Mom Talk Monday: What’s Your New Year’s Resolution?

If you are on any type of social media this week, all you’ll read about is New Year’s resolutions. Love them or hate them, you definitely can’t escape them.

I’m the type of person who becomes obsessed with things at random. I’ll have an idea pop into my mind and I’ll throw myself into it for a period of days, weeks, months or more. When this happens it doesn’t have anything to do with what time of year it is. So when New Year’s rolls around, I’ve already made the change I wanted to make.

If I try to force myself to make a change when it’s the time that I happen to be obsessing over it, I already know it won’t work.

Last year my resolution was to drink more water. I made myself sick for 3 days trying to choke down 64 oz and then promptly forgot about it.

Several times I’ve tried to quit coffee, taking weeks to wean myself from 2 cups a day down to nothing. Then a kid will keep me up all night for whatever reason, and I’ll decide to “make an exception” and drink a coffee that day. That one cup will be the most delicious cup I’ve ever tasted and I’ll wonder why I ever gave it up. BOOM: coffee quitting resolution down the drain.

Another year I resolved to be more organized, and then my husband asked me to organize a drawer. I started twitched from the idea of having to organize and declared myself allergic to organization. Then I resolved to be content with my disorganized life.

This my first New Year’s with a blog so I feel like I need to make a resolution around that. Should I bother? Are my resolutions cursed? Do they ever work for anyone?

What’s your New Year’s resolution? If you don’t have one, why not?

what's your new year's resolution

Teaching Children Healthy Ways to Express Feelings

This is part 2 in a 3 part series about teaching Emotional Intelligence to children. Part one focuses on teaching children the vocabulary to name their feelings, as well as recognize the corresponding facial expressions.

Part 2 is about teaching kids to express feelings in a healthy way.

teach kids to express feelings

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you order something after clicking my link I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Why is it hard for children to express their feelings?

The ultimate goal is that children will express their feelings appropriately with words. Developmentally, young children have two deficits that make it more difficult for them to do this. First, they lack the language skills to express themselves. Their language skills are more rudimentary than adults and they vocabulary to describe their feelings is still new to them. Secondly, they lack self-control. This means their responses are impulsive and tend to be physical, knee-jerk reactions like hitting, screaming, biting, or tantrums.

As our children grow, their language skills and self-control develop and these problem behaviors begin to fade. In the meantime, we teach our children to pause before responding and to use their words in an effort to have them expressing themselves appropriately over time.

All feelings are ok

It’s important to remember never to judge your child’s feelings. It will not help them develop healthy coping skills if you act like only positive emotions are acceptable to you. Even “ugly” feelings like jealousy, sadness, and anger are normal and OK.

Think of how many adults you know who need to learn how to feel these negative feelings after years of being taught to bury or hide them.

Without passing judgement, allow your child to feel their feelings. The goal is not to deny the child their negative feelings, but teach them appropriate responses to these feelings.

Separate feelings from behavior

Even if their behavior is not acceptable, their feelings are.

While all feelings are ok, the behaviors that come out as a result of these feelings are not always ok. For example, a child who hits in response to anger when another child has taken their toy is having an unacceptable behavior in response to an acceptable feeling. The important distinction for parents to make is that while all feelings are OK, there are acceptable and unacceptable ways to express these feelings.

Make the distinction clear to your child by telling them “it is OK to feel angry when someone has taken something from you. But we never use our hands for hurting.” Give them an alternative behavior to replace the problem behavior. “Next time you feel angry, try using your words. Did you ask your friend for the toy back? Let him know you are using it and he can take the next turn.”

Do not withhold love due to behavior

After children act out, they typically have feelings of shame. The parents’ job is to teach them how to behave without shaming them. Shaming a child for their bad behavior can cause them to believe they are inherently bad and even worse, unlovable.

When my kids calm down after misbehaving, I make sure to give them a hug and let them know I still love them. They know I don’t always love their actions, but I will always love them.

teach kids to express feelings

Validate, validate, validate

The golden rule of teaching your children healthy ways to express emotions is first to always validate their feelings.

It can be challenging for parents to take the step of validating their child’s feelings when their child is misbehaving. Most parents will skip this step and immediately reprimand the behavior and punish the child. Take the time to consider how this plays out for a small child.

  1. Suzie took my toy without asking when I was playing with it.
  2. I got so mad I hit her.
  3. Mom got so mad she yelled and put me on this stair.
  4. Now I’m even more mad because I’m mad at Suzie and I’m mad at Mom.

The child might do their time out and return to playing, but nothing has been learned to prevent this from happening again. The child has not built any skills to express themselves in a better way. Additionally, the relationship between parent and child has been weakened when it could have been strengthened.

When your child feels understood and validated by you, they feel closer to you. They will respond better to what you’re trying to teach them when they feel you understand them.

