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.
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?
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.
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.
The other week I stumbled upon a writing prompt I had written in my journal with the intention of responding to it later. It was a series of prompts to write a letter to your self that I had found while blog hopping (sorry to say I could not find the original reference- but when I Googled it there were many renditions of the letter to Self). One of them was to write to yourself 10 years ago. I thought I would give it a try.
After just writing a few sentences I was struck by how powerful this exercise was for me. My intuitive parent stepped right in and began to respond with such empathy I was brought to tears. Parenting is tough, we all know that. But sometimes we can be our own worst critic, ruminating over how we should have done things differently or comparing ourselves to other parents who don’t seem to be having such a hard time.
For me 10 years ago was a very significant point in time as a parent because it was really so near the beginning of parenthood for me (my eldest son would have been 1 1/2 years old). Allowing myself to speak to my “new” parent self now, after 10 years, also brought to light how very important it is to continue to show the same empathy for one’s self even later on in one’s parenting career.
Perhaps this is something each and every parent can give themselves as a gift for the new year. We often talk about empathy for our children when they are going through tough times, but how about extending that empathic understanding to ourselves?
Here are some excerpts from my letter to my younger parent self. The advice I give myself is relevant at any point in my parenting, even to this day when my children are (almost) 8 and 11 1/2 years old.
You are a great mommy who loves your little baby boy deeply. I know it is hard to be away from him and you feel stressed because you wish that you could give him more of your time.
You worry. Don’t let your worry take over who you are and get in the way . . . You will have another child. You will learn more . You will make mistakes that you regret, but you must let go of that regret, you must pay it no mind for it will eat away at you and fuel your worry, your self doubt.
Know that you are a wonderful parent, a fantastic parent. You are human , yes, you make mistakes, yes, but you can and will learn from them.
You are the best mom your son has, he needs you, he needs you to believe in yourself. For when you believe in yourself as a mother, as a parent, your son will learn to believe in himself.
Don’t worry that one year has passed. There is still time, there is always time. You are a great parent, know that, feel that, believe that, and you will see how much easier things will be, your life will be easier, your parenting will be easier.
Let go of the past.
Walk boldly, with confidence, into the future!
Love your Wise Parent Self.
No matter what stage of parenting you are at, whether it is 2 months in, or 2 years, 12 years or twenty years into parenting, it’s never too late to show your self some gentle understanding and acknowledgment for all of your hard work as a parent. Sometimes all it takes is a little perspective of time to realize the beauty of what we have done as parents. I invite you to write a letter to your younger parent self. For showing compassion to yourself is the first step in letting go of past “mistakes” and moving towards the intuitive parenting that we all have inside.
This is a guest post by Loran Hill of Loran’s Heart for the Glimpses of Family Photo Series
We were visiting Vancouver Island last year and I saw these shoes. These shoes do not belong to a child of mine but they represent family to me anyway.
As a mother, I paid attention to little shoes and who was in them. I paid attention to where the little person went and made sure I knew where she was. I made sure she put her shoes back on when she was done playing. Now my little person is grown but I still buy her shoes and want to make sure she is safe and warm.
Loran Hills is curious about all things related to personal growth and spiritual development. By opening her heart and letting her light shine, she is inspiring others to follow their own paths towards deeper inner meaning. She is especially fond of encouraging others to journal with her prompts and nature photographs.
With the holidays upon us it’s easy to forget to take care of one’s self. I find myself rushing about baking gingerbread cookies like the ones above I made last night from Naturally Yours’ video. We parents so often put ourselves last as we prepare for welcoming others into their home.
This season make yourself a priority. Be sure to take some time for yourself, to relax and regenerate. If you wait until its all over, you’ll miss out on enjoying what the holidays are all about. Below are some helpful posts to make the most out of this busy time of year. Enjoy!
Jo of the Red Box Company shares 10 tips for staying stress free over the holidays
Carrie Hensley of Free to Be Me has a great video with tips for helping you stay present and centered during the holidays.
Jackie of essence of wild has a wondeful post on taking cues from nature to find peace.
