owning it

This weekend I had the pleasure of presenting three sessions at a Waldorf homeschooling conference in the Southeast.  It was amazing to be there with Melisa Nielsen of Waldorf Essentials, Jean Miller of Waldorf-Inspired Learning, Jodie Mesler of Living Music, Judy Forster of Mama Jude’s, Brian and Robyn Wolfe of Waldorf*ish, and inner work leader Sheila Petruccelli.

A whole Friday night and Saturday focused on Waldorf homeschooling  for early years through high school and creating a peaceful home!   Can you imagine?

And as I looked around, it struck me that these participants – who had come to the Southeast from as far away as Seattle and Denver and Missouri  and all over the Southeast – had come here to do the work.  This made me so happy because…..

If we want something , we have to own it.

We have to figure out the work that will go into our goal, and map out the plan to get it done, and then have the initiative to really dig in and follow through.

Nothing is going to just fall into your lap.  It takes some time and effort.

This includes concrete goals in business, homeschooling, homemaking, parenting,  and life and also the goals of such elusive things as “happiness” or “peace.”  I always tell my older children that happiness will not fall on top of them like an anvil falling out of the sky , flattening the cartoon character.  We create these things in our lives, and we perservere through the things that are up and down in life with a focus on finding these things even in the bad moments.

So, ask yourself:

  • What would that goal look like for me?  Are my expectations/goals realistic?
  • What would be the  baby steps that I need to do to break down this goal?  What is one concrete step I could take today today?
  • Who could I help be on my team to help me create this goal?  What part would they need to play?

Get out of your own way, put yourself in the game, and help your children do the same.  This is responsibility. For a good American football analogy,  put yourself in the game and run the actual play, so to speak.  If you sit on the sidelines, you will never contribute to the touchdown as part of a team or make the touchdown yourself. 

What are you struggling with today and how can you own that?

 If you need help, I will be opening a few consultation slots in April.  I do this only a few times a year, so if you have something burning on your mind to accomplish for parenting or homeschooling, email at admin@theparentingpassageway.com so we can talk by phone! (I put out all my lesson plans and childhood developmental tips for FREE on this blog, and I have for ten years, but the phone consultations for paid clients. :))

Blessings and love,

Carrie

 

 

inward thirteen

Once the twelve year change is finally done, many teens hit a more inward phase.  This can be around thirteen and half, or for some just over fourteen years of age.  Sometimes we see this in the way a teen withdraws into their own room, or into their own art or whatever their interest is.  Some draw close to a beloved parent or other adult whom they trust and enjoy spending time with, but some teens are almost hyper-critical of their  parents, especially their mother, and are mainly just a shadow disappearing into their rooms.  It may seem that on the surface that not much makes them happy, so they sort of come across as the Eeyore of the family.

While the media often portrays this type of developmental stage as a teen wearing black sitting in (or wanting!) a  black room in a dark mood, I think it is a little more positive than that.  By withdrawing, the teen begins to figure out who they are in relation to their family, their friends, their community.  He or she protects him or herself from other’s criticisms, almost like the coccoon of a caterpillar so that the teen can emerge as the butterfly later down the road.  In homeschooling, I think this idea of the coccoon can extend to actually wanting to attend school because there may be more “privacy” there – an independent life without parents looking over one’s shoulder, or siblings looking over one’s shoulder.

Does this look different for a child raised with a lot of family attachment?  I think it does.  The really attached children I have seen, no matter what their type of schooling, often seem to withdraw from peers  but crave being in the family more, particularly those coveted one on one dates with a parent.  They may spend time in their rooms, but also enjoy “dates” with their parents without siblings around, may roll their eyes at some traditions or the idea of family vacations, but still have a terrific time. In fact, I think this age can be one of the times where we feel as if our insistence upon the family unit may really pay off!  However, if  you have done this, and you don’t feel like this age is working out that way for you and your teen and you feel like you failed, don’t panic.  Every teen has a different personality, a different temperament, a different love language, a different level of extroversiona  and introversion.  As long as there is nothing involving self-harm, being bullied or bullying other people, etc and you feel you have done all you can, then you can hold  your steady with your ho-hum.

