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Short answer: Show affection as much as you can. 

Often, we use the words “affection” and “love” interchangeably. While understandable, and they can certainly overlap, I’m going to make a distinction between love and affection. Affection is adoration, fondness, liking someone. So our question would change to: 

How much should I show my child that I adore them, I am fond of them and that I like them? 

See the difference that makes?

Or let me put it this way—a baby doesn’t understand the self-sacrificial love that you have for them deep in your heart, but just holding them and cuddling demonstrates affection. And they pick up on it. And it has long-term developmental consequences.

Or how about this? How would a teen receive an “I love you” if there was never any affection shown toward them? Those words would be meaningless.

Showing your child affection communicates security, belonging, acceptance, and that they are liked.

Sometimes as parents we stumble over the simplicity and the importance of showing affection. I hope my kids know and trust that I love them, but I also hope they know that I really like and enjoy them, too.

I have five kids. As babies, they were all held, snuggled, and rocked. There is no better feeling in the world than having one of my little babies asleep on my chest. My youngest is now 14. He was my only “snuggly” little one. 

Wow. Things are a lot different now. Showing affection evolves at different ages and stages as our kids grow up. My 14-year-old son doesn’t want to be “snuggled” and he definitely isn’t going to fall asleep on my chest. (Even hugs, if his friends are around, are kinda iffy.) But he appreciates a pat on the back after he mowed the yard or a hand on his shoulder if we are waiting in line. He really loves hearing that I noticed the heel-kick he did in a soccer game.

Each of my five children is a unique individual. Even when they were little, each had their own personality. One of the first parenting lessons I learned was that what one child needed in terms of affection from me was different from another child. I also learned that the ways I showed affection to them that seemed meaningful to me and came naturally to me did not necessarily translate into affection from my kids’ point of view, so I had to learn what they needed.

I had to spend time with each of them and learn about their individual hearts.

Some of the things I learned over time that have helped me figure out the best ways to express affection to my kids are:

Pay close attention to what they ask of you.

This can provide insights into how they receive affection. Do they ask:

  • You to come and play with them? Quality Time.
  • If you think the picture they drew is pretty? Affirmation.
  • If you can help with their hair? Touch.

Pay close attention to how they express affection to you.

This also provides insight into their heart and what means affection to them. Do they:

  • Want to sit in your lap and give you hugs?
  • Like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion? 
  • Tell you they like hanging out with you while you work on the car? 

★  Spend Time With Them.

  • Learn their “affection language.” When my daughter was about 5, I took her to a movie and put my arm on the back of her seat. She immediately asked me to move my arm. Point noted!
  • Let them set the agenda for what you do together. Get on the floor and play with their toys together. Watch them play video games. If you are present and engaged, you are saying you like them and like spending time with them. (Put your phone away.)
  • Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on stuff. Show that you just enjoy their company. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.
  • Notice and express gratitude for the little things they do. Don’t reserve praise for big things. “Thanks for telling me a little about your day.” “I appreciate you helping bring the groceries in.” This communicates that you notice and like them.

Spend time with your child and become a student of their heart. Tell them that you love them but also tell them that you like them, you enjoy spending time with them, how proud you are of them, and that you believe in them. This all translates to affection to your child.

Many kids today don’t think their parents even like them, let alone love them. You are communicating how you feel about your kids all the time. And they are watching.

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No matter how you slice it, the birth of a child brings about changes that can be challenging. Here are some of the reasons why marriage can be harder after having a baby and how those challenges can make your marriage stronger.

  1. Unspoken Expectations. You probably have a picture in your mind of what your lives will look like after the baby is born. You might be expecting to split household duties, take turns sleeping, grow closer in your marriage, and agree on parenting decisions. When someone doesn’t meet our expectations however, disappointment and resentment can build. 
  1. Entering the Land of the Unknown. Between the internet, books, experienced parents, and doctors, you try and eliminate as many potential unknowns as possible. And yet once the baby is here, you realize there are some things you just can’t prepare for. Disagreements arise as couples differ on how to tackle these issues that you simply didn’t see coming. 
  1. We’re Changing and So Are Our Needs. Maybe your wife used to like you to open the car door for her. Now, she’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the kids in their seats. Herr needs may change after the birth of a baby. Sometimes she might not be consciously aware of the changes. As your needs change, it’s so easy to focus on meeting your own personal needs after a baby is born that you lose sight of the changing needs of your spouse. How you help, support, and comfort one another looks different. Even how you respond when something triggers your emotions may change. There were times when I was so focused on my tiredness, schoolwork (I was in school), and my job that I resented my wife for not understanding and expecting more out of me than I thought I was fair.
  1. Lack of Intimacy. So much focused energy is on the baby, trying to get rest, work, and everything that comes with a newborn that marital tension can replace marital intimacy. Plus, after carrying a baby for 9 months and breastfeeding, lots of women don’t want any physical intimacy because they are totally exhausted. They want to heal.
  1. Emotional Exhaustion: You are not at your best when you are exhausted… and that’s understandable. A tired and stressed person trying to adapt to change doesn’t respond as well as a rested and peaceful person. Imagine if both of you are suffering from emotional exhaustion. The stage is set for irritability, aggravation, and a short fuse.