Gina of Veda Sun shares some tips on staying present with Awareness Practices for you and your family’s sake.
Pixie Campbell has a wonderful ceremony to let go of emotional baggage which you can do with your children to help them visualize letting go . You don’t have to celebrate the winter solstice to do this,it goes well with the traditional New Years letting go or releasing the year to make room for wishes .
And if you want to give yourself some play time I have just the thing on my sister site with my free Free Your Inner Child e-course
May your holidays be full of peace, bliss and joy!
This is a guest post by Gina Rafkind and the sixth stop on her Anxiety Busting Blog Tour. Gina’s mission is to share awareness tips and tools in order to help other creative women who suffer with anxiety to wake up to their life so they can confidently unleash and share their gifts with the world. Gina says it’s time to stop being gripped by fear and hiding out, and time to create more freedom, love and connection! Enjoy!
Welcome to the Anxiety Busting Blog Tour!
What do I mean when I say “Awareness Practice”?
The awareness I’m talking about means to realize, or be conscious of, what’s going on in the present moment.
Usually when we are suffering from anxiety, we are not in the present moment. We are stuck in our head, thinking all kinds of horrible and stressful thoughts. And we are not even aware that we are thinking these thoughts……..that is where the key to healing anxiety lies…..to increasing your awareness of your thoughts, your feelings, your emotions and your life.
So how do we increase our awareness of life? Yep, you guessed it…..by having one or more awareness practices that you do ‘on purpose’, every day. And you know, these don’t have to be difficult or take a long time…..bet you’re glad to hear that! And once you begin to practice them, they become more and more a part of your every day rituals, positively affecting your state of being.
Here are some Awareness Practices you can try out:
- Every time you walk through any door in your home to go outside, take a moment to look up at the sky and notice the beauty that is there….the clouds, the sky…..and just notice them.
- Every time you enter your car, take a nice deep belly breath before you start the engine.
- When something happens that you don’t want to happen, notice the resistance in you. Notice where this resistance lives in your body. Feel that sensation in your body, allowing it to be there for a few moments.
- Any time someone criticizes you, notice that you want to react, but don’t, and see what happens.
- Every morning before you get out of bed, put your hands on your belly and take 3 deep breaths, feeling the rise and fall of your belly.
- At night when you go to bed, repeat the step above……………
What an awareness practice does, is it brings you back into the present moment. It does not mean that you do not feel anything, it actually means you feel everything. I know this may sound scary to some of you. But allowing your Self to feel your emotions when they surface, without judgment, is the key to healing. If you do not feel them, they will surface with even more force another day. So suppressing your feelings will not get rid of them for good……it’s only a temporary fix. When you are in the present moment, anxiety lessens. Anxiety needs you to be thinking of past events or worrying about the future in order to exist.
When you are in the moment, being present with ‘what is’, there is spaciousness, openness and a sense of expansion. The more you commit to an Awareness Practice, the more you will have this spaciousness and expansiveness. And when you live more from this place, anxiety takes you over less and less. And when some sort of challenge surfaces in your life, you will be able to respond in the moment and handle the challenge with more ease.
And how does this benefit your loved ones? It benefits them in a huge way! Here are a few of them:
- You will be a role model to your children in how to respond to life challenges
- When one of your family members pushes your buttons, you won’t react. And by not reacting, that family member is given the gift of your presence.
- By giving your family the gift of presence, you allow them the opportunity to become present as well.
- By allowing your family members the opportunity to become present, you give them the opportunity to heal.
- By giving your family the opportunity to heal, you help them transform and live a fuller life.
So now I want to ask you something:
Will you commit to having some sort of Awareness Practice? Will you do it every day, on purpose?
Let us know below….and if you are using an Awareness Practice now and want to share, we’d love to hear it!
If you’d like to learnmore on how to heal anxiety, I have a complimentary, content-rich teleclass in which you will learn:
- One of the MAIN, KEY factors that causes anxiety and how to break free from it. This key factor I will be talking about is a main player that most people with anxiety experience and bringing awareness to it will release the grip of anxiety and bring more freedom and spaciousness to your life.
