Family Management, Parenting, Working Parents

3 Tips for Work-Outside-the-Home Parents

We celebrated Labor Day this week and the holiday prompted me to reflect on my personal journey in the workforce…specifically on my time in the work force after having children.  For almost 15 years I have been a full-time mama who has worked at a full-time job outside the home.  During my reflection, I was able to clearly identify things that contributed to my struggles and things that contributed to my successes, so with that in mind, I thought a post sharing a few of the things that have helped me might be something of value for other parents in the same situation.

**A quick aside…I just want to say that I personally think all parents are awesome…those that work outside the home, those that work from home, those that are full-time managers of their home…and I don’t believe there needs to be any debate about what is better/best.  I simply choose to believe that all parents are trying to do their best in the circumstances they live in.  So nothing about this post is meant to indicate I think a parent should be working outside the home, I am just simply trying to write something that other work outside the home parents may find supportive and beneficial.  Ok moving on.

Hands down probably the best thing I did was include my children in my morning routine.  I didn’t initially set out to do that on purpose…the parenting Gods just gave me children who are early risers…so when the kids were babies and I couldn’t leave them unsupervised I would move them with me from room to room and spend time chatting at and engaging with them as I was getting ready each morning.  Once my kids got a bit older and could play a bigger role in getting themselves ready, I continued to keep them in my space every morning, only now I would have them mirror me as I did my getting ready tasks.  We ate breakfast together.  When I got dressed, they got dressed.  When I brushed my hair and teeth, they brushed hair and teeth and so on.  Sure there were moments when I would think to myself…what I wouldn’t give to just to get ready alone and in quiet…but I will say this, I have 3 children with 3 distinctly different personalities and I really feel like our home had less than typical amounts of resistance to these tasks because all they knew was moving through them together in this familiar and parallel way.  Once the kids were fully ready I avoided giving them the option to go off and play on their own or turn on the TV.  I honestly tried to time the morning so we all finished getting ready when it was pretty much time to leave, but if they beat me their option was to hang out in my room.  Sometimes I would put music on, sometimes they read books that were in there, sometimes they just played with each other on the floor.  I know this saved me a lot of morning stress because I never dealt with the challenge of separating kids from activities they enjoy (like screens or toys) to get them out the door for school because they never started in with them in the first place.  It is also worth mentioning that an additional benefit of this practice I didn’t see coming is that now my kids are 14, 13 and 12 and obviously capable of getting completely ready on their own and in their own space (which they mostly do), but I often find them rotating through my room to brush their teeth, do their hair, etc.  Sometimes we just get ready together in the quiet and sometimes they share about things going on at school, sometimes they vent, sometimes they disclose stress over a test happening that day, but whatever it is I really love those little moments of connection before we head off and separate for the day.

My second tip would be to consistently give yourself a 10 minute transition break between returning from work and jumping back into things at home.  My responsibilities at home vs work are so different and require such immense amounts but completely different types of energy so these 10 minutes are used to allow myself to calmly switch gears and briefly re-charge.  I know 10 minutes probably sounds short, but for me it absolutely was enough to make a difference and I think asking young children who have missed you all day to give you more just isn’t that realistic.  Everyday I when my kids were little, I would walk in the door, greet them with hugs and then set a timer for 10 minutes.  In those precious 10 minutes I would change clothes and then go back into the living room, get down on the floor (so my kids still got to start re-connecting with me physically) and read a magazine or a book or sometimes I would even just lay there on the floor, shut my brain off and do nothing.  And if you are thinking in your head…there is no way my kids will let me do this…I would recommend you just give it a try.  I think kids begin to understand and expect things that happen consistently and I know that my kids got so used to it they just accepted it as a normal part of their day.  Somedays they would go off and play on their own, but most days they would just sit right by me (often times when they were really little sit literally on me) and hang out until the timer went off.  This short break was SO necessary for me to be a better mom in the evening for my kids, but I don’t think the benefit was mine alone.  I think this was a perfect exercise to help my children practice the incredibly important life skills of patience and delayed-gratification and I think it also modeled for them that it is important and perfectly acceptable to give yourself a few minutes to re-group during a busy or stressful day.

