Archive for January 2012

 

When my kids were preschoolers I would stay with them for a few minutes at bed-time, lying on their bed to help them settle. Many of those times I was so tired myself I would start to fall asleep. Most of the time they fell asleep pretty easily and I looked forward to when I would have my evening free to myself. Sounds selfish to me now as I write this, but it’s true. And selfish is not such a bad thing if it means taking care of yourself.

 

Selfish or selfless which is better? Well it all depends on how you define the two words I guess. Typically the word selfish, has negative connotations. The image of a greedy self absorbed could-care-less-for-anyone-else-but-themselves-ogre comes to mind. On the other hand, when I think of selfless the image of a Mother Teresa figure comes to mind, always doing for others and putting others first.

 

But as I begin to think about the two words more, some different thoughts come to mind:

 

  • Is making sure that you take time for yourself, serve you alone or does it allow you to rejuvenate your energy and peace of mind so that you can be more present with your children?
  • In thinking about your own needs you set an example for your children that they need to listen to their needs first. This doesn’t mean that they don’t think of others. Rather, before helping others, they make sure that they are in a position to do so otherwise, they will deplete themselves and be of no help. This way they don’t feel resentment towards others because they sacrificed their self dignity.
  • In taking care of yourself in balance with taking care of your children you let them know that they are important but everyone has needs. You teach them to value themselves and make choices that feel right to them.

 

We can meet our own needs in harmony with our children’s needs. When I start to notice that I am resenting having to give something up for my children that is a sign that I am not coming from an authentic place of wanting to be there for them. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to be there for them, but rather signifies that I am not taking care of myself.

 

Self sacrifice has it’s price. You may think that you are doing your children a favour when you sacrifice your own needs, however, if you are feeling resentment chances are your children are feeling that too, and nobody wins if that is the case.

 

So how can you balance both needs? What it comes down to is a shift in perspective. If you are choosing to do something with your children and it means putting your needs on hold this is fine, as long as your needs don’t get lost in the mix. Team tag with your partner or other support to make sure your needs have time to be met. That way it’s scheduled in and when you are with your children, you are with your children, and your mind is not wandering off to thoughts about how you never have time for yourself.

 

Now that my children are older, their need for me to be present is still there. It hasn’t magically gone away, and I am glad. I am an imortant part of their life as they are an important part of mine. At 8 years of age (just 2 more weeks) and 11 1/2 years old they still want me to read story to them at night, and I am happy to to so. I look forward to it.

 

My 8 yearold still wants me to stay with him at bedtime after story for a few minutes. There was a point where I was fighting it, trying to change it, and he pushed for more time. Then I let go, and allowed myself to enjoy sitting in silence with him, being present with him. I realized that it was one of his ways of connecting with me at the end of a long day, and rather than feel resentment because I was eager to have my evening time, I began to feel appreciated as a parent.

 

That’s the shift. It doesn’t mean that I use up all my “adult time” staying with him at night, it’s limited to about 5 minutes after lights out. What it does mean is that I am respecting his needs, and not getting into the mind set that he should be able to settle on his own. It means that I am choosing to take a more caring persepctive, seeing his need as appreciating time with me as a parent rather than a need to take from me. And it means that I continue to take time for myself to keep the balance in our relationship.

 

 

Are you finding it hard to do the balancing act of self-care while meeting your children’s needs? Do you find it hard to take time for yourself? Do you secretly resent the amount of your time that your children seem to “take” from you? The Parent Inspiration Toolkit has many tools to help you with the balancing act of parenting. And now you can purchase the kit as a whole bundle or pick and choose from the Parent Inspiration Workbook , The Little Book of Self-Care and 4 different relaxing and rejuevinating meditations each with its own original music.  NEW: We now have samples of the meditations available for you to listen to. 

 

 

Sometimes when we talk to our children they don’t listen. It may seem like a lot of the time in fact.

 

As a child therapist I am used to slipping into the language of children to engage them in conversation and pull from them their strength. They are engaged easily through their active imagination with play and story. They learn from watching and doing.

 

However admittedly I sometimes forget as a parent to use this child speak. This often happens when I am trying to do so many things and when I am so task focused and in my adult head. I forget that my children are not in that same head space and are driven by other motivators like play, having fun, enjoying life. The usual kid stuff.

 

What would happen if more adults were focused on having fun?

