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By Ashley Underwood, LCSW – Dec. 17, 2019

Imagine this scenario: you have a busy and stressful day at work and at the end of the day you get in your car and drive home. The next thing you know, you are parked in your driveway. You made it home, but you don’t remember the process of getting there; the stops, the turns, the motions. You get so used to the usual route home that little thought or focus has to go into the process of driving.

This is an example of being on autopilot. Many of us often live in this state, where actions and words are said and done without thought or focus. When we function on autopilot, we are more likely to say or do things that can be harmful to others.

Why does this impact how we parent our children?

Children need their parents to be the best versions of themselves, thinking through their responses rather than reacting to them. When parents act on autopilot they are not present in the moment and are more likely to react to children impulsively than responding to them with thought.

Some examples of parent reactions might be yelling, cursing, screaming, slamming things, etc. These types of reactions can create an atmosphere of stress between children and parents, as children often feel attacked for things they do. Responding to children requires us to be aware of what is happening, what we are thinking and what we are feeling. That is difficult to do when we are on autopilot.

How can we decrease reacting and increase responding to our children?

One tool that can reduce living on autopilot and increase being more present in the moment is mindful awareness. When being mindfully aware of what is happening in the moment and what we are thinking and feeling in the moment, we are more likely to provide our children with responses rather than reactions.

This also helps model the type of behavior we want from our children. We want them to think through their choices and pick the best one before acting impulsively. The stress of everyday life can make it difficult to live in the moment though, which is why practicing mindful awareness daily is key for mastering this tool.

What are ways to practice mindful awareness?

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn (the founder of mindfulness-based stress reduction practice), “mindfulness or mindful awareness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”  This awareness can be practiced in a variety of daily activities including eating, showering, walking, brushing your teeth, etc.

The key to it though is rather than just going through the motions of these activities – we are paying attention to our senses (what we see, taste, feel, hear, and smell) and we are describing those things without judgments, only the facts. Mindful awareness can also be practiced through meditation, yoga, tai-chi, dance, music, and so much more.

For a more extensive list of mindfulness activities please visit https://www.rachaelkable.com/blog/50-easy-and-fun-ways-to-practice-mindfulness.

By Jana Pritchett, Communications Manager – December 17, 2018

Christmas is almost here, and kids everywhere are hoping to be on Santa’s good list.  Interactive toys like the Nintendo Switch and Hatchimals are on many kids’ lists, as are classics like Legos, Play-Doh 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.
  1. 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. 
  1. 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.”

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

By Jordan Beach, LSW, Oct 31, 2018 –

Before having children I seriously undervalued the saying, “It takes a village.”  I had serious doubts that someone else could possibly know what was best for my child.

Once that baby came home, however, it became increasingly clear at an alarmingly fast rate that raising this child was going to take a team effort.  As a mom I want to believe that I can singlehandedly handle all of the stressors that are thrown my way. But truthfully it does take a village, and finding your village early is important.

American society sometimes gives fathers a bad reputation, like they are incompetent or don’t know what is best for their babies, but that is simply not true.  Most dads are capable and willing to play an essential role in caring for their children.

Actually, when both parents are involved in the child’s life and sharing the load it is best for everyone involved.

As an infant this helps the child form a healthy attachment to both parents. As the child gets older it allows them to see the strength of their team and understand the importance of their support system.

It’s especially important for parents to communicate early about what beliefs and morals they want to instill in their child. It is also important to decide on a discipline style when your child is still very young.

As your child gets older and starts to challenge the rules parents have laid out, the parents will find more success in changing negative behavior if they share a discipline approach. It’s especially important not to undermine the discipline techniques or strategies of the other parent in front of the child. This gives the impression the child does not need to take discipline from one parent as seriously as the other.

If we’re being honest, it takes more than just the parents to raise a child. It is important to have outside support. Sometimes this will look like extended family or friends.

The role that these people will play in your child’s life is also important. This extended support network can offer you relief as a parent, and they may also have the opportunity to teach your child things that you may not be able to.

As your child grows, so does their village. Often times we underestimate the impact of daycare workers and teachers as part of our village, but these are people who are helping shape the daily lives of our children. Outside of educating our children, they’re also teaching them empathy, teamwork and showing them copious amounts of love while you’re away.

Truthfully, you can never have enough positive role models for your children. It’s good to be picky about the people you surround your child with, but know that allowing more people into their lives allows them to feel more love. It gives them more opportunities to grow and allows you to take a step back and be grateful for the support and love in your own life.