Archive for the ‘& stress’ Category

Clam Kids: 3 Creative Ways to Help Your Kids Calm Down

March 19th, 2013

Ever feel super overwhelmed and you just want to crawl into bed and hide under the covers and hope the house is still standing when you re-emerge from your hibernation?

Yes, there are better ways to deal with the chaos and get back into your calm. As a parent you’ve got skills. Yeah, skills!

You know it’s time to take a walk, skip the pile of laundry and zone out on Facebook, head over to Yogurtology, or close the bathroom door and channel your inner Calgon “take me away” moment. Sometimes you are faced with the yucko moments of crying kids, last minute projects, fighting siblings, and it seems impossible to find your “Happy Place”. You’ve still got skills. You know your triggers (and sometimes you even take a break before your buttons are pushed too far), you can say no thank you, you can ask for help, you can hide out in the bathroom until you’ve chilled out enough so that no one gets hurt. Yeah, you’ve got skills.

However, kids don’t come with pre-made skills.  They don’t know how to say something is bothering them, how to ask for what they need in a polite and calm way, how to say no thank you, how to identify their triggers, what they are feeling, or how to calm their system down…unless you teach them.

Want to help your child develop some skills?

Teach them put words to what they are feeling. When you help your child develop a feeling vocabulary they will be more likely to communicate with words instead of tantrums or meltdowns. Although this may seem like a basic preschool lesson, if you’ve got older kids you know they too need to re-learn this basic skill (and maybe your honey needs a refresher too)

Here are 3 creative ways to help your child to develop a feelings vocabulary so they can learn to self-calm:

  • Create a feelings matching game. Create index cards with images cut out from magazine, or hand drawn. Label the feelings and make two sets of matching cards. Mix the cards up and place them face down and try to match each pair.

 

  • Create a feelings game. Create a game like chutes and ladders (or any other type of board game). Add images or words identifying different situations and feelings. Make words or images on the “chutes” about poor choices and negative feelings, and the “ladders” positive choices and positive feelings. For example, add a ladder with words/ images “I helped my brother clean-up, I feel proud”

 

  • Create feelings photos. Take pictures of exaggerated expressions using a polaroid instant camera, or print out images and label them (this is also fun to do using instagram). You can velcro these on to a feelings board, add them to popsicle sticks, or make funny feelings puppets out of the faces. Then use these to help your child identify what they are feeling and disrupt the meltdown before it becomes full-blown.

If you need more support, please reach out and we can find the resources to help you.

In March you can receive individualized support in several ways:

*Join the LIVE Event: To Medicate or Not:What Choices Do I Have? Q& A with Heather Chauvin http://heatherchauvin2.eventbrite.ca

*or Join the IPPC Support Call Challenging Kids, Stuck Families, Difficult Cases: Creative Support for Child Quandaries  https://thecreativityqueen.com/ippc/


Prevent Holiday Tantrums and Meltdowns at ANY Age

December 4th, 2012

The holidays are a very exciting and stimulating time of year, and regardless of your age you may find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted, and ready to meltdown from stress. Now imagine you are a child with limited control and resources to express and manage your stress. No wonder this time of the year can be overwhelming for kids and adults alike! Here are 4 ways to prevent holiday tantrums and meltdowns at any age:

 

  1. Overstimulation is… overstimulating! Running around from store to store and from activity to activity is exhausting for everyone, especially children who are sensitive to the environment or have sensory issues. All those bright lights and loud stores are enough to unnerve anyone.  Know your child’s limitations and don’t ask them to go beyond what they are capable of doing. Instead, arrange a play date, ask a relative to help out, have your spouse watch the kids as you go and take care of shopping or last minute details.
  2. Kids don’t always have the words to tell you. When children are exhausted and overwhelmed they don’t always have the awareness or ability to let you know that they are at their limit. Heck, even as adults we can easily minimize our spouse/partner when they say that they have had enough and need a break…”Oh but there are a few more things we’ve GOT to get done”! Listen to your child, look at their body cues, and help them identify when they need a break. By helping your child understand and positively express their limits you can avoid the meltdowns and tantrums, especially the public ones that leave you wanting to sneak out of the store from embarrassment.
  3. Get back to basics: Wacky schedules, too much sugar, not enough exercise will lead to mood dysreguation.  Keep a daily schedule with regular bedtimes and use a whiteboard to add special events.  Limit all those holiday sweets. A simple rule of 1 sweet a day can help diffuse the arguments over cookies and candy.  If your child drinks soda, it may be time to choose a natural soda or limit the amount of soda. Clean out the cupboards of salty snacks, toss the ice cream and other sugars, and get outside and exercise.  Head to the local YMCA, join a sport, or just get outside. Exercise helps reduce stress and regulate mood (and helps with anxiety and depression).
  4. Pick and choose what’s important. What do you want your holiday memories to be like? If you are trying to pack everything holiday into 4 weeks you’ll be creating memories, for sure, but they may not be the memories you would like your child to remember!

