Stress-Free Mornings Hack #8 – Send Them Off With Love

Parents have a tremendous influence on their children’s self-esteem. Self-esteem is the collection of beliefs that we have about ourselves. The way we think and feel about ourselves determines our behavior, our attitude towards life and others, and the quality of our relationships.

If your child’s love tank is full when he leaves the comfort of your home, he will have more confidence in himself, and will be more likely to stand up for himself and others, to fight peer pressure, to avoid being a target for bullies, to try new things, to fail with grace, and to make better decisions.

Your child’s love tank is filled throughout the day, not only in the mornings. However, it is important to make sure our kids leave the house with calm, without stress, and knowing that they are fully loved and accepted, that they don’t need to look for love and approval in all the wrong places, and that they are perfect just the way they are.

Since my daughters are in different schools, I usually drive my three year old to school, while my twins walk to school with our au pair. When my twins are about to leave, I give them a big hug, I tell them ‘I love you,’ look into their eyes, tell them our special phrase and I remind them to have fun and do their best. During their walk to school, our au pair loves on them a little bit more, talks to them, makes them laugh and feel loved, which is a blessing!

On my drive to school with my little one, we talk about things she likes, we put on her favorite songs, sing and ‘dance.’ We talk about what she thinks she’ll do in school and what she’s looking forward to. Once I get to the drop off line, we kiss goodbye and say ‘I love you, have a great day!.’ She always jumps out of the car with a big smile on her face.

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How do you guarantee that you send off your child into the world with a full love tank?

Much love, Diana-

Stress-Free Mornings Hack #5: Fill Up Your Kids Love Tanks

Hopefully, by now you’ve been implementing the morning routine hacks, and your mornings have already improved a little bit. This new hack will make a world of a difference as well, because it’s all about starting the day connecting with your children.

The payoff of taking the time to ease your children in their first transition of the day, from being asleep to being awake, is tremendous. A few minutes devoted to connecting with your child first thing in the morning will vastly transform your mornings, and your family dynamics.

When our children feel connected to us their mood and self esteem are higher, and they are more willing to cooperate with us. Children with their connection and love tanks running on empty will feel angry, disengaged, oppositional, defiant, cranky, unloved and uncooperative. When they are sent into the world (bus, school, park…) they feel insecure, they question themselves, they can’t socialize properly, and they feel out of place.

To the contrary, children whose connection and love tanks are full, feel loved, confident, motivated and eager to start the day. When they are sent into the world they are secure in themselves, they are confident in who they are, they don’t need to look for love or validation in others because they already have enough of that at home.

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Five minutes of connection first thing in the morning can transform your morning and your child’s day! By starting the day with connection, our children are so much more likely to be co-operative! So, let’s fill their tanks! This is how I try to connect with my daughters in the morning:

Let the light in slowly. I open the drapes to let the day light in, instead of turning on the lights. One of my daughters is particularly sensitive to the light in the morning, and she’d rather get their eyes used to the natural light before turning on her bedroom lights.

Wake them up slowly

Ideally, if your children get enough sleep at night, they would wake up naturally, without the need of an alarm clock or without you having to go into their rooms. However, when my daughters don’t wake up naturally, I make sure I don’t wake them up yelling from the doorstep, or rushing them out of bed. I help them wake up slowly.

Cuddles and conversation

I take the time to lay down with them on their beds and cuddle. I take that time to help them feel loved. I want their first thought to be about how loved they are, and not about how much they need to do and rush in the morning. I also use this time to talk to them:

  • Check in about their night: how did they sleep? did they have any cool dream? are they rested?
  • Set the intention for the day: Are they excited about anything in particular? What are their goals and plans for the day?
  • Gratitude: I help them think of at least three things they are grateful for. They need to be specific, instead of just saying ‘I’m thankful for my sister,’ they would say ‘I am very grateful that my sister A always helps me with my homework’
  • Positive affirmations: I tell them good things about them, being as specific as possible and giving them examples when necessary. Lately I have been using cards that I got them for Christmas and they love them! These cards help me showcase their positive attributes in an easy and beautiful way. You can get them in Amazon if you’re interested in using them.