These are all challenges that can make your marriage stronger, as long as you don’t avoid dealing with them. It’s possible to address them and work as a team to transition into parenthood well. Here are a few things you can do as a couple:

  • Discuss Expectations. Conversations about balancing work and family are a great place to start. Nighttime feedings. Diaper changes. Household chores and responsibilities. Who will do what and who can we ask to help us? Think of grandparents and family. Talking through what you hope this will look like can help the two of you be on the same page as you navigate your new normal.
  • Remember What’s Important. Your baby doesn’t need perfectly-prepared parents for every situation. They need loving parents who are attentive. Figuring it out together can provide lasting memories. My wife and I have made tons of mistakes when all seven of our children were babies. There are some things you simply don’t know. Gather information, talk to one another, and do your best. When you or your spouse makes a mistake, you learn from it and everyone is better for it.
  • Talk Openly About What You Need From One Another. It’s hard to know what my spouse needs if she doesn’t tell me. I kept opening her car door until one day she said, “I’d rather you turn on the A/C and get the car cool.” I would’ve never known. Talking about our needs helps us ward off the resentment that builds. Trying to read someone’s mind can be harmful. Open communication is the only antidote.
  • Intentional Marriage Time. Do it, even if it’s just for 15 minutes to emotionally connect or hold one another. Virtual date nights are great for just a little marriage time. Don’t forget that your marriage needs both of you.
  • Lean In To Each Other. Lack of sleep is an obvious issue after having a baby, but I’m not going to tell you to get more of it. Sometimes that’s just plain impossible. Here’s what will be helpful to your marriage: Pay attention to each other. Help each other. Look for ways to support one another. In sports, the team that functions as a team in the fourth quarter when everyone is tired typically wins. You are that team. And winning as a team is sweet and exhilarating, especially when you’re tired.
  • Express Appreciation. It’s highly probable that each of you is doing things for the baby and the family that are going unnoticed. Look for those things and express gratitude.

Your love isn’t measured by every right decision you make. In fact, the best gift of love you can give your new baby is a healthy, thriving marriage, not a perfect one. 


***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear someone is monitoring your computer or device, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

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COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR SPOUSE SHOULD BE FULFILLING, NOT FRUSTRATING.

With the right tools, you and your spouse can have the best communication ever!

This easy-to-use virtual 5-day course guides you and your spouse to have the best communication you’ve ever had! Through this course, you will learn:

  • How to establish healthy communication habits
  • The secrets to creating a deep connection through communication
  • Skills to help you (and your spouse) be a better speaker and listener
  • How to celebrate and understand your different communication styles
  • And so much more!

Of course my child knows I love them!” But do they? Really? To be clear, I’m not questioning whether you love your child; I’m questioning whether your child knows that you love them. Do they know how broad, wide, and deep your love is for them? There’s more to your child feeling loved than saying, “I love you! Goodnight!” every night.

Google Autocomplete can be illuminating. For those unfamiliar with it, as you begin typing a search into Google, Google begins to finish it for you with the most popular searches put into its search engine. So, typing, “How do I get my parents to” will autocomplete with the most popular searches that begin with the same phrase. This particular example is as heartbreaking as it is illuminating. 

The number one autocomplete is: How do I get my parents to love me?

★ What would lead kids, tweens, and teens to google ways to get their parents to love them? Is there a disconnect somewhere? Are we overestimating how much affection our kids feel? Are we not communicating love in ways that resonate with our kids? Some kids don’t even think their parents like them, let alone love them. Even if you feel confident that your child knows they are loved, there’s always room to learn more ways to deepen it.

Here’s How To Make Sure Your Child Knows You Love Them

1. Understand Your Child’s Heart

  • Dr. Gary Chapman wrote a great book, The Five Love Languages of Children, that suggests we all communicate and receive love uniquely. Sometimes the way we communicate love doesn’t match up with how our kids “hear” love and we love right past them. We might be providing tons of loving, affirming words, but our child might really feel loved the most when we spend quality time with them. His website is really helpful and has great resources!
  • What do they ask of you? This can provide insights into how they receive affection. 
    • Do they ask you to come and play with them? (Love = Quality Time.) 
    • Do they ask if you think the picture they drew is pretty or if you are proud of their report card? (Love = Affirming Words.) 
    • Do they ask for help with homework or their hair? (Love = Helping Them.)
  • How do they express love and affection to you? This also provides insight into their heart and what says, “I love you” to them. 
    • Do they want to sit in your lap and give you hugs? (Love = Physical Connection.) 
    • Do they like to make things for you like drawing you a picture or bring you things like a dandelion? (Love = Gifts, Tokens of Affection.) 

