Everyone experiences feelings of anxiety and stress. Below are numerous tips and strategies to help reduce anxiety naturally in both children and adults. These strategies are useful whether you experience occasional or frequent anxiety.
Grounding techniques are practices to help you focus on the present moment. This is helpful for anxiety and any type of distress. It is particularly useful in those that suffer from PTSD and Panic Disorder. There are a variety of grounding exercises that can be implemented by both children and adults:
(1) Repetition of Phrases
Repeat something over and over when you are trying to anchor yourself. An example is, “My name is _________. I live in _____________. The weather outside is ______________. The time is _____________. “ You or your child can make a list of such phrases in advance, and pick phrases to say aloud when feeling anxious. You can keep saying different phrases on the list or the same phrase until you feel less anxious.
(2) Label items in categories
Choose a few categories that you can easily list, such as types of animals and favorite desserts. You can either mentally or verbally list as many items as possible from those categories.
(3) Recite something
Pick a favorite poem, song, or lines from a book that you know. Either say it aloud or to yourself, while focusing on each word.
(4) Recall details
Take a photograph, drawing, or piece of art and stare at it for a few seconds. Then look away and say as many details about it as you can recall. This can include remembering where you were when the picture was taken, what you were wearing when the picture was drawn, or any other related details.
Some examples include reciting the multiplication table, adding different numbers together, or counting by 3s. The types of math can vary based on age and ability. For example, a younger child can count until 5 several times.
(6) Use the 5-4-3-2-1 Method
This is one of my favorites as it incorporates all your senses, really helping you to stay grounded in the moment. Look around your surroundings and use your senses to list things around you, working backwards from 5. For example, you can notice 5 things you see, then 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can smell, 2 things you can hear, and 1 thing you can taste. Focus on your surroundings intensely so you can pick up on sensations you may not normally realize.
(7) Put your hands in water
Put your hands in a bowl of cold water, allowing yourself to focus on the sensations of the water on different parts of your hand. Leave them in there while you concentrate on the various sensations. Then take them out and put them in a bowl of warm water. Focus on how the various temperatures feel differently on your hands. Continue to switch them back and forth.
(8) Pick up different items around you
Notice the texture, shape, weight, smell, colors, or any unique features about each item. How does it feel in your hand? Try to be as specific as possible when labeling their features.
(9) Hold a piece of ice or put a cold pack on your head
Notice the sensations in your hand or face, again being as specific as possible. Notice how the sensation changes as the it melts or becomes less cold. Putting anything cold on your head “triggers the vagus nerve that turns on all rest-connect nerves” (Kate-Cohen Posey, 2016).
(10) Focus on your body
Concentrate on how your body feels from your head all the way down to your toes. First, do this sitting, and then try it again standing. You can raise and lower your feet on the ground, wiggle your hands or your arms, and/or cross and uncross your legs. Notice how each body part feels when you make those changes. Also pay attention to feelings such as your hair on your back, your glasses on your nose, or the feeling of your clothing on your body.
Notice how your body feels when you stretch or move each part of your body, from your toes to your face. You can rotate, wiggle and/or flex your body, focusing on each part as you do so.
Additional grounding exercises besides those in this post may be found here.
Diet and Supplements Are Helpful Ways to Reduce Anxiety Naturally
Watching what you eat and consuming certain supplements are beneficial for reducing anxiety:
(1) Limit your sugar intake
Research has shown that too much sugar can worsen anxious feelings and impact temperament (webmd.com, 2017)
(2) A diet that contains vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein may benefit those with anxiety.
Chemicals in processed foods may cause mood changes in some people (healthline.com, 2020).
(3) Limit caffeine
Caffeine can cause jitteriness and nervousness in some people. Try reducing or eliminating your caffeine intake and see if it improves your anxiety symptoms. Remember that there is caffeine in chocolate, so be mindful of whether your child has caffeine in their diet as well.
(4) Eliminate alcohol and cigarettes
Alcohol can become abused if used as a coping mechanism for anxiety, so do not rely on alcohol to soothe your nerves. Similarly, smoking can worsen anxiety over time and “research also suggests that nicotine and other chemicals in cigarette smoke alter pathways in the brain linked to anxiety” (healthline.com, 2020).
(5) Supplements can help with anxiety reduction
Please consult your child’s doctor before giving any supplements to children.
Check with your child’s doctor before giving any probiotics to children.
Exercise to Reduce Stress and Anxiety
(1) Moving your body is a great way to relieve mental stress
When you get your heart rate up, your body releases endorphins, which are chemicals that improve your mood. Find something you and/or your child enjoys doing such as running, walking, dancing, doing jumping jacks, swimming, playing sports, or riding a bike. Do this regularly as it is great for your physical health as well as your mental health.
A main goal of medication is to practice mindfulness, which is staying focused on the present. This is a grounding technique, and one which relieves stress and anxiety when practiced regularly. It is important to note that there is no “wrong” way to meditate. I like to repeat a phrase in my head to keep me anchored while I inhale and exhale. There are many YouTube videos that provide various options to help you or your child meditate.
Restorative poses are yoga poses that activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This helps elicit a relaxation response. You can google “restorative yoga poses” to see a variety of options, but a favorite of mine is Legs-Up-the-Wall-Pose. To do this pose, you lay down on your back on a floor or bed and put your hips as close to the wall as possible. You then elevate your legs by putting them up against a solid object, such as a wall. Your body forms an L-shape. Place a towel or blanket under your pelvis to elevate your hips for further benefits. You may also place a pillow under your head if you prefer. Focus on your breathing or listen to relaxing music. Stay in this position for 10-20 minutes depending on age, comfort, personal preference. This is something that children can easily do as well as adults.
Journaling for Anxiety Relief and Stress
Journaling is a great way to handle stress. It is an outlet which allows for insightfulness and introspection.
(1) Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, where they write/draw what they are grateful for daily
This allows them to focus on the positive things/people/circumstances in their life that they can remember when feeling anxious.
(2) A journal may also be used to list positive affirmations daily (e.g., I feel anxious, but I am not anxious. Being anxious does not define me.)
You can also list/draw things you like about yourself as reminders for when you feel anxious.
(3) Another/additional option is to put down on paper what you feel stressed about
This provides a healthy outlet of coping with anxiety. It can also help identify a pattern of thinking or way of thinking that isn’t helpful, allowing an opportunity to adjust your perspective.
Children should be encouraged to journal as well. They can either draw or write in their journal depending on which method is preferred/age.
(1) There are MANY different strategies and ways to alleviate anxiety.
There are so many, in fact, that I have another post devoted to an entire new list of tips and techniques to manage anxiety in both children and adults!
(2) Remember that anxiety is experienced differently for everyone.
What works for one person may not work for another. Also, what might work for you or your child in one instance may not be as effective another time. Experiment with various strategies so you have options.
(3) It takes practice and patience to figure out what techniques or products are the best for you.
(4) Lastly, if you find this article helpful, please share it with others!
My hope is that these tips and strategies will be beneficial, and that this post can help spread awareness and support!
Self-confidence is something we all want to build and something many of us are lacking. It isn’t surprising that we lack confidence as adults. Many of us were told as children that our best was not enough. Others didn’t get any motivation or encouragement to step out of their comfort zone or try something that was challenging. What was once our parents’ voices soon turned into our inner voice/critic. As a result, the story we believe as adults is that we aren’t good enough. The good news is that there are strategies to build self-confidence in yourself and your children.
my struggles with self-confidence
I grew up with a mom that expected perfection. When I was 5 years old, I had a small writing assignment for school. I was extremely proud of what I wrote and showed it to my mother. Her response was to rip it into pieces and instruct me to write it again. That experience rattled me and will forever be imprinted in my mind. The lesson I learned was that I should feel intense shame if my best wasn’t perfection.
