Who’s Helping Who?

I’ve written before about parenting in a pandemic and how our kids are actually helping us (read: the adults) cope with the way life has become. I’ve noticed that younger kids, specifically, have seemingly slid into this new normal with relative ease.

For example, my youngest son (just shy of 18 months) is happy to wear his mask and often asks for it before we get out of the car (disclaimer: he still takes it off after a while but remembers to hand it to me so he doesn’t lose it. I consider this a big win).

My middle son remembers to grab an extra mask when we leave the house, “just in case I need a new one while we’re out.”

And my oldest son is quick to point out when people aren’t wearing masks and come a little too close, or if they aren’t wearing their masks properly (“Grampie, you should have your mask over your nose…”).

It makes me sad this is part of our normal behavior, but equally as proud that we don’t have an argument about this every time we leave the house.

In fact, we had a conversation this weekend about wearing masks and why some people “just don’t do it.” My oldest pointed out, “it’s so easy and really doesn’t make that much of a difference.”

Oh, my heart.

Kids are resilient little creatures. And they have so much to share to help us grown-ups learn how to develop our stamina and grit so we can show up smarter and ready to handle life’s challenges and changes.

Here are three things my sons have taught me about adjusting to change.

  1. It’s not really that different. Even if the change we’re experiencing is a big one, I’ve been amazed at the ease with which my kids seem to accept change (and they certainly don’t greet change with open arms). Big changes like when we grew from a family of 3 to 4, then to 5, or when we had to stay home because of the pandemic. Or even little changes like removing the big kid toys from the playroom until their little brother could be trusted to play with them. They just roll with it, accepting it as the new normal and seeing it as a thing that has to be done. This approach has taught me that even when you experience a change, even if it feels uncomfortable for a minute, it will just become normal to you if you let it. Acceptance of what is gives room to decide how to accommodate it. Fighting with what is just makes life tougher than it needs to be.
  2. Control yourself, especially if you can’t control the situation. Kids are basically instructed on what they can and can’t do; it’s part of growing up. They learn the rules of what constitutes acceptable behavior. But somewhere along the way of growing up, we forget these rules and often find ourselves angry and frazzled at the world when change is thrust on us. I previously wrote about one ER trip with my middle son: my boys couldn’t control the situation, but they could control themselves. Instead of being upset or angry that our routine was interrupted, they saw the trip to the ER as an adventure and were visibly vibrating with excitement. This constantly reminds me that despite whatever life shares with me, I will not always have control over the situation, but I will always have the requirement to manage how I think about it. The situation may not be mine to control, but my attitude about the situation will always be mine to control.
  3. Make it fun! Sometimes a change can be hard and, try as you might, things still feel uncomfortable. Without realizing it, I made a snide remark in front of my kids about my store-bought mask that kept slipping off my face. Their response: “why don’t you make one that looks like ours? Can you!? We can all match!!” Done, kids. Done. We are now a family of homemade mask wearers and, because I’m a mom of boys, we have matching construction, race car and Avengers masks (coming soon: Paw Patrol, Red Sox and general sports themes). Always ask, what could make this better? or what could make this fun? Even tough situations are hosts to new and fun things if we can learn to see them.

Life is what you make it. If you choose to fight against every change life shares with you, you’ll be miserable and uncomfortable. But if you allow yourself to see the opportunities that come from change, you’ll find the adjustment period doesn’t take long at all.

Take Action
Reflect on a recent change you experienced. How did you respond to the change? What worked? What didn’t work?

Recognize when you fight change because you feel like you have a lack of control and instead see how you can control yourself. The result will be a happier and, admittedly, a more relaxed version of you.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Rebounding from Tough Times Starts With You

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Parents: Know When It’s Time to Take a Break

I’ve been burned out a lot in my career and nothing has compared to the pure burnout I’ve felt as a working parent over the past year. I think a lot of parents can relate. In fact, I’ve seen a slew of articles over the past few weeks that talk about parenting burnout and, in conversations I’ve had with friends and family, we’ve all come to the same conclusion: DUH.

Though it’s encouraging to know we’re not alone in these challenging times, it’s equally as frustrating. Why is it that parents are expected to do so much and take on even more now when the world is spinning backward and upside down?

I asked myself this question a lot recently and I realized something very important. I used the word expected. It made me ask another question: who is expecting me to do all of this?

The answer was surprising: me.