2. Spend Time With Them.

  • We can kid ourselves by saying things like, “I don’t spend a lot of time with my kids, but when I do, I make it count.” It’s great to “make it count” (quality time) but our kids need “a lot” of time, too (quantity time). There really is no substitute. Kids spell “love,” T – I – M – E. 
  • Be intentional. Routines, rituals, and structure provide predictability and ultimately help kids feel safe. When children feel safe, they feel loved and can thrive. Regular parent/child dates. Dinner together as a family. Friday Night Game Nights. Appropriate  and consistent expectations communicate, “I love you and care about your wellbeing.” 

Look for and even plan for informal time together. Get on the floor and play with their toys with them. Watch them play video games. Take them with you to run errands or hang out with you while you’re working on the car. Lots of bonding happens organically just being together.

3. Expand The Bandwidth Of Your Communication

  • Your words are powerful. Not just what you say but how you say it. Remember, your body isn’t on mute. An angry “Because I said so!” could be a calm “Here’s why this is important…” Don’t underestimate the power of your words in forming your child’s perception of how you feel about them
  • Listen. Really listen. So many kids say their parents talk at them, not with them. You can’t make your child talk to you, but you can be present and create an atmosphere and relational environment where talking is much more likely to take place. Don’t be quick to jump in with a judgment or lecture.
  • Say, “I love you.” Not just at bedtime, but say it at times when they don’t expect to hear it—when they’ve done something wrong and had to be corrected, when they are down on themselves and don’t feel lovable, random times like car rides or when they are just walking across the room. It is important that children understand that there is nothing that they can do to make you love them more or love them less.
    • Other phrases that say “I love you” without saying “I love you.”
    • I believe in you.
    • I’m proud of you.
    • I’m always here for you.
    • I was wrong. I’m sorry. Please forgive me.

Whether you know it or not, you are always sending messages revealing how you feel about your kids—and they are paying attention. Think about that for a second. If you think it’s possible that your children might wonder how much you love them, you don’t have to let them wonder. Be intentional and talk with them about it. With loving your kids, make sure it’s a show AND tell.

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They told us we had a moderate chance of severe weather Easter night and to be weather aware. How many times have we heard that and the weather amounted to nothing to write home about?

Many went to sleep thinking if there was severe weather in the area, storm alerts would go off on phones and weather radios. Sadly, between 11 p.m. and midnight, a severe storm turning into an EF3 tornado ravaged our community. Thousands were left without power and hundreds with homes that were either destroyed or uninhabitable until repairs are made.

While we can see the physical devastation from the storm, there is an invisible aftermath. That aftermath is taking its toll on those who lived through the event, especially the children. It reveals itself in different ways depending on the age of the person. 

I have spoken to a number of parents who shared with me that their children are struggling to go to sleep at night. Some say their teenager, who has been totally independent, is now clinging to them and won’t leave their side. Others just seem lost and afraid. I thought it might be helpful to talk about some ways parents can provide comfort for their children as they try and deal with the trauma.

As children try to cope with what they experienced they might feel increased fear and/or anxiety that shows itself in different ways. It may be in the form of tantrums, crying for no apparent reason, acting in ways that seem defiant, not wanting to go to bed by themselves or not wanting to be alone, period. They could become especially clingy, not wanting to leave a parent’s side. 

As parents try to manage repairs and create some sense of “normal” for their family, this behavior could create additional angst for parents.

Here are some things you might find helpful as you seek to help your child process what happened.

Even though you are juggling a lot of things, be intentional about spending focused time with your children. Although their clinginess may get on your nerves, know that sitting in your lap, holding your hand, snuggling up next to you on the couch or in bed are all comforting to children who have experienced trauma.

For your older children, you may see them somewhat withdraw as they try to process what happened. Provide opportunities for open, honest conversation. Answer their questions as best you can. If your teen asks you if you think this could happen again, tell them the truth: It’s possible, but not likely. Consider how old you are and whether or not you have been in the path of a storm like this before. I have lived through a lot of storms, but nothing like the tornado. This helps give perspective to them as they process their experience. 

If you don’t know an answer to a question, say so. You might be able to find the answer together. Or it may just be a question that nobody really knows the answer to.

Where possible, create routines and structure. These two things can help restore a sense of normalcy for your family. People in general thrive on this because it helps them feel more in control (at least to some degree). 

Acknowledge the grieving that is going on and the loss of innocence for young children. In reality, they will never NOT remember this moment in time. Take care in how you talk with them, and assure them of your protective presence. Giving them the opportunity to write, talk and/or draw about what they are feeling and then explain it to you will help them process their emotions.

Playtime is important. Even in the midst of trying to get things done, take time out to do something fun. This can help to decrease anxiety and stress and help the healing process – even for the adults.

Adapting to change in general is often hard for people. It can be unsettling for everyone, especially children, when you are uprooted from your home and have to live somewhere else permanently or until repairs are complete. Don’t assume they grasp what is going on. Talk them through it by explaining it clearly. You might say, “Because of the damage to our home we are going to have to live in another place for a while, or we are going to have to look for a new place to live.”

