October 2018 NewsletterOct 31, 2018
Welcome – I Am So Glad You’re Here!
Did you notice I skipped a newsletter? There was no newsletter sent out on September 1st and, if you are a busy mom just like me, chances are, you wouldn’t have had time to read it. I was busy getting my daughters ready for school. My youngest was heading off to grade 5, without her sister for the first time ever! My eldest was off to grade 7 which is in a high school so, big transition for her as well. I wanted to edit my vlog before it was shared. I was working with a new videographer and I needed to communicate with him regarding what was working and what wasn’t in the way we filmed our first vlog interview together. I missed the interview with my podcast guest due to technical issues following a change in our server. We re-scheduled the interview for late September. Things were just not lining up for me and I made a decision. I chose to let it go. Instead of stressing about the deadline and pushing people to comply to my schedule, rushing to send out a mediocre newsletter, I decided to give myself more time, get things lined up and send out a completed newsletter that would make me proud. I knew most parents wouldn’t have the time to even open this newsletter as they, like me, scrambled to launch their kids into a new school year. So here it is, I hope you enjoy it!
Every month, I start my newsletter with a Families Connect Challenge. This month is all about self care rituals for smoother after-school transitions. Ironically, I met a mom a few weeks ago. She reads my newsletter and, as we talked about her daughter, I realized she could have really used this activity. It’s unfortunate that I did not have my newsletter out on September 1st. I did share my activities with her and she planned to put this plan into action. I’d love to know how many of you will try these activities with your children and what impact they will have on your family. Our children are in school all day, around lots of people. Some of them they would choose to hang out with but, many of them they would gladly eliminate from their lives if they had a choice. Teachers have expectations that they will participate in class by raising their hands and answering questions. They are expected to participate in group work and complete all their assignments on time. They also need to complete their homework every night. Some children have the kind of personality that thrives in this type of structure. They are extroverted or they enjoy following instructions. Others hate this environment. They need more time on their own, crave a quiet environment and prefer to complete work at their pace.
It is not surprising that after school hours can be emotionally charged as children or teens return to their home, craving a bit of solitude. They need to decompress, to withdraw and relax. That is when we come in with our smiles, our presence and our super annoying questions. “How was your day?”, “How did that presentation go?”, “Who did you hang out with at recess?”. We are their safe person and, sometimes, our questions are the last straw. They rebuff our efforts, resist communication and, as a last resort, purge themselves of all the pent up energy and frustrations of the day. We love them, we want to be good parents, our intention is to be involved and supportive. Being on the receiving end of their rampage can feel hurtful and it can make us angry so we may be tempted to strike back. “Sorry for caring!”. Later, both parties feel a little guilty but it’s too late, some things have been said, damage has been done. So what can you do? Be prepared and adjust your approach to your child’s personality.
Comfort Bowl Activity
We can’t always be there to comfort our children. It is important to teach them how to self-soothe. This activity is a good start to creating an after-school self-care ritual.
1-Buy some self-drying clay from the dollar store.
2-Have your child shape the clay into a bowl. They can add rocks, shells, feathers, bottle caps, beads, whatever is available and pretty in your home.
3-Let the bowl dry over a few days then have them paint it.
4-Ask your children to create a list of what makes them happy. Simple things that fill them with joy. If you have young children, they can tell you and you can write down their ideas. You can create your own list to serve as an example. These are my favourites: I love a cup of hot coffee in my favourite mug, sunshine, walking barefoot, hugs, writing in my journal, calling my mom, walking with my friend Chris, petting the cat or dog, sitting by the fireplace, listening to latin music while dancing in my kitchen, cooking yummy, healthy meals, sitting in a hot bath while listening to podcasts or Ted Talks. See how simple and cheap most of these are?
5-Once your child has created a list of happy items, cut the words out into strips of paper. Fold them and, once the paint in the bowl is dry, place the best of paper in the bowl. On a bad day, when your child is upset but doesn’t want to talk about it, s/he can pick an item from that bowl and do something that will help.
After School Transition Ritual
Step 1-Start your after school transition with a snack. Do not try to get information from your children right off the bus. Welcome them home and offer a snack. Chances are your children are hungry and they can relax while you prepare their snack. It is an opportunity to be present without expectations on them. Your children may need time alone, on their technology (I know you hate it but a bit of down time can help) or alone with you, eating in silence before you start asking questions.
Step 2-If your child is artsy, you may want to set up an art corner where you can sit and draw or paint together after school. If your child likes cooking, you can bake something or prepare supper together. This is a great way to be together without high expectations on them to share their day with you. This is also a great time to pick an item from the Comfort Bowl to do together or apart.
Step 3-Go for a walk together or a drive. Pets are a great motivation to get out for walks. It’s easier for children to tell you about their day if they don’t have to look into your eyes. This is one of the things that makes my work as an art therapist so much easier. Teens will tell me way more while they are painting and our focus is on the art than if I am facing them with a notebook and pen, asking them questions. You can have a rating system with your child from 1-10 to give you an idea how their day was, 1 is a very bad day and ten is “I wish every day could be like this one”. This is a good place to start. “How would you rate your day today?”. Then the next natural question is, “What made it a 5?”. If your child had a challenging day, you can ask, “What do you want to do about this?, What would make it better?, “Anything I can do to help?”.
Step 4-Eat supper together. I know it’s hard with hectic schedules but I find that when one child shares something at supper time, it will remind my other daughter of something she may have not thought to share if she hadn’t been prompted. Also, if your children go to the same school, sometimes you get multiple versions of the same story which can be helpful. It is also a grounding experience for children to sit with their parents. It reminds them that they are part of something bigger.
