Yoga on sand

By Nichole White, Courier & Press, Dec. 22, 2015 –

We live in a busy and demanding world, where it seems like everyday responsibilities and stress are always increasing. Stressors such as working, raising children, caring for elder parents, going to school — not to mention life-changing events such as moving, marrying and divorcing — can definitely take a toll on us.

To help balance life demands and maintain health, we need to practice self care. Self care is defined as “a necessary human function which is purposeful, learned, and continuous.” Therefore, it is important to be in charge of your own self care and essential that it is part of your routine.

I did not really understand the importance of self care until I had my children. I loved being a parent, but it also brought on feelings and stress I had not experienced before.

To help manage my stress, I took up running and training for my first half-marathon. I always joked with my family and friends that I would run 13.1 miles for some peace and quiet!

I also focused on my friendships and building new relationships. I made a point to schedule girls’ nights with my friends, and I started a new hobby with Thirty-One Gifts Inc., which allowed me to get out of the house and meet new people.

How do you know if you need self care? Well, everyone does!

Here are some signs that you may need to focus more on self care:

  • Sleep deprivation
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Irritability
  • High blood pressure
  • Constantly being sick
  • Obesity
  • Trouble concentrating and poor performance at work/school
  • No alone time

If you have ever said, “I don’t have any time for myself,” then you are also in need of self care. It is important to spend time alone. It gives your brain a chance to recharge, and resting mind and body is essential for dealing with stress.

So what does self care look like? It’s doing what you love and enjoy.

The 10 most important steps in self-care are:

1. Get plenty of sleep.
2. Eat foods high in nutrition.
3. Exercise. Exercise releases the chemical serotonin in your brain, which influences your mood. Exercise at least 3 hours a week.
4. Seek social support. Spend time with friends or increase your social network by joining clubs.
5. Make time for hobbies. Do what you love, whether it is reading, yoga, gardening, playing sports, drawing, fishing, etc.
6. Pamper yourself. Treat yourself to a massage, pedicure or bubble bath.
7. Stay mentally sharp. See stress as a challenge and not a threat. Stay alert by playing games that challenge your thinking and reasoning skills.
8. Have the right attitude. Be positive and optimistic. See the good in the challenge.
9. Process emotions. Feelings are messages telling you that something is not right. Spend time alone reflecting on what you are feeling.
10. Practice spirituality. This can include prayer and meditation.

As writer and self-growth pioneer Jennifer Louden has said, “Self care is not selfish or self-indulgent. We cannot nurture others from a dry well. We need to take care of our own needs first, and then we can give from our surplus, our abundance.”

Christmas kids

By Jana Pritchett, Courier & Press, Dec. 15, 2015 –

Christmas is almost here, and kids everywhere are hoping to be on Santa’s good list. Interactive toys such as the Fisher Price BeatBo and the Minions Dancing Stuart are on many kids’ lists as are classics such as Star Wars figurines, Lite Brite and Barbie.

We all hope to give our children the presents they want, but what do our kids really need from adults this holiday season? What gifts can mom, dad or grandparents provide to help them become happy, healthy, successful adults?

Here is my list of the essentials:

1. Security and stability. Kids need the basics — food, shelter, clothing, medical care and protection. In addition, a stable home and family environment make them feel safe, and being part of a family gives them a sense of belonging.

2. Full attention. Be present. Turn off your phone, the TV and all gadgets and listen to them, especially at meal times and bedtime. Removing distractions lets them know they’re special and there’s no need to compete for your attention.

3. Time. Spend quality family time together. Take the whole family to pick out a Christmas tree or to see a ballgame or holiday concert. Take each child on mom and dad “dates” to create special memories and boost their self-esteem, especially if they’re used to sharing parent time with siblings. Spending quality time together encourages deeper conversations and strengthens the bonds between parent and child.

4. Love. Saying and showing your kids you love them can help overcome just about any parenting “mistake” you might make. Even when your kids have disappointed, frustrated, angered or disobeyed you, they must know you will always love them.

5. Affection. Don’t wait for your children to come to you for hugs. Regular physical affection helps strengthen and maintain your emotional connection with kids of any age. When that bond is strong, kids act out less often and know they can come to you for support.

6. Emotional support. Through good and bad times, kids must know you are there for them. According to Dr. Harley Rotbart of Children’s Hospital Colorado, “Parents’ words and actions should facilitate kids’ trust, respect, self-esteem and ultimately, independence.”

7. Consistency. Parents need to work together to enforce rules. Important values should not be compromised for the sake of convenience or because the kids have worn you down. If parents are no longer married, mom and dad should still try to communicate and work together whenever possible to maintain consistency.

8. Positive role models. Parents are their kids’ first and most important role models. Kids see plenty of bad behavior in the media. Be the kind of person you want them to become and don’t just give “lip service” to good behavior.

9. Education. Give your kids the best possible shot for their future by stressing the importance of education. Providing guidance and teaching them life lessons during the time you spend together is also important.