Empowerment, Trust and Self-Discipline

When it’s time for my 9 year old twins to finally get out of bed and start their day, I let them know I trust them to follow their routine charts (I’ll talk about this in more detail in my next post), and that I will join them downstairs for breakfast. After that, I do a simplified version of the steps above with my three year old, and I help her follow her morning routine. She loves being independent and do things on her own, so my main role with her as she’s getting ready, is to be patient.

Family Breakfast

This is a perfect moment to love and support each other before we head out into the world. We always make time to sit and eat breakfast together as a family. During the weekends, our breakfast are even more special since my husband cooks for all of us.

Extra Time

This is what I’m looking forward the most in the morning. When I only had the twins, we had plenty of extra time in the mornings. When I had my third daughter, our mornings got a little bit more hectic and I usually found myself rushing more and barely having any extra time. Since our au pair joined our family, I’ve regained a little bit of extra time in the morning, which is a tremendous blessing.

These are some of the things I like doing with my daughters with the extra time:

  • Read with them. I will certainly do a post about our family reading, because it’s one of our passions.
  • Play with them in their playroom following their lead.
  • Play in the backyard with them and our dog.
  • Go for a quick walk with our dog.
  • Meditate together, and repeat positive affirmations.
  • Put on our favorite music and dance to it.

Put Away Your Phone

Our electronics usually get in the way of our connection with our children. It’s easy to get lost reading an article, checking Facebook, reviewing the agenda for the day… Therefore, in my house we only check the phone once in the morning before coming down. If we want to play music, know the weather, know the time or an answer to a random question, we use Alexa.

 

 

Every single one of these things sounds simple on its own, right? Do I accomplish all of them every day? Absolutely not! But at least I try, and even if I don’t do it all, I know that they are starting their days with their love tanks full.

How do you connect with your children in the morning?

Much love, Diana-

Isn’t peaceful parenting the same as permissive parenting?

The short answer is ‘no.’ Peaceful parenting isn’t the same as permissive parenting. I know first hand that sometimes, as peaceful parents, we feel powerless and clueless as to what to do.

We know we don’t want to hit our kids, we know we don’t want to yell, we know we don’t want to threaten them… we know all the things we don’t want to do. However, we are left with a void and many of us, who haven’t been raised in peaceful, respectful, positive families, don’t really know what to do instead. That’s when peaceful parenting might become permissive parenting. It’s a matter of us not having the right tools or the right knowledge to come up with a parenting plan that works for our family.

What is peaceful parenting and how do we apply it? After many years working with families, doing research, reading more books than I can count and learning from many experts, I’ve come up with these peaceful parenting guiding principles:

1. Self-regulation: Peaceful parenting starts with us. We need to be in control of our emotions, our own reactions, our own feelings. We need to be able to regulate our responses to our kids’ actions or inactions.

2. Consciousness: Peaceful parenting is ‘present, conscious’ parenting. This means being in the moment with our child, connecting with them in the situation we are in, letting go of our expectations of how our child should be and embracing him for who he is, letting go of our expectations of how our parenting should look like, and stop striving to raise the perfect child. It also means being aware of our own baggage, our past, and our upbringing; and see how they are impacting the way we are interacting with our children.

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3. Connection: Peaceful parenting is based on connection. We need to recognize that creating a healthy parent-child connection is our primary work as parents. This connection is also the key to our children’s optimal human development. Our success as parents is directly proportional to the strength of the connection we have with our children. So, every time you are going to address your child, remind yourself ‘connection before correction.’ Make sure you are connected with your child before you try to make a correction, so they will be more open to listen to your message and to collaborate with you.

4. Respect: Peaceful parenting is rooted in the idea that children are people too, and deserve to be treated as such. The simplest way to figure out if we are being respectful to our children is to ask ourselves: ‘Would I treat this way a friend or my spouse?’ and let the answer guide us in your relationship with your child. Would you expect perfect compliance and obedience from them? Would you hit or spank your spouse when she makes a mistake or doesn’t follow to your demands? Would you send your spouse to another room when he is having or giving you a hard time? Would you ridicule, label or belittle your spouse? … If the answers are ‘no’ then you shouldn’t do that to your child either.

