4 Things Your Early Teen Needs

Early teens, which is what I like to call teens that are ages 13-15, are going through such a variety of developmental changes that parents can really help, guide, and encourage.  Here are four incredible ways you can help your early teen:

Tell biographies and keep offering up great adult role models.   In the past, the years of 13 o 15 was not such a fragile time because the child was so deeply embedded in the family and community with markers of passage into being a young adult.  We have now lost many of the markers of passage into the teenaged years and we have at the same time lost so much of the close-knit community and extended generations we used to have so a child knew how to integrate into being a young adult.  So, how we meet the child’s need for integration now can come in the form of biography.  Young teens will identify with hearing that they are not the only ones who are struggling; they will carry pictures of others  who struggled mightily and were brave and who succeeded and offered something to the world.

Help them LET GO.  Thirteen to fifteen year olds often rely on half-facts, undigested information and knee-jerk reactions.  They often have strong opinions for or against something but even if their idea or opinion is obviously faulty, they cannot seem to let go of it!  Help them know it is okay to let go their judgment or opinion and make space for a new idea or opinion.

Help them harmonize.  There are a lot of things that feel “off” to early teens in their physical bodies and emotional states in these years.  The task is to harmonize things, and the “self” that should help a child control his or her will, such as being able not to eat too much or  not play video games compulsively is just not able to do so yet.  Offer up healthy boundaries and new challenges that lead the child into being part of the world, not being alienated and separate.



Offer an expanded world. Sometimes early teens get very narrow views of what they will or won’t do, what they do or don’t like, how they want to spend their time.  It is up to us, the parents, to stimulate a broader and bigger picture than what the teen is seeing sometimes. We should help our teen take an interest in the world.  For those of you that are into Waldorf Education, Steiner spoke quite a bit about this.

How do you help in balance with your early teen?



Finding Your Mothering Voice

In a sea of information overload, how do we find our own voices as mothers and human beings?  I was contemplating this article by Stephen Covey and the creation of voice.  He speaks about what “voice” is, and what this could mean in an organizational context. However, I was pondering this question  more in relation to parenting and mothering.

First of all,  there has to be a period of listening intuitively to oneself without a lot of input. In general, this seems to be non- existent for many people simply because it is so easy to just fire off a question in a chatroom or on Facebook and get quick and easy input from many people.  However, I think it is so important to be able to find one’s own center.   How do I *really* feel about this decision that has to be made, how this situation unfolded, about my reaction to this situation?   When we apply this over years of parenting, we often need periods of silence and “away” when our children are leaping through large developmental changes and we feel as if the sand is shifting under out feet.  Then we learn over time what our voice really has to say.  We learn to know ourselves.

The events leading up to single decisions often take at least a few nights to settle, to hear what one’s gut really says, and then perhaps to get input from your trusted partner or a trusted friend.   Time also applies over years though – it can take years of experiences to really form your  general mothering style and voice and priorities.  It takes time, error, sometimes mistakes and unpleasant experiences and is constantly being refined.  That is parenting in the real world.

It is so easy in the beginning of mothering or every time your child changes developmentally to want to do what everyone else is doing.  I mean,  after all, in the superficial world, it often looks as if it is working out grandly due to XYZ choice(s).  Look at all those beautiful blogs of beautiful lives and perfect children.  However, people only put what they want people to see on the Internet.  Remember that everyone has triumphs and struggles and some people are more private than others.  Only you know your partner, your child, your family dynamics.  Don’t be afraid to be different!

Make sure  your decisions are aligned with your values.  If you have a mission statement of any kind, that can be a great place to check out your decision against your values.

Finally, take the action with decisions that clearly align your life with your values. This is what shows your voice more clearly than any words ever could.  It shows what you believe.

Please share with me about finding your parenting voice.




Transforming Post-Partum Stress Into Joy

I wrote a post  a long time ago based upon my experience as a physical therapist in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit that consistently is one of the top posts ever on this blog.  It really was meant for those parents with premature infants or infants who were neurologically immature to be able to look for stress signs and help their infant with soothing and calming techniques.  However, that post ended up turning into something more than that….and I think this there is a reason.