My final suggestion would be to create and adhere to an extremely consistent evening routine.  I will be the first to admit that doing the same thing day after day can feel sooooo monotonous but I truly believe it is one of the most beneficial things you can do for children…especially children who have spent a majority of their day navigating an unpredictable world without your physical closeness.  A consistent routine provides the structure that children crave to feel safe and secure.  It assures them that no matter what has happened in their day each evening they can settle into things that feel familiar, predictable and comfortable.  I always noticed increased behavioral challenges with my kids on days we were forced to deviate from our typical routine and by evening time, when my energy and patience levels were often running on fumes, that was really, REALLY hard for me.  Obviously every family will know what routine is right for them, but I think that an important note is that young children who have not had a ton of time with you during the day are going to want to get as much close, connected, quality time from you as they can, so try to make the routine focus on being together as much as possible.  I also think it is important to appreciate how much the working parent has to manage at home in a limited amount of time and if you need to get a chore or two done while your kids are still awake to relieve a bit of your stress you should absolutely add that in your routine…just include your kids in that time.  When I look through old photos I probably have 50 pictures of kids sitting in full laundry baskets because getting a load of laundry going each evening did a ton for my stress level so I just made sure that the kids were with me while I did that.  Sometimes they were in the baskets laughing as I threw mounds of clothes I was sorting on top of them and sometimes they were helping me match and fold socks or put away clean clothes.  Whatever works.  My last note regarding the evening routine is that if you choose to make screens any part of your routine (like in our family my kids got to watch a 20 minute video while I got dinner on the table) I would advise that you use something that has a very clear stopping point that your child will easily understand.  My suggestion would be to use a DVD or TV show because once the episode over…it is just over.  Simple as that.  It is so much easier for tired child to manage and regulate the finality of a show then it is for them to have a timer go off to signify the end of their time to play games or watch YouTube because that almost always occurs when they are in the middle of something that doesn’t feel finished and then that will make them beg for more or leave them feeling uncomfortable.  All us parents know what a slippery slope that is and activities that cause an increase in stress levels or open the door for battles right before the often taxing task of getting ready for bed is never good.

So there you have it…my 3 tips for my fellow work-outside-the-home parents.  I hope you find something here that will help you better survive and even help you feel like you are able to thrive as a work-outside-the-home-parent.  It sure isn’t easy, but we can do this!!

Calendars, Family Management, Parenting

Calendars for Kids

So anyone besides me feeling like they blinked and it is already mid-September?  Weren’t we all just reveling in the unscheduled hours of summer!?!  Well, now that our family has had a few full weeks of adjusting to the chaotic back to school grind, it felt like the right time for me to take a pause and do a quick inventory of what is and isn’t working well for our family in the new school year.  While doing this exercise I realized there is a small handful of valuable practices that just keep consistently working well for us and today I want to share one of those with you.  It is the practice of having my kids keep their own individual written calendars.IMG_1026I have long been a huge fan of a written calendar and I would venture to guess most adults managing a busy household are utilizing one.  I used to keep just my own calendar up to date and then when we held our family meetings (and this is another one of the practices that seems to consistently contribute to our family’s success.  Click here to a previous blog post I wrote on the topic if you are interested) I would share the upcoming weeks activities and we would discuss, but it was not like I could expect anyone to retain all that information for themselves.  Once I got each of my children their own calendar that they would bring to the family meeting and fill out with the activities and happenings that pertained to them for the week I started to see some big changes and awesome benefits.  A brief summary of the major benefits I see from utilizing this practice are below.

