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Welcome to the EP Parenting Blog


This is the place to read blog posts from our experts and from EP's team of dedicated Parent Bloggers, who write about their own experiences raising their children. Comment, ask questions, and share advice. If you're interested in blogging for us, please click here.
Oct
21
Posted By:

Recently, my oldest daughter and I were out and about, running some errands; on our way home, we stopped at a gas station. There I saw a group of young men, one of whom wore his pants so low that I was concerned he was going to trip going up the curb!

After I saw him, I looked my daughter right in the eye, and with a bit of a smile said, “If you ever bring someone home with their butt hanging out like that, I’ll turn him around and send him straight back to his house.”  Luckily, she’s still at that age where she thinks her daddy is silly, so her response was to giggle. As the dad of a “12-going-on-17” year-old, I didn’t find it nearly as amusing!

The fact that she is nearing the “boy-crazy” age has, in truth, been weighing heavy on my mind lately.
This situation really got me thinking.  If she did indeed bring a boy home who sagged his pants or donned some other “fashionable” style I disagree with, would my actions meet up with my words? Would I be able to follow through on my promise and send that boy packing?

Back in the Day

If I were to meet my eighteen-year-old self today, I would have—as a protective father—rejected that boy. He had a lot of growing up to do.

When my wife first introduced me to her father, I was all “Gothed” out. I usually sported those huge black parachute pants with all the chains and straps. I wore black t-shirts, often from the metal band Tool, and accessories to the gills—including a studded black dog collar and leash I picked up from the pet store. And the only reason the collar wasn’t spiked was because it was against school policy.

The point is this. For me to judge that boy at the gas station because of his pants would be like judging a younger version of myself.

The Lesson Learned

There are five critical attributes I focus on modeling for my children in order to be a more effective parent: Patience, Encouragement, Action, Consistency and Empathy, or P.E.A.C.E.

The more I think about it, the more I realize the importance of teaching my daughter how to identify these attributes in others and how to respect herself enough to expect no less in a relationship. I don’t care if it’s a relationship with a best friend, a boyfriend, or even her own parents; I hope she does not accept anything less in her life than someone capable of P.E.A.C.E.

After some thought, I came to realize several important things.

One, if I tell my daughter that she cannot date a boy because of his poor judgment in style, I would be a hypocrite.

Two, as long as that boy is patient with my daughter, is encouraging to her, and understands empathy, he can wear his pants on top of his head as far as I’m concerned.

Three, I have to trust my daughter to make her own decisions.

And lastly, that if I’m doing my job as a parent, I won’t have to worry anyway—or at least not too much!  My daughter will understand the importance of P.E.A.C.E. and will have already put that poor boy through an extensive pre-screening process before he ever reaches my doorstep.

 

After unwittingly failing as a parent for over a decade, Daniel Wagner, father of four, was hit with some eye-opening facts and philosophical arguments that were impossible to ignore. From that point forward, he has been doing everything in his power to spread the word about Peaceful Parenting; offering perspective from both sides of the parenting debate and helping parents avoid making the same mistakes. To learn more, head over to the Parent of Progress website and pick up a free copy of his new eBook: “Mindset Shift: Are You Making These Parenting Mistakes?”

Oct
16
Posted By:

Having adopted children from Poland nine years ago, I can look back now and see that blending children who had been neglected into a family that has love to give is much more complex than we ever realized.

Overseas adoption is a process that is fraught with anxiety and uncertainty right from the start.  Revisiting diary entries from that time, the compassion and yearning I had for these children when we learned about them comes rushing back at me.  As does the love, fear and anxiety I had when we met.  As the weeks ventured on in Poland, I can hear in my writing how desperate things were getting, and how much I longed for home.  Then as the years unfolded, my entries go from hopeful to desperate and to hopeful again.

And while today I can say that we feel like the meshed family unit we’ve worked and hoped for, it hasn’t always been easy.  An important lesson my partner and I had to learn early on was that the children’s day-to-day experiences, before we were together as a family, were very, very different from ours.  We had the security of our life and what we had built; whereas, they were in a type of limbo, living on hope.  And once they came home, it wasn’t just accepting that their life experiences were so different; they needed time and support to heal.  After all, no matter the reasons, their first parent-child relationship had been broken.

