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Mindful Preparation for Spring Break

Posted on 11 March, 2019 at 15:15 Comments comments (0)
Even though I am writing this with yet more snow is coming down from the sky, spring is coming around the corner. For anyone with school aged kids, this means one thing: Spring Break. A full week (or more) of your children away from school. They have been counting this down since the new year. You may have a trip planned or paying extra money for daycare. But for the rest of us, it is 9+ days of being stuck at home.

We all know what happens when your child, been it a kindergartener or a high school, when they have way too many days in a row at home. They start saying that they are bored, they get into stuff, too much screen time, the sibling fights are in full swing. Then, of course, us parents start losing our temper because we had to take time off work and are ready or a break from the children too. Being a mindful parent means acknowledging these possible pitfalls of spring break ahead of time and being creative with your solutions.

Here are some tips to managing spring break (without breaking the bank):

1. Create one goal most days with your children. The goal can be onechore around the house, one errand to run, or one activity to do. The idea is to keep things from being monotonous the entire break. And just one goal keeps your child from feeling overplanned.

2. Make sure some of your plans require physically leaving the house. If your family has a membership (such as the zoo, science museum, an indoor gym), now is the time to use it. But leaving the house can also include asking for help with your grocery store trip. Bundle the kids up and play in the snow (or hopefully it will actually be melted and play in puddles instead). It can be visiting you at work. My son loves coming with me to the office on a Saturday to play while I organize my desk and catch up on little things on my to do list.

3. Play dates or hanging out with friends. It can be easy to forget the simplest way to entertain your child is to be with their friends. Bonus, this might be a break for you as the parent or you can socialize with another mom or dad.

4. Planned fun activities for home. This can be anything that brings the family together with intentionality: movie night with popcorn, game night, baking a special treat together, or arts/crafts. My children helped me create a new "sensory bin" out of old grains from the pantry and mini dinosaurs to be buried then excavated, which has now been the source of hours of fun.

5. Allow and accept time for your kids to just be. Unstructured play time is on the decline here in the US. Lack of this can be detrimental to brain development and increase likelihood of many childhood mental health concerns. Children are many times overscheduled and overworked during the school year. They deserve time to just play in any way they see fit. Other than encouraging appropriate screen time limits (we all fudge this a little during breaks), they do deserve some freedom from their every day responsibilities. This helps them recharge, process, and prepare for the rush that is the last couple months of the school year.

6. Most importantly: take time away from your kids! A week is a long time to be home with your children. So ask for help from your supports around you. Maybe Grandma wants to have the kids for a couple hours midweek. Maybe ask your partner to fly solo while you spend time with one of your friends. And you can also get a babysitter to do date night. Just because your kids are home does not mean you stop being an independent adult. You also want to make sure you recharge so to best manage all the aforementioned complications of having your children home way longer than usual.

Anyway you do it, please be mindful to make this spring break enjoyable for you and your family. Here's to spring coming our way!


Managing the Unexpected

Posted on 6 February, 2019 at 13:15 Comments comments (0)
I started this blog before the Polar Vortex hit us. I was thinking "It's that time of year again; when school gets unexpectedly canceled or your child is sick." I had no idea that we were in for 4 days of this torture.

When these unexpected days hit, my mind races "What now" The painful conversation, who is staying home? I have a day full of clients, my husband only has so much PTO. We stare at each other waiting for the other to offer. And ultimately someone has to bite the bullet.

When these unexpected days happen my mom guilt tells me I should be the one to stay home. And if I am the one to stay home, the dreaded what are we going to do all day? Mom guilt tells me I have to make a magical day of fun or day of structured homeschool-like learning. But clearly that is an impossible expectation for one day, let alone 4 in a row.

These are the moments I need mindfulness the most. In the everyday. This is why I practice mindfulness so that in these moments I can rely on the principles to guide me through the unexpected challenges of parenting.

Principle #1: Mindfulness is acceptance. Accepting the situation for what it is-not wishing it to be different than the reality of what it actually is. Before mindfulness my mind would race looking to solve the unsolvable. I can't control the weather or my child's health. Managing the unexpected starts with accepting "It is what it is." This enables me to reduce my anxiety about those things I can't control.

Principle #2: Managing the expectations. Asking myself how realistic my expectations are. Avoiding the "should's" and the Pinterest version of parenting. I don't have to be or do anything just because I think I should or social media tells me its what good parents do. Expectations are just a set up for resentments.

Principle #3: Be in the moment. I could spend the day off manically running about trying to do housework, paperwork or managing their play OR I could be in the moment with them. Snuggling on the couch and watching the same movie for the 10th time. I can feel their little hands holding mine, I can hear their incessant giggles, I can see the joy in their eyes. In the moment I get to enjoy my kids.

