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Take The Stress Out of Summer Writing

My twins are officially preschool graduates and moving on to Kindergarten. I have so many mixed emotions. On the one hand I am so proud of their hard work and excited to watch their next steps, and on the other hand I am emotional about them growing up way too fast. We are now on summer break and as much as I would like to just relax we still have some work to do.

During the Kindergarten screening it was recognized my kids still need help with their hand writing. I am not surprised as they had occupational therapy for two years before I extended an extra year of preschool. Even though they continued to work on their hand writing skills through their preschool program, they still need a little help.

If it were up to me to teach them to write I might lose my mind. Despite receiving therapy to help them develop their writing skills, and physical therapy to strengthen them up, they have zero focus when writing. They like to sing and dance and tell stories between writing each letter. Writing one single word can take FOR EVER!

This morning was entirely too frustrating for all of us. My girls simply had to fill in the blank with one word and somehow one of them wound up in tears. I know this should not be stressful if I want them to be successful. I immediately contacted local mom and Occupational Therapist Heather White. She gave me some really great tips for keeping my girls focused while working on their letters.

HELP KIDS FOCUS

  1. Have your child sit on a yoga ball so they can wiggle while they work.
  2. Give them a crunchy snack to eat while writing. Pretzels and carrot sticks are great!
  3. Limit handwriting practice to 5 minutes a day – 10 minutes maximum. You can incorporate handwriting in other tasks throughout the day, but don’t do more than 10 minutes of super focused handwriting work.
  4. Let your child help you with writing tasks like writing the grocery list, addressing envelopes or writing out the schedule for the day. If they feel like their work is useful and helpful, they’re more inclined to do it. Plus it gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership.

yoga ball

MAKE IT FUN

  1. Start a local pen pal group. Round up some local kids, young cousins, grandparents or close neighbors to exchange letters with throughout the summer.
  2. Have your child write a letter to their favorite Disney Character, The President of The United States, or NASA requesting a return letter.
  3. Have your child make birthday cards for friends and help them sign their own name.
  4. Have your child send a thank you card for gifts.
  5. Have your child journal their experiences through summer. Keep it brief to one or two sentences.

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You can use ergonomic pencil grips that help position your child’s fingers properly, and angled writing surfaces such as a 3 ring binder to help with writing mechanics and minimize frustrations.

Heather assures me that most kids entering Kindergarten are still learning to master their writing skills. Part of Kindergarten education is learning how to write and most kids catch up before you know it. Knowing that my kids are on par with their peers is helpful. Practicing a little bit throughout the summer will help them from back sliding before school starts; and making it fun guarantees less tears in the process.

Heather White is a Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist and is available to help your child through the summer. Please send inquires to heatherbwhite@gmail.com  for more information and rates.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

Take The Stress Out of Summer Writing

My twins are officially preschool graduates and moving on to Kindergarten. I have so many mixed emotions. On the one hand I am so proud of their hard work and excited to watch their next steps, and on the other hand I am emotional about them growing up way too fast. We are now on summer break and as much as I would like to just relax we still have some work to do.

During the Kindergarten screening it was recognized my kids still need help with their hand writing. I am not surprised as they had occupational therapy for two years before I extended an extra year of preschool. Even though they continued to work on their hand writing skills through their preschool program, they still need a little help.

If it were up to me to teach them to write I might lose my mind. Despite receiving therapy to help them develop their writing skills, and physical therapy to strengthen them up, they have zero focus when writing. They like to sing and dance and tell stories between writing each letter. Writing one single word can take FOR EVER!

This morning was entirely too frustrating for all of us. My girls simply had to fill in the blank with one word and somehow one of them wound up in tears. I know this should not be stressful if I want them to be successful. I immediately contacted local mom and Occupational Therapist Heather White. She gave me some really great tips for keeping my girls focused while working on their letters.

