Junior football team stacking hands before a match

7 Tips for Creating Confidence in Kids

Self improvement doesn't necessarily mean we'll always win, but it does give us the opportunity to thrive. The most consistent finding in peak performance literature is the direct, positive relationship between confidence and success. Research doesn’t say success causes confidence, but it clearly tells us that outstanding performers are confident. Confidence is all about believing in ourselves. It’s having realistic faith that we can make anything happen, fulfill our dream, and reach our goal. Society teaches us we need to have successful results to become confident and it’s natural to pass that belief on to our kids and youth sport team members. But what if I said confidence can be created through an intentional process and doesn’t have to be solely based on winning the game, match, or tournament? Brain science tells us that confidence is a choice. Helping kids choose to create their confidence doesn’t guarantee they’ll always play great, but it does give them the best opportunity to perform closer to their potential (and have more fun). Apply the following seven tips for creating confidence in kids and youth sport team members: Reinforce and reward effort. Sometimes it’s easier to reinforce effort during practice than during competition when we naturally tend to focus more on outcomes, like making a goal in soccer. By creating a plan to emphasize effort during competition and reward effort after competition, you will increase levels of motivation and fun. HOW? Pre-determine regular intervals – like the end of a quarter or half-time – to check in with kids and ask them to rate their effort. Develop a system to reward effort, like a hustle award, and not just outcomes, such as stickers for making touchdowns. On the car ride home, ask younger kids if they tried their hardest and ask older kids to rate their effort on a scale of 1-10. Focus on self-improvement. One of the top three reasons kids play sports is to improve. To help kids improve, we need to create a mastery-oriented environment where they feel successful when they learn something new or experience skills improvement. A mastery-oriented environment is about “me vs. myself” rather than “me compared to others.” When kids improve skills, they also build their confidence. We can help kids accomplish both by creating optimal levels of challenge – or opportunities requiring them to stretch one level beyond their current skill or aptitude. We can model what we do after the video game industry, which gradually increases levels of challenge to keep kids engaged and builds skills and confidence in the process. HOW? Track and celebrate progression by charting and sharing important statistics in your sport. Ask kids to set up a practice activity, or game, to create their own level-up challenge. Record videos of kids swinging, throwing, shooting, etc. to show them visible skill-improvement over time. Celebrate the good and great. Emotions are like a highlighter on the brain. We best recall experiences attached to strong emotions, whether positive or negative. The more we help kids store positive memories by celebrating the good and great, the more they’ll be able to recall those positive memories the next time they need them. Keep in mind that celebrating may be visible “on the outside” in the form of a high-five or fist-bump, but it also happens “on the inside” through positive self-talk and imagery. HOW? Ask kids how they plan to celebrate the good and great. Have them show you how they plan to visibly celebrate and, for older kids, help them determine what they plan to imagine or say to themselves to help store positive memories. At the start of each practice, have team members show you how they’ll celebrate the good and great. During practice, or throughout the day, catch kids doing something right. Model and develop a growth mindset. Dr. Carol Dweck coined the phrase and wrote a book about the growth mindset, which is seen in kids who believe new skills can be developed through practice, embrace challenges as opportunities to learn, and think effort is essential. On the contrary, kids with a fixed mindset think skills are something you’re born with, avoid challenges out of fear of failure, and believe effort is something you do when you’re not good enough. Her research shows young people with a growth mindset continually outperform young people who have a fixed mindset. HOW? Be intentional about modeling the use of the phrases “YET” and “not YET.” Teach kids to use these phrases as they’re developing skills. For example: “I’m on the right track, but I’m not there YET.” “I may not be good at biking YET. But I will keep improving with practice.” Practice