Here are a few of my top tips in dealing with thirteen/fourteen year olds going through a more inward phase:

  1.  Keep a steady rhythm, especially limits on technology if that is involved, and bedtimes.  Meals and eating patterns seem to get more erratic around this age, so I think not just relying on the teen to fix themselves something but to have family meals continue just the same.  Your protection is important right now for health and developing healthy habits – this child is not 17 or 18 or even 16; there is a difference!
  2.  Do not  push for constant involvement with siblings or cousins or even friends, but do have some expectation as to what their part in a healthy family life would look like – game nights? Dates out with a parent?  A sibling day between your 13/14 year old and a sibling?  Family vacations- with or without a friend?  Do they have to help take care of a younger sibling? I find for many homeschooling families with these patterns in place, things may not shift a whole lot, but for some families it does depending upon the personality of the teen – so again, make your expectations known and be ho-hum about the emotional response.
  3. Many thirteen/fourteen year olds feel deeply at this age, but their responses can often be one word; they may shy away from physical touch by a parent.  Only you really can observe the child in front of you and decide how to approach that, when to push or not push for that further emotional intimacy. Sometimes it is okay for things to lie fallow for awhile; it is okay to be ho hum about things; please do not criticize so harshly – thirteen and fourteen year olds really take it to heart.
  4. Do plan time alone with your thirteen/fourteen year olds, especially if you have younger siblings in the house.  Many teens desperately need time away from younger siblings.
  5. Teens of this age usually have interests, and if they do not have interests, I think that for the sake of balance, see what interests you can help your teen discover.  Encourage and spend time on those, within balance. Many younger teens try to do all the things, and find themselves cranky and exhausted.  Protection is important for this age, but so is interest in the real world, in different cultures, in different ideas – otherwise the teen remains the center of his or her own universe into adulthood.
  6. Teens this age usually grow in the idea of responsibility and that not everything is someone else’s fault. If you don’t see this coming along, that may be something to nurture.
  7. The most pivotal time for adolescence is the fifteen/sixteen year change, so if you are dealing with things that seem out of the norm problematic, I highly suggest counseling and getting outside help in order to set up a better foundation for that change.  Boundaries and consequences, close family times, may be something that is argued about, but also leads to the adolescent feeling most secure.
  8. Sometimes adolescents need help in calming their emotional life and learning how to be less impulsive and dramatic, and some need help in raising empathy, sharing emotions, forming relationships.  Only you can decide what your teen needs.
  9. Adolescence is not a stable time, and many missteps can happen between the ages of 14-18.  Some adolescents really develop critical problems in their thinking about themselves and the world, or develop habits that aren’t healthy. You really need to be around, present, and while maintinging a ho-hum attitude, be ready to provide protection, or balance for your teen when they can’t do it themselves, consequences and boundaries for when they try out the wrong things, and help sooner rather than later if things are problematic.  Rudolf Steiner, the foundation of Waldorf Education, often said the times of hearing the inner voice most strongly may occur around ages 19, 38, and 56, so we try to give our teens the best foundation we can in the times of 14-18.

There is much more to say about the healthy development of adolescents, but I would love to hear your experiences. What were you like as an adolescent?  Does that influence how you are parenting your teen?

Blessings,

Carrie

How To Help Your Children Grow Up To Be Healthy Adults

Have you ever felt like every time you turn around that the news about this generation of children is just sad and scary?  There was an article on CNN.com yesterday about how 1 in 7 children and teen have a mental health condition (and that half go untreated).  Couple that with the statistics cited for all the new childhood epidemics, including asthma, ADHD/ADD, allergies and allergic eczema, food allergies and intolerances, celiac disease, obesity, learning disorders, autism, depression and anxiety, growing rates of suicide…people wonder what is going on with this generation of children?

