January Parenting Resolution: Self Care

Some of us might not have started the year focusing on this, but it’s never to late to start. We can definitely pick it up in February and combine it with February’s resolution.

In parenting everything starts with us! We have all heard that we cannot give what we don’t have, so we have to start by taking care of ourselves. Moms (and dads) tend to put themselves the last on their list of priorities. That needs to change! We need to start taking care of ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally. We need to understand that self-care is not an option, it’s a must!

When we take better care of ourselves, we are more able to regulate our own emotions, which allows us to be better parents. What makes you feel rested, relaxed, energized, confident…? Pick 5-10 things and commit to do them as often as possible. I made a list of 10 things that I know will help me recharge:

1. SLEEP. Even though I know more about pediatric and adult sleep than most people I know, I am terrible at following my own advice. I rarely go to bed at a reasonable time (I somehow always manage to find something to do at 9pm), and I wake up early to get the girls ready for school. This combination leaves more tired and more cranky than I want to admit.

This month, I’ve promised myself that I would go to bed earlier, so I’ve set up an alarm on my iPhone to warm me I have 15 more minutes to do whatever I want to do before bed, and another one to remind me to drop what I’m doing and go to bed.

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2. MEDITATION. I started practicing meditation this summer, as I was going through he toughest time of my life. I am no expert, but I found a way to do it that leaves me more focused, calm, peaceful and mindful. Unfortunately, because I don’t wake up in the morning until I absolutely need to, I haven’t been meditating before I start my day. Some days I do it in the middle of the morning when I come back from dropping the girls at school. And most days, I don’t get to it.

To make sure I get to it, I have set up my alarm clock early enough to give me at least 20 minutes to meditate in the morning before I start my day. My goal is not to use my friend, ‘snooze’ button; jump out of bed; wash my face with cold water; brush my teeth; drink a glass of water and meditate.

3. JOURNALING. I never believed that journaling would be something I would enjoy. However, it’s been one of the most useful tools I discover this summer. I guess writing down how I feel and how things affect me, helps me understand my triggers and pinpoint what makes me happy.

Unfortunately, I’m not as consistent as I’d like to, and tend to do it only when I’m struggling with something. I believe it’d be very therapeutic doing it every day, even if it’s just to drop a few lines.

4. GRATITUDE. This is a big one for me. Every day I make sure I write down at least 3 things I am grateful for. I think this allows me to appreciate more what’s going on in my life. I am naturally a rather negative person, so purposely focusing my energy in finding the good around me is a great exercise in sanity 🙂

5. Silence. This is the best way for me to recharge. Finding silence while being a full time, work from home mom can be really challenging. However, it’s life changing. I am an introvert and very sensitive to noise in general, especially constant loud noise; so silence is vital to me.

When I find the time to just be in silence, my whole body relaxes, my mind breathes and my batteries are recharged. The best place for me is in a hot bath, and I try to take one as often as I can, even if it’s just for 15 minutes or if it is 10pm. It just changes my mood and gives me serenity.

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6. EXERCISE. Even though my brothers and my father are extreme athletes, and I’ve played tennis my whole live, I don’t love exercising. However, I know that when I do it regularly, I feel so much better.

In 2013 I set the goal of running my first half marathon. I had never been a runner in my life, but I put my mind to it, and I went from almost passing out after 2 minutes trotting to running the New York City Half Marathon. I never felt so well physically and mentally. There’s something about setting physical goals for myself and accomplishing then, that makes me feel very accomplished and strong. I have more energy to face my days and I am definitely a more playful and active mom. I love that feeling!

I kept on running regularly until I was 7 months pregnant with my third daughter. Since then, I never really picked it up again. We had so many changes in our lives, so many ups and downs, that I always found an excuse not to exercise. Well, no more! I’m going back to running, and getting into shape again. I have a treadmill in my basement, so I really have no excuse not to find at least 30 minutes a day to go for a run. My goal is to exercise 5 days a week, 3 of them running.

7. FOOD AND SUPPLEMENTS. This is a big one for me because I am an emotional eater. I try to shut down my emotions with food. When I do that, I obviously don’t go and grab an apple or broccoli, I go for my favorite salty treat or something that gives me a rush of sugar. Not the smartest decision, I know!

