How to Practice Self-Care During Busy Times

How to Practice Self-Care During Busy Times

How to Practice Self-Care During Busy Times

Here are 5 tips to practice self-care during busy times.

1. Readjust your expectations

It’s important to realize that sometimes things will not be able to happen the way you would like them to. And the disappointment, frustration and guilt that can come with unmet expectations can be really hard to process. Especially when children are also disappointed or sad.   But helping yourself readjust your expectations can do wonders for your mental health. Take a moment to feel your feelings. Then offer understanding to yourself that things are outside of your control. It is not a reflection on you as a parent or as a person.   And then come up with the next best thing that you know you can do. This will help take some of the pressure off of you and make you feel more successful when things do work out.

2. Take a breath

What we feel as parents often gets transferred to our children without either of us knowing it. When we as parents feel stressed, our children will be stressed as well. This can lead us to an unhealthy stress response cycle where kids and parents are feeding each other’s stress until there is a big explosion. Which usually ends in tears and us not feeling very good about our parenting.

So as hard as it can be and as guilty as you might feel, it is important to practice self-care during busy times. And I know what you are thinking, you don’t have time for that. But, think of it this way. Parents set the tone for their families. So if you want to have a smoother day, you need to set the tone of being calm and relaxed. And the only way to do that is to actually become calm and relaxed.

Which brings us back to self-care needing to be a priority. Schedule it in as though it is an important meeting, because it is. Start asking for more help and taking more time for yourself. Help yourself get into the habit. Tanks can’t run on empty so make sure you are meeting stressful times with a full tank.

3. Practice self-compassion

Emotions tend to become more intense when we are busy or stressed. It’s okay to feel sad, overwhelmed and upset. These are emotions people feel everyday, especially parents. And it is okay to feel these emotions even during times when we are ‘supposed’ to feel happy. There is no ‘right’ way to feel. But you can make sure you are processing your emotions in a healthy way for you and your family.   What can help you process tough emotions easier is practicing self-compassion. In short, self-compassion is treating yourself like you would a close friend. Realizing that you are dealing with something tough. Recognizing that others are also struggling like you. And that this is just one moment in time. And because it is a tough time, you deserve to meet yourself with kindness and understanding. As you would a friend.   Studies have shown that self-compassion can help increase oxytocin in your body. Oxytocin is the love hormone that can counteract increased blood pressure and cortisol, the stress hormone. So the more self-compassion you practice, the less stress you will feel. Plus self-compassion has the added benefit of helping you stay in the present moment. And it is the ability to stay in the present moment that can further help your mental well being.   It can be a hard skill for parents to learn, but the more we practice self-compassion the easier it becomes.

4. Get some exercise

Exercise is one of the best ways to relieve stress in your body and reset your stress response. Whether you like to run, lift weights, go for a walk, or something else, just get your body moving.   The reason exercise works so well is because it helps to complete the body’s stress cycle.   It’s easy to get stuck in a stress cycle when we experience prolonged stress. But when we exercise, it provides a natural signal to let our bodies know to stop the stress response.   When we can get our body to stop signaling a stress response it will reduce the levels of cortisol in our system. Less cortisol allows us to think more clearly, function better and sleep better. It also gives us more control over our emotional regulation, making it easier to keep our calm. Which is a win for parents and kids.

5. Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness is the exercise of staying in the present moment. Some people may hear the word mindfulness and dismiss it because it feels too difficult. But anyone can learn to practice mindfulness, even kids.   And the easiest way to do that is to take a minute every day where you breath deeply and focus on your breath. For some, this will be easy, and in that case you can always increase the amount of time. But for some people just trying for a minute can feel challenging.   Most people who struggle with mindfulness think they need to keep their mind completely clear. But that’s not true. Mindfulness is about being in the moment and noticing things and then letting them go. So it is okay if you begin to think about something that takes you away from focusing on your breath. You simply acknowledge you got distracted, and then bring your attention back to your breath. Over time, your ability to focus on your breath and your ability to stay in the present will improve.   For beginners and for kids, I like to help them learn mindfulness through exercises that engage their senses. This helps them to not worry about staying focused while helping them to actually focus. A very popular mindfulness exercise for this is noticing 5 things you hear, 4 things you see, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell and 1 thing you taste.   For those with visual or hearing impairments, doing 20 jumping jacks and then resting your hand on your heart and focusing on how your heart rate comes back to normal can be a good alternative.   Learning to practice mindfulness, like self-compassion can take time. But the benefits are worth it. You will notice you are more intentional in your actions and you are able to better process your emotions. This leads to better relationships and more enjoyment in daily life.

Summer Survival Guide for Parents

Summer Survival Guide for Parents

Summer Survival Guide for Parents

While summer and its activities come with a lot of fun, the lack of routine and structure can lead to some tough behaviors and transitions.