My struggle with perfection crept into every facet of my life. In first grade there was a competition that whoever read the most books by the end of the month would get a box of crayons. I was determined to be the winner. So was another girl in the class. Eventually other classmates stopped participating in this contest, but neither me nor this girl would relent. Finally, the teacher stopped the contest and declared that we both were the winners.
I defined myself and my value based on how well I did in school.
I would beat myself up over any mistake I made. In my mind, nothing other than an A was an option. Eventually my mother told me that I didn’t have to get top grades as long as I was trying. By this point her words rang on deaf ears; the bell could not be unrung. I was terrified of not getting the top grades in exams and I was ridden with anxiety every time I had to write a report or do a presentation. I always agonized that I wasn’t good enough despite the number of times that was proven to be untrue.
Shame, not self-confidence, became my constant companion. I feared everything because I didn’t believe that trying was what was most important. In my mind, if the result was unsuccessful, the effort was worthless.
the inner critic that creates guilt and shame
Regardless of our childhood circumstances, I know that many of you live with that same inner critic. If we try something and it isn’t a success, we beat ourselves up over it rather than feel proud of ourselves for trying. It only reinforces that we shouldn’t put ourselves out there or reaffirms our belief that we are failures.
It is often easier to look at the laundry list of mistakes or flops rather than focus on how hard we tried or the things we did well.
This way of thinking starts to take on a life of its own, and eventually we tell ourselves that we are failures instinctually.
When we speak and feel this way about ourselves, is it any wonder that our voice becomes the inner voice of our own children? It is an endless cycle of guilt, shame, and self-contempt. In order to teach our children to have self-confidence, flaws and all, we first have to believe that about ourselves.
What if we changed our inner voice? Told ourselves that we are enough just as we are? Applauded our efforts rather than our successes? What if we recognized that what matters most is putting ourselves out there? What if our determination and resiliency was how we judged ourselves rather than a tally of achievements?
ways to build self-confidence in ourselves
Obviously, this is much easier said than done. Stopping and changing the story we have told ourselves constantly isn’t going to magically vanish. Luckily, there are ways of building self-confidence in ourselves and our children:
(1) Change your inner dialogue
Our inner voice is determined to rear its ugly head any time we feel guilt or shame. We can counter those thoughts by putting new ones there. Each time that we try something, no matter what the outcome, we need to acknowledge that putting ourselves out there is an accomplishment in of itself. Showing up and trying is something to be proud of. Counter your thoughts of shame with thoughts of recognition for how hard you try.
This way of thinking applies to our children as well. Instead of commending our children for their grades on a test, applaud them when you see they are studying and taking it seriously. Acknowledge the effort, not the result. Success isn’t a guarantee, but it takes great courage to put oneself out there and try. Our children deserve recognition for the journey instead of the destination.
(2) Fake it until you make it
This new message that you are telling yourself doesn’t align with the inner critic you’ve lived with for years. It takes time to truly feel what you are now saying. Reaffirm this new way of thinking with mantras such as “I am enough,” “I can do hard things,” and “I am brave,” and say them to yourself and your child. Counter those shameful thoughts with confident ones.
Make a list of these affirmations with your child. Explain that this list is to be used daily and when we feel badly about ourselves or are afraid to try. Let your children see that you are using this list and encourage them to use it as well.
(3) Don’t give up
I remind myself and my daughter that no matter how many times we get knocked down, all we can do is keep picking ourselves up. It is inevitable that we will make mistakes. What we do with those mistakes is what matters.
I wrote a children’s book, and the road to getting an agent is far harder than what I anticipated. My daughter has seen me send query letter after query letter. She has asked me why I don’t give up. I told her that some of my greatest accomplishments are the ones I had to work at the most to achieve. My hope is that my daughter sees that what truly matters is perseverance and believing in yourself.
(4) Instead of focusing on your failures, make a list of the things you accomplished despite feeling afraid or self-conscious.
Ask your child to make a list of things he/she worked hard to achieve. The next time you or your child feel badly about yourself, look at the list of reminders of how brave you are. Remind yourself and your children that it takes great courage to put yourself out there.
(5) We all have strengths and weaknesses
We are human, so we are flawed. It is inevitable that there will always be someone that is able to do something better than us. As a recovering perfectionist, I remind myself and my daughter that all we can strive for is to be the best versions of ourselves. Perfection isn’t the goal, but courage and strength of conviction is everything.
(6) Self-care is necessary to incorporate into our life and our routine
Encourage your children to explore what they enjoy and to devote time to it. Our emotional well-being is the foundation for learning to love ourselves.
Feel proud of yourself for trying regardless of what others say and do. Remind yourself and your children that there are people that will try to say and do things to make you feel badly about yourself. It is imperative to be your own supporter and cheerleader.
I remind my daughter often that she is not defined by any labels. She is defined by who she is as a person. That means that she should strive for inner beauty instead of focusing on her appearance. My hope is that she believes in herself as much as I believe in her.
(8) Be your own friend
When I feel shame or guilt, I often ask myself what I would say to my friend if the same thing was happening to her. I tend to give others far more support and understanding than I give to myself.
When I notice my daughter is being hard on herself, I ask her what she would say to her friend if that person was in the same situation. I then ask her to say those words to herself. That often helps her to put things into perspective.
Giving kindness and compassion to ourselves is crucial in building self-confidence. We need a gentle reminder that we deserve better than how we are treating ourselves.
The journey to building self-confidence is a long and difficult one. There will be easier days as well as days that are more challenging. Be mindful of the story you tell yourself and the example you are setting for your children. It is inevitable that we will fall down along the way, but like everything in life, we must pick ourselves up and try again. You are enough. We are enough just as we are.
Imagine this scene: You are shopping at a grocery store, and you see someone nearby (pre-COVID, of course). That person watches your daughter touch various items in the aisle. You try to stop your child, and remind her that she can look, but cannot touch. As you push your cart, your daughter starts running ahead even though you tell her to hold your hand. The person who is watching then shakes their head and mutters something about a wild child. This is a mere glimpse into my life of parenting a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).
“Parents who have children with special needs, also have special needs. They need to know more than the average parent. Need to do more than the average parent. They need more patience than the average parent, and so much more.” (Parents Supporting Parents).
parenting my child with adhd and spd
The scenario I described at the top is not at all shocking for a parent of a child with ADHD and SPD. The constant struggle to support our children is something that is an everyday part of our lives. Even worse, surveyors assume our children are spoiled and not properly parented.
This makes us feel shame, not only because we feel we are failing as parents, but because our children are being judged.
The purpose of this post is not to discuss strategies, although I’ve used many, which you can find here and here. On behalf of every parent who has a child with special needs, I am giving a glimpse into my experiences with my child who has ADHD and SPD. It is important to remember that “No two kids with ADHD are exactly alike. Their symptoms can vary in type and severity… ADHD isn’t an all-or-nothing thing.” (understood.org, 2014).