What I have noticed in leading breastfeeding support meetings over the last 11 and a half years is that mothers today are almost like these infants –  they are not only new,  but super vulnerable, and feeling so stressed about trying to mother.  They are so afraid of making a mistake, and seem almost paralyzed by normal infant behaviors.

Mothers, have confidence in yourself.  YOU are the expert on your baby. Yes, it is probably harder than you thought it was going to be.  It might now be as intuitive as we thought, because many of us use more analysis and fact.   I think there are several reasons for this stressful, anxious ridden beginning that many parents today seem to be experiencing –

  1.  Many times we are afraid to ask for help, so we don’t and just try to tough it out.  If we do decide to ask for help, we turn to the Internet.  We don’t necessarily want to do things the way our parents or grandparents did so we don’t ask them, but when we turn to the Internet, we often get  100 different answers/choices/experiences on any given topic, which is confusing.
  2. This leads to decision-making fatigue.  How do we know which one of the answers/choices/experiences is the RIGHT answer?  We might be messing these poor babies up FOREVER.
  3. The stakes seem to be too high to make a mistake.
  4. We are exhausted.  No one told us it would be like this.  We don’t have a lot of support,  we have too many decisions to make,  and we can’t decide what the answers to these topics or infant behaviors are, and it seems too mystical.

It is so hard.  Parenting is often about trying things and learning to let go, making the wrong choice and having to make it right, or discovering that the things that worry us so were just not that big an issue after all.  And I fear sometimes that as a society we are wearing ourselves out on these small things, and we therefore have less energy for the really big things that  matter and happen as children grow and go through developmental stages.

I think finding people in real-life who can help you – whether that person is the grandma down the street in your neighborhood, a caring health care professional, a support group,  or friends you really trust – can  be helpful.  Staying off the Internet can also be helpful – it will give you a lot less decision fatigue.  See if you can figure out what is going on, what YOU think,  before you turn to the Internet and look it up.  Find some trusted resources.  I think when we had our first child, we wore the pages of Dr. Sears’ “The Baby Book” right out.  It was my reassurance because even though I worked with a lot of infants and very sick infants, this baby who was not on a monitor and did full-term baby things was challenging!  And that brings me to my last point: before you have children, it would great to spend some actual time with babies and toddlers.  If you didn’t grow up in a large family or babysitting frequently, you may not really know the normal things that babies and toddlers do.  Pregnant mothers are welcome at many support meetings and that can be a good place to start!

Let’s stop the epidemic of anxious stress that pervades our parenting beginnings.  Let’s take it back down to enjoying the beginning of the newest life in the family.

Much love,

Keeping The Slow Summer for Younger Teens

There seems to be a persistent epidemic of bored teen this summer where I live. Our county is half suburban/half rural and the bored teens seem to be mainly girls who are aged 13 – 15.  I guess part of this is that most of them don’t have summer jobs yet, they cannot drive in an area that requires driving to get around, and most of them complain that their friends don’t necessarily live near them.  Not everyone has money for summer camps all summer and many families view summer camps as the antithesis to having a slow summer.

My husband and I had this conversation this morning about what we did over the summer when we were 13 or 14 years old.  Here is how it went:

My Husband:  We were bored too.  Don’t you remember that?

Me: Yes, we were bored and super hot and got eaten alive by giant mosquitos.  We all sat on the curb in a group because none of the mothers would let us back in the house.  They said we could drink from the hose.

My husband:  Yah, I have no idea what my parents did all day.  We would take our bikes, go to the pool, ride around and fish. No one knew exactly where we were.

Me: Yup.  I think I biked probably 10 miles a day around this huge lake that was far away.  No one knew exactly where we were, just that we were out in the neighborhood somewhere.  But here is the difference..there was a group of us… friends…these kids have no friends to be with… .

So, when there are no friends in your neighborhood , no pool with a lifeguard that you can just bike to and hang out at without your parents, things do get a little  complicated.  And what often happens then with nothing to do and lots of heat…screen time slips in for the 13 to 15 year old.  The modern solution to being bored.