This year, I want to get back to a healthier weight, and a healthy diet. I know I need to reduce sugar and salt, and up my protein intake. Because of health issues, I also need to keep having my daily multivitamin, supplements, and prescription drugs. I know that when I skip this simple step, I quickly start feeling exhausted and out of balance, I have more headaches and less patience.

My goal is to be lose the extra pounds I put in this last year by the time I travel to Spain this summer.

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

Fortunately I live with my best friend, my husband. But as you know well, getting together with one’s spouse to just have a good time, talk about life, and be a couple is not easy. Every time we have the chance to have a date night, to go grab a coffee just the two of us, to work together or to just watch a movie holding hands, my heart fills and my whole demeanor changes.

When weeks go by and we can’t find the time to be together and connect as a couple, the whole family goes out of balance. Therefore, this year I want to make sure that I have date nights with my husband, at least once a month;

9. CLOSE FRIENDS. Because I am naturally an introvert I don’t have many close friends, I have many acquaintances and casual friends, but I can count my really close friends with the fingers of my two hands. These are people I can be 100% myself around and I know I won’t be judged, people who will always have my back, and people with whom I always have a great time.

Every time I meet with my closest friend, Maria, is as if time stood still. We can talk for hours about everything and nothing at the same time. We share the same values and we truly love each other. Spending time with her is better than therapy.

This year I want to make sure that I talk or FaceTime often with my close friends who are in California and Spain; and that I meet at least once a month with my friends who are in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

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10. THERAPIST. Being from Spain, I was always surprised when so many of my American had a therapist. I guess the concept is a little bit different where I come from, and there’s a lot of judgement and stigma associated with going to a therapist and taking care of your mental health. It is not something people talk about, it’s a taboo. Well, my therapist has been instrumental for me over the past year, and I know going to see her has to be part of my self care plan.

These are my 10 self-care goals for 2018. What are yours? Is there anything you’d add to the list? Let me know!

Much love,

Diana

12 Parenting Resolutions for a Peaceful 2018

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

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

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January: Self-Care

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

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

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

February: Love and Connection

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

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

March: Routines

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

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

April: Respect

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

May: Electronics Control

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

June: Communication – Listening

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

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

July: Healthy Living and Fun

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

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

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August: Planning

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

September: Patience and Routines

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

October: Responsibilities

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

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

November: Gratitude

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

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December: Celebration

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

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

I hope you join me in this journey!

Much love, Diana-

Are your discipline methods turning you into a bully?

Children need boundaries, rules and discipline. Children need know limits and to have a structure in their lives. Having said that, how do you discipline your kids? When I talk about discipline I’m not talking about punitive actions, I’m talking about teaching our children consequences and raising them to become healthy, happy, succesful and contributing members of our society.

Every child is different and we must adjust our parenting and disciplining techniques to each of them. However, there are major lines that I belive we should never cross as parents. You know where I stand on spanking and/or physical punishments.

I’ve been puzzled by all the news about extreme parenting and discipline measures that have come up over the last few months, such as parents shaming their children on facebook for not listening, a house of horrors where multiple kids are abused and neglected… The list goes on and on, and on. What’s really happening? Are parents getting more out of control? Why do they think these parenting techniques are appropriate? Are some parents becoming their own children’s bullies?

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We all get angry, feel stressed and sometimes don’t know what to do with our kids. We all do! However causing emotional and/or physical pain to our children should never be the course of action, no matter what the lesson we are trying to teach them is.

As parents, we need to remember that part of our job is to guarantee the safety and wellbeing of our kids. We cannot let ourselves become the bully we fear they’ll encounter in school, by acting like this. It is not ok to privately or publicly humiliate our children, it is not ok to cause them physical harm, it is not ok to make them feel unloved, it is just not ok!