  1. Less morning madness.  When my kids have their own calendar filled out with their daily activities/appointments I spend less of my already rushed mornings with kids following me around asking, “What is happening today?”  In fact, when they ask that all I have to do is just calmly ask, “Did you check your calendar?”…and off they go.  Also, the kids can check their calendars at night and plan for the next day by pulling together sport/activity items they might need ahead of time.  It also has majorly reduced the household drama over clothing/uniforms they need clean being stuffed in the bottom of laundry baskets.  If they realize something didn’t get washed the night before they need it I can do something about it, 15 minutes before it is time to leave in the morning, not so much.
  2. Reduction of Homework Meltdowns. As a mama to middle-schoolers the calendar is a life saver when it comes to homework meltdowns. I think whenever kids hear that something isn’t due for a week or so they feel like they have all the time in the world to complete it, but as we all know that isn’t the case and Sunday night you have a stressed-out kid with an entire project left to do.  If they have a calendar where they can see that say Thursday and Friday their evenings are already packed with after-school sports or activities and they have a weekend basketball tournament then they are able to realize for themselves (and as an added bonus without parental nagging!!!) that they have to get that homework done earlier in the week.  This idea also works great for kids who have instrument practice, community service hours, AR reading points, or any of the other various things they may need to accomplish on a bigger picture deadline.  For my family specifically, all three of my kids play an instrument through their school music program and they have to practice for hours each week.  As soon as we complete our family meeting and they have all their activities recorded, they immediately then go back through their planner and write out when they will have free time to get their practice hours in.
  3. Cultivating Time Management Skills. One of the best ways you can set your child up for instant success in life is to help them cultivate strong time management skills and utilizing their calendar is a great way to practice. Just the simple exercise of writing out a week of appointments and activities helps them to understand and appreciate just how much effort is needed when keeping oneself on schedule.  When they plan and log scheduled times for tasks like homework, instrument practice, etc. this further enhances their personal organizational skills and teaches them to practice staying on task. Also, when they find themselves with days with multiple things that need to be accomplished they get to learn to prioritize as they figure out what the most important tasks are to accomplish each day.
  4. Teaching Personal Responsibility.  When you take the responsibility of filling out and monitoring the calendar off of you and transfer that onto your child it goes a long way in helping kids to realize that they are capable of learning to monitor and care for themselves.  I feel like there are so many ways children are micromanaged these days and micromanagement can erode their confidence in themselves. By showing them that as their parent we expect them to be in charge of filling out their own calendar, checking it often and take an active role in managing their time you are sending them the message that you trust and believe they have the ability to learn do things for themselves.  Of course it goes without saying that there are going to be mistakes and disappointments, but childhood, before there are grades going on official transcripts or jobs one can be fired from, is the perfect time for us parents to allow these to happen and then help them learn how to handle and adjust in the future.
  5. Comfort and Security Provided to Our Children. Without advance planning on how we are going to spend our time we can find our family living in a constantly reactive state. Living like this can increase anyone’s stress level, but it can be especially hard on children.  Kids are still learning to manage emotions and reactions and living with routine and structure gives them a sense of security and allows them to feel safe.  Utilizing a calendar allows them feel like they have been made aware of what is happening.  It allows time for upcoming events to be discussed and gives them ample opportunity to ask questions if they feel they need to.  Having advance notice of what is upcoming also helps all children, but especially introverted or anxious children, have the extra time they may need to get mentally prepared for things.
  6. Preservation of Family Time and Down Time. We live in a crazy, busy world and I feel like so often our families end up sacrificing things they really want to do together or downtime they truly need because they think there just “isn’t enough time in the day”.  If you are asking your child to keep a calendar for themselves, once they have entered all their necessary commitments, appointments, assignments they get to look at exactly what free time they have and make choices.  The calendar allows them to appreciate and understand prioritizing things that they want and need.  For example, a couple of my kids really like to get one weekend morning with a few hours of downtime to do some screens and avoid being rushed.  I know they have that in the back of their mind when they schedule their instrument practice time and try to add more in during the week to free up time on the weekend.  Also, our family tries to discuss and plan events that we all want to do together and get them into the calendar because that way if an invite from a friend, sports team or a conflict arises we feel good about the fact that we had this family time planned and we typically feel confident in saying no to whatever it is that is creating a scheduling conflict.

So as you can see the practice of maintaining a personal calendar isn’t just a practice that should be reserved for adults.  It is an awesome way to help kids learn valuable time, life and self-management skills all while contributing to the reduction of stress and strengthening of connection for your family as a whole.

Music, Parenting

Free to Be You and Me

CCPost9-1This week I was given a real gift when a few different Facebook friends of mine shared the video of the speech given by Pink to her daughter at the MTV VMA awards.  I watched the video several times while tearing up over the beautifully honest way she conveyed the messages of self-love and acceptance.  After I stopped watching it on repeat, it took me all of 30 seconds to assemble my trio of kiddos on the couch (since I was asking them to look at a screen on a school night they moved quick) and in one of those awesomely simple parenting moments all I had to do was hit the play button and this crucial message was being delivered straight to my kids without mom’s lecturing voice behind it.

The impactful simplicity of that moment got me thinking and although I feel that you can never, ever replace the all important task of having meaningful in person conversations with your kids, I think there is a lot to be gained by finding easy and frequent ways to expose your children to values and messages you want in the forefront of their minds.  I ended up reflecting on one of the ways I did just that when my kids were younger and today I want to share it with you.  It was by simply playing an awesome album called Free to Be…You and Me by Marlo Thomas and Friends.