We also learned that solutions to some parenting issues in a blended family were no different from those we used in raising our biological son.  Things like having honest discussions with each other about values, limits and consequences in order to present a united front when it came to things like homework, the dinner table, bedtime routines and such.  All these things are key to keeping a stable home for your new child.  You may not have all the answers on day one, but at least you’ve begun the conversation and are moving in the right direction for the good of your child.

Today, our kids are teens.  Our biggest struggle is that I’m not always seen as an authority in the house.  It can be hard for any parent of teenagers not to take things personally.  Teens are often self-absorbed and uncaring about hurting others’ feelings because it gives them a sense of power. For parents of adopted children, power and control issues can be an ongoing struggle, making the teen years especially challenging.   From a young age, my kids never had any control, so now they often dig their teeth in, in order to show me that they can be in charge. Knowing it’s not really about me, but about the dysfunctional life they came from, combined with their development stage, it is something we work on everyday as a family.  It is such a delicate task as they are still learning how to recapture those early years that were lost, but we are making headway!

When it comes down to it, in the words of my son, I know that, “even though we fight, and we fight, and we fight some more, at the end of the day we all still love each other.”  What more can we ask for?

All the best in your journey together.

 

Regina Radomski lives with her husband, and their three children live in Northern NJ.

Regina is also the author of From Half to Whole – a journey to overcome the battle scars of adoption and living to tell about it. With 5 star reviews, “From Half to Whole” is a raw and honest look at the trials and tribulations of their family’s struggle to adopt and raise these two young boys who came to America not only with a few stuffed toys in their backpacks but also the trauma of their past. She shares her personal diary entries and reveals her compelling yet tumultuous journey to acclimate her adopted children to their new environment and the solace she found in family, friends, and valuable resources she discovered along the way.

Regina Radomski is the founder of Fillin’ the Blanks, a program offering support and solutions during the adoption process.  She is also an Elite Life Coach and the NJ chapter coordinator of PAPA (Polish Adoptive Parents Association).  Radomski is currently starting an Adoption Family Planning program to help empower pre- and post-adoptive parents during their journey.  For more information on Radomski and her program, follow Fillin’ the Blanks on Facebook and on her website: http://www.reginaradomski.com/

Oct
14
Posted By:

Every night, there are parents who lie awake wondering if they did the right thing with their children that day. Should I have yelled? Was I too harsh? Did I spend enough time with them? All of these cause parental anxiety; they are the demons we must face as parents. However, there are three very specific questions you can ask yourself that can bring balance and offer insight. They might even help you sleep better!

What behaviors will my child learn from me? Even though children spend a great deal of time with other adults, in school for instance, parents have the greatest effect on them. What you do teaches your kids about what a parent, a partner—an adult—is supposed to be and do. I term this the “Model” perspective. What behaviors are you modeling for your children? Are they positive, or are they negative? Think about what you did today as a parent. Were you trying to get the kids to stop arguing? That’s good.  How did you go about it? Did you lose your temper? Did you make threats you couldn’t keep? Were you constructive or destructive? In any case, your actions showed them both how to behave as a parent and who you are as a person. If you were firm and loving, they got the message. If you were rude and out of control, they got that message too.

What can I teach my child?  This question embodies the “Mentor” perspective. Of course, you will be teaching your child how to actually do certain things.  Cooking and bike riding are just two examples, and you can have fun sharing in these moments.

One of the things that we parents often have a hard time with is letting children learn from their own mistakes and failed attempts. Parents must let this happen when the child’s safety is not at risk. Teaching them about consequences can help with this, even though this can be difficult for parents to swallow.  If your son does something you told him not to do, (“Don’t leave your bike out in front of the house”) and the results are painful, (the bike is stolen, or you see it there and take it away for two days) then that pain is the teaching tool. If you shield your child from too much, they won’t know how to handle things later in life.  Don’t let them miss these lessons.