5. Communication: Peaceful parenting stands on a foundation of open, honest trusting and non violent communication with our children. The words we say to our children matter and shape how they see themselves. Always remember ‘The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice’ Peggy O’Mara. When we talk to our children and involve them in decisions, when we communicate to them the reasons behind our actions, when we give them choices instead of commands, when we label their behavior instead of them, when we listen to them and their opinions, when we discuss ideas with them and value their points of view; we are helping them feel empowered, valued, strong, connected with us, and more open to learn and collaborate with us.

6. Empathy: Peaceful parenting cannot be applied unless we can empathize with our children. Empathizing with them means validating their experiences, their feelings and their emotions, without belittling them, without shaming them, and without dismissing them. Empathizing doesn’t mean agreeing with them or sharing their same feelings; it means accepting them and allowing them. Validating their feelings doesn’t mean condoning any type of behavior associated with that feeling. We need to understand that behind every one of our children’s behavior there’s a feeling, a belief or an interpretation. As parents we need to try to understand those feelings and let our children know that all emotions are acceptable. Once we’ve empathized with them, we can help them regulate those emotions and their reactions to them.

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7.Boundaries: Peaceful parenting is about setting limits for our children with kindness and respect. Children need freedom to explore, to make mistakes, to discover their potential and to learn on their own. However, as parents we need to provide them with boundaries as they exercise their freedom. Boundaries need to be: few, respectful, clear, explained in advance, firm, safe, loving, and purposeful. When we set a limit with our child, they need to know that we mean what we say. For example, if we have a limit that they can’t play on the front yard without supervision because the street is too close and it’s dangerous, we need to hold the limit. If they cry and protest because their friends’ parents let them do it, we still need to hold the limit. If we need to run inside to get a snack, they need to come with us inside or the snack can wait, we still need to hold the limit and we can’t let them outside alone. It’s all about setting limits that make sense for our family and keeping them no matter what.

8. Natural and logical consequences. Peaceful parenting rests on the idea of letting natural and logical consequences teach the lessons. A natural consequence is anything that happens without a parent’s interference. For example, when a child doesn’t want to put on globes to go to play in the snow, the natural consequence is that his hands will get cold and he won’t be able to play much, so he will naturally decide to put them on the next time. When we let our children learn from the natural consequences of their own actions, we prevent power struggles, avoid becoming the bad guy, and preserve our connection with them. In the instances when natural consequences can’t be applied, parents can establish logical consequences. Logical consequences must be few, related to the behavior, and respectful. In the example above, if there’s a risk of frostbite if the child doesn’t wear the globes, parents should step in, establish the limit and consequence. The child doesn’t get to play in the snow unless he wears the globes. The best way to phrase this with our children is using the ‘when… then…’ strategy. For example ‘when you put on your globes, then you can go play in the snow.’

 

Peaceful parenting isn’t about being perfect. We all make mistakes, I know I do! We are all imperfect people. Peaceful parenting is about learning and growing; it’s about wanting to be the best version of ourselves; and it’s about remembering that we are raising unique souls that have the right to make mistakes, experience life in their own way and be themselves.

Much love, Diana-

How to talk to our children after a mass school shooting

I can’t believe we are talking about this again. Another mass school shooting, this time taking the lives of 17 people in a Florida high school. When are school shootings going to stop? My heart breaks for all those affected by these senseless acts. Enough is enough.

After these horrific shootings, as parents we are left wondering: What should I tell my kids? Should I address this with them? How should I talk to them about these senseless and clueless acts?

1. Some children don’t need to hear about a school mass shooting. I don’t believe we should bring it up with toddlers, preschoolers or even young elementary school children, unless we think they are going to hear about it on their own, from teachers, classmates, playground friends, religious leaders, older siblings…

Remember that children sometimes need to ask the same question over and over and over again to process and absorb tough or difficult information like this. Be patient and ready to answer the same questions many times.

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2. Bring it up to your older children. They are going to hear about it anyway, and you want to make sure their questions are answered and any fears are addressed.

The first step would be to ask them what they’ve heard about it, ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions. It is perfectly ok to tell our kids that we don’t know why people decide to do these horrible things. Some people do awful, senseless, painful, irreversible and unexplainable things.