This album was recorded in 1972 and it is an epic compilation of catchy song and spoken word skits that share messages of things like self-acceptance, gender equality, empowerment, tolerance and peace that are meant for audiences of all ages.  My own mom loved this CD and played it for us all the time when I was young.  In fact, the first time I went and played it for my kids I realized I still had most of the album committed to memory.  And while I enjoy the whole album I will tell you about a few of my favorite things on it to give you an idea of what is in store for you and your family if you check it out.   There is an awesome ballad, “It’s Alright to Cry” whose words remind us that “it’s aright to cry ’cause crying lets the sad out of ya…it’s alright to cry…it might just make you feel better”.  To this day I still sing that to my kids when they are in the middle of a breakdown and I can sense them starting to be hard on themselves for having strong emotions.  There is a spoken word skit called Atalanta.  She was a princess and her father, the king, decided it was time to marry her off to one of the men of the town and was going to hold a race and the winner would get to marry Atatlana.  However, Atalanta was having none of it because she wanted to go out to see the world before deciding IF she would marry.  When her father insisted the race and marriage would take place Atalanta made a deal with her father that she got to participate in the race and if she won she would decide for herself what she would do about marriage.  And if spunky Atalanta and her stance are not awesome enough there is also one male participant, young John, who enters the race even though he disagrees with her father intentions, because he wanted to win the race to just earn the right to talk to Atalanta and spend time with her.  He wanted to ask for her friendship.  I won’t spoil the ending, but I will say that it’s inspiring and beautiful.  In the short poem, “Don’t Dress Your Cat In An Apron” the narrator reminds us all that, “A person should wear what she wants to and not just what other folks say…a person should do what she likes to.  A person’s a person that way.”  And I could NEVER end without mentioning the narrative titled “Housework” with it’s WONDERFUL message that “Your mommy hates housework, your daddy hates housework and when you grow up so will you….Little boys and little girls, when you are big husband and wives, if you want all the days of your lives to seem sunny as summer weather, make sure that when there’s housework to do that you do it together.”    

This week the Pink video was a reminder to me that we have so many different tools and resources at our fingertips when we want to expose our children to the truths and messages we value. Free to Be You and Me is absolutely on of those tools as you can just put it on during playtime or a road trip and with just the simple push of the play button you can let the compelling narrative and catchy grooves gently teach and foster acceptance, equality, open-mindness and respect in your children.

Parenting, Play

Board Games – A Fun and Simple Way to Foster Important Qualities in Children

Board Games Post Pic1

I think it is safe to say that in the current day and age we are more likely to find children playing games on televisions or devices than on boards with other people.  And while I feel there is room for all types of entertainment in the life of a child, I think we do ourselves a huge disservice as parents when we allow our kids to transition away from the latter.  By simply playing board games with others our children are given invaluable opportunities to learn critical life skills. Below I offer examples of the things our children learn when we push them to grab a board game over a device or controller.

Sportsmanship.  When a child plays a game with a device instead of with a person there is no need to be a gracious winner or loser.  They can throw a fit and act out in anger after a loss or gloat after a win and then simply hit play again and off they go with no ramifications.  Playing a game with another human does not allow that.  Lose at a board game and throw a fit or act egotistical after a win and you will lose the ability to play again because no one will want to play with you.  To keep human playmates you need to learn to regulate the feelings of anger, disappointment or self-centeredness and be gracious in victory or defeat. 

Patience.  When playing a video game a child is constantly stimulated.  They are involved in every second of play.  That level of stimulation does not mirror most of the situations in real life.  In real life a child will have to patiently wait their turn…to talk in a conversation, to get to use the play equipment on the playground, to order at a restaurant, etc.  The turn taking required when playing games with others is one of the best ways to learn the patience needed to successfully navigate all types of social situations. 

Perseverance. How many of us have watched a child playing a game on a device and when it isn’t going well they simply hit quit half-way through the game and start over?  This simple act erodes their ability to navigate through a situation that is not going their way. Having a child sit through the struggle of being behind or losing during a game can help encourage them to foster a can-do vs a quitter mentality.  Also, as we all know, board games like Chutes and Ladders, Sorry, etc. have circumstances where the tide can quickly turn and seeing that can help foster their sense of optimism in difficult situations.

Respect for Boundaries.  Board games have clear rules and boundaries given for participation.  Children have to learn and respect those rules to understand the game and they have to be able to successfully remain within the boundaries of those rules for the game to go smoothly.  This is great practice for staying within the boundaries they will encounter at school, relatives or friends’ homes, extra-curricular activities, etc.

Ability to Delay Gratification.  Psychologists have studied and stressed the importance of children having the ability to delay gratification.  There are so many board games that are great at reinforcing delayed gratification.  These are most likely for slightly older children playing games that involve strategy, but so many games like Chess, Risk, Stratego, etc. require you to think of a long term strategy and patiently put it into action instead of going for the first available move.  Also, the overstimulating games on screens can interfere with a child’s ability to appreciate the use of quiet, thoughtful moments to plan out and think ahead.  

As you can see from the above the benefits of playing board games are numerous, so every now and then reach over and turn off the Play Station or iPad and break out Candy Land or Sorry instead.  Your children’s development and behavior will thank you.

Parenting, Sibling Relations

Tips for Introducing a New Baby to Siblings


We have a very special (and very pregnant) friend who has requested our return from retirement to blog about a topic that is understandably feeling very important and timely to her – introducing an older child to a new sibling.  Since her request was so flattering and we have been feeling the itch to write a bit again we spent some time reflecting about those beautifully insane days when we had infants in our homes and complied our best tidbits of advice for introducing a new baby into the family and fostering the early connection between siblings.