What must I ensure that my child learns? This is the “Guide” perspective. In one year, five years or even ten years from now, what do you want your child to know? This could be a skill to get her through life, or it can be a set of values that you hold dear. How are you going to teach your child these things? This question must be put into action in a deliberate way. It embodies what you want to pass on to your child as he or she grows into an adult. What don’t you want your child to miss out on learning? Manners? Work ethic? Spiritual discipline?

Raising your child is too important a task to “fumble” through.  These three questions can help guide your efforts and help you gauge your success. Be deliberate, and sleep comfortably knowing that you are doing your best.

 

Dale Sadler is the author of Generations to Come: Becoming all Things to Your Child. By day he works with middle schoolers as a school counselor, and by night he is a family counselor specializing in marriage, parenting and men’s issues. He works hard to be the husband and father his family needs. Follow him @DaleSadlerLPC or visit www.DaleSadler.net.

Oct
09
Posted By:

The day of September 27, 2012 started out as an ordinary day for me, but I suppose most people say that before the unthinkable happens.

It was a Thursday, and by some miracle I was ahead of my work for the day, so I was going to call it quits a little early. But while I finished my work, a tragedy was unfolding just a few miles away.  Thirty-six-year-old Andrew Engeldinger open fired on his co-workers at Accent Signage in Minneapolis before turning the gun on himself, culminating in the deadliest workplace shooting in Minnesota history. According to Andrew’s parents, he had been suffering from mental illness for a number of years.

In the days following the shooting, Andrew’s parents, Chuck and Carolyn, appeared on local news networks to make their painful statement. They said they had lost contact with their son nearly two years before, after he refused to get treatment for what they believed were symptoms of schizophrenia, including delusions and paranoia. Andrew was never clinically diagnosed.

Just 10 weeks after Accent Signage, the news of the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre broke. As the reports came in, I couldn’t help but think of the Minneapolis shooting, of Andrew’s victims, and Chuck and Carolyn. And the Aurora movie theater. And Virginia Tech. And Columbine.

In the wake of these tragedies, a new light has been shed on mental illness. Some politicians are working on legislation to address the gaps in the healthcare system, news organizations are telling the stories of those who struggle with disorders, and well, it’s just simply being talked about. But, the next time there’s an incident, what assumptions do you think will be made about the perpetrator’s mental state?

Unfortunately, there are stigmas and myths surrounding mental illness. And while it may seem impossible to change people’s perceptions, I think parents can help.

Be Aware

Studies show that 90 percent of mental disorders manifest themselves in childhood, and it’s estimated that one in five kids will have some sort of mental disorder. But, only 20 percent of children with mental disorders are diagnosed and treated.

These numbers aren’t meant to scare you into questioning every single behavioral outburst or issue your child has, but rather to encourage you to be proactive about getting your child the help he or she needs if serious symptoms begin to present themselves.

What should you be looking for? Number one on the list: changes in your child’s mood that cause issues with relationships at home or at school, as well as dramatic changes in personality or behavior. Intense feelings such as overwhelming fear for no apparent reason, difficulty concentrating, physical harm, substance abuse and unexplained weight loss are other things to watch for.

If you are concerned by your child’s behavior, do a little investigating. Don’t brush them off. Talk with your child’s friends, other family members or teachers to see if they have noticed any changes. And, of course, talk to your child’s doctor and tell them what you’ve found out.

Know the Facts

The biggest myth of all is that mental illness and violence go hand-in-hand, and unfortunately, recent well publicized tragedies contribute to that perception. The simple fact is that anyone can be violent. Research shows that the vast majority of people with mental illness are not violent, and are actually more likely to be victims of violence.

Another myth that’s been hanging around for years is that bad parenting causes mental illness, and that is far from the truth. While I can’t report this for sure, I’m fairly confident that the Engeldingers felt and still feel the eyes of judgment upon them. They said they had Andrew cremated to spare their other children the sight of someone protesting at his burial or desecrating his grave.

