Wednesday, February 19, 2014

New Beginnings

Welcome to my blog! I've been writing here intermittently for the past several years since the IT guy I consulted (who I happened to have nannied when he was small- ugh!) suggested that blogging was just like journaling in public. I like to write, so it seemed like a good fit. He held my hand and told me how to get it all set up (thanks, Matt!) and my blog was born.

I've had some good runs with my blog and I've been able to write about many topics that are near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, I've neglected it for a little while.

It isn't that I haven't wanted to write. It's that sometimes life is complicated and perhaps we need some time to just pull inward while the storms pass. And so I did. The picture on the bottom of this post is from last year taken by a friend. It's a picture of me taking a picture of the sunset with my phone, which I did every night. You see, every night for a year, I went down to the seawall (I live in Florida near the Gulf of Mexico) to watch the sun set. We called it "Seawall Therapy" and it surely was. I highly recommend this sort of ritual for general sanity. Imagine if the whole world slowed down to watch the sunset every night... even without the seawall.

Now that the air is clearing and I have a whole year of sunsets under my belt, I have more space to step into new beginnings. I'm going to be writing more regularly again with a whole new set of topics to educate, inspire, and support your parenting journey. I'll be having guest bloggers join me from time to time to share their unique perspectives on finding their own way.

I'd love to hear if there is something specific you'd like me to write about, too. This is OUR blog and we're co-creating it, much like the parenting journey. We can't do this alone and we all have our own story and our own voice. Together, those voices form a chorus. :-) If you have a story you'd like to share, let me know! We'll be posting more details about our plans soon. In the meantime, happy parenting!

Me at Seawall Therapy, 2013. Taken by a friend and her iPhone.

Friday, July 12, 2013

When the Unexpected Happens

Life often throws unexpected things into our path and we get to decide how we handle them. We don't always get to choose what we will face, but we do have a choice about what we do next.

This past year has been really rough for me in many ways. Though I separated from my husband and we have both moved on with our own lives, and even though things have been quite unexpectedly adversarial between us, I still care about him and want the best for him. Even though some of his choices have made things harder for me, maybe that's all part of the way it needs to be for me to step more fully into who I am on this journey. But let me be honest here- it has been really rough.

He hasn't been well. Not for a while. I went through my own personal challenges with my own health over the previous months. It seems health issues are a common experience for most people who are going through a separation and divorce. I'm finally feeling almost back to myself, but things have taken an unexpected turn for Ryan.

Long story short, about two weeks ago, Ryan was in cardiac ICU with a severe systemic infection, damage to his heart valves and awaiting open heart surgery. We didn't really know what the outcome would ultimately be, but I definitely found myself in an unexpected place. I couldn't have imagined I would be here in a million years, but here I am. It was heart-wrenching and completely discombobulating. Suddenly everything I thought was a given wasn't. I didn't know what would happen next, but I knew that it was time for me to step up and take good care of my boys in the midst of the uncertainty. I knew I couldn't change what was happening with their father, but I could be there for them. I could make sure that their needs were met, that there was room for their feelings, and that they were surrounded by lots of people who love them.

As I was wandering around my kitchen trying to get breakfast at 4pm a few days ago, my head spinning with so many unknowns and unanswered questions, I remembered that I taught a series entitled When the Unexpected Happens a couple of summers ago. In it, I talked about the importance of meeting our own needs and taking care of ourselves when something unexpected happens so that we can take care of and support our children. (In other words, I probably need to eat breakfast before 4pm...)

I needed to listen to it again and I figured that there are probably many of you reading this who probably do, too. So I asked my amazing assistant, Lianne, to put it up on a special page so that you can go in and listen to it for free all weekend beginning Friday, July 12 and ending Sunday, July 14. If you're so moved, there's also an invitation to purchase the whole series at a big discount. It is a gift to you and it will also gift my family to help me put gas in my car and food in my children's bellies during this big transition for us all.