HELP KIDS FOCUS

  1. Have your child sit on a yoga ball so they can wiggle while they work.
  2. Give them a crunchy snack to eat while writing. Pretzels and carrot sticks are great!
  3. Limit handwriting practice to 5 minutes a day – 10 minutes maximum. You can incorporate handwriting in other tasks throughout the day, but don’t do more than 10 minutes of super focused handwriting work.
  4. Let your child help you with writing tasks like writing the grocery list, addressing envelopes or writing out the schedule for the day. If they feel like their work is useful and helpful, they’re more inclined to do it. Plus it gives them a sense of responsibility and ownership.

yoga ball

MAKE IT FUN

  1. Start a local pen pal group. Round up some local kids, young cousins, grandparents or close neighbors to exchange letters with throughout the summer.
  2. Have your child write a letter to their favorite Disney Character, The President of The United States, or NASA requesting a return letter.
  3. Have your child make birthday cards for friends and help them sign their own name.
  4. Have your child send a thank you card for gifts.
  5. Have your child journal their experiences through summer. Keep it brief to one or two sentences.

 

child-865116_640

You can use ergonomic pencil grips that help position your child’s fingers properly, and angled writing surfaces such as a 3 ring binder to help with writing mechanics and minimize frustrations.

Heather assures me that most kids entering Kindergarten are still learning to master their writing skills. Part of Kindergarten education is learning how to write and most kids catch up before you know it. Knowing that my kids are on par with their peers is helpful. Practicing a little bit throughout the summer will help them from back sliding before school starts; and making it fun guarantees less tears in the process.

Heather White is a Registered and Licensed Occupational Therapist and is available to help your child through the summer. Please send inquires to heatherbwhite@gmail.com  for more information and rates.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

sad-505857_640

Why would I want to talk about something that happened ten years ago? Having a miscarriage haunts you. Out of the blue you sometimes get the urge to cry when you look at your children. Even though I’m in the business of writing about my experiences, I also write about things I know people have a hard time talking about.

Ten years ago, I wish more people had been talking about miscarriage. Maybe then I wouldn’t have felt so utterly alone. The subject of miscarriage was one tiny section in the back of my pregnancy books. It seemed like any woman who had experienced a miscarriage, kept her heartbreak to herself. It felt like there was some mysterious superstition like if you talked about it, you might jinx someone else’s pregnancy.

Never having heard anyone talk about miscarriage ten years ago made me think it could never happen to me. And then when it did, it made it nearly impossible to say the words out loud for a very long time. So here’s what I wish someone had told me about miscarriage.

1. It’s NOT Your Fault – I was a newlywed and I stumbled into pregnancy carefree. I was so happy to be pregnant. When I saw those first tiny drops of blood, I thought it was weird, but panic didn’t set in right away.Then I cried my way through an entire night while I begged my body to stop.

By the time my doctor called me with my test results, I already knew what he was going to tell me. The best thing he said was that there was nothing I did to cause it. Sometimes it just happens. It was pretty awful to have no control over my body. If you’ve experienced a miscarriage, know first and foremost – It’s NOT your fault.

2. You Are Still A Mother – The worst part of having an early miscarriage was the minimizing way some people talked about my loss. Some even said I was lucky it happened early on. NEVER ever say this to a woman who has suffered a miscarriage at any stage in her pregnancy. I didn’t feel lucky that I didn’t have more time to bond with my baby. I felt utterly broken by it.

I hadn’t told many people, but the few who knew didn’t have any personal experience and couldn’t help me navigate my feelings. To the world, nothing had changed and I wasn’t a mother because my belly wouldn’t be getting bigger and I’d never hold my child, but from the moment I saw those two lines on the test, I became a mother. Sometimes a child isn’t born into the world, but they are born in our hearts.

3. You Lost A Baby – If it’s just a pregnancy you lost, it sounds like you lost your car keys. No big deal, right? You’ll find them eventually. That’s how some people talk about miscarriage. But when you experience a miscarriage, you know that what you lost was a baby. You lost the possibility, the hope, and the joy of seeing your child.

4. It Can Cast A Shadow On Future Pregnancies – From the moment the doctor gave us the go-ahead to try again I was full steam ahead. But the foreboding never left. The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat during each of my subsequent pregnancies I cried. The ultrasound tech gave me a quizzical look when I teared up, seeing my little peanut on the screen for the first time and said, “This is your third?”

Perhaps by the third child, some women would feel confident, expecting to see this little life in there right where it belongs. But that first miscarriage cast a shadow of doubt over each pregnancy that came after. I took NOTHING for granted. I NEVER forgot that the very first time I went for an ultrasound, the tech wouldn’t even show me the screen.