If this is the only home your children have known, there will probably be some sadness and anxious feelings that you can actually talk about. However, don’t underestimate the calm that this can bring even to a 4-year-old who may not understand everything. Keep it simple and age appropriate. It helps decrease surprises which tend to increase anxiety in children. You might have to have the same conversation a number of times and that’s honestly to be expected. Be patient.

There are some things that are adult topics such as money constraints that children don’t need to know the details about. You can always say, “We can’t do that right now, but I will remember that you asked about that and when things settle down we will talk about it.”

Limit the amount of exposure your children have to the ongoing news, photos on social media and even conversations that you have around them. It is challenging as adults – triple that for children. All of the ongoing exposure keeps them from being able to recalibrate and settle down.

Take care of yourself. You’re probably really tired of hearing that phrase, but let people cook for you, help you clean up, provide food. Let others do anything that will allow you to conserve energy and be there for your children.

As you move forward, remember that every family is different. It’s normal to feel traumatized, have some flashbacks and feel on edge (hyper-vigilant) after something like this. These symptoms usually will subside or at least decrease over the next few weeks. There really is no easy fix. Things will not get better immediately. But paying attention to how you engage with your children, what you allow them to be exposed to and being intentional about talking with them and being physically close to them will bring comfort.

If they are still struggling to adjust over time, don’t be afraid to seek professional help for them. These things are scary, frustrating and hard to manage for us even as adults. Asking for what you need from others can help you get through the challenges you face. At the same time, it will help you be a healthier parent for your kids.

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Some people saw How to Establish a Family Quiet Time and thought, “Yeah right. There’s just no way. You haven’t been to my house. You don’t know my kids.” 

I am just one of the latest work-at-home dads who is amazed at just how much activity, noise, and energy can be expended by my co-inhabitants. Who are the co-inhabitants? Two daughters (7 & 13), 5 sons (ages 5 months – 11 yrs), 1 wife (can’t put her age, it’s a violation of the code). That’s eight other people. Noise is the default. Not having some quiet time is not an option either. Otherwise, I’m really gonna lose my mind.

I’m not going to try and convince you on the importance of quiet time. I haven’t met a parent yet who doesn’t crave it when they are home all day with their children. I’m just going to empower you to establish a quiet time.

Step 1: Get Your Mind Right.

You’ve got to believe it can be done. They may resist and scream. They may dig deep into their bag of tricks to block the entry of a quiet time into your home. Don’t believe the lie. They don’t know what’s good for them.  Hear the voice of the man with 7 kids: “It can be done. You can do it.” It may not be perfect the first time, but whatever you do, don’t believe the lie. Which takes us to step #2.

Step 2: Prepare To Be Persistent.

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. You didn’t ride your bike perfectly the first time you took off the training wheels. They don’t believe that you’re serious unless you stick with it. Kids are wired to resist anything that their parents say is good for them at first, at least it seems that way. It’s not impossible just because it didn’t work out the first time. You’re going to have to stick with it.

Step 3: Family Meeting.

Gather the troop together and tell them, “Each day, we are going to have some quiet time in this home. It helps our minds to relax and our bodies to rest. You may not think you need it, but I, as your parent need it and your body will thank you for it. There is no room for negotiation on the fact that there will be a quiet time. You may negotiate what can be done during quiet time.

Step 4: Explain Why Their Quiet Time Is Your Productive Time.

In order to get more of the ‘me’ you like later, I’ve got to get done what I can now so that we can enjoy one another later.

Step 5: Establish Quiet Time Rules.

Acceptable activities during quiet time: Sleep, lay in bed, read, write, meditate. Prohibited activities include: Video games, calling/texting with outside people, playing with siblings. Quiet time is as much about your mind being quiet as it is simply taking a nap.

Note: Play that is not noisy and only involves one person is acceptable for my seven and up crew. For instance, my 7 year old may sit on her bed and play with her dolls for a full hour. My 9 year old may sit on his bed and build legos. My instructions to them, “I should not hear you. I should not see you. You should not need to ask me anything.” If they ask me something about the legos or the dolls, they are automatically prohibited from playing with them during quiet time. 

Step 6: Establish When And How Long.

Routines and Consistency is the name of the game. If your children had quiet time at school, schedule family quiet time at a similar time. Schedule quiet time around the same time each day. In our house, our routine is lunch at 12:00, play outside til 1:30, quiet time 1:30-2:30. For our kids under 7, that normally means a nap or at least laying in the bed. The others – read, nap, write, build something. The key- they are in a space all to themselves and need no attention. (Note: You may start at 30 minutes as opposed to an hour. And no, we don’t wake the kids up after an hour if they are asleep. Are you kidding me?)

Optional: Set a timer in their room. You don’t know how many times my children have fallen asleep looking at the time countdown. I count that as a parental win. Otherwise they like to ask, “Is it time yet?”

