I’m not so far removed from reality to think that I am a perfect parent. I know that I am not, but I try my hardest to parent in a loving way that fosters a creative, safe, and warm environment. One of the most powerful tools to make or break a peaceful home is words. Oh, the power of words.
I know that the words “don’t cry” can be emotionally damaging to children. Yet, one night, as my patience became totally depleted, I found myself uttering these words without much empathy. My preschooler was upset about something I deemed trivial. “Don’t cry” flew out of my mouth.
“Big boys cry too!” He wisely spoke through his tears. Yes, my boy. Boys do cry, and they should. (Please note: I really do mean crying… not whining. Nobody wants a whiner in their house.) Once again, we can turn to science to shed light on an often-feminized topic; crying, as it turns out, is more than just a manipulative tool to get our way.
The Health Benefits of Crying
Emotional crying (as opposed to tears from the wind or from cutting onions) provides a healthy way for the body to process intense stress and/or emotions. Researchers have discovered that the chemical makeup of these tears are different from non-emotional tears. Emotional tears actually contain:
⦁ Stress hormones (one of which is cortisol)
⦁ Natural painkiller (leucine encephalin)
⦁ Manganese, which is a natural mood regulator
This chemical makeup of real tears is exactly why you feel better after a good cry. As the stress hormone leaves the body, the mental attitude frequently improves, and the crier feels relieved. When we tell boys not to cry, we are cutting off a healthy way for them to process emotions. As the stress hormones build up without release, it sets the stage for rage, anger, and depression.
Telling boys not to cry furthers the gender stereotypes
Man up. Don’t cry like a girl. Don’t be a sissy. Only girls cry. Only babies cry.
The research behind the chemical makeup of tears points out that emotional tears carry stress hormones out of the body – whether that body is male or female. That means that crying is not inherently a trait of femaleness; crying is within human nature. When we tell boys not to cry, it does two things:
⦁ It forces boys into a stereotype that forces a separation of all emotion from manhood.
⦁ It makes any girl who cries inferior.
But crying isn’t just for girls. It’s for humans; it’s a safety valve to help us process emotions before we reach the critical point. Teach your sons to cry; teach them to process their emotions. Heck, just teach them about emotions. Teach your daughters empathy, to console a crying boy, to never mock a boy (or man) who cries.
Crying Helps the Healing Process
Certified relationship coach Chris Armstrong stresses the importance of crying as part of the healing process.
According to Armstrong:
“Crying is an outlet that has less casualties than isolation, anger or passive aggression. Crying is an instant release mechanism that allows the healing process to begin quicker. When men want to cry but don’t, they are simply trading in that outlet for something else. As a result, moving on from whatever wrought the emotion becomes that much harder.”
Crying Helps Prevent Mental Disorders
This benefit of crying may seem a bit alarmist at first read; however, Harvard professor William Pollack presented his research at a conference on youth violence prevention hosed by the New York Academy of Sciences. Pollack presented his case that the anger and disconnect of young boys is at the heart of the increasing diagnoses of ADHD and depression.
The idea that boys should be “tough” and independent (too early) often causes an emotional clog, which can lead to depression, anger, and rage. The solution? Teach your boys how to handle emotions and how to cry. Boys don’t need to “toughen up.” They don’t need to stuff their emotions under a rug.
To those fearful of perpetuating the tea cup generation: Experiencing emotions does not create the tea cup generation. Experiencing emotions is a part of what sets humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. When we embrace our emotions and learn to regulate them, life has a new sweetness to it. So the next time, your little boy cries, fight the urge to say “Don’t cry.”
Shaping a happy childhood
Guest Post by Erica Johnson
What can a parent do to foster a happy environment for kids?
Make Time for Your Child
Whether it's reading together, tossing a ball around, or mixing up some brownies in the kitchen, carving out quality time with your kiddo is essential to his or her emotional health. Giving your child some time where your focus is on only him or her can reaffirm that you'll be present when times get tough.
According to LiveScience.com, you should try to eliminate distractions during this time. If you're on your phone during your special time together, you could end up sending the message that you're prioritizing the phone instead of him or her.
Don't Worry; Be Happy!
In Christine Carter, PhD's book Raising Happiness, she explains:
"Extensive research has established a substantial link between mothers who feel depressed and 'negative outcomes' in their children, such as acting out and other behavioral problems."
If you're feeling stressed or down, take a much-needed time out! A date with your spouse or a night out with friends can recharge your mental batteries and help you be a better parent.
Going out not your thing?
When you're feeling stressed throughout the day, try jamming out with your babe to your favorite tunes or take a stroll with your little one while chatting about what you see. You can find a helpful guide to choosing the best stroller here.
*Note: If you feel blue for prolonged periods of time, speak with your doctor about managing your symptoms.
Help Your Child Balance Work and Play
Structured and unstructured activities are both key components of your child's development. If you and your child are constantly running back and forth between dance classes, piano lessons, math tutoring, playdates, and educational field trips, you might need to leave a blank space in your planner.