Thankfully, there are many more good people than bad people in the world. Remind them what Mr. Rogers always said “look for the helpers.” Make sure they see how people come together after these types of events, show them the first responders, policemen, emergency workers, ambulance crews, blood donors, anonymous heroes that protect their fellow citizens, people who raise money to support the victims, etc. It is amazing to see how kindness and love always rise up after these heartbreaking shootings, and our kids need to understand how resilient human beings are, and that love always wins.

3. Validate your children’s fears. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing their fears, you want them to open up with you, so you can help them cope. If you respond with a “you’re going to be fine,” or “don’t worry about it”, we risk them shutting down.

Instead, we can say something like “It’s OK to be scared and sad, I feel that way too sometimes when things like this happen.” We should speak honestly about our feelings about school shootings, so our children understand that they are not alone in feeling those big feelings.

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4. Reassure your children that they grown ups around them and their school have plans in place to do everything they can to keep them safe.

Discuss with them the safety procedures that are in place in their school. You can remind them that all the school doors are locked at all times, security cameras are located all around the school, and that all visitors need to sign in the front office before entering the building. It is also good to remind them how their school has drills to teach them how to react in case something goes wrong.

Even though, numbers are not in my favor, and in less than 2 months, there had already been 19 school shootings in the US; I truly hope we will never have to use this, and mass school shootings are a thing of the past. I hope our representatives take action and find the best way to end this senseless masacres once and for all.

Stay safe! Much love, Diana-

 

 

3 bulletproof ways to connect with your child

February is the month of love. The best way to make our children feel loved is to improve our connection and bond with them. As I mentioned in a previous post, every child’s love language is different. However these are three things we can do that will improve our connection with our child, regardless of what love language they prefer:

1) Talk and listen to them:

Ask them questions about their lives, get to know them, discover what makes them feel loved, figure out what you could improve as a parent, and take interest in their interests. Listen with the intent of getting to know them better and creating a connection.

Avoid jumping into immediate judgement or problem solving mode. As parents we tend to offer our advice even before our kids finish telling us their stories. That’s very disempowering for them, let’s learn to listen to them and sit with whatever they’re telling us.

I once read that when we are trying to improve our communication with our kids, we should consider ourselves to be on a “word budget”, and try to use as few words as possible. Listen more than you talk.

You will be amazed what a huge difference these simple changes in the way you communicate with your child, will make in your ability to connect with your child.

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2) Have special one on one time with each child:

Even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, make sure you connect individually with each one of your children. Of course, it would be fantastic if you can take more than 10 minutes a day, and if you can incorporate longer periods of time at least once a week.

This special one on one time doesn’t have to be a whole production. You can play together, read together, cook together, go for a walk, go for dinner, lay in bed before the lights go off at night… let them choose how they want to use those 10 minutes that they have you all for themselves. During those, imply BE with them, look at them, set aside the electronics, and dive right into your child’s world. You will be surprise how just 10 minutes of undivided attention can change your whole relationship with your child.

3) Find them doing good:

Make sure you point out when you see your child doing something good, so they feel appreciated and loved. I am going to give you an example, one of my daughters has been going through a phase of pushing boundaries for the past few weeks. We were trying everything we know, but were still not getting through to her.

A few days ago, I remember this positive principle ‘catch them doing good.’ So, that’s what I did, I started focusing on everything she was doing right, and making sure I told her, and it has made a huge difference. She feels better about herself, and she’s starting to do good things on her own without being asked, and taking the time to make the rest of us feel loved and appreciated.

On Valentine’s Day, when I came out of the shower I found my bed already made and two teddy bears on the bed, with a mom and dad hearts. I went downstairs and I learn that my daughter – who actually hates making beds by the way – had made our bed, bought Valentines for us, and placed them on the bed. It melted my heart!

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When we are going through rough patches, we sometimes forget that our children actually want to do good, and when we acknowledge all the good things they actually do, they just want to do more. When interacting with your children, remember the 5 to 1 ratio, for every criticism, correction or negative comment, we should give them 5 positive ones.

Let me know if you try following these tips, and how it goes!