Step 7: Set And Enforce Consequences For Quiet Time Violations.

The keys to good consequences are that you have to find out what means most to your child. Then you must be willing to enforce it the first time. This is where having your mind right and believing that it can be done is key. Suggestions: Add time—5 minutes for each violation. Eliminate dessert from dinner. Decrease screen time. Earlier bedtime. 

Remember, this may be new for your child. They may not have expected this from you. They are going to test you. Your biggest weapon is enforcing the consequences while staying cool, calm and collected. If you don’t enforce the consequences quickly, then you may get frustrated when they violate the rule again and lead you to believe that it’s a hopeless cause.

Step 8: Implement.

Be firm. Follow your plan. Keep the vision of peace and quiet in front of  you. Celebrate the victory, however small it may be at first. Let them know that we’ll all get better at it.

Practical Tips

  • Send kids to the bathroom first!
  • No eating during quiet time. May give them snacks right before quiet time, but not sugary snacks. Design your schedule for what works best. Kids always want to eat. So decide if they eat before or after and stick with it, but not during. 
  • Check in on them and encourage them if they are doing good. If they’re asleep, let ‘em sleep.
  • Enforce consequences. That’s how they know you mean business.
  • Be productive in whatever you decide to do during this time – work, yoga, emails, nap, etc. (Yes, naps are productive.)

Implementing anything new in your family can be challenging, but having a family quiet time is good for your kids and good for you! It might take some time to get it down, but it is definitely worth it!

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Let me set the scene for you. I’m working from home because of COVID-19 and sitting in quarantine at my computer trying to crank out a report and meet a deadline in an hour. 

The following sequence of events happens:

  • My 9-year-old son goes running down the hall and slides on the floor into the door as if he were sliding into 2nd base. (I guess he misses baseball.)
  • I calmly stand up and say, “Are you crazy? Don’t do that anymore.” (50– Nice and cool.)
  • Next, my 11-year-old son breaks a glass bowl in the kitchen.
  • I, truly irritated, go to the kitchen to investigate and help clean up the mess. (100– Hot, but bearable.)
  • Then my 2-year-old is yelling at my 4-year-old, “Let me have it. It’s mine. Let me have it!” as tears are flowing down his face. Of course, he gets louder and louder each time.
  • I put my referee suit on and very frustratingly resolve the issue. (150– Feels like I’m in the desert with no water.)
  • And then my 13-year-old daughter innocently enough walks in and asks me to set up Zoom on the iPad so she can get on a video with her friends.
  • And now, I’m ready to lose it. My very first thought, (picture blood vessels bursting out of my forehead, “Leave me the -beep- alone!(212– Water’s boiling point.)

I’ve gone from calm, to irritated, to frustrated, to downright angry because no one will let me get my work done. Don’t they know the pressures that we are under right now?! Don’t they know that if I don’t get these reports completed, I could be the next one to be laid off or have his salary reduced?!

There are 2 distinct doors to choose at this moment: 

  • Behind Door #1: Blow up and let my 13-year-old and all the other kids have it. Check out the blog, How Your Emotions Affect Your Child to learn more about what else is potentially behind door #1.
  • Behind Door #2: Take a timeout.

The timeout is an extremely useful tool that has helped me with my own children. It is so important because when I reached the boiling point, my body had literally undergone a chemical transformation as adrenaline and cortisol was now rushing to my defense. I was not capable of thinking rationally because my brain was out of balance at that moment.

The timeout becomes vital to provide an opportunity to literally calm your nerves. It can be made to be real dramatic which helps to get the focus onto the issue and off the person. 

Some creative ways to take a timeout and not blow up on your kids.

Throw a flag.

(Stole this one from the NFL) When a team commits a foul. One referee throws a flag. Then all the referees huddle to discuss the foul and make sure there’s agreement on the consequences (e.g. 15 yard penalty). Play doesn’t resume until the foul was acknowledged by the referee and the consequence was administered. And then it’s on to the next play. (The referees are always calm, direct and clear when they discuss the foul that was committed and the penalty.)  If one of them has committed a foul that’s about to cause you to blow up on your kids, have a makeshift flag (i.e., bandana, handkerchief, napkin, old rag) and throw it to the spot of the foul. And if your spouse is available, discuss the foul with them. Sometimes the referee picks up the flag and says that no foul was committed. Sometimes your kids didn’t do anything wrong, the stress of life just got to you. Don’t be too proud to pick up your flag and say no foul was committed.

Hit the Pause Button.

(Thank Hal Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting for this one.) When we pause, everything freezes. Time stops. We don’t yet act on the next thought that comes to mind. We’re giving ourselves time for the adrenaline to settle down. Hal Runkel says, “Kids don’t want cool parents. They want parents that keep their cool.” Hitting the pause button helps you keep your cool. Make your pause button noisy. It can be a buzzer like the one that comes with board games like Taboo or a little wheezy toy. This draws attention to the fact that there is an issue that makes me want to explode and we need to deal. These are drastic times which call for drastic measures. Let your drastic measure be hitting the pause button.