Self-directed play allows your child to exercise control over his or her own life and to feel freer and happier overall. Encourage your child to have free time outdoors whenever possible; according to an article from CBC.ca, "Kids are often more interested in natural spaces than pre-fabricated play structures." However, if your child shows interest in playing a team sport or joining a club, these structured activities can increase your child's confidence.
Regularly Eat Meals With Your Child
In a study from August 2004, researchers found that "frequency of family meals was inversely associated with depressive symptoms and suicide involvement". Sharing meal time provides an opportunity to teach your child, to share feelings and experiences, and for you and your child to practice good manners and eating habits together. Not only does sitting down to eat together increase family connectedness, it can also improve your child's health with reduced rates of obesity, eating disorders, and drug abuse.
Being healthy makes it easier to be happy.
How do you help your children be happier?
What are your tips for raising happy children? Comment below!
Do you know a new mom - or an expectant mom?
You might have gotten her something for her baby shower, but new moms have a whole set of needs once that little bundle makes his/her grand debut.
What do new moms REALLY need?
Are YOU a new mom?
What did you want/ need as a new mom? Comment below!
P.S. If you're expecting and looking for some baby essentials, be sure to check out my kit for crunchy moms. It's a one-stop-shop for new mamas... toxin free of course!
I've started this post at least 23423 times. That's an accurate count too.
What can I say about fatherhood that hasn't already been said?
It's no shocker to learn that our society struggles with fatherhood and masculinity. Think of this: when a woman is with her children, she is mothering them. When a father is with his kids, he is "babysitting." How often have you heard that? We are quick to label fathers as dead beats or softies or hands-off. So in an effort to show some of the Daddies some love for father's day, I thought I'd share some fun facts about fatherhood.
Fun facts about fatherhood
How to show fathers some lovin'
I've written many, many times about the book The Five Love Languages... and this is another prime example of when to use it. Because let's face it.. not all dads like power tools and neck ties. And someone so important deserves a gift that shows a little love and attention.
If Dad's love language is acts of services, then doing (rather than giving) will fill up his love tank.
It's tempting to try to rush through meal prep in order to get food on the table. I get it. I know dinner (or lunch or breakfast) can be stressful. (Read this post for reducing meal time stress.) We all know that eating together is important but actually cooking together can be an opportunity for bonding too! If you can slow down (just a little bit) and invite your kids into the kitchen, you not only get a chance to chat, but you have a valuable teaching opportunity to impart your culinary and nutrition wisdom on your kids.
The key is to start simple. Use a simple recipe and hand over the reigns. The recipe above is easy and even my littles can do almost the entire recipe without help.
Tips for using cooking as a bonding tool
How do you use food and cooking as a bonding tool? What are your favorite recipes to cook with your kids? Comment below!
How to Simplify Your Life to Focus on Family
Guest post by Wendy Rouse Rohin // Wendy is a mother and Pediatric Physical Therapist with a doctoral degree and over 10 years of experience working with preemies, infants and older children with all different abilities. She absolutely love working with babies and is passionate about helping new moms and dads not only survive but THRIVE during baby's first year and beyond! You can email her, find her on Facebook, or learn more at EverythingBabies.org.
This post originally appeared on EverythingBabies.org.
Parenting in the modern world is unnecessarily cluttered with distractions and multitasking. Unfortunately–despite all the current advances and technology of our time–no one has yet to invent the SuperMom pill. (Don’t worry, I’m working on it.) So, in the meantime, you have to prioritize with intention, or the important things (people) will become neglected and…well…less important. Please, read on if you interested in some ideas on how to simplify your life and focus on family.
Now, don’t get me wrong…it’s definitely a work in progress, not a level of achievement. (Once again, there will be no trophy or medal ceremony for this act of parental amazingness. Sorry.) Almost every day, I set my intentions and work very hard to keep my life as simple as possible, filling it with only what is loved or needed. But it’s still hard, sometimes, and I have to struggle to keep my focus and priorities on what is most important–my family.
“So what do you suggest we do, EB?”
Here are some ideas I’ve implemented to be the most intentional–and the least distracted– mom I can be, so I can focus on family. I don’t feel like I’ll ever arrive at complete success in this category…because I am imperfectly human, after all. I give you, dear readers, permission to set the bar really low as you start off on your personal quest. (You’re welcome.)
How to Simplify Your Life so you can Focus on Family: 5 Great Tips
1. Make a list of your top priorities.
You may want to review or edit your list often, every day if necessary. My priority list is titled “Focus on Family”. Then I have daily To-Do lists in order of priority. My lists are in the “notes” section of my iPhone, which syncs with my apple computer. I usually have one other the other within my reach at all times. Other people do it differently, but you must write it down and keep your lists with you wherever you go.
Do you have a hard time saying “no” or put others before you and your family? (This is you if you have a nurturer, giver, people pleaser or empathic personality.) You may want to start with a less specific to-do list or wish list that you keep on your phone or planner, then make the priority list every day to keep your daily routine focused and simplified.