Much love, Diana-

February Parenting Resolution: Love and Connection

Cupid knocks on our doors in February, so what better month to focus on love and connection? The goal of this month is to figure out each of our children’s preferred love language and love on them the way they want to be loved.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book ‘The five love languages of children’ argues that knowing each of our children’s love language makes all of the difference in our relationship with them, and in our connection. I couldn’t agree more, my three daughters couldn’t be more different and they each have a different language of love, they each feel love in a different and unique way. These are the main 5 love languages for children:

1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION –

Compliments and praise. One of my daughters for example, thrives on positive reinforcement. The more I take the time to let her know all the good things about her and all the great things she’s working on, the better she feels and the more loved she feels. Even something as simple as singing ‘You are my sunshine’ to her every night makes a huge difference, because I make sure to let her know that she really is my sunshine.

2. PHYSICAL TOUCH –

Sometimes, something as simple as holding our children’s hand on our way to school, a morning hug as soon as they wake up, a kiss on the chick as they leave out the door or a cuddle as you watch a movie, are more significant and meaningful to them than a thousand ‘I love you.’

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3. QUALITY TIME – 

Having undivided attention might be the best way to show our children how much we love them. Some children need this more than any other thing. The activity doesn’t really matter, as long as they have our full attention and presence. One of my daughters speaks this love language, and she gets her love tank filled by sitting with me coloring with her as we chat, by being my only companion on my grocery trip, or by sitting on the coach and watching her dance and twirl and jump.

4. GIFTS – Giving and receiving gifts can be a powerful expression of love for some children. Some children really acknowledge the love and effort that is put behind each gift, which makes them feel valued and loved.

One of my daughters values gifts tremendously when she receives them, and shows her love for others by giving them gifts. By gifts I don’t mean a huge, super expensive toy, and I am not talking about constant gifting of things. She really loves receiving love notes with her lunch box, she loves it when I send her a little chocolate in her coat pocket, she loves it when I go to the grocery store and I remember to buy the specific apples she loves, she loves it when a friend gives her a post it with appreciation words… she really treasures all this ‘gifts.’ In the same way, she loves giving special gifts and surprises to her loved ones, and her heart fills when she does that for others.

5.  ACTS OF SERVICE –

These are things like helping our child putting away his coat when he gets home, carrying his backpack on the way to school, taking her to dance class, cooking their favorite meal, teaching them something… For some children, this is their primary love language, as it happens to be one of my daughters’. She thrives when my husband or myself take time to sit with her to build a Lego, or to program her robots. This simple act of service doesn’t go unnoticed, and fills her love tank to the rim.

 

It took me a while to identify how each of them felt loved the most. In parenting, as in life in general, one size doesn’t fit all. Identifying my daughters love languages have made a world of difference.

What are your children’s love languages? Have you figure it out? Let me know!

Much love, Diana-

12 Parenting Resolutions for a Peaceful 2018

I hope 2018 is off to a good start. My year has definitely started on a good note, much better than 2017, but that’s another story.

Anyway, we all have resolutions that we want to accomplish in the new year. For me, that includes parenting resolutions as well. I thought it’d be helpful to create a list of 12 resolutions that we can all focus on each month of this new year. By the end of 2018 we will (hopefully) have more peaceful, connected and loving families.

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January: Self-Care

It all starts with us! We have all heard that we cannot give what we don’t have, so we have to start by taking care of ourselves. Moms (and dads) tend to put themselves the last on their list of priorities. That needs to change! January is the best month to start taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally.

January is also a great time to reconnect with our spouses and make sure our relationships are prioritized. Our children will feel more secured and stable when they see their family is based on a good solid relationship between their parents (yes! this can also be done even when parents are separated or divorced).

When we take better care of ourselves and our relationship with our partners in live, we are more able to regulate our own emotions, which allows us to be better parents.

February: Love and Connection

Cupid knocks on our doors in February, so what better month to focus on love and connection? The goal of this month is to figure out each of our children’s preferred love language (more on that later on), and love on them the way they want to be loved.

This is the month to be present, really present and engaged when we are with our kids. Love them as they are and enjoy every second you spend with them.

March: Routines

Let’s take the time to review our family routines and improve them whenever possible to make sure our days run more smoothly. Our routines should prevent our daily quarrels to get out of the door, to get kids to do their homework, to transition from one activity to the other, etc.