 

CQ Playful Creative Activity:           

 

Here’s a creative activity to help you choose what’s important for your family. Take a few minutes and some deep breaths then find some magazines (or just get paper and pen/pencils/markers).  Choose a few words that reflect what you would like this holiday season to be remembered as. Write those words or cut the words out from magazines and paste onto paper. Then write down all of the things you believe you “should” do over the holidays on a separate piece of paper.  Look at your list of things to do and remove activities that do not align with the words you desire to create. This can be an empowering activity for the whole family, to help your family choose what’s important (and not so much) for the holidays.

Set your child up for success by joining the International Parents & Professionals Community December support call with guest expert Deborah McNelis on  the topic of “Brain Insights: Make a Positive Difference for Children!” You’ll get access to positive and practical strategies to help your child develop a healthy brain.


What’s really important to you?

May 16th, 2012

There are 100’s of things we ask of our loved ones each day. Everything from making your bed, brushing your teeth, doing homework, stop picking on your brother/sister, listen the first time I ask you….

Yes, these are all the daily to-do’s that you and your child need to navigate; and at times it seems like you are endlessly reminding them of all the things they need to take care of (again and again).  You may feel like you have become so disconnected from your child or teen or you are always reminding, lecturing, nagging and you’ve lost the loving relationship with your child you used to have.

CQ Playful Creative Activity:

Here’s a simple and playful way to lovingly reconnect with your child and loved ones.

Invite your inner child to play for a moment. So imagine the child within you that is the same age of your child or teen. Close your eyes if you need to and remember what it was like to be 5, 8, 12 or 16. Take a deep breath in and out, connect with and resonate with the feelings of being that age.

You can take out a blank paper and crayons or markers to help you connect with that child-like aspect of yourself. Write or make images in response to the following questions:

What was important to you then? What did you love doing and if you could do it all day, what would you do? How did you feel about the relationships in your life- your parents, your siblings, your friends? What did you wish that others knew about you?

If you could share anything with your parents, (and they could hear it without reacting), what would you let them know?

Then take a new piece of paper and create images and words to the questions above from your child’s point of view.

What do you discover about yourself and your child from this activity?

When you reconnect with your childlike self and remember what it was like to have all those big feelings and thoughts about others and yourself, you are able to show up with more empathy and compassion for your children.  With this awareness you can choose to refocus on what’s important in your relationship and compromise or let go of power struggles.

Do you need some more support to help lovingly reconnect with your child and stop the cycle of arguments, blaming, and nagging? Join the International Parents & Professionals Community


Creative Tips to Reduce Stress

January 9th, 2012

Are you feeling overwhelmed and stressed out?

When your brain is stressed out it becomes flooded with peptides and hormones and you may be unable to process information.

Take a creative break!

Color a Mandala- Trace a circle the size of a paper plate and use colored pencils or markers and fill in the circle with any pattern or designs. Notice how you feel calmer and more centered.

Play with play-doh- Squish the colors, play with shapes, smell the dough. These sensory activities will help you calm and self-soothe.

Do a brain dump- If you’ve got too many thoughts swirling around in your head you can easily become overwhelmed. Take a piece of paper and write down all the things that you’re feeling stressed about. Then rip it or crumple it up and throw it away. Pick one thing to focus on and give your full attention to that.

Create a calm collage- Look though magazines and cut out words and images that are calming and centering. Paste them on paper and put them above your desk. When you need a reminder, look at the image.

Doodle- Research published in the Applied Psychology Journal suggests that doodling while listening will help you remember details. Have a pad colored pencils or markers and a pad on-hand during your next meeting.

If you have stress in your personal life or you’re worried about other family members, your work may be affected.
Need more support?


Got Holiday Bad Behaviors?

December 20th, 2011

Got holiday bad behaviors? Your child has been whining, demanding, having meltdowns and tantrums, acting out of control, and school is off and you’re wondering, now what? Don’t worry here are some tips that will help your child manage bad behaviors during the holidays and help you stay sane!

1. Cut back on the sugar- If your child has been stuffing cookies and candy canes into their mouth it’s time to limit the sugar. This simple tips will dramatically impact your child’s behavior and prevent sugar highs and crashes. Instead have on hand healthy snacks in a cooler to prevent the hunger meltdowns that happen when your child’s blood sugar is low.