My hope is that sharing some of my obstacles will make other moms feel less alone and judged by others. Knowledge is the foundation for awareness and advocacy. My aspiration is that we spread awareness to those who do not understand these challenges.
lack of impulse control and emotional regulation skills
One of the biggest challenges I face is my child’s lack of impulse control. Brielle needs constant monitoring. She has hurt herself several times because she runs down the stairs. Also, Brielle jumps off couches, is unable to take a shower by herself because she tries to jump and run in it, and throws herself backwards in chairs. She already fell backwards twice, but fortunately wasn’t hurt (although I aged ten years each time). Many times she went down the stairs at night and jump on the countertops. I continue to have a baby gate at the top of the stairs for my 8-year-old daughter. Whereas other children would learn from these painful mistakes, Brielle continues to put herself in danger.
Emotional regulation for Brielle is also a huge obstacle.
She perseverates on things that cause her to worry and feel sad. Using emotional regulation tools is very helpful, but she still fixates on things and needs extra support to process her feelings and move past them. “Kids with ADHD don’t have the same capacity to manage their emotions. If they don’t have it, how do you expect them to do it? How do you expect them to respond to what you’re asking them to do? It’s like they can’t win.” (Dr. Dawn K. Brown, MD, ADHD Wellness Center, 2016).
As I illustrated in my earlier scenario, taking Brielle with me on errands is a recipe for disaster. She is overly stimulated by all the things in the store and wants to touch everything. Due to her short attention span, she gets very frustrated when having to stay next to me and walk calmly. I only bring her for quick errands while providing redirection and encouragement. If my errand requires me to talk to a cashier or salesperson, Brielle will get restless and try to run around.
parenting a child with adhd who has endless energy and craves sensory stimulation is very difficult
Brielle plays outside every day as an outlet for all her energy. However, when playing in the yard, she runs up the driveway towards the street despite my consistent reminders. She tries to take her scooter and sit on it instead of standing. She’s fallen down the driveway on multiple occasions.
Brielle craves sensory stimulation.
She is always seeking out “more.” I am fearful at parks because she climbs up objects without looking where she is putting her feet. She jumps off of high places (I will never forget the time I had to catch her when she walked off a beam midair), and runs around without looking to see if any object can hit her. As a result, I can’t sit at a park and relax. It is imperative that I am hyper alert everywhere. Looking away for a few seconds is the difference between safety and disaster.
From morning until night, Brielle is always on the go. That means that from the moment she wakes up, she is immediately energized. She goes from 0 to 100. No matter my exhaustion or mood, I have to be alert. There is simply no laying low with her.
lack of focusing and difficulty playing independently
Every day Brielle loses her stuff because she is always on the go. She doesn’t remember where she puts her things, so keeping her stuff organized is a must. When she had dance class, there was always at least one item missing. As a result, I had to go on a scavenger hunt with her to find her shoes, her leotard, or her tights.
Brielle rushes through activities and moves on to something else very quickly.
She needs numerous reminders to stop and clean up before going to another activity. She will leave papers on the floor, clothes on the bed, and toys all over unless she is redirected.
Playing independently is a huge challenge for her because using her imagination requires higher level thinking. She has difficulty coming up with safe ways of playing independently due to her sensory issues and impulsivity. I limit her choices to only a few items when she does “quiet time,” and I check in on her regularly. When I haven’t checked on her, she’s done things such as jumping into the tub and turning on the water, spilling water all over the floor, and/or going into closets and taking things out.
Due to her lack of impulse control, she will interrupt and tap me when I am in the middle of something. I cannot look at my emails, talk on the phone, or have a conversation without Brielle trying to get my attention or get into something if I am preoccupied.
Boredom in a child with ADHD and SPD equals trouble. She has gone into my room and looked inside my drawers, in my closets, and through my jewelry. There have been many incidences where she accidentally shattered hung pictures on walls and items on floors because she is running around. I give verbal and visual prompts that she needs to wait for her turn, but this is something she struggles with daily. What may appear to others as being demanding or a troublemaker is actually a child who struggles with delayed gratification. Brielle always acts before she thinks.
inattention and executive functioning
Brielle has difficulty focusing and learning, as well as executive functioning issues. She has an IEP because she needs constant redirection, individualized instruction, and the use of multiple prompts to learn new information. There are times when she is unable to grasp new material because of her processing issues and poor memory.
She has a different learning style than others, but that does not mean she can’t learn.
Brielle has difficulty sleeping because of her sensory issues with her bladder. She will have accidents because it doesn’t register that she has to go to the bathroom. Most often, she uses the bathroom every few minutes because she is overly sensitive to the sensation.
Brielle’s body doesn’t register exhaustion like other kids, so she becomes hyperactive (more than usual) when she gets overtired. She also has difficulty falling asleep because her body and mind won’t quiet down. As Sarah Young explained, “Living with ADHD is like being locked in a room with 100 televisions and 100 radios all playing. None of them have power buttons so you can turn them off and the door is locked from the outside.”
There are many ways of supporting kids with special needs, and Brielle has made huge strides.
She is not defined by her ADHD and SPD; rather, she is a smart, funny, sweet, loving, sensitive girl who has ADHD and SPD.
“No mom who is actively trying to understand what their child is going through should ever feel like they are not doing enough or they are a bad mom. Your child is very lucky to be loved so unconditionally by you. Some day they will look back and say, ‘I got here because of you.’”
If you are a parent, it is very likely that you’ve experienced guilt. Once I became a mom, I experienced guilt that I never knew was possible. It is something that often goes hand-in-hand with parenting. Guilt is healthy when it motivates us to grow and learn, but it can become problematic when it takes on a life of its own. Luckily, we can learn how to overcome mom guilt and decrease those feelings.
What is Mom Guilt?
Mom guilt is a feeling that moms experience regarding their role as a mother. Although guilt can be experienced by dad as well (aka dad guilt), it tends to affect women more. It can be feelings of worry or regret that you’ve done something wrong, didn’t do it well enough, or did something that will affect your kids. Mom guilt can be fleeting and/or pervasive and can be based on both short-term and long-term decisions.
Guilt is often due to a behavior, which in turn, causes feelings of shame about oneself. This shame causes self-judgment and negative thoughts and beliefs. The guilt and resulting shame cause other feelings and behaviors. In other words, mom guilt can be a perpetuating cycle of guilt, shame, and self-criticism (mindfulreturn.com, 2017).
What causes it?
There are several possible causes of mom guilt:
(1) Postpartum depression
Guilt can be a major symptom of postpartum depression. A staggering 1 in 7 women experience postpartum depression or anxiety (mindfulreturn.com, 2017). Moms who are experiencing postpartum depression may feel numb and disconnected from their child, which can cause feelings of inadequacy as a parent. It can also make simple tasks incredibly difficult to accomplish due to a lack of energy. This all results in tremendous amounts of guilt.
(2) Working moms
Working mom guilt is a specific type of mom guilt due to working. They either are unable to stay at home or choose to go to work, causing them to feel guilt about being away from their kids. They feel guilty about putting effort into something besides being a mother. There can also be feelings of guilt if they miss their kids and/or feelings of guilt if they enjoy being away from their kids (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021).
Mom guilt can occur even if nothing was done to warrant it. Moms often have a notion that we are supposed to be perfect in our parenting roles. As a result, we set impossible standards for ourselves that make us feel guilty and like failures when they aren’t achieved.
(5) Comparing ourselves to others
Comparisons to other moms, either ones we know or through social media, can cause us to feel guilt and inferiority.
(6) Actual mistakes
If we do something wrong, we feel guilty. We want our kids to be happy, and anything we do that negatively affects them can make us feel guilty.
