Play Therapy Explained

I am often given a blank look when I tell someone I am a Play Therapist.  I know I have talked about this before- my yearning to educate others on not only what play therapy is, but on how amazingly effective and life changing it can be for a child.  Here is a great article posted on Psychology Today that explains the power of play.....


By Tomás Casado-Frankel, LMFT

I am frequently confronted with parents’ concerns regarding the effectiveness of play therapy as a form of treatment. They say, “But it’s just play!” Play therapy is not just play. The treatment might be fun for the young patient—yes—but there is a lot that’s being expressed and understood. Play therapy is meaning-full!

Young children communicate through play. Pretend play allows children to assume the control they so rarely experience living in a world run by adults. They are free to express their emotional experience—what it feels like to be them. With access to this internal realm, I, as a play therapist, can help the child discover alternative ways of coping with their worries.

Play Reveals the Child’s Internal Emotional World

Consider a 6 year old boy who has repeatedly witnessed domestic violence and is acting out aggressively at school—he’s been labeled a bully. He walks into a session with an entourage of miniature cars--a bag full of treasure—and in the bat of an eye, turns the room into a battlefield with a dollhouse under siege.

Play and reality are not that different.

At first glance, this boy may appear to be an aggressive child acting out anger in his play, but to the therapist he is revealing a world of pain. The child brings his fearful and vulnerable self into the session by assigning me the role of victim. In this role, I must repeatedly attempt to defend my family from bad guys in an unpredictable dollhouse home—I feel what it feels like to be him in his home, one in which he is repeatedly under siege.

“Get ready the bad guys are coming closer!” he whispers right before beginning an attack. A toy police car I dispatch is unable to stop them. Then I’m informed that even the good guys in the house have turned bad. My friends in the dollhouse are no longer to be trusted, and I’m forced to put up with an onslaught through every door and window.  I get the feeling that no matter how much I fight, I’m stuck. There is not much I can do.

I experience the helplessness he has to tolerate everyday.  The anger in his play, like that expressed at school, is likely his reaction to underlying feelings of pain and fear.  Feelings too overwhelming for him to put into words--in play he is able to express that for which he cannot find language.

Or think of an eight-year-old girl whose anxiety is so intense it practically renders her mute. Her symptoms have taken hold of her body too. She has a hard time moving her bowels and difficulty swallowing.

Attempts to use words during our first session are futile, but as soon as she pulls out the dollhouse, she gives the characters a voice. Toy parents are straddled over a small airplane and suddenly disappear to a hidden corner of the room. The children in the dollhouse are all alone.

The family history reveals the mother had frightening medical complications after the last sibling’s birth, and the father had an unnerving immigration experience. This child has been terrified of losing them. Her play puts feelings into visible action.

Play Therapy Offers Alternatives

For the boy in the first vignette, being aggressive at school might feel like the only way my young patient feels he can avoid being a victim. But disconnected from his vulnerable feelings of victimhood, he will not have the opportunity to address the pain of his home life. The therapist understands this and works to bring those parts together in the play.

I pull out my loyal toy-musketeer, and right in the midst of the most gruesome of the child’s bad-guy attacks, my swordsman yells out: “No bad guys allowed! Get outta here bad guys!!!” And something happens. I’m speaking for the part of him that longs for calm and security. Though the characters are seemingly angry, they are expressing a wish to protect themselves--we’ve found a safe enough way to address my patient's vulnerability.

The child says- “I really really like it when you say that! I don’t know why, but I reeeaally like it!! Say it again!” So I do. Or I should say the musketeer does, “No bad guys allowed!!!”

On the other hand, the girl patient has me searching for my missing parents. As the little girl, I ask, “When are they coming back?!” Her figure says, “I don’t know!” I exclaim, “But I’m worried! I want my parents back now!” The therapist finds words for the hidden feeling.

Play Therapy is Deeply Reparative

The message for the little girl is this: it’s OK to address unspeakable fears. Adults can be here to help you process and understand them.

She has started skipping down the hall before and after sessions. Body ailments have started to dissipate too. It’s not so hard to relax in the bathroom when the world is not as scary, and one feels understood.