- During this call I will also give you a preview of my new anxiety busting program that starts on January 23, 2012 (the day of the first new moon of 2012….a wonderful time for new beginnings :).
Click the link below to learn more about this new program and to register to receive the free teleclass – scroll all the way down and fill out the sign up box at the very bottom.
inhale ~ enjoy ~ exhale,
Gina Rafkind, CPC
Holistic Anxiety Coach
Gina is a Certified Professional Coach, Certified Reflexologist, Reiki Level 3 Practitioner & Licensed Cosmetologist.
She founded VedaSun to help women bust through anxiety so they can wake up to their life and achieve their dreams. Gina does this by sharing the knowledge and wisdom she has discovered throughout her evolving journey of healing anxiety. Her passion is to share these discoveries with you so you, too, can open the channel of awareness and by ‘waking up’, live a happier and healthier life.
*(Petrea here, this is an Affiliate link, but I wouldn’t be an affiliate unless I felt it was fantastic! Gina is a dear friend and I trust her wholeheartedly!)
A guest post by Laurie Zak of Happy Me
my daughter Kaelyn, future son-in-law Jake and their soon-to-be-born son Ryatt.
the hands of my daughter Kaelyn gently cradling the head of my 3 day old grandson Ryatt
my week old grandson Ryatt clasping hold of my finger with his hand
You’ll find more by Laurie Zak at
Her website www.picasaweb.com/photographybylauriez
Her blog: www.happymelauriez.blogspot.com
A Guest Post by Becky Jaine of Monkey Shines for Glimpses of Family
My children and I spent an afternoon throwing rainbows and creating colorful explosions on canvas.
I called to Sonshine (my 2 year old) to get his attention for the picture,
and he “roared” his lion roar at me to share his delight.
My joyful art warriors!
This was the end result of a messy and hilarious family painting project we did together. My husband, children and even our dog got in on the creative fun. I documented the event sharing a simple “how-to” here
Becky Jaine is a wife, mother, writer and creative arts enthusiast (in ever-changing priority). She passionately writes about what her family does to disconnect from technology, to be more fully present together. She calls these activities “togetherness projects“, encouraging families to occasionally disconnect to reconnect. Check out her Monkey Shines at www.MonkeyChiMonkeyDo.com .
O Winter! ruler of the inverted year, . . . I crown thee king of intimate delights, Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness, And all the comforts that the lowly roof Of undisturb’d Retirement, and the hours Of long uninterrupted evening, know.
We’ve been anticipating the cold weather here lately, with the coming of winter there seems to be a lot of shifts and changes that leave the best of us feeling a little under the weather, with little control over the impending changes:
more time spent indoors,
less room to move,
less time in the sun,
more time feeling in the dark,
more time in each other’s space,
less time in “outer” space.
I guess that’s why this time of year is a good time to delve into one’s inner world, reflecting on the year past and accepting perceived “good” and “bad”. Just letting go, in anticipation of what is to come. This year I plan to do this more formally with my family. I envision us sitting in a circle on cushions as we listen to the resonating song of the singing bowl. We each take turns passing our family talking stick around, as we reminisce about the good times had these past 11 months.
Yet there are so many things that can pull us in the other direction if we let them. There is so much glitter and bright lights, that it sometimes becomes distracting. It’s easy for me to forget to just sit with my family, spending time doing nothing or doing quiet things.
It is the time of year that many animals get ready to go into hibernation. Slowing down, resting, rejuvenating.
We can learn much from these practices. The cold can signal us to slow down and take it easy. With shorter days upon us, resting and relaxing makes sense. It’s okay. If we can give ourselves permission to do “less” we might just find that we are actually doing more for our family. More time snuggling, more time laughing, more time noticing simple pleasures, more time just allowing things to unfold.
The stillness of the approaching winter can be a reminder to embrace the quiet within. It is an opportunity to connect with ourselves and our children through nature’s wisdom. An opportunity for our children to experience our connection to nature and what we can learn from her.
How will you embrace upcoming change with your family?