For children, routines reign supreme.

Children thrive on the predictability and security that routines provide.   Routines make sense of the day ahead, and reassure children that their needs will be met.  And within this framework of routine, lies a child’s comfort, freedom and joy.

When this routine – regular bedtimes, meals, naps, active times, quiet times, snuggle times gets mixed up, delayed, missed, even forgotten – everyone feels the pain.

During busy social times with family and friends, especially over the holiday season, it’s easy to take on too many activities into our schedule.  Being selective, however, is difficult,  because most of these activities are fun, anticipated and things we always were able to do pre- children. But without paying attention to how much is too much, we pay the price of melt-downs (both children’s and parents’), fatigue, and disappointment.

It’s helpful to make a list of activities, options, expectations, personal needs of our families and see how everything fits together. You can pick and choose what works best for your family at this time.  When traveling with children, don’t expect your child’s schedule to be exactly as it is at home.  Children, however, can be very flexible as long as mealtimes, quiet times and sleep times are a predictable part of this new routine.

To spice routines up, especially during the holidays, is great fun and tradition, but just as too much spice can ruin the soup, too many extras can result in frustrating results for everyone.

Try and find the pace that resonates with your family best – that allows you to feel connected with one another, to be relaxed, to be present – and to be able to enjoy just enough “spice” to make your holiday deliciously joyful and memorable!

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a moment

I love when I’m  treated to a private moment of love personified.  That’s what happened recently as I waited for a haircut at Great Clips.

It wasn’t probably anything that anyone else would have noticed.

But sitting there was a mom and her six or seven-year-old, shaggy-haired son, waiting for his haircut also.  He sat on the edge of his seat close to his mom as he played a game intently on his hand-held device.  His mom sat close, an arm draped ever so slightly on his shoulder.  There was a sense of peace flowing between them – even though there was no verbal communication.  It seemed to me I could feel the acceptance, trust, and belonging flowing between the two of them.

There were no admonitions, no reminders, no questions – just a quiet peace.

At one point the mom leaned over and kissed him on the back of his head, ever so quietly and lightly – barely noticed – just part of the flow.

I guess this made such an impression on me because this was very late afternoon.  I’m sure the boy had just been picked up from school or after-school-care – the mom perhaps coming from work.

Yet conversation wasn’t needed to reconnect – just a mom’s gentle touch said it all.

Sometimes if we are struggling to connect with a child who is challenging us, remember the strength of the gentle touch – often communicating louder and deeper than words.

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Simplicity – so many families I know are really seeking simplicity – trying hard to determine what things are essential in their lives.   But, especially at this time of year, our desire to foster a simpler approach is challenged at every twist and turn.

Yet there are moments – a small, stuffed, hand- stitched felt evergreen tree received – a red cardinal perched on its boughs – a ribbon to hang it on my own Christmas tree – a gift so lovely in its simplicity and its charm.  Perfect!

And then there’s the mom who told me about the Thankful Tree they have on their kitchen table.  Each day the family adds thankful leaves to their tree – remembering something, somebody for which they are grateful – realizing the richness of their lives.

In spite of Gray Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, we can nurture ways that will bring more meaning and more connection to our families’ lives.

You’ve heard this before perhaps - what children really want – what children really need – to make their holidays special is not presents, but presence – the presence of family time, of one-on-one time, of sharing meaningful time together.

I remember a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip where Hobbes tells Calvin his Christmas present is outside.  When Calvin finds it, it is a pile of ready-made snowballs that Hobbes has made for him.  And very smartly, Hobbes has his own pile of snowballs prepared too.  Let the snowball fun begin – together!

This season let’s try and think more like Hobbes – more like little felt evergreen trees – more like a Thankful Tree – and enjoy our presence together.



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a visit

Some things – even a very simple thing,  you don’t forget.

When our son Henry was six years old, Penny, a friend from Winona, appeared at our door one late November afternoon.  She had with her supplies aplenty to make Thanksgiving turkeys – vanilla wafers, some chocolate frosting, Hershey’s kisses, mini-Reese’s peanut butter cups, and candy corn.

Dinner prep was put on hold, Henry called his neighbor friend to join us, and we made Thanksgiving turkeys, right that very moment.

I love the surprise, the spontaneity, the Mary Poppinsesque feeling of that moment, as Penny flew in our front door, ready for some fun.  There was no prearranged date, there was no plan at all.