Set a 90-second timer.

Use your phone, microwave timer, watch, or just count. Did you know that we only stay mad (chemically) for 90 seconds? According to Jill Bolte Taylor, brain researcher and author of A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey, anger triggers a chemical reaction within the brain that lasts for 90 seconds. After that, we either turn our attention elsewhere or replay the story and reignite the anger.  You’re about to lose your mind at the expense of your kids. You can often sense when that 90-second count starts. Stop, take a deep breath and set a timer. 

Simply call a timeout.

Form a “T” with your hands and say, “Timeout.” Doesn’t get more straightforward than that.

If you start to blow up on your kids or even get a few moments into your blow-up and then catch yourself and recognize the need for a timeout (this happens to me a lot), that’s ok. All isn’t lost.

Take a timeout the moment you recognize you need it. Take it from my experience; don’t start to blow up on your kids, realize that you’re blowing up, know that you should take a timeout, but since you’ve already started, choose to keep blowing up. Don’t do that!

If you do, you’re essentially saying, “I know that I’m not thinking rationally, that my adrenaline has thrown off my thought process, and that I’m in the middle of reacting, but I’m going to stay on that path anyway.” Pride or stubbornness should not get in the way of a timeout.

The best time to come up with a plan is before you need it.

Have an age-appropriate conversation with your kids. Discuss the timeout, its purpose and implementation. Then use it

Not only are you protecting your children and yourself, you’re also modeling self-control and teaching them how to regulate their emotions. And in the process, you’ve put yourself in a better position to get the results you really want: a family that is considerate, loving and respectful of one another. That beats fewer broken dishes any day.

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I’M BORED, MOM! These are words that most adults despise hearing from the kids in their lives. We usually meet that statement with, “How can you be bored?” Kids have games, books, iPods, gaming systems. You can’t be bored

Cue speech: “One of the things wrong with today’s generation is that they have No Imagination…”

Guess what? Now, I’M battling boredom. I have a lot more empathy and understanding for today’s generation, because to be honest, I’m feeling it, too. Since quarantine started, I’ve cleaned, organized, read, crafted, DIYed, Netflixed, and Hulu-ed. I can’t think of anything else to do. I’m so bored. Now what?

Avoid Boredom in Quarantine

1 . Get Creative

It may not be easy to come up with ideas. There’s a plethora of classes to take online and new things to learn to do. Once you have looked around the Web, sit down and write a list of things you may want to learn how to do. Your list may look like this:

 I want to…

  • Learn Italian.
  • Learn to bake a cheesecake.
  • Find out how to Salsa dance.
  • Learn to draw/paint.
  • Learn how to make a container garden.

2. Connect With Others

Whether you’re a person who is dying because of social distancing or you’ve enjoyed the time to slow down, staying in touch with those you do life with can be a key to keeping boredom in quarantine away. There are many ways to reach out and/or stay connected with people.

Some ways include:

  • Writing a letter to a friend—tell them what you like about them, why you miss being around them, what fun things you can do together once this is over.
  • Have a Virtual Brunch or a Virtual Happy Hour on video chat. 
  • Make a homemade card and mail to those you care about.
  • Have a Virtual Dance Party.

3. Practice Gratitude

Seeking gratitude and thankfulness will help you appreciate what you have. I love the memes that remind me: “I’m not STUCK at HOME, but I AM SAFE AT HOME.” That statement reinforces to me that I have options and opportunities where others may not. Make a list of everything that you are thankful for or list five things at the end of each day.

I can now see why kids say, “I’m Bored!” But I’m learning that boredom in quarantine is neither a fact or fiction, but rather, a choice of my perspective

I choose NOT to let boredom take over.

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How can you be sure your child will know that you love them? When I was 6, I was shopping with my mom when my eyes landed on what I thought was very cool Christmas tape. I told my mom I needed that tape. She said no. I took matters into my own hands and slipped two tape rolls into my jacket pocket.

When we got home, I went straight to my room and started playing with the tape. It didn’t take long for Mom to notice the silence. I vividly remember her knocking on the door and asking me what I was doing. At that moment sheer panic set in because I knew I would be in trouble. I tried to take up as much of the tape as possible before she actually opened the door.

She walked in the room, saw the tape and asked me where I got it, knowing full well where it came from. She didn’t say much more, except these words: “Get in the car.” I knew for sure I was in big trouble. I thought maybe she was taking me to the police station, but we actually returned to the store. We walked in and she asked for the manager. 

She asked me to tell him what I had done. Through tears I explained that I thought the tape was beautiful and when my mom wouldn’t buy it for me, I just took it. I told him I knew it was wrong and apologized. My mom paid him for the tape and then I paid my mom back for the tape with my measly allowance over a period of weeks.

Back then I thought my mom was the meanest mom on the planet, but I have never forgotten that day. 