5. You Realize How Miraculous Life Is – Maybe you had one miscarriage like me, or perhaps you’ve had many, but if you’re lucky enough to get to hold your living child one day, you know what a miracle it is that any of us are even here. We’re trained to expect pregnancy to end in a healthy baby, but that’s just not always the case. While it was heartbreaking at the time, losing my first baby gave me a profound gratitude for the three living children I’ve been blessed with.

6. Grief Isn’t Quantifiable – When I told my aunt about my miscarriage, she told me that at least it wasn’t as bad as my grandmother’s loss who lost two children in infancy. I get it- the need to quantify pain. Maybe it’s meant to help someone by putting it in perspective, but perspective is subjective.

I felt sorrow that I didn’t even know if my child was a boy or girl and never got to hold him/her or see their sweet little face. Let’s not get into loss quantifying conversations with each other. The only thing universal about grief is that we all feel it and nobody knows the depths of pain in our hearts except us.

7. You CAN Say It Out Loud – I avoided calling a good friend because I couldn’t say the words out loud. Just weeks before, I had happy news and the thought of saying, “I lost my baby” was too much to bear. The problem is that when you don’t talk about your loss, you isolate yourself from the people that could help you cope.

I’m not saying you need to announce your loss right away. I’m saying that in time, open yourself up to the idea that you are not alone in this and you can share your story. So many women have come before you. So many women can share their stories with you and provide comfort.

When we tell women not to announce their pregnancy until they are in their second trimester we are denying some women the only chance they will get to share their joy with their close friends and family. It also further isolates them while they are grieving a loss nobody knew about. Sometimes a loss comes in the second or third trimester.

What we need to do instead is shed light on the mysterious shroud of pregnancy. We need to know that sometimes miscarriage happens and we need to be supportive of each other if it does. We need to share our stories because having a baby is never guaranteed. It’s a blessing!

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Many homeschool families don’t follow a typical school year schedule, but instead learn throughout the year.  They schedule breaks around holidays, vacations, and whatever works best for the family.  Others do follow a more traditional schedule and take a summer break, but might continue certain subjects as a way to either get ahead or address a remedial subject.  Whether your family homeschools or not, there are lots of fun ways to keep skills sharp over the summer.  There’s a real phenomenon called summer learning loss; due to the extended break, math and reading skills slip so far back that the beginning of the school year is spent relearning lost skills rather than progressing forward.  On the flip side, summer is a time for fun, friends and family, outdoor time, and relaxing.  No need to sit the kids down with a stack of workbooks and force them to miss out on those lazy days.  Instead, there are ways to integrate learning into life, and make it fun for the whole family.

Waterfall

Get Outside

Incredible learning takes place outside.  Pick berries and notice all the kinds of produce grown locally.  Take a hike or go to the beach, and observe birds and wildlife, collect leaves or shells to to look up at home, watch how a caterpillar or crab explores the ground, take note of the various kinds of rocks, watch the different kinds of clouds roll by, collect some ocean or stream water to look at under a microscope.  One thing that my family has begun doing is nature journaling,  Take a notebook, pencil, good eraser, maybe some colored pencils. Go to a loved spot- your backyard, Grandma’s yard, a favorite hike or park, the beach, poolside, wherever, and spend some quiet time there. Encourage your child to consider- what do you see, hear, feel? What does being in this spot make you think about? Are you inspired to draw a picture of something, describe it, write a poem, or just jot down some thoughts or feelings?  To make this fun, bring along your own notebook and join your child in this activity, so that it’s more about nature appreciation and less about work.

Watch a Movie

Those rainy afternoons, lazy evenings after a day of playing in the sun, or sick days are good for something– cuddle up on the couch with a movie!  Instead of parking the kids in front of another mindless kids’ movie, sit down and join them for something of quality.  An old film, a classic musical, a documentary, it doesn’t matter what.  We find it fun to watch movies based on favorite books, and discuss the differences.  Watch a movie and then look for literary elements like foreshadowing.  Analyze what the character is going through– how did he overcome hardship, go on an emotional journey, develop bravery or courage?  My kids love acting out scenes after they’ve fallen in love with a movie, which often leads to imaginative play, drawing, and skits.

