is key too, as it shifts the energy that the child is in and pushes the reset button on life. Many a time I’ve rushed a child outside, carrying them in my arms as they flipped out, only to have them connect again in fresh air. I’ve also taken them just to another room and it seems to shift perspective in how they feel. The build up disappears. If we sense that distraction is needed but it won’t work, we can put on a favourite movie or music in another room, which will create a different energy, to see if our children can choose to feel better by joining it.
It’s taken me a long time to come to realize that it’s about feeling spaces and not words and when our children sense a different feeling option they often are willing to quit the one they are in and jump on board. They usually can shift pretty quick when it’s in their feeling vicinity as they don’t have some sense of having to ride the course of a mood like we do as adults. They feel the better feeling option and will jump in quickly. Becoming aware of how we feel is such a valuable tool for life, so it’s important to provide them with the opportunity to feel better rather than something to make them feel better, which so often we are tempted to do.