The easing up of lock down brings with it a mix bag of emotions for all of us, some excitement and relief, others apprehension and tension.
The problem as in everything in life is that we are ruminating on the past or fearful of the future, neither of which exist. We need to bring our attention back onto the here and now. I call this Present Parenting and its something that requires some practice and effort, not because it’s unnatural and we have to learn how to be more present, but because we’ve formed the habit of Auto Pilot Parenting, which is not natural but an unconscious coping mechanism in response to today’s busy world. We just have to remember how to naturally be, which is what we will do through the following exercises.
Think of an activity you would like to try out for this ‘Present Practising Activity’. For me, cooking is a good activity to practise being ‘Present’.
Pick something stimulating or a bit challenging, this will keep you interested and focused on the task at hand for longer.
Choose a time when you are by yourself to start with, it’s easy to get distracted when our children are around.
Now go and do it. If it’s exercise, get up and go for a run, even if it’s just up and down your stairs for five minutes. Try not to think of something that you’ll have to wait to do such as taking up a new hobby like knitting. Of course, this would be a great present practising activity to do but not if you haven’t got any wool or knitting needles as that’ll become your excuse to put this exercise off until they arrive tomorrow. As we know, tomorrow never comes. Whatever you choose, do it now. Not later or tomorrow, this is a Present Practising Activity—the time to do it is now.
As you engage in this activity, stay focused on what you are doing and feeling in each moment. You may hear that annoying little voice in your head telling you, ‘This is stupid, stop wasting time, you’re too busy, there’s lots of more important things you should be doing’. But don’t let it bully you into unconsciousness. Stay present!
When cooking, I get absorbed in what I‘m doing, I need to concentrate to prevent chopping a finger off or burning myself.
I stay engaged by choosing to cook different dishes each time to challenge myself and keep me present, if I wander off mentally, I could ruin my evening meal, so I focus on the task at hand. This way, I experience the different tastes, textures, and smells, and I’m not thinking of anything else except what I’m doing, making it also therapeutic, as any worries are forgotten. Time seems to fly by in this flow state. Then once we practise feeling in the flow in new activities we enjoy, we know we can experience this day to day in general too.
If you can’t think of a specific activity to practise being present in, and don’t like cooking, then try practising while having a bath. Feel the warm water surround you, notice the sparkling bubbles floating on the surface and the scent of the soap. Feel your skin wet and soapy, and take in the full experience of having a bath. Luxuriate in this refreshing experience. How often do you bath without thinking about these things or without really enjoying the experience?
That’s because when bathing, we are usually somewhere else in mind, and instead of relaxing in the present moment and enjoying the pleasurable experience, we take it for granted, and it becomes another Auto Pilot chore.
Anything we do often tends to end up this way. We become desensitised by its familiarity.
To appreciate the little things and stop our minds from wandering off on a rampage of doom and gloom, we just need to stay in the here and now, the only place we can ever really be!
Don’t forget you can get a- FREE 35-minute hypnotherapy anxiety relief down load, simply by signing up to our Happy Childcare Newsletter now (you’ll get invited to do so each time you visit our site and we’d love to have you in our club!)
If Cabin Fever has set in due to Covid-19 lock down, then relax and take 2 minutes out of your day for some much needed #UTime and watch this short video to ease your mind.
The most proactive thing we can do to influence our children is to be a positive role model for them to follow and for this we need to behave appropriately ourselves, which can often be challenging when our children are pushing us to our limits and triggering our angry buttons. Particularly now when we can’t seem to escape.
Affirmations are a great aid in lifting up moods, releasing tension and creating confidence.
For fun try this little exercise now.
Say three times with a big smile on your face;
‘I feel good.’
‘I feel good.’
‘I feel good.’
And feel how good that feels.
You can literally feel how good that feels, can you not?
USING AFFIRMATIONS WITH OUR CHILDREN
And affirmations can be most beneficial and helpful for our children too!
Where negative statements can be accepted as true in our children’s mind, so too can positive statements. We call these Affirmations, and they can be used to counteract and overcome a negative, unhelpful belief, or reaffirm something wanted, bringing about positive thoughts and feelings. They’re positive statements said as if they are already true.