Unexpected things don't have to be in the form of a major health crisis. Losing a job, a birth that becomes traumatic or doesn't go the way you'd planned, a death in the family, separation or divorce, or really any other major life stressor that you didn't anticipate. Have a listen and see what you think.

Visit this page and you can sign up for free listening, and we'll send you a link to the page where you can listen to all the audios. Please share with anyone who might also need this resource.

Update: Ryan had open heart surgery on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 and had his heart valve replaced. While he is recovering well after such a big procedure, there are still lots of unknowns. Thanks for positive thoughts and prayers, if you're so moved. He has a long recovery ahead.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Nurturing Connection Pre-Order Open!!

I've been threatening to publish this book for months now, but I'm actually going to do it. We always know we're close to publishing when my friend's daughter, Alexa, models the book for us. This time, she's modeling it for us wearing a princess cape. Perfect.

Nurturing Connection is really about those moments when we or our children are on a yellow light. It's the fork in the road. How do we navigate those moments so that our relationships end up intact? Nurturing Connection is what that's all about. Those moments of emotional upsets can be the ones where we come unglued OR they can be the ones that pull us together as a family.

Anyone who has ever experienced a really rough patch knows that relationships either get closer or further apart when something is difficult. How do we do harness those moments at the fork in the road with our children? How do we take the every day moments of parenting and find ways to connect?

You can read more about my new book, including viewing the table of contents, here. This is also where you go to purchase it. We've got some great pre-order specials going until Monday, May 27. This is how we, as a small publishing company, fund the printing, so your pre-orders really do matter. Buy one for yourself, one for a friend, and one to share for great discounts. All purchases of paperback books will get you a PDF version of the book as soon as we finalize it next week. :-)

In the meantime, here's a sneak peek at the Introduction to the book.

Introduction of Nurturing Connection
"Deepak Chopra spoke powerful words when he said, “Love without action is meaningless and action without love is irrelevant.” I believe this speaks deeply to what nurturing connected families is all about and what we all want when we become parents. We need to realize that we convey our love, or lack thereof, in everything we do with our children and our partner. Nurturing connection is about finding ways to demonstrate love through our actions, as well as our way of being with one another.

Nurturing our relationship with our children is the heart and soul of consciously parenting. Nurturing relationships, once they are established, is really an art. It is about remembering that our children’s need for connection is a primary factor in most of their behavior. It is about recognizing that, in every parenting situation, we have choices about how we respond to our children and their behaviors. It is about seeing every parenting situation as an opportunity to create connection or disconnection. It is about looking at our everyday parenting situations and beginning to see how we can choose connection. It is also about being able to admit when something didn’t go as planned, to forgive ourselves for not always being the parents we hope to be, and to forgive our children for not always being the children we hope they’d be.

When parenting situations challenge us, how we handle them can create connection or disconnection in our relationship with our children. We can imagine these situations as forks in the road; there is one road sign, going off to the left, that says, “Connection” and another, going off to the right, that says, “Disconnection.” At the fork, where the roads meet up, we have choices, and the decisions we make can mean the difference between peace and struggle, not only in that moment, but also in the relationship as a whole. It is through these smaller, moment-to-moment decisions that the stage is set and we and our children move closer together or further apart.

Most of our parenting information leads us further away from connection in the name of “teaching” our children what is right and wrong. In my own home growing up, I saw how parenting focused on behavior change alone led to more disconnection and the need for relationship repair. The advice given by “professionals” and implemented by my parents created a greater level of disconnection and chaos within my family. Parents need to teach their children appropriate behaviors, but they don’t need to do so at the expense of the relationship.

Children who feel connected to you will want to please you—and they will. If they aren’t acting in a way that is acceptable to you, there is something going on with them or something going on with you, and they’re reacting to your energy or what is going on with your connection. The first of consciously parenting’s eight guiding principles says, “All behavior is communication.” When we are aware of what is going on beneath the surface, beneath the behavior—such as emotional regulation or dysregulation, unmet needs, or unresolved traumas—we can respond in a loving way rather than just reacting to the child’s behavior. And responding lovingly nurtures the relationship.