When it comes to disciplining, these are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Maintain your cool and composure. If you need to take a break (time-out), do so. But do not depart from the good behavior you want your kids to emulate.
  • Teach them by doing. If it’s not ok to lie, don’t lie to them; if it’s not ok to hit, don’t hit them; if it’s good to have a balanced diet, eat a balanced diet with them…
  • You’re not the disciplinarian, their actions are. Their actions are the ones creating consequences. Help them understand that they are disciplining themselves, not you.
  • Don’t become the ‘bad guy’. We cannot become ‘the bad guy’ in our kids’ lives. As I mentioned in my previous post, they need to feel unconditionally loved, even when they’re misbehaving.
  • There’s nothing wrong with them, their behavior is the problem. Make sure your children understand that they are not bad or naughty, but that their behavior can be improved.
  • Don’t hold grudges. Once the action has passed, once your child has been disciplined and learned the lesson, let it go! Forgive and move on. Do not stay mad at your child for long, avoid dirty looks or bad answers.
  • Choose consequences that match the behavior.
  • Remember that our child is not trying to give us a hard time, he’s having a hard time (managing his emotions, controlling his impulses, trying to communicate with us, being tired or hungry…).

When it comes to raising our children, we need to always have present in our mind, that we love them and that they need to feel that love. If you ever feel that you’re getting out of control, that you need to physically or psychologically harm your children to teach them a lesson, that you don’t know what else to do, that you are about to snap… seek help! Help in the form of a friend, a spouse, a relative, a childcare professional, a parenting coach… Don’t let yourself go to the extreme when it comes to disciplining your children.

I know this is easier said than done, and I also know that most of us will fail a this at some point. What’s important though is that we keep this is mind and that we do our best every day.

Much love, Diana-

It all starts with us…

It all starts with us when it comes to raising our children. We sometimes forget about the emotional baggage, energy, behavior, mood, feelings… that we are bringing into our relationship with our children and focus only on their behavior.

This week, I have been reading the book ‘Parenting from the Inside Out’ once again, and it helped me remember that we need to make sense of our own past, our childhood, our value system, our subconscious believes… because all that affects directly in the way we parent and we relate with our children.

According to Siegel, unresolved issues from our childhood may reduce the quality of the parent child relationship, and I have experienced this first hand. We should be more self-aware about our past and give meaning to it.

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The more conscious and aware we become, the more we can change those ingrained patterns that we have, but are not serving us. Parenting is a learning process, not only for our children, but for ourselves.

So, yes… when it comes to parenting and raising our children… it all begins with us!

Much love, Diana-

 

4 Steps to remain calm during sleep coaching

Every time I work with a new mom on a private consultation, the first thing I do before implementing anything or talking about plans is to make sure that mom and dad are in the right place emotionally. You can’t give what you don’t have; to be there for your child, you have to be there for you.

Believe me when I say, I know how frustrated and exhausted you feel right now. But, remember that you are your baby’s whole world, and surrounding him with love, nurture, and guidance starts by you having the right attitude when you are with your child. Your attitude and the energy that you project affect the outcome of your baby’s sleep coaching process.

Some parents I’ve worked with admitted to having put their babies in their cribs or bassinets a little bit too harshly, out of anger and desperation for sleep. If you are angry, anxious, frustrated, defeated, or agitated, your baby will sense that, and that will make it harder for him to fall asleep. Please, be patient and always enter your baby’s room in calm state.

If you feel overwhelmed; your patience is evaporating; you are exhausted; you can’t take it anymore; and you think you might be reaching your breaking point, please follow these steps:

1. Place your baby calmly and softly on a safe place (crib, bassinet, stroller, bouncy seat, etc.).

2. Back off—step away to another room, go to the bathroom and wash your face, or open the window and breathe some fresh air.

3. Ask for help from your spouse, a family member, a friend, or even a neighbor.

4. Calm yourself down before you pick up your baby again.

Changing a habit takes time. Sleeping is an innate ability to babies; parents, without any bad intentions, create poor or unhealthy sleep habits that need to be addressed later on. Remind yourself that you helped your child get into this situation (habit), and now you have to help him get out of it. Do NOT ever shake or hit your baby!

Much love,

Diana-

10 Things to do when you lose it with your child

We have all been there. None of us is perfect, and we all have days or moments when we lose control and our ‘positive and gentle parenting’ goes out the window.