She just came – and it was magical.

I think of Penny and her surprise visit every year before Thanksgiving, as late day darkness approaches.  Penny  isn’t able to recall this memory herself anymore, but that’s okay, Penny, I’ll remember it for both of us.

Thank you to Penny and to all those who share their gifts with others.

(If you would like to have some fun making  sweet Thanksgiving turkeys of your own, just Google vanilla wafer turkeys and follow the simple directions.)

I wish all of you many special Thanksgiving memories.



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the bridge

I read this tidbit of information recently that I found interesting.  The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is virtually painted everyday of the year.  By the time the work is done, it’s time to start over.

An ongoing process – a job that’s never done.

Sound familiar?  Certainly as parents, our job description reads this way.  And maybe even in other areas of our lives.  Our work is always present.

One of the reasons the bridge is constantly painted is to keep it in good repair.  Left to the high salt content in the air surrounding the bridge, the steel components would rust and corrode. In our parenting lives the same thing rings true.  In order to maintain healthy connections with our children and keep our interactions strong and positive, we need to be responsive, proactive and pay attention to the everyday needs and strains of relationship.

In spite of the vast amount of care, however, the Golden Gate Bridge is a wonder of the world, a beautiful sight whether shrouded in fog or shining against the blue sunlit sky.  And so goes our parenting journey – cracks here and there, a cloudy day, a stormy day, a beautiful day.  Yet together all the moments can add up to a magnificent span.

Parenting really is like the bridge – offering not only our children but us a path on which to travel.

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Every parent who has ever shared their concerns with me about their child’s behavior may be frustrated, scared, at their wit’s end, but always, behind their words of desperation, sometimes temporarily hidden even to them, lies their overwhelming love for their child.

And that’s what we can use to focus on – once we hear about the whining, the tantrums, the negativity, the aggression.  What else is there about your child?  What is your child like when there’s peace shining through?  What is he doing? What are you doing?  What is happening in the family?  What makes her smile? What makes him cooperative?  What makes her lovable?

There’s seldom an easy answer or one parenting technique that will change a difficult situation over night.  And often trying to fix the child and make this child “good” backfires on us and makes things worse.  Because it is often the child’s natural goodness and refreshing the parents’ belief in that goodness that goes a long way toward healing the disconnection between them.

For when any of us feel valued, feel appreciated, feel cherished – we are ready for renewal.

“Namaste” – (pronounced “Naa-Maa-Stay”) is a word from the Sanskrit language that means ” I honor the divine light within you.”

I believe looking for this very positive light within a troublesome child is what will show us the way.

“Namaste ” –   a word to remember.

If you would like some help in appreciating the “light” within your challenging child, let’s talk.  Call me at The Parenting Place – 784-8125 .

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I’m pretty sure I might have said this before ( but I’m going to say it again)  how much I love being in the midst of children working side-by-side, actively involved on a project with adults.

That’s the way it was on Friday afternoon as a group of parents and their school-aged children showed up to work on ornaments for The Parenting Place Rotary Lights Tree – painting, glittering, cutting, stuffing, cleaning up, hauling.

There was a determined and focused energy present to accomplish our united task at hand – to interact, to laugh, to listen, to be a part of a larger group, to feel empowered, useful and competent.

There was even an infant in the group who slept, observed, smiled and welcomed any passing-by-attention offered but did not demand any of it.  It was as if even she knew she was a significant part of the group, that she belonged, and she was satisfied with her job just being in the midst of our work  – watching.

Earlier that day in the morning, a middle schooler helped me in the Childrens’ Room preparing for Trick or Treating day at Play Shoppe.  It was the same with this young girl who amazes me with her clear, take-charge ability to creatively problem solve and follow through independently to get the job she’s working on done.

Do any of these children love to clean their rooms and keep track of their school supplies and hang up their jackets and put away their backpacks and other everyday monotonous chores?

Like any of us – probably not.  But faced with an offer to be taken seriously, to have their opinion heard, to try something new, to be included and you’ll see, I believe, their initiative, their competence, their industriousness – their zest –  show up – and what a delight that is!

Keep that in mind when doling out chores at home.  Is it time to recognize, up the ante and ask more of our child’s maturing abilities to plan and figure things out and make a contribution they will feel good about?

Try it and see.

Thank you to all who helped!

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