While saying it, we simply can’t, but not feel good. We may feel a bit silly saying them at first, but children are less self-conscious. They will find affirmations a fun way to program their minds and to plant and grow positive suggestions in their subconscious. But what’s really great is if they can accept these positive suggestions while young, then there will be less reprogramming to be done as they get older.
To encourage this habit, they need to think of a positive statement in the present tense that they can relate to. The language needs to be simple, using words they would use in everyday speech and that’s appropriate for their understanding. If too complex, they’ll be less likely to understand or take the statements on board. It’s better they choose their own affirmations they feel comfortable with saying, these can be written if the child is old enough, to compliment and reinforce the verbal affirmation, but are best said aloud repeatedly.
They need to be short, simple, positive, uplifting, motivating, and believable. Such as; ‘I am now learning more and more every day.’
Whenever they encounter difficulties, we can try and encourage them to repeat to themselves these positive, affirming, statements;
‘I can do it!’
‘Anything is possible.’
REPETITION IS KEY
Repetition is key to affirmations and the more they practise using positive affirmations, the easier they get and the better they start to feel about themselves and their capabilities.
This probably won’t surprise you to know, but while children are speaking and thinking positively about themselves, it’s impossible for them to think negatively, and then fear, worry, anxiety, anger, and frustration disappear (Same for us grownups too!).
This is useful if they are struggling in some area, such as learning how to read, instead of listening to their self-defeating mental chatter, they can replace it with positive self-talk and could say;
‘I enjoy learning how to read, reading is fun, and I am now finding it easier and easier to read.’ We can clearly understand how this approach is more helpful than what children usually say such as;
‘I can’t read, I hate reading, it’s hard.’ Convincing themselves with their own words that they cannot read, not realising that they are the ones holding themselves back. Children confuse lack of experience and confidence in something, such as reading, as a lack of ability, and believe they do not, cannot, and will never be able to do it. Any mistakes they encounter only reinforce this, knocking their confidence further.
Giving our children tools and techniques such as using ‘affirmations’ gives them coping mechanisms and preventative tools to cope, before they need them.
As a society, we don’t tend to address our children’s mental health until it really demands attention, at this point, we are usually quite late in the intervention process.
Especially when it comes to anxiety. We think they’ll get over it, grow out of it, etc… but it builds and builds until it becomes an explosive, volatile, emotional bomb, too hot for us to handle!
THE POWER IS IN OUR HANDS
How we react and respond in the heat of them moment makes a huge impact on our childrens well -being.
Think for a moment of the most, angriest, anxious, uptight, on edge person you have ever known.
Now try to recall how that person made you feel when in their company.
I bet you didn’t feel relaxed and at ease.
You probably also felt anxious and on edge around them.
You can feel this negative energy. Like a contagious virus, it spreads to others.
Likewise, positive, calm, relaxed, and happy people spread those feel-good, healthy feelings too.
What kind of feelings are you sharing with your child, and how do you think they feel as a result?
If you haven’t already then, to unwind and de stress watch this affirmations video that I’ve created to help you, and allow those images and words to wash over you like a sea of tranquillity. Watch it at least twice a day for the next 30 days and you’ll start to feel a lot calmer and at ease.
And if you would like to learn more about Present Parenting or are still having any issue’s managing your child’s unwanted behaviour, you may like to read my book, The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting.
Available from Amazon and all good book stockists now for pre-order along with my other book The Confident Parent’s Guide to Raising a Happy, Healthy & Successful Child (Kindle edition available to down load now).
Stay Powerful, Stay Proactive and most importantly Stay Present,
Happy 14th Birthday Son, we’re sure this will be one you won’t forget (lock down 2020!)
We are so proud of the young man that you’ve become I don’t think any parent could wish for a better Son than you, your love and respect shines through in all that you do and your polite and caring personality makes us so proud to be your parents.
We have to thank you Dylan. You were easy from the start.
Easy conception, easy pregnancy, easy birth and easy to love.
I also want to thank you for making me a more ‘Present Parent’.
First time around as a new mum everything’s new and frightening. You just don’t really know what to expect or know what you are doing?
It’s a learning process full of doubts, tears and fears!
So caught up in dirty nappies, sleepless nights and parenting anxiety, it’s hard to enjoy those first few years as a new mum.
But by the second child most of us are feeling a bit more confident, but alas, sadly for some, complacent.
You taught me how to enjoy being a mum. And how to appreciate every minute as special. And you always make us smile!