So, here are a few things I have been pondering:

  • Give up the notion of “creating bigger and better magic” for your teens.  Pool, lake, maybe some camping…it doesn’t have to be this incredibly elaborate thing that you have to try to top every year!  Go for simple, slow, together.   Slow and simple can be magical, and I think we often have this mixed up and feel “bigger and better” equates to “more magic”.
  • Children under 13, especially those 10-13:  Care a lot less that they are “bored”.  They will find something to do.  I had two children under the age of 13  take naps yesterday.  I didn’t know if they were coming down with something, growing, daydreaming, completely bored and didn’t know what else to do…and I didn’t really care beyond the “might be getting sick” part.  They will find something to do, so long as you don’t give into screens and media.  If you do that, then they will NEVER find anything to do and they will follow you around asking for screens and media because they are “so bored”.
  • Make sure you have a small semblance of a rhythm. When our children are young, it is easy to continue circle time and a working rhythm right through the summer months.  With older children, this can get trickier I think.  The teens want/ think that they are on “vacation” and they would like something a little different than the usual school year rhythm. This may come up especially with homeschooling and wanting to differentiate seasons.  So, a small movement that includes daily tasks, a walk, maybe some handwork and reading aloud or discussing things together, the lake or pool – this small skeleton of a structure is all still really important!  Some parents of teens I know tell their teens they HAVE to be up at 9 or 9:30 (if their teen is the type to want to sleep until noon) because otherwise it gets really difficult with going to bed at midnight and getting up at 11 or noon, and the whole day is gone.  Some parents are fine with that, other parents become frustrated.  Figure out where you lie within those parameters.  Our teen still gets up early and goes to bed fairly early, but our whole family is like that, so maybe that is why.
  • If there really are no children around you, of course you can set up a rhythm of when to get together with friends.  I don’t think that should be the focus though, although it is important for teens and developmentally normal for teens to enjoy some close friends. However, I think the focus should be FAMILY.  What are activities you can do as a family?  What can siblings do together without your presence?  What if you have an only teen child – what is the balance there of being home and being out or having friends over all the time?
  • Could you have fun family nights (or whole days?) There are so many ideas on Pinterest for this!  Another idea that I like, which I think works great for teen girls with not a lot of interests is to go to the library and learn about a new topic. Say something about it at dinner.  Investigate!
  • Nature Time – this is, of course, the easiest way to satisfy everyone of varying ages and give mama some time to breathe with older children.  Swimming at the pool or lake, camping at a lake or other body of water. National Park programs.  Things to explore and do.  Delicious!
  • Sometimes mama has to get some work done too, though and can’t “go” all the time. I find it ironic that I have the most work to do homeschool planning these upper grades and high school (more time, more intensity, no resources that are laid out in any way!) but the older children and teens aren’t always content…So empower teens to make their own fun!  A teen can still enjoy a slip and slide, craft kits, handwork, science kits for teens, etc….and yes, work around this house too.  Yes, this may be something you will need to put in a yearly budget – buying some new things for summer for inquiry and investigation.  For work, cleaning out a garage or pantry, deep cleaning, organizing are all things a teen can do.  Cooking is another great skill to practice in summer and teens often don’t need much help other than the recipe or the encouragement to create their own recipe if they are adept in the kitchen.
  • See what jobs might be available for your teen that they could walk to or bike to   – being a mother’s helper, babysitting, pet sitting, mowing lawns, washing cars.  Any of those can be helpful to your neighbors and your teen!
  • Keep your STRONG limits on media, screens, texting.  Most teens are communicating by text, usually group text, in order to arrange getting together.  (Which can also be a little funny to me since these younger teens can’t drive so still it boils down to the parent!)  However, the phone can be docked in a public place most of the time.  The access to the phone can be limited with parental controls. Same thing with a computer.
  • Your self-care time is important!   Just because it is summer doesn’t mean your self-care should stop!  If you look at your week and all it is is driving your children places and arranging activities, balance is always good.  You and your partner count!

Keep your summer slow and family-oriented!

Tell me how you juggle things for your teens!