We already know much of the answer to that:

  • Many are experiencing a hectic, arrythmical life, sometimes due to parental choice but sometimes due to no fault of the parents –  the fact is  that economically the entire family may have to work long hours just to cover rent and put food on the table
  • Many children are experiencing lack of loving adult presence – some children do not have a lot of  parental presence, true community,  or extended family involvement
  • Many are not experiencing enough movement, free play, or time outside in nature; too much adult-directed activity from an early age
  • Increasing  land, food, air, and  water toxicity 
  • Many are experiencing  too much screen time and not enough sleep
  • Many are not experiencing enough loving boundaries and not enough true and deep present attention …. If children could regulate themselves like adults and adult like an adult, they wouldn’t need a childhood. They could go straight into adulthood!
  • An increasing academic load from preschool onward that doesn’t account for the neurologic development of the brain nor how humans learn best. Hint: it’s not just through worksheets and pencil/paper work
  • Stress about college and grades  from the earliest of teen years (or even before) onward

So, what can YOU do as a parent to protect your children and provide a stable upbringing for your children so they can become healthy adults? I have some ideas!

Cut out screens when you are home and replace it with time outside; free play; undirected play, and yes, even play that you used to do that is now considered risky, like climbing trees and being out in the woods.

Set times that your children need to be outside if you live in an area that can support that. Otherwise, make going to places of nature a priority on weekends.

Teach your children how to do things around the house and give them chores to do. Do them as a family and teach them how to do it first, and then let them take responsibility

Set bedtimes and mealtimes.  Have a family night; spend time together, and expect good manners as a way of showing each other that you love each other.

Cut down the hectic pace of your life as much as possible!  Your children won’t die if they don’t do every extra-curricular activity under the sun

Get your own baggage and woundedness in order!  Your children deserve your time, your energy, your attention.  They need you to be your best you so you can support them!

Teach your children healthy habits about sleep, food, water, movement, how to deal with physical illness with both regular and alternative medicince and when they are old enough techniques for mindfulness and how to deal with stress.  Model this for them yourself!

Look at the child in front of you and what he or she needs.  Look at what boundaries would help balance them and make them healthy and set those boundaries lovingly.

Learn how to communicate lovingly with your children and guide them.

Protect them from stress. They shouldn’t have to handle stress like a 40 or 50 year old adult.

Promote developmental education in your school systems or homeschools  that include the arts, movement, volunteering, mindfulness, activities of kindness.  If you want to know what this would look like or what you could do, please email me at admin@theparentingpassageway.com.  

I would love to hear your ideas!

Blessings,

Carrie

 

 

 

 

 

 

teens who don’t want to drive

Some teens are excited and ready to drive in the United States, but the latest thing that many parents are lamenting is that their teen doesn’t want to drive or even attempt to get their license.  This phenomenon has even hit mainstream news sources, like in this article by National Geographic.  It is definitely a national trend that I don’t think has an end in sight.  We are seeing a true shift that I think will last generations and may even extend as car technology changes.

I have read many of the articles on this subject, observed many of my teen’s friends, and have come up with some ideas of why this trend may be…

  1.  Teens are working less. You might wonder what this has to do with driving, but hear me out.   If the emphasis is placed on academic success rather than school being something one does in addition to other things, then the teen may not have the time or motivation to get a job due to so much homework and extra classes.  If they don’t have a job, they may not have money to pay for gas or insurance, let alone to save up for a car.  The teens I know who are driving the most  have a job!
  2. Teens have more friends on-line and are dating less than previous generations.  There is less reason to go out of the house.  Teens are no longer going to the mall and hanging out – they can hang out and shop in their rooms.  They may not be running out of the house to go pick up their girlfriend.   The digital age has changed the landscape of adolescence forever.
  3. Many teens have anxiety ( I have read estimates that span anywhere from 10 to 25 percent of the teen population, depending upon what criteria is used), and the feeling that you could die or you could kill someone while driving a car makes driving a less than  tantalizing proporition to many teens.
  4. There are alternatives – rides with friends, Uber, public transportation, walking, and yes….parents often started  driving their children to activities at earlier ages, and are continuing, so why give that up?