Your love made ordinary moments most would take for granted as precious and unique.
You made me notice them.
You made me present to the joy of being a parent and of being your Mum. A privilege I’ll always hold dear. Such as the time when you were just three years young. I was taking you to the Dentist, when as we were holding hands and crossing the road out of the blue you said;
‘I love you Mum.’
I can still remember to this day thinking that this was such a good moment in my life. I wanted my mind to photograph it forever, so that when we were both older, we could look back upon that ordinary moment, with fondness of a great time. A time when we were both truly present together, enjoying one another’s company.
We were just going about our daily business. Yet, it was such an extraordinary, emotional moment for me. So much so that, I can still feel those positive, loving, warm, fuzzy feelings deep inside me, whenever I recall that moment now.
As normal and mundane as a trip to the dentist with your child may sound, I can guarantee that in years to come, you too will realise how special those everyday moments in time really are. Even if those moments do not feel like it today. Even the loss of their 1st tooth!
One day, those simple everyday memories, will be where you will linger longingly, wishing you could go back to.
Noticing, appreciating and being fully present in those moments we are spending with our children today, is what Present Parenting is all about.
Because one day those moments, will be some of the best moments in our lives.
They truly are priceless, irreplaceable nuggets of time, that we all too often take for granted because, we are disillusioned by the concept that, the work and worries that occupy our minds, are the things that need our attention the most.
Yet, neither now nor in the future, will anyone or anything, ever bring us the joy, fulfilment or happiness that our children do.
It’s who we are with, and the love and time we give that counts!
If today was the only time we had left on Planet Earth, chances are we would not want to clean our house or work overtime, schmoozing our boss for a pay rise. Chances are, we would want to spend our time with our loved ones, having fun and letting them know how much we love them, while appreciating, how much we too, are loved by them.
We don’t always remember the dates or details in life, but we always remember how we felt, this is what our children will always remember too. It doesn’t matter what we have or achieve in life, it’s all a waste of time, it’s who we are with, and the love and time we give that counts!
Childhood doesn’t last forever. When our children reach their teens, it’s going to be too late to regret, not having had the time to, paint, play, cook, read, sing, dance and enjoy our time with them, while young.
Make the most of now, and start to live in and enjoy each and every moment with your child, from now on. Tomorrow is promised to no one, stay present and be generous with that time. If you knew this was your last day ever with your child, you would hang on to their every word and not waste a single second of that time, and bear in mind, one day will be the last day you spend together.
There’s no time like the present, and no present like time!
If most of us grown-ups are petrified by this COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak then how do you think our children are feeling?
No news is good news, as they say.
We may be led to believe that it’s educational and informative for our children to follow the news because it allows them to know what the world is really like, but how often do you see or hear good news?
Does that mean that in reality there is no good news?
And no good people or experiences in the world, only bad?
Does the daily news really offer our children a balanced, realistic view of the world?
Or does it just highlight all the doom and gloom to sensationally sell more newspapers and boost ratings?
Unfortunately, bad news sells!
It’s what the majority of people like to hear about. It’s debatable whether the Pollyanna Gazette would be as popular?
Fortunately, life is not all doom and gloom, but if our children are being exposed to bad news every day, then they may start to believe it is.
In fact, they will likely become accustomed to it and expect bad news, associating more with it than any good news they may hear.
We should take care to protect our young, innocent children’s impressionable minds. Regular exposure to such negativity could cause nightmares, and some sensitive children could become fearful, sad, or depressed.
We do not, however, need to hide the truth from our children or try to protect them from hearing about anything unpleasant. Quite the opposite, it’s actually beneficial that they are aware of both the good and the bad news.
Yes, bad things happen in the world but so do good things too. We just need to give our children a more balanced outlook and show them what’s good about life more often than highlighting the bad news.
There are devastating diseases spreading across the globe today, there was in the 90’s too when Aids was an uncurable epidemic, and yes people are experiencing poverty and tragedy in the world, even today, but our children do not need to feel sad, fearful, or guilty because of that. It’s not their fault. Our children have a right to be happy, regardless of what’s going on in the world. Undoubtably, they will have a hard time being happy and carefree if they are aware of all that’s going on, which is out of their control.
If they want to make a contribution to society and a positive difference in the world, our children will have to learn how to free and empower themselves.