Calm You With My Love

I always thought that was one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language.  It takes so much practice to do this in the moment when emotions are running high or the situation is upsetting.  But it is so worthy of practice.

Raging toddler, I will calm you with my love.

Melty preschooler, I will calm you with my love.

Upset  school aged child, I will calm you with my love.

Anxious and sad teenager, I will calm you with my love.

Part of our practice as parents can be to step back, to step outside of ourselves,  and to think how do we calm with our love.

What words would that be?

What gestures would we use to show this?

Who calms us with their love so we can carry on?

Blessings and love,


Depletion and Hibernation

Today is Candlemas, also known to some as Groundhog Day.   I often think of that little groundhog this time of year, venturing out to see if winter will continue for another six weeks.  It made me think of the periods of winter in my life and how sometimes I felt ready to venture out of the hibernation hole to test the waters, and how sometimes I decided I needed longer in my hibernation hole or, conversely,  that yes indeed, now was the time to seize the day!

Have you ever gone through periods where you just felt so….shy? inward? … depleted?  like you needed a break from other mothers in real life or beautiful blog pictures that make you feel unworthy as a mother?  Periods where you needed a break even from extended family?  So much judging goes around mothering in our culture.  We are all like little isolated islands without much in the way of support so what should be a cooperative endeavor ends up as a competitive event! Sometimes we just need a break from anything outside of our families and our homes because we are plain burned out.  Have you ever been pulled that way and honored it for a season?

A little hibernation and shutting out of the outside world can be a way to lie fallow for awhile.  Pulling in allows a little of the pressure to slide off, a little pace of slowing down, and a release of not having to put oneself “out there” for anything but the most supportive listening of the closest and most intimate of family members or friends.

We are coming up to Lent soon.  Perhaps during this Lenten season, you will take the time to pull in and hibernate, but not due to any outside pressure or insecurity.  Perhaps this time you will pull in and take this time to restore yourself.

Restore your confidence.

Restore your feelings that you worthy of love.

Restore your feelings that you matter.

Restore your feelings that you are just right the way you are.  If you want to improve or change something do it  because you feel illuminated and led to, not from any feelings of unworthiness or shame or guilt.

Restore your physical health.  Sleeping enough, exercising, eating healthy food, taking care of yourself are all things to be done so you can be a light for your family.  And your children notice.  You are modeling for them how to slow down, how to get enough rest and how to be healthy.  It is worthy.

Restore your positive attitude.  Life should be joyful; there should be joy in ordinary moments.

Restore your sense of fun!

Restore your faith in something much, much bigger, wider and deeper than yourself.  Where do you find light?  Seek out your light.

Restore your sense of love, compassion, empathy.

Restore your sense of the big picture.

Restore your vision, mission and priorities.

Don’t be afraid to hibernate, but do it to restore, renew, refresh yourself.  I will be hibernating with you, and refreshing myself and my deepest intentions and priorities.  Please share your hibernation journey with me.  What has helped you restore the most in your moments of hibernation? What helped you come out of your shell again?   What did you learn in the fallow periods?




Extreme Self-Care for the Homeschooling Mom: Join Me!

Have you ever felt resentful that you are always at the bottom of the list, trying to figure out when to exercise or go buy a bra or squeeze in a dentist appointment?   Me too!   Homeschooling is HARD work at times.  Especially as children get older and you are trying to meet academic needs that are more demanding, more social needs and extra activities.  You may end up feeling pulled from early in the morning until later in the evening after you get home from whatever activity was going on.  This happens, even in Waldorf families, especially when we are homeschooling teenagers.

I recently got to spend some days alone.   Our dog just came out of the ICU.  She was too sick to travel and needed rest and quiet at home to recover,  but we also had our once a year vacation plans that were paid for and we couldn’t get a refund.  So, my husband and I decided that he would take the children for the vacation and I stayed home with our sweet dog.  The wonderful thing was that she wasn’t so sick that I couldn’t run out for an hour or so and come back. (And thank goodness,  because there was nothing worse than seeing her so sick! So grateful she is feeling better even if she has a road ahead!)  So I went to the gym AND also walked on the SAME day!  I cleaned out closets and the pantry and the garage.  I did much of the paperwork kind of stuff that I almost never have time to call about and follow up on (or I have to miss time homeschooling in order to do that!)  I also went through things for homeschooling, including looking at things for high school next year,  that I probably would never had  time to do if I wasn’t alone!  I did all kinds of things that were so much easier in solitude.