We need our children to have a strong relationship with us so that they can trust that we’ll be there for them when they need us. And they really do need us. Behavior-focused parenting information uses pain, fear, punishment, isolation, shame, and coercion to manage our child’s negative behavior. When we dole out punishments or focus on the behavior, our children learn that they cannot come to us. Instead, they seek out information and support from their peers—those with only a limited number of years on the planet and limited long-term decision-making skills. Relationship-focused parenting teaches our children to calm themselves down by reaching out to us when they’re stressed. It teaches our children to come to us, the parents, to be supported through challenges and when they are having a hard time.

Whether we were parenting consciously from the beginning of our children’s lives or we have worked hard to create more connection with our growing children, we need to understand that love and respect are co-created in a relationship. This idea can be challenging for us as parents, because most parenting information suggests that parenting is about the adult drawing the line in the sand and the child submitting. Many parents struggle with the expectation that their children just need to “do as I say when I say to do it.” That method of parenting is about control. But control isn’t co-creation; controlling your children isn’t nurturing, nor is it realistic in a healthy relationship. This doesn’t mean that your child doesn’t have to do what you ask or that your own needs don’t matter, especially as your children grow older. But when we stop and respect our children and their needs, as well as our own, we are modeling respectful, nurturing behaviors.

It is the day-to-day experiences we have as parents that determine whether our children learn appropriate behavior or not, whether our children learn to regulate their behavior and emotions or not, and whether we live in a peaceful environment where everyone respects everyone else’s needs or not. It is our choice whether or not our children learn these things. If we are mindful of our parenting choices, we can create the family we want to have. Many times, we just are not aware that we have choices. Learning what those choices are is what this book is all about.

We’ll look at common parenting situations with children of different ages and stages of development, and we’ll discuss behavior-focused parenting strategies, which are what we normally see in our society, followed by a relationship-focused approach. The more that you are able to see examples of this paradigm shift, the more you will be able to apply it to your own parenting situations and circumstances.

Please note that nurturing relationships doesn’t mean that if we don’t always make the best choice, we will have somehow failed as parents.

We’re going to have times where we end up creating disconnection because we’re running on autopilot and parenting according to old road maps from our childhood. Nurturing relationships means that when we do make a mistake, we set it right and find ways to reconnect with our children, to prevent the need to totally repair the relationship. A pilot friend shared the example of how just a slight shift in the course set early in the flight can mean the difference between arriving at the destination and ending up in a different country. When we make small course shifts early in our parenting, it avoids the need for much larger or radical repair to our relationship later.

We’ll also talk about how we can meet our children’s connection needs and nurture the relationship when we are so busy. We always have places to go, things to do, email to check, TV to watch. We have laundry that never ends and dinners, lunches, and breakfasts that need to be planned and prepared. And many of us also hold down jobs outside the home. Since we clearly don’t live in a simple world, we need to make our personal world simpler for the benefit of our families and our children—and ourselves. Even if we can’t slow things down all the way, we can find ways to simplify and find ways to create a community of support around us.

Pam Leo points out in her book Connection Parenting, “We can either meet children’s need for connection or we can spend our time dealing with the unmet need behaviors. Either way, we spend the time.” When we can nurture our relationship with our children on a daily basis, going out of our way to create connection, everything is easier, and parenting is much more enjoyable."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tantrums... not just for tots (Free call tonight) and NEW I Heart Parenting community

I'm excited. Super excited.

Tonight, I'm hosting a free call about handling tantrums and emotional upsets. And on Wednesday, I'm launching my new I Heart Parenting community!
I'm over the moon excited.

I haven't gotten much sleep lately getting this all ready for you. Really, it is a dream I've had for many years that is finally taking form. And the super cool thing is that even I could afford to join this. And recently, money has been incredibly tight for me as a new single mom. (You can read about that here if you missed that story...)