I expected to work full time, while having all three of my kids home and stuck inside during the cold winter months. I expected to be able to have a healthy, home cooked meal on the table every night and see all of my kids eat it every time. I expected to have every household chore done so there was no dust build up and no one had to look for clean underwear or a specific pair of pants. I expected my kids to work through their challenges without resulting in a brawl every time.

I set these expectations. And when I couldn’t achieve them, I felt deflated, defeated and angry. I got short with people – my kids and husband especially. I wouldn’t answer the phone with my family called because I didn’t want to end up in a fight with them about something dumb.

I was tired and I was burned out because I created unrealistic expectations. I expected myself to be supermom when even a true superhero couldn’t achieve the things I had on my daily to-do list.

I know that every parent is in the same yet very different situation. We’re all trying to navigate working and childcare and home life. It’s HARD. And when we have these heavy expectations on our shoulders, it feels harder.

I’m challenging every parent to try something new this week: TAKE A BREAK.

Working through burnout in the working world is so different from burnout as a parent. At work, you take a break, literally. You leave for a few days. You logout. You disconnect.

But how can you take a break when your kids need you all day every day? How can you take a break when you’re balancing work calls with the next Zoom call for your Kindergartener who really shouldn’t be left unattended at the laptop? How can you take a break when everything (*gestures vaguely*) needs to get done?

Start here: breathe.

Starting from that breath, consider these tips to give yourself the break you need to work through parenting burnout in a mindful way:

  1. Recognize Control. You cannot have complete control over every single person, event or situation in your life. Not possible. You can, however, control how you respond to those things. I like to think of it like this: you can’t control a situation, but you can control how you respond to it. The bickering from your kids. The double-booked Zoom meetings. The baskets of laundry waiting to be folded and put away. If you are able to control it, do something about it. If you can’t control it, change your attitude about it.
  2. Change Your Attitude. Oof. Writing that made my head spin. I can’t tell you how many times I heard that growing up and how many times I say it to my boys. But here’s the truth: your attitude in any situation inspires your actions. If you’re angry, I bet you’re more likely to yell than to have a calm conversation. If you’re exhausted and defeated, you’re probably going to be short and avoid talking or dealing with something. Check in with yourself to see what your attitude is like and notice why you have that attitude. What inspired it? How productive is it? Are you more interested in venting or solving? That attitude will influence your thoughts and actions. Choose wisely.
  3. Give Yourself Some Space. You know when you need to separate the kids to give them some space from each other? It’s time you do that for yourself. Create a time or place where you get your space. Whether it’s for 10 minutes or 4 hours, commit to this. This is time for you to intentionally recharge without worrying about who is fighting or what work isn’t getting done. This is for you. The only way you can get here, though, is to see yourself and this space as critical to your mental health. In that space, have a list of things you do to create a moment of rest, Zen, peace or joy. This could include a connection to a hobby, a call to a friend, a favorite snack or beverage, journaling or even some time in nature. Remember that this space is for you to reconnect and breathe, not to ruminate on the things that still need to be done. Remember, you are worth it.

Take Action
Parenting burnout is the most extreme level of tired I’ve ever experienced in my life, and finding time to take a much needed break is hard. But when you commit to checking in with yourself, you’ll find that the flame that you thought was long gone is actually still there, just waiting for some fuel to help it grow bigger.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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The Rush of it All

The alarm goes off at 5 a.m.
It’s time to get up to exercise.
It may just seem trivial to some
That I try manage these wide family thighs.

Then off to the shower to get ready for the day
Before the kids start to yell for me,
I’ll be lucky if I’m dressed with my hair all brushed
Before the first one barges in to go pee.

Ok, where are your clothes? It’s time to get dressed!
It’s like a new game every day.
They travel to each other’s rooms
Leaving toys in their wake as they play.

Into the kitchen for some breakfast
Quick! Before the hangry sets in.
Bickering over what to eat and who eats first
As I sidestep toys ejected from the toy bin

Then it’s off to the races! We’re late again.
How did it take so long to put on your shoes?
The car, at least, is warm this very cold morning
Oh great, the baby just went poo.

Back into the house for a quick diaper change
The other two yell “it’s time to go, hurry up!”
Oh dear, they’re sounding more like me every day
And in the exit rush I forget my fragrant coffee cup.

The ride to school is uneventful
Not usually the norm.
Then we get there and, oh geez, what did you forget?
I swear, one day, they will take this world by storm.

