Parenting on Purpose

Parenting on Purpose

Back To School Help For Reducing Stress

posted by srballantine


cartoon_girl_with_blank_notebookKids today suffer far more stress and burn out than you did when you were their age. While no life is completely stress-free, too much stress is as damaging to your kids as it is to you. When your kids are stressed, it’s hard for your life to be peaceful as well.

Stress is part of your life even during happy times such as weddings, graduations, or even parties. This sort of stress is positive in nature but must be balanced nonetheless.

Summer vacation is often a relaxed time for kids, filled with lots of fun activities and time for respite. Now that the school year is about to start (or maybe even has started), kids are already starting to feel the pressure, stress, and anxiety that so often accompanies the school year.

It’s important that you avoid minimizing the impact of stress in your child’s lives. Long-term stress has serious mental and physical health consequences, including an effect on their ability to concentrate. Stress even increases kid’s risk for anxiety disorders and clinical depression.

Parents can help their kids by recognizing when their stress levels get too high. You can also help them incorporate stress-busting habits into their lives. Not only will these tools help them throughout their K-12 experiences, but they will be able to take advantage of these tools when they go on to college and into the workforce.

First, as much as you want your kids to tell you when they’re feeling stressed, they won’t always do so. Some kids just don’t even know how to recognize what stress feels like. Others may not feel like confiding in you even if they told you everything in the past. They may be trying to solve things on their own. Some may even feel they are too “grown up” to need your help.

If you keep your eyes open to changes in their behavior, you can help your kids identify when they are stressed and how that feels. Being able to recognize the feeling is the first step in being able to shift it.

Signs of stress in your children can include changes in behavior such as withdrawing from activities they used to enjoy, hiding out in their room, or being more grumpy or sad than usual. Even a change in posture or less attention to physical appearance could be indicators.
There may be physical signs as well. Are your children losing or gaining weight? Complaining about head or stomachaches? These are physical symptoms of too much stress.

When you notice signs of stress, encourage your children to check in with their Internal Guidance System. Are they feeling happy or less than happy,and what are they wanting? This will not only help them identify if they’re stressed, but it will help them discern between too much stress and the good stress that is related to excitement or challenge-related nervousness.

Their IGS will also help guide them on how to handle their stress best. What works for you may not work as well for them.

That being said, here are some suggestions for keeping stress at bay, and reducing it if it does get to be too much:

1. Get out! Getting fresh air and sunshine is wonderful to reduce stress and lift your spirits. This can be active time or a time of quiet, a few minutes in your own backyard, or an afternoon hike. Encourage your kids to be active!

2. Maintain healthy eating and drinking habits. When you feel stressed, it’s common to grab a quick jolt of sugar or caffeine, but during stressful periods it is even more important to take care of your body by giving it good nutrition and plenty of water.Kids also need good nutrition to feel good.

3. Be real. The online world may be fun, but people generally post the good stuff they are doing so it may seem that “everyone” is more with it than you are, gets more done, and is generally just having a better life than you are.

4. Plan for fun. People tend to schedule their work, but you should let fun fit in wherever. By planning in some fun time, your kids will be less stressed. Raise their vibrations on a regular basis and recognize that this is an important part of being a healthy person.

5. Nighttime rituals. Everyone needs sleep, especially teenagers. As much as they will want to sleep until noon, school schedules don’t generally work with that pattern. Encourage your kids to get to sleep early enough so their bodies and minds have enough time to get the rest they need.

By establishing a nighttime routine, they will be able to relax and fall asleep more readily. Writing in a gratitude journal is one great part of a bedtime routine, preferably an old-fashioned one with pen and paper since the lights from computers, phones, and tablets can disrupt sleep patterns.

With healthy stress reducing habits and regularly checking in with their IGS, kids will be able to handle the important things that come their way. Not only that, they will be able to determine when they need a break and what tools work best for them to keep their stress at a healthy level.

Your thoughts?
© 2014. Sharon Ballantine. All Rights Reserved.

Helping Children Through Sadness

posted by srballantine



Bigstock photos

Bigstock photos

There are times in life when you’re faced with sadness. It happens to everyone. Children are certainly not immune from experiencing unhappy events. As a parent, you can help your children cope with and work through their feelings in healthy ways.

Humans experience a wide range of emotions and there are a lot of names for these emotions. It isn’t that the emotions are good or bad; they just are; yet, how you feel as a result of those emotions can be described as feeling happy or excited or feeling sad or angry.

As a child, you’d naturally gravitate towards the things that feel good, but you didn’t necessarily know how to deal with the strong negative emotions that are part of life. If you envision a pendulum with extreme joy on one end and utter heartbreak on the other end of the swing, then you can better understand emotions for a child.

For most adults, the emotional pendulum doesn’t swing to the extremes very often. You may spend more time in the mid-range of emotions.

Children are different. They experience the extreme ends of the pendulum swing, sometimes very quickly swinging from one mood to the other completely, bypassing many emotions in the middle. The cause of strong negative emotions may seem to be quite small and insignificant to you.

Kids also can experience major loss, whether it is a friend moving away, an older sibling going away to college, parents going through divorce, or the death of a beloved pet. Whether or not you think the child’s reaction is appropriate to the situation is irrelevant in these cases. In moments like this, the emotion for them is real, and it is big.