While I've always been somewhat frugal, I had an experience recently that made me feel even more dedicated to getting some resources up that everyone can enjoy and still supports the work that I'm doing. A few months ago, when I couldn't afford to buy toilet paper (I did get it worked out, so don't worry), I didn't go into a place of despair. I knew that this was a very temporary place as I adjusted to being the sole income provider for myself and my boys. But I really began to appreciate every little thing that I did have. When I could put gas in my car, I rejoiced. When I had a little extra money and could do something nice for my boys, I cherished it in a way that's hard to describe.

I began to think even more about all the parents who are scraping by every month, just trying to feed their kids and wanted to do more to offer help. After all, I couldn't afford anything other than the most basic of things and if I needed parenting support, it wasn't going to happen no matter how valuable I felt the information was or how much I valued my relationship with my kids. I've always had lots of free resources on my website and blog. I regularly offer good sales and discounts. But those periodic things aren't enough when you're really struggling. Or even if you just want it to be better than it is.

I made a deal with myself about 7 years back when I was really struggling and someone supported me at no charge. Since then, I'm always trying to find ways to pay it forward.

And this feels really good.

So tonight, I'm hosting a free call about an alternative view of tantrums and emotional upsets. This call isn't just about toddlers. Every day, I hear from parents with toddlers to teens (and yes, many times the parents) who are having emotional outbursts or upsets and aren't sure what to do that feels loving when we just want it to STOP. When it is us, we may beat ourselves up because we should know better or we're sounding just like our parents did with us. When it is our kids, we may resort to bribing them or maybe we just shut them out. How can we find our way into handling these emotionally charged moments the way we want? How can we handle these times in a way that helps our children have fewer of these moments as they grow older? And how can we grow ourselves up if we're still having more of those moments ourselves than we'd like to admit?

This is a huge topic and I've chosen it to launch the very first month of my new intentional community. I'll be sharing information and resources with you and we'll be getting to know each other, to support one another on the journey that sometimes feels really lonely as a conscious parent.

I hope you'll consider joining us to play in this new playground. Let's find some joy together! Let's inspire each other to be the best we can be without judgments as we find our way on our own unique path of parenting consciously. Let's learn together and create a community of support. It does take a village, even if it is virtual.

There's something powerful for me to hear parents from every corner of the globe are all feeling the same way. I want you to see that, too. There is magic in the common ground, how we are all more alike than different, and in watching families move from struggle to deep connection. I want you to have a window into that and learn from each other.

Have a question for me for tonight's call? Please comment below. Excited about the new community? Have ideas to make it a better place? I'd love to have you comment below. Or email me directly. I'll try to get back to you soon.

Hope to hear from you on the call tonight! And I can't wait to meet you in our new parenting playground, I Heart Parenting. You can check it out by following the link. We're still under construction, but we'll be up and running completely on Wednesday, May 1, 2013!

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Struggling with Tantrums and Emotional Upsets?

It seems like we're all there at one point or another. I've noticed that it is more likely to occur when I'm least able to handle it.

One of my clients described his daughter falling apart and laying in the middle of the sidewalk like a starfish, sobbing and screaming.

Other clients relay situations where it is a fight to get out the door every morning. Or every time they need to get buckled up. At bath time. Or when their child needs to get dressed. Or when it is time to eat. Or when anything changes, unexpectedly or not.

I hear about these situations so often. It seems that we're all looking for sensitive ways of handling these overwhelming moments with our children. But we're not always sure how to respond with love, especially when it is overwhelming for us. Or when we've been taught that they should just "get over it."

I'm going to be hosting a f.ree call coming up on Monday, April 29 at 8:30pm eastern on this very topic. And the BEST part is that I am going to answer YOUR questions! I need your help, though. I need to know what you are struggling with when it comes to your children's tantrums and emotional upsets.

