Ready or Not, 2021, Here We Come!

What. Was. That?

I think that’s the general sentiment about 2020 and we still have a few weeks to go. It has been a year no one will forget. Nothing went the way it was supposed to. Big goals were pushed aside while we tried to figure out how to just get the bare minimum done. Simple tasks, like going to the grocery store, required planning and significant mental awareness. And that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface.

Needless to say, I can’t tell you the number of people who have told me they’re planning something special (albeit with only their immediate family in attendance) to celebrate the end of this year. People who don’t usually celebrate the New Year are planning to celebrate this year. We can’t seem to get 2020 out of here fast enough.

But once it’s gone and we see “2021” as the calendar year, then what? What will you do differently? How can the toughest of years make you wiser, better, stronger and more focused?

Changing the calendar year is a start, for sure, a very strong mental one at that. But what will be different about 2021 for you other than it’s not 2020?

Before you say, “here I come, 2021!”, you need to create a solid foundation to be ready for the new year and all it will bring. Being comfortable dealing with change, redirecting anxiety and uncertainty to optimism and learning how to stay calm when presented with anything but a calm situation – all things 2020 challenged us with.

How can you do this? By working with a coach.

Working with a coach can help you get ready to make the most of 2021 in whatever way that looks for you. Through various tools, coaches help you better understand yourself and your situations, create achievable goals and navigate through the challenges and obstacles that stop you from achieving those goals. Whether the situation you’re facing is a personal one or professional, coaches help you discover, develop and live what is best in you, equipping you with exactly what you need to achieve the things that matter to you.

Here are 3 reasons why you should work with a coach to get ready for 2021:

1. What end is up? If you can confidently say you are more organized, more together and self-aware than ever before, congratulations! But for the majority of the public, 2020 was not so kind. Anxiety was through the roof. Uncertainty plagued even the most confident. Few are entering 2021 with their heads on [completely] straight. Working with a coach will help you get clear of your priorities, redefine goals and figure out where to start. After all, if you’re not sure where to start, how can you get going?

2. I will do / be XYZ. This year, most of us had to put aside big goals we wanted to achieve and instead focus on survival (literally and figuratively). In fact, a lot of parents have left the workforce to assist in childcare and remote learning because juggling the responsibilities of work and home (when everyone is always home) was becoming too challenging; you can’t give 100% in 5 directions all the time. At some point, something will fall. Working with a coach will help you revisit your goals and work on redefining and prioritizing them to make them actionable and achievable and, as a bonus, get and keep you motivated to do it. If you don’t have a goal, what direction are you moving in? And if you don’t have an accountability partner, how will you stay committed and on track?

3. Build (or rebuild) confidence, self-esteem and motivation. When you find yourself in a situation you don’t want to be in, especially when it’s out of your control, it can wreak havoc on your confidence and self-esteem. You question how you got there in the first place or how you let it get to the point it did. 2020 challenged everyone’s confidence. The parents who had family schedules perfectly planned and aligned were basically handed a blank calendar and told “try again.” The person working hard for the promotion they wanted found themselves challenged with just getting up in the morning to log in to work. The grandparents who want nothing more than to snuggle their grandkids having to settle for Zoom or Facetime and virtual hugs. It does a lot to the mind when everything you used to take for granted is pulled out from under you. Working with a coach will help you learn how to gracefully accept and navigate change – even the big changes that catch you off guard – and build (or rebuild) your confidence, self-esteem, self-worth and happiness so you can do and be better each day

Working with a coach creates time to focus on you. After all, there are many around you who need you to be calm, focused and present, each of which has been challenged by so many things this year. As you discover your strengths and liabilities, passions and triggers, you develop an inventory of abilities. Think of it like your toolbox; you have the right tools readily available to you to use in any situation that will make you feel confident, competent and capable.

The world is going to send what it is going to send. You can’t control that. What you can control is how you show up to what it sends. To do this in a successful way, you need to know and manage yourself, understand where you are and where you want to be, and, with guidance of a coach, bring all the pieces together to land on your feet and make the things that are important to you happen.

So, whether a parent, employee, manager, boss, spouse, partner or friend, engaging and working with a coach can help you show up more successfully by activating and using what is already great in you.

We can’t wait to work with you. Let’s make 2021 your year.

Take Action
When you take accountability for your life, you subconsciously take control. You decide what your life should look like, and you make it happen. You decide how you want to feel and you make it happen. You decide what you want and don’t want and make it real.

Be your best self in 2021. We’re ready to help.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Reassess What’s Really Important

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Successfully and Intentionally Raising Little Humans

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone so confidently tell me they never yell at their children. Or the number of times I’ve seen child experts share their guidance that yelling reduces children’s self-esteem and therefore shouldn’t happen. Or that yelling isn’t a productive response.

Let me tell you something: as a mother of three boys ages 4 and under, yelling most definitely is a productive response. But there’s a time and place for it: yelling only happens when it’s an intentional choice I made that makes sense for the situation.

Here’s why.

I have a 4-year old, an almost 3-year old and a 1 year old. Did I mention they’re all boys? They’re extremely physical, all of whom are in seemingly perpetual motion. And when they’re not bouncing off the walls and furniture or pushing each other to “get there first,” they’re cackling at jokes only they seem to get and – it seems – finding ways to push me over the edge.

I recently had a neighbor tell me they can hear me yell, and one name seems to stand out more than others (the middle guy because second kids, man, right?).

And in that moment, I never felt so embarrassed or so confident ever before in my life. It was a completely unexpected and confusing response to hearing my neighbor say they can hear me. I mean, we were always taught to never air our dirty laundry – doesn’t disciplining your kids fall into that category? So, yeah, I was embarrassed, but…why wasn’t I more embarrassed?