Create!

Possibilities are limitless here.  Give the kids of bag of craft supplies and let them go wild, or make a fort out of blankets and pillows, or build a village out of milk cartons and cardboard boxes.  Make a model car, sew a pillow, concoct your own clay or bubbles, build a robot! It can be fun to tap into ideas online such as Pinterest or how-to YouTube videos, but it can be just as worthwhile to let little ones use their own imagination.

Read, read, read

Reading is one crucial skill that should be nurtured year-r0und, and a parent’s attitude and encouragement can make all of the difference. Some kids read willingly, whereas others need a little push.  Sign up for your library’s summer reading program, through which kids can earn prizes and get excited about setting goals.  Go to the library at least once a week.  Let your child pick out books, peruse the “new books” section, and even slip in a few that you think would be interesting.   A variety is great here– some fiction books, mixed in with a book on one of the topics sparked during your outside time, combined with an interesting non-fiction book about a place you might travel to, or your heritage, or animals.  Have family reading time on a rainy day, get in bed a little early after a day outside and let the kids relax and read, or read aloud on a car trip to visit family or friends.

zoo

Follow Their Interests

Was there something that really piqued your child’s interest during the year? Maybe learning about pyramids, the snake that served as the classroom pet, the Revolutionary War, or a really cool Picasso painting studied in art.  Use this time as a laid-back way to find out more. Library books, a documentary found online, or day trip to a museum or zoo are all ways to nurture learning in an organic way that will be fun and not forced.  There are so many local community resources, such as museums, festivals, and parks that can be enjoyed as you broaden your child’s mind.

Let Your Child Be an Apprentice

Take advantage of your child’s time at home to teach them some useful skills. Bring them into the kitchen to help bake muffins (fractions! math!), take part in a home improvement project, wash the car, work in the garden, follow Grandma/Grandpa/Uncle/Older cousin around and learn how to do something worthwhile.  We make it a point to never do any kind of a project at home without having one of the kids help, whether it’s changing batteries in the smoke detector or the windshield wipers.

Free Time

Most importantly, summer is a time to decompress, bond with family and friends, and relax.  Try not to schedule too many engagements, even fun, social get-togethers and day trips, and instead allow for blocks of laid-back, unscheduled time.  Free time and even boredom lead to opportunities for creativity, self-discovery, and recharging. An afternoon at the pool or lake, digging in the sand, splashing in the water,  and giggling with friends is every bit as worthwhile as any worksheet or chore your child could ever do.  A stack of board games or playing cards can create precious memories, as can the opportunity to make your own jam, read to a baby cousin, or create a fairy castle out of old boxes, scraps of fabric, and paint.

Activities don’t have to be exhausting, costly, or time-consuming.  Simple, wholesome, sweet summer experiences make the best memories, and will give your kids something to share when asked to talk or write about “My Summer Vacation.”  Share your favorite downtime activities with our readers in the comments below.  Welcome, summer!

Summer-camp season is upon us which means lots of kids putting their heads together in hot-weather activities. Time to step up measures to prevent the transmission of head lice. This spray has been working very well for us for the past few years, I’m happy to say. It’s easy to make and use, and the essential oils have many benefits for your child’s overall health.

Creating Children's Thank You Cards

I know I am one of the last few moms on the planet that fully insists her children send thank you cards. We send them after birthday parties, for the surprise gift and for holiday gifts from friends and family. And now we send them to our teachers at the end of the year.

Everyone likes to be thanked for their hard work. My kids are NOT easy humans to deal with. I totally get it. I don’t own enough cash to throw at the teachers and therapists that have worked with us over the years. I would gladly go broke letting them know how much we appreciate their hard work. Sadly, I am already broke so that leaves me with heart felt, handmade gifts.

Kissing hand cards

Every day when I drop my girls off at preschool they extend their tiny hands out and ask for, “a kissing hand mama?” If you have never read the book The Kissing Hand you have to add that to your list of back to school must haves! A little raccoon is afraid he will miss his mom too much while away at school, so she gives him a kiss to keep in the palm of his hand to let him know she is close by.