So set yourself up for summer success by following these simple tips.

Make a plan

Most parenting fails are the result of having no plan, getting caught off guard and then reacting out of stress. You don’t have to be a perfect parent, but you don’t have to set yourself up for failure either.

For example, if you know you don’t want your child to be on the screen all summer, make sure you make a plan ahead of time. And if you are in the same household, make sure that both parents are on the same page.

Set your child up for success by talking to them about the expectations you have and the potential consequences ahead of time.

Also help them succeed by setting up their physical environment.

Setting up the physical environment means not leaving screens out if you do not want to give unlimited access. Developmentally, very few kids have the impulse control necessary to resist a screen that is out in the open.

It’s important you keep kids in the loop as you make plans. Because when you include them in creating the plan, they will more willingly take part in making the plan a reality. Your child can also help to troubleshoot problems along the way, which is a great life skill to foster.

Don’t overschedule

It is so tempting to try to cram a year’s worth of fun into summer. But just as important is the need to schedule in breaks and down time, for both of you.

This is especially true if you have a child with special needs, a learning disability or trauma.

Make sure you are intentionally setting aside time for quiet play, reading, puzzles or family movie time. This allows kids, and you, to mentally take a breather and recharge. And it is this recharge that helps keep meltdowns and fights to a minimum.

Make self-care a priority

Summertime often brings big ideas and trips and expectations. All of which add stress to a parent’s already full plate. Regardless of whether or not you have grand plans for the summer, self-care is usually a low priority. But skipping self-care leads to shorter tempers and more frustration with your child. And your stress can lead to big behaviors in your child.

The solution is to make sure you are getting regular time just for you.

The best way to make self-care a priority is to schedule it in. That may mean you need to tag team with a partner, family member or babysitter so that you can get your time in. Or it may mean you keep an earlier bedtime for your kids in the summertime. This gives you a consistent break from being a parent in the evenings. For older kids, this does not mean they have to be asleep. Instead they can have quiet reading time until actual sleeping time.

If you have a partner, make sure you are both getting your self-care in. This includes helping to protect each other’s recharging time. Think of it as being self-care buddies. You both support each other’s needs and keep each other accountable.

Make time for individualized attention

All kids, no matter their age, want their parent’s love and attention. True, it may look a lot different as they grow older, but the desire for connection is still there. To maintain or build connection, set up a schedule for spending time with each child.

For parents low on time, 5 minutes of connecting each day can make a huge difference in a child’s behavior. Running errands with just one of your kids can be a good way to squeeze in connection time. Make it interactive by having them act as the car DJ, plan the route or ask them them their opinion along the way.

If you can set aside a longer stretch of time, it can do wonders for your relationship.

Make sure you are following your child’s lead during their special time. Talk about what they want to talk about, play what they want to play or go where they want to go. If you are running errands during your connection time, let your child choose the order.

Individual attention can be especially helpful in dealing with sibling rivalry or jealousy.

Keep movement and nature a priority

Countless studies have shown the positive impact of both movement and nature on a child’s mental health and development. Ideally, at least 1 hour a day of active movement and/or time in nature is the goal.

If you can only do one thing this summer, let it be plenty of movement and outside time.

Keep realistic expectations

Summer brings excitement for parents and kids alike. Help set yourself up for success by keeping your own expectations in check.

Be honest with what your kids can and cannot handle. And try to anticipate when meltdowns might occur. Use this information as a way to determine what you take on in your summer planning.

There will be times when you need to bail early or you miss doing something altogether. And you get to be disappointed, just like your kids. But make sure you are modeling good ways to handle your disappointment. That means naming your disappointment, sadness or anger. Showing them how to cope with big feelings, either through breathing or physical movement. And then completing the cycle by showing acceptance. If you made some mistakes along the way, don’t sweat it, just repair.

If you have a child with special needs, a learning disability or trauma, know your plans will be different than other families’ plans. Kids will have less challenges if you stick to a schedule even when you are on break. It may be too overwhelming or overstimulating to do some activities. So summer life will be about finding a way to meet your needs, while honoring the needs of your child.

If something is important to you, plan for how you can still make it happen. That might mean doing or going to something for a shorter period of time. Or it may mean you incorporate your scheduled self-care time into the activity so at least you get to do it.

Twin Cities Community Organizations & Support Services for Families

Twin Cities Community Organizations & Support Services for Families

Community Organizations and Resources for the Minneapolis/St. Paul Area

Help for Children and Families in the Twin Cities Area

Autism & Special Needs Support Services

  • AUSM – Autism Society of Minnesota provides therapy, resources, trainings and event/camp information.
  • Autism Allies – Provides a resource guide of providers who have experience working with patients who have ASD, special needs and sensory challenges. The resource guide also provides several links to equipment and supplies to better meet special needs.
  • Family Voices of Minnesota – Peer to peer support services and connection with others who have a child with complex special healthcare needs or disabilities as well as resources and information.
  • Fraser – Providing a variety of support services for children of all ages with autism and special needs and their families.