It’s because I’m self-aware and I’m tuned in to each of my kids. I know what each of them need to thrive and I know how far they’re willing to push me to test their limits (and how far I know I can let them push those limits). I know how much sleep they each need so they’re not bears the next morning. I know how quickly I need to get breakfast for each of them when they wake up and I know what bedtime will look like if I let them stay up just 10 minutes longer. I know whether or not an extra book at bedtime is a good idea for them (honestly, it varies based on how their day was) and I know when they need a few extra minutes of individual attention during the day. I know when a fun “tubby time” event with everyone involved is a good idea and when they need to be separated. I know when one of them needs to just relax in the tub for a bit. I know when one of them needs to get some extra energy out and just run for a bit. I know each of their interests and I know how hard (or if I should even) push to get them to explore something new without writing it off immediately because it’s different.

I know me. And I know my kids. Because I’m self-aware enough to know where my limits are and my strengths are. And I’m aware enough of my surroundings – and especially my kids – to know when I need to push and when I need to let go.

For that reason, though my neighbors may sometimes hear me loudly guiding my kids (I’m going to start calling it that instead of “yelling”), I’m confident in the fact that I know when and why I raise my voice. It’s never a reaction; it’s a response. In fact, I’d say that 90% of the time, I loudly guide to just get their attention, to create a stop and notice moment for them, to bring them back to reality as I see one of them hanging the other over the back of the couch upside down while another one claims they’ll catch them while doing a backbend over the dog (ok, this is a bit extreme but you get the idea).

Sometimes, I have to raise my voice to get their attention because, after all, though they may be active little boys, they are also their own unique person.

They have their own thoughts, ideas and opinions.

They have their own (developing) sense of individualism.

They have their own preferences and desires and wishes and dreams.

I try to remember this when I get frustrated with how easy it seems to be for them to so easily tune me out in one moment only to bombard me with a stream of endless questions in the next.

I try to remember that we’re all unique individuals living in the same house under a specific set of rules. Our rules. The rules my husband and I created to do our best to raise good, kind humans. The rules we created to keep everyone safe and healthy. The rules we created based on what we believe is the right way to raise them, especially in this crazy, ever-changing world we live in.

They’re figuring out who they are – their likes and dislikes, what’s fun and not fun, what’s right and wrong – and they’re doing it with guidance from me. It can be exhausting. It can be exciting. It can be so much fun. And sometimes, I have to loudly guide to be sure they hear me and, more likely, to be sure no one gets hurt.

So, the next time (because we know there will be a next time) my neighbor tells me she can hear me yelling at my kids again, I’ll remember to say “thank you.” I’ll thank her for giving me a stop and notice moment to reflect on why I’ve been raising my voice. And I hope I’ll be in the same position to know each time was a response and not a reaction because, after all, I’m loudly guiding my boys to figure out who they are as individuals.

Take Action
To raise your tiny humans the best way you can, ensure you are self-aware. You know where your final straw is. You know what buttons are never ok to push. You know what rules make sense for your family because you’re not only aware of yourself and your limits, but you’re tuned in to your kid(s) and what each of them need to thrive.

A great way to start is to ask questions. Though I may loudly guide from time to time, I always follow it up with a question. “Can you explain to me why you thought that was a good idea?” or “Why did you do that?” are two of the more common ones in my house, but questions could be anything. Just keep them open. A yes/no question doesn’t allow for a discussion; get them talking and you’ll engage with them in a way you didn’t think possible the moment before.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Mood Affects Others; Manage it.

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This article first appeared on Thrive Global on October, 21, 2020.

The Quarantine Diaries: Day ???

I have this little page-a-day memory book my husband gave me when my boys were born that lets me write down one thing they each did every day (if you’re looking for a Mother’s Day gift, I highly recommend this). Every night before bed, I reflect on the day and write down one thing for each of my kids. It could be something funny, a big milestone or something particularly challenging that we’re working through. Just one thing.

And as I’ve been writing down memories, I’ve been keeping track of the number of days in quarantine. When I realized we were at day 45, I made the intentional decision to stop writing it down. As I wrote “Day 45” in my memory book, it suddenly felt like I was making tick marks on the wall, like a prisoner would.

But that feeling of being trapped is far from what I’ve been feeling. I sat there with the pen in my hand, allowing myself the moment to reflect on what the last nearly 2 months have been like. There have been so many lessons learned, so many new memories, so much growth.

Big things, like watching my boys figure out how to solve disagreements on their own, with WORDS. Sure, there’s plenty of yelling and pushing and wrestling, but I’m hearing more discussion before, during and after the brawl. Progress! (Which, by the way, is also a lesson that big progress is the sum of regular and recurring small progress.)

My boys are learning how to recognize the importance of being self-managed. That just because you’re hungry doesn’t mean you can be mean or rude to others (read: hangry is a thing that happens to Mom and none of you like it). That just because you’re tired doesn’t mean it’s ok to hit or scream because anything else is too hard. That just because you want something doesn’t mean you can just take it. Forced to be in the same space, these lessons are rising to the top and we are dealing with them at an accelerated rate compared to what we would have been doing in the old normal.

Even I have learned so much, like the importance of accepting the fact that I can’t do it all at 100% all day, every day. That the kids need me to be as tuned in to them as they are to me, so it’s important to take that block of time for self-care so I can be present for them. That the days may sometimes feel long and challenging, but it’s just a fleeting moment and at the end of the day, it’s a chance to spend time with my family in a way we likely never will be able to again. “This moment matters” is something I now find I regularly tell myself (even if it’s sometimes done through gritted teeth).