We invest so much of who we are into our role as a mom, that we often don’t separate the two. Therefore, our success (or failures) as a mom is associated with our own sense of self-worth and value as a person.
(8) External pressures
Family member, friends, neighbors, and other moms can insert themselves into our decision making. Recommendations from doctors and parenting specialists can cause us to feel mom guilt with tips such as “breast is best” and “screen time is harmful.” They can put pressure on us, which makes us feel inadequate and believe that we aren’t making the right choices for our children.
(9) Personal insecurities
If you already had issues with not feeling like you were good enough before kids, this will only amplify when you are a mom. The faulty belief systems we had prior to becoming parents will rear their ugly heads tenfold when becoming a parent. Parenting will test our insecurities and bring everything to the surface.
(10) Internal pressure
We love our children so much and feel responsible for their success and failures. As a result, we feel guilt and fear that we will cause damage to them due to our mistakes.
What are the symptoms?
Mom guilt can manifest itself in many forms:
Depression and/or anxiety– feelings of sadness, intensive worry, anger, and
Perfectionism– this can be exhibited by overcompensating by appearing as if you are perfect, or it can be perpetual feelings that you need to be a perfect mom
Negative thoughts– thoughts that you aren’t good enough, aren’t doing enough, or are a failure as a mom.
Doing too much– moms often feel that they need to do more to be better moms. Unfortunately, this way of thinking and behaving usually leads to burnout.
Addictive behaviors– in order to avoid the feelings of guilt, a mom may turn to drinking, drugs, gambling, overspending, or other addictive tendencies (mindfulreturn.com, 2020).
Exhaustion– constant feelings of guilt can take a toll physically and cause extreme fatigue
Physically sick– chronic mom guilt can cause your immune system to become compromised (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)
How can I overcome mom guilt?
Here are strategies on how to overcome mom guilt:
(1) Determine its origin
The first step to overcome mom guilt is to understand where it stems from. Is it a particular topic that causes mom guilt or does it stem from your own childhood experiences with your parents? Did you experience trauma that is impacting your feelings?
Use a journal and keep track of when you feel mom guilt. You can determine if there are any patterns that emerge. Once you’ve established the cause of mom guilt, you can be mindful of your triggers (healthline.com, 2020).
(2) Challenge your inner critic
Gain awareness into why you feel that way. Did you actually do something wrong or is it an irrational thought or belief that is causing your mom guilt? If you did something, can you work on it and improve and/or apologize?
Jot down the statements that pop into your head when you are feeling mom guilt, and then read them aloud. Talk to yourself as you would a friend and challenge those statements if they are stemming from your inner critic. Next, combat your negative statements by writing down more reasonable ones. You can also write down positive affirmations to challenge your inner critic.
Example of inner critic statement- I am a terrible mom because I wasn’t available to play with Johnny when he asked me to play with him.
More reasonable statement- I know I can’t always be available to play with Johnny, but I can set aside quality time to play with him every day.
Guilt often makes us feel paralyzed and helpless. Sometimes there is an underlying solution if we look passed our feelings and see the situation in its actuality.
(3) Name your mom guilt
It can often be difficult to overcome the faulty beliefs and stories we tell ourselves. A way to put our inner critic in its proper place is to name it. Although it might seem silly, it makes it easier to combat that voice that tells you that you are failing as a mom and recognize its foolishness. (funlovingfamilies.com, 2021)
For example: “Samantha, stop telling me that I’m not good enough. You’re bothering me.”
(4) Forgive yourself
It is important to recognize that perfection is impossible and torturing yourself with guilt will not change anything. You will inevitably make mistakes, and by setting impossible standards, you will negatively affect your mental health and your relationship with your kids.
Forgive yourself for your mistakes and strive for a growth mentality. Remind yourself and your kids that being a human being means having flaws. None of us are perfect, but we can own up to our mistakes and do our best. This sets a good example for your kids to give themselves compassion and to not seek perfection.
(5) Stop the comparison game
We all have our own set our unique experiences and challenges. We never know what others are facing. Focus on being the best mom you can be instead of comparing yourself to others.
Take a break from social media if you feel that there is too much pressure. Also, do your own part in stopping comparison by supporting other moms, regardless of whether their parenting beliefs are different than yours.
(6) Avoid judgmental people
Surround yourself by those that will support you, regardless of their own personal choices. Additionally, distance yourself from those that criticize and judge you. Stand up for your choices and walk away from anyone that continues to insert their beliefs onto you.
(7) Trust your own instincts and do what is best for your own child
Despite the saying that it takes a village to raise a child, you are still the mom. You know what is in the best interest of your child. Don’t let other people influence your choices and trust your own instincts. There is not a one-size-fits-all way to parent, and every child is unique. What may work well for one child doesn’t have to be best for another. Do what is in the best interest of your child and recognize what areas can be improved based on each of your child’s needs.
(8) Practice self-care
A crucial part of overcoming mom guilt is to prioritize your mental wellness. Being the best version of yourself allows you to be the best mom (and person) you can be. Neglecting your self-care affects you emotionally and physically, which will impact your relationships with others. Taking care of yourself improves your relationships with your kids, and it also teaches them the importance of prioritizing their own well-being.
(9) Celebrate your triumphs
We are often so focused on the “should haves” “did nots” and “supposed tos” that we don’t take the time to applaud our achievements. It is crucial to recognize the positive things we do each day instead of harping on the negative ones. Mom guilt can be counterproductive because it sends a message to our children that our efforts are never enough. Practice being your own cheerleader in front of your kids and encourage them to do the same for themselves. It is important to work on ourselves and grow; however, recognizing things we can improve upon is not the same thing as being consumed with feelings of guilt and inadequacy.
(10) Seek professional help
If you find that your guilt is overwhelming despite your best efforts, please do not hesitate to contact a professional.
Takeaway: Managing Mom Guilt
Humans feel a range of emotions. Guilt is something that in small doses can motivate us and indicate areas that we can work upon. However, extreme amounts of mom guilt are not beneficial to us or our children. In times of stress and uncertainty, it is easy to look at ourselves and the list of things that we want to do better. However, life is filled with difficulties, and therefore our expectations must shift accordingly.
We love and want what is best for our children. Ironically, allowing ourselves to be consumed with guilt often interferes with our intentions to do right by our children. It also prevents us from savoring motherhood. Showing ourselves kindness, compassion, empathy, and grace is not only in our own best-interest, but it models for our kids how they should treat themselves. It is a win-win.
I hope this article helps you to overcome some of your mom guilt. You are capable, and you are doing the best you can. Trust yourself and know that motherhood is hard for all of us. Your unconditional love is what matters most to your kids. Enjoy motherhood instead of trying to perfect it.
I remember the moment I found out that I was pregnant. I showed my husband the positive sign on the pregnancy test, and we both started to cry. We sunk down to the floor, hugging one another, and knowing that this was the start of something wonderful. It was the start of my pregnancy story, but I had no idea what was to come.
Events were about to unfold at the same time as my pregnancy. Little did I know that, like parenting, nothing would ever be the same again….
MY PREGNANCY STORY
I mentioned HERE that I found out that my husband started abusing alcohol during my first trimester. He was terrified that I would have a miscarriage. An occasional drink turned into two which quickly turned into him pouring alcohol into iced tea bottles during the weekend. When I finally discovered what was happening, I asked him to leave.