The message for the boy however is this: one need not attack to be safe—he can defend himself with words. He can assert authority without overt aggression. Fighting in school might not always be necessary in order to feel less vulnerable. There might be a way to protect oneself without attacking first.

Play therapy helps children work through difficult emotions. It helps them feel heard and seen, and for children such as I’ve described, it often manifests in improved behavior at school or a reduction of overwhelming anxiety. Working through the threads of the underlying feelings in play therapy can be deeply reparative.

Tomás Casado-Frankel, LMFT, is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in Brooklyn and Manhattan. He works with individuals, couples, or families. He is a graduate of the Child & Adolescent Psychotherapy Training Program at The William Alanson White Institute(link is external), supervisor of psychotherapy at the Metropolitan Center for Mental Health, and the mental health coordinator for Northside’s Center for Child Development Early Head Start and Head Start programs. Tomás is also the co-author of “Las Lagrimas del Cambio”(link is external) published by Triacastela in 2013, a book in Spanish on attachment disorder and early relational trauma.

Here is a link for article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/contemporary-psychoanalysis-in-action/201601/child-s-play-how-play-therapy-works



One. Simple. Question.

We often go through life as parents assuming our children know how much we care about them.  We may say "I love you" several times a day.  We do things for them thinking, "Surely they see how much I love them.  Look at all the sacrifices I make!".  But are we really speaking their love language?  Do they REALLY feel our love?  I highly recommend reading this article from babble (see link below)  that gives us one simple question to ask our kids: "How can I help you feel loved?"

For one child, that might be a hug.  For another it might be playing a game, or reading a book, or putting our devices down.  Each child has their own love language.  One thing I know for sure...I am asking this question to my own children tonight!  I will let you know their answers in a future post.  I would love to hear what yours say!

http://www.babble.com/parenting/the-one-question-you-should-ask-your-child-tonight/?cmp=smc%7C277636935

11/17 UPDATE  As promised, here are my children's answers:

Daughter: When you play family games with me, when you have lunch with me at school, when you spend more time playing and not cleaning the kitchen, when you give me compliments with long sentences (??)

Son: When you play with me, when you randomly do something nice for me, when you give me sincere compliments

 

 



Banishing Bullies

This amazing girl lives in our area. My heart breaks for her. Please PLEASE talk to your kids about how bullying can potentially destroy a child's life. Even if your child isn't the bully, have these conversations. Teach them to speak up loud and strong for the victims because saying nothing is the same as condoning it.

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Be sure to read the article recently in the KC Star and don't forget to watch her touching video:

http://www.kansascity.com/sports/spt-columns-blogs/sam-mellinger/article10754828.html#/tabPane=tabs-b0710947-1-1

Here's to Full Buckets!

My last blog entry discussed sibling fighting and how to squash it.  I continue to think of new and creative ways to address this never ending struggle for many parents.  While at Target the other day, or shall I say at the Target Dollar Spot, I came up with a new idea:

 

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I am sure most of you have heard of the "How Full Is Your Bucket?" book.  For those of you who have not, let me explain.  The book suggests that we all have invisible buckets that are filled when others do nice things for us, and drained when people say or do hurtful things.  So when I saw these cute little buckets for a buck, I just knew what I had to do with them!  I headed to the library to find these two books, and scrounged up some cotton balls.

Last night my family read these two books together (the one on the left is simpler for younger children to understand, but I thought they were both helpful).  It took all my son had to hold in his sigh and fight the eye roll as he realized what this meant...

Yes- my kids will work to fill each other's buckets.  Any nice gesture or kind phrase will allow that child to add a cotton ball into the other's bucket - they are being a "bucket filler".  On the flip side, a "bucket dumper" with rude or unkind behavior will have to remove a cotton ball from the other's bucket.  When 25 cotton balls have filled the other's bucket, the "bucket filler" will get to choose a prize.  Note that prizes don't have to be toys or involve spending money.  Prizes can include choosing dinner for that night, earning extra screen time, a special "date" with mom or dad, breakfast in bed.  Creativity can lead to many fun and original ideas as rewards.

As always, share your children's bucket filling stories with me!  Now go fill someone's bucket....

 

"Oh, Brother!"