But I think the most incredible lesson I’ve learned that I want to share with you as a parenting coach is that talking goes a long way.

I often share with my clients the importance of asking questions to really understand what’s being said to you. And kids are naturally good at this. They’re so curious about what’s happening around them, they ask questions ALL DAY LONG to get more information to make sense of their world.

So I started taking advantage of this.

I ask them questions, too. I ask them to tell me what they see as we’re out for a walk with the dog (basically a game of I Spy). I ask them about things we’re seeing on TV or in books. And I encourage them to ask me lots of questions because not only are they learning about the world for themselves, they’re showing it to me through their own eyes.

Ask yourself: how could you lean in to those questions from your kids instead of ignoring them or telling them to wait until you’re less busy? A question is an opportunity for discussion. And maybe this moment is the only moment you will hear this question and create this conversation possibility. How could you adjust your approach to discussions to stop talking so much and listen instead?

April showers bring May flowers. That better be true because April came in like an overtired and underdressed toddler in New England this year. We’ve had more rainy, cold days than nice ones, forcing everyone to stay inside more than we’d like. And since I really don’t like having my kids in front of the TV all day, I’ve learned how to leverage the movies and shows we do watch as teachable moments. To lean in to the questions to encourage greater conversations about what we can learn from what we’re seeing.

So, I’m going to shift the Quarantine Diaries slightly to focus on lessons in movies. Because let me tell you, when you take the time to stop and notice what messages are being shared in any movie, you get a faster view of the bigger picture – you don’t have to wait for life to send it in its own terms. This creates the space and the opportunity to actively listen and engage instead of passively hear and ignore. You learn how to start a conversation with others – including your kids – to encourage them to see the bigger picture, talk about it and even get a little creative with it.

So stay tuned for the first installment of Lessons in Movies, coming soon.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 28

Ok, I’m going to get real. The last week has been… bizarre. We’re in this weird little routine that feels normal most days and then something happens that throws everyone off kilter. For example:

  • On Tuesday, the oldest refused to sit still during rest time and, as a result, was a basket case by 4pm, resulting in an epic tantrum about what color popsicle he had. This encouraged the middle one to consistently and loudly point out that he was listening and was behaving. That went over really well, as you can imagine.
  • On Wednesday, we all just got back into the house after a walk and, as I was getting the dog situated, the middle one bolted out the front door and into the middle of our street as I tried to delicately run to catch him with the baby still in the carrier attached to my chest. This was all done to the soundtrack of the dog barking at another dog walking by and the cackling of my oldest who thought this was the height of comedy.
  • And on Thursday, the baby spit up every time I looked away (I think he did it on purpose) and was working through teething pains and a growth spurt. This made for a very tricky day for the older two because my usual attempt at equally dividing attention was not possible and, as a result, I found the middle one proudly showing off his new artwork after he was left alone for a short time: crayon on the wall behind his bed.

I have no idea where the crayon came from since crayons are not allowed in the bedrooms FOR. THIS. VERY. REASON.

These are just some of the big things that happened this week. And as I cleaned up after the boys went to bed and got the house ready for the next day, I found myself feeling really down. I know my triggers. I’m self-aware enough to know when I need a minute to regroup. But it has been an unrelenting requirement for me to be 100% on every day for the last 28 days. And it caught up to me this week. And it caught up to the boys, too.

And like I said, I was really down on myself for being so grumpy with the boys, confused about their behavior and why they felt the need to test me on everything all day, every day.

And then I stumbled on this article about regression in kids. And man was it eye-opening.

“Stress and anxiety can show up in all kinds of ways in children: irritability, defiance, clinginess. But one of the most common responses is regression. Sleep regression and toddler potty training regressions are common, but psychologists say all children (and adults) may regress in times of stress.”


Stressed. The kids were stressed. And anxious. How could they not be? Our routine changed literally overnight. We haven’t seen anyone different in weeks. Only Daddy can run out to go to Target or the grocery store. There are masks and gloves involved when he leaves. We wash our hands ALL. THE. TIME.

I’ve been having strange dreams and not sleeping well. Why would it be any different for my children who, though young, are still oddly aware of what’s going on around them?

So, though I normally share a few lessons as part of my Quarantine Diaries posts, today, I’m just going to share one: tune out to tune in.

We’ve talked about this on our blog quite a bit and we share this bit of wisdom with our clients. Here’s the gist: you cannot be clear about who you are, like what gets you excited and what triggers you, unless you take the time to tune out the noise of the world and tune in to you.

So, this is really a two-pronged lesson.

#1) Tune out the world to tune in to yourself. If you’re feeling irritable, take some time to figure out why. When things are going particularly well, allow yourself time to reflect. Do more of what’s working, what feels good. Figure out where or how to improve on the things that aren’t going so well. Check in with yourself throughout the day. Stay ahead of the triggers and stressors that change your mood and temperament.

#2) Tune out the world and the voice in your head telling you what you’re doing wrong (or not good enough) and tune in to what your kids are telling you. It could be quite literally what they’re telling you. It could be body language or specific behaviors. It may be a message hidden in the words they’re actually using (intentionally or not). Pay attention to what they’re saying and doing. Quite often, you’ll find a seemingly simple mannerism is actually speaking volumes.

