Connected Parenting

Connected Parenting: Thoughts From a Therapist Mom

The other day I stood in my driveway crying, with my 2.5 year old daughter screaming and sobbing. All I could gather was that she didn’t like my shirt (yes mine, not hers… what?) and no longer liked her car seat. We had just had a 30 minute meltdown inside the house too, and I was frustrated because I really needed to get to work. I was tired, with a mix of mom brain and new pregnancy hormones. I bribed her with a sucker and threatened to take away something that I don’t even remember. It didn’t work. I gave her hugs and gave her space and had no feedback of which was better. Finally it became clear: my options were to connect or disconnect. I thought about which one I would want when I feel emotional and sad. Connection. I repeated quietly to her, “I’m right here with you. I love you.” When she hit me, I stepped back a little and said, “I can’t let you hurt me. I’m still right here with you. I’m ready to help you whenever you’re ready.” After a little while I thought, “Crap, that didn’t work, now what?” And right then, she lifted her little arms up to me and said, “I need you mommy, I’m ready.” I hugged her and she hugged me and I cried some more. I felt a real connection in that moment, and I felt like I really showed her that I would be with her through everything, and I also wouldn’t let her hit me. I honestly felt like we’d just gotten through a hurricane and come out into the sunshine. She smiled and got in her car seat and we were on our way. On the car ride, we talked about feeling sad and that it’s okay to feel sad and mad, but it’s not okay to hurt people.

That sounds like a great ending, right? It was. But I wish that meant it always happens like that. I have no idea why sometimes that works, and sometimes the only thing that works is a sucker, or distraction, or someone else taking over.

I’m not a perfect mom, or even a really amazing mom, just a regular mom who is still new and learning every day. But I do have one added bonus that has given me a different perspective: I’ve been a mental health therapist for almost five times longer than I’ve been a mom. I don’t know if it’s been helpful, or just makes me more obsessively worried about my effect on my daughter, but it has taught me a lot. I would say there are four main things I’ve learned about parenting:

1. What we say and do matters more than we know right now.

Everything we say and do has an impact, especially to our children. Children’s brains operate as if they’re looking in to a mirror; whatever the world shows them about themselves is what they believe to be true. If babies are not fed when they’re hungry, they can actually make themselves believe they don’t need to eat, which is why they eventually stop crying. I know you already know to feed your baby when he or she is hungry, but the takeaway is that our actions actually have an effect on their brains long term.

As a therapist, I mainly work with depression and trauma. I do a particular type of therapy that focuses on identifying negative cognitions (thoughts and beliefs) and exploring/healing the root of those beliefs, whether they are from a big trauma or ”little” trauma. We work on cognitions such as, “I’m not good enough,” “I’m not safe,” “I don’t deserve love,” etc. Clients often come to therapy identifying that these beliefs stemmed from a big event, usually in high school or college, like a break up, abusive relationship, loss of a job, assault, etc. But when we really process it, they are sometimes able to identify that the very first time they felt that way was an interaction with a parent. It could be a parent saying something like:

“You’re never going to make it in life.”

“I liked it better when you were little and didn’t talk.”

“I can’t believe you did that, I’m embarrassed that you’re my child.”

And even, “I love you, but I don’t like you right now” (I always recommend, “I don’t like your choice right now, but I always love you.”) If you’re a new mom gazing in to your sweet baby’s eyes, you’re thinking, “I would never say those things to my child!” Let me tell you, good parents sometimes say things they don’t mean when they’re pushed to their limits. But even if you don’t mean it, it hurts your child and sticks with them.

2. It’s never too late to make things better.

 That first one is kind of scary, right? So much pressure! But there’s good news! Teaching your children that you can make mistakes, take responsibility, apologize, and demonstrate change is extremely important! And what better way to do that than by example? Starting when they’re little, it’s important to go back and say something like, “I yelled when I felt mad, and I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled and I’m sorry I hurt your feelings.” Then show by example that you’re trying. Next time you feel like yelling, it’s okay to take a parent time out, and say to your child, “I feel frustrated by _____, I’m going to take a break, and then we’ll come back and talk about this.” Imagine how great it would be if, when they’re teens, they’re able to recognize they’re in the midst of making a bad choice, stop themselves, and reach out for help from you? The goal isn’t for people to never make bad choices, it’s to be able to recognize that and make a U-turn.