Child Abuse Prevention & Support Services

  • Family Enhancement Center – Providing individual and family therapy as well as various groups and activities to address trauma sustained through physical, mental or sexual abuse.
  • Safe Horizon – Call 1-800-621-HOPE (4673) for resources for domestic and child abuse. You can also chat online on their website.
  • The Bridge For Youth – Provides runaway and homeless youth safe shelter, assists  in the prevention and resolution of family conflicts and reunites families whenever possible.

Counseling Support Services

Crisis Support Services

  • Crisis Text Line – Teens and others can text whether alone or in a crowded room to receive 24/7 crisis support. Text Home  to 741741.
  • MHA Crisis Help Line – 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
  • National Sexual Assualt Hotline – Call 800.656.HOPE (4673) to be connected with a trained staff member from a sexual assault service provider in your area.
  • The Trevor Project – A crisis line for LGBTQ youth. Call 1-866-488-7386 or text START to 678678.
  • Trans Lifeline – A crisis line run by other trans community members for trans and questioning callers. Call 877-565-8860 for the US.

Grief, Loss & Serious Medical Condition Support

  • Faith’s Lodge – A peaceful escape and support for parents or caregivers struggling with the loss of a child or a medically complex condition.
  • Open Arms of Minnesota – Helping to cook and deliver free and nutritious meals to those living with a life threatening illness, as well as their caretakers and dependents.
  • Psychotherapy & Healing Associates– Offering many support services, including a miscarriage and early pregnancy loss support group.

Parenting Support Services

  • African-American Babies Coalition – Providing culturally supportive services through various groups and education for African-American Families.
  • Centro Tyrone Guzman – Offering a variety of social services support to the Latinx community, from early childhood to the elderly.
  • CLUES – Offering a variety of social services support to the Latinx community, from early childhood to the elderly.
  • Early Childhood & Family Education – Offering parenting education and support services from birth to age 3/4 along with social interaction opportunities for children.
  • Hmong-American Partnership (HAP) – Offering a variety of social services support to the Hmong, Southeast Asian and other immigrant and refugee communities.
  • Help Me Grow Minnesota – Providing milestone and growth resources to ensure a child is developing appropriately. They also offer an in-home assessment for your child if you have any concerns about their development.
  • JFCS – Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Minneapolis offers a variety of social services support to the Jewish community, from early childhood to the elderly.
  • SOMFAM – Somali Youth and Family Development Center helps immigrant families find resources and support services for overcoming cultural and language barriers.

Technology Resources

  • PCs for People – Providing low-cost computers, laptops, accessories and internet for those in need. They also offer electronics recycling.

Treatment Resources & Support Services

  • RS Eden – Supportive Housing, Recovery and Re-entry Services for those struggling with substance abuse or release from incarceration.
  • RS Eden Women’s Program-A substance abuse recovery program for women that provides support, housing and mental health services while keeping them with their children.
  • Wayside Recovery Center – With a focus on women seeking recovery treatment for drug use, they provide both outpatient and inpatient options with a holistic approach.
  • Wayside Recovery Center Family Treatment Center – The same amazing help delivered at Wayside Recovery Center, but addressing the needs and trauma of both mother and child. The Family Treatment Center keeps a mother together with her children during the mother’s residential treatment program to avoid the trauma of separation.

COVID Parenting Tips for Children Who Have Special Needs

COVID Parenting Tips for Children Who Have Special Needs

COVID Parenting Tips For Parents of Special Needs Children

7 COVID parenting tips to help you and your child better navigate the pandemic together

Life during COVID has been hard for everyone. But for parents and caregivers who have a child that requires “more” due to a disorder, high sensitivity, giftedness, a learning disability, or trauma, COVID has been a an even more difficult struggle.

You may be struggling with getting consistent support for your child, maintaining consistency, getting a solid break to breathe, job loss, financial uncertainty, health concerns and the list goes on. Life is rough for everyone right now, but we recognize the challenges you face on a day to day basis are even more overwhelming at times. We get it because we also parent a child who requires more.

It certainly is a tough time, but we are here to remind you that you don’t have to go it alone.

Here are 7 COVID parenting tips to help make life during the pandemic a little easier.

1. Adjust your expectations

You may feel completely powerless and frustrated right now. You’re not alone. While we may normally be able to better handle the challenges life throws our way, this time during the pandemic is different. The regular support structures that we have put into place both for ourselves and our children may no longer be there to help out, or maybe they changed in a way that causes you to have more work or figure out a new system. Either way, it’s hard. Adjusting your expectations about what is doable and setting new goals that are achievable for the current environment will help both you and your child feel more successful.