Some Activities

  • Science Experiments – Check out some easy DIY science experiments and tie it into the weather. Plant seeds and watch them grow. Use shaving cream in a glass of water with food dye to resemble rain from the clouds. Vinegar and baking soda for the sizzle effect (add food coloring to create a rainbow). Get creative and help your kids make connections and draw correlations to what’s going on.
  • Get Moving –Teach the kids the Electric Slide or the Macarena. I tried to teach my boys Cotton Eyed Joe and they stood still, staring at me with this half smirk, half terrified expression (yup, achievement unlocked. I am well on my way to being an embarrassing mom). Have them join you for a short workout (like one of my favorites, 8-minute abs) or turn on a Kids Yoga channel on YouTube. Just start moving. It not only helps get extra energy out, but it also helps to clear the mind of any negative energy and thoughts.
  • Talk – I mentioned this in my last Quarantine Diaries entry: make time to talk. I sat down with my oldest every night this week to try to talk about the day with him. Thursday night was the first time I was able to get him to articulate what’s going on: he misses school and his friends, but he likes being home. He wants some space but wants to play with his brothers. He wants some “mommy time” but also wants to be with his brothers and his dad. He’s confused and he doesn’t know how else to explore or fully experience that emotion. He doesn’t know how to navigate this emotion on his own, but after talking to him, I now know how I can help guide him to better understanding a more productive way to respond to this emotion and the corresponding frustration that comes with it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like relationships are getting strained due to the quarantine, join me for my FREE 30-minute webinar on Wednesday, April 15 at 8:30pmET to learn how to have your relationship(s) survive quarantine.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

The days have honestly been blending together because it’s the same routine over and over. But honestly, I’ve found my groove. I’ve always been aware of my kids’ schedules – especially when we approach that hangry timeframe – but I’ve been more in tune to their behaviors over the last 17 days because I’m with them all the time. Though I thought I really knew them, spending so much time with them has helped me know them at an even deeper level.

I know when a minor nuisance will be brushed off and when it will escalate (and how quickly).

Yard work with Mom

I know when my 3-year old starts to ignore me (I mean intentionally tuning me out), especially when I’m telling him to stop, slow down or just a flat-out “no,” he’s tired.

I know when my 2-year old starts to run around like a Tasmanian devil with the sole purpose of wreaking havoc, it’s because he’s tired.

And I know when my 5-month old burps, 9 times out of 10, it will be followed by a surprising amount of spit-up.

I am seeing their strengths and challenges appear more clearly. I am seeing their passions and interest developing. I am seeing them start to share who they really are.

And I have to say it’s been amazing. My first real “break” from it all came yesterday, day 17. My husband was able to monitor work emails from his phone while he ran point on childcare and I took care of my own work and things around the house. It wasn’t without interruption, but the extra hands and eyes helped me tackle a significant to do list.

But as I got the boys ready for bed, I realized something: my day felt off. I didn’t get to be part of their days the way I was for the last 16 days. I didn’t get to read with them, play with them or find new activities for them to stay busy with. I didn’t have to break up (many) fights. I was the back-up.

And it made me realize how important this role is to me. Sure, it’s tiring, but when it wasn’t there, I missed it.

I am now aware that I’m going to miss the crazies. I’m going to miss the giggles and running around in circles. I’m going to miss hearing the boys get each other riled up. I’m going to miss having this happen all day, every day when things get back to “normal.”

It took a solid 2 weeks for all of us to get our footing, but once I got into a groove with my new reality, I had an enlightening moment: I see that as the moments of life, I am starting to be okay with whatever it sends. This new normal suits me just fine. Truth be told, I stood in the kitchen completely unsure of what to do with myself when I realized the baby was taking his nap and the big two were entertained and supervised. I’m usually so pressed for time, I didn’t know where to start on my to do list. And then I found myself wondering what I’m going to do when the big two are back in school and everything goes back to the old routine.

Brief meeting

But that’s another topic for another day…

My Top Lessons

  1. Treasure the moments, however they show up. Because in a blink of an eye, they are changed. See the amazing in the tough situations. Appreciate when a moment of growth has given you even a moment of peace and quiet. Don’t want more of it. Don’t lament that it’s happening (so fast). Just appreciate what you get. All too quickly, things return to their “normal” and those moments will be gone. Take a mental snapshot and feel grateful. That moment when everyone is sitting together at the dinner table? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you find them sitting quietly together reading or playing? Take a mental snapshot. That moment when you realize they look cute but may be in cahoots and what might follow may be absolute mayhem? Take a mental snapshot.
  2. You cannot do everything. I’m going to say this again for the people in the back. YOU. CANNOT. DO. EVERYTHING. And even if you do somehow manage it, you will not be able to physically or mentally give 100% to everything. That in and of itself was a hard pill for me to swallow. I don’t like doing anything half way, so I often felt frustrated, tired and defeated every night when I fell into bed. Realizing that I can’t do everything I wanted to, was a significant mindset shift that drastically changed the intention of the day.
  3. Journal. I have a journal I write in every night. I write one big thing that happened that day for each of my boys. That’s it. That’s my journal entry. But it allows me to remember both the big moments and the small moments that would otherwise be lost in the bustle of every day. Flipping back through it will absolutely bring a smile to your face as you remember something little, like when your 5-month old started driving his toy car across his play mat, or something big, like when your 2-year old asked to stop using diapers or your 3-year old has a brilliant idea to use a fork when painting pasta to avoid getting paint on his hands (*mind blown*). Big or small, write it down.