Here are a few of my suggestions in dealing with reluctant teens –

I think the philosophy is always that the parents will do things for their children until the child can take it over for themselves.  In general, this age might be determined just by readiness cues and  seeing how responsibile the child  is in doing what needs to be done under supervision and then independently.  In the case of driving, the ability to drive is dictated by state laws, by learning new skills under supervision,by testing,  and yes, I think by having incentive.  So if your teen is reluctant to drive, perhaps have a conversation about expectations and what is holding your teen back.  Are your expectations clear to yourself and to them?

If you want your teen to learn to drive, and they are already feeling overwhelmed with schoolwork and activities, you may need to clear some space so they have the time to learn to drive.  It isn’t like cramming for an academic test.  It requires time, space, practice.

They may not want to learn to drive with you.  Or they may not want to learn with all their siblings in the car.  Some will learn better with Driver’s Education, some will learn better with a trusted relative or neighbor.

Figure out the expectation for how to pay for gas, insurance, a car.  These things can really hold teens back. If they have no car to drive or no way to pay for gas or insurance because they don’t have a job, what is the incentive for obtaining a license to drive?

Address anxiety. Sometimes having a timeline, a driving instructor, etc can help an anxious teen break things down into steps that seem doable.  The idea of testing may also provoke anxiety.   And as much as I hate to say it, I know people who never were comfortable driving and nearly always lived in areas where there was good public transportation available.  It may be hard to think this way if you live in an area where good public transportation doesn’t exist, but that may be where your teen ends up as an adult.

Lower your expectations.  Most of the new drivers I know are driving surface streets to school and back (probably a 5 miles radius) or to a job that is also within a five mile radius.  Not every new driver is ready to drive all over the city.  Think about where your teen would be okay driving when they do get their licenses.  This is particularly important for homeschooling families, who many times do have classes or activities that are far away.  If you goal is for that teen to drive to those far away things, your teen may or may not be comfortable with that as a new driver.

Would love to hear your thoughts,
Carrie

5 truths about the development of babies

I think if new parents haven’t been around a lot of babies, they can be fairly shocked when they have a little one of their own!

I was one of those parents. I had worked in a neonatal intensive care unit for my job, and the babies were exhausted after feeding.  So they ate, and then they slept right through until the next feeding time.  Full-term babies were fussier, but usually close to being discharged, and hey, there was an entire staff to entertain them and carry them around or play with them!

I thought I would be doing things in between nursing my baby, like cleaning the house and exercising, and that there would be a lot of  baby sleeping.

Nope! Surprise!

But it was wonderful all the same.  However, I would love to share five truths with you about babies from my experience as a long-time breastfeeding counselor, lactation consultant, pediatric and neonatal physical therapist, and mom of three…..