Fast forward to middle school when I “knew” how smart I was. I wanted to decide for myself when to go to bed, how long I talked on the phone, what chores I would or would not do. They didn’t buy it, not for one second. Again, I knew I had the most unloving parents on the planet, because if they really loved me they would let me do what I wanted to do.

What I didn’t know then, but know now, is they really were loving me.

If you have raised children or you are in the midst of raising children, you know that children, especially the strong-willed ones, will challenge you at every turn. You will hear things come out of their mouths you thought you would never hear: 

“I hate you.” 

“You’re a terrible excuse for a parent.” 

“Who died and made you the boss?” 

“Why do you have to make my life so miserable?” 

“Why couldn’t I be so and so’s child? They really know how to parent.” 

Those words can be painful and cause you to question your parenting skills and whether or not you really are loving them well. But how do your children really know that you love them? Maybe a better question is, what do children need from their parents in order to thrive?

First, children need routines, rituals, consistency and structure. 

We aren’t talking bootcamp, but we are talking about a routine that children can count on – consistent rules and structure in which they can safely operate.

Kids also need loving accountability. 

I 100% knew I was going to be in trouble when my mom found out I took that tape because telling the truth and not taking things that don’t belong to us had been drilled into my head for as long as I could remember, but that didn’t stop me from doing the wrong thing. Holding me accountable, standing with me as I told the manager what I had done, and requiring me to pay her back were actually all ways of loving me. She didn’t remind me of my transgression throughout my life. In fact, I really don’t remember her bringing it up again, but I assure you, I have never stolen another thing. It was a safe place to make mistakes and to learn and grow.

Additionally, your child needs you to have the right perspective and know that you are steady. 

With age, children typically become smarter than their parents, or so they believe. There is an age and stage where you could say the sky is blue and they would tell you it’s not. They know how to navigate the latest and greatest technology and they’re growing like crazy. If you didn’t know their age, you would swear some of them were much older. As parents, remembering exactly how old they are and no matter how smart they seem, recognizing that they only know what a 12 or 14-year-old would know helps you keep perspective and stay the course as the parent.

Many tweens, when left to their own devices (literally), would play video games all night, eat whatever whenever, forget studying and blame everybody else as their life is falling apart. 

My point is this: They don’t know what they don’t know. 

It really isn’t their job to like us at this point. They are in the process of figuring out how to do life, but they aren’t quite mature enough to do it on their own. Being the parent that doesn’t get incredibly emotional, yet is steady, consistent and supportive during this maturation process is powerful and loving.

In all of these things, holding your child accountable and requiring them to be responsible for their actions is sometimes one of the most painful ways you show love. For them, it doesn’t usually feel very loving in the moment or even after the moment. Sometimes it even takes years for them to realize how loving and painful it was for you as the parent. 

As a parent, you hurt when your child hurts. But ultimately you know that letting them experience what it looks and feels like to be held accountable and take responsibility ultimately builds their self-confidence and helps them learn for the future when they are navigating life on their own.

Keep them safe. 

When your toddler wants to put their finger in an electrical socket and they throw a huge tantrum when you move them away, it wouldn’t matter how much they cried and carried on, you would be confident in your efforts to keep them safe. As they get older, they throw tantrums in different ways and sometimes we become less confident in our parenting skills and we may wonder whether or not we are loving them well. 

One of the best things you can do to make sure your child knows you love them is not to look to them for affirmation that you are loving them well, because it may not seem that way to them. Know this: The parenting journey is full of adventure and sometimes insecurity. Find some people who are ahead of you on the journey who can encourage you and support you in the good and challenging times.  

Last, but definitely not least, tell your child you love them. When things are going great, when things are hard, when they are least lovable or when all they want to do is sit in your lap, tell them you love them. 

This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on February 29, 2020.

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When children leave the nest, it can be a very traumatic time for parents. You may second-guess how well you have prepared them to be out on their own. You might even be thinking about how things will be different at home with all the new time you have on your hands. This is what you’ve been working toward all these years, but there’s just something about letting go. It’s going to be hard to adjust as your child leaves for college.

There is no question your role as parent shifts as your young adult grows even more independent. While your child is becoming his/her own person and pursuing their dreams, some parents really mourn this milestone – and there is nothing wrong with that. It is for sure a shift. Now, you get to watch them spread their wings while you take a background role of being supportive and encouraging as well as providing a safe place for them to come for rest. 

If you are just beginning this adventure, it might be helpful to know a few things. Not everybody deals with this transition the same way. One parent may be experiencing tremendous grief while the other is excited not just for their college student, but also for the transition at home. Be careful not to judge. Instead, check in with each other to see how each of you is navigating through the change.

Talk about ways you can encourage your student while also caring for your own needs. Since you won’t be seeing your son or daughter every day, it might be helpful to write them weekly letters. Students say there is nothing better than going to their mailbox and actually having real mail. Periodic phone calls are great for staying connected, but letters are something they can keep and read over and over again.