Some Activities

  • Weather – We had a variety of weather over the last few days in New England. We got outside when it was nice and talked about the blue sky and the clouds. We talked about the wind and we talked about rain. We used the moment to talk about the things around us that in other moments, we would have passed right by.
  • Yard work – This was a first for me: I let my 3-year old help with some spring garden clean-up. We were only out for about an hour, but the physical activity, combined with the guided focus took a lot out of him. He was so excited to be the helper, carrying rakes and shovels out to the garden. He talked about it for the next 24-hours and got my 2-year old excited to help next time. He felt productive and proud that he was able to contribute to something on my to do list. In his eyes, he helped Mommy do something that would otherwise have been something I’d have to do without them. And, we got some important things in the yard done.
  • Read a book and do an activity – We started finding things to do that we read about in a book. For example, If You Give a Moose a Muffin is a recent fan favorite, so as we read it, we picked out a few things the moose does: eats muffins, makes sock puppets, paints a scene, tries on his Halloween costume. We picked one thing (paints a scene) and set off to do our own painting adventure.
  • Talk – To your kids. To your partner or spouse. To your friends. To your neighbors. To your family. Talk to people. Whether it’s the lack of human contact or that the pandemic has made people realize the importance of relationships, tap into your ability to just talk to people. Listen to what they have to say. Share your own stories, concerns, lessons learned. My favorite is asking everyone, including your kids, “What is the best thing that has happened to you so far, today?” or at the dinner table, “What was your favorite part of the day today?”

COVID-19 created a new reality for us, one that we were thrown into without the chance to truly digest. Each day has its own unique challenges as we navigate working and parenting (and teaching and staying healthy and taking time for ourselves) in a 24-hour day. But it’s possible. It just requires a mindset shift – one that accepts our reality and uses our energy to be happy, safe and productive in it.

Check out our COVID-19 Resource Center to help you create a more mindful response to our evolving definition of “normal.”

If you feel like you’re struggling to find an approach to working, parenting, teaching and staying healthy in a 24-hour day, join me for my 1-hour Group Coaching Class on Wednesday, April 1 at 8pmET to learn how to implement a health mindset shift to find success in every element of your day. No guilt. No frustrations. Just productive action.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 12

The last time you heard from me was the Day 6 recap – the completion of nearly one full week in quarantine. Coming to you a few days later, I can confidently say we’re doing well. We made it through the weekend and as I slammed into Monday morning, I found myself repeating my new mantra: “What day is it?”

This wasn’t the normal groggy Monday morning wake-up where you have to remind yourself that yes, you have to get up with your alarm. No, this was the “will the day be any different than it’s been for the last 10 days?” question.

Admittedly, if I wasn’t keeping a journal to mark days in quarantine and what life looked like for the family at home together, I probably wouldn’t even know what day of the week it is, never mind the number of days in quarantine.

So, in honor of my “what day is it?” mantra (because honestly the last few days have blurred together), I’m going to give you a high-level summary of how things went:

  • We went for walks. Apparently, this was a big activity of choice for many in New England as we were given a few very nice, unseasonably warm days. I was outside in a t-shirt with the kids and was NOT cold. That never happens in March!
  • We attempted organized activities. Some of them went well (like dot paints) and some of them did not (like a scavenger hunt through the neighborhood).
  • We tried changing things up. Normally, I’m very strict about keeping toys in the playroom. That is the room designed for all the playthings, so I encourage my kids to keep the toys – especially the small ones or the millions-of-little-pieces things (i.e. Legos) in there. There’s a less likely chance of losing anything and I don’t need to worry about what the baby and/or pets will try to eat. But we changed it up this past weekend, at least a bit: I told the kids they could take some of those off-limits-outside-of-the-playroom-toys out. Some of it went well, other parts did not.
  • Planned meals. I normally create a meal plan for the week to ensure that we aren’t wasting time figuring out what people want to eat and having about 100 different ideas and then no one eating what’s actually made. I was a bit too loose on this over the last week so I implemented the planning again. We saw significantly fewer refusals and the boys ate right away (instead of goofing off or slipping into a hangry spiral that got too far out of control).
  • Potty training. Part of me is still not entirely sure adding this level of stress and frustration to the current situation made a ton of sense, but then again, we’re home and we have zero interruptions. Now makes sense. As of this writing, we’re on day 3 and the process has been… what you can expect. I swear, this is the part of parenting I was woefully unprepared for. The patience. The time it takes for this to really sink in. The anger from the independent and stubborn children when you tell them it’s time to go back to the potty to try again. The confusion when they don’t listen and stand up soaking wet…

My Top Lessons

  1. Make the little decisions – I know there’s a lot of guidance readily available about helping toddlers feel like they can make their own decisions and that by doing so it helps inspire and build independence. Let me tell you something: pick your battles. If you know letting them pick what they want for breakfast could result in a 30-minute discussion that eventually leads to a break down because they’re now starving, just make something for them and put it in front of them. They’ll eat it. Let them exercise those independence muscles elsewhere, like what to watch on TV or what shirt they want to wear.
  2. Pick your battles – Similar to the process of making little decisions to just make family things go more smoothly, sometimes, you just need to decide when it’s worth arguing about. My rule is that the playroom always needs to be cleaned up when we sit down to eat – whether it’s a snack or a meal. This is something I won’t budge on. Same with wearing shoes in the house; they come off when you walk in the door. But I’m picking my battles about other things, like changing their pajamas a few times before actually getting into bed or letting them eat their yogurt pouch while on the couch (*cringe*). Some things are just ok to turn the other cheek to. Sometimes.
  3. Be aware of you – I realized mid-disciplining moment that I went from 0 to 60 much faster than was necessary for that specific situation all because I was hungry. I was literally in the middle of reprimanding and my mind said to me, “dude, you’re hungry. This is so not the battle to pick.”Instant guilt and complete frustration with myself. I needed to just take a few minutes to take care of myself when all day it was about everyone else. I realized in that moment I hadn’t eaten anything since 11 a.m. – it was 5:45 p.m.
  4. Remember to appreciate the moments – Whether big or small, you’re bound to experience some pretty epic moments during this time. Don’t forget to stop and really experience it. For example, in the last 48 hours, my 5-month old started hugging, doing the baby kiss, sitting up nearly on his own and crawling (it’s the early stages of crawling, but he’s getting to where he wants to go pretty efficiently). These are big moments that could easily be overlooked by the stress and bustle associated with everyone being at home. But there have also been some amazing “little” moments too, like when my independent 2-year old told me he just “needed a quick hug” and my 3-year old hugged me after dinner saying, “I just love you so much.” Recognize the big and little moments and remember to appreciate each of them.
Some activities with Painter’s Tape