3. Connection is our greatest tool

 Imagine you’re having a really tough day. Maybe you made a mistake at work, someone was really mean to you, you didn’t get something you wanted, or you’re just dealing with something really awful. Maybe it’s huge or maybe you’re even over reacting; it doesn’t matter. You sit on the couch and cry. You can’t even help it, the tears just come out and you can hardly speak. Imagine your partner comes in, your main support person, and they tell you that you need to calm down or they’re going to leave you alone until you can calm down. They walk out of the room and leave you there alone, maybe even yell at you on the way out. Ouch!! I know for me personally, some of that sadness would turn to major hurt, resentment, and anger. “How can you leave me when I really need you? I can’t just calm down, I need a hug!” That’s how our developed adult brains react, so imagine how a toddler’s brain reacts? It’s scary for them to feel out of control and then all alone in that feeling. Even if it’s just because they didn’t get the blue cup, it’s real sadness and hurt in that moment for them. Of course, they don’t know that not having the blue cup is nothing compared to the real problems in the world, but at two years old, that is a real problem. This has been said by others, and I really believe it to be true; if we send toddlers to be by themselves and calm themselves down when they’re upset, how can we expect them to come to us as teens when they really need advice and support? It’s no wonder teenagers keep it to themselves and hide in their rooms. It’s what they’ve often been taught to do. So, what can you do to connect and teach your children they can talk to you? Well, that’s a magic answer that really needs a whole book, but #4 is a good start.

4. Being able to express feelings, instead of suppressing them, is a great lifelong skill.

 “You’re okay.”

“Don’t cry.”

“Calm down.”

They all seem well meaning, right? But are they helpful in the long run? My opinion is: No. Is it helpful for you when someone says it to you? It’s not helpful to me. Even at two years old, if my husband or I say to our daughter, “You’re okay”, she quickly says between tears, “No, I’m not!” And she’s right. If she were okay she wouldn’t be crying! If she could just calm down and stop crying, she probably would have done that, because she certainly isn’t enjoying feeling like that. Pointing out to children, “It looks like you’re mad because _____. That’s okay to feel mad. What can we do that will help?” teaches them to recognize emotions, label them, and create a plan. This is most helpful when they’re not in full on meltdown mode, because once they get to that point they can’t come up with a solution. In meltdown mode, establishing expectations and connections are key. “I can’t let you hit me, but I’m right here with you when you’re ready.” “I see you feel sad, that’s ok.” “It’s okay to be sad and mad; it’s not okay to be mean to other people when you’re sad or mad.” “Tell me where you want me to stay while I wait for you to be ready for help; I can sit next to you or right over here.” These all show that you’re there with your child through everything, you see how they’re feeling, you hear them, it’s okay to feel any of those feelings, and there are still expectations for not hurting others. When we inadvertently teach our children that “it’s ok” when they actually don’t feel ok, or that they just need to quickly calm down, we are teaching them not to recognize their own feelings and actually deal with them. When those kids become adults, they often freeze or flee in tough situations because they don’t know how to be in it, feel it, and move forward with a plan.

I know, this feels like a lot of pressure, and it’s so much easier said than done! Refer back to number two; it’s never too late to make things better. And remember, even people who are supposed to be experts in emotions and connections sometimes just bribe their kids with a sucker or an episode of Doc McStuffins to get through the day. Take a deep breath and hang in there; I’m right there with you.

About the Author

Alyson Pearson is a mom, half of a lovely marriage, and a clinical social worker/therapist. She has a two year old daughter and another girl on the way. Alyson believes in a positive parenting style, and has read the first 40 pages of several books on the topic, but believes that trusting her gut, defaulting to connection, and learning from every moment are the best teachers. Alyson also enjoys blogging about her journey of having a child with Food Protein Induced Enterocolitis Syndrome, in order to help others who are on the same journey.

 

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Central Iowa Great Cloth Diaper Change 2016

I am so excited to be participating and helping with the Great Cloth Diaper Change this year!Great-Cloth-Diaper-Change-Logo-03

What is it?!

The Great Cloth Diaper Change was created and began in 2011 by Judy Aagard. She had the desire to celebrate Earth Day by holding an event within her community, which quickly grew into a dream that set a Guinness World Book Record of the most cloth diapers changed simultaneously. Shortly after, the cloth diaper lovers everywhere wanted to continue this annual event to spread awareness that cloth diaper’s are a real option for every family.

When is it?!

