How to talk to our children after a mass school shooting

I can’t believe we are talking about this again. Another mass school shooting, this time taking the lives of 17 people in a Florida high school. When are school shootings going to stop? My heart breaks for all those affected by these senseless acts. Enough is enough.

After these horrific shootings, as parents we are left wondering: What should I tell my kids? Should I address this with them? How should I talk to them about these senseless and clueless acts?

1. Some children don’t need to hear about a school mass shooting. I don’t believe we should bring it up with toddlers, preschoolers or even young elementary school children, unless we think they are going to hear about it on their own, from teachers, classmates, playground friends, religious leaders, older siblings…

Remember that children sometimes need to ask the same question over and over and over again to process and absorb tough or difficult information like this. Be patient and ready to answer the same questions many times.

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2. Bring it up to your older children. They are going to hear about it anyway, and you want to make sure their questions are answered and any fears are addressed.

The first step would be to ask them what they’ve heard about it, ask them questions and invite them to ask you questions. It is perfectly ok to tell our kids that we don’t know why people decide to do these horrible things. Some people do awful, senseless, painful, irreversible and unexplainable things.

Thankfully, there are many more good people than bad people in the world. Remind them what Mr. Rogers always said “look for the helpers.” Make sure they see how people come together after these types of events, show them the first responders, policemen, emergency workers, ambulance crews, blood donors, anonymous heroes that protect their fellow citizens, people who raise money to support the victims, etc. It is amazing to see how kindness and love always rise up after these heartbreaking shootings, and our kids need to understand how resilient human beings are, and that love always wins.

3. Validate your children’s fears. Don’t make the mistake of dismissing their fears, you want them to open up with you, so you can help them cope. If you respond with a “you’re going to be fine,” or “don’t worry about it”, we risk them shutting down.

Instead, we can say something like “It’s OK to be scared and sad, I feel that way too sometimes when things like this happen.” We should speak honestly about our feelings about school shootings, so our children understand that they are not alone in feeling those big feelings.

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4. Reassure your children that they grown ups around them and their school have plans in place to do everything they can to keep them safe.

Discuss with them the safety procedures that are in place in their school. You can remind them that all the school doors are locked at all times, security cameras are located all around the school, and that all visitors need to sign in the front office before entering the building. It is also good to remind them how their school has drills to teach them how to react in case something goes wrong.

Even though, numbers are not in my favor, and in less than 2 months, there had already been 19 school shootings in the US; I truly hope we will never have to use this, and mass school shootings are a thing of the past. I hope our representatives take action and find the best way to end this senseless masacres once and for all.

Stay safe! Much love, Diana-

 

 

3 bulletproof ways to connect with your child

February is the month of love. The best way to make our children feel loved is to improve our connection and bond with them. As I mentioned in a previous post, every child’s love language is different. However these are three things we can do that will improve our connection with our child, regardless of what love language they prefer:

1) Talk and listen to them: ask them questions about their lives, get to know them, discover what makes them feel loved, figure out what you could improve as a parent, and take interest in their interests. Listen with the intent of getting to know them better and creating a connection.

Avoid jumping into immediate judgement or problem solving mode. As parents we tend to offer our advice even before our kids finish telling us their stories. That’s very disempowering for them, let’s learn to listen to them and sit with whatever they’re telling us.

I once read that when we are trying to improve our communication with our kids, we should consider ourselves to be on a “word budget”, and try to use as few words as possible. Listen more than you talk.

You will be amazed what a huge difference these simple changes in the way you communicate with your child, will make in your ability to connect with your child.

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2) Have special one on one time with each child: even if it’s just 10 minutes a day, make sure you connect individually with each one of your children. Of course, it would be fantastic if you can take more than 10 minutes a day, and if you can incorporate longer periods of time at least once a week.

This special one on one time doesn’t have to be a whole production. You can play together, read together, cook together, go for a walk, go for dinner, lay in bed before the lights go off at night… let them choose how they want to use those 10 minutes that they have you all for themselves. During those, imply BE with them, look at them, set aside the electronics, and dive right into your child’s world. You will be surprise how just 10 minutes of undivided attention can change your whole relationship with your child.

3) Find them doing good: make sure you point out when you see your child doing something good, so they feel appreciated and loved. I am going to give you an example, one of my daughters has been going through a phase of pushing boundaries for the past few weeks. We were trying everything we know, but were still not getting through to her.

A few days ago, I remember this positive principle ‘catch them doing good.’ So, that’s what I did, I started focusing on everything she was doing right, and making sure I told her, and it has made a huge difference. She feels better about herself, and she’s starting to do good things on her own without being asked, and taking the time to make the rest of us feel loved and appreciated.

On Valentine’s Day, when I came out of the shower I found my bed already made and two teddy bears on the bed, with a mom and dad hearts. I went downstairs and I learn that my daughter – who actually hates making beds by the way – had made our bed, bought Valentines for us, and placed them on the bed. It melted my heart!