I have years of clinical experience under my belt.  I have sat with some of the most well known play therapists in trainings.  I have been in supervision, consultation, clinical meetings and thousands of hours of one on one sessions with clients...but there are days I think that NOTHING has taught me more than the simple fact of being a mom.  I can sit here and type about endless research or share articles that I have found to be enlightening; however, the way I often feel most connected to my clients is to share with them that I GET IT.  I get it both clinically and personally what it's like to be a mom and face the daily bumps along the brutifal (brutal and beautiful) road called "Parenthood".  So in my blog you will see a scattering of personal reflections because I believe that the commonality in our parental struggles is often what my clients appreciate.  

I felt compelled to share with my readers what is going on in my house as of late.  I know I am not alone when I say that the fighting between my children might lead me on a very short trip to crazy.  In fact, I was not far from this:

No, those are not my children, nor are they clients.  I do feel quite sorry for these unknown wee ones that have become quite famous thanks to the internet.  Anyway, lucky for my children, I had a better idea and did not have to resort to "the shirt".

Yesterday after endless bickering about nothing (as is always the case), I took a new approach.  I told them both that since there was so much fighting, we were going to have to learn to be nicer to each other by spending more time together and doing nice things for one another (insert puzzled looks here).  I told them both that they would spend 15 minutes taking turns reading to each other and would end the day by making a collage for the other made of things that person would like.  Here is the best part: if one decides to complain or have a bad attitude, that is just a sign to me that there needs to be MORE time together and MORE time spent doing nice things for each other.  Bam!  Win-win!  

I am pleased to report that the 15 minutes of reading turned into almost 40 minutes of laughter as they decided to sing the book to each other and use funny voices.  It was the most pleasant sound this house has heard in a while.  Plus, I didn't feel the urge to yell or become angry.  It was a very calm way to address the issue at hand while promoting "time together" for my children.

Sometimes when we feel stuck in a rut with a parenting issue we are facing, just thinking outside the box can be the trick.  My kids did not expect this "consequence" but I guarantee it had a much more lasting effect than taking away screen time or sending them to their rooms to be alone.  I would love to hear what creative "time together" ideas you have!  Email me at playfulsolutionskc@gmail.com and you just might get added to my blog!    

Who, ME? Yes, YOU!

I've blogged in the past about self care, but I feel I can never encourage it enough.  The parents that come into my office are worn down.  Obviously they come to me because their child is struggling in some way.  Add that to the already stressful lives they lead balancing work, finances, daily to do's, caring for a family, activities, homework...the list goes on.  So this blog entry is for anyone that feels pulled, exhausted, too busy, defeated, just worn down.

 It's so easy to get bogged down by our "to do" lists.  We forget to take care of ourselves. It's like on a airplane when they tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before putting on your child's. If we don't fill our own buckets first, we can't be the moms, dads, spouses, friends we hope to be. We find ourselves becoming short tempered and cranky.  KC Parent Magazine had a great little blurb months ago about a "ta-da" list, rather than a "to do" list.  This is simply a way to look at what you have accomplished rather than what you NEED to accomplish.  How often do we take the time to do that?  Most of us would probably answer "never".  

Today I'm focusing on my "ta da" list. This week I've worked to take care of myself professionally (got a few new clients), physically (just biked 12 miles), nutritionally (my first successful week of weight watchers), socially (remembering to fit time in with dear friends), and mentally (scheduling in quiet time that is crucial to keeping me feeling centered).   Doing this has not been easy.  Trust me, there are times my "to do" list has been screaming at me from the counter.  But after taking time for me, I find that I have been more patient with my own children, a better companion for my husband and more ready and willing to finally answer that screaming to do list that seems to grow exponentially!   

It's not easy to put ourselves first, but this week, take a step. Do one thing to take care of yourself.  Just one.  It's a start.  Schedule it in if you have to!  You are setting an example for your family.  Your kids will thank you for it!

I can't wait to hear about your successes!  

 

"Like a Girl" is a GOOD Thing!

A friend of mine recently sent me this video.  I was blown away!  I don't want to spoil anything so watch it first, then come back and read below....