Then a shift of the mindset
As I set off on my way to work,
But incessant reminders of what to do at home
In my mind it all lurks.

And just like that, it’s time to go home
The day goes by in a flash.
The to do list for work is somehow longer now
Things in work and in life do nothing but clash.

A review of the day with each of the kids
And a snack, or two or three
Then I make a healthy dinner
That, realistically, the only one who will eat is me.

A quick clean up as I clear the table
And the kids all set off to play.
I cringe as I hear the sound of things crashing
Knowing I’ll find toys left where they lay.

We clean the playroom together
Then it’s time for tubbies, our prayers and books.
They ask for one more story
And exchange mischievous looks.

I see through their ploy, I know this game!
I was a kid once, too.
I kiss each of them on their heads
And tell them “I love you.”

I close the door behind me,
Running through what still needs to get done.
Then I power through the must-dos
So I can try to get in a late run.

Ok, the run won’t happen,
I have to get back to work.
I open the laptop and find 25 new emails!?
“Pretend you don’t see them,” I think with a smirk.

But the responsible side of me wins out
Just like it always seems to do.
Then work is all done and I’m finally in bed,
When a little voice yells, “Mommy, I need you!”

I shuffle to his room to see what I can do
To help him get back to sleep.
And though I’m exhausted and can barely think,
Him snuggled up against me is a treasure I will always keep.

As I lay there,  a list of things to do swirl in my mind
And some, I know, just can’t wait.
So at 2:30 a.m., I head downstairs
To throw in some cookies to bake.

Might as well get some laundry done, too
I think to myself as I wait.
Oh my God, did I just make cookies?
I think I promised them cupcakes!

Tasks are done, I’ve read for a bit.
Now I head back upstairs to bed.
My alarm starts to ding, it’s 5 a.m. already?
I sigh, “Let’s go,” I say to myself in my head.

Though busy and sometimes crazy
At this moment, this is just the way.
There is always so much to do
But I wouldn’t change a single moment from any of our days.

So the lesson for you is that in the rush of all,
Don’t forget to stop and notice the little things that make up your day.
The kids who lovingly call you Mom,
And the way they still ask you to come play.

The chores will always be there,
The laundry, the dishes and the toys to be picked up.
But you can get caught up in the rush of it all
If you don’t remember to look up.

 

Be the Problem-Finder

“Don’t go looking for problems that don’t exist.”

“Don’t make a mountain out of mole hill.”

How many times have we been told in our lives to not make an issue bigger than it needs to be? And sure, this is great when you’re working through a challenge, you’re stuck in a rut or you’re just working through big emotions. The reminder that a specific event doesn’t need to be your mountain to climb can help you get through it.

But consider this: the problem-finders are often the greatest innovators in the world.

I read an article recently that highlighted that the combination of technology, innovators and the coronavirus has created a seismic shift in the way we work, learn and live. We were challenged to finding ways to work from home, to learn from home and to navigate challenges of life all at the same time.

And we found a way.

This is because, at our core, we can all be problem solvers.

The people, however, who take this to the next level, who seek out the problems waiting to happen, are the innovators.

So let’s imagine that instead of telling our children to stop looking for problems, to stop asking questions or to stop looking for trouble, what if we let them do it? What if we encouraged our kids to not only call out a problem, but learn to be accountable to at least start to solve it? Stop and notice what is going on in your world, consider what could improve it, then act to make it better.

I bet we’d inspire a new generation of problem-finders and problem solvers – some call these entrepreneurs – ready to create a product or service for something we never knew we needed but now can’t live without.

What if we encouraged our kids to find that mountain to climb and challenged them to keep asking questions?

Imagine what a world this could be.

Take Action
The next time you find yourself helping your kid(s) find a solution to a problem, ask yourself why. Are you doing it because they are struggling? Or is it because they’re taking too long?

If you’re honest with yourself, you’ll probably find the answer is that they are taking too long. Give them space and time to seek out their own answers and they’ll most likely surprise you with what they come up with. It helps them develop their self-belief, a skill that will serve them well throughout life.

Try doing this for yourself, too. Don’t get frustrated when you can’t figure something out. Try various mindful practices. Go for a walk. Journal. Shift your brain entirely. When you aren’t forcing a solution to show up in a specific amount of time, you just might find the game changer.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading How to Solve Any Challenge You Face (Really!)