Do some prep work before the baby arrives.  Talk, talk and then talk some more to your older child about what to expect.  Discuss how you will hold a baby, how they eat, how much they might sleep, reasons they might cry, what they will and won’t be able to do, etc.  Kellie found an easy way to spend a little time talking about the subject every day by incorporating a book about a new baby coming into a family into her daughter’s nighttime reading routine. She loved hearing about what to expect and enjoyed the relaxed time to ask questions about what was going to happen.

Try to keep your (understandably high) emotions in check when the big meeting takes place.  Now we all know that is no small feat when you are exhausted and flooded with hormones, but if you can remind yourself to try to do your best to not project your big feelings about or ideals for the big moment onto young children it gives them their needed space to process things in their own way.  We all have this vision in our head of this beautiful moment of connection between our children, but the moment itself will probably involve them feeling more overwhelmed by the hospital setting or unsettled because they may have just been away from you from longer then they have before.  Allow your focus to be on respecting and validating whatever feelings they might be having in the moment.  This will help them feel assured that you don’t want or need them to be anyone or anything different just because the baby is here.

Along those same lines, try to keep your emotions in check with their behavior that can sometimes accidentally be too rough or irresponsible.  I clearly remember the moment when I walked into the living room after a 30 second bathroom break to find my one-year-old son sitting on my infant son’s head.  I wanted to flip out and scream “GET OFF THE BABY HE CANNOT BREATHE” but I mustered all my parental self-control and calmly said “please get off the baby’s head”.  My one year old stood up…watched his little brother gasp for air and then said “Oh sa-See Bebe” before he patted his head and
ran off to play.  He only wanted to be close to the baby, but had I reacted with anger he could have associated his being around the baby with angry mommy or even the baby coming and mommy getting more impatient.  It is also very helpful to do hands on demonstrations of what is gentle versus rough touches.  Anytime one of my older children was rough with baby, I would take their hand in mine and rub it softly against my face and then their own face while repeating “this is how we are gentle…this is how we are gentle.”

Give them their own baby.  This is great for several reasons.  First, it can be used as a siblingpost3teaching tool both during your prep work mentioned above and when the baby is here.  For example, after said head sitting incident we spent a lot of time practicing the way we can hold, touch or play with a baby using my son’s baby doll.  Second, it can allow them to feel like they are “playing” with you while you are just trying to get through the endless hours of care a baby requires.  Ask them to feed, change and dress their baby alongside you while you do the same to their sibling.   Kellie even invested in a baby carrier for her older daughter so the two of them could each wear their own babies together each day.

Try to facilitate simple ways to make the older child feel like the baby already loves and enjoys them.  And I really am talking extremely simple.  For example, I used to put a slightly hungry and rooting infant up to their big siblings cheek because I knew they would turn and try to suck on it.  My older two used to squeal with delight when this happened and I would be sure to say something like “look he’s trying to siblingpost1kiss you…because he loves you.”  Or when the baby was fussing after a nap and I knew they would most likely soothe when I picked them up…before getting him I would ask my daughter to sing or talk to the baby and then I would pick him up and tell her “look he loves your singing/talking so much he stopped crying.”  These probably seem so basic, but think about how good it feels to you as an adult to feel loved and needed. Facilitating moments where the baby makes the older child feel that way helps root their connection in warm feelings.

Keep their routine as consistent as possible. Sure as adults we know that overall things are very different once a new baby arrives, but if you can keep most of what makes up your older child’s day similar that will go a long way towards keeping them feeling calm and secure through an unpredictable time. To keep perspective on that I used to try to focus on doing as many of the same things I did with my older children before the baby arrived…only now I had another little human along for the ride. For example, I used to play with them everyday on the floor, so I would try to do a feeding or two while sitting on the floor while they played.  When they did their daily music/marching time we would lay the baby down right in the middle on a pillow and they would march and dance around the baby.  When they had outside play time we would wear the baby or bring him with us in the stroller.  As we did those things we tried to keep language around it very relaxed and matter-of-fact like “look baby is here to sit with us while we play…or baby is going to eat with mommy while we read books.”  The point is to just take the focus off the baby making everything change so your older child does not use all the change as a reason to feel resentment.

A new baby is a huge transition and even armed with all the tips and ideas in the world there are going to be some big bumps along the road.  When you are feeling overwhelmed by those bumps, try to remind yourself that the main things all of your children need from you are a sense of security and a feeling of unconditional love and acceptance and in the moments when you crawl into bed at night exhausted and not sure if you even gave them those, remember that everyday is a new day and in the morning the biggest blessing your children can have is a mom who shows up ready to try again.