Wow!  Right?  What messages are we as a society and as parents sending to our children?  It is impossible not to fall victim to the stereotypes for boys versus girls.  Even when walking through Wal-Mart or Target we are presented with toys aisles oozing pink.  Then a few steps away there are aisles and aisles of nerf guns.  So many nerf guns.  Boys and girls are different, I have no doubt.  I have a son and I have a daughter.   At one time in my life I was able to identify every type of construction vehicle my son so excitedly screamed about on car rides.  Then my daughter entered the world and I have spent countless hours dressing barbies and playing beauty shop.  I love that their interests are so innate and so different from each other.  

But not for one minute would I ever believe my daughter incapable of doing anything that a boy her age could do.  And not for one minute will I allow my son to fall into the trap of believing she couldn't simply because she is a girl.  As I watched this video it hurt my heart to think that I cannot forever shelter my children from society.  I can work daily to build them up and instill confidence.  But all it takes is one comment or one snide remark to change that. If you or your children fall victim to this "like a girl" mentality...STAND UP to it!  Say something.  Let your child see you as their advocate.  Believe in them and help them believe in themselves.  Their is no better shield from cruelty than self-confidence! 

A Lesson Learned from Robin Williams

As we all digest the news about Robin Williams' apparent suicide, I find no better time to begin open discussions about mental illness.  Sadly, mental illness continues to have such a stigma.  People who battle depression, specifically, are often seen as weak and defective.   Because of this, it is not talked about.  Your friends, your neighbors, maybe even members of your family are hiding their struggles for fear of being labeled, rejected and judged.

After many years of providing therapy, I know firsthand that depression does not care what kind of car you drive, what kind of job you have, what background you come from.  Depression doesn't care if you have a picture perfect marriage, adorable children, multiple degrees.  Sometimes, there is just genetics to blame... I have helped clients understand that depression affected every single woman in their family.  I have practiced deep breathing with individuals who have panic attacks over minor things most would never understand. Other times, depression is circumstantial...I have sat across from parents whose children have been sexually abused.  I have mourned with children too young to have needed to experience death in their lives, I have helped people struggle through marriages that are falling apart.  I have been part of journeys of such sadness with clients, there are not even words to explain it.  I say this not to bring us all down, but rather as an attempt to lift us up, together.  

May the death of Robin Williams help us to all realize that we know nothing about the sadness and struggles the people in our lives may be facing.  People are so good at putting on a happy face and pretending that things are fine.  If we can begin to be more open and accepting with each other and with the ugly parts of life, then we can lift each other up and help each other heal. If you are not sure how to help someone that is depressed, don't turn away.  There are many resources that can help you better understand what to do.  The following website has great resources:

www.kansascitymentalhealth.com

If you fear that your child is depressed or struggling, please contact me at:

913-777-4408

or

playfulsolutionskc@gmail.com

 

 

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A Great Opportunity!

I was so fortunate to be asked by Day Care Connection to present to over 150 in-home daycare providers at one of their trainings.  I have spoken for them in the past and it was an honor to be asked to present again. My "When Time Out Doesn't Work" presentation elicited a lot of great discussion about how to handle behavior problems. I was amazed by the dedication and creativity of these people.  Know that there are some very wonderful in-home providers caring for your children!  If you would like to schedule my presentation for your church, school, daycare or group contact me at playfulsolutionskc@gmail.com

"From Tears to Joy"

                                                                  Brian, Amy, Emma (3) and Michaei (5)

                                                                  Brian, Amy, Emma (3) and Michaei (5)

I am so proud of a friend of mine, Amy Ravis Furey, who recently spoke out about her struggles (and successes!) with raising a child diagnosed with ADHD.  I believe that it is in those moments when we are truly honest with others about our struggles that we find the connection, friendship, and support that is so needed!  Thank you, Amy, for letting other parents know that there is hope and that they are not alone.