Our schedules should allow for certain flexibility, for family time and connection, and for unstructured play for our children. Not every minute of every day should be scheduled.

April: Respect

It is always easier to lose our temper when we are tired, stressed, trying to figure out what to do, improvising what to do each day, and completely disconnected from our kids. Therefore, now that we are taking care of ourselves and our relationships, we have re-connected with our kids and know how to love on them a little bit better, and we have established good routines that work for our family, we can start focusing more on modeling good behavior. Good behavior has its roots in respect, it all begins with respect.

May: Electronics Control

I believe taking control of the use of electronics in our house is vital, especially right before our children are off from school and will have more free time. I’m not saying we shouldn’t use electronics, but I believe in being conscious and intentional with our use of electronics. There are many ways we can use our iPads, iPhones, TVs… can be use as a way to connect with our children.

June: Communication – Listening

Now that we have our electronics use under control, the next step would be to focus on improving our communication with our children. Better communication starts by listening better. We want our children to come to us every time they need to share something great that’s happened to them, but more importantly, we want them to come to us when they have problems, when they’re struggling, when they’re afraid, when they’re stressed, and when they are lost.

Unfortunately, they will not come to us unless they know for sure that we are going to listen, without doubting them, without overreacting, without judging them, without putting conditions on our love, without an open mind, without an unconditional and loving heart. So, this month, my focus will be on listening.

July: Healthy Living and Fun

Summer is the perfect time to start doing more outdoors activities with our kids, to create healthy habits and traditions, to play more with our children and to eat healthier.

Sometimes we are so immerse in our daily lives and responsibilities that we forget to have fun with our children, just enjoying the moment, whatever we are doing with them. We all know the joy our children feel when they know they have our undivided attention and we are having fun together. This is the best time to focus on that!

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August: Planning

September is right around the corner, so August is the perfect time to plan our fall, and make sure we don’t start the school year with stress. We have plenty of time to get ready for school, to think about our children’s activities, and to start adjusting our schedules.

September: Patience and Routines

Back to school tends to be a stressful time, both for us and for our kids. We are all trying to adjust to our new schedules and routines, to new classmates, to new teachers, to new after school activities, to lunch boxes, to homework… It’s a lot! Focusing on our daily routines that we had already thought about in August, and focusing on being patient will help us have the best September ever.

October: Responsibilities

Once everyone is settled in their own schedules and we have already found our fall rhythm, I will be more intentional in letting our children have more responsibility. By that I mean reviewing their chores and contributions, and making sure they are accountable for their own work both inside and outside the house.

I want to raise children who own their behaviors and the consequences of those behaviors. I know I sometimes step in to much, and sometimes I ‘rescue’ them when I should let them fail and learn the lessons of their mistakes. In October, I will make the effort to improve in this area.

November: Gratitude

November is one of my favorite months of the year, mainly because gratitude and appreciation are in the air. In our family, we already have many traditions to make sure we make a special effort to be thankful during this month. However, I believe there’s always more we can do to spread joy, to be kind and to reinforce the importance of giving.

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December: Celebration

What better month to celebrate than December? So far, we have focused on improving one area of our parenting every month, now it’s time to celebrate. Celebrate our accomplishments, celebrate that we have made an intentional effort to be better parents, celebrate our family, celebrate our children and celebrate life in general.

That’s it! I believe this is a great starting point. Focusing on one thing every month, and carrying over what I’ve learned and improved the months before, I know I will be a much better mom when January 2019 rolls around.

I hope you join me in this journey!

Much love, Diana-

Embrace Your Child as She IS

Last week, I was talking to one of my coaching clients and she seemed very unhappy with the way her daughter had turned out to be. I tried to understand what she meant by that and why she felt that way. Her daugher, who is eleven, is a straight-A student, well-behaved. She loves reading, she speaks three languages. She is well-adjusted and friendly, loves volunteering at her local church, playing piano and playing tennis. Finally, she is a very caring and inspiring older sister to her little brother.