Spending quality time with your kids is the best solution for just about any parenting dilemma. This holiday season and in the New Year, don’t stop with what’s on your child’s wish list. Give them what they really need — the gift of being the best parent you can be.

Thank you note

By Ali Langen, Courier & Press, Dec. 8, 2015 – “Count your blessings” is a phrase we hear often, especially around the holidays. But other than when we’re sitting at the table eating our Thanksgiving turkey, how often do we stop to appreciate everything we have been blessed with? When was the last time you paused to acknowledge the many things you are grateful for?

Research has shown that encouraging our children to be grateful has powerful results. According to a 2007 study published in the Journal of School Psychology, results indicated that “counting blessings was associated with enhanced self-reported gratitude, optimism, life satisfaction and decreased negative affect.”

In today’s culture, we are constantly on the go and have little time to stop and count our blessings. We often find the time, however, to come up with something we want and do not have. As a parent, I’ve often wondered how I can encourage my children to value what they do have rather than wishing for something that they don’t.

Here are some tips that may help encourage an attitude of gratitude in your children:

1. Say “please” and “thank you.” This is something my family does already, but I’ve put it on my list because it is so important. You have to show respect to be respected. If I don’t lead by example, how can I expect my children to learn these habits? Kids mimic actions they see every day. Let’s be sure they are imitating positive actions.

2. It’s OK to say “no.” Sometimes it’s easier on the parents to say “yes” and give the child whatever they want. What are children learning if they expect parents to say “yes” every time? Children need to learn that life doesn’t always go their way and appreciate the times that we do say “yes.”

3. Provide opportunities for children to earn things they want — but not always in exchange for gifts or money. It’s almost expected that kids earn allowances or gifts for completing chores or accomplishing goals. In life, not all positive actions or accomplishments are rewarded with physical items. Acknowledging accomplishments with positive reinforcement, quality time and occasional gifts will prevent kids from expecting big rewards every time.

4. Give back. Giving financially to a charity or volunteering allows kids to learn about those who are less fortunate. Serving others will help your children see the gratitude others experience for an act of kindness. Those experiences will have a lasting impression.

5. Educate your children about developing countries. It’s important for kids to learn about the world around them. Living in a country where we have many freedoms, opportunities and security is a huge blessing. Find age-appropriate sources of information to share with your kids.

6. Incorporate acknowledgment of gratitude into your routine. Rather than waiting once a year to count your blessings, take time once a week to share with your family what you are thankful for. Help your children acknowledge the little things that we may sometimes take for granted.

Developing and cultivating gratitude in our daily routines will have a lasting effect on ourselves, our children and others around us. This holiday season, take time to count your blessings and also develop a routine to recognize your gratitude often.

Kid flying kite

By Steve Holzmeyer, Courier & Press, Dec. 1, 2015 –

I enjoy listening to an old song by Billy Dean called “Billy the Kid.” It’s a wistful look back at Billy’s childhood, roaming the neighborhood dressed as a cowboy looking for “bad guys.”

One of my favorite lines from the song is, “Being late for supper was my only fear.” The song paints a picture of a carefree and happy youngster.

A large portion of my boyhood summers were spent exploring the small towns of Tell City, Ft. Branch and Haubstadt. Like Billy, my imagination would soar as I wandered around searching for adventure. Adult worries and stresses were far away.

I was involved in a few organized activities, but for the most part, I was free to create my own little world. As a result of this freedom I developed a vivid imagination. Having the freedom to daydream was a valuable gift. Even as an adult, I am still able to dream about possibilities or lose myself inside the covers of a good book.

These days life is hectic and childhood fears are more serious than Billy’s fear of being late for supper. A key source of these increased anxieties has given birth to the term “Superkid.” Rae Pica writes, “In short, a Superkid is a child pressured by parents and by society in general to do too much too soon.”

In an article called “Overscheduled Kids,” Pica quotes Johann Christoph Arnold: “The pressure to excel is undermining childhood as never before. Why are we so keen to mold children into successful adults, instead of treasuring their genuineness and carefree innocence?”

Parents don’t entirely deserve the blame for this. Peer pressure often drives a child to desire this frenzy of activity. They push themselves, not wanting to be left out or left behind. The result is that many children today are too busy and simply lack the time to “just be kids.”

Now it is certainly true that organized activities such as sports can have a positive impact on children. Kids learn to work with others, develop communication skills, and are taught how to succeed or fail graciously.

There are certainly many benefits from getting your child involved — up to a point. But when this involvement begins to produce negative effects such as excessive anxiety or trouble performing in school, it may be time to pull back a bit.

Author Chuck Swindoll offers a well-known verse in discussing this issue: “There is an appointed time for everything.” This includes a time for shouldering worries and responsibilities that should be postponed until adulthood arrives. Chuck suggests that we ease the pace of our children’s lives and allow them to grow up more slowly and carefully.

Great achievements often come from the ability to imagine or dream about what could be. That takes more freedom than today’s “Superkids” have available. How about some time to just do nothing?

As we enter the Christmas season, I encourage parents to consider giving your child the gift of time — precious free time — along with some encouragement to daydream a bit. It may greatly benefit their future.