Some Activities

  • Painter’s Tape – This can be used in so many ways for so many activities. Try putting it on some paper and let your kids paint around it. After the paint dries, slowly remove the tape to see the design or words they made. You can also put it on the floor and create a ladder, a game of hopscotch, “balance beams” or roads. We used it as a ladder at first, then I created numbers to allow for additional games, like number identification, small addition work, and using the squares to do color identification and matching (see image).
  • Sidewalk Chalk – We haven’t used sidewalk chalk very much (there always seems to be an injury or the chalk becomes a weapon of some sort), but the boys were excited about something different outside. We set parameters to keep them in the safe part of the driveway (“don’t cross these lines”), which of course became a game and a required starting point for all artwork. I think a lot of people had a similar idea to do something intentional outside, especially after seeing the social engagement idea to write messages to neighbors on your driveway in sidewalk chalk.
  • Run it Out – My kids love to run. They run in circles inside the house, they run up and down the hallway and they run forever when they’re outside. So we set up races: “run to the edge of the fence and back to me as fast as you can… go!” “Run to the shed and back to me as fast as you can… go!” It got some pent-up energy out while making it a game and adding a bit of competition.
  • Mindful Practices – My 3-year old does some yoga poses at school and his teacher was kind enough to share those with the parents. So, we’ve been doing them together and teaching some to my 2-year old. Let me tell you: “take a yoga breath” has done WONDERS to stop an outburst in its tracks. Do the same for yourself. When you feel a meltdown coming – warranted or not – take a yoga breath. I like saying that much better than “count to 3.”

Share your ideas on what’s working and not working for you. Tell us how you are doing and what you are experiencing. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us. All of us are learning as we go and the more we share, the faster we learn.

Hang in there everyone. We’ve got this.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

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The Power of Journaling

One of the best self-awareness and self-management tools we encourage our coaching clients to use is journaling. Journaling provides the ability to sit down and write what you’re thinking and feeling with no judgement; the impact is clarifying, enlightening and freeing. Sometimes, the ability to tune out the rest of the world and just be honest with yourself can open your eyes to greater awareness, information and realizations you may have missed or ignored. It can help you get clear to be able to make wise decisions, small or large. It can help you transition through challenging times. It can take a weight off your shoulders.

As the impact of COVID-19 continues to evolve, changing the way we see and live our lives, I’ve noticed many parents are encouraging their kids to keep a journal. And this isn’t an age specific activity, either. I’ve seen parents sharing this idea with their teens right down to their toddlers. In fact, I recently saw a post from a parent who shared that her young daughter had trouble explaining the big emotions she was feeling. After she encouraged her to write things down, both of them had an easier time communicating with each other.

I’ve also heard of parents who are encouraging their toddlers – the kids who can’t write for themselves – to tell them what they’re thinking and feeling, and parents are writing it down for them.

And I’ve heard of parents who are encouraging their older children – especially those in college who were sent home to finish their year through online courses from the comfort of their childhood bedrooms – to journal to help them understand and channel their big emotions in a productive way.

We’re loving this use of journaling. There’s a power in writing things down, to create a visual representation of what you’re thinking and feeling. It makes it real. It also clears it out of your mind so it stops the continual pinging and distracting thoughts. Left unattended, our thoughts will run around our head, disrupting our concentration, affecting our mood and influencing our behaviors (sometimes not in the most productive ways). Addressing them by giving yourself time and space to release them and see them creates the ability to be a wiser, calmer person.

So if you’re struggling to find the right words to discuss this big event with your kids, considering journaling for yourself. To start, get in a quiet place. Take a few deep breaths. Ask yourself a question like, “What I am feeling right now?” or “What is the thing that seems to be getting my attention?” Write what comes to mind. Don’t judge it. Just write. When you feel you are done (you will know), review what you wrote and reflect on it. Allow yourself to experience whatever is going on with you. Journaling gives it words. With these, you can then better use the information to quiet your mind and make more intentional decisions.  

This is a big, scary event for everyone. The best way to prevent panic is to ensure you take time to get centered and present. Your family needs you to be informed, calm and responsive, not anxious and reactive. Journaling can help you find your moment of Zen in a noisy and changing world.

Take Action
Take 5 minutes today to write down how you’re feeling in whatever format works best for you, whether it’s a list of words, a formal journal entry or even a drawing. Write down the emotions you’re feeling right now. How does this help you see things more clearly? How can you use journaling to help you step outside the internal spiral you might be feeling or experiencing so you are able to relax, keep perspective and continue to make wise decisions?

If journaling can help you, consider how it can help your kids who are still learning – and possibly just starting to see – how this pandemic will change their world.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

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Hear What They’re Actually Saying

You might be starting to tune out the impact of COVID-19 on everyone’s lives. You might be tired of hearing about ways to keep your kids entertained so you can get your work done. You might be overwhelmed by how much information is available yet how few real answers are provided.

But here’s a group I think a lot of us have overlooked: the high school and college seniors.