 

Luckily because my kids are so play driven, I can’t help but be reminded of their need to have this outlet. They are constantly trying to engage me in play so I am reminded of a different way of being in my head, namely through my creative imagination. When I am in this space it’s as if we are doing a wonderfully intricate dance where everyone is in rhythm with each other. Cooperation is not a struggle but a fun game where both players are winners.

 

I cherish those moments knowing that I have access to them any time I choose. It’s these moments that make the hard work of parenting worth it. It’s these moments that give me the clarity to communicate in my child’s mother tongue: play.

 

Sorting through and tidying up my computer files I came across a letter I had written for my youngest son from the voice of a small (bean bag) bear cub which I gave him. To put it in context, I will tell you that my son was having some difficulty doing his daily routines and was needing much encouragement and reminders. Also at the time he would rather stay home than go play at a friend’s place.  I knew that he was feeling like he couldn’t do things as well as his brother.  Anyway, though these were things that we talked with him about, there is something about stories that sparks the interest of a child to “listen” on a deeper level.  With this in mind I share with you the letter below.

 

 

Dear Alexi

I just want to let you know that I am a black bear cub, and I am mostly vegetarian. I am still little but big enough to do things like swim across the lake (like that bear cub your mom told me you guys saw last year while camping). I heard we have a lot in common like your mom said that you like to forage for wild edibles and I love foraging for berries. I have been to Crab lake too just for the blue berries- I heard you like them too. One thing you should know about black bear cubs is that we stick with our moms a lot but we also venture out to explore new things. We are good swimmers, climbers, foragers (and your mom wanted me to mention that we almost always listen to our mamma bears- because they keep us safe). I have come to live with you so that I can learn some things about camping (my mom said I can visit her when you take me wilderness camping). I heard that you are a great portager- that is something I have never done before. Will you teach me? Your mom also told me that you like to help out at camp and you have a great smile. I am so excited that I will be living with you!

Lots of love,

Your bear cub friend

(Bears don’t have names like humans do- but my mom said it was okay if you gave me a human name)

 

 

What does your child speak look like?

 

 

A while back my kids agreed to try making some sock monkeys.  Originally the idea was to make them as gifts for others.  Eventually we did get around to making sock monkey gifts (like the ones pictured above who traveled to Greece to be with my sons’ cousins), but first my boys made their own sock monkey to love and to hold.  While this wasn’t the first time that they have sat down and sewed with me, this was the biggest project they have done in terms of sewing time.  There’s something to be said for getting a smiling monkey at the end as a motivator!

 

Just so you know, these monkeys were completed over several days with lots of breaks in between.  But as you will see the first part of making the monkey is quite easy and can be completed fairly quickly, which is great for keeping your kids interested and motivated.

 

I wanted to make sock monkeys with my kids after being introduced to them again through a sock monkey therapy tutorial that I had signed up for as part of 6 Degrees of Creativity, an Art Therapy Alliance e-course.  They were really fun to make, and although my guys were tired of sewing after making theirs, they helped me stuff the monkeys that were sent to their cousins in Greece (pictured above).

 

Working on the sock monkeys brought up plenty of opportunities for problem solving . . .

 

I was amazed as I watched my sons carefully focus on making and sewing their monkeys with minimal help from me.  While my youngest who is almost 8 did get more help than his big brother, he sewed the majority of his monkey himself, only needing help with attaching the body parts.  I had the camera rolling as they worked in hopes that it would inspire other young children to give it a try.  Aside from the boost in self esteem that comes with taking on such a project at this age, if you watch the video you will see the sense of community created as we all sewed together.  At times it looked like a production line as one of my sons threaded a needle for me while I started sewing something for him, and other son was stuffing a new monkey.

 

That being said, it wasn’t always roses. Working on the sock monkeys brought up plenty of opportunities for problem solving when my youngest was frustrated with sewing or worse began to get discouraged because he compared his progress to his big brother who was moving along quicker.

 

The project also took on a silliness of its own as the sock monkeys came alive dancing around though 3/4 finished.

 

Below I have included a picture tutorial as well as a 15 minute video which you may wish to watch with your kids as you make you monkeys.  If you do end up making sock monkeys, we would love to see pictures feel free to post them on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/offbeatfamily or e-mail them to us at petrea AT offbeatfamily DOT com

 

 

  • Start by turning your sock inside out

 

  • Flatten the sock (as if putting it on) and cut up to just below the heal to make the legs
  • sew using the whip stitch from the bottom up to the crotch on each side, leaving a hole for stuffing
  • Turn the sock right side out and stuff

 

 

 

 

 

  • Sew up the crotch

 

  •  Divide up the second sock as shown here

 

 

  • cut the heel for the mouth
  • cut a thin tail from top of sock: heel to toe

  • cut semi circles for ears from remaining sock
  • Cut the arms as shown in above sock diagram
  • sew all inside out using the “whip stitch” leaving a space to turn right side out before stuffing
  • pin to body and sew in place
  • choose button or beads for eyes and sew on
  • use coloured thread to sew a on smile
  • add a heart if you like
Get ready for some sock monkey LOVE!