Mindful parenting isn't about being perfect. It's about being intentional. How do I want to show up with my kids today? I can I be compassionate and gentle with myself as I travel the road of my parenting journey. I hope you can utilize these mindfulness principles on your journey.


Making Resolutions in the Postpartum Period

Posted on 2 January, 2019 at 14:00 Comments comments (0)
Happy New Year! As I look back to where I was a year ago, I have difficulties remembering what was going on. I was still in the fourth trimester with my second and seeing my first clients here at Mindful Families. Life was about only sleeping in 2 hour chunks, constant feeding, hoping to shower every 3 days, and toddler tantrums. Who has time to make resolutions when you are in survival mode?

So this is for you, my postpartum moms and dads. What can be a healthy, yet obtainable resolution for 2019? Certainly not dieting, you probably are nursing so need to continue eating even more calories. Maybe exercise, but most mothers I know try to workout postpartum, but it really is difficult in the first 6-12 months.

One of the best goals I can suggest for a new parent is taking care of yourself on a daily basis. In these early months, this realistically can be just 5 minutes in your day on most days. Why a short time daily? Because when you are feeling like you are just surviving, it is hard to see the long term and hard to enjoy the precious moments of these early weeks and months. Taking a moment daily where you are not holding baby or caring for your other children calms your brain and nervous system, taking you out of fight or flight mode.

What can be done in 5 minutes? Take a shower, listen to a meditation (Insight Timer, Headspace and Calm are all great apps that have options of very short meditations), text or call a friend to check in, snuggle with your partner, or even mindfully sip a cup of your favorite beverage. It may be important to enlist help from your partner or family to hold baby for this time to work well for you.

Self-care for new mom also means taking time away from your child for more than 5 minutes on a regular basis. In those early months, my favorite activity was the childless trip to Target! Though other ideas may be going to a coffee shop to read, seeing a friend, and hopefully date night with your partner.

So in this new year, make a commitment to caring for yourself in order to be the best version of yourself for your family.

Happy New Year!

Amy Engelhard, LMFT

Being Mindful During the Holidays While Parenting Young Children

Posted on 27 November, 2018 at 13:10 Comments comments (0)
I love the holiday season: decorating my house, signing gifts to my small children from Santa, driving around looking at light up houses, Christmas music in the car all the time, the list goes on. But this month is also the most stressful time of year for many people for a variety of reasons. Mindfulness focuses on being present in the moment, which can be a challenge with all the external messages around the holidays. But staying in the present increases our enjoyment of the holiday season and helps us experience what we have always loved the most about it. Here are some tips for staying mindful during the season:

1. Turn off the phone during holiday events. Nothing keeps us away from what is in front of us like our smart phones. Still need to take pictures or video? Have a family digital camera that the kids can also use without the distractions of the social media updates and texts. Alternatively put your phone on airplane mode so you can still take photos but not receive any updates.

2. Pair down on commitments. There are a ton of parties and fun activities going on during this month. It's ok to say no to some (or most!) so you have time to be emotionally present at the ones you want to be at the most. Anxiety increases with the hustle and bustle. And if you???re not enjoying it, you are probably not being present wherever you are.

3. Turn on the music! For the month of December, Christmas music is the genre of choice at our house. So we love to get some tunes going and sing/dance along while we let the stress of the season go. If holiday music isn't your thing, find a genre that works for you. My four year old actually has started to "require" us to sit in the parking lot at daycare at drop off to finish whatever holiday song is on the radio before he goes in. And I actually think it puts everyone in the car in a positive mindset to start our busy days!

4. Keep it simple. Your kids are going to remember the small things so no need to sweat the big stuff. When I talk to young children and families about the holidays, children generally are looking forward to things like seeing relatives, baking cookies, decorating the house, driving around to see lights etc. All of these things are easy to engage in while setting aside other stressors for the mean time. No need to make it Pinterest perfect.

5. Keep the routines. How much we want to push the bedtimes and turn everything upside down for special occasions, your children will benefit most from continuing to have the expected still happen. And when your kids are more regulated, it gives you more energy to be mindful yourself.

6. Take time for yourself! While parenting, it is easy to get wrapped up in the spirit of giving your child the best memories. But it is essential that you take time daily for yourself to be mindful. You can use an app with mindfulness exercises (Insight Timer, Headspace, and Calm are great ones), engage in a daily mantra, or listen to quiet music. Even 5 minutes can make a difference.

Happy holidays from all of us at Mindful Families!

~Amy Engelhard, LMFT