It’s true that a kid’s home environment and relationship with his or her parents can trigger symptoms, but studies show a full range of psychiatric disorders are often the result of biology. Many times disorders are even inherited.
And finally, mental illness doesn’t mean your child can’t have a full and happy life. Just like heart disease or diabetes mental illness is a disease. And just like heart disease or diabetes, mental illness can be treated and recovery is possible.

Please note that the information contained in this blog is an overview and does not account for every possible warning sign of mental illness.  If you are concerned that your child may have a mental illness, speak to their doctor right away.  For more information and resources regarding mental illness, check out the Empowering Parents’ resources page or the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

 

Caitlin Burgess was born and raised in the Minneapolis metro area, and now lives with her fiancé in downtown St. Paul, Minn. Caitlin spent a little over four years as a community journalist and now works in blogging, contributing and online marketing. She’s also a guest writer for Allison Holt & Associates, a Twin Cities-based psychiatry practice that works with children, adolescents and adults. All the views expressed in Caitlin’s posts are her own.

Oct
07
Posted By:

The temptation is there, folks. Oh, is it ever there!  School has been in session for a short bit, and there are so many new opportunities to say “yes.” And many parents, me included, are tempted to say “yes” to everything.

  • “Yes” to being class parent.
  • “Yes” to helping with the fundraiser.
  • “Yes” to this and that play date or activity.
  • “Yes” to making creative lunches.
  • “Yes” to baking cute snacks for school functions.
  • “Yes” to organizing the neighborhood party.

But I can’t. I mean, technically I could.  But if I want to keep on yelling less and loving more, I just can’t.

Is Being Over-Busy a Yelling Trigger for You, Too?

Recognize it.  Being over-busy wasn’t an easy yelling trigger for me to spot, even though it’s actually one of my strongest!  When I started taking notes about when and why I yelled, I eventually saw how saying “yes” too much left me feeling overwhelmed, overtired and overstretched.  Doing too much was not only making my life way harder, but it was also truly, truly leading to significantly more yelling.

Own it.  It was especially hard for me to admit to this trigger because I enjoyed doing the things I said “yes” to, and I didn’t want to have to say “no.”  When I finally acknowledged having an overfull plate was a trigger, I felt a little sad, a little disappointed even. I liked trying to do it all! I liked pushing myself to see what I could achieve. I liked being a class parent, helping with fundraisers, and making cupcakes with ducks on top. But I didn’t like yelling at my kids. And the feelings of sadness and disappointment I experienced every time I yelled trumped the feelings of sadness and disappointment I had from admitting my trigger.

Work at it.  Every day.  I now say “no” to many things, but I still have to work hard at it.  To manage this trigger, I have to stop and remind myself daily that, “an overwhelmed me is a yelling me.” Every day I tell myself, “I can only do what I can do, and that is okay!”  That saying “no” to one more thing doesn’t make me a bad mother, friend, or wife.  It doesn’t make me a failure.   It can also help to keep in mind that choosing to say “no” can actually help you succeed in being a better parent, friend, spouse or partner.

Find the upside.  Every day, I remind myself that saying “no” more brings out the best “me” in me.  What does it do for you?  I find that I am more relaxed, less overwhelmed and therefore better able to enjoy my kids.  I am happier and more open to experiencing moments as they are happening.  I am able to love more and yell less, and that makes managing this trigger worth all of the daily hard work!

 

The Orange Rhino is the author of “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” and creator of The Orange Rhino Challenge and the popular blog www.TheOrangeRhino.com. Her book is a 30-Day Guide to help others start their own journey to yell less and love more and includes easy steps to follow, 100 alternatives to yelling, and honest stories to inspire. It hits shelves this fall but can be pre-ordered now to guarantee the lowest price! Click here to get your copy and to start your journey to yelling less!

Oct
03
Posted By:

Your daughter comes home from school and you innocently ask, “How was your day?” Her response?  Blowing up at you!  Sound familiar?  There are a few things that moms of teenage daughters need to understand when talking to their girls.  Your daughter is under a lot of pressure. School, self-image, friends, romance, and the worries about fitting in all turn her into a pressure cooker that’s been building up steam. The problem is, you might not see the steam building because it’s all boiling underneath the surface of your “sweet” girl.