While I can't offer you a magic wand (as many of you have requested), I can offer you an alternative way of looking at what's happening with your child when things are falling apart.

Please join us for the call by signing up here.

And please submit your questions in the comments below. I'll also be pulling questions from my blog post, An Alternative View of Tantrums and Emotional Upsets from reader's comments there, but I really want to hear from YOU.

This call will be recorded, but it is always best to join us live when you can. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rebecca's No Good, Very Bad Day Turn Around

I woke up one morning last week and before I had even rolled out of bed, I realized that my day was going to be completely different than the one I envisioned before I went to sleep last night.  A series of text messages greeted me with things I needed to take care of that I just hadn't anticipated. That followed by several emails I wasn't expecting with more things I needed to do.

My head began to spin. I wanted to just go back to bed.

My house hadn't burned down. There was nothing catastrophic. But I was rattled. My to do list had just more than doubled and I had challenges I wasn't sure how I was going to work out yet, including needing the Harry Potter wizardry required to be in two locations 25 miles apart at nearly the same time. At rush hour. During tourist season. On the Gulf coast of Florida.

Now normally, I am a really good problem solver. I take pen to paper and write out everything that needs to happen and I work it out. Or I just stare at Facebook for a while until I'm ready to move forward.

But I had a full day planned already. Between clients and work with colleagues and events with my kids, I didn't have time to just stare idly at my computer. Drats.

One of the things I've learned through all the years I've been teaching brain-based, relationship-centered information that is now in my book Consciously Parenting: What it Really Takes to Raise Emotionally Healthy Families is that when we're dysregulated (not in a calm, rational place), we need connection and contact with other people. There was a very, very long time in my life where it was just too painful for me to reach out when I was having a hard time, so I've had to learn how to do this. It doesn't come naturally for me. But I've had enough practice now and had enough wherewithall to pick up the phone and reach out to a good friend to talk it through once I finally admitted that I was getting nowhere with the piece of paper. (Or Facebook)

I found myself lamenting, as I often hear my clients do, about how there was nothing catastrophic, so why was I feeling like such a mess? Why couldn't I do this by myself? I didn't see the reason I was so out of sorts. Why couldn't I just pick myself up and move on? I hadn't had breakfast and it was nearly 11am. My thinking was cloudy. My desk was a mess. I couldn't find papers I needed. But my friend didn't judge me. He didn't tell me that I was being unreasonable. He simply said, "It sounds like you're on that yellow thingie you talk about in your workshops."

Yes, yellow light. Emotional brain. I couldn't think clearly because I wasn't firing on all cylinders. When someone is on a yellow light, I advise everyone slow down and just stop for a little while. Going full speed ahead, while it is what we cognitively think is the best idea, will only lead to more trouble, more dysregulation.

Just yesterday, I had a mom who shared a story about when her daughter was on a yellow light. She knew it was best if they just stay home because her daughter was having a hard time, but that "rational" brain took over and she found herself, with her child now in a full-blown tantrum, getting on the bus to go to their scheduled activity. They didn't make it far before she realized it was not going to work out and they got off the bus to walk back home.

I listen to my clients and learn from their examples. Well, I'd like to think I do, anyway.

I found myself asking out loud, "What do I need when I feel like this?" My wise friend simply said, "I'm not sure what you need." And then he was quiet and he waited.

Finally, in that silence, I knew that I needed a hug. I needed to be in direct contact with someone who cared about me. It's always a risk to reach out to someone else. I found it interesting that Lissa Rankin wrote about this very topic that same day in her newsletter (vulnerability vs neediness). I knew what I needed and I knew there was a chance that the person I decided to ask may or may not be able to meet that need at that time. But I've learned over the past few years that it is important to ask. If I don't ask, no one knows what I need and no one is going to meet that need.

So, I held my breath and asked.

Turns out it was doable. I got my hug, was held for a little while, and then I was able to go on with my day, fully emotionally present. Not just getting by or compensating, like I would have otherwise done.