2. Help your child find some perspective

As parents, we often forget what it is like to think like a child. Because a child has limited experiences and developing cognitive ability, they are limited in their ability to predict the future based on the past or to know that challenges will not last forever. For a child, their life experience is so short and insulated to their immediate world that the worries, stress and challenges brought on by COVID may seem overwhelming and never ending.

As a parent or caregiver, you can help your child by giving them some perspective and assurances that these circumstances will not last forever. Talk about past events that you or they experienced that felt like they lasted a really long time, and how they ended. You can also talk about the 1918 flu pandemic as a way to explain the story a pandemic follows and to talk about where this pandemic is in the story line.

3. Name it to tame it

COVID is a time of many emotions. Most people would identify the emotions they are experiencing these days as overall “negative” emotions, which we as humans often struggle with expressing. Whether you tend to ignore negative emotions or push through them, it’s time to take a different approach.

Emotions are made to have a life cycle, but when we ignore the hard emotions that make us feel negatively we are actually causing those emotions to hang on in us and get stuck in the cycle. This means we feel hard emotions longer and can have a harder time transitioning to a different state of being.

The best way to solve this problem is to acknowledge the feelings you are feeling. By naming your emotions and allowing yourself to sit with it, whether it is sadness, anger, fear, frustration, etc. you can actually help bring yourself out of it faster. So the next time you or your child is having a tough time, name what you are feeling. Realize that children may need your help putting names to the strong emotions they are feeling.

Once named, acknowledge that you or your child are feeling the way you are feeling and tell yourself/your child that it is okay to feel that way, that a lot of people are feeling that way right now. You’ll be surprised how fast an emotional disposition can change once you actually start acknowledging your feelings.

4. Find the next best thing

Life can feel hard and sad when we take notice of all the things we are missing due to COVID. This can produce an even more pronounced emotional response in children who are still developing their coping techniques as well as their emotional intelligence and executive functioning. So in addition to naming your emotions (Tip 3), it is important to help your child figure out what the next best thing is.

In doing this, you are helping your child learn problem solving skills, acknowledge their options when circumstances are outside of their control, and build resiliency. It’s okay to say that it is not something you would have chosen, but that you are now doing the next best thing. Re-framing choices and circumstances in this light can help children, and adults, feel more control and power in their lives, which helps with overall mental health.

5. Get outside

There are plenty of sources that explain how beneficial the great outdoors can be for mental health. It has also been reported that COVID has increased a lot of mental health conditions, including anxiety and depression. So even if you are not the outdoorsy type, try to get outside for a walk at least once a day for 15-20 minutes.

If you are looking for something a little more creative than a walk, try boot skating/ice skating, sledding, a nature scavenger hunt or check out your local nature centers for a list of outdoor activities. For kids, usually the hardest part is getting them out the door, but once they are out they generally find a plethora of things to do and play with.

If you have a hard time getting your child out the door, set up a consistent time everyday so that it becomes a part of their routine.

6. Get moving

On the days when it is too cold to go outside, or maybe you have just lost motivation to make it out the door (because let’s face it some days are just like that), make sure you and your child are getting some kind of physical movement during the day. Walk like a crab around the living room, better yet have a crab race with your child, walk like a bear, do some yoga or jumping jacks. Even 3 minutes of activity can get the heart rate up and can change the disposition of a child who is struggling.

7. Remember trauma can be triggered

COVID has brought illness and death to many people. For adults and children who have lived through a severe illness or death of a loved one, even if unrelated to COVID, the unknowns of COVID, the images spread in Social Media and the news, and the death of so many can trigger trauma responses.

If you or your child have trauma in your past it is important to open up communication and have age appropriate talks about COVID as well as the fear being felt. It is important to remember that trauma can be triggered in many different ways, but that when trauma is triggered, it needs be met with compassion and understanding.

Responding in anger, frustration or by withdrawing will worsen the trauma reaction and result in a more intense emotional response. Try to remember the person/child is coming from a place of fear and reflect back to them what they are expressing in their words and actions. Remember trauma can be triggered anytime and it takes time to process. Being willing to talk openly as many times as needed about a child or adult’s fears is one of the best ways you can support someone who has a history of trauma.

Final Note

The above COVID parenting tips are meant to help the majority of parents. Parents and caregivers who love children who struggle with certain disorders, high sensitivity or trauma may need more support during this time that is individualized to their needs. If you would like to discuss personalized options for your child, we invite you to schedule a free 30 minute chat with us so we can tailor tips that would work best for your family.

Schedule a Free 30 Minute Chat