Here is the link to Amy's article that was featured in the Kansas Child Magazine:

http://ks.childcareaware.org/PDFs/amy_online_sp14_web.pdf

 

Talking to your children after this week's tragedy

In the midst of a tragedy in our backyard, we are all affected.  Jewish, Christian…it doesn’t matter.  All of our hearts ache for the victims and our insides churn thinking that there could be such hatred in the world.  And many of us feel a bit guilty as we whisper a “Thank You” to God that it wasn’t us or our own children.  My children were across the street at Sunday School at our Temple.  My mind hasn’t been able to stop thinking about what could have happened…

As a parent, I was forced to keep going even though I wanted to watch the TV…or just sit and cry because I continue to wonder how bad things can happen in a world that I believe is supposed to be good, or at least a world that I want to be viewed as good in the eyes of my innocent children. But activities still needed to be attended, lunches packed, homework completed.  We were forced to go on with our lives.  There wasn’t time for me to sit and process the tragedy in the way I needed to. 

I knew that I was going to have to talk with at least my older son (8 years old), for now there will be a police presence every time we attend our Temple.  I felt I owed him the truth.  As I began to tell him about what had happened, his response was such a blessing.  He said in a matter of fact tone, “Well, at least there are great policemen to keep us safe”.  Sigh.  You are so right, son!  And then we focused on that and that only.

I know that many of us are struggling right now (as we sadly have with other past tragedies) about what to say to our children.  Should we tell them?  Do we lie?  How much do we say?  I offer some advice simply as a guide.  I feel that every parent has to make their own decision in how much to tell and what to say based on their own beliefs and parenting style.  My advice is guided by my professional experience as well as my personal experience.

-       I think that young children may not need to be told. Most children that are not in elementary school can be easily sheltered by us from the TV and from others that are talking about it.  That being said, keep the TV off around your child!  Even small children can often understand more than we give them credit for.  Wait to discuss the event until after your child is in bed.  And let older children know if you are not telling their younger sibling.  Ask them to talk to you privately if they have questions.

For School Aged Children:

-    Know that your child will likely hear about it somehow, most likely from friends.  So even though you may not want to talk about it to shelter your child, think about this…would you rather be the one to tell your child in the way you think is appropriate for him/her or would you rather someone else’s child on the playground?

-       Plan ahead.  Don’t just wing it.  Discuss with your spouse what you both would like to say and stick to the plan when you talk with your child

-       Remember that LESS IS MORE.  Adults have a tendency to say way too many words to our children.  Start with a simple statement or two and STOP.  Really.  Just keep your words simple and few

-       After stating the facts in whatever way you deem appropriate for your child, focus on SAFETY.  Talk about the people that are out there to keep us safe and to make sure that people are protected.  Kids will really pick up on this piece and will tend to focus on that in a conversation

-       Be mindful that your child’s reaction may not come until later, often at a time no one would suspect.  It will take time for your child to process the information so they may come back with questions or worries.  Don’t panic.  It’s perfectly okay as a parent to not have all the answers.  Most kids just need a chance to vent their feelings and know that you are there for them and will keep them safe

-    Know that if you have multiple children, they may each process the event differently.  One child may not seem as affected, whereas your other child may become upset or fearful.  If you think this might be the case, choose to have separate conversations with each child so that you can approach it in the way that is most appropriate for that child.  In other words, your strategy in how to talk to your children may be different for each child, especially if they are far apart in age.

-       You know your child best.  Think about their maturity level (not age) and personality as you are deciding how much to tell them.  An anxious child may not handle the information as well as a child that is not anxious.  If your child becomes fearful, it’s okay to make adaptions for them. Maybe they want a nightlight suddenly.  Or maybe they are having a hard time falling asleep and want you to lay with them.  Just know that they are processing the event and looking for reassurance of safety.  

-       Have some ideas in mind to “do good” in the world with your child.  Maybe plan a day to volunteer as a family to pay tribute to the victims.  Make cards to send to the victims’ church as a sign of support.  Plant flowers in honor of the victims.  Get creative.  There are a million ways to show support.

-       If you feel that worry or fear has gone beyond what is expected, talk to a school counselor or call me.  Your child might need a safe place to process what has happened.  The sooner and more efficiently you deal with it, the faster your child can heal and remember the good in the world.

A friend of mine stated it so well:

I know from the outpouring of love from the community for the victims, that there is far more good than evil in this world. Peace and love to all, keep sharing it and spreading it.”