Practice healthy ways to express feelings

Work on these skills with your child to learn how to manage and express their feelings:

  1. Deep breathing: Taking deep breaths slows down the body’s response to adrenaline and assists in returning to a calm state. Practice with your child when they are not escalated. Tell them to practice taking a deep breath and blow out while counting to 5. You can have them imagine they are blowing up a balloon or blowing out birthday candles. The trick is to make sure they are doing long, slow breaths and not 5 short quick ones.
  2. Drawing your feelings: When children are having trouble expressing their feelings with words, you can give them blank paper and a box of crayons or markers and tell them to draw their feelings. I’ve seen children take this literally and draw a picture of a sad child with big tears going down the paper, and I’ve seen children go with a more symbolic route and emphatically fill the paper with red or black markings to indicate anger. Either way, the act of coloring is a release of these feelings. An extra benefit is that when they are done coloring, they tend to explain the drawing by describing what made them feel that way.
  3. Physical release: My children often choose to express themselves with physical movement. Sometimes they will request a certain song (or type of song) and express their feelings through dance. Other times they just need the physical release of some active toys and we have our basement playroom set up to allow this. With aggressive children who have a tendency to lash out and hit others, a step down approach might involve giving them a pillow or stuffed animal to punch in place of hitting another person.

Problem solving

You always want to listen to your child and validate their feelings, but you don’t want to solve their problems for them. Instead, guide them through with questions that will help them solve their own problems. Help them brainstorm some possible courses of action and ask them what the consequence of each one would be. The goal is to become your child’s inner voice. Eventually he or she will be able to pause before reacting to their feelings, and come up with a good solution on their own.

Books to help your child manage their feelings

These are books I absolutely love and used almost daily in my work as a child therapist:

Children who are prone to angry outbursts will be nodding their heads while you read this book. When the boy is told no, he feels his anger rise up and grow until he turns into an angry dragon. As the angry dragon, nothing is safe, “not even Mom and Dad”. It perfectly illustrates how out of control and scary it feels to be so angry. Eventually the dragon’s anger turn to sadness and his tears melt the angry feelings away. He turns into a boy again and his Mom and Dad are there to comfort him.

One of our favorite authors, Molly Bang, tells the story of young Sohpie, who gets in a fight over a toy with her sister. She feels her anger well up inside until she explodes and runs outside into the wide, wide world. Eventually she finds a tree to climb and looks out into nature and feels peaceful. After a little while, she cries. She feels herself calm and returns home to her family. The author shows a keen understanding of how children feel their emotions and many young children will relate to this book.

A great resource for kids with anxiety or who just tend to be more worrisome. It talks about what worries are and how they make you feel. Most importantly, it teaches basic coping skills for kids to manage their worries, such as relaxation, physical activity, and positive self-talk.

What has been the greatest challenge for you in teaching your kids how to manage their emotions? What topics would you like learn more about?

Share in the comments! I would love to write more posts that are useful to my readers.

Mom Talk Monday: What was the highlight of your Christmas?

Christmas fell on Monday this week so we are doing Mom Talk Tuesday and pretending it’s Monday 😉

highlight of your Christmas

We had a truly fantastic Christmas here yesterday, starting at the crack of dawn of course. The kids tore through their stocking gifts as soon as we got downstairs. Then we made this fantastic Sweet and Sticky Monkey Bread which the kids devoured. (It’s fun because you can pull pieces off and it basically tastes like a cinnamon doughnut.)

After breakfast we got dressed and opened all the presents under the tree. I try really hard not to overdo it at Christmastime, but between the 3 or 4 gifts that we get them plus the ones each kid gets for each other (times the six people in our family) it does end up looking like a lot of presents! A lot of them are books, school supplies, or other useful items though.

highlight of your christmas

While the kids enjoyed their gifts, John and I hit the ground running to get ready for company to arrive. It was our first time hosting Christmas and we really wanted to make it special. The prime rib roast needed three hours to cook, so we put that in as soon as our apps came out of the oven.

I always like to set the mood for a party by serving a signature drink. This time I chose a simple cranberry mimosa because of the festive color, and threw a couple frozen cranberries in to make it look even more like the holidays.

highlight of your Christmas

We served dinner on our fine china (only the second time we’ve used it during our 8 years of marriage). Of course I was so caught up in the moment I forgot to take any pictures!

Our guests stayed for the afternoon and into the evening, and the kids were so exhausted they actually went to sleep really easily.

A couple of my favorite moments

Looking back on our wonderful day, it is hard to pick one highlight. One of my favorite parts was seeing the kids give each other hugs unprompted after opening the gifts they gave one another. It’s so touching for me see how much they love each other.

Another highlight is when we went to put Luca to bed for the night. Most of our guests were still there, and we told him to say goodnight to everyone. Well this baby loves to give kisses, he went around the table insisting on giving every single person a kiss goodnight. When someone offered him “knuckles” he shook his head no and puckered up.

I may be biased, but I find his kisses irresistible!

highlight of your christmas

We were exhausted after everyone left, but it was the best kind of exhausted following a very special day.