In addition, your teenage daughter is “hard wired” for drama. She’s at a developmental stage where her brain quickly becomes emotionally “flooded.” Undeveloped and primitive parts of her brain can still easily take over; and these parts have reduced abilities.  She is in hyper REACT mode; and when she is in that place, nothing good can be accomplished.

  • She can’t accurately take in information.
  • She can’t reflect on the past.
  • She doesn’t have insight into her behavior.
  • She doesn’t see the big picture.
  • She does not have empathy.

When your daughter is stressed or emotionally flooded, there is only one thing to do. Give her time to calm down.

The good news is that she is not stressed, pressured or reactive all the time. When the stress and pressure go down, you see your sweet little girl again. It’s like she’s back to her old self. If you want to have a good conversation with your daughter, or if you need to talk through some issues, then you need to wait for the right time—which is when your daughter is calm.

Finding the Right Time to Talk

Pay attention to her cues.   Given everyone’s hectic schedule, it may make sense to try catch up with your daughter right after school.  But she may be trying to process the drama from school that day. She may be afraid that she failed her Spanish test. If you try to force her to talk at this point, it’s probably not going to work. She will get frustrated and Miss Nasty is going to show up.  This is often when your daughter responds using only one-word answers; this response rears its head when she is stressed.

However, if you pay attention to your daughter’s cues, you will see that there are times she approaches you and is willing to let you in. Be open and available to those moments, even if they aren’t always convenient for you.

The moment something bad happens is not the right time.  You just found out that your daughter has lied to you. Or it’s an hour after curfew, and she’s just walking in the door.  Perhaps she threw her shoe across the room and shattered a framed picture.  Or she just marched into your room, cursing and yelling that she’s going to the party, whether you like it or not.  The moment the incident happens, it’s normal to want to contain the situation; but it is not the time to talk through the situation. You can contain the situation by telling her that you will talk to her tomorrow, or by not letting her leave. There’s a good reason that this isn’t the right time.  You and your daughter are going to be a volatile cocktail because you are both emotionally flooded.   You are going to be shocked, angry and/or sad, but you are not going to be clear. This is when the drama can escalate quickly between the two of you, and hurtful things may be said.

Talk it through later, or the next day. Give yourself time to get clear about how you are going to handle the situation, and what the consequences are going to be. When you are both calm, you can talk through difficult situations.  A calm, productive discussion will never happen the moment an incident occurs.

When she is calm, the timing is right.  The best time to connect and enjoy your daughter is when she is calm and relaxed.  This is also the best time to work through any kind of situation with your daughter.  See the pattern?  You can’t control when your daughter is stressed out, but you can avoid pushing her when she is. You can help create a home environment that is relaxed. Let your daughter have downtime after school. Be careful not to be the 24 hour monitor where you are always pushing her.  Encourage your daughter. Be open to the spontaneous moments with her.

Remember, when it comes to talking to your teenage daughter, timing is everything.

 

Colleen O’Grady specializes in encouraging and empowering mothers of teenagers, especially teen daughters, to live their highest and best life. From her coaching programs to her therapy sessions, Colleen has helped thousands of mothers and teenage girls uncover their true purpose in life, create more happiness, and move to a place of inner peace. Find out more at www.poweryourparenting.com.

Oct
01

Your seven-year-old son, Justin, is so embarrassing.  He approaches adults and asks personal questions that seem inappropriate.  He seems to have no sense of shame, and little interest in conforming to social norms.  You cringe at the thought of taking him to family affairs and public events, where you never know what kind of catastrophe might transpire.  And when you broach the topic, he easily dismisses it and hardly makes eye contact.  You have already heard dubious murmurs regarding your parenting capabilities on several occasions, causing you to feel completely misunderstood.  All this despite the parenting lectures you invested in!

Julio, who has just turned six, has been turning your life upside down for as long as you can remember.   His explosive outbursts are both unpredictable and utterly irrational.  You were convinced that his rigid inflexibility was just an extension of his “terrible twos,”, but he has since doubled in age and his explosions have only increased in duration and frequency.