2. Create a schedule- Without an understanding of what’s expected for them for the day and week they will likely feel unsettled and more easily act out. Let them know what will be happening and when, and post the holiday schedule to a white board or calender where everyone can see it.

3. Limit transitions– Transitioning from store to store or house to house can be stressful for children. They often lack the verbal capacity to tell you, “Hey mom, I’m really tired right now and I don’t want to go to another store” ,and if they did tell you that would you listen and respect their request? Know that children will act out if they are tired or overwhelmed, so limit your “to-do” list if your child is showing signs that they are tired and stressed out.

4. Get active- Power down the technology and head out for a walk or swing on the swing set. Build a snowman, go to the park, take a walk. These help your child expel their energy in positive ways, otherwise that pent up energy will be directed at their siblings and lots of yelling for mom!

5.  Create calm down activities- Find activities that will help your child to self-soothe and relax. Take out the art supplies and make gifts for other family members, bake some cookies for an elderly neighbor, listen to  soothing music. Help your child to regulate their mood and behaviors by teaching them ways to relax and self-soothe.

6. Take care of your needs- Ask your partner, a friend, or neighbor to watch the kids or take them out to see the lights. Use that time to renourish, take a bath, drink some tea, watch the fire, or read a book. You’ll find that when you are calm and centered it will be much easier to deal with the holiday bad behaviors when they occur.

During this time of year many people need more support. Immediately access parenting resources to help children and teens you can download right now and use to help your child! You can lean more here .


Stress-free holiday: Don’t be fooled by these holiday myths

December 13th, 2011

Stress-free holiday, is it possible?

There are myths about the holiday that have been ingrained in our belief systems that stem from family narratives, media portrayals, and influences from those around us. Sadly, you will feel overwhelmed, stressed out, not good enough, and flat out frazzled if you buy into these beliefs. So for your own personal well-being, and the emotional health of those around you, I uncover the top four holiday myths.

1. It needs to be perfect-
I was watching TV and Christmas Vacation, the movie, came on. I hadn’t seen it since the 80’s, so I watched and laughed out loud at all the silliness in the movie. What I found interesting is that “Clark”, the dad, was so focused on having a perfect Christmas, with the “perfect” lighting display, that he lost sight of his imperfect family. Do you do that? Get all caught up in the shoulds, how things should look, how the kids should behave, how the holiday should go. When you create high expectation and try to control the outcome you are truly setting yourself up for being disappointed.

2. You must go to everything you are invited to-
There are so many events and parties this time of year, it is impossible to keep up with it all- nor should you!  It is healthy to set boundaries and say NO, and by doing this you can model it for your children. Here’s something simple you can do: Pick one or two events/party, per person, during the holidays. So, outside of school performances, you can ask your child what 1 thing they want to go to, and schedule it. For yourself and your spouse pick 1-2 that are important. If you are fearful of disappointing someone or hurting their feelings, let them know that you and you family have created a new tradition, and you are honoring that.

3. You should be with family, no matter what-
Let’s all be real here, there are family members who are not healthy to be around. They make choices and say things you don’t agree with. These toxic people are hard to deal with when you are in a good healthy emotional space. However, during the holidays most people are not in a good healthy state, instead they are running on empty, trying to get it all done. Of course when you are depleted it’s harder to act rational, not be reactive, and keep your sanity. If you are going to choose to be around unhealthy family members set boundaries. You can decide to meet them out for lunch, so you can be there and leave if they start to act in a way that’s offensive. You can limit your exposure by visiting them, so you are in control of how long you stay, or you can use this as an opportunity to let them know because of ______, you feel ________, and you are asking them to _____________.

4. You have too high expectations of other people’s behaviors-
Similar to perfectionism, having high expectations for other people’s behavior during this time of the year is unrealistic. Adults are stressed and children are over stimulated and excited, so expecting others to act a certain way or for things to go a certain way will cause you unnecessary worry and stress. This time of year expect more melt-downs and acting out from those around you if you are focusing on doing so much and trying to have everything be “just right”.

During this time of year many people need more support, schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.


How to keep your sanity during the holidays

December 5th, 2011
holiday family

photo by David Castillo Dominici

It’s the holidays and the stress of the year is upon you. All that crazy frenetic, “doing”, busy, energy, of rushing around not only impacts you, but your children too. Yup! So if you want to stay sane, you need to physically slow down. I know that may not be so easy with all the things you’ve got going on. So if you can’t stop the rush of the “going”, you can slow down physiologically. Simply put, we can slow down our body responses and here’s a simple way to do it. Take a minute, while you’re in the airport, before you walk into the mall, or a stressful family event. Before you act you can slow down your heart rate and breathing, which will make you feel more calm (and less reactive when problems arise).