And here is what I thought about this week:  we, as homeschooling mothers, often do put ourselves last. We really do very often.  We may go straight from one child to the next with homeschooling to meal preparation to activities for children to housework with no break at all until in the night after the children go to sleep.  And then we are tired! Teaching all day is tiring!  Many times this pace is a necessity in homeschooling. IAs people say, it really is just a season, but it can be a long season when you are in it.   So short of giving up homeschooling,which most of us are  not going to give up for varying reasons, what can we do for self care in the meantime?

Here is my list; maybe it will inspire you to make  your own list and share it here! Here is mine:

  • Make sure you have scheduled time every day to exercise.  Yes, that might be at 6:30 in the morning or 8 at night, but if that is what it is , then so be it!  I will be thinking of you at 6:30 AM.   It is NOT selfish to take care of your health and according to nearly every research study out there, exercise is a major key to good health!  Take charge of your health and exercise.  It is really important!
  • Make and keep your doctor and dentist appointments; make and keep appointments for things that nourish you and make you feel fabulous – whether that is finally getting some new clothes (even if they are thrift store clothes, they are still new to you!) or having a date with a friend..whatever that nourishing thing is outside your family, put it on your calendar, arrange someone to watch your children and go do that!
  • Be the meal prepper – but not just for the family, but for your too.  If you Meal Prep Monday, you can have meals for the whole week for you.  This is especially important if you need a diet that is different in some ways from your family’s diet.  I like Amanda’s  Instagram account   to follow for healthy meal prepping,  and I like divided containers or mason jars to put healthy food in when I prep food.  Planning out things like breakfast and lunch for the whole family has also helped me immensely. I generally always have a plan for dinner, but everyone was getting tired of the standard fare for breakfast and lunch, including me.  Take your time and think ahead for meals; can you cook in bulk or use a crockpot? 
  • Don’t let your passions die.  You are more than a mother and  a partner or spouse. You are the unique and wonderful you!  Is there any time, once a week, where the children could all GO and you could be alone?  This isn’t always possible with traveling partners and family far away or partners who work long hours, but then could you cultivate a mother’s helper, a babysitter,  a friend to trade with?  You are so worth this!  If your children are very small, under the age of seven, again,  this may be very difficult, so don’t  torture yourself over it, but do start making strides when children are five and six toward having some time to yourself for doing your passion – whether that is painting or hiking or reading or music.  I think it is important to make that effort.
  • Get organized – yes, use your calendar,  and set boundaries on your time.  You cannot do it all, and the more you run from morning until night, the more it will eventually lead to burn-out.   Steady pace counts for a lot in life.
  • Get your house in order.  Things are naturally going to be more chaotic with more people in the house and things will have to be “over-hauled” perhaps more often than you think..for example, I cleaned out all the dressers, drawers, storage areas over the summer and it needed to be done again.  Things pile up and especially with the change in seasons,  they need to be gone through again.  Or maybe you could use Flylady where you really clean out clutter each week!  Getting rid of the clutter makes it much simpler to clean!
  • If you feel nourished, calm, healthy …well, then you feel great!  You feel sexy! And that is such a great boost to those of us with partners or spouses in the house. Smile  

I guess most of all, what I have been thinking is to set your priorities and boundaries! We all only have 24 hours in a day, but if nearly all of those hours are devoted to our children’s schooling and activities and we can’t even get a twice a year dentist appointment in, for example, something is wrong.  We want to invest our time in our children and families, but we also really need to invest in our own health and well-being. This is about being a great model for our children when it comes to health and sanity.  Also, when we feel physically good and emotionally nurtured, everyone in the family benefits!

Please share your best ideas for self-care in the comment box.