  1.  It takes time for babies to develop a rhythm to sleeping and waking patterns.  Some babies can be good sleepers, but it actually is neuroprotective for babies to not sleep too deeply due to risk of SIDS (highest at ages 2-5 months), and their sleep cycles are different than adult sleep cycles.  This is a great article about infant sleep from Dr. Sears that I think every new parent should read.  Bottle feeding parents are sometimes recommended by other parent to put rice cereal in a bottle to help babies sleep longer but this is is a myth; there are studies back to 1989 showing this makes no difference and in fact can be HARMFUL – here are recent studies from 2015 cited in an easy to read article from Kelly Mom.
  2. Babies need a  lot of physical touch.  It changes DNA for the better, as found in this recent study from 2017!  You can also use a babywearing to help you.  There are many on the market, including meshy slings you can use in the shower if you don’t have a helper to leave your baby outside the shower door.  Babywearing International has closed as an organization, but they still have many good article up on their site about choosing a baby carrier.  Here is a rare picture on this blog of our third child wrapped up in a sling several weeks after his  birth.
  3. Babies also need time to be free on the floor, both on their back and on their stomach.  They need time to look at black, white, and red objects; they need time to have one arm exposed out of swaddling to move, opportunities to  extend and stretch and to move their head and limbs.  This develops the muscles needed for sitting, crawling, and standing.
  4. Babies experience times of symmetry and asymmetry, but overall should be moving all limbs equally and shouldn’t have a preference to  looking or moving to only  one side.  There are some months, like two months of age, that are considered a stronger time of asymmetry developmentally due to such reflexes such as an Asymetric Tonic Neck Reflex (ATNR) and four months is typically a very symmetric time. Constant asymmetric movement patterns can be caused  by challenges with development.   Keep in touch with your baby’s health care team about your baby’s physical development. Here is a gross motor checklist from the Aussie Childcare Network
  5. Babies experience stress too!  There are stress signs that are a call to be held and soothed.  Babies do not self-soothe. They do not have a sense of self.  They have a sense of smell, they have a sense of taste and touch, they don’t see very well except breast/chest level to a parent’s face, and they need help in self-regulation. Breastfeeding meets these biological goals.  However, no baby should be left to just “cry it out.” Here is an editorial with medical references that talk about letting your baby cry.  The reality is that your baby may cry even if you are holding them, especially in cases of babies with reflux and other things going on, but don’t leave them to cry alone.  Get help so YOU feel supported as a parent, and then you can support your baby. A parent and a baby together are a team.  

There are many back posts about babies  on this blog – here are a few of my favorites:

40 Days After Birth and Beyond

Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

Postpartum Depression

When Babies Cry and What We Can All Learn from the High-Needs Baby

Discipline for 0-1 year old babies (hint: it involves being connected and attached to your infant!)  The main rule of guiding children, that starts at birth, is being responsive!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

7 ways of doing self-care +parenting

Maybe parents from previous generations wouldn’t understand this fuss about self-care.  I think generally people got married and had children earlier than parents are doing now. Maybe there was more support in juggling the home and the kids through extended family, which many of us don’t have these days.  I know when I was younger, I certainly didn’t really understand the fuss about self-care as well as I do now, and when I started parenting over seventeen years ago, it wasn’t even really a thing to talk about self-care.

Cue now.  Cue the late 40s.

Years of parenting and homeschooling still await.

Things are shifting.

Self-care is needed.

Now self-care seems absolutely vital to me; absolutely necessary; absolutely important. It is something important for me that benefits the whole family, despite whatever limitations may be in the way.

Maybe you are feeling this as well.  I think younger parents are much more in tune with this than we are.  However, at any stage, it can be easy to neglect in the shuffle and business of life, especially for homeschooling parents whose children and teens are with the family many (all) hours a day.  So, i put together 7 ways for doing self-care that might resonate with you or give you ideas for your own practice.