Family Management, Parenting

New Year’s Family Meeting

HNY2I love the idea of the “new year.” It is an awesome opportunity to regroup and refocus on what it is that you want for yourself and your family. Today I want to share a simple, yet powerful way that you can use this opportunity to foster unity, positivity and teamwork in your home – A New Year’s Family Meeting.

If you have read earlier posts on our blog you know we are big fans of family meetings because they allow families to come together and work on valuable life skills like communication, cooperation, planning and organization. A New Years family meeting is simply a big picture version of a regular family meeting. It is a time to discuss what your family dreams to achieve in the New Year, and to focus on what each of you can do to support making those dreams a reality. Below we have provided some simple suggestions on how you can hold a successful New Year’s family meeting in your home.

  1. Do something to set this meeting apart from all your other family meetings. Hold it at a coffee shop and let everyone get hot chocolate or have it at a restaurant your family really loves. If you want to keep it at home, have it after serving a special meal or arrange an ice cream sundae bar to enjoy afterwards.
  2. Select a person to write down all the items discussed at the meeting. That way, when the meeting has ended, you can use the notes taken to make a poster of your family’s goals, dreams, etc. for the New Year. This can provide a constant visual reminder of what your family is focusing on for the year.
  3. Start the meeting off in an exciting way so everyone is engaged. Ask each person to share some things they would really like to see happen for your family in the New Year. Where would they like to go on vacation? What would they like to do more of together around town? Are there things that they want to do more of when you are at home? This is a great time to give feedback to your children to let them know you are excited about their opinions and grateful for their input when making plans for your family. You strengthen your family’s bond when you emphasize that everyone in your home, no matter their age, is valued and an important part of the family.
  4. Talk about the special family traditions that everyone would like to see continue in the New Year. These could be things you have been doing for years or things you did in the past year that you want to now make a tradition. Putting an emphasis on continuing special family traditions is a great way to give children a sense of security. Use this time to remind them that even though life can be unpredictable, you will always have special things within your family that they can count on to remain consistent.
  5. Ask for suggestions on ways your family can grow together. Maybe it is by trying an activity or by visiting a location that is new to all of you. Maybe you plan to research and learn about a new charity you can support. Whatever you choose, this is a significant exercise because it allows you to stress to your children the value of remaining open to new experiences and the importance of being a life-long learner.
  6. TeamworkEnd the meeting by discussing any new expectations, chores or responsibilities that each family member will have in the New Year. This is an opportunity to emphasize to your family that teamwork makes a dream work. Remind them that in order to be successful you all need to work together, not just when planning your fun adventures, but when accomplishing the everyday tasks that need to be done so your home runs smoothly.

We hope the suggestions above help your family to feel a strong sense of connection, collaboration and optimism as you embark on your journey into the new year!


Share and Compare – Reasons for Participating in Youth Sports

MIAHAMMToday we have a Slow Down and Share Sunday idea that can assist you as you work to become a more relaxed and supportive sports parent. One way to better equip yourself to be more relaxed and supportive while your child participates in sports is to have a clear understanding of the reasons they choose to get involved in athletics. The simple exercise we provide below allows your child the opportunity to share those reasons with you. It also gives you the opportunity to go a step further and compare their reasons for playing with the reasons you have for wanting them to participate. With the insight and perspective this exercise provides you will be better able to relax, allow and support your child as they play sports for the reasons they choose for themselves instead of reasons you choose for them.

For a printable version of the questionnaires please click here: 

Child Questionnaire

Parent Questionnaire

Child QuestionnaireParent Questionnaire



Learning to be a Relaxed & Supportive Sports Parent

SportsFinalHeaderThis past weekend our family had our first sports competition of the new school year. As another season began I found myself reflecting on the recent growth I have experienced in my role as a sports parent. Now before you start picturing me red-faced and yelling – let me clarify. It’s not that I had trouble controlling my own emotions at my children’s sports events. It’s that I often found myself feeling stressed about their performance, success, and the experience they were having as they participated in athletics. In today’s post, I want to share the amazing article that helped me reduce that stress and simplify my role as a sports parent.

The article is titled “What Makes a Nightmare Sports Parent – And What Makes a Great One” by Steve Henson. It is a summary of the insights of two longtime coaches, Bruce Brown and Rob Miller. The two men used the information they gathered directly from youth athletes during the three decades they spent working with them and now, through Proactive Coaching LLC, they are devoted to helping adults become the best sports parents they can be. Please click on the link above to read the entire article. It is brief, clear and full of information that will likely impact you and your children positively as you navigate the world of youth sports.