Something they can only do if they feel good. It’s hard to be an up lifter when you’re feeling down or fearful. This is where we can positively help to direct their attention on good causes.
Some people may think that you can’t shelter your children from the real world, scary stuff happens every day and it’s happening more and more. Not reading about it or watching it on TV won’t make it go away. I totally agree, but watching and reading about it won’t change anything either.
Just as exposing our children to scary stories can cause anxiety and fear, it’s pointless to highlight it unless we are willing to address the problem. Children do worry, they magnify things, and they don’t understand life as we do. When they hear there’s a murderer on the loose, even if that murder is in a different part of the country or even the other side of the world, they will have nightmares of the murderer coming to their house to get their family. They just won’t understand the back story. Maybe the murderer killed someone he knew on accident and has no intention of hurting anyone? But that won’t matter to a young child.
As a childminder, I’ve had to reassure and calm many a child down over something in the news that was bothering them. One child was petrified of a tsunami washing their home and family away and desperately didn’t want to go to school in case it happened.
As a therapist, one of the first things I advise my adult clients with anxiety to do is stop listening to the news. It’s amazing how that one simple thing makes them feel better in such a short space of time.
Taking a proactive approach and preventing our children getting caught up in bad news and taking action to personally change the world positively when we can will yield the most beneficial results.
Spreading love, joy, and happiness instead of doom and impending disaster as each individual person, one by one, we can impact those around us. Starting with ourselves, is what will make a difference to society as a whole.
We can’t change current epidemics, pandemics or the like or even other people, but we can and do affect our children, negatively or positively.
As an influential role model, you decide.
Because how we parent does make a difference to the future news, and the world we live in.
So, you survived another half term holiday, but secretly are jumping for joy that your little people are back to school or childcare right?
You’re not alone.
Spending Us time with our children is precious but often it can feel more of a challenge for most of us.
If your child’s behaviour can be difficult, spending Us Time together may not be something you relish doing.
You may or may not be surprised to know that many parents have admitted openly to me that, they actively look for distractions away from their children. And lots of parents feel a sense of relief when they drop their children to childcare or school and go to work.
This is not because they don’t love their children, quite the opposite, they really do love their children, they just don’t understand their behaviour or how to manage it, making time together more like hard work than fun, and they don’t want to upset their children or themselves any more than necessary.
If that sounds familiar, then you may be interested in reading my book The Powerful Proactive Parent’s Guide to Present Parenting because when we can understand our children’s behaviour better and they can understand us, Us Time becomes a more pleasurable experience.
Children need and want our attention, and they don’t mind how they get it.
That means if they don’t feel they’re getting enough of it naturally, they will force us to pay attention to them, usually by misbehaving.
When we have more than one child this spreading of our time and attention can be difficult, we’ll look at this in a minute when we address individual Us Time for each child, but first let’s uncover the art of intervention.
THE ART OF INTERVENTION
Knowing when to intervene in our children’s behaviour and when not to is a fine art to master. It takes a lot of thought, patience, and practice. We have to stop ourselves from flying off the handle at every incident and decide if it’s really such a big issue.
Does our children’s behaviour warrant a reaction from us that is likely to upset not only our children, but ourselves too?
If it’s not that important, then we have to learn how to let it go. Nine times out of ten, none of its really that serious anyway. This is not an excuse to get out of correcting our children’s unacceptable behaviour though—they have to abide by the rules in order to keep themselves safe and healthy.
IF IT’S NOT YOUR BATTLE THEN DON’T
It’s knowing the difference between those times when we need to correct them and knowing when they have to learn how to correct themselves. For example, when they are squabbling with friends or siblings, it’s not always necessary or helpful for us to jump right in and intervene.
It’s important to step back and let them get on with it at times and let them argue amongst themselves and learn how to resolve their own issues. This is the only way they’ll learn how to get on with other people and how to resolve conflicts in a safe, nurturing environment.
When our children hurt the ones they love, it teaches them when they have overstepped the mark. It offers them the opportunity to apologise and make up, or forgive the other person too if they feel they were justified. Silly little squabbles can be resolved between children without adult interference, so if it’s not our battle, then we don’t need to fight.
We have to find ways to proactively involve our children in the process of managing their emotions. By making our children part of the solution today, we equip them to understand and manage themselves in the future. This potentially removes unwanted behaviour in the future.