Step 4-Spend some quality time together in the dark before bed. My daughters love to snuggle so we snuggle and talk about whatever is on their minds. This is where the stuff that was edited out of their day comes out so be prepared to hear important information. For many children, anxiety spikes at bedtime. Being able to let it out and have a parent put things in perspective is a great way to help your child relax and prepare for restful sleep. You can troubleshoot, brainstorm solutions, share stories of someone who has been through the same situation and is now doing great or just imagine “what is the worst that can happen and what could you do if it did?”. Having a plan for the “worst” outcome is empowering.
I would love to hear from you or see your art. Don’t forget to tag me if you share photos on your FB page or Instagram for your chance to win the Movie Pass for four (two adults, two children). The winning family will be announced on my Facebook page on December 23rd, 2018.
I am working on creating my final version of the book. Book Launchers read my proposal and suggested I needed a structure to support the stories in the book. I was listening to Carol Cox one day. She has the Speaking Your Brand podcast. In this episode, she was critiquing speeches she heard at a conference. Then she outlined the perfect structure for any speech following the bare bones of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. That was it! My structure. I rushed home to write down the steps of the Hero’s Journey. That is when it occurred to me. Moms are heroes on a challenging journey but we are missing a crucial step. Every hero meets a mentor who guides the hero and provides support to complete the journey successfully. We have lost our mentors. We are expected to complete our journey on our own which is not a realistic expectation. That is part of the problem outlined in my book. I have been organizing all my information using the steps of the journey and it is all falling into place. I am itching to get this book out!!! I can’t wait to write my update in the November newsletter.
I thoroughly enjoy interviewing a different artist each month for Awesome Artsy Moms. I found a new videographer named Alex Barker. We went to the home of local mom, artist and Vice Principal,Tabitha Valliant. She was a hoot! I love that she is self-taught and exploring acrylic paints, acrylic pours as well as sculpting with a cement compound. Listen to our interview and hear about how she initially used personal lubricants in her art. That one made me laugh. You can check out her work on Facebook Valliant Artwork or listen to our interview here.
This month, on my blog, Anne’s Mommy Moments, I talk about our decision to have a second child. I share details about my pregnancy, Stella’s delivery and Molly’s reaction to her new little sister (which was the inspiration for my second children’s book, The Story of Poobum and Pompom). You can read my blog here.
I decided to visit different groups of mothers to speak with them and learn about their experiences. Speaking in a group is different from talking one on one. We feed off of each other’s ideas and our conversations can take unexpected turns. I couldn’t find a mother from Russia so I read as much as I could. I would love to speak to a real person but I will share what I’ve learned thus far.
I checked out an article by Donna Gorman in the Time for Parents newsletter. When you think about Russia, if you’re like me, you imagine cold weather and fur hats. According to Donna, parents in Russia overdress their children to keep them warm and protect them from the cold even in mild weather. They are convinced that their child will get sick. They do, however, put children outside, bundled up for warmth, in prams for naps every day so they can get fresh air. Traditions are very important to Russians as well as exposing children to Russian culture through ballet, poetry, theatre and reading. Grandmothers are expected to be very present in their grandchild’s life and if parents are not following protocol, they will be scolded by a babushka whether they are related or not. Children have busy lives and rarely get to bed before 10 or 11pm at night, even in Kindergarten. Education is valued and teachers are feared so every child does their homework before going to bed. Ballet teachers take the classes very seriously, do rigorous exercise with the children and encourage them not to eat so they don’t get distended bellies which doesn’t look pleasant.
On the Russia Beyond website (www.rbth.com), I learned that some Russian mothers can take up to three years of maternity leave even though they only get a partial pay for the first 18 months. They generally stop working seven months into their pregnancy. If they have the means, they’ll choose the most specialized hospitals to give birth in order to avoid the “outdated Soviet types”. Birthing at home in a tub is also popular. They also do not trust doctors and ask for second opinions. Russians are very careful not to gain too much weight and are quick to lose their baby fat. They breastfeed for six months then introduce baby food and are vigilant about maintaining a balanced diet for their child. Russian moms are exploring new teaching philosophies such as Montessori or Waldorf and some have Philippine nannies. Babies receive therapeutic massages until they get to be a year old to develop strong muscles. Their child must love to read therefore mothers read to their children every night until they are almost teenagers. The long and harsh winter months means many families go away to the seaside every winter for as long as they can. Many visit Asian countries.
Finally, on Mama’s Toolbox, I interview professionals every month to ask them questions that I think moms would want to ask. This month, I was able to meet with Melanie Wendler, owner of Strive Equine Experiences. Melanie came forward to help out a local family with children on the autism spectrum this summer. I visited her farm and was impressed with her gentle approach. She is offering free Equine Assisted Learning to any child or teenager experiencing bullying. Melanie is great for families with children who are anxious or going through some challenges, especially if they love animals. You can have a look at her website or listen to our interview as well.
As you may recall, I was supposed to interview Shulamit Ber Levtov, owner of Compassionate Support for Stressful Times this month. However, we had to postpone our interview when my husband changed our server from Bell to Virgin and I was no longer able to access my computer or launch Zoom which is the program I use to interview my guests. Shula and I are both very busy and we were unable to re-connect until the end of September. I will be posting our interview next month. You can check out Shula’s website here.
This is my way to serve you. If you have any suggestions regarding topics you would like to have covered or questions you wish to ask, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at email@example.com.
I look forward to seeing you in my groups or reading your comments.
Motherhood Doesn’t Have to Be a One-Woman Show,
**If you are participating in my Families Connect Challenge, please follow the links below to see previous newsletters.
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