Each year it is held on the Saturday around Earth Day! This year the Great Cloth Diaper Change will be held Saturday, April 23rd!

Where is it?!

If you are local to Des Moines, Iowa this year’s change will happen at Uplift Fitness Studios located in Grimes. We are so gracious of the owners to donate their space for this awesome event.

If you are not located near Des Moines, check here for a location near you that may be participating.

What will happen?!

Registration will begin at 10:30 am on Saturday, April 23rd. Bring yourself, kiddo and a cloth diaper! We will have goody bags for the first 30 attendees! We will also be giving aways some awesome prizes and there will also be a few speakers such as a representative from the Central Iowa Babywearing International group!

Make sure you are following our Facebook page for updated details on giveaways, speakers and more!

Help us spread the word! We want to break our local record and spread awareness about cloth diapering!

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Do you know of a family who may be in need of cloth diapers and cannot afford diapers? Please check out information about Share the Love!

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Share the Love: Central Iowa

I am so excited to announce that I am officially a Share the Love host for Central Iowa! What is Share the Love? I have mentioned it a few times since I returned from MommyCon Minneapolis, but I wanted to wait to go into more detail.

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Share the Love is a National Cloth Diaper Bank. In 2012, Share the Love was created and began in St. Louis, Missouri. The sole purpose of this program is to distribute and provide cloth diapers to low-income families. A study was done, that one in three American families were forced to choose between food, household items and diapers. Jennifer Labit, owner of Cotton Babies, wanted to help change this.

“It feels like yesterday that my family was in this situation,” Labit said.” Ten years ago, I had a $30 weekly grocery budget and a WIC check. My family had to choose between diapers and food. If it wasn’t for a friend who generously sent my family cloth diapers as a gift, I don’t know what we would have done. Her gift helped my family and changed our lives, and I hope Share the Love will do the same for others.”

Since 2012, there have been host sites created in all 50 states across America. Many states have several host sites. To receive diapers, eligible families must apply for assistance. All of the diapers that are donated to Share the Love sites, are donated from other families who no longer need or use their cloth diapers.

So, what can YOU do?

  1. Donate! You can donate any cloth diapers you no longer use. If they need a little tending to, that is okay. We will make sure they get put back into working condition, before they are distributed to families. You can also donate cloth wipes and/or changing pads!
  2. Be a drop site! Do you own a business or work within a business that would be a great place for people to leave their diapers for donation? We are looking for several places in Central Iowa to leave baskets and information about the program. We would provide the basket & materials and would pick-up as often as needed!
  3. Help spread the word to low-income families! Do you know of a great place or organization that we can spread the word about Share the Love? Share the Love is new to Central Iowa and many low-income families may not know of this option. With your help, we can help ease the minds of these families by getting them cloth diapers!

If you can help in ANY of these areas or have questions about the program please contact me at SharetheLove@cottonbabies.com.

 

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Kids in Harmony, LLC: Music Therapy Services

The kids and I had a chance to check out Kids in Harmony, LLC this week at the Urbandale Public Library. They were offering a special preview class for the kids due to Spring Break. We had lots of fun singing, dancing, and playing with egg shakers.

Kids in Harmony is owned and operated by Shelly Peterson who is a board certified music therapist. She has a lot of experience working with children and adults that have special needs. She also works with children who may not have any specific special needs.

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She focuses on communication skills, academic skills, fine & gross motor skills, emotional development, sensory, social skills and music skills, in a playful environment.

Right now, Kids in Harmony is offering classes Friday mornings at Courage League Sports in Urbandale. There is one session approaching fast, starting March 27th through May 8th (no class April 3rd). Classes will be held 9:30-10:00 am for children ages 1 through 6 years of age with an adult. It is $66/child for one 6 week session. They do offer sibling discounts also. Click here to register.

Make sure to follow Kids in Harmony on Facebook here.

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Rhockett Retreat 2015

Have you heard of Rhockett Weaving or the Rhockett Retreat?

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If you are a babywearer you NEED to check it out. Rhockett Weaving is owned and operated by Rhonda Brackett. After she fell in love with babywearing and discovered it was a necessity in her life, she began creating her own signature style wraps. She also takes custom orders, if you are wanting something really special.

This April, is the very first Rhockett Retreat. This is a place where people come together, who love wrapping as much as you! There will be good food, henna from Alternative Artistry, babywearing yoga, babywearing art, campfires & s’mores, and MORE!