I remember sinking down to the floor, but this time, it was not a moment of overwhelming joy. It was a feeling of complete and utter helplessness. I had no idea what I was going to do, but I knew I now had a responsibility to protect this baby.
My husband stopped drinking alcohol, and I thought the worst was over. Unfortunately, his addiction turned to sleeping pills. I discovered that my prescription sleep medicine was missing pills, to which he always had excuses. He told me that he tripped while bringing them home and they fell down the drain. I was told the pharmacist must have given me less pills, and I was told that the TSA workers must have taken them when we went on a plane. No, I did not believe any of his stories. However, I knew little about addiction and did not understand what was happening.
All I knew was that I wanted him to stop taking them. I felt angry and betrayed that he kept lying to me and wouldn’t admit that he was using them. He would stop for a little while (during which time he was getting prescriptions from doctors or asking his parents to give him pills), and then start with mine again.
My husband also lost his job while I was in the end of my first trimester of pregnancy.
He never used anything while at work, but it still didn’t help our circumstances. I was struggling to figure out what was going on with my husband on top of him no longer having employment. We were currently living in a place that had no space for a crib, and we needed a bigger apartment. It was terrifying. I knew all the stress wasn’t good for the baby. I didn’t know how I was supposed to feel calm under all of these incredibly stressful circumstances.
Fast forward a few months and we found a three-bedroom rental in a two-family house. The rent was similar because it was an older home, but we were still struggling financially. I unpacked boxes as quickly as I could, wanting to feel some sense of stability and normalcy in my life.
A few weeks later, I started breaking out in hives. They were all over my back. Big, red hives. I had no idea what was causing them, and I would wake up covered in them. I went to a dermatologist, who informed me that the likely cause was an allergic reaction to (wait for it…) bedbugs.
HOW COULD THIS BE HAPPENING?
BEDBUGS?! I couldn’t believe my ears. How did I get bedbugs? I was a clean freak. He explained that bed bugs aren’t an indication of how clean your house is, and I could have gotten them from anyone or anything. They could have come from the moving truck, from a person’s item of clothing, or even from the fabric on a seat (movie theaters are a breeding ground for them, especially in New York). I inspected my house, particularly my bed, as they often are on mattress tags or near the bed.
I can’t even begin to articulate how itchy I felt in the car ride home. The last place I wanted to go was back to my house, which was supposed to be my haven amidst all the chaos in my life. I silently said a prayer as my husband inspected our bedroom.
To my horror of horrors, he found one bed bug on the mattress tag.
We immediately contacted our landlord, Ted, who informed us that we must have brought them into our home. When we asked if it could have been there beforehand, he scoffed at the mere suggestion and basically hung up on us.
We proceeded to find an exterminator who said he would not spray the house himself, but he would purchase the necessary chemicals for us. Every inch of the house had to be sprayed because we did not know the extent of the infestation. In terrible cases, they could be everywhere. We were also told that every item of fabric that we owned needed to be washed and dried at extremely high temperatures. Bedding, stuffed animals, and clothing (basically anything) were bagged and methodically cleaned.
I could not stay where the chemicals were sprayed due to my pregnancy. As a result, I lived elsewhere for a week to allow the spray to do its job. My husband basically saturated the house in those chemicals, and then did it again for good measure.
He inspected everywhere. When he opened up the old cable box (which was used by the prior tenants, as we had a different cable company install their own equipment when we moved in), he found a few bed bugs. There was nothing found in my cable box, which means they had to have been there before we moved there. After further inquiry, we discovered that the prior tenants had thrown out their mattress a few months before they moved.
We realized that the prior tenants must have had the bed bugs.
The house wasn’t occupied for a few months, but bed bugs can survive for awhile without eating (a not-so-fun-fact that I learned through this process). My guess is that most of them were on their old mattress, and some of them were in the cable box.
We told our landlord what we had discovered. He went from being outraged to volunteering to waive a month’s rent. This didn’t help much, as the cost of all of the pesticides, dry cleaning, plus the horror we endured far outnumbered a month’s rent. I went to bed each night terrified to sleep, as bed bugs will bite in the middle of the night. My stuffed animals from childhood were destroyed, as they were not meant to be put in a high temperature dryer. I had my clothing in a portable clothing rack in the kitchen because I was fearful of putting my clothing back in the bedroom.
I was in my third trimester, and I was a mess.
My husband still didn’t have a job, I was constantly examining myself for any bug bites, and I had no idea if my husband was sober. My life was a tornado, and I had a child on the way. I was terrified, and I felt completely alone.
Luckily, there weren’t many bed bugs after the prior tenants left, and my husband successfully got rid of them. The knowledge I learned about this topic is one I would never forget, however much I wanted to erase it from my brain. I still cringe whenever I hear someone say, “Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”
My husband found a job right before I had my daughter, so that concern was rectified. Unfortunately, his struggle with addiction is one that outlasted my pregnancy. I am so proud of his sobriety for the last five years, but it is still a big part of my pregnancy story, and one in which look back on with sadness. I wish things could have been different, but there are some things in life in which we simply don’t have a say. What I can control is how I handled myself during my pregnancy, and I am proud of that.
I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl on August 3rd, 2012.
My pregnancy, with all of its horrors and pain, still allowed me to bring a beautiful soul into this world. Although my story is filled with hardships, it is one that I tell with my head held high. I went through a series of traumatic events during a time where I wish I could have been on cloud nine. Although it wasn’t one in which fairy tales are born, it showed me that I am far stronger than I realized. I was going to need that inner strength to raise my daughter and to get through my husband’s struggles. I learned that I had no idea where life was going to take me, but that I would be okay no matter what life (or cable boxes) threw my way.
This past week was a very special week for me. My husband and I celebrated 12 years of marriage on August 2nd, and my daughter’s 9th (!) birthday was on August 3rd. In honor of these events, I’d like to take a stroll down memory lane. These are a few of my favorite memories with my husband and daughter.
Favorite Memories with my Husband
Our first date, our engagement, and our wedding are definitely on the top of the list. However, I’ve already discussed those in length in a prior post, so I won’t list them again. Here are some other favorite memories that always put a smile on my face:
(1) The first time we exchanged “I love you”
We went to a club with some friends, and I took Matt’s advice to take a shot after having a Long Island Iced Tea. For those of you that don’t drink much, do NOT combine different types of alcohol. Also, a Long Island Iced Tea is very strong, especially for someone who up until then only drank a few sips of wine/fruity drinks socially. I remember dancing quite enthusiastically on the dance floor, and repeatedly saying, “I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk, I’m not drunk.” I remember everything that happened and didn’t vomit or get a hangover, so perhaps I wasn’t drunk? That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it, folks.
After being a dancing queen late into the night, we took a cab back to Matt’s apartment in Manhattan.
I was feeling very dizzy, so he carried me to the bed so I could get some sleep. After he gently placed me on the bed, I looked at him and said, “It’s okay, Matt. You don’t have to say it. I know that you love me.” Did I mention we were only dating for three weeks at this point? Liquid courage/a very limited filter is a powerful thing.
To my surprise, he seemed taken a back for only a few seconds and responded, “You’re right. I do love you.” Well, that made my highly tipsy/perhaps drunk self very happy. I told him I loved him as well, and I went to bed with a very big smile on my face.