So take a minute and imagine tensing up all the parts of your body, starting from the top of head, all the way down to your feet. Tense and tighten everything and hold for the count of ten, then exhale and release. Do this three times in a row and you’ll be feeling more relaxed for sure. Best part is you can do this with your kids too.

If you are traveling with the kids pack up some fun small activities, such as travel games, coloring books, Mad Libs, small package of model magic, and comic books. Kids need down time too so they can self-regulate. A final tip to keep your sanity- say “no thank you”. It’s simple, yet oh so effective.

Having problems at home and need more support? These parenting resources will help your children and teen.


What to do when the holidays suck

November 29th, 2011

It’s the most wonderful time of the year (insert holiday tunes here)… unless you have experienced loss, trauma, neglect, moved suddenly, lost a job, separated, or divorced, experienced physical illness, volatile behaviors of a family member, substance abusing behaviors of a loved one, or mental illness.

So what happens when you or your child experiences losses and changes beyond your control and the holiday season arrives? Everyone appears so jolly and excited, and your experiences have left you feeling like you want to curl up and hibernate through the holiday season.

Here are 7 ways to honor yourself and help your child transition through difficult times during the holidays:

1.              Allow yourself  to express your feelings- You may feel like you don’t want to be a downer at the holiday party when people ask you how you’re doing, so you put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay, and reply “I’m fine”. Yes, opening up your emotional floodgates at a party may not be the best way to communicate your feelings; however, you can honor yourself, and your feelings and let others know “it’s been a difficult time”. Model this behavior with your children, so they know that they don’t have to mask their feelings and pretend to be happy in order to make others feel okay.

2.               Listen to yourself- Take time to hear and listen to what you need. That may mean saying no thank you to invitations and spending an evening at home reading a book. You may need to quite down the busyness in order to hear what you need. You can use the art making process to ask yourself what you need right now, and then allow yourself to express that through the art. Art making can help your child to become quite and connect with their inner voice so they can honor their needs too.

3.             Find ways to honor your loss- Put together a photo album honoring memories, create a memory box, use glass paint and paint a glass candleholder in honor of your experiences. Take time to be with your feelings and help your child find ways to honor and express their grief and loss.

4.              Create a new story- Grief and losses often involve letting go of how things used to be. Take the time to acknowledge and honor what was, and then look at how you choose to create a new story. Get creative with a blank journal or art paper and create images and words of what you are welcoming into your life.

5.              Seek out support- Being alone in your pain often amplifies the feelings of being disconnected and unsupported. Find close friends, support groups, or a therapist to help you during difficult times.  You will go through a period of “new normal” where things will never be as they were before; surrounding yourself with support will help you and your child navigate this transition.

6.              Let go of other people’s stuff- When you are honest with your feelings or when problems arise in your home good intentioned family and friends may jump in to offer unsolicited advice or comments. Realize that their response is their stuff; perhaps they feel uncomfortable, or they want you to feel better, and move on, or they want to fix it. Thank them for their concern, and let them know what you need, “sometimes I just need talk things through, or someone to just listen, or I just need to express that I feel upset”.  If they are unable to support you in the way you would like or continue to give unsolicited advice let them know how you feel and seek out support from those who will respect your process.

7.              Be gentle with yourself- You may want to push through the pain or you may become overly critical of yourself and others. Model being kind with yourself and teach your children to be compassionate with their own feelings and behaviors, this will be a life-long gift you will share with your child.

If you or your child is in need more support you can schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking here.


7 Tips to Make Life Less Fearful

October 27th, 2011

FEAR- its a big topic these days. I’m seeing so many children, teens, and adults impacted by fear. Whether it is fear from a weak economy, fear from not doing things good enough, fear of embarrassment, or fear of spooky things in the closet, fear impacts everyone. With Halloween right around the corner you may want to use this as an opportunity to explore your (and your children’s) fears.

All the Halloween decorations are a great opportunities to talk about things that are scary. Create open opportunities to explore what things you or your children are afraid of. By gently asking what kind of things your child is scared of you may uncover some areas you can grow more. The 7 creative tips below will help you create emotional safety as you explore your (and your children’s) fears.


Fear has rippled through the economy and impacted daily choices. How has it impacted the average household and what are some creative ways to reduce stress for the whole family?