Raising an Empathetic Child

At recess, a child trips on the play equipment and falls into a muddy puddle.  Some of the other children laugh; some don’t pay much attention.  One child wanders over that way and helps him up.  What is it about this one child that drove him to help another?  Why is he concerned about a friend when others aren’t?  Clearly, the child’s ability to empathize played a crucial role in his actions.

As parents, we would all like to think that our child would be the one to help.  We want to believe that we are raising our kids to “do the right thing” and to care about others.  Empathy, however, is a bit more complicated than that.  Empathy goes beyond simply “caring” about someone; it’s the ability to actually feel with someone.   An empathetic individual is able to see a situation from another’s perspective (or really “feel” from another’s perspective), respond in a way he or she believes would be comforting to that person, all while separating his or her own feelings from those of others. 

Feeling overwhelmed about how to teach all of this to your child?  Don’t panic!  While the explanation of empathy might sound complicated, teaching this skill to your child is not.  In fact, most parents are probably already instilling empathy without even realizing it.    

Here are five tips for raising an empathetic child:

1.     Be a Responsive Parent

Beginning in infancy, babies learn empathy when their needs are met by a caregiver.  If a baby is fussy, a responsive parent cuddles; if a baby is hungry, a responsive parent feeds her.  As children get older, they need to know that parents understand their feelings and are there to comfort them in times of need.  Children whose needs are met at home have a greater capacity for showing empathy to others.

2.     Label Feelings

When children are able to identify and name their own emotions, they are better able to recognize emotion in others.  Younger children are able to understand basic feeling labels such as mad, happy, sad, but might need parental help in labeling these feelings. Simple acknowledgement of a feeling by a parent can be enough to diffuse a situation: “I can see you are very mad that we had to leave the park.  I was having fun too.”  As children get older, parents can help them label more complex feelings such as frustrated, disappointed, nervous, embarrassed, etc.

3.     Allow all feelings to be okay

Many parents want to quickly jump in and make sad or angry feelings go away for their children.  Allowing your child to feel a wide range of emotions while experiencing support and comfort from you helps increase their emotional intelligence.  Children who are taught that certain feelings are not okay, often grow up struggling with how to feel or express these emotions.  Allow your child to feel uncomfortable feelings and provide them with safe ways to express and cope with them.

4.   Model Empathy 

Sue Boxer, Director of Early Childhood at B’nai Jehudah, is inspired by the quote that states, “If you don’t model what you teach, you are teaching something else.”  She believes that children are very keen observers and will pick up on how we, as adults, treat others.  Simply expressing concern about someone or trying to understand their hurt or angry feelings teaches your children about empathy.  Jessica Marien, Leawood mom of 4, states that she and her husband try to model empathy by speaking "internal dialogue" out loud.  She states, “This allows my children to hear us "wonder" about how our decisions will impact others.”

Another effective way to model empathy is through one’s parenting.  Ask your child questions about his feelings, listen to him, reflect with him.  Showing empathy to your child makes your child feel valued and increases connection.  A child who experiences empathy from a parent learns early on about connection, providing him with a foundation for future relationships.

5.     Volunteer

Finding ways to serve others allows your child to think about what it would be like to be in someone else’s shoes.  A visit to a nursing home might open your child’s eyes to the loneliness a resident might experience.  Even a simple act of donating toys might help spark a conversation about what it might feel like to have little or nothing.  Providing experiences for your child to help make the world a better place are great building blocks for the development of empathy. 

Know that developing and practicing empathy is a lifelong process, not something that happens overnight.  Our job as parents is to do all we can to teach and model empathy for our children as they grow.  It is one of the greatest gifts we can offer them. 

Hey! Don't forget about YOU!

I have always found this cartoon to be hilarious!  After you take a look at it, chuckle.  Go ahead, laugh out loud.....

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Now that we got a laugh in, let's be honest.  Parenthood can be exhausting- even with the most well behaved children.  Then factor in school and homework and work and activities and family stress and children's misbehavior and anything else you might have on your plate.  So now the real question is this:

You are probably pretty good at taking care of everyone else, but how are you taking care of YOU?