If you are in the midst of making this transition, here are some suggestions for getting through the initial shock and how to adjust as your child leaves for college: 

Plan ahead. 

Don’t wait until the last minute to think about how you will deal with the extra time on your hands. Have some projects planned that you can focus on. Be intentional about planning things you can do on the weekend.

Set limits for yourself. 

As your child settles into a new routine, there will be lots of demands on their time. Instead of calling every day, let your child make the first phone call and try to limit yourself to checking in once a week. Email is also a great way to stay in touch and be supportive without being intrusive.

Be there when your child needs you. 

The first few months may also be hard for your child. Encourage them to hang in there. Send care packages and cards. Make your home a refuge they will want to come back to. Avoid making major changes to your child’s room.

Consider the next thing. 

As your parenting role changes yet again, you will want to consider what’s next. Keep your eyes and heart open to where you need to go in life and what you want your life to be about. 

Letting go can be especially hard, but it would be a shame to be so wrapped up in your loss that you miss what your child needs from you in this season of their life. You can adjust as your child leaves for college! Different seasons call for changes, and although this particular season is new to you, remember that you’ve dealt with changes and challenges since you brought them home. All those moments have led you to this place.

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This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on August 23, 2019.

How is it that summer just started, yet the school supplies are already out in stores? In a few short weeks that will feel like they fly by, your baby will be headed to kindergarten. At this realization, in the midst of a little freak-out and hidden tears, parents will try to put on a brave face as they leave their little one in someone else’s care. But the key to this transition is to start the school routines now!

Preparing for that day is important not only for your child, but for you as well. A month may seem like a long way off, but when it comes to establishing new routines and rituals, it’s actually the right time to put things in motion.

Bedtime:

For example, if bedtime has been at 8:30 or later during the summer months, but a 7:30 bedtime will be in place during the school year, moving bedtime up in 15-minute intervals from now until the school year starts will help your child adjust and keep the drama about it still being light outside to a minimum. As a side note, blackout curtains might be a great investment.

Routines: 

Consider what morning and evening routines will be like, especially if this is your first child to head off to school. It can be unsettling for children when everything is changing, so it’s helpful to think about routines and rituals like a security blanket. Children find real comfort in predictability. If you put things into motion now, it will help your child feel more confident on that first day of school. For instance, practice getting up, getting dressed, brushing teeth, eating breakfast and figuring out the best order to accomplish those tasks and any others that must be done before leaving for school. Adapting your evening routine to how things will be during the school year will help as well. 

After school: 

Being at school and holding it together all day long is exhausting. Your child might come home from school and want to take a nap or they might have a meltdown, especially as they are adjusting to their new routine. Comfort them and help them put words to their emotions. In time they will adapt and adjust.

Independence: 

Remind yourself repeatedly to let your child do for themselves what they are capable of doing. Things like dressing themselves, putting on their shoes and velcroing or tying them, going to the bathroom, pulling their pants up and even buckling a belt are important to know how to do. If they are planning to buy their lunch at school, let them practice carrying a tray with their food and drink from somewhere in the kitchen to the table. That balancing act can be a little tricky. If they are taking their lunch, teach them how to pack it themselves. If they are riding the school bus, practice walking to and from the bus stop together.

Practice:

Make practicing these things fun by turning them into a relay race or a game. When you do that, you’ll be giving them a strong foundation to stand on as they head to school.

Organization:

Work with your child to find a location in your home where all things school-related live like backpacks, homework or notes that need to be signed. Helping them get in the habit of placing things in one location will make mornings easier for everyone.

Read:

Start reading with your child daily (if you aren’t already). Even if you aren’t a fantastic reader, just holding a book, pointing out pictures, colors, numbers and words, or teaching your child to turn the pages from right to left will help prepare them for kindergarten.

Other adults:

If you have told your child they don’t have to listen to anyone but you, now is the time to change that. When your child is at school they will need to be able to listen and follow instruction from their teacher and others. Additionally, if you have never left them in someone else’s care, try to arrange some time between now and the first day of school where they are in the care of other trusted adults. It is good for them to know that others can take care of their needs, and teachers will appreciate that you have helped them practice listening and following instructions from other adults.

Technology: 

This year will be different for your child, so consider a technology plan for your home when school starts. They will be expected to sit, listen and engage in activities, but screen time  is probably the last thing they need when they get home. Instead, playing outdoors in the fresh air can help them release stress and relax.

Emotions:

While you might be excited about your little one reaching this milestone, it would also be normal for you to feel some anxiety. Most of our children can read us like a book. If you are feeling uptight about the beginning of school and trying to hold that inside, your child will likely pick up on this and think you are not OK or that you do not want them to go to school. Acknowledging that and talking with other parents who are ahead of you on the journey could be extremely helpful to you and your child. 

Thinking about all that needs to happen before school starts may feel a bit overwhelming. The good news is, if you start now, you will already have your routine down by the time school starts. Both you and your child can head into the first day of school with confidence and great expectations for the school year.

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