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5 Essential Tips to Dodge Toxic Holiday Stress and Enjoy Quality Family Time

beat_holiday_stress_by_slowing_downAre you excited about the upcoming holiday season?

Crisp, cool (or downright freezing cold!) nights. Hayrides. Hot cocoa. Kids singing carols. Family meals. Decorating the Christmas tree. Opening presents.

I love it all so much. And yet…

As the kids get older and have more and more of their own events and activities, our holidays are getting more and more rushed.

Last December we had six – yes, six!! — concerts, plays, and recitals. And only two of my four kids were in school. It’s only going to get crazier.

And a whole lot more stressful, if we let it.

So how do we enjoy the holidays and the end of the year with quality family time — and even set aside time for meditating or reflecting on our blessings and actually being thankful — when everything around us is pushing us to go non-stop for almost two months?

How do we dodge the toxic holiday stress that seems to lurk around every corner this time of the year?

Here’s what we do –

#1 Tell Your Time Where to Go

Just like you tell your money where to go by making a budget, tell your time where to go before other people do it for you.

Have you seen this Seven Big Rocks illustration of Steven Covey’s principle for prioritizing the important things in life?   [Read More…]

101 Fun Things To Do With Kids To Enjoy Everyday Family Life

101 Fun Things To Do With Kids To Enjoy Everyday Family Life - IntroductionOn a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy everyday family life (1 being the least, and 10 the most)?

If you had asked me that question a few years back, I’d have lied. My real answer would have been way too embarrassing to admit.

It’s so easy to get lost in the responsibilities of parenting that we forget to actually enjoy the journey!

We’ve come a long way since. One of the things I’ve learnt along the way is that if you remember to have fun, your day automatically becomes more enjoyable, irrespective of how mundane or stressful it may seem on the outside.

With that in mind, I’ve to put together a monster list of 101 Fun Things To Do With Kids To Enjoy Everyday Family Life. It’s a grab bag of ideas. Pick a few that you think might work for your family and give them a shot. Come back in a few days and pick a few more. And do it until you’re able to look at a perfectly routine, even boring or stressful situation and automatically find joy in it!

OK, we’ve got a lot to cover, so let’s jump right in –  [Read More…]

How to Establish a Morning Routine for Kids That Actually Works

Morning Routine for Kids that Actually Works: IntroductionYou know the easiest way to get the stress out of parenting?

Find the one situation that constantly causes friction and figure out how to make it go smoother.

That’s it. The rest will simply follow suit.

To us, it was the mornings.

Getting an entire family up, dressed, fed and out the door before the sun even comes up could easily be a recipe for disaster (or at least a meltdown or two!) And, I have two kids under the age of 3 that go to two different schools 30 minutes away from our house.

Believe me we have our share of morning meltdowns but I’ve spent some time really working on managing the morning routine for our kids and setting the whole family up to start the day off full of light and happiness rather than whining and misery.

These things have worked really well for our family and hopefully they will help you to start your day off on the right track as well.  [Read More…]

Are You Milking These Scientifically Proven Benefits of Laughter Yet?

Benefits of laughter: IntroductionGosh, do you ever feel drained trying to be a stand up parent all the time?

A few weeks ago, I was feeling really down about my parenting.

Our son was starting daycare soon, and I wanted to make the most of my last few long weekdays alone with him.

But I was tired, and he wasn’t in the mood to nap. So, instead of doing anything fun with him, I was sitting in a mess of toys feeling guilty.

My husband called to let us know he’d be working a bit late, and I unloaded my disappointment in myself.

His advice?

Read him a book, and do something that makes him laugh.

My husband doesn’t read many parenting books, but he’s got wonderful parenting instincts. His two-minute action plan for me (!) was based on a parenting principle that applies to so many situations.

Benefits of Laughter (From the Book Peaceful Parent Happy Kids)I’ve seen the same principle spelled out in Dr. Laura Markham’s Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. This book is a gold mine — it’s on Sumitha’s list of The Only 4 Books You Need to Become a Great Parent. You should read the whole thing, in your copious spare time. :)

But today I want to focus on one lesson from Dr. Markham that really surprised me when I first read it: You and your child can conquer negative emotions using laughter; not just distracting yourselves in the moment, but using the benefits of laughter to heal and grow your mind and heart.

We all know a little about this. When my son is fussing about a diaper change, I can almost always get him grinning again with a big raspberry to the belly.

Laughter can defuse a tense situation, like the dreaded diaper change, and it can distract you from your troubles; I’ve been known to binge-watch TV sitcoms when I’m down.

And studies have shown that laughter isn’t just an escape! Sure, it works better than other distractions, but it has wonderful longer-term benefits, too.

This isn’t a new insight, of course. People have been writing about it for hundreds of years, long before we could describe it in biochemical terms. Seven hundred years ago, in 1413, the Catholic mystic Julian of Norwich wrote extensively about the benefits of laughter.  In 1530, Martin Luther wrote to his friend Jerome Weller with practical advice for times of serious spiritual upset:

Whenever the devil harasses you, seek the company of men or drink more, or joke and talk nonsense, or do some other merry thing.

So today, let’s take a bit of a step back from how to become fine parents and simply take a look at a few of the scientifically proven benefits of laughter that every parent can take advantage of –    [Read More…]

Teenage Alcohol Abuse: One Mom’s Dreaded Reality And How to Protect Our Families

teenage_alcohol_abuse_the_dreaded_callYou know how every single one of us parents dreads the phone call that tells us something is wrong with our kids?

Mine came one evening in May. As I picked up the receiver I noted the caller I.D. revealed it was the eldest of my five children, Nick.

“Hi Nick!”

“Mom, I’m in trouble and I need help.”

That phone call launched a series of events in our lives which could have gone one of two ways; it could have catapulted me (as his mom) into denial and despair, or it could (and, by the grace of God, did) allow me to pull my head out of the sand and work with my son toward a positive resolution.

But it wasn’t quick, and it sure as hell wasn’t easy… in fact, it is probably one of the hardest things our family has ever gone through. Upon reflection, Nick’s problem with teenage alcohol abuse had slowly developed over a five-year period of time.

The “trouble” my son referred to during that May evening ended up being his admission of a day long fight through the physical and emotional repercussions of binge drinking to a point of a three-day blackout. Nick shared with me this wasn’t the first time it had happened to him. In fact, the cycle was becoming a regular occurrence in his life, and he really wanted help to turn things around.

After my initial shock and disbelief, I realized I had only one choice: set aside my own anxiety and shame as a mother for having missed all of the signs put directly in front of my face over the past several years and, instead to invest my energy into learning how to help my twenty-year-old son (at the time, living 1,200 miles from our home) develop a plan to turn his life around.  [Read More…]