I found a great article by Abundant Mama.  She proposes 25 ways to stay calm as a parent.  Visit her site for the full article (http://www.abundantmama.com/how-to-be-a-calm-parent/) but I have included her 25 ways below:

  1. Own your Nos. There are times when I say no without even thinking and then one no leads to another no and soon we’re in a vicious cycle. I’ve learned that by really thinking before I respond I feel authentic power when I do say no — or yes. Try hard to not rush to saying no to your child just because of inconvenience.
  2. Be open to Yes. There’s a ton of power in the word YES. Y-E-S. Conscious Yeses are beautiful. Conscious Yeses transform families. Conscious Yeses are cause for celebration.
  3. Read. Read everything you can that makes you feel good and that reminds you to remain calm. For me, it started with Momma Zen by Karen Maezen Miller but it’s hardly ended there. I have a whole nightstand filled with books that I pull out when I need a pick-me-up or as a reminder to remain calm and relaxed as a parent. Some are parenting books. Some are inspirational books. Others are just beautiful and get me thinking creatively, which is the best way to parent, in my experience.
  4. Solitude. I suspect that many of us who struggle with staying calm in the chaos also struggle with noise. Some people — extroverts — are happy with a ton of noise. I am not. Silence is often the medicine we need to replenish and rejuvenate ourselves and yet it may be the hardest to make happen. There are many other ways to stay at peace.
  5. Take a deep breath. Never ever punish when angry. Just don’t. Heed this advice and you’ll always be a calm parent. Separate the kids and then walk away. Step outside. Or, go to your room and close the door and lay on your bed until you are calm. Run down to the basement. Put on some music in your ear buds. Something. Anything. Just breathe and calm down before you even attempt to react.
  6. Get up early. Having time to yourself is absolutely essential. Period.
  7. Go to bed early. Being fully rested is key. You can’t be a good parent if you are too tired to think, too tired to come up with creative responses and solutions or too tired to ignore the small things.
  8. Get a hobby. I write therefore I am. For others, it’s cooking or sewing or quilting or crocheting. Even more are finding a love in photography, baking, blogging, or gardening. We all have that one thing that just fills us up, that gives us a different purpose in life. Devote yourself to yours.
  9. Energize yourself. This is my all-time favorite thing to do in my day. Choose the things that you love and that make you happy and do them every day. In my e-course, I’ll share my own list.
  10. Ignore the small stuff. What’s that book say, it’s all small stuff? I don’t know about that. But I do know that some parents — myself included — can get wrapped up in micromanaging their children and their every move. Delegate some of that worry and stress to the Universe. this includes NOT arguing back with a child.
  11. Think of the Big Picture. A few mentioned this on the Facebook page as important and I agree. Will this tiny infraction of behavior like drinking the bathtub water and spitting it out matter in the long run? No. Will it delay bedtime, yes. So what. Move on. Nothing to see here.
  12. Clean. When your children are frustrating the bejeezus out of you, clean. Do those things that you need to do and work off the frustrations by cleaning. This is the only time that I stress the importance of cleaning. It gives you something productive to do instead of micromanaging the children. While your at it, think of the chores they will have to do as a result of their bad behavior. Some call it an uh-oh chore. I just call it a chore to help fill my bucket back up.
  13. Speak your mantra. Each of us has phrases that give us comfort, sayings that we can say over and over again in our heads until the difficult moment passes. Some of you suggested mantras like “I am the adult” or “Mommy is the greatest!” I have a whole list of mantras that I use.
  14. Exercise. Walk. Do yoga. Run. Whatever you can do to feel good on the inside will make parenting from the heart a lot better.
  15. Slow down. Don’t plan a ton of things because the minute you want to get a long list of things done is the very minute that you will find things blow up. Stress is what causes us to lose our cool so the less we have to stress about, the less crazy we’ll become.
  16. Get silly. I’ve said this before but doing something entirely out of the ordinary is a great way to turn things around quickly. Tell jokes. Just act nutty. You’ll laugh. SING. DANCE. Laugh. Deal with the consequences later, when everyone’s thinking more clearly.
  17. Talk it out. Establish a talk-it-out rule. In this house, we talk out our problems with soft words, not our hands and not by yelling. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
  18. Role model. If you want your children to grow up calm, cool and collected than keep that in your head at all times. What you say to your children becomes what they hear in their heads. That’s powerful stuff to consider.
  19. Eat. There have been many times when I’ve been starving and not taking care of myself. Stop and make sure you’re not feeling the result of low blood sugar.
  20. Set your rules. This is a really big deal and something I didn’t really do early on. The sooner your establish your household rules the better off you will be as a parent. Our rules are on our refrigerator so that when a rule is broken we can immediately point to it and say look here, you’ve broken Rule No. 2, keep your hands and feet to yourself. When you are confident about the rules in your house, you are confident in enforcing those rules.
  21. Don’t set too many rules. Seriously. Children are still learning and experimenting. We can’t expect them to never make mistakes. To stay calm, stick to no more than five rules at a time and make those the important ones. Let little infractions go by with teachable moments rather than discipline.
  22. Change your routine. If you find yourself in a stressed out rut, perhaps it’s time to change things around and do something exciting and different. A change in fresh air or environment is enough to keep me feeling calm and peaceful a lot longer than going through the motions of the same-old, same-old.
  23. Be Grateful. Many of you mentioned that reminding yourself of how special it is to have a child is the best way to calm yourself down. Savoring the little moments. Being grateful for the time we have with our children. These are all big, heart-filled reminders of what it really means to be a parent, even when times are challenging.
  24. Replenish your spirit. For some this means prayer or meditation. For others it might be sinking into a hot bath at night. Taking care of your spirit is as important as taking care of your body. Whatever you use to de-stress and center yourself, do it often.
  25. When all else fails, hug it out. I love this one that came up on the Facebook page. Too often what our children need — and what we need in return — is that close connection and touch of the ones we love. My very spirited daughter responds positively to touch and so we snuggle often. So, instead of yelling or hurting, hug it out. If only we could pass this tip along to the rest of the world, right?