There will be classes through out the the three-day, two-night event including weaving, dyeing fabric and learning different wrapping instructions. You can also check out some awesome local vendors such as Finnabug Bags, Starbright Baby, and Alternative Artistry.

The Rhockett Retreat is being held …

Friday, April 24th through Sunday, April 26th

You can come by yourself, you can come with your little one OR you can bring the entire family. Not everyone needs to attend all the fun classes, but there will be no child supervision provided. There is also a charge for each additional person, to cover room and board.

This years Rhockett Retreat is being held in Ogden, Iowa. You can choose to stay the entire time or drive for only the day on Saturday and/or Sunday. You can register here for whatever option you choose! If you register for the entire retreat you will receive a FREE swag bag!

To help get everyone excited about this fun babywearing retreat, we are doing a GIVEAWAY!

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One lucky winner will win a waldorf inspired babywearing doll created from Rhockett Weaving scraps!

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The contest begins TODAY and will end Friday, March 13th! I will post the winner on my Facebook page. Good luck!

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MommyCon Minneapolis 2015

I am so happy to be an official MommyCon Blogger of 2015!

I attended MommyCon in Chicago last year, while I was pregnant and had a lot of fun. This year, I will be attending MommyCon Minneapolis with Amelia in tow 🙂

For the next several weeks I will be doing a lot of blogging and talking about MommyCon. I will be offering FREE tickets and I will also be offering a discount code so you can receive $5 off your tickets!

Some of you may be wondering, what is MommyCon? So, let’s start with the basic information and get you as excited as I am!

What is MommyCon?

MommyCon is a natural parenting style, influenced convention. The event is full of speakers, workshops, shopping and much more! It is a great event to attend whether you are about to become a parent or are already a parent, there is something for you. You can learn about cloth diapering, babywearing (even try on some awesome carriers), breastfeeding, bottle feeding, etc. There are so many different resources available to see and ask questions.

When is MommyCon Minneapolis?

It is Saturday, April 18th 9 am – 5 pm and will be located at the Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington.

How much are tickets?

Tickets are $35, but if you use the code MIDWESTMOM15  you will receive $5 off!

Can dads attend?

Of course! Last year, there were several dads that attended the event. They can learn just as much as you!

Can I bring my baby and do they need a ticket?

Yes! Bring your kiddos! Children who are 16 years or younger are FREE with their parent.

Can I bring a stroller to the event?

You are allowed to bring a stroller, but due to the high volume of traffic and attendees, it is recommended to wear your baby.

What if I need to feed my baby?

MommyCon is okay with however way you need to feed your baby and wherever you want to feed your baby. They do offer a special lounge area for just women also.

Are there special hotel accommodations?

There is a block of hotel rooms at the Hilton Minneapolis/Bloomington. The rate is $99 per night and you must book by March 18th.

 

As we get closer to the event I will be talking about LOTS of things to see and do, talking more about the speakers, and more. Of course, if you have any questions, please do NOT hesitate asking! You can post here or e-mail me!

I am looking forward to sharing this with you and I hope you ALL attend!

 

 

 

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New Year’s Eve for Kids 2014

I cannot believe that 2014 is coming to an end! Here are some awesome ideas that you can do locally with your kiddos!

1. Bounce in the New Year

Where: Pump it Up Urbandale

When: December 31st, 10 am – Noon

Info: $10 pre-registered and $12 at the door. Come bounce with friends and celebrate the New Year with a balloon drop at noon! Each child will receive New Year’s favors. To register or find out more information click here!

2. GuideOne ImaginEve

Where: Hy-Vee Hall at Iowa Events Center

When: December 31st, 4pm – 8 pm

Info: This event is FREE! There will be inflatables, obstacle courses, slides, face painters, carnival games & prizes, live entertainment, super heroes & princesses, and a special toddler zone. For children 1o years and older there will be a tween zone and laser tag. The evening will end with a confetti drop at 8 pm and fireworks at 8:15 pm. Check out here for more information!

3. New Year’s Eve at Seven Oaks

Where: Seven Oaks Recreation

When: December 31st, 7-11 pm

Info: Come out and celebrate the New Year with snow tubing, skiing, and/or snowboarding! Admission includes a hot dog or pizza, soft drink, and party favors. Check out here for more information and prices.