Share! What was the highlight of your Christmas?

highlight of your christmas

How To Cope When Life Hands You Too Much

This week has been a tough one for me. For one, there’s just a lot to do between getting ready for Christmas and the two kids with Christmas birthdays. But I’ve also been carrying a heavy emotional burden with one of my children who is having a lot of problems lately, which is weighing on me even more heavily than my to-do list.

Basically this meme sums up exactly how I’m feeling.

Everyone goes through times when it feels like life has handed you too much. This is especially true with parents, who are juggling all the balls they can even when things are going well. Add on a few more troubles and it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed.

I’m in process of working on this overwhelm right now and I’m not claiming to be an expert on this. What I can share is the list of things that work for me when I feel bogged down emotionally and physically by how much life has handed me.

how to cope

1. Practice the art of delegating

Life handed you too much? Hand some of it off.

Sure you may be carrying around an emotional burden that can’t be handed off, but if you give away some of the tangible tasks it can free you up enough to better deal with all of that.

Some tasks that can be delegated:

  • Childcare- call upon family members or a babysitter
  • Housework- ask your partner to take over a couple tasks that are typically yours
  • Social commitments- kids are the best excuse to get out of anything. If attending a social event is putting you over the edge, one of them can easily become “sick” 😉
  • Learn to say no! So many times we end up with too much on our plate because felt compelled to say yes when we should have said no.

2. Sleep it off

You can’t use this one all the time obviously, but sometimes when you can’t cope with your emotions, a stretch of sleep is the miracle cure.

Personally, my body does this on its own when I’m overwhelmed. My husband loves to laugh about the night he proposed to me. It was such a big event for me and so emotional that my body just shut down and went to sleep. He had a special dinner planned that he wanted to make me and I passed out on the couch and couldn’t get myself to wake up for it.

how to cope
Me: Can’t deal with life. Must sleep.

It turns out there’s actually science to this, as sleep can emotionally re-set the brain. Dr. Alice Boyes writes:

If you’re finding yourself having an unproductive day or an emotionally difficult day, try having a nap to get an emotional re-set. A nap of about 90 minutes (but not longer) is probably going to be necessary to give yourself the greatest emotional re-set benefits. This is because if you sleep 90 minutes you’ll go through one complete cycle of all five of the 5 stages of sleep, including REM sleep. REM sleep seems to be important for the emotional resetting process.

3. Call upon your support network

Who is the best listener in your life who will let you lay all your problems out there with no judgement? Time for a two hour phone call with them.

Or maybe it’s the friend who is sure to make you laugh. Invite them out for a drink.

Whoever it is you need, reach out. Holing up by yourself and eating your feelings is not likely to help.

4. Find your tribe

There are the times when it feels like no one can understand what you’re going through right now.

The good news is, there are millions of people out there. Someone out there can relate! You just need to find them.

There are support groups out there for adoptive parents, special needs parents, people who are going through divorce, etc. Connect with the people who will get what you’re dealing with.

Short on time or lacking what you need in your local community? Online forums might be your next best thing. Your tribe might be a quick Google search away.

5. Escape

Can’t deal with your life at the moment? Dive into someone else’s life through a book or a movie. Maybe video games get you into another world where you forget your own problems. Throw yourself into a creative project if art is your form of escape.

For me, travel is the ultimate escape guaranteed to get me into happy mode. Since trips can’t happen as often as I’d like, I generally do the next best thing- start planning my next vacation. I can go into my travel planning zone for hours and it really does make me forget my problems and focus on happy times.

Although escape can be effective, make sure you keep this coping mechanism in check. You don’t want to use this one too much, because at the end of the day we have to face our problems.

6. Self-care

Moms, I know you read this all the time and give it a little eyeroll and move on. Who has the time when we are already overly taxed? But really, self-care is HUGE.

For me, making exercise a priority is the best kind of self-care because I like doing it and I feel great after. But everyone has their own thing and you need to do what makes YOU happy.

A pedicure is another treat that makes me feel like a human again. Or if spending money isn’t in cards, a super long shower or bath. Meditation or simple mindfulness activities are helpful for lots of people as well.

Really any time to myself will do. But you do you when it comes to self-care. It’s all about making yourself and your relaxation a priority.

7. If you still can’t cope, turn to professionals

We all get down and feel overwhelmed at times. If you feel unable to cope and it’s ongoing, there is no shame in getting professional help. If it turns out you’re facing depression or anxiety, you don’t want to go through that on your own. Get the help you need so you can feel better and enjoy your life again.

What helps you cope when life hands you too much? Let us know in the comments!

Mom Talk Monday: O Christmas Tree!

With exactly one week to go until Christmas, I have another holiday-themed question for today’s Mom Talk Monday.

My husband and I are on different sides of this one, but I won’t tell you which of us is on which side.

Is your Christmas tree real or artificial? I’d also love to hear the reason why!

christmas tree

Maybe your reasons will sway one of us to switch sides 🙂