As much as you would like to believe that adult worries do not impact your whole family, it’s just not true. Children are tuned into their parents moods and actions. This occurs from the attachment bonds as babies and continues throughout the parent child relationship. When there is uncertainty in the household it impacts the whole family and creates a sense of feeling psychologically unsafe. You can use some of these tips to help create a feeling of safety and consistency even during fearful times.

1. Keep a schedule:
I can’t stress this one enough. I know that life is filled with unexpected events that can change a schedule at any moment: however creating a schedule and doing your best to maintain it provides consistency and safety.

2. Follow through with meaningful rituals:
When families face crisis there is a tendency to isolate from others and most rituals and celebrations are diminished. It is important to honor celebrations, even at times when things are difficult. The celebration does not need to be “fake” or pretending things are fine if they are not. Instead find a way to honor the person or situation in a respectful and loving way.

3. Stay connected:
Fear, loss, and feeling misunderstood often leads to withdrawal from others and may lead to depression. Stay open and connected to others even in time of great difficulty. This is a powerful opportunity to allow others to support you and will deepen the relationship.

4. Do not impose adult problems on your children:
You child does not need to know the specifics about the stress you may be encountering. It is not helpful for you to share with your child your financial worries or job worries. You do not need to share specific details with your children. For instance if they ask for something you cannot afford you can answer with,”We are choosing not to buy that right now”, rather than, “We can’t afford that, you know things are really hard right now and we do not have extra money for you to get whatever you want”.

5. Be open without being fearful:
You can model open communication with your family without giving a message of fear. If you are talking about the state of the economy or about someone who lost their house or job you can clarify how your family is safe. For example, “That happened, but we have a savings account, a good job, our home, and each other”.

6. Listen and normalize:
Sometimes listening is enough, without trying to problem solve. You can normalize feelings by letting your child know that adults have feelings like worry, anxiety, sadness, anger too. Talk about how it is normal to have these feelings and different ways they can express these feelings, such as journal writing, talking to a friend, petting the dog, going for a walk, etc.

7. Do something:
Cognitive behavior therapy suggests that doing something different or thinking something different will influence how you feel. If you want to reduce the worries and fear it’s time to take action. Turn off the bleak news and do something pleasurable. Have an art night scheduled where everybody in the family makes something together. This is a great way to build relationships, have fun, while doing something emotionally positive and teaching valuable self-soothing skills.

If you live the Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch, Bradenton area child art therapy can help your child develop new coping strategies to overcome their fear and worries . To learn more sign-up for your complimentary child support consultation here.

If you don’t live in the area, don’t worry. I created parenting resources to help children and teens you can immediately download and implement to help your child. You can lean more here .


Got an anxious child? Here’s a creative solution to reduce anxiety, stress, worry, and fear

July 26th, 2011

Stress, worries, anxiety, fear- it’s all part of life. Yet, if your child is not given the opportunity to express our fears and realize that it’s okay to feel scared (worried, etc) and learn tools to manage these feelings your child may develop an anxious disposition. Part of it may be biological, just the way we are hardwired. However, it is believed that genetics only shapes us by 50%, the remaining 50% is environment, situations, people, and perceptions. So we have control over half of our worries and can learn the tools to manage these feelings. The interesting thing about anxiety is that it is often overlooked, yet it has lasting impacts. If a child is anxious they may internalize their feelings and not get the attention that a child whom is acting out gets. However, this internalization may lead to feeling of inadequacy, self-criticism, and may trigger addictive and self-harming behavior.

Children who are anxious can learn to develop skills to self-soothe and regulate their emotional state. Providing your child with an opportunity to learn some new strategies in a way that is aligned with their natural learning process is the easiest way to help your child develop coping strategies that they will actually use.

Okay, so what’s a parent to do? Here’s a creative solution. Ask your child to create an image of what is bothering them. If there is a certain situation (like homework) or person (like a classmate) that triggers their anxiety and worries ask them to make a picture of it. Allow them to create without censorship or judgment. Ask them if they would like share what they created (“no” is an acceptable answer).

Here’s the important part, listen to what they say without offering your perspective. Instead be empathetic and validate their feelings. After listening without offering advice ask your child questions about what the person in the drawing could do or think differently so they feel more in control and less worried. Allow your child to be creative in their responses.

Allowing flexible creative divergent thinking helpings your child re-pattern their brain neural pathways helping your child think in terms of what’s possible. There are other specific biological based strategies we teach in our Comprehensive Family Support Program to help your child reduce the physiological impacts of anxiety (such as increased heart rate, panic attacks). Even if your child has normal worries this fun and creative program will give your child some cognitive and behavioral tools to tackle worries when they arise!