Rather than focusing on being able to identify what the feeling is or where it is on the emotional pendulum exactly, it is important for kids simply to recognize how they feel. Ask yourself — do they feel good or do they feel bad?

Once your children are able to recognize how they are feeling, you can help them deal with the emotion, and the issue behind the emotion. It is important to allow children to experience negative emotions and sometimes you just have to let them feel it, even if it is hard for you as a parent to see your child in pain.

You don’t want to just ignore the feeling and hope it will go away. It probably won’t. On the other hand, the more you focus on feeling sad and the longer you stay in that vibration, the more opportunities to feel sadness will come your way.

One thing you can do to help as a parent is to learn to recognize the signs in your child that the intense emotional period is waning. Then you can coach your kids to discuss how they are feeling. By encouraging them to check in with their feelings as you talk with them, you can help them learn to shift their emotional pendulum so it starts to swing back to the positive side.

But even if you’re handling your own grief over a situation, remember to tell your children that feeling sad is OK and that’s it’s a normal human reaction to bad situations. Give them all the support you can, and spend as much time with them as possible. Just be wary of signs that indicate that your kids aren’t handling grief as they should, such as acting out at home and at school, an extended period of depression, seeing behaviors that are those of children younger than their actual age (regression), or loss of sleep and appetite. These behaviors could indicate that professional help may be necessary, if they last for any length of time.

But usually, some care, understanding and allowing children to express their grief will be all kids need to bounce back. Even when it comes to emotions, kids can be quite resilient.

Your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved.


Helping Kids Know Why They Do Things

posted by srballantine

Don'T KnowEach of us spends our lives doing things that start from our place of being motivated. We create things that enhance us, do menial tasks that structure our lives and everything in between. But are we moving through life in a deliberate way that is helping meet our goals? Are we following others or fostering our individuality? Are we making our best choices? And don’t we sometimes wonder why we make the choices we do?

Your children learn about life and motivation to a certain extent from you, so it is important that they become aware of what motivates them and why.

By becoming aware of why they do things, they will become aware of what is true for them and what their inner motivation is which will guide them in making deliberate and conscious choices as they mature and grow.

You can teach your kids to look internally starting at a young age by helping them ask questions of themselves before they make choices or decisions. This helps them be aware of why they are choosing something. A question you can ask a young child may simply be; why do you want to do this? Their answers may be, because it looks fun, sounds fun, my friend wants me to, I don’t actually want to, I have no idea, etc.

Their answers will be simplistic when they are very young but will grow in complexity as they age. There aren’t any right or wrong answers; only those which help them know why they’re choosing what they are choosing, and clarify what they really want.

An older child can ask themselves broader questions like:

~ If I do this, how will I benefit?

~ If I do this, will it take me closer to my goals?

~ Is this who I am?

~ Do I really want to do this?

~ Will I learn something?

~What are the possible consequences?

Asking ourselves questions generally require we answer them, and we at least have a chance to put some thought into our actions.

This practice will teach your kids to discern what is right for them. It will help them know their own truth and at least have the choice to follow what their inner voice is saying. It will guide them in asking powerful questions, which can instill a high degree of clarity. Knowing why we do things holds the power to making conscious choices in our lives.

What are your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved.



Guiding As Opposed To Pushing Your Kids

posted by srballantine


Bigstock photos.

Bigstock photos.

As a parent, you want what is best for your children. Even before they’re born, most people have some preconceived notions of what their children’s lives will be like. You may speculate about their future, but you generally envision something positive. You think of a life that is “better” than your own. As your children grow, you work hard with them, guiding them towards that vision that you have for them — even if they don’t always share that vision.

So when does parental guidance become pushing your children towards something they don’t want? How, why, and when do you cross the line? More importantly, how can you recognize your behavior before you actually cross the line, giving yourself a chance to modify your actions?

Some parents see their children following in their career footsteps or taking over a family business. Others envision their children being the first to graduate from college or even high school. For other families, the picture they have for their kids is about having their own families with a spouse and children.

None of these pathways are wrong, but what if your children want lives that are quite different from the ones you have planned for them? Will you be able to accept their decisions and guide them to success on their terms? Or will you only support and guide them if they meet your expectations?

The best parental guidance you can give is to steer your children towards what brings them joy. By paying attention to their reactions from the youngest age, you will have a good picture of what they like and do not like. You can gently steer them towards things they enjoy and encourage them to try other activities at the same time. In order to develop their own Internal Guidance System, they must have a variety of experiences and learn what pleases them and what doesn’t.

You can push for them to experiment with different activities, but you should also recognize that even young children have an inner sense of what is right for them. This may be quite different from what was right for you as a child.

If your children really don’t want to participate in some activity that you are encouraging, take a few moments to check in with your own Internal Guidance System. What is your motivation for this activity?

Are you encouraging or even pushing your child to do something because you enjoyed it? Because it is expected? Is it because it is the “obvious” choice?

Maybe you think it will be “good for them.” Or perhaps they enjoyed this the year before. Maybe the neighbor kid is doing it and so it is convenient for the parents to carpool.

There are so many reasons you could encourage your children to take this class, play that sport, learn an instrument, get the right job, or date a person. By taking the time to listen to your own IGS and pay attention to your children’s reactions, you can be the parent you want to be. You want to be the person who guides, rather than push your children through joy-filled childhoods towards joy-filled adult lives.

Share your thoughts?

© 2014.  Sharon Ballantine.  All Rights Reserved



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