confident body posture. Research tells us our physiology can affect our psychology. That is, how we sit and stand, as well as our facial expressions, can trigger chemicals in our body which affect how we think and feel. For example: sitting up straight in a chair gives us more confidence in our thoughts; two minutes of power poses a day can boost feelings of confidence; and choosing to smile can help us feel happier. HOW? Have your child, or team members, create their own “power pose” – a physical position they stand in when they feel confident. Challenge them to use their power pose throughout practice or their school day. Lead an activity where kids experiment with different facial expressions. Ask them to notice how they feel. Encourage them to incorporate a facial expression into their power pose. Help team members develop and practice a confident walk. Ask them to think about a performer in their sport or activity who is confident – and then not confident – and walk around the room like they are that person. Give specific, skill-based feedback. Coaches tend to give a different type and frequency of feedback to players they perceive to have different levels of ability. When we have expectations that a young person is good or has the potential to be a high performer, we tend to give improvement focused feedback more often. On the flip side, when we believe a young person is not very good or doesn’t have potential, we give less feedback and it’s usually “good job” feedback that doesn’t help them improve. How we give feedback can contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy where good performers get better, and poor performers don’t. HOW? Be intentional about giving specific, skill-based feedback in similar doses to each of your kids, or team members. Increase your awareness of how you give feedback by asking your spouse/significant other/coaching colleagues what they notice. Also, if you’re a coach, videotape yourself coaching in practice. At the end of a class or practice, take five minutes to get feedback from students, or team members. Ask what they learned today and what feedback you gave them that will help them improve. Listen to what they say and provide specific, skill-based feedback, if needed. Based on the day’s objectives, create a coaching/teaching cue card to carry in your pocket. Look at the card as a reminder to provide specific, skill-based feedback to each kid, or team member, regardless of their current skill level. Re-frame mistakes, or losing, as learning. There are countless stories about great performers who have failed, messed up, or lost hundreds or thousands of times. They’ve been coached, or learned on their own, that failures and setbacks are essential for growth and development. The more we can support kids as they make mistakes and help them reframe losing as learning versus losing as failing, the more they’ll persist and improve. Helping kids separate who they are from how they perform can increase their motivation and retention. HOW? Share examples of well-known athletes, artists, or musicians who “failed” before they become highly successful. For example, Hall of Famer, Michael Jordan, was cut from his high school basketball team; Thomas Edison made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb; and Oprah Winfrey was once demoted from co-anchor to a writing and reporting position. Challenge kids to think about other sports or areas of life they’re currently good or great at. Ask them to share how good they were when they first started and what they’ve done to improve. Make the connection between effort, practice, and skill development. After every performance, tell your kids, or team members, how much you enjoyed watching them play, regardless of the outcome. Getting confidence from winning games, or hearing positive statements from others, is great when it happens. However, it’s almost always outside of our circle of control. By intentionally and consistently applying these seven tips for creating confidence, you can help your kids and youth sport team members CREATE CONFIDENCE today rather than WAIT TO GET CONFIDENCE that may never arrive. Beth Brown, Ph.D., is a life-long educator on a mission to inspire families and kids to have fun, become more active and learn life lessons through sports in her children’s book series Adventures with Divot & Swish. After picking up a basketball at age 2 and swinging her first golf club at age 8, Beth was hooked on sports. Her youth sport participation paved the way for her collegiate success as a member of the University of Oklahoma basketball and conference champion women’s golf teams. 
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Blended family eating together for the holidays