 

Although the mom was proud of all the things her daughter had accomplished at such a young age, her daughter had missed the mark on something that my client considered extremelly important “lacrosse.” The mom had played lacrosse when she was a child until her undergraduate years, and had dreamed about having a daughter who followed her steps on that sport. Her daughter gave it a try, but wasn’t interested at all, she didn’t find it enjoyable, and she didn’t want to miss tennis or piano to go to lacrosse.

The mom was having a hard time letting go of the dream of what her ‘ideal daughter’ would be; and embracing the amazing daughter she had. Of course, the daughter was feeling unloved and unwanted by her mother, despite all the good things she was doing; and didn’t really understand what was going on. Obviously there’s something causing the mom to put so much importance on this particular sport, something that was ingrained in her thoughts and believes when she was growing up.

This story compelled me to invite you to let your children grow as the unique individuals they already are. Allow them to discover themselves, their likes and dislikes, their strengths and weaknesses. Your children are not you, and they should be able to have their own dreams and aspirations, and more often than not, those will be different from your own dreams and aspirations.

Appreciate the individuality of each child a blessing and pursue ways to expand on that. Be open minded, and don’t push your child into pursuits that they are not interested in. When you find yourself trying to impose your own agenda on your child, look inside yourself, think about what’s pushing you to make that decision, what part of your upbringing is creating this behavior. Believe in and love your kids for who they are. Allow them to be their true self and embrace them as they are.

“The best parents are the ones who let their kids know: ‘I believe in you,’ and don’t add the caveat, ‘but I’d like you to be thinner, smarter, etc.”

Lenore Skenazy

Let’s make sure our children know how much we love them, no conditions, no changes required!

Much love, Diana –

Two Thousand Kisses A Day

Those of us who’ve decided to follow a gentle parenting approach with our children know that this path doesn’t come without bumps on the road. Many think that gentle parenting is a permissive, lazy, dessorganized or hippy. Others think it’s a radical form of parenting that pushes breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babywearing, and elimination-communication on everyone, regardless of the circumstances.

We know that gentle parenting is neither one nor the other. As L. R. Knost puts it in her new book ‘Two Thousand Kisses a Day’, gentle pareting is all about meeting our children’s need for secure connection.
But how do we do that? We are surrounded by articles, books and pareting journals advising us not do use punitive discipline, not to spank our children, not to use rewards and bribes, not to label and humiliate our children, not to yell at them… and to be present, to create moments of connection with our children, to meet our children’s needs, to be firm but loving, to set limits… 
 
ImageHowever, all this general information sometimes confusses many gentle, positive parents. Many of the parents I work with privately or that I meet at my parenting seminars tell me that they understand the general principles of gentle parenting and positive discipline (loving guidance), but need clear examples on how to apply that to their day to day lives with their children.
 
Well, Linda’s book might just be the solution for these parents. Linda R.Knost is a children’s book and parenting author and founder and director of Little Hearts/Gentle Parenting Resources, an online resource for gentle parenting education, articles, and research. 
 
Linda gives clear examples, fantastic suggestions and clear information for gentle parents wanting to develope secure, healthy, lifelong connections with their children. In the book she doesn’t only give guidance on how to parent during the formative years of a child, but also during their teenage years and young adulthood. Linda is a mom of six children herself, which gives her a valuable perspective of 25 years raising children.
 
‘Two thousand kisses a day’ become ‘two thousand points of connection a day’ as our children grow up. As Linda describes it ‘Creating two thousand connection points a day isn’t about quality time, and it isn’t even about the quantity of time spent with our children. It is, instead, about being there in the small moments, the moments that matter to our children, and consciously meeting with them right where they are.
I absolutely love the simplicity and clarity of this statement, because I believe that’s what parenting is all about, it’s about relationship and connection, it’s about meeting our children’s needs, it’s about being consciously present, it’s about making sure our children know they’re unconditionally loved, it’s about being in our children’s lives now.
Much love, Diana Blanco

Breast is Best… as long as it’s best!

We have all heard about the ‘Breast Is Best’ campaign, and I agree with it. The benefits of breastfeeding are enormous. Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for your child; even the best formulas are only imitations of breast milk. There are also proven health benefits from both mother and baby; and obvious cost savings. Additionally, breast-feeding is one of the most joyful and special bonding experiences you can have with your baby.