I try to work on a daily list at bedtime, so I can go to sleep knowing my intentions are set for the next day. Sometimes I do it on a lazy, weekend morning when I’m not in a time crunch and I can plan ahead.
I don’t know about you all, but I am much more productive when I’m busy. And I lost at least half of my memory and thinking skills when my daughter was born. (It’s a terminal illness every parent has to live with, I know.) So, the fleeting thought of “Well…hmmm…I don’t really have to do anything… right now…” actually sets off a ping of anxiety in my stomach. I must be forgetting something really important! (Hence, the lists.)
2. Spend money wisely.
Stick to your budget! Prioritize–and be very intentional about–your purchases. Ask yourself, “Is this something we really need? Do we already have something that serves the same purpose? Will this make my life more simple? Will this help me focus on my family?”
I almost always regret impulse buys and material purchases that aren’t fulfilling . Do I really need another cute skirt in my closet with the tags on it? I definitely don’t need a new sparkly iPhone case that won’t really protect my phone when I already bought a $90 Lifeproof case that is working quite well.
I’m terrible about returning things, so they sit around the house, reminding me of my bad decisions. And if I just keep on driving past that yummy taco shop (eyes forward!), we can save family time, money and calories eating at home, together.
I could write a lot more about spending money with intention, but I want you, dear readers, to implement this concept in ways that resonate with you. If you are focused on family and keeping your life simple, you may find that it’s not that hard to pass up on a lot of unfulfilling and unnecessary purchases.
3. Be more efficient.
A.K.A– “Don’t waste your precious time”. Busy parents barely have time every day for the necessary tasks, why crazify (yep, my new word–do you like it?) your day even more with inefficiencies? Leaving the house to run only one errand? Stopping at a fast-food joint when you are on your way home from the grocery store? Playing CandyCrush for 45 minutes straight at your daughter’s therapy appointment? Scandalous!
Do we really need to see everything that everyone is doing every day on Facebook? Just because you want to stay in touch with 300 of your best friends from childhood or college, doesn’t mean they all have to be on your news feed. You can just click over to their page when you are thinking about them, right? That’s easy enough. I’m guessing about 95-99% of the posts on my news feed are not more important or more meaningful that the parts of my life I’m neglecting when I’m mindlessly scrolling through.
Now don’t get me wrong. We all need some brainless distractions to maintain a barely functional level of sanity. But our “mental breaks” on social distractions are actually complicating our lives and minds with unnecessary clutter, making it harder to focus on what’s really important.
Have you ever tried to decrease your data plan for a month or “unplug” your social media sources for a day? You’d be surprised how much more time you have. If that’s sounds totally impossible to you, would you try setting a timer to limit your time on Facebook or Pinterest?
Your kids may even notice how much more attention they are getting from you. (Attention=less whining, right?) You significant other might even notice how much more relaxed you are by the end of the day. Make sure you have your list of priorities handy to keep you from feeling bored (Ha!) or anxious.
4. Purge the unnecessaries.
This applies to not only material items, but activities, habits, and people who don’t mesh with your intention to simplify your life and focus on family. Learn to say “no” if something is asked of you that doesn’t fit this purpose. You may find that you have more time and energy to say “yes” to more things that bring you happiness, like quality time with your family, or doing something for yourself. (Totally foreign concept, I know.)
Appreciate what you have. Get rid of what you don’t need. Clutter and baggage contribute to your underlying stress and anxiety, even though you don’t really consciously “see it.”
Don’t focus on what you think you need or want. You might be surprised what you can cross off your To-Do or wish list using this frame of mind.
5.Breathe and listen.
Conscious, intentional deep breathing can really help you recharge and maintain the energy and focus you need to get through the day.
It only takes ten breaths in through your nose, filling up your belly (not your chest) to reset your body’s resting, relaxed state. With 10 intentional diaphragmatic (belly) breaths, you can lower your heart rate, blood pressure, stress levels, anxiety, and pain, to name a few. Try this while trying to fall asleep, sitting at a stop light, or on the toilet, (because sometimes that’s the only free time we can get, right?).
When you have a little more time, go outside, sit or lay comfortably and close your eyes. Pay attention to the sounds and sensations surrounding you, that you normally wouldn’t even notice. Listen to the birds and leaves in the trees. Feel the air on your skin and your breath inside your nose. Let your muscles melt into the surface with each exhale…..
Hey! Wake up!!
That’s all for now. It’s time for me to find something healthy for dinner. I hope this post at least jump starts your intention to simplify your life so you can focus on your family. Thanks so much for reading! Do you have some other suggestions? I could use some fresh ideas and old reminders, myself. It’s easy to let life get ahead of us, but it’s not too hard to reel it back in! Share your thoughts below!
Love this article? Let Wendy know!
Wife & Mama with a passion for peaceful parenting, natural living, homeschooling... and my daily café au lait.