I hope that you can find at least one, JUST ONE, of these things to practice this week.  Your kids will thank you for it!

Mixed Messages

I came across a great site called "Imperfect Families".  Isn't that name the truth?  None of us are perfect, but the important part is that we strive to become BETTER.  An article on the site talks about the mixed messages that parents can send unknowingly to their children.  

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Common Mixed Messages

1. Ask me anything…Not right now

2. You can tell me anything…But not that

3. Hands are not for hitting…Except when I spank you

4. It’s not OK to yell…Get in here! (said while yelling)

5. Always tell the truth…Let’s say you’re still 3, so you can get in free

6. I know you two can work it out…That’s it, you’re both grounded

7. You’re always playing that video game…Just a minute, I’m on my phone

8. Whatever you’re feeling is fine…Settle down! Stop being so angry!

9. It’s Ok to make mistakes…You spilled the milk again!!

10. You don’t have to be perfect…A “B” on this test, what happened?!

11. I love you no matter what…Go away, I’m so frustrated with you

I think we'd all be lying to ourselves if we didn't admit to at least one or two of these phrases slipping out of our mouths.  But we are human; we all make mistakes.  So what do we do when we realize we have sent a mixed message?  Nicole Schwarz, author of the article, suggests that we first identify one or two important messages within our family.  We then identify ways that this message could become "mixed up".  It is important to be mindful of what we say.  Be aware that times of stress or overwhelm could increase the chances that we might send these mixed messages.  When we catch ourselves, we should then stop, apologize and try to correct the message.  Remember, no parent is perfect, but even by reading this article, you are already striving to become better!  Pat yourself on the back for this....then go unmix those messages!

To view the article in full, go to http://www.imperfectfamilies.com/2014/01/11-mixed-messages-parents-send-and-how-to-stop/

Welcome to the Playful Blog

I am so excited to have this venue for sharing information, tips, stories, strategies, and more for parents and caregivers!  I plan to post at least once a week so be sure to keep visiting.  For my first blog, I found it important for you to meet Andrew.  I only recently "met" him myself and have to say...he's quite a kid!  In just over a minute, he will help you understand exactly why play therapy is so awesome!  If you think your child could benefit from play therapy, contact me at  Playful Solutions.  Call 913-777-4408 for a free phone consultation or email playfulsolutionskc@gmail.com