Our children can be part of the problem or solution. We are not going to eradicate tantrums and unwanted behaviour, but how we approach it and involve our children in resolving it, is what makes all the difference.
Let’s say toddler Tommy has hit baby Johnny on purpose because baby Johnny was holding Tommy’s favourite Teddy and wouldn’t let it go. Auto pilot Mummy may smack or shout at Tommy and say ‘You’re the big Brother, you should know better.’ But obviously, Tommy didn’t!
Now, Auto pilot Mummy has reinforced hitting or shouting to resolve conflict.
But Tommy still hasn’t been taught how to share. That was the lesson there that auto pilot Mummy completely missed. She could’ve taught and coached Tommy by explaining that Johnny was a baby, who, like Tommy, doesn’t understand the concept of sharing and that certain toys belong to certain people.
All Tommy knew and was interested in was it was his favourite Teddy not his little brothers, and he wanted it back!
Johnny didn’t want to give it back though, so Tommy would do anything in his power to reclaim his beloved possession. And he did, he hit out. Proactive Mummy would have first made a fuss of baby Johnny who was hurt, not a fuss of toddler Tommy.
Cue proactive Mummy’s chance to explain and teach Tommy, once baby Johnny had calmed down and was okay.
It’s frightening for a toddler to see how he can actually hurt someone he really loves, and at first glance, to auto pilot Mummy, Tommy’s reaction looks deliberate, as if he wanted to hurt his baby brother. But despite what morally he thought was right, it was his teddy after all, it wasn’t intentional, he hasn’t developed morals, this is something he’ll learn from his parents and being in these uncomfortable situations. The truth of the matter is, he simply couldn’t control his emotions.
Instead of ostracizing Tommy and sending him to the naughty step or giving him a label such as naughty or bad boy, proactive Mummy needs to involve him and show him that she loves him, but his behaviour was not appropriate.
It’s proactive Mummy’s moral duty to make it clear that Tommy must never put his hands on anyone and to empathize that she understands he was hurt that Johnny had his favourite teddy, and she knows why he reacted the way he did, but hurting someone else because he feels hurt doesn’t resolve things, it makes it worse. Giving him examples helps him to make connections with how his actions make others feel, for example, explaining to Tommy that what he had done was not acceptable and that baby Johnny now feels hurt like that time when_______, then filling in a blank with a time when Tommy was hurt and upset.
This invokes empathy. He may cry as he realises what he has done was wrong. He’s learnt a powerful emotional lesson here. This is proactive Mummy’s cue to offer a little reassurance, such as a kiss or a hug.
ALL EMOTIONS ARE OKAY
This way, she demonstrates that’s it’s okay to get angry and have these emotions, they are not bad, they are trying to teach us something, and that she accepts that he was angry and that happens sometimes, but there are other ways to release that anger. So next time he feels that way, he can come and talk about his feelings. This helps open up a channel of future communication.
On the other hand, he may still not see that what he has done was wrong, so, as proactive parents, we have to be on the lookout for any repeat behaviour again so we can reinforce that lesson until he gets it.
We also need to encourage him to make it up with his baby brother, maybe kiss baby Johnny better to show his affection and forgiveness, which is important. Having a family group hug makes Tommy feel forgiven and included again and Johnny feel better too, and as a parent, peace and love feels restored.
Coaching behaviour shows unconditional love, a naughty step shows our love comes with conditions.
Anything other than unconditional love will feel like hard work because it usually relies on our children meeting our expectations, which is always going to be difficult.
It’s great to spend family ‘Us Time’ together, but trying to please more than one child at the same time can be difficult. Each will have different interests from the other, and will likely try to compete for individual attention, but being blessed with more than one child can make finding time for each one challenging.
Although generously giving of our time can become a stretch, each child will benefit from the attention of one on one time, making them feel special and important.
That’s why it’s important to factor in ‘US Time’ for each individual child by asking each one to write a list of the things they would like to do during US Time.
One child may be a football fanatic but if your other child isn’t, then taking them to football matches isn’t going to be the time they will enjoy. Of course, there will be times when they will have to tag along, but this isn’t what we class as ‘Us Time’.
Family Us Time is still important, and finding things we all like to do is a lot easier when we have a list to look at and see where everyone’s preferences lie so we can plan to do those things together, alongside individual Us Time.