Recently I had an opportunity to speak with Jed Doherty, host of "We Choose Respect!!!" Parenting Podcast. Jed is a social worker who has created an amazing career by developing ground-breaking educational assemblies that teach kids to respect themselves and others. And, he does magic tricks. Very cool stuff. You can learn more here: http://wordpress.jedlie.com/
I was excited to have an opportunity to talk with Jed and our conversation touched on many aspects of Conscious Parenting including the importance of parents findings joy in their children. Use the link below to download the PodCast and read on for some more of my thoughts on Joy in Parenting.
Joy in parenting...it sounds so lovely. It makes me think of my kids when they were infants. Actually, when they were peacefully sleeping infants with rosy cheeks and adorable PJs. Or when they took their first toddling steps, or tried their first bite of something delicious. Everything was new and they were precious. Trust me, I don't have complete amnesia. Seriously, I think I went without sleeping through the night for seven years and often times those cute PJs were decorated with remnants from snack-time. That said, it does seem that babies are joy machines. Even with colic and teething and all sorts of challenges, their eyes are so big and they smell so wonderful (most of the time). It's hard not to fall in love with your baby.
In reality, babies come into the world hard-wired to tap into our emotions and urge us to love them and care for them. So, Mother Nature clearly had her hand in this and it definitely helps get things off to a nice start when adjusting to the role of parent-hood. But flash forward several years and for some families lots of that joy and mushy, gushy, delish emotion is much less abundant. At times, it may even be absent.
As children develop more of their own ideas and the legs and voice to actually act on them, things definitely change. Lots is for the better as independence increases, but there are often more conflicts as "little" opinions and wants and needs compete to be heard (perhaps in a lovely whining voice or on a never-ending repetitive loop?). Add this dynamic to a life already full to the brim with errands, lessons, deadlines, meals, and carpools and things can really look bleak.
Often times when I find myself in a bit of a parenting slump I try to think back to those moments when my kiddos were brand new to this world. I try to remember how I was filled with the kind of love I could feel way down to my bones just from seeing their eyes light up when they smiled or hearing them sing when they didn't know I was listening. I dig deep and try to hold onto that connection and remind myself those are the same eyes I look into now (even if they are telling me repeatedly how it's my fault their homework is hopelessly impossible or asking for the 19th time if they can use the computer). I try to fall in love with them again by remembering how things started and that truly allows me to better appreciate all the amazing things about them right now.
It's definitely a process, but I think it's a good first step in rediscovering joy in parenting. Check out the PodCast for more on Joy in Parenting.
Sleep is pretty important. I don’t think I need to belabor this point because any parent I’ve ever spoken with seems to have a deep appreciation for how lack of sleep impacts their children (and themselves!). That being said, I will give a quick “cheat sheet” so everyone can brush up on just how many hours of zzz’s is recommended based on age. In February of 2015, the National Sleep Foundation shared an updated set of guidelines for sleep, which is outlined below:
· Newborns (through 3 months of age) 14-17 hours (lucky babies!)
· Older infants (through 11 months) 12-15 hours
· Toddlers (1-2 years) 11-14 hours
· Preschoolers (3-5 years) 10-13 hours
· School age children (6-13 years) 9-11 hours
· Teenagers (14-17 years) 8-10 hours
· Ages 18+ 7-9 hours
Obviously, nothing is written in stone. However, I think it’s important to look at these numbers in print to see how close your kids are to the suggested ranges. If they are pretty close and generally doing well, I’m not sure you need to turn your house upside down to gain an extra 10-15 minutes per day. But, if there is a gap of an hour or more, it definitely makes sense to create a plan for more pillow time. At the very least, with new school schedules and routines, doing a quick calculation to see what “bedtimes” and alarm clock settings will keep your kids in the suggested range is worthwhile.
If you do find that your children may be in need of more rest, pace yourself. Instead of setting the expectation that bedtime will now move from 9:45 to 8:30, start with a 15-minute shift. Establish that for a week or so and then make another 15-minute adjustment. Continue with that cycle until the desired number of hours per night is achieved. If you are working on the other end of the sleep-wake cycle and are trying to urge your little ones to stay asleep for longer in the morning, ensure that you have shades to block out early daylight and make efforts to adjust household routines that may be rousing early birds before they are really ready to jump into their day.
Another thing to keep in mind is limiting electronics/screens before bed. From all that I have read, giving the brain at least one full hour to recover after screen time can assist with sleep. I am a fan of a bigger break if possible…but I also understand the practicality of older students sometimes needing to use their computers to finish schoolwork. So, aim for an hour of screen-free time before bed and consider more a bonus.
I also find that most families benefit from a central location for all phones, iPads, iWhatevers (please excuse my lack of proficiency with all tech devices! Fell free to insert whatever products might be lighting up your house in the evening). This way, at a certain time everyone knows they park their devices there for the night and reclaim them the next day. If parents can play by the same rules, it is a huge score for the entire family. Even as our children grow up they always have their eyes on us and we are constantly in a position to set an example. Also, please (pretty please!) do not allow your kids to get in the habit of using their phones as alarm clocks. The temptation to text, surf, chat is often too alluring to resist and a good old alarm clock is an inexpensive way to promote healthy sleep routines.
The last thing I will mention here has to do with the way families view sleep. I remember feeling like bedtime was some sort of punishment when I was growing up. There were even rumblings of having to go to be early as a consequence for some slip-ups. As parents, I think we have a responsibility to help our children understand the value of sleep and to communicate with them in a way that shows we feel it is important. Going to bed is not a punishment; it’s a way to take care of our bodies and minds and to recharge for another day.
So, a quick summary: Make sleep a priority, create comfy sleep spaces, arm your kids with an old fashioned alarm clock, aim for the “sweet spot” in terms of hours per night and adjust in 15-minute increments until you are as close as possible, step away from all screens at least an hour before hitting the pillow, and talk up the value of sleep whenever you can. Here’s to a good night’s sleep for everyone!
Sharing practical strategies that help parents rediscover joy in their children (even when someone's crying, the phone is ringing, and it smells like the house may be burning down)