This year the teachers at our preschool have given their hearts away to my kids each day. They have loved my little ones as their own and beyond- especially on those really trying days where I wasn’t so sure I even liked them. I thought a kissing hand would be appropriate for my girls to leave behind for their teachers.

kissing hand 3

This will make a lovely project to make on a rainy day, or a really hot day over the summer. Make a stack to keep on hand. Should there be an occasion calling for a thank you, let your little ones sign their names or write a word of thanks on the inside. Since the inside of the cards are blank you can really use them any time even if is simply “Thinking of You.”

I purchased a set of colorful blank note cards on clearance some time ago because I knew they are perfect for making our own cards! Start by laying out a group of cards, or blank pieces of paper. Place foam heart stickers in the middle of the card.

kissing hand 2

Have your child select a favorite color of paint and simply paint their hand. Then have them press their hand over the heart so that the heart is in the center of their palm.

Kissing hand 4

That’s it! Let the paint dry and your kids can start practicing their note writing skills and pop those beautiful cards in the mail, or deliver them personally. Today is our last day of school and we can’t wait to hand these over!

Why send thank you cards?

The rule of thumb for thank you cards is that you send a note only if the gift giver is not present to thank. Most often birthday gifts are not opened during parties any more. They are saved and opened at home. We only started opening gifts this last year and my kids thanked everyone individually. I was off the hook for thank you notes!

We often receive little packages of gifts from neighbors on our front door. So I make sure my kids make and write their own thank you cards each time we receive a surprise gift.

Little kids don’t send a text message or a mass Facebook post with a blanket thank you. Having my girls write their own thank you notes helps them connect to and really appreciate the person that gave them their gifts.

I think it’s cute when I get a thank you card on personalized kid stationary, but making it homemade just makes it feel more personal and less mass produced.

Hand written notes and cards of thanks are a much warmer way to connect. My girls may not grow up to share my love of note writing, but for now I think it is a wonderful and simple way for them to practice gratitude.

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

 

 

“Here we go again,” I thought as the headline popped up in my Facebook news-feed. “Country Star Fires Back at Mom Shamers With Viral Instagram Post.” I sucked in my breath as I opened the article and prepared to see some horrific insults hurled at this country star that warranted she take to social media in an attempt to put the offenders back in their place.

mom shaming
Instead, here’s what I saw. A celebrity mom posted a picture of a grocery store conveyor belt laden with jars of baby food on Instagram and comments that included:

  1. “Make your own!!! Don’t buy jars. Yes they’re convenient, but not as nutritious as mummy’s homemade.”
  2. “Make your own. It’s cheaper and way healthier ;)”
  3. “Why not make them instead?!”

While I admit that the three exclamation marks on the first comment would get my dander up, even I can appreciate that anything made from scratch without preservatives is healthier. Plus, the softness of the word “mummy” makes it really hard for me to see it as an angry comment. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad mom if you give your kids jars of food instead of making their food yourself. If that’s the case, then I’m guilty as charged.

The second comment is clearly a suggestion with two supporting reasons to give baby food making a try. Without the question mark, sure maybe it can look more like a command, but I’m guessing the winky face isn’t meant to illicit ill-will. Number three is clearly a question. Have we lost all ability to ask questions of other parents because they might think it comes as a judgement?

The one really powerful thing about the internet is its ability to connect people from all over the world who would never meet in real life. It allows us to share information in real time. Perhaps there’s a problem with not really taking a second to think about what we’re typing.

The REALLY tricky part of the internet is not having the ability to see the people who are interacting with us on social media. That means we can’t get visual cues that we would use in a face to face conversation to determine if they were talking sternly, cheerfully, or just normally. We can’t hear the inflection or tone of voice of the people we’re interacting with either and that’s problematic as we use this tool to determine the perceived “intention” behind someone’s words.

Even in real life we sometimes get it wrong, so is it any wonder we’re probably interpreting a million interactions incorrectly on the internet? I’m very lucky to have gone about parenting my three kids free of “shaming.”

Here are the experiences I’ve had in real life of “mom shaming.” I was in the café in my medical office after my pre-natal checkup when I was near the end of my pregnancy with my oldest daughter. I asked my husband as I held up a small cup, “Should I get decaf or regular?” A woman behind me piped up with, “You shouldn’t have coffee. It’s bad for the baby.”