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3 Things COVID Taught Me About How I Parent

I’m going to be the first to raise my hand and say I’m only human (shh… don’t tell anyone). I get angry. I get frustrated. I lose my cool. I make mistakes. Sometimes, I dwell on these moments longer than I should (see the Energy Funnel). Sometimes, I see the lesson quickly and change gears to adjust my behaviors.

Living in this pandemic world over the past year has brought a lot of my human behaviors to the forefront, and I’m not always impressed with myself.

But I’m choosing not to judge this observation. In fact, I’ve used this as a great learning experience to be a better parent, a better wife, a better sister, a better friend, a better coach… overall, a better person.

Though each area of my life has improved in some way, I want to share the 3 things COVID taught me about how I parent (and what I can do better), specifically because I believe that, as a parent, guiding our kids to be confident in this crazy world is one of the most important jobs we have.

Equipping our kids with the ability to give themselves some grace when they’re feeling particularly human and empowering them to move forward in a thoughtful and intentional way starts with us. We’re their role models. We are their guides. If we expect a certain behavior from them, shouldn’t we practice it ourselves?

Here are the 3 things I learned about myself as a parent and how I made necessary adjustments to be better.

1. Commit to being a human.
For some reason, I always believed that a parent should never show a sign of weakness or admit to making mistakes because you were just… above that. I know, it sounds silly. But when you’re a kid, you look to your parents as the ones with the answers, the ones who make the hurt go away, the ones who know you better than you know yourself. Parents are superheroes. So when I feel particularly human, I find it very hard and frustrating to try to balance the human side with the “super” parent side. And it can be exhausting.

So I made a change. I talked to my kids. I explained why I was upset, or sad, or angry. And you know what? It made a huge difference. They understood why certain behaviors made me angry or frustrated; there was no guessing or tiptoeing around Angry Mommy. They understood why I was crying or sad (we said goodbye to our cat who needed a new home; there were lots of questions about tears that day…) and they weren’t afraid to talk to me about it. I gave myself grace to be a human and the confidence to be honest with myself and my kids about what I was feeling and why, a lesson I hope I’m teaching my three little boys so they confidently show up as themselves as they grow up. It reminded me of the great wisdom shared by Theodore Roosevelt, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.”

2. Commit to always make things better.
You know those days when the kids just seem to be on a mission to press EVERY. SINGLE. BUTTON? Yeah, we’ve all been there. If we’re lucky, it’s a day-long event. If we dealt a poor hand, it might last a week (DARN FULL MOON). And here’s what I noticed: I drop to a very unproductive level. Sometimes I yell. Sometimes I just give up and let them run amuck, choosing my battles so I don’t waste the waning energy I have. And at the end of the day? I feel horrible, guilty and upset.

So I made a change. When we’re having a day, I ask myself: what would make this a good day? When I reset my brain to think about how it could be better, instead of dwelling on why it’s not a good day, things start to shift toward a more productive outcome. And at the end of the day, I usually feel energized and happy.

3. Commit to getting to a state of calm.
My kids are looking to me for guidance. If I’m grumpy or short-tempered, why would they think any other way would be appropriate? We see this behavior everywhere – from the workplace (have you ever actively avoided the grumpy boss?) to the kitchen table – no one wants to be around grumpy people because it brings down the energy of the room.

I noticed when I was stressed, anxious or generally frustrated, my kids would reflect the behavior. They’d fight more, whine about the smallest thing and refuse my attempts to diffuse the situation. It always ended up with an explosion, usually from me.

So I made a change. When things are getting a little heated, we all take a yoga breath (sometimes I take a few more in the quiet escape of the bathroom, or basement, or closet) and we get re-centered. We figure out what’s bothering us and then ask ourselves why. Sometimes, the core of the issue is something easily fixed (i.e. SNACKS). Sometimes, the core of the issue is something bigger, like not enough time to get something done (*raises my hand*), and that requires an intentional mindset shift. Focus on what you need to get done, focus on who you need to be to get it done and show up as that person.

Take Action
What has the pandemic taught you about how you show up to life? Start small; pick one thing that you notice about yourself. Maybe it’s something you do really well. Maybe it’s something you’d like to improve on.

Whatever it is, write it down. If it’s working, do more of it. If it’s not working, think about what you could do to make a change.

Remember that we’re human, too. And we can help if you need it.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Reassess What’s Really Important

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A Lesson from Kids: Finding the Good

It might be that kids aren’t yet jaded with the cynical world we live in. They don’t know how to dwell on the bad. They aren’t ashamed to express their emotions in the moment they feel them.