Senior year is a huge milestone. It’s a year that challenges each student in new ways, encouraging them to stretch to become better versions of themselves. They’re presented with new and exciting opportunities, like applying and getting accepted into college programs, exploring job opportunities and spring break trips, to name a few. Senior year is about hard work, having fun and making lasting memories.

Think back to your senior year in high school and (if appropriate) college. I bet at least one memory that comes to mind brings a big smile to your face.

Now consider the impact COVID-19 has had on the existing senior-year students. The trademark right-of-passage year so many have looked forward to has been taken from them. No school trips. No school plays or musicals. No sporting events (think about all those basketball players in the NCAA Division I basketball tournaments that won’t have the opportunity to play for scouts or to hear the cheers as they play their final game).

I recently heard from a senior in college who explained that this entire situation feels like a rug was ripped out from under them.

And it’s the perfect description. Schools have completely transitioned to e-learning environments and the quarantine has prevented friends from getting together to have those memorable experiences together.

So when you hear about someone else’s challenges, particularly those of senior students, how can you be more aware and responsive to their frustration and sadness? How can you be more responsive to this life changing event they aren’t quite sure how to manage? This is a big deal for them. After all, senior year is meant to be the year of perks, the year they’ve worked so hard to reach and enjoy.

What this tells me as a coach is you have an opportunity for active and mindful listening. This means listening to what they actually mean, not just to what is said. Listen through and past frustrations and outbursts for the emotions, challenges and concerns behind the delivery. Listen for content. Listen for what really matters.

It is in this type of listening that you will be able to better connect with them to determine what they really need and how you can help. You can’t make this specific event go away, but you can be present to ride along with them as they go through it. Sometimes, that is the best it can be.

Take Action
Reach out to any high school or college seniors who may be challenged with a new reality as they wrap up their final year in their specific school. Be interested in how they are really doing. Allow them to open up about their feelings and emotions. Acknowledge and validate their feelings. They need and want to be heard. Help them manage what they are feeling and direct them to express it in a positive and safe way. Some may need to find a new outlet (like this Tony award winner who encouraged all spring musical participants to upload their videos to share on Twitter with the tag #SunshineSongs).

Walking with these amazing people as they start to stretch their wings can reconnect you to your big moments, and to the memories of the people in your life who helped you understand, handle and succeed in them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading 60-Day Review: How’s 2020 Working Out For You?

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The Quarantine Diaries: Day 6

Parents, how are you holding up?

I admit, I went into the first full week with rose colored glasses. I had lesson plans, arts & crafts, a schedule. I was ready.

Here’s the truth: I was not ready.

Seemed to be a theme with other parents I talked to, as well. They had great plans to get their kids excited, engaged and keep them learning without leaning on the TV. But apparently every kid decided it was their mission to make us question our ability to handle working from home, raising our kids and playing teacher.

And man was that a wake up call.

Let’s recap the last three days:

Monday, Day 4: The moods my kids woke up in foreshadowed what the day would be like, but I naively overlooked them, hoping to make it a great day for everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, there were great moments, but overall, I’d give the day a 5/10.

The first tantrum was a mere 5 minutes after breakfast. Then my 3-year old (the one who demanded circle time on Saturday) could not have been any less interested. My 2-year old, however, wanted to read book after book and had a meltdown when, after 30 minutes, the baby had had enough.

But you don’t need to know all the details. Here’s the summary: lots of tears, lots of fights, a few great little moments. A challenging day that I didn’t expect to be so challenging.

Tuesday, Day 5: Walked into the day a little more cautious than the day before, but with big plans for the morning. I even set up their little table just for arts & crafts, playdough and anything else they wanted to do. For the most part, they were pretty good and relatively content in their day. My 2-year old asked me throughout the day why it was a school day and we were at home. My rehearsed response wasn’t enough for him, so I expanded it a bit. Instead of saying “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick,” I said, “we need to stay home so we don’t get sick, but it means we get to play with all our toys and read all of our books and maybe we can even pick a movie later!” That worked.

But it also reminded me how nasty kids can get when they watch too much TV in one sitting…

Wednesday, Day 6: They have officially lost interest in circle time. I tried to change it up a bit and encouraged them to bring a show-and-tell item to talk about (i.e. one toy from the playroom). That started out great until they both grabbed a shark toy and it turned into an epic battle of “BITE!!!” as they wrestled with each other and I tried to calmly – but quickly – move the coffee table out of their way. I tried to get their attention again by teaching them some fun party dance songs, like the Electric Slide and the Macarena. All three boys stared at me in disbelief and embarrassment. So, I guess that’s starting already.

Once I let go of the rigidity of how I defined “circle time,” things got infinitely better. They cleaned up the playroom the first time I asked to move on to the next activity. They played quietly and nicely with each other for almost 90 minutes with kinetic sand. They were thrilled to have a productive outlet that required focus and independence (I had them clean the grout in the kitchen floor; more on that later). And they were thrilled to have the ability to choose their snacks and go get them by themselves.