I have never spanked, hit, pushed… or used any other form of corporal punishment with my daughters. But… I have yelled at them, I have taken their ‘priviledges’ (whatever that means) as a consequence for ‘bad behavior,’ I have even done a couple of time-outs (yes! not time-ins, time-outs). I KNOW none of those actions are right, but in the heat of the moment, on those (rare) occasions when I lose it, for a few seconds, I thought it was fine to do it (but it wasn’t!).

Did they work? No; Did they scare, anger, sadden… my girls? Yes; Do I regret it? Absolutely! And that’s why every day, I work on myself, to better myself as a parent. Because, at the end of the day… when we lose it, it has nothing to do with our children, it has to do with ourselves. It has to do with our lack of ability to cope in a positive, constructive, respectful way in that particular moment. So… to avoid those situations, we shouldn’t try to change our children, but ourselves! Now, that’s another article!

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While I know each day is better, and this ‘crazy momma‘ moments are very rare; I also know that they might never completely dissapear. I wish they would, but I’m human, and therefore, imperfect. So, just in case, I lose it again, I make sure I know what to do AFTER the storm, to repair the connection with my daughters, learn and move forward. This is it:

1 – ACKNOWLEDGE

My feelings: “I got really angry with you when you made a huge mess in the bathroom”

My actions: “I yelled at you for it, and that was not nice or respectful”

My intentions: “I was trying to get you to understand that it is not nice to throw all the bath toys, body soap and towels on the batroom floor. I also wanted for you to fix it. But yelling didn’t accomplish any of that, right?”

My child’s feelings: “I scared you very much, didn’t I?”

2 – APOLOGIZE

“I am so sorry for having yelled at you. That wasn’t nice at all. I disrespected you and scared you, and I’m very sorry about it.”

3 – LET THE LOVE FLOW

“I love you very much, regardless of what you do”

My kids tend to hug my by this point, which is tremendously heartwarming, and a lesson on forgiveness. Our children are incredibly forgiving of our mistakes, especially while they’re young.

4 – PROMISE TO IMPROVE

“I promise I will do my very best, every day, to find ways to control my temper, and not to yell at you again. If I ever do it again, please know that I’m having a hard time controlling myself, that it has nothing to do with you, and that it doesn’t mean that I don’t love you”

I don’t promise them I will never do something again, because you can only promise to do your best to change that behavior. I don’t like lying to my kids, and wouldn’t make them a promise that I might break if I lose control.

5 – ASK FOR HELP

“Will you help me avoid yelling again at you? If you ever see me about to yell, or if I start yelling, please remind me that I am a nice mom and that I don’t want to yell because it scares you and makes things worse not better”

6 – THANK AND CONNECT

“Thank you for being so understanding. I love you! What can we do to have some special time together now?”

It can be hugging, reading a book, racing, having a snack… anything that brings back the love and connection with your child. Always connection, before correction! We will deal with the mess later.

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7 – DEAL WITH THE ISSUE

Now it’s the time to deal with the issue at hand, the one that drove me crazy to beging with.

“How can we fix this mess together?”

8 – PREVENT

“How can I help you remember not to do this again in the future?”

9 – FORGIVE MYSELF

This is one of the hardest steps for me, because I know better, because I am a parent coach; and for some reason, even though I know I am not perfect and will never be, in my mind I still require that of myself from time time and I’m pretty hard on myself when I’m not the best I can be.

10 – SELFCARE

The last step is figuring out what made me lose it, was I too tired?, was I sleep deprived?, was I stressed about something?… what was it that put me in a state in which I couldn’t control my temper? It was not what my daughters did or didn’t do, that I know, so I always try to figure out what was going on with me, that made me too stressed, too tired, too overwhelmed, too distracted… to control my reactions.

More often than not, I blow up because I’m too tired or because I haven’t had the time to just relax and leave my mind wonder. If that’s the case, I make sure to go to sleep early that night and rest, and to take a bath before that to relax and free my mind.

Do you find yourself losing your temper with your children? What are your strategies to reconnect with your children after you blow up?

Much love, gentle mamas!

Diana Blanco~

 

Embrace Your Child as She IS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Lenore Skenazy

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

~ Diana Blanco