Kids can teach us all a lesson.

Here’s a real story: A little over a year ago, one of my little guys face planted into a book shelf just as we were wrapping up our bedtime routine (it sounds as gross as it was). His immediate response was a scream of agony followed by noises of complete frustration with me as I tried to clean him off to see if we needed to go to the ER (we did). But the entire time we were at the ER? Smiles. Holding my hand tightly when he was scared but letting the doctors do what they needed to do. Saying “thank you” quietly as he slurped his popsicle. Falling asleep calmly in my arms when we finally got home.

And his big brother was just as impressive. Startled when his brother started screaming. Scared when I had him in another room and confused why he was blocked from seeing it all. Calmly getting himself ready to get in the car so we could go to the ER. Keeping both of his brothers distracted. Highlighting the adventure we were about to go on (“we’re going to the ER! To see doctors! So cool!”).

Kids don’t get caught up in the “what ifs” or “could have beens.” They are literally present in every moment, fully participating and making the most of the ride.

Perhaps the greatest lesson kids can teach us is not necessarily just finding the good or making the most of every moment, but really being present to each of those moments, excited to see what it brings, and allowing yourself to be whomever you need to be at the moment.

I can think about how often this is a lesson I need to share with myself. How about you?

Take Action
At this point, I know it’s cliché to hear someone say “just find the good!” or “make the most of every situation!” But I think there’s a reason why it’s cliché – it works. To make the most of any situation you have to be really part of it.

So, when it happens next, ask yourself, what would the child version of me do in this situation?

You just might realize you don’t have to search for the good or how to make the most of the situation because it might be right there in front of you.

We really like this list of 5 ideas to help you increase your gratefulness.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Ready or Not, 2021, Here We Come!

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Why Presence Really Matters Most This Year

Have you asked your kids what they want for Christmas yet? I admit, I started asking before Halloween. A part of me doesn’t want to worry about not getting something in time. But a big part of me used it as a distraction. When that Amazon holiday wish book arrived, I told my boys “Santa’s magazine is here!” and set them off to circle the things they wanted. It gave me 30 minutes of quiet without leaning on screen time.

Though they may have a wish list that is about 10 pages long, they know that Santa will only be able to bring them one thing. To my (honest) surprise, my boys didn’t argue or get upset. They sat quietly for a minute flipping through the pages, picked up a different color marker and circled one or two toys saying, “I’ll give mine to my brother instead… I think he’ll like this the best.”

Queue the proud mom moment.

I share this story with you because I think it illustrates a very important concept: presence is more valuable than presents.

This year, I think a lot of parents and grandparents and caregivers will feel a little guilty for not spending enough time with their kids. Trying to juggle all the responsibilities of life while also playing primary caregiver 24/7 is exhausting and, honestly, impossible. It’s hard not to feel like you haven’t done enough in some area of life as you finally lay down at night. So, I think people will spend big this year, giving kids exactly what they’ve asked for and then some. It will alleviate some of the guilt we feel that life has been so weird this year. So unpredictable. So, different.

But instead of worrying about the money, or worrying about buying the exact right gift, what if, instead, you created a gift of presence? Maybe it’s a movie night and you wrap a box of popcorn and a new DVD (or a picture of a new digital version of the movie). Maybe it’s a family campout and you wrap up the ingredients for smores. Maybe it’s a sleepover night and you create a pillow / blanket fort to sleep in.

In each of these gifts, you’re giving the gift of [your] presence. To be fully and completely tuned in to your kids. Whether it’s a group event or a single event for each kid to experience your presence individually, these are the things they’ll remember. They won’t remember the toy that broke on Christmas Day night, or the toys that didn’t have the batteries they needed when they unwrapped them.

They will remember how you showed up in a big way to make it the best holiday ever.

So how will you give the gift of presence this year?

Take Action
As you’re scouring the wish lists from your kids, try getting a little creative. If they ask for movies or books, how could you make it something you can do together? For example, if they ask for books, maybe you write and illustrate one together.

And get others involved! Ask friends and family members for their ideas to find ways to be more engaged and present in your kids’ lives without giving more toys and stuff.

Remember where the memories are made and traditions start.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading I’m Thankful For…

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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.

It Won’t Break When It Falls

“Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls – family, health, friends, integrity – are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered.” – Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas, James Patterson

I bet this passage will resonate with you differently depending on where you are in life. For some of my clients, the conversation revolves around that seemingly always-out-of-reach work/life balance. For others, the conversation revolves around which of those five balls is rubber and which is glass.