I always recommend the families I work with to try to exclusively breast-feed during the first six months of life of the baby.  I recommend using breast milk over formula, even in special cases when babies can’t breastfeed (i.e. premature babies). The mother can pump breast milk and offer it to the baby fresh and even keep a frozen milk supply for later on.

I, in fact, ‘breast-feed’ my twins until they were almost 8 months old (6 months adjusted age); however, those feedings weren’t at my breast. After being born at 29 weeks, they had to spend over two months in the hospital. Despite many trials, many consults with lactation consultants, they were never able to properly feed at the breast. At some point, they could latch on and suck, but they were so weak that they got exhausted and didn’t get enough milk. In addition, they both had severe gastrointestinal reflux (GERD), and would spit up often.

We were so concerned about their weight and development that I made the decision to avoid them the struggle of trying to breastfeed and burn all their energy trying, and continue pumping milk and offer it to them in a bottle. Was it easy for me? No, it wasn’t. I had always wanted to breastfeed, and letting that go, was not easy for me. Furthermore, pumping every 3 hours, day and night, to maintain my milk supply to feed both babies wasn’t easy or fun; but I am so glad I did it. My daughters weight gain during their first year of life was fantastic, they were healthy and strong, and I am glad I was able to do that for them.

Having said this, I understand that breastfeeding is not the right solution for everyone. Society has somehow stigmatized those who choose not to breastfeed. Do you remember the public health campaign comparing not breastfeeding with riding a mechanical bull while pregnant? It feels like women who choose not to breastfeed are egotistical, ignorant or abusive. I think these types of messages are plain wrong and damaging, adding onto the self-imposed guilt and inadequacy most first time moms already feel.

There’s not doubt in my mind that breast milk is better than formula, no doubt! But there’s also no doubt my mind about the fact that breastfeeding is not for everyone. There are some medical conditions, such as HIV, AIDS, active untreated tuberculosis, maternal varicella virus contracted two to four days prior to delivery or within six days of delivery, neonatal galactosemia, and human T-cell leukemia virus, might make breastfeeding an undesirable option. Additionally, there are certain medications that nursing women might not take, and if they must, lactation might not take place. Always check with your health care provider before breastfeeding, if you have any of these medical conditions, or if you are taking any medication.

Some women have jobs that are incompatible with nursing or pumping; and many of those can’t afford or do not want to take longer maternity leaves (if any) or quit their jobs and stay home with their child. Finally, “Breastfeeding is not always easy” I hear this every week from the women at the support groups for new moms I attend every week. Many of them struggle with breastfeeding at first; they suffer from engorgement, sore and bleeding, plugged breast ducks, or mastitis; and their babies have trouble latching on, or sucking and keep losing weight. All these challenges add on to the current stress and anxieties moms already feel. The moms who successfully breastfeed, encourage those having trouble to try yet another lactation consultant, another nipple cream, another breast shield, another feeding routine, another nursing pillow, another nursing position… and to keep at it until they are successful. I agree, as long as the ‘keeping at it’ doesn’t interfere with their happiness and the way they parent their children.

I believe that happy babies come from happy moms, and I’ve seen so many moms absolutely miserable because breastfeeding was a struggle. I don’t think that’s good for the mom or the baby. If breastfeeding becomes a terribly painful experience or filled with anguish and resentment (towards your body, yourself, or your child), then I would argue that bottle-feeding, is the best option.

A lot has been said about the unique bond you develop with your child while breastfeeding. But that’s only true when breastfeeding goes according to plan. If breastfeeding becomes a struggle, week after week after week, the mother will resent herself and her baby and that will undoubtedly affect their bond. Additionally, I do believe that fathers can have a bond as special as the one mothers have with their babies, even though they do not breastfeed; as so can adoptive parents; and mothers who can’t or choose not to breastfeed.

To sum up, I do believe that breast milk is a much better option than formula, I do believe that breastfeeding when going well, helps create a unique bond between mother and child. Having said that, I do believe breastfeeding is not for everyone, and I do believe that mothers who can’t or choose not to breastfeed can be just as good mothers or better than some who chose to breastfeed.

Much love and encouragement, Diana-