Like everything else in our relationship, we had our own unique set of circumstances that prompted a faster than normal progression. I knew I was going to marry him after our first date, so isn’t it possible to know 21 days after meeting someone that you love them? I’d like to think that with love, anything is possible. It may not have been the most romantic way of exchanging those magical three words, but I wouldn’t change a thing. However, I never took drinking advice from him again. 😉
(2) Living in Manhattan
Some of my favorite memories with my husband took place while we were in Manhattan. Matt lived in a studio apartment on West 97th Street and Central Park West. It was a nice sized apartment given that it was a studio and its location. When I officially moved in, figuring out where to put my clothes resembled a game of Tetris. There were only two closets, one for coats and one for clothing. He had a dresser that I took over, but until this day, I have no idea how I even managed to get a shirt into his already cramped closet space. Where did we keep our towels? Where did I keep my shoes? Somehow, we made it work.
I actually loved the times I had with him in that apartment. It was small, but it was where we merged our lives together. The entire experience of living in Manhattan with him was wonderful. We had many picnics in Central Park, had an array of restaurant options in different neighborhoods, and the sweet doorman would greet me each time I entered. I remember making many a terrible meal as I tried to learn how to cook. I had no cooking experience as I knew it was time for dinner growing up when the smoke alarms went off. No joke. I remember Matt putting a smile on his face and eating/choking down the food I prepared. Most of all, I remember feeling like I was home.
(3) The trips we took before we had Brielle
These are some of my favorite memories. It wasn’t about where we went; it was about going somewhere new and relaxing with my favorite person. We wore ridiculous hats in the Dominican Republic, we ran away from drug dealers in Jamaica (they were persistent!), and I gasped at chocolate fountains in San Francisco. We would sit on the balcony and hold hands in silence. No words were said, because everything that needed to be said was done so in those moments.
(4) Our apartment in Kings Highway
From 2008-2010 we lived in an apartment in Kings Highway (in Brooklyn). It had a flat roof with a staircase that led to it. We would often climb up the stairs and sit on the rooftop. One of my favorite memories with my husband was on July 4th. We went to the roof and sat there while watching the fireworks. For some reason nobody else ever ventured there, so it was very romantic and our own private viewing party.
(5) Our overnight getaways
Once we had Brielle, it was very difficult to have extended periods of time that were just the two of us. One of my favorite memories with my husband was the first time we went away for the night. We went to Manhattan where we ate at a beautiful restaurant and then went to a place that had AMAZING desserts. Afterwards, we walked around before heading back to the hotel. We have only gotten the night to ourselves two other times, and each time I missed Brielle, but enjoyed every second of our time together.
(6) Our day trip to Athens
In September, we drove to Athens while my dad was visiting from NY. We had the whole day to ourselves. We went to the University of Georgia and walked around the campus. It was a beautiful day, and we explored the area. We took pictures, tried some local coffee (it was good!), and just enjoyed each other’s company.
I could give dozens of my favorite memories with my husband, but these are a mere glimpse of some of them. Although we don’t always see eye-to-eye, I still light up every time I have the chance to spend quality time with him. He still will put on music and ask me to slow dance, and he still looks down at me with the biggest smile (he’s 10 inches taller than me so there’s a lot of me looking up and him looking down). I’m often sad on our anniversary knowing that our daughter is getting one year older the next day, but I appreciate and cherish all of the wonderful times we’ve shared together.
Some of my Favorite Memories with My Daughter
As a mom, all my memories with my daughter are bittersweet. They are reminders of things that touched my heart deeply, but also reminders of things that have passed. I can close my eyes and play them in my mind like it was yesterday. I have more favorite memories of my daughter than I can count. It has been a privilege watching my daughter grow into the amazing girl she is today, but each of these memories make me both smile and cry:
(1) Brielle’s first word
Brielle was nine months old, and I handed her to Matt so I could make dinner. I was cutting at the kitchen counter when Brielle leaned towards me, arms outstretched and said, “Mama!” I basically leaped through the air, grabbed her, and hugged her with all my might as tears streamed down my face. The look she gave me and the magic of her first word being my name is something that I will never, ever forget. Without a doubt, it is one of my favorite memories with my daughter.
(2) You missed it!
Determined to record the first time Brielle sat up, I followed Brielle around with a video camera basically attached to me. I would hold out the video camera, ready to press the record button each time it looked like she was about to sit up.
One afternoon I lay Brielle down right next to me in the hallway. I had to take clothes out of the washing machine and put them into the drier (the washing machine and drier were in a hallway closet). I looked away for no more than thirty seconds. She was lying down when I reached into the washing machine. When I looked back at her she was sitting up at me with an innocent expression on her face. I couldn’t believe I missed this milestone the one time I wasn’t watching her. At the time I was so disappointed and frustrated, but now I find it funny (while still crying that she’s no longer a baby). In true Brielle fashion, she did things her own way in her own time.
(3) Brielle started twerking before it was a thing
She was about 18 months old and loved this song called, “The Ice Cream Song.” The first time I played it, she danced by sticking out her rear and moving it up and down. I thought it was hilarious and called them “tushie shakes.” This soon became her go-to way of dancing when she wasn’t shifting her weight from one foot to the other (my husband’s signature/only dance move). I have a video of my daughter dancing this way while visiting my in-laws.
(4) My daughter’s ten minutes of fame
Brielle took ballet lessons when she was three. I volunteered at the recital, waiting with her class and trying to keep them occupied until it was their turn. There was a very large audience, and it was her first time performing. When it was her group’s turn, I told Brielle that she may not see me sitting there, but I would be watching her and was super proud of her. She did a great job, as did all the other girls.
When it was over, the audience clapped loudly. Brielle smiled along with the other kids. However, when it was time for the kids to exit the stage, my daughter remained, still smiling, and still soaking up the applause. The audience began to laugh, which only encouraged her to continue to bow and smile. Matt and I had to rush to the stage and basically force her off of it. A star was born.
(5) Is she giving us the finger?
Brielle will shake off falling from her scooter or getting major scrapes when she is enjoying an activity, but a paper cut is a different story. When she was four years old she got a papercut while reading. It didn’t bleed, and I reassured her that she’d be fine. We had to go in the car, and I strapped her into her car seat. She continued to complain about her papercut, and held it up to demonstrate the injury. Did I mention the papercut was on her middle finger?
She held her finger up the entire car ride. I thought ignoring it might make her stop, but she’d only stick it in my face even more. She spent forty-five minutes flipping the bird. For some odd reason, her papercuts are often on her middle finger. Until this day, she will give me the finger when it happens. Perhaps it’s time to tell her what that means?
(6) It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Peeawaka
Brielle went through a phase where she was obsessed with Play-Doh. However, what she particularly loved was a girl on iPad who played with Play-Doh. I have always limited her screen time, but when she was allowed to watch, she was fascinated with “Peeawaka.” I have no idea if that was her actual name or if Brielle made it up. She would watch these videos and then sit down with her Play-Doh and want to “play Peeawaka.”
Brielle would reenact the entire video, word for word. She would take out the same Play-Doh set as the girl, get comfortable, and say, “Hey guys, it’s me Peeawaka and today we are going to play with…” I would often watch her with fascination as she would replicate every enunciation, every movement, every syllable of this girl’s video. She watched other videos prior and after, but this was the only one she reenacted. When she stopped watching Peeawaka, sadly her love for Play-Doh faded along with it. However, I will always remember her Peeawaka renditions, and I miss them greatly.
As a mom to a now 9-year-old daughter, I cannot fathom where the time went.