Did I fire back with a “mind your own business?” No. Did I respond with a “thanks for your concern, but my doctor assured me that one small cup of coffee a day would pose no threat to my baby?” No. Either were perfectly legitimate options, but here’s what I thought instead.

I was asking my husband’s opinion because the baby I was carrying is his just as much as mine and so it mattered to me what his opinion was. I didn’t know this stranger and while I didn’t ask for her opinion, she probably was actually concerned for my baby’s health, which is kind of nice. I guess if I was holding up a bottle of malt liquor instead of a small coffee cup, I would want that kind of person to speak up on behalf of my baby’s health when they don’t have a voice yet.  Lastly, I thought I don’t NEED to let her comment make me feel bad. That would be MY choice. So I brushed it off, moved on with my life and had a beautiful, healthy baby girl.

I’ve also dealt with less than stellar comments online, but I always try to respond with grace and remember that someone took time out of their day to read my work. I had a fellow blogger share a post I’d written calling me out on something she didn’t agree with. So, I politely explained my position and thanked her for sharing my post. She was shocked I wasn’t angry and was thanking her. You can turn a spark into a fire or you can put it out. It’s your choice. The world is full of people who don’t agree with you. We can simply agree to disagree.

I have vowed from the beginning. I will NEVER use my platform to propagate hate. I always try to offer advice, which I pray is received with the love and grace that is intended. I’m sure I have or will say something that offends someone, but the truth is we can’t always help that. Perhaps we’ve accidentally touched on someone else’s insecurity or fear. Perhaps we didn’t phrase it in the best way that would indicate our good intentions.

Bottom line: We will all say something to offend others and we will all be offended by something someone says to us whether it’s in real life or online. BUT it’s our choice whether we pick up that offense or walk over it. If it’s someone whose opinion you truly value, then I would suggest you ask the person about their motive. If you don’t know the person in any way, you can choose not to respond or to respond with grace. “Thanks for your concern, but I’ve got this.” will usually suffice.

The saddest part for me about all this “mom shaming” is that a lot of it might be misunderstanding. It’s also that when someone “fires back” and does a public online rant about the offenders, instead of dealing with an individual directly what happens is that “fire” ignites more and more people. Hate and outrage spread like wildfire. I read a post this week clearly meant to devalue SAHMs and I was sickened, but the worst part was that it garnered over 1,500 responses many of which were straight up mean.

I’m suggesting a very radical thing here when I say, we are not helpless victims forced to come to our own rescue. We can choose to be confident in our parenting choices. We can also be open to other people’s suggestions. We can take advice or leave it. I will never support someone intentionally “shaming” someone. But we have a choice, even when someone’s advice or comment sounds negative. Shame is what happens when you allow those words to change the way you feel about yourself as a person and a mother. If you know your worth ladies, then no one can ever make you question it.

Always remember, parenting is a lifelong string of decisions and they aren’t going to be black and white. There’s simply what you do and what you don’t do and nobody has it all figured out.

Erin Johnson a.k.a. The No Drama Mama can be found writing on her blog The No Drama Mama and Hudson Valley Parent when she’s not wiping poop or snot off her three adorable kiddos. This “tell it like it is” mama has NO time for drama, so forget your perfect parenting techniques and follow her on Facebook or Twitter for her delightfully imperfect parenting wins and fails. Her work can also be found on The Huffington Post, Money Saving Mom, Mamapedia and Worshipful Living.

Foaming hand soap costs pennies to make and is so much better for your skin and health. Take a look and see how easy it is to make.

We’ve seen a lot of sadness in our corner of the world this week.  Lots of loss, massive losses to our community, and none warranted or expected.  It’s been hard to get off my mind, as I’ve watched both adults and children question, mourn, and try to make sense of events that truly cannot be understood.  While life goes on, and we have no choice but to move forward, I find we also need to take time out to process, discuss, hug, cry, and be with one another.

As a mother, as a homeschooler, as a psychologist, I’ve tried to help my own children process loss the best way I know how.  As a point of self-disclosure, I’ll also share that we very unexpectedly lost one of our sweet cats this week, only three months after having to say goodbye to our other cat.  Experiencing this personal loss, while watching the world reel from the shock of horrific shootings and an alligator attack, was just too much.  To honor our feelings and those we were mourning, I felt it necessary to take time out to just be.  No one can change such earth-shattering tragedies, but we can ease ourselves through the process of coping with loss.