Everyone seems to adore Laura, a lovely, compliant eleven-year-old.  But you are worried that she seems to have little drive and never takes initiative.  She gives up easily and just doesn’t seem to have many interests.  When she does get excited and begins a project, she rarely completes it.

And Sean, who is seven, is so active and aggressive that you are scared to leave him in the playground without constant supervision.  And even that doesn’t seem to stop neighbors from complaining about him.  Although Sean’s teachers and the principal are polite at PTA, the looks on their faces imply what the future will look like as Sean journeys through his school years.

Justin, Julio, Laura and Sean’s parents are worried about their children.  Are these normal behaviors?  Will they “outgrow” them, or should the parents take action?

Most of you reading these short vignettes can probably identify a child you know as closely meeting one of these descriptions.  Do these children need to see a therapist?  How would therapy benefit these children?

Let us first identify the purpose of psychotherapy.

To Love and To Work

When I began my career as a Clinical Social Worker, a typical comment I would hear from friends was that they believed most people could benefit from psychotherapy.  But what percentage of people who say this actually step up to the plate and attend weekly sessions?  In a groundbreaking 2004 survey, a Harris poll showed that 27% of people in the U.S. received psychotherapy during that era.  That survey also concluded that only one in three people who needed psychological treatment was receiving it.  So, you may ask, where is the other 54%?

Sigmund Freud, the father of modern psychology, defined mental health as the ability “to love and to work.”  In simple terms, a person’s mental health is limited when it gets in the way of his regular ability to function and to have relationships with others.  The purpose of psychotherapy is to help the consumer attain those two objectives.  This can be accomplished through many forms of therapy, with each therapist offering his own style and each consumer responding in his own way.

That said, in determining whether to take your child for an assessment, the parents should initially look at three factors: 1) The parent(s), 2) The child, and 3) The parent-child.

  • The parent: Are you the type to become easily alarmed or overly reactive?  Be mindful that you are not reacting simply because your child is not perfect.  Sometimes, children evoke feelings in a parent that might be a result of the parent’s own unresolved issues.  In that case, it is really the parent who needs therapy.
  • The child: The next step is to evaluate whether the child’s issue is significant enough to require psychotherapeutic services.  It is strictly this category that would deem the child fit for psychotherapy.  Here is a partial list of issues that might be assisted by working with a mental health professional:
    • learning or attention problems (such as ADHD)
    • behavioral problems (such as excessive anger, acting out, bedwetting or eating disorders)
    • a significant drop in grades, particularly if your child normally maintains high grades
    • episodes of sadness, tearfulness, or depression
    • social withdrawal or isolation
    • being the victim of bullying or bullying other children
    • decreased interest in previously enjoyed activities
    • overly aggressive behavior
    • sudden changes in appetite
    • insomnia or increased sleepiness
    • mood swings (e.g., happy one minute, upset the next)
    • development of, or an increase in, physical complaints (such as headache, stomachache, or not feeling well) despite a normal physical exam by your doctor
    • management of a serious, acute, or chronic illness
    • problems in transitions (following separation, divorce, or relocation)
    • bereavement issues
    • therapy following physical, or emotional abuse or other traumatic events

 

  • The parent-child:  Whether the child’s issue stems from a poor attachment or not, it can often be helped through an enhanced parent-child relationship.  This approach offers the parents tools to regularly help their child develop his lagging skills in his natural environment.  This can be done in individual or family counseling.

 

Finding a Therapist

If you suspect that your child can benefit from ongoing therapy, it is a good idea to determine who might be the best fit for her or him.  For example, do you or your child have a preference for a male or female therapist?  Younger, older or middle age?  Would you prefer that a potential therapist has experience working with a similar family situation (such as a blended family or foster family), or a diagnosis?  Remember, choosing a therapist is always a risk, since the results can be relative and subjective.  There are numerous modalities  that therapists use to work with children and each one can be successful in its own right.  Sometimes it can take a few appointments, or meeting with multiple therapists, before you can determine whether that specific counselor will be a good fit for you, your child, and/or your family.