The saying that the days are long, but the years are short is so very true. I remember every laugh, every tear, every time her hand reached out for mine. I have 9 years of favorite memories with my daughter that all are etched into my mind and my soul. It was nearly impossible to narrow down my favorite memories with my daughter to six. I cannot turn back the hands of time, but I find comfort in knowing that these memories will always live on in my mind and in my heart.
Parenting is no easy task. As the parent of a child with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), I have gone through my share of parenting challenges. Although there is always more to learn when parenting a child with ADHD, I have learned many lessons along the way. This post discusses strategies and tips to help children with ADHD. I hope you find these suggestions useful in your parenting journey:
parenting tips for children with adhd
(1) Be open and honest with your child about their struggles so there is no shame associated with it.
Children need compassion, empathy, and support. In order to ensure that, open lines of communication are crucial. My daughter, Brielle, is aware of her challenges, which include focusing and impulsivity. However, she understands that who she is as a person is what defines her. While struggles are important to address, it is just as important to emphasize your child’s strengths and skills.
(2) Limit screen time
I understand we all need a break. There are times that we put our kids on the iPad or TV so we don’t lose our minds. However, kids tend to be so enthralled with the stimulation from the screen that it often becomes a huge battle to take it away from them . Children with ADHD become hyper-focused on what fascinates them, and the transition from screen time to no screen time is incredibly hard for them (additutemag.com, 2021 ) . My daughter acts possessed after I take away the iPad. On the weekends, I allow her to pick between the iPad or TV for thirty minutes each time. I set a timer on her iPad that goes off in thirty minutes. I then give her ten-minute and five-minute reminders.
I created a “calming corner” for my daughter that is comprised of a bean bag chair, a weighted blanker, squeeze ball and some books. Make a chart of different options/tools your child can use, and place it in various locations throughout the house that are easily accessible. Encourage your child to use the tools when needed.
(4) Stay calm
I know how hard that is, believe me! However, if we want our children with ADHD to learn strategies to emotionally regulate themselves, we have to model how we emotionally regulate ourselves. Teach your child to identify their emotions by labeling your emotions. Let your child know that you need to use one of your calming tools, such as taking a time out or doing some deep breathing.
(5) Advocate for your child
As I discussed in 6 strategies and tips for parenting a special needs child , it is important that you are on the same page as your child’s teacher and school. Make sure that your child has a 504 plan or an IEP (individualized education program).Strategies need to be implemented in the school as well as the home to set your child up for success. It is also necessary to communicate with your child’s teacher on a regular basis.
(6) Educate yourself about ADHD
Join support groups. Read literature about ADHD. Speak to your child’s pediatrician, psychologist, and any other related professionals. Knowledge is power, and knowledge will allow you to make informed decisions about what is best for your child. Have an open mind, and be willing to explore different options. If medication is suggested, find out about all possible side effects and be in constant communication with the psychiatrist. There is no shame in your child needing medication, but make sure you are well-informed before choosing any option.
(7)Make sure your child has a comprehensive evaluation so you are in the best position to help your child.
ADHD can accompany other issues such as executive functioning delays, processing issues, anxiety , or autism. A complete evaluation will give you pertinent information to better support your child.
(8) There is no one-size-fits-all solution
Be humble enough to seek help and gather information from others, but also trust your own intuition. Nobody knows your child better than you.
(9) Take time for yourself
We love our children so much that we often take our own well-being for granted. You are in a better position to support your child when you aren’t pouring from an empty cup. In order to properly care for your child, you need to love and care for yourself. Make sure to implement a self-care routine daily.
(10) Mistakes are inevitable
Parenting is a challenge with any child, and children with ADHD require extra support. There will be times where you will say or do the wrong thing. Own up to your mistakes. Set a good example that flaws are part of life, but we can learn and grow from them.
the biggest takeaway of parenting a special needs child
As parents, we have a responsibility to support our children, advocate for them, and love them for who they are, not the labels they have. Teach your children to accept themselves and tolove all parts of themselves.
Be your child’s biggest cheerleader and fan. Try to instill in them that although some things are challenging for them, they are capable and wonderful just as they are. Parenting a child with ADHD is challenging. As in all aspects of life, some days will be easier, and some days will be incredibly challenging. The journey of parenting is a bumpy road, but I feel blessed to be along for the ride with my daughter.
We hide things from our kids. Each and every one of us does this. We do this for a variety of reasons, and our intentions are usually good. We want to protect our kids, we may feel certain topics are inappropriate, or we ourselves are doing something that contradicts what we tell our kids. Despite our hearts being in the right place, the very things we hide from our kids are sometimes what would help them navigate through life. For each of these suggestions, it is important to be mindful of the age, language, and the extent of information we share with our kids. There is a line between exposing our kids to the realities of the world and putting adult problems on their shoulders. With that in mind, these are the 14 surprising things you should not hide from your kids:
(1) Making mistakes
Oops, I’ve done it again. I said a bad word, forgot to call my friend back, misspelled a word in a professional email, or a myriad of a million other things. As tempting as it may be to gloss over it and go about your business, showing your children that you aren’t wonder woman (or superman) is actually a good thing.
You are going to mess up. All of the time. You are going to make mistakes repeatedly throughout life, and so will your kids. Despite our best intentions, we are never going to get everything right. What we can do, however, is show our kids that making mistakes is natural, inevitable, and okay.
The next time you make a mistake, you should not hide it from your kids. Let your kids know that you did your best, but that mistakes will still happen. Show them that being disappointed or frustrated is totally okay, but that nobody is perfect. This shows your kids how to handle their own mistakes.
There are also mistakes we’ve made in the past. Don’t be afraid to share the lessons you had to learn the hard way. Perhaps they won’t make the same choices if they are given the opportunity to learn from the error of your ways.
(2) Healthy conflict
I want you to have a disagreement in front of your kids. Yes, you read that correctly. I know many of us go to great lengths to curtail our conflicts with others. I’m certainly not suggesting you have heated arguments or conversations that are of adult topics while your kids watch. However, showing your kids how to respectfully manage a difference of opinion with your spouse, friend, family member, etc. is actually to their benefit.
If you never expose your kids to any disagreements, then how are they going to have the tools to manage conflict when they are older? Additionally, how will they know if conflict is healthy or unhealthy unless we model for them the proper way to resolve differences?
Show your kids how to listen to another person and work together to compromise. Model empathy, validation, and compassion. Set an example for how you should be treated by others, and how you should treat others. It is a lesson that they will take with them for the rest of their lives.
(3) Resolving problems
If your kids have witnessed a more intense conversation, what should you do? Many times we will stop in the middle of the argument and take it elsewhere, or put a pin in it and finish after kids are asleep. The problem is that once that bell is rang, it cannot be unrung. Your kids have seen and heard something that they will not forget. We cannot turn back the hands of time, but we can do our best to make it a teachable experience. Do not hide resolution from your kids.
Although I am NOT advocating your kids witnessing explosive tempers, if your kids do witness a heated conversation, let them see how you resolve it. That means expressing your feelings in a respectful way, apologizing, and kind words, hugs and/or expressions of love.
There will be times in life when we don’t calmly express our discontentment with another person. Our children need to know the importance of taking ownership of our actions, asking forgiveness, and working to repair our relationships.
(4) Apologizing when you are wrong
I grew up with a mom who felt that because she was my mother, she did not have to apologize. She feels that kids should always apologize, but parents should not. I think that is a load of crap, to put it bluntly.