But it always culminates in the same type of questions:

  • How can I keep my job / my career but still maintain good, strong relationships with my family?
  • How can I possibly spend any time of the day working out to be healthy when I already feel like I have to pick work or my kids?
  • How can I maintain any semblance of friendship with others outside of the house when there’s already such limited time for me and my spouse / partner to just be together?

There’s an underlying theme here, one that hit me square in the eyes as I was reading The One Thing by Gary Keller: balance is really a question of priority.

Think about everything you have going on in your life. Your kids, your partner/spouse, your friends, your job. Now think about where they rank as a priority for you. Don’t let yourself be confused about necessity or desire. Challenge yourself to really see the priorities.

  • Is it a priority for you to be present with your kids all day, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to advance in your career, or is it a desire?
  • Is it a priority for you to work out during the day, or a desire?

Define priority. Define desire. Understand the difference between the two.

These are your definitions; no one can tell you what is right or wrong for you. You get to decide.

So here’s the biggest challenge: don’t judge it when you see it. You know what a priority looks like, so start your day by prioritizing the big stuff. What needs to get done today for work? At home? With family?

This will not only help you set stronger and more powerful intentions for your day, but it will also help stay sane, calm and more balanced in a period of great uncertainty and change. It will give you more control over things that may have seemed to be out of or not within your control.

Be honest with yourself. If you drop one of those five balls, what will bounce back and what will break or change in a way that can never be replaced?

Take Action
Learning how to prioritize work activities, family activities and personal activities is not the hard part. The hard part is learning how not to judge what you decide is a priority for you. Commit to your priorities. You’ll find that what you decide is a priority for you may be the glass ball, after all.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Your Check Engine Light

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How to Balance Working from Home with Kids

Everyone is feeling the strain right now. The truth is that we’ve all been feeling it for months: the need to get your work done when you’re working from home when your kids are also home.

Regardless of how old they are, kids need guidance. Babies need your attention for just about everything. Toddlers can’t be left to their own devices for long. Tweens and teens need encouragement and support, especially as they work through remote learning. And adult children are likely look for emotional support and guidance, especially as they try to work through what all of this means for them and their independence, their friends and their family.

Trying to balance getting your work done while meeting the needs of your children is exhausting. We’re trying so hard to make it all work, trying to do it all. And though we don’t want to admit it, here’s the truth: a balanced life is not real. Time spent on one thing means time spent away from another.

So how do you successfully balance working from home when you have kids?

Consider these four tips:

First, identify your one big thing for work and home life that you want to achieve each day. Regardless of how many action items you have outstanding on your to do list, pick just one thing for work and one thing at home that, once done, will make you feel like it was a good, productive day.

Second, create a routine. This is as much for you as it is for them. Get used to starting your day the same way. Identify your work time. Identify school time. Identify free play time. Consider starting your day with a family meeting, maybe even over breakfast. Talk to each other about the day ahead. Communicate big events (like important work calls) or deadlines. Share frustrations and concerns. Make it a daily event and it will start to come easy.

Third, establish boundaries. When you’re working, it’s work time. No interruptions (except in extreme situations, and be sure to define what those are). When it’s school time, everyone is engaged. No excuses. Clearly define what “free play time” means and, if needed, put limits on screen time. I have found that having a brief family meeting each morning is a good way to reconfirm and remind everyone in the house about the boundaries, including a consequence for not supporting them. This is, after all, critical to making things work at this particular moment.

And finally, create a mental well-being space. Give a name like, Me time. Down time. Relaxing time. Whatever you choose to call it, make sure you build it into your day. You cannot pour from an empty cup (and I think most parents right now would say they operate on about 50% battery power on a good day).

These four tips – identify your one big thing for the day, create a routine, establish boundaries and create some mental well-being space – are how to get your arms around this working from home thing.

Whether this is temporary or permanent for you, it will require your thought, focus and intention to build and sustain something that works. Defining it and bringing everyone into knowing the approach will help ensure its success.

Take Action
Being told that the way to be effective working from home means doing more work can sound like a lot, but take it one step at a time. Start with the one thing from tip #1. What would a productive and successful day look like for you? Set your intention for the day, for both work and at home. Focus on getting those two things done and you’ll feel empowered to try the next tip.

By Kristin Allaben

Consider reading Staying Productive When Your World Goes Quiet

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