4. New Year’s Eve Party at the Ramada Tropics

Where: Ramada Tropics Resort & Conference Center

Info: Ramada Tropics is hosting a very special New Year’s celebration. They have an indoor water park, slide, and tiki bar. There is something for everyone! Check out the flyer for packaging prices and more information of what is included. You better book soon!

5. Noon Year’s Eve

Where: Science Center of Iowa

When: 9 am – Noon

Info: Visit the Science Center and all the exhibits they have to offer. They will also have face painting, balloon twisting, and a huge balloon drop with noisemakers at noon! All of the special events are included with your admission and SCI Members get to enjoy it for FREE! Check out more information here

6. Jolly Holiday Lights

Where: Water Works Park

When: 5:30 pm – 10 pm

Info: Check out the last evening of Jolly Holiday Lights. Load the kids up, get some hot cocoa, and enjoy the festive lights before the end of the year!

7. Host a New Year’s Eve Party at your house

Where: Your house!

When: Whatever times you choose!

Info: Invite your friends and their kids over to your place and host a New Year’s party. Or you can invite just the kiddos and have a big sleepover. There are tons of ideas on Pinterest of games, snacks, activities and more to do. Here are some of my favorite pins to check out:

  1. 30 Awesome NewYear’s Eve Games
  2. 10 Things to Do with Kids on New Year’s Eve
  3. New Year’s Eve Countdown Goodie Bags (Free Printable)
  4. Best New Year’s Eve Crafts for Kids
  5. New Year’s Eve Activities for Kids
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Barnes & Noble Storytime

I just learned about Storytime at the local Barnes & Noble recently. Every so often Barnes & Noble will offer Storytime, usually a Friday evening , Saturday afternoon or various other days during the week. An employee reads a special book and sometimes, there is a craft to go along!

This past Friday was a very special holiday edition of Storytime and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was read! The kids dressed up in their holiday pajamas and sat around while the classic was read to them.

They even got their own little red nose, like Rudolph!

Afterwards they were able to decorate a special gingerbread man, drank milk and ate a cookie!

In the Barnes & Noble cafe, they were offering $1.00 hot cocoa during the Storytime period. With every item you purchased in the cafe (including hot cocoa) you received a very special Rudolph shortbread cookie!

Monte and Amelia had so much fun!

Barnes & Noble has two different locations in the Des Moines area. They offer Storytimes at various times through out the week. This is a great alternative then Storytime at the libraries. It’s a nice way to change it up! Check out the event calendars for each location below, to see when the next Story Time will be!

Have you ever attended Storytime at a Barnes & Noble location? What book did you hear?

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Christmas Movies!

 

It’s that time of year again! Here is a list of MUST WATCH Christmas movies. Also, I have discovered the Hallmark channel which plays Christmas 24/7!!! It’s amazing! 🙂

 

ABC Family broadcasts most of these movies through out their 25 Days of Christmas. Luckily, we have a DVR so I have went through and recorded most of these so they are available to watch anytime! Make sure you do the same!

1. Elf

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2. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

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3. Frosty the Snowman

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4. The Santa Clause

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5. Miracle on 34th Street – New

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Miracle on 34th Street – Old

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6. Fred Claus

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7. Christmas Vacation

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8. Scrooged

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9. The Polar Express

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10. A Christmas Story

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11. AND one more, just because this is also my favorite!

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

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What are your favorite Christmas movies that are or are not on this list?

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Activity Stations

I thought I would share a new thing I am doing with Monte. Since I have been home full time and watching other kiddos, I have been trying to find an easy way to have different activities out to play with daily. I usually keep puzzles, paints, playdough, busy bag items, etc. out of reach, for obvious reasons.

I decided each day, I will place 2-3 trays out with different activities in them. That way Monte and the other kiddos can choose what they would like to play with and everything is in one spot. It makes for easy clean up also!

This was last week. I had our “sewing” busy bag in one tray and matching cards in another tray. I also had Monte’s favorite hippo game out! It was nice because he would run around and play, then stop, sit and work on one of his trays. It’s hard for Monte to sit still for a length of time, if he is not in the mood. This way, when he is ready, he can play!

I picked up the two trays above at Target. They are actually just letter trays and were about $6 a piece.

I already had this red plastic one which is very sturdy. I use it for crafts such as paint, glitter, glue, etc. like when we decorated our witch’s hat!

The trays are also easy to carry things outside like when we did the Erupting Sidewalk Chalk.

What tricks do you do to make kids activities for you and the kids?