 

The other day I came across a post on prayer flags which lead to my finding out about a prayer flag project.  I liked the idea of letting our intentions for the world sway in the breeze, releasing it for all to witness.

 

For the Winter Solstice our family did a releasing ceremony where each of us wrote down what we wanted to let go of from the past year as we move into the next.  For New Years I wanted the focus to be on the positive, sending out our wishes our intentions not just for ourselves but for the world.  I wanted my boys to remember that they have the power to change  the world, I wanted them to feel this by putting an action to their wishes and hopes for the world.  And so we made prayer flags.

 

I explained to them that prayer flags are a way of putting your hopes for the world in a visual format, to share with others.  I explained that they could have their prayer flag be about anything they wanted to wish for to happen in the world to make it a better place.

 

Immediately my eldest had an idea and began to work on his, while my youngest was doubtful that he would be able to express his on a flag.  I talked him through his ideas asking him of what pictures he thought of when he thought of his wish for the world.  This helped him.  Below is a step by step Tutorial of how you can make a prayer flag with your family.

 

Here’s how you can make prayer flags with your family:

Gather your materials:

  • a rectangular piece of cloth approximately 5″ x 11″ ( 3 of the 11″ will be folded over for a string to go through).  We used old cloth napkins that I had and cut them to size.
  • permanent markers, acrylic paints – the tackier (thick) paint works best, or fabric crayons
  • flat Styrofoam tray that sometimes comes with produce (if you are doing a print like we did)
  • pencil for drawing then etching (if you are making a print)
  • glue gun or sewing needle and thread to make the fold that the string will go through.

 

Explain to your children what a prayer flag is: Keep it simple for younger children such as “a prayer flag is a way to share with the world your hope for something good you want to  happen in the world”.  For older children you may want to explain the origins of the prayer flag such as is done on the Creativity in Motion blog by Art Therapist Gretchen Miller.  You don’t have to hold any particular religious beliefs to use prayer flags, it’s all about sending out your positive intentions for the world.

 

Have your children choose one focus, one positive thing that they would like to happen in the world.  Have them focus on what they want rather than what they don’t want to happen in the world.  So for example when my youngest spoke of his concern for climate change and the polar bears, and penguins having little ice to stay on, he visualized a picture of polar bears with a lot of ice, and penguins with lots of ice.  In the end he chose to draw only the penguins.

 

Prepare the cloth by ironing it flat if there are wrinkles.

Fold over 1 1/2″ of the cloth & sew or glue down just the outer edge so that a sting can fit through it.  Becareful of little fin gers the glue guns can get quite hot.  Tip: there are low heat glue guns that are less hot but you have to work quicker.

Now have your child draw picture symbolizing their wish for the world:

They can do this several ways, free hand on the square with fabric crayons , or permanent markers or for a print have them emboss it into into the styrofoam.

Cut the edges off of the  styrofoam tray so that it will be flat.

For younger children or to avoid disappointment with their picture, have your child draw it on paper the same size as your flag first and then either trace it from this drawing or have them copy it by etching it in.

To make a print its easiest to use one colour though you can try more than one. The etched in parts will not show paint when you make the print.

Brush or roll the paint on (inks work well for this as well) quickly.

Flip and press evenly into the fabric.  You can test your home made stamp on paper to see how it looks.

 

Make sure that if they want to write any words in the styrofoam tray that they write them backwards so that in a mirror you could read it (we forgot to do this).

Another way to make a print is to paint the picture on a piece of paper and press the paper onto the fabric, the trick is to use thicker acrylic paint and make the print before the paint dries (do not wet the brush or it waters the paint down too much for transferring the print). You can always add more paint, and  draw or write with with permanent marker any additional embellishments after adding the print.

Once the flags are done and dry, put a string through the flags (a safety pin attached to a string and pushed through works well) and hang outside where it can blow in the wind, spreading your intentions for the world.

We would love to see what other families are making.  If you like, you can post your family prayer flag photos on the Offbeatfamily Prayer Flag Flicker Group.

 

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