Connection really does heal.

I write about how there is nothing more important than relationships. But I live it, too. Sometimes it isn't very pretty, but that's not what is most important. The most important thing is that I embrace myself and my journey and all the messiness that goes along with it.  After all, this is Consciously Parenting, not Perfectly Parenting.

What an important experience this turned out to be for me! As I think about my kids and the bad days they occasionally have, it does help to remember that sometimes we all just need some quiet time with someone who cares about us. A hug, some down time, a snuggle, a nice foot rub, like my 9 year-old likes after a hard day, can all make the difference and completely turn a "bad" day around. It's like an emotional band-aid. Balm for a wound.

What do you do when your life gets messy? What do you do that turns your day around? Please share with us in the comments below.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

When you give your best and it's not enough

One of my clients recently was talking about the anguish she felt as her marriage was ending. She was working hard to speak kindly about her soon to be ex-husband in front of their children, remembering that this was a person in pain. But something she said really struck me. She said, "It is so hard when you give your best and it's not enough."

She was talking about her marriage, but this is also something that I've heard from so many of my parents who are struggling with their kids. They feel like they are trying so hard to be this parent who is loving and kind and patient and they feel they're constantly falling short. I liken it to an imaginary measuring stick and they just aren't measuring up.

We can be really hard on ourselves sometimes. (Christy Farr of Seeds and Weeds Coaching and I talked about this topic a couple of weeks ago on our new radio show, True North Parents. You can listen to that episode here.)

This isn't to say that we shouldn't strive to change. To grow. To be better people and better parents to our children.

On the contrary, I know that parenting has made me a much better person. Perfect? No way. Just ask my kids. They'll tell you.

But I learned a long time ago that I get nowhere when I handle something in a way I didn't intend to and then I spend the next 2 days beating myself up for it. When something happens and then I disappear into self-loathing, I've just left my kids without the benefit of a loving parent at just the moment when they need me to be there with them. It took me a long while, but I finally figured out that my kids don't need me to be perfect. They need me to be with them. To acknowledge when I mess up. To be real.

What if, when you have a "bad" (read "real" instead) parenting moment, you told yourself that you are doing the best you can in this moment? What if you treated yourself with the same compassion you want your children to feel when they make a mistake? What if, at the end of the day, instead of counting all the things you did "wrong" as a parent, you noted all those little things that you did well?

Thank you, Susan Graham for this illustration.
A long time ago, I read a book called Confessions of an Organized Homemaker. I've read this book no less than 25 times. I'm serious. I think I've got it somewhat down now. But one of the things the author, Deniece Schofield, says is to compare yourself only to yourself 6 months, a year, or five years ago, never to others. We always see the best of others from the outside and we always see our worst and compare that, so only look at your own progress. That helped me through many, many years of learning how to keep my house clean enough and organized enough that I could function, at minimum. When I look back at how far I've come, I know she'd be proud. (I should probably send her a thank you email...) But one of the tricks I learned is to observe what I'd still like to work on and feel gratitude for myself for the progress I was making.

Later today, I'll be going live on my Blogtalk Radio show, True North Parents, with Christy Farr and we're going to be talking about a related topic: Mommy Wars. It is really an extension of this topic because that same compassion we can extend to ourselves is what we can extend to others. Or not. When we have compassion for ourselves, our own story, and our own journey, we can do the same for others. Mommy Wars really come out of this place of not being able to give compassion to ourselves and our own choices and being disconnected from others. It is kind of the road rage of the parenting world. Road Rage happens when we dehumanize others, when we're disconnected. Please join us and let us know your thoughts. The shows are archived, so even if you missed it or can't join us live, you can still follow the same link and listen to the show.

I'd love to hear what your biggest stressors have been with other parents about parenting. How have you shifted your own understanding so you have more compassion for other parents? For yourself? Please post in the comments below!