Sports Post FINALAfter I read this article, I easily recognized myself as one of the well-meaning parents they mention who inadvertently make their child’s sports experience less than what it could be. While the article is filled with valuable pieces of information, there was one item in particular that really stood out to me. Specifically, they noted that when it comes to your children and their sports, your main focus simply should be to let your child know how much you enjoy watching them play. After some self-reflection, I wasn’t sure I had spent much time communicating that to my children at all so I made changes that have allowed me to better communicate this to them. Before games I simply tell them I love them and I am looking forward to watching them play. After their games I just let them know how much I enjoyed watching them. Embracing this one piece of advice has made my job as a sports mom so much simpler. I don’t need to feel any pressure to offer the pre-game pep talk or tips to enhance their play. And I can let go of my need to share constructive criticism or to uplift and motivate them after a disappointing performance. Knowing my main job is to show up and enjoy watching them is so much less stressful. It’s something that comes naturally and doesn’t require additional effort on my part. And even more than that, it’s something I know I will always be good at.

Sports Pic Post BbballMaking this change has not only benefited me, but has produced noticeable results in my children as well. I have seen a difference in their interactions with me both before and after games. Before, they would sometimes pull away from me or give me a rushed “I know I know” as I was reminding them to use good shooting form in their basketball game or to be “baseball ready” out on the field. Now, I enjoy warm moments with them as they come to me to hug away their nerves or to share their excitement about a big game. After their games, I have noticed a reduction in their frustration and disappointment when they didn’t play well or their team did poorly. Of course, those experiences are still difficult for them, but instead of doing things like sulking or walking slowly behind the rest of us when we go to leave, they will stay closer to me. I can see the comfort they take from knowing I am there with them as their unconditional supporter. By letting them know that my joy comes from simply watching them play, it doesn’t matter the outcome of their performance or the game. I have realized that they don’t need any additional pressure from me as they strive to be the best they can be for themselves.SportsWayneDyerPost

Brown and Miller’s article showed me that communicating to my children that I love watching them play is one of the greatest things I can do to be a supportive sports parent. If you would like some other tips for positively influencing your child’s athletic experience please see the suggestions below:

  1. Cheer without giving directions. A simple way to do this is to avoid using verbs. For example, try “great shot” instead of “shoot the ball”.
  2. Allow your child to create their own definition of success as it relates to their sports experiences. Talk to them about what their goals are for each season. Ask them to explain what they hope to learn and how they hope to feel when playing. Let them know you are excited to be there to watch them play and learn and work towards their goals.
  3. Remind your child that mistakes and struggles are a part of learning. Let them know they won’t be able to get better at the sports they are playing without taking risks by trying new skills and re-trying things that don’t go well the first time. A great way to do this is by teaching them that the brain is like a muscle that gets stronger with use. See our past post Slow Down and Share Sunday- Mistakes for some ideas of easy ways to talk to your children about this.
  4. Allow your child to discuss their games with you. Avoid giving unsolicited post-game analysis and wait for them to approach you when they are ready to discuss the game or ask questions about the sport. If you give them the space they need, they will come to you when they’re ready to listen which will allow them to gain much more from the conversation.
  5. If your child approaches you with negative feelings about their performance try using a “you’re the kind of person who….” statement. For example, if your child says to you “I missed all my shots in my game today,” reply with a statement like, “You did miss all your shots, but you are the kind of person who keeps trying.” Assist them in transitioning from focusing on the negative to seeing the positive.
  6. Avoid pushing sports on your children. Instead, let them push you to help them. An easy way to do this is to let your child know you would love to rebound for them so they can work on their jump shot. Or communicate that you would be happy to take them to the park and pitch balls to them for hitting practice. Let them know you are available and then wait for them to approach you.
  7. Finally, don’t lose sight of what is important. Only 1-2% of child athletes go on to get scholarships, but close to 100% of children play sports because they enjoy it and want to have fun.
Family Management, Family Meetings, Parenting

DIY Family Meeting Bins


As a follow up to our Monday post on Family Meetings, today we are sharing a simple idea that has helped us both to be more organized and prepared during our weekly meetings – family meeting bins. These bins serve as a central location for all the items we need during our meetings, and having them filled and ready alleviates the need for us to spend additional time and energy rounding up supplies or writing out an agenda before each meeting. As an added bonus, these bins only take a minimal amount of effort to make, and they are adorable enough to display proudly in your home.

Supplies needed

  • Storage bin (ours were magazine bins we found at Target in the dollar deals section for $3)
  • 3 Mason jars
  • One piece of 12×12 Cardstock
  • One to two sheets of 8×11 Cardstock
  • Craft tape
  • Double sided tape
  • Scissors or Paper cutter
  • Twine
  • Pens/Markers


Family Meeting Agenda

  • Print (or handwrite) your family meeting agenda on a piece of 8 x 11 cardstock
  • If your agenda doesn’t take up the whole page, cut off the remaining blank part of the paper with scissors or a paper cutter.
  • Using craft tape, tape your agenda to the 12×12 cardstock.