Grout cleaning

My Top Lessons

  1. Take a Drive – If the weather doesn’t allow you to get outside for fresh air, put everyone in the car and go for a ride. Just drive. 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an attempt at getting everyone to close their eyes and recharge for a bit – just go.
  2. Be flexible – The activities I had planned either didn’t go as expected or were met with hesitation or disinterest. Honestly, this caught me off guard; my kids are normally excited for the various things we work on together or different experiments we try out. They weren’t having any of it. And I felt upset and discouraged and frustrated (level 1 for those who are interested in our Energy Funnel). So I took a breath, reminded myself that it’s ok for them to not be interested in what I put together and found other things to do. In fact, as soon as I stopped trying to force activities in front of them and instead inspired creativity, the big two took off to the playroom where they created an entire storyline to act out and happily played together for nearly an hour while the baby napped. Being flexible comes with being aware of yourself and what’s going on around you – once you’re aware, you can receive and review more information and then use that information to make an intentional decision about what’s the next best move.
  3. Watch for your kids’ signs – You know which ones I mean. The ones that tell you they’re tired but won’t put themselves to bed. The ones that tell you hangry is fast approaching, but they haven’t communicated to you that they’re hungry or, perhaps worse, they’ve already reached the hungry point where nothing looks or sounds appetizing. Be aware of what your kids’ body language is telling you and work with them. Consider setting up a snack section in the kitchen with healthy and easy to grab foods.
  4. Think big – Sometimes, we forget that learning is often done best when it’s not called learning. It could be called playing, doing experiments, fixing things, trying something new – it’s all learning in various ways. So, in thinking big, I took a step back and thought about everything I was reading and hearing about continuing kids’ education while they’re at home. I decided to give my boys a productive task: helping me clean the grout on the kitchen floor. We made the homemade grout cleaner together, found extra toothbrushes and got to work. Voila! My lesson plan for the day: achieved. Science, check. Sensory, check. Cause and effect, check. Responsibility, check. Fine motor skills, check. Following directions, check. A seemingly simple task was comprised of lots of little pieces.
  5. Spend time with myself. I know I have to be my best self to help everyone around me who need and want my attention. I find that if I am all about them and not intentional about taking care of myself, then I don’t have the energy, focus, resilience and patience I need to make the days happen in a successful way. I have learned I don’t need a lot of time, but I do need some time. Time to think, journal, shower, breathe, exercise, make a call, write a blog. Don’t deny yourself some time to do what you need to do for you so you can be there for them.

Some Activities

  • Use a Book – One of the best activities we did was building a leprechaun trap, an idea that was spontaneously decided on as a result of reading a book called “How to Catch a Lephrachaun.” Read a book with your kids and see what type of creativity it inspires.
  • Assign a task – This sounds more intense than it actually is. I recently read that kids like to have tasks assigned to them, particularly the toddler/pre-K ages. They like to feel purpose and stretch those independence muscles. So I gave my boys a task: go fix it. Here’s the instruction I gave them: “Get your toolboxes, pick out a dump truck and a tractor. Ok, your dump truck and tractors are broken and we need to get them fixed quickly because [pause for your kids to tell you why they need them working again].” The boys jumped right to it and were so excited to be assigned a specific task it allowed me the 30 minutes I needed to get dinner on the table.
  • Experiments – I did a quick search for some easy, kid-friendly experiments you can do at home (with some simple, likely-to-have-on-hand-already supplies) and found a slew that I’m hoping to try. Check out the lemon volcano and the rainbow baking soda + vinegar to start.
  • The Zen moment – At least once a day, work with everyone in the house to have a quiet moment of reflection, stretching, yoga poses, meditation or quiet play. Put on some easy listening music. Set the timer. Insist that the house take zen breaks during the day to help everyone center, manage their emotions and feel a sense of calm in this strange moment of time. My toddlers love doing “yoga breaths” to help us all calm down and reset.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading The Quarantine Diaries: Day 3

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How Do You Talk to Your Kids About Current Events?

The world is a crazy, loud place. And it seems to have gotten even more crazy over the last few weeks. COVID-19 is scaring everyone, possibly because we don’t totally seem able to grasp how real and severe it could be.

For as confusing and scary and big as this is for us, just imagine how this feels for our kids.

I recently went Live on Facebook to ask our followers how they’re talking about this with their kids. How do you calmly and wisely keep your kids updated about what’s happening in the world instead of inciting panic? How do you answer their questions honestly and rationally, without inserting your own emotions, fears or worries into the conversation?

Most of you know I have three young boys: a 3 year old, a 2 year old and a 5 month old. The baby is easy; no questions there. The 2-year old is tricky; he’s aware of a change but isn’t able to communicate the realization and doesn’t know how to ask real questions (yet). My 3 year old, however, is extremely astute. He knows something is different. He knows we’ve altered from our routine. But the dead giveaway for my boys is that my husband is working from home during the busiest time of the year for him (tax season).

So the questions have come up:

  • Why can’t we just run to Target to get more diapers?
  • Why are you ordering more stuff online?
  • Why can’t we go to the grocery store?
  • Why aren’t we going to school?

And I’ve answered them all the same way: “There are a lot of people who are very sick right now, so we’re staying home so we don’t get sick and they can get better faster.”

For now, that seems to be enough of an answer.

And for many who shared their own approaches with their kids, it seems to be a similar theme: don’t volunteer too much information. Explain in the most basic terms what’s happening and then wait for more questions.

This has been an approach that has worked well for younger kids.

But what about older kids? Kids who are old enough to be aware of a little more change and why that change is happening? Kids who are old enough to have jobs and this news is impacting their ability to work, whether they’ve been told to not come in for an extended period of time or that they are working extra shifts at grocery stores or pharmacies.

Though I haven’t heard much from parents about what they’re doing with the older age groups, my guidance is as follows: be honest. Be calm. Check your emotions and anxiety at the door. Don’t be dismissive of their concerns; actively listen to what they’re saying or asking and be confident in your response, even if your answer is “I don’t know.”

Be human. Be their parent.

Take Action
Be sure to take a moment for yourself in all of this, too. It’s not possible to be calm, check your emotions and be anxious. We know what we have to do, we just don’t always know how.

Start by taking a deep breath then find someone to talk to. Whether it’s a friend, partner or coach, talking through things can be extremely helpful. Sometimes you just need to hear your worries out loud to start to control them.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Are You a Life Owner or a Life Blamer

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