Doing Life Together

ID-10053935-2A reader asks:

As much as I love to shop on-line, I prefer to tackle the masses during Christmas and head to the malls and store. My question is, “How can I shop with two little ones (ages two and four) and remain sane?” I will have to take them with me but really want to give it a try.


Holiday shopping can be done with young children. It just takes a bit of planning and a careful eye. I remember the time I lost my three-year-old in a clothing rack. I started to panic and then realized he thought the store was a great place for hide and seek. Lesson learned—explain the rules ahead of time!

Here are my     tips:

1) Before you leave the house, talk about what you are going to do and what is expected of them.

2) I would include a small reward for following directions to be established before you leave. It can be something simple like playing on a playground, listening to a CD in the car, playing a game when you return home, etc.

3) Remember that shopping for grown-up presents is boring for kids so keep your trips short. You may have to make multiple trips rather than knock it all out in a day.

4) Also remember to feed your kids before you leave home. Food does wonders to cure irritability! Take plenty of snacks and drinks with you because tiny tummies empty quickly. You can take a break, grab a table or sitting space and refresh!

6) Add a small toy or pop-up book to your bag in order to divert their interest while roaming the stores. I like this better than playing with your phone!

7) In terms of security, I’m not big on the leash idea but you need to have some way of keeping those little ones close to your side—whether that’s putting them in a cart, holding hands, shopping with a friend, etc.

8) When you get to your shopping destination, don’t wander. Know where you need to go and which gifts you are purchasing. You might want to research your purchases on-line before you head out to stores in order to have a better idea of best price and availability.

9) When you shop, buy a gift that involves the children. For example, let them help with buying a toy for a relative or toy for the family pet. Periodically, remind the children of the small reward that will come at the end.

10) Finally, pay attention to their mood. When it starts to deteriorate, it’s time to go home. Head for the car and pat yourself on the back!

Press-Pause-mediumJoanne looked at the chocolate-covered donut in her hand. As she took her first bite, she wondered, “Why am I eating this? I”m not really hungry, but the plate of goodies sitting by the office coffee pot just looks good. Besides, my boss is making me crazy!

But is there more to the story?

For most of us, YES. We eat out of emotions. When something is eating us, we eat!

All too often overeating is triggered by stress, boredom, loneliness, anger, depression and other emotions. During the holidays, these emotions can ramp up for all kinds of reasons–stress, family, finances, etc.

So the importance of learning to deal with emotions without food is a significant skill that will greatly serve long term weight control.  The key is to identify our eating triggers and respond to them without food.

An exercise that often helps is to take a sheet of paper and write headings of SITUATION, THOUGHT, EMOTION and BEHAVIOR. Then every time you eat something when you are not hungry, fill out this sheet.

What was the situation (e.g., with a friend, sitting alone in front of the TV, arguing with my boss, family conflict, etc.)?

What was the thought that ran through your mind (e.g., This is never going to be better, I can’t believe what a jerk he is right now, I hate myself, etc.)?

What was the emotion (e.g., anxious, upset, anger, frustration, etc.)?

What was the behavior (e.g., ate the donut, binged on candy, second helping, etc.)?

Once you track your eating like this for a week or so, you will probably see a pattern. For example, I eat when I am bored or I overeat every time I am with Sue. Then you can make some changes by being more intentional when those cues or triggers present.

Research shows that people who can track their eating like this, demonstrated a better rate of long-term weight loss maintenance than those who simply diet and/or exercise and don’t address behavioral and emotional issues.  Chronic overeaters and “emotional eaters” can be significantly helped by learning new behavioral skills like this one.

If you really feel stuck in this area of overeating, seek help from a licensed counselor or psychologist in your area. Also, take a look at my book, Press Pause Before  You Eat. This holiday season, don’t let what’s eating you, lead you to overeat!

BFS_Depression_LG_2It’s the most wonderful time of the year….well, not for everyone.

Holidays can be difficult if you struggle with your mood and family issues. However, there are proactive ways to keep your spirit bright.

1) Don’t overspend. Avoid being caught up in all the deals, discounts and e-shopping. Financial problems can be a real downer when those bills start rolling in. So curb the spending. Have a budget and stick to it.

2) Moderate your eating and drinking. Too much alcohol can bring on depression. Too much sugar and fat make you tired!

3) Examine your expectations. If you  have family problems, they don’t disappear during the holidays. Sometimes they worsen. So have a plan as to how you will deal with your family. What is realistic?

4) Set boundaries and limits so you are not overwhelmed with stress. Taking on too much and running around with no down time can lead to a mood crash.

5) Don’t isolate. Force yourself to go out, to attend holiday parties, church activities and community events. Being with people prevents loneliness.

6) If you know you are going to have a tough time, get support. For example, if you have been sober for months, attend AA during holidays. Don’t neglect your meetings.

7) Reach out to someone else. The best way to combat a down mood is to do something for someone else. Serve at a soup kitchen, volunteer to usher at church, participate in caroling at a nursing home, etc.

8) Refuse to be the grinch. Change your negative talk to positive talk. Force yourself to see the upside of life, not the downside. Grab hold of those negative thoughts and turn them around by being thankful.

9) Focus on the true meaning of the season. It’s hard to be down when you read the Christmas story and meditate on what Christ did for you. Get away from the commercialism and spend time with God.

10) Enjoy the moment. Sometime we get so caught up in what needs to be done, we lose the moment.  Let go of perfectionism and savor moments by your tree, with a loved one or walking in a beautiful park.

ID-100101921Are you dreading that trip in the car to grandparents?

Is the hype of the holidays overstimulating your children?

Too  much sugar, too little sleep?

Try these 6 tips:


1) Routines and rituals: Try to keep as many going as you can. Even when you travel, insist on a regular bedtime. Take their favorite toy, stuffed animal or blanket for reassurance and familiarity. I f possible, make naps a priority and plan around them. Whatever you can do to approximate their normal schedule will help.


2) Choose TV and videos carefully. Pick shows and videos that are calming and present the true meaning of Christmas. If you can record shows, bypass commercials so that the constant barrage of toys is minimized. Limit time in front of screens and take your kids out to exercise and work off some of their excitement and energy.


3) Insist on healthy eating despite the extra snacks. Prepare meals versus grabbing fast food on the run. Allow special treats but monitor how many are consumed.


4) Inform your kids regarding activities. Tell them where you are going and what is expected in terms of their behavior. Ahead of time, discuss rewards for appropriate behavior rather than waiting to discipline for acting out.


5) Keep as many family traditions as possible as these are comforting to children.


6) Laugh as a family. The more fun and laughter in a home, the less stressed everyone will be.


Notice that all of these tips focus on keeping routines, eating well and getting rest—three known ways to help a child with his or her behavior. If you provide these basics, the extra stress of the holidays will go better for all of you.