Allow Your Kids to Feel

So often, our society teaches us that the best way to comfort a child is to ease their sadness.  We can be quick to say, “Wipe away those tears,” “Don’t be sad, it’ll be okay,” or “Everything happens for a reason.”  Yet, that does nothing to validate or honor the emotional process that you and your child are experiencing at the moment.  Even though I, too, would like to do nothing more than halt my kids’ sadness, I know the best way to do so is to let them experience it.  When I feel sad, when my kids feel sad, we sit and talk about what the sadness feels like.  We reassure ourselves that it is okay to feel sad, to cry, to express the pain and confusion of loss, and the fear of living in a world that seems upside down at times.  I’m not advocating for endless wallowing for the sake of doing so, but rather letting yourself, and your child, fully flesh out the sadness until it passes on its own.  Sometimes, it really helps to hear that it’s okay to be sad, to share it, and that the feelings will continue to come and go as we heal.  Permission to feel what you’re feeling is a powerful and respectful part of the grieving process.

Surround Yourself with Loved Ones

Many times, we want to hibernate when we experience profound sadness or loss.  Those feelings are normal, but I find it invaluable to also spend some time with loved ones, and allow for distractions.  Intense feelings are hard to process without breaks, whether it be cuddling up on the couch with a favorite movie, spending an afternoon with good friends, a family get together, or going to a place of worship.  In the Jewish faith, loss of a first-degree loved one is followed by a week-long Shiva, in which friends and family visit the individual who experienced the loss, and just *be* with them.  Spending time with friends and family as you feel sad can ease and help refill your heart.  Even if it is done virtually, allow yourself and your child to reach out to social supports and share feelings, benefit from the comfort of others, and experience a break from overwhelming emotions.

Kindness

Kindness matters. Being good to others matters.  When making sense of the senseless, sometimes the best thing we can do is to do good for someone else.  Bake brownies for your single neighbor, gather some pet food and blankets and drop them off at a shelter, make some PB&J sandwiches and bring them to a soup kitchen, donate your spare change to the Salvation Army, pay the toll of the person behind you when crossing the bridge, pick up trash on a hike.  It won’t change what happened, but it can change the future.  Random acts of kindness, paying it forward, and putting positivity out into the Universe can’t hurt.  If we model love and kindness for our children, chances are, they’ll embody it as well.

Talk, and talk, and talk

In generations past, kids were kind of kept on a need-to-know-basis.  Parents didn’t tell them what didn’t concern them, since hey, they were just kids.  These days, there’s no keeping kids in the dark.  With tv/the internet/social media, our kids know what’s going on, sometimes even before we do.  While we have to consider how many details they can handle developmentally, it’s not helpful to downplay what’s going on in the world with promises we cannot keep.  Instead of promising, “It won’t happen here,” it can be better to discuss what you and your family can do to keep safe.  It’s important to answer their questions the best way you can, offering to do research on a topic or find a trusted person who can shed more light, if you cannot.  When our children walk into the room when we’re discussing the most recent national or international tragedy, and we quickly change the subject or go silent, they know. They know, and it scares them, because they wonder what the adults in their world are hiding.  Instead, empower kids by helping them understand the basics of the situation, answering their questions, offering them your love, and a hug.  We can’t change what’s happened and we can’t prevent it, but we can make our kids feel as safe and protected as possible.

In the end, sometimes all we can offer one another is our love.  It may not feel like enough, but it can also be the most powerful tool for healing a broken heart and overcoming the unthinkable tragedies we see every day.  Yes, we need international change, reform, and so many political overhauls.  Yes, we cannot just sit back and love one another and expect change.  Yet, when it comes to the need to hold your family tightly and be there with one another, love is all you need.

Inner Peace

This week we have witnessed a cluster of very tragic events in our country. Some far away from the safety of our home and some locally in places we may shop regularly. I knew I couldn’t write this post as “business as usual.” It is hard for me to write about the fun crafty things we are doing when really what I want to do is just hold my kids tight and keep them close in my arms for as long as I can.  My mind is swirling with so many questions, concerns and worries trying to make sense of so much loss and pain.