  • Wrap a long piece of craft tape completely around the bottom of your bin


  • Wrap 2 pieces of thick craft tape around three of your mason jars
  • Write or print your desired text on a small piece of cardstock and tape it on top of the craft tape on the Mason jars (our family’s desired text included  “allowance” and “family fun questions” – but this can be customized however you feel works best for your family)
  • Cut a piece of twine and tie it in a bow around the top of the jar. Trim the bow edges as needed so they are even.
  • Using 2 strips of thick craft tape cover the lid of your jar


  • Fill your jars with your supplies and place your agenda and mason jars into your bin
    • Note: For anyone interested the “family fun questions” jar is filled with slips of paper that have different questions printed on them. I found the questions I put in my jar by googling “family dinner questions”. For a simple bonding exercise during the family meeting, a question is pulled from the jar and each family member takes a turn answering it.


If you love the idea of having all your meeting supplies centrally located and stored, but are not interested in getting very crafty with this project, you can create a simplified version omitting certain steps such as the craft tape, bows, and/or stickers. Below is a picture of Christie’s simplified version of the

We hope this craft helps set you up for success during your next family meeting!

Family Management, Family Meetings, Parenting

Cultivate Calm and Connection with Family Meetings

Family Mtg TextWeekly Family Meetings

Today we are going to discuss a valuable tool for increasing your family’s happiness and solidarity – the family meeting. In our opinion, making a commitment to gather weekly is one of the most valuable things you can do for your family. In this post I will highlight the benefits of these meetings, and explain what our family does during our meeting time. I will then leave you with some simple tips for making your own family meetings as successful as possible.

Benefits of Family Meetings

There are numerous benefits to holding family meetings. First, they are a wonderful way to teach children important life skills because each meeting affords them the opportunity to practice communicating, problem-solving, cooperating, planning, preparing, organizing, and effectively managing their time.

Family meetings also help nurture a child’s self-confidence by allowing them to feel that their thoughts and opinions are valued by everyone in the family – including you.   When you involve children in discussion about things such as the week’s activities, chores, and outings, it reduces the feeling that parents are simply mandating or dictating what and when things will be done. Children are more likely to comply with plans and decisions they feel included in making.

Finally, family meetings are an excellent way to build family unity. Working through problems, coordinating schedules, and dividing responsibilities together serves to confirm for your children that every member of the home helps control the success of your family.

Our Family Meetings

fm1Our family begins every family meeting by discussing the logistics of our week. We tackle the logistics first because they are the most time and thought-consuming. In our home, every family member (kids included) has their own calendar that they bring and fill-in as we go along. As we go through each day of the week, we discuss what activities each person has and we coordinate how everyone will get where they need to go. We also choose who will be cooking dinner each night and what they will be making. This exercise has been especially beneficial for our family. By figuring out meals and logistics ahead of time, we avoid the stress my husband and I would feel if we waited until we were in the chaos of the moment to figure things out. It is much easier to figure these things out in a calm and collaborative environment.

Meals and activities are not the only things we plan in advance. We also discuss and decide on a fun family activity and we make sure to plan for some family down time. Both of these things may seem like they would be automatically included in your week, but it is so easy to completely overlook them when life gets busy. To avoid this, we make sure to take the time to schedule them in. I have noticed that everyone in our family is much happier when we have taken some time to reconnect during a fun activity and we have ensured that everyone has had time to recharge in a way they enjoy during some downtime.

After all the planning is completed we move on to the problem solving section of our meeting. During this time, we invite everyone to share things they may want to discuss and we ask if anyone in the family needs help. We have spent this time discussing all types of topics from ways to address our issue with being tardy to school and ideas for improving our family communication to appeals to revise our screen time policy and a request for help on a difficult rainbow loom project. I have noticed that taking time for this type of connection and communication during our meeting has really helped our children feel supported, taken seriously and included in the problem-solving process.

Tips for successful meetings

  1. Meet weekly and make it a priority. Let everyone in the family know that you all are committing to consistency with these meetings and that everyone is expected to attend.
  2. Set a written agenda. This helps you to keep the meetings short and well-organized.
  3. Remain Realistic. Consider the age and attention span of your child/children and go into your meeting with reasonable expectation of how much they can successfully tolerate. Also, be prepared for chaos from time to time, especially if meetings run a little long or are held at the end of a very busy day.
  4. When holding meetings with very young children, make some activities available to them to keep their hands busy (i.e. paper and pens for them to draw pictures, a snack, etc.).
  5. End each meeting with something uplifting and special to your family. Our meeting always ends with a family hug and affirming statement. My sister’s family does a family cheer. Make it fun and something that solidifies your connection to each other.