 

Remember, these are just a few guidelines toward finding a good match.  Ideally, a referral from a friend or family member can often provide you with the most vital information when seeking a quality therapist.  Your child’s pediatrician or primary care doctor might be an additional source of information, or referrals to other local professionals.  Another resource which can be useful in finding a counselor or therapist is the 211 Helpline, which you can contact at 1-800-273-6222 or by logging on to www.211.org in the US.  In Canada, you can reach the 211 Helpine by calling 1-800-836-3238 or by visiting www.211.ca

 

Moshe Norman, MSW LCSW is a child and family therapist in Lakewood, NJ.  He can be reached at mnormanlcsw@gmail.com or at moshenorman.com


Sep
26
Posted By:

I am the type of person that wants it all, and I want it all NOW. This mentality makes me feel like I’m perpetually chasing a bus I cannot catch, no matter how fast I sprint.  Some days, it feels like an enormous task to just get everyone fed and into bed at the end of the day!

As parents, we have a huge weight on our shoulders every single day.  I know you are busy. I get that you are often overwhelmed. I can appreciate that you just want a hammock somewhere on quiet beach. I do, too. But, what are you doing these days just for you? To take care of yourself?  To climb into that hammock, so to speak?  When’s the last time you got off the merry-go-round that is your life and made time for yourself? Think that’s impossible? I’m here to tell you it’s not.

Back when my boys were in preschool, I knew I needed something more. I had a full-time job in advertising, a more than full-time job raising my sons alone and a house with a yard to maintain, but my soul yearned for more than this. After leafing through a catalog of writing classes one day, I later found that I just could not drop the fantasy of signing up for something. The class I wanted to take met on Monday nights across town for six weeks. The boys’ dad was around, but I knew I could not count on him to commit to six consecutive Monday nights, so I began to problem-solve.

Now, asking for huge favors is very difficult for me; yet I knew if I didn’t honor this yearning in me, I would be snuffing out a portion of my heart.  Across the street lived a young couple with two boys. They’re a fantastic family, and we adults enjoyed hanging out while the boys played.  So I summoned up some courage and went to talk to my neighbors about a barter system of sorts. Would they be open to watching my boys those Monday nights in exchange for me babysitting their kids? They said yes, they were happy to help, not a problem. What a relief! I still remember the feeling of driving to the class each week, feeling completely liberated and energized. My boys had a complete blast being at the neighbor’s and I, in turn, did babysit for them (note: spending an evening with four boys under the age of six is perhaps one of my biggest accomplishments thus far).

The lift I received from my writing class gave me a newfound energy and zest for life. I loved using my brain in a different way from my 9 to 5 job; and because I was in class learning something I’m passionate about, the energy snowballed into other areas of my life. I was able to get up super early to complete my weekly writing assignments. I began to observe daily life more thoroughly, realizing that writing material was everywhere.

So brainstorm some options about what you could do for yourself and how to make the time to do it. What matters to you?  Who may be able and willing to help you? Do you dream of being home alone with your sketch pad? Rock climbing? Maybe an hour walking around a lake alone sounds amazing.  Realize there may be sacrifices.  And if it’s hard to ask for help, you are going to find yourself dancing in the “uncomfortable zone” for a bit. That’s ok, that’s how we stretch and grow.  Remember, you are doing the asking; it’s up to the other person to decide if they need to say no.

Keep in mind that simple things have huge benefits.  Yes, there are some seasons of life when your passions really do need to take a backseat.  But watch out for the “busy-ness” trap!  It can make you feel like you couldn’t possibly take time to do something for yourself, ever.  Start making time in your life for your passions and hobbies, and you, too, will quickly feel the rewards and benefits.

 

Renee Brown is the tired yet happy mother of two young adult sons, Sam and Zachary. Almost an empty nester, she loves sharing her single parent experiences with the goal of providing hope and encouragement to those struggling on that “long and winding road.” Renee lives in Minneapolis, works in advertising, and also blogs for Your Teen magazine.