It is incredibly difficult to make sense of “senseless acts” or random accidents. As parents we struggle with how to process all of this information as it unfolds. We try to keep the gory details to ourselves to protect our children and we worry that sharing too much will destroy their innocent little world. I am deeply saddened by the events that have taken place around the country this week- from the court rooms to the night clubs to Disney and local grocery stores it may feel like there are very few places left that are immune to violence.

I know this is a much deeper blog post than my usual upbeat “just recycle it and make a mess” artsy posts. But this week I am really struggling to find a way to help myself and my kids cope with all of the negative recent events, and I am sure you are too.

Art, music and literature are always a place of solace for me. Delving into the arts may not help my kids and I make sense of this crazy world we live in, but it can definitely help us cope with our feelings about it. And it can help me teach my children about compassion, tolerance and diversity.

Here are a few simple ways art can help you and your child cope with senseless violence:

LITERATURE

Escaping into the imagery of a good book allows your child to unplug from their worry and anxiety over safety. Spending time in an imaginary world may sound like avoidance, but it really does help promote positive feelings and the reader can forget about real world stress for a short time.

Build your child’s understanding of inclusion, tolerance and just plain being nice to people by adding a handful of books about these topics to your home.  I know it can be confusing about where to start the tougher conversations with our kids about things like differences of religion, gender identity and ethnicity. An age appropriate book can be a great tool in starting a conversation. Select books that illustrate ways they can love and help. Choose books with a hero who picks compassion and justice over doing what feels good.  Sometimes what we fill our minds with becomes the script for how we see ourselves and interact with the world.

If your child is old enough to write, encourage them to keep a journal where they can write about or draw their worries and fears. They can take refuge in the pages to express what they need. Make it an interactive journal that allows them to ask questions and you can reply with answers.

ART

Art is a very safe place for children to express their feelings and emotions. Try not to dismiss if they draw a picture that makes you question, “Where did you hear that?” or “Where did you learn that?” They may be sharing something important about their thoughts and feelings. I often wonder if I need to have my kids’ hearing checked, but turns out they can perfectly hear (and absorb) everything I am saying. If I discuss in front of them the details I’ve learned about a shooting or tragedy they are going to hear it. Kids process things very differently than adults and they don’t always know how to say, “Hey mom, guns scare me.” If your child is anxious it may show up in their art work. If you want to give your child a safe place to process all these big fears and feelings pull out the paper and crayons. Let them create on the page what’s happening inside. Then use their creations as teachable moments.  You can reassure them they are safe and they are loved and even empower them by sharing ways to stand up to others when necessary.

Visiting a museum or art gallery will show your kids there is still plenty of beauty in this world. Hand your kids a camera and let them find something beautiful on their own.

MUSIC

Music can be a very soothing way to for kids to find calm, or to simply focus their energy in a new direction. You don’t have to listen to the wheels on the bus another 14,000 times you can play music that you like too. Music is a powerful healing tool for anyone. Turn off the news and fill your home, or your car with music that is uplifting to your child and keeps you all in a good mood. Allow them opportunities to create music and sounds as a way to channel energy and emotions. Starting your own rock band in the living room, or a spontaneous dance party on the deck can be a great distraction from the media and shift kids out of an anxious state.

I wish we could all wake up tomorrow in a world where love and tolerance dominates instead of watching decades pass us by waiting for change.  Providing safety and peace in our own homes will help our children cope with the unimaginable events happening around us. We don’t want to isolate our children, or teach them to give up on living out of fear, but we do want to teach them ways to balance their emotions when they are bombarded by so much sadness. Filling our homes with positive sights and sounds can help reduce their anxiety. And I know it will work for you too moms and dads.

Much love to the families who are mourning the loss of their beautiful children this week.

 

The Whatever Mom is a full-time wife and twin mama living on coffee and wine. She enjoys the pure rush of cleaning the BIG potty between loads of laundry. It is her dream that moms everywhere accept and embrace the Whatever Mom philosophy which can be found here. You can also find her musings and popular shares on Facebook and Twitter. Stay up to date with her creative ideas and outings on Pinterest. 

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