  1.  Find your attitude about self-care, and your find your discipline to follow through.  First you have to believe that self-care is necessary, and then you have to find a way to follow through on doing self-care no matter what personal obstacles are in your situation.  Maybe your significant other travles nonstop, and you homeschool three tiny children that you can’t just leave to run out and do appointments or even go for a heart-pounding run that doesn’t involve stopping to look every ten feet at some critter on the ground.  Instead of feeling defeated, how will you make this work?  Brainstorm ideas, and believe AND do.
  2. Keep the big health guidelines in mind.  One hundred fifty minutes of moderate areobic exercise  a week and  twice a week strength training is recommended for adults in the United States, there are recommendations for how often to see your doctor and dentist, there are even recommendations for number of hours you should sleep a night, and how many hours a day you should be on a screen.  That might be the bare minimum place you start.
  3. Rest and play.  Rest and play for adults may be one of the most overlooked areas of health. This one can be done with your children, with your significant other, with your friends or by yourself?  How do you rest and play? What does that look like for you?
  4.  Time in nature.  This is extremely important for decreasing stress, for setting healthy patterns in sleep, and for a myriad of health benefits, even down to the cellular level.  There is true research on this, and since many people spend a lot of time indoors, it may be worth it to schedule yourself some forest bathing time or time to be outside.
  5. Time in community.  Community is very important. It is something new mothers or new fathers  naturally often seek in the form of playgroups…and then as the children grow, as teens have more interests and they no longer want to get together with the same chidren they have been since playgroup days due to lack of common interests…it can become more difficult to see other adults that you are really and truly close to.  My recommendation is to go out to dinner or tea or meet at a park – just the adults.  When your children are teenagers, you can leave them and do this!  If you think you don’t need this, I would say you should try.  It reduces anxiety, having community has many health benefits,  it makes you feel connected, and when your children are off living their own lives, you are going to want some friends!
  6. Time alone.  It is important to have some time each day, each week, each month to just be alone without the children.  Many parents get so lost in their children and all the hustle and bustle that they often lose who they were.  Parenting will change you! You will be a different person than you were.  That is normal.  But losing complete connection with yourself, your goals,  your dreams, your functioning as a separate human being outside of being a parent is difficult.  It can take time to get those things back, and time alone to think or think and journal can be invaluable.
  7. Healthy food.  Healthy food, and not using food as a form of stress control or self-medication is really important. Parenting can start a whole cycle of eating while standing up, eating as quickly as possible,  not having time to cook.  Batch cooking healthy things for the week can be a really big help, as can gadgets such as a crock-pot or Instapot.  Finding healthy recipes and making them, not keeping junk  food in the house that really isn’t made up of food but instead chemicals and additives ( I call it “food-like” substances) in the house, is really important self-care, and it sets a great tone for the future generation living in your household.  I was at a continuing education course where the home health physical therapists were estimating over half of the patients they were seeing were obese, and had Type 2 diabetes, and didn’t hardly move during the day.  This isn’t where we want ourselves or the next generation to end up!

Share with me your favorite ways to self-care!

Blessings and love,

Carrie

The Top Way To Be A Great Parent

One of my very favorite sayings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is this one:

All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.

In my book, the top way to be a great parent is to model, show, tell, put our children in circumstances where they learn that we all affect each other and the planet.  We all need to rise up together, and to understand that some in the world are coming from very different cultural and life experiences that our own.  In this way, we raise human beings who are ready to love and serve each other and the world becomes more beautiful.  There will always be evil, there is no doubt.  There will always be selfishness and greed.  But the way we move forward is we train this next generation in love, in kindness, in generosity, in empathy, in humility.  The greatest education is not one of books and learning, although I probably love books and learning more than the average person, but one of character.

You might think, well, that sounds terrific, but how do I do that?  You might consider starting with yourself and the other adults in your home.  What are your wounded areas?  Do you see the world in this way; that we all affect each other?  Do you see the need to raise others up and to serve others?  What is your inner work surrounding these attitudes and these ideals – religious, spiritual, at home, outside the home- what is your practice?

How do you work as a team at home?  This is the first thing that children learn in the home- how to be loved and how to love, how to help, how to be respectful through good manners, how to live with others.  It is  about them learning how to be in the family and to be more than just themselves but instead part of a greater unit.  I have held great conversations around this theme over the years with attachment parents, and you can read some of my thoughts on past blog posts- how we can all be connected and meet the needs of our smallest children and yet also communicating that we as the people in the household all help, all serve, all work together, all have needs.

How do you help your child move into the community and society at large around them in a loving and kind way?  How do you expand that into the areas of your community and society that are underserved in the teen years and how do you also teach the beautiful boundaries of self-replenishment, self-love in order to make helping a sustainable practice for years to come?

Just a few thoughts on this day, 2019.  May we all live and love large and keep moving forward.

Blessings and love,

Carrie