Apologies are something that anyone of any age should express. It is an acknowledgment of wrongdoing, intentional or otherwise. Let your kids see you apologize to those you have wronged, whether it is a neighbor, a friend, etc. Apologize to your kids if you have done something wrong to them. This models for your kids the importance of taking responsibility for your actions, and teaches them to admit when they are wrong.
(5) Managing finances
Again, this is something many of us do in private. We discuss our finances away from our kids in an effort to protect them, and/or because we feel it isn’t their business. While I do agree that your kids do not need to know all aspects of your finances, managing finances is something you should not hide from your kids.
Let your kids see how you create with a budget. Teach them about the importance of paying your bills on time. Discuss with them what a credit card is, and how it shouldn’t be used to buy more than you can afford. Explain what interest is and how it works. Navigate them through the importance of savings and setting aside money for the future. How do we expect our kids to navigate bills, loans, etc. if they are not given the knowledge to do so? As long as you tailor it to the age and level of the child, finances can and should be discussed.
(6) When you are emotionally struggling
I’ve discussed this in numerous posts, and I keep mentioning this for a reason. I’ve witnessed so many parents who feel they need to hide their feelings of sadness, anger, grief, or any other negative emotion from their kids. They put on a happy face, and act as if they are fine no matter what the circumstances.
I know you mean well and are trying to protect your kids. You don’t want them to worry about you. However, it is okay to not be okay. It is imperative that your kids see that life is not a bed of roses. If you do not show your kids that life is full of disappointment and an array of positive and negative emotions, then they will not be equipped to handle their own difficult emotions.
The next time you are struggling, teach your kids the importance of acknowledging your feelings. Label your emotion, show them that it is necessary to accept how you are feeling without judgment, and then model how you cope with your feelings (for example, doing yoga, taking a few minutes to yourself, writing in your journal).
I’m not suggesting you share your life’s problems with your child. However, letting your child know that you are feeling anxious about an upcoming meeting and need a few minutes to do some deep breathing helps your child learn that feelings are nothing to run away from.
(7) Prioritizing yourself
I want you to make your happiness and needs a non-negotiable. That doesn’t mean ignoring their well-being or not parenting them. However, I want your kids to see that you take time for yourself and your well-being.
Implement a self-care routine daily. Take time to do something that brings you joy, whether it is reading a book, taking a hot bath, or lying on the couch and doing absolutely nothing. Make sure your kids are somewhere safe and then focus on you.
Part of prioritizing yourself is setting boundaries. Do not hide from your kids that you say no to something that isn’t in your best interest. Teach your kids to never apologize for setting boundaries and expressing your needs to others.
Demonstrating the importance of prioritizing yourself shows your children that their well-being is their responsibility. It also teaches them that their own self-care should be prioritized as well. We cannot be the best versions of ourselves if we neglect ourselves on behalf of everyone around us. That only causes burnout, emotional, physical, and psychological duress, and resentment. Openly take care of yourself and encourage your children to do the same.
(8) Asking for help
Many of us see asking for help as a sign of weakness. Our society promotes a mentality of us being able to do it all, no matter the cost to our well-being. On the contrary, I believe asking for help is a sign of great strength. It is being vulnerable and humbling ourselves to the reality that we all need others. Asking for help is something you should not hide from your kids, whether it means getting professional help or asking your spouse to help out more. Encourage your kids to be honest about their struggles, feelings, and needs. Teach them to reach out and ask for help if they need it. We want our kids to try their best, but we also don’t want them to feel they are failures if they need assistance from others, whether that means getting tutoring or coming to you with their emotional struggles.
(9) Seeing us fail
Just as mistakes are par for the course, so is failure. We are not going to succeed at everything, no matter how hard we may try. Teaching our kids how to deal with failure is necessary for the hurdles they will face in life. If we hide our failures from our kids, then they will not be prepared for the failures they will inevitably face. Let your kids know when you have failed, and be honest about how it makes you feel. Let them know that all we can do is try our best, and that the rest is out of our hands. It is important for our kids to know that we cannot have success unless we also have failure.
Just as it is important to not hide failure from our kids, it is also important to show our kids the importance of resilience. Life will knock us down innumerable times, and we must keep getting back up again.
I wrote a children’s book, and I have been querying agents for awhile now. I have gotten rejection letter after rejection letter. My daughter asked me why I keep trying, and my response is that I will keep querying until I get an agent. I may never get an agent, but I can keep giving it my all. I want my daughter to know that she should always believe in herself, and that she needs to keep fighting no matter what life throws her way.
(11) Eating junk food
I am a huge junk food lover. In the early years of my daughter’s life, I would wait until she was asleep to eat my chocolate. However, I realized that there is no need to hide this from her. Instead, I want to teach her the importance of eating in moderation. She can absolutely have sweets, just as I do. She also sees me eating healthy foods and exercising. I want her to have a healthy relationship with food; therefore, I model healthy eating habits and show her that eating junk food in moderation is perfectly okay.
(12) Puberty and sex
My daughter is 8, and I have been very open with her about what is is like when I get my period. She understands that changes will happen to her body in a few years.
If children ask questions, answer them honestly. Give more or less detail depending on the age and development of the child. For example, you can explain that adults use a razor to get rid of hair on their legs, face, underarms, etc. The important thing is to encourage your children to come to you with any questions they have.
As your child gets older, explain puberty and sex. Let them know how their bodies will change and how it will feel. Discuss the importance of not being afraid to say no, birth control, and that they can come to you with any questions. It is necessary to discuss sex so that they understand the responsibilities that come with having sex, and the importance of having safe sex. Knowledge is power, and you want your kids to have as much information as possible.
We all will eventually lose someone that we love. However, death is something that we should not hide from our kids. The extent of the conversation should vary based on age and development, but even young children should have the opportunity to ask questions and be able to understand the concept of loss on some level. Just as it is important to teach kids that difficult emotions are part of life, they need reassurance that feeling grief is normal and healthy.
When my husband’s grandfather passed away two years ago, it was the first time my daughter dealt with death. She saw me and my husband cry, and we explained to her that her Great-Grandfather had died. We discussed how she felt about it, and I answered any questions that she had. I told her that there is no right or wrong way to feel and experience loss, and I reassured her that she could continue to come to me with any questions or feelings. I reminded her that we keep him alive in our minds and our hearts by thinking about him and talking about him.
We live in a world where discrimination and violence take place. Children are naturally curious, and they ask about differences out of pure observation, as opposed to contempt.
I remember the first time my daughter met a person of color. She looked at him and asked him why his skin was a different color than hers. He explained that people are a variety of colors, and that those differences are what make the world special. My daughter nodded, her eyes big, and then she gave him a hug.
When my daughter saw a man in a wheelchair for the first time, she asked me what it was and why he was using it. The man saw her looking at him and asking. My first thought was that her questions were making him uncomfortable. It took me a few seconds to realize that wasn’t true. I was the one who was uncomfortable.
Differences are not something that we should hide from our kids. I realized that if I shied away from her questions, it was sending her a message that others that are different than us are to be avoided. Worse, it could portray those differences as something to be disliked or feared. It is important to talk to our children about prejudice and that it is not okay to mistreat others who look or act differently than we do. We need to stop ignorance and promote change by encouraging open dialogue with our children.
The suggestions above are by no means easy to show our kids. It is very understandable why we hide these things from them. However, it is often the most uncomfortable topics that lend themselves to the greatest life lessons. However, when we stop hiding things from our children, we allow them to have a better understanding of the world and be better equipped to handle whatever life throws their way.