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When we are going through rough patches, we sometimes forget that our children actually want to do good, and when we acknowledge all the good things they actually do, they just want to do more. When interacting with your children, remember the 5 to 1 ratio, for every criticism, correction or negative comment, we should give them 5 positive ones.

Let me know if you try following these tips, and how it goes!

Much love, Diana-

Nightmares and Night Terrors

Children spend more time dreaming than adults do, so they have more dreams—both good and bad. What is the difference between a nightmare and a night terror? Additionally, what should you do in each situation?

Nightmares are bad dreams that happen during rapid eye movement (REM) or dream sleep. Your child may be afraid to fall back asleep, and he’ll probably remember that he had a bad dream. A baby or child who had a nightmare is likely to have a clear idea of what scared him, although he probably will not be able to vocalize his fright until he’s about 2 years old.

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The best responses to a nightmare are:

  • Be there and offer comfort.
  • Stay with your child until she feels relaxed and ready to sleep.
  • Stay calm and convey to your child that what’s happening is normal and that all is well.
  • Reassure your child that she’s safe and that it’s OK to go back to sleep.
  • If your child wakes with a nightmare, stay with her until she feels relaxed and ready to go to sleep.

The best way to prevent future nightmares is to help your child confront and overcome his fears of the dark, such as leaving a nightlight on or having a special stuffed toy to sleep with.

Night terrors occur in at least 5% of young children and can start as early as 9 months. These mysterious disturbances happen during deep, non-dreaming sleep. When a child is having a night terror, they will cry, whimper, flail, and even bolt out of bed.

Although his eyes may be wide open, he’s not awake and isn’t aware of your presence. Night terrors can last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour, or more. Once it is over, your child will return to a sound sleep, and he will have no memory of the incident in the morning.

The best responses to night terrors are:

  • Give him a gentle pat, along with comforting words or “shhh” sounds.
  • Make sure he doesn’t hurt himself.
  • Don’t speak to him, ask him questions, or try to hold or soothe him.
  • Don’t try to shake or startle him awake or physically restrain him—all of which could lead to more frantic behavior.

If it’s a night terror, in 15 to 20 minutes, your child should calm down, curl up, and fall into a deep sleep again. If it’s a nightmare, he might need a little more time to calm down and go back to sleep. To prevent night terrors, make sure that he is getting enough sleep, since children who go to bed overtired are more likely to experience these types of sleep disturbances.

I hope this was helpful!

Much love, Diana-

 

February Parenting Resolution: 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 and love on them the way they want to be loved.

Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the book ‘The five love languages of children’ argues that knowing each of our children’s love language makes all of the difference in our relationship with them, and in our connection. I couldn’t agree more, my three daughters couldn’t be more different and they each have a different language of love, they each feel love in a different and unique way. These are the main 5 love languages for children:

1. WORDS OF AFFIRMATION –

Compliments and praise. One of my daughters for example, thrives on positive reinforcement. The more I take the time to let her know all the good things about her and all the great things she’s working on, the better she feels and the more loved she feels. Even something as simple as singing ‘You are my sunshine’ to her every night makes a huge difference, because I make sure to let her know that she really is my sunshine.

2. PHYSICAL TOUCH –

Sometimes, something as simple as holding our children’s hand on our way to school, a morning hug as soon as they wake up, a kiss on the chick as they leave out the door or a cuddle as you watch a movie, are more significant and meaningful to them than a thousand ‘I love you.’

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3. QUALITY TIME – 

Having undivided attention might be the best way to show our children how much we love them. Some children need this more than any other thing. The activity doesn’t really matter, as long as they have our full attention and presence. One of my daughters speaks this love language, and she gets her love tank filled by sitting with me coloring with her as we chat, by being my only companion on my grocery trip, or by sitting on the coach and watching her dance and twirl and jump.

4. GIFTS – Giving and receiving gifts can be a powerful expression of love for some children. Some children really acknowledge the love and effort that is put behind each gift, which makes them feel valued and loved.

One of my daughters values gifts tremendously when she receives them, and shows her love for others by giving them gifts. By gifts I don’t mean a huge, super expensive toy, and I am not talking about constant gifting of things. She really loves receiving love notes with her lunch box, she loves it when I send her a little chocolate in her coat pocket, she loves it when I go to the grocery store and I remember to buy the specific apples she loves, she loves it when a friend gives her a post it with appreciation words… she really treasures all this ‘gifts.’ In the same way, she loves giving special gifts and surprises to her loved ones, and her heart fills when she does that for others.

5.  ACTS OF SERVICE –

These are things like helping our child putting away his coat when he gets home, carrying his backpack on the way to school, taking her to dance class, cooking their favorite meal, teaching them something… For some children, this is their primary love language, as it happens to be one of my daughters’. She thrives when my husband or myself take time to sit with her to build a Lego, or to program her robots. This simple act of service doesn’t go unnoticed, and fills her love tank to the rim.

 

It took me a while to identify how each of them felt loved the most. In parenting, as in life in general, one size doesn’t fit all. Identifying my daughters love languages have made a world of difference.

What are your children’s love languages? Have you figure it out? Let me know!

Much love, Diana-

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-