8 Practices Blended Families Can Do for a Happier Holiday Season

Use these mindful ideas to keep the peace and increase the merriment. Everywhere we go, starting in early November, Santa Claus confronts us, and Christmas tunes envelop us. Although meant to inspire cheer and excitement, for many people these and other cues evoke dread. Our culture’s expectation that we’re all joyful during the holiday season can be especially hard for blended families. Whether they are formed after a death or divorce, blended families create a widening web of extended family relationships to be considered at celebration times, magnifying the complexities they experience all year round. This situation affects a lot of us. According to the Pew Research Center, in 40% of U.S. families, at least one partner has a child from a previous relationship, far different from the mid-1970s when my widowed dad married my stepmother. At that time, most children lived with two parents who were in their first marriage, and my only prior exposure to a blended family was the TV series “The Brady Bunch,” which ran from 1969-74. Widower Mike, the father of three boys, married the mother of three girls, Carol. Then, as the theme song says, the group “somehow formed a family”– albeit with few complications. No grandparents from the parents’ previous marriages ever appeared. No custody arrangements impacted their family schedule. No pictures of the boys’ deceased mother were displayed, and she was never mentioned. After my dad’s remarriage, we followed a similar pattern, leaving the past behind to create a new future, resulting in diminished contact with my maternal relatives. My memoir, The Art of Reassembly, recounts how, much later, I understood the detriments of this approach. It’s healthier, I learned, to acknowledge the realities of being a blended family, even if they’re challenging. Candor is especially important at the holidays when ordinary stresses may be amplified. Here are some ideas for embracing complexity to enjoy the holiday season as a blended family. Soften Your Expectations Releasing expectations of how the celebrations should go will foster the most helpful mindset. Expectations are insidious. They creep in under the radar of our awareness, forming sharp edges around our emotions. Then they poke others when they are not met. In advance of the holiday season and continuing as it unfolds, check in with yourself about expectations you are holding and try to let them go. Initiate Communication Ask everyone to weigh in on how to celebrate. Gaining insight into what the others in your blended family desire from the holiday season might help with releasing expectations. Maybe your children or stepchildren don’t really care as much about the things you thought were sacrosanct. Maybe they will have suggestions of how to balance time with all their different families that you hadn’t considered. Put the Kids First Inviting input about holiday celebrations from all the children involved in your blended family centers them in a way that matters, but you must follow it up by prioritizing their preferences, even (or especially) if they conflict with yours. This doesn’t mean indulge their every whim. Just let them know you’re listening. Children usually have little or no say in big decisions like divorce and remarriage that majorly impact them. Allowing them choice when you can will build trust. Include Yourself Too Putting the kids first also doesn’t mean ignoring adult needs altogether. The holiday season is plenty long, so make time in the calendar for something that sparks joy or brings you peace or connects you to your own history and traditions. As you nurture yourself, you’re also providing a healthy model for your children and stepchildren to witness. Make Space for Emotions Loss and change are inherent to any blended family, whether from a death or the end of a marriage. As with any loss, feelings of grief are likely to recur around holiday times, which serve as annual reminders of how things used to be. Accept that painful emotions occur. They may appear as angry outbursts or cold silence or sudden weepiness over something seemingly unrelated. Noticing and naming feelings allows them to flow through rather than escalate.  Schedule Downtime Emotions are more likely to crescendo when people are run ragged. Allow space in the calendar for downtime and rest. Create New Memories While spending time with all branches of the blended family is important, so is creating new memories as a unit. They can be very simple, such as serving a special food or a gathering for a movie night or taking a walk together. New traditions may also emerge organically over time. Keep Communicating After the holidays have passed, continue the communication. Ask everyone what they enjoyed, what they thought worked well, what was hard, and invite their input about future celebrations. Bring up the conversation at different times of year. It may be easier to discuss new ideas when the holidays are not immediately proximate. Peg Conwaywrites and practices Healing Touch energy therapy in Cincinnati, OH, where she also volunteers at a children’s grief center. Her essays about early mother loss and long-term grieving have appeared at The Manifest-Station, the Cincinnati Enquirer, and The Mighty. The Art of Reassembly: A Memoir of Early Mother Loss and Aftergriefis her first book.
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Live Happy Mother’s Day Playlist

Moms are pretty amazing beings, so this Mother’s Day, why not celebrate them with a song (or a Mother's Ring)? Check out the Live Happy Mother’s Day Playlist for some great tunes about the women who gave us life—and so much more!
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All You Need is Love

Love is a flower—you’ve got to let it grow,” Beatles legend John Lennon said. In truth, it’s perhaps the most beautiful flower we could ever plant (no green thumb required). We have to water it with affection, fertilize it with compassion and shelter it from the storms of everyday life. Here are 4 Ways to Strengthen the Relationships in Your Life: Journal with your spouse. Find a journal—anything will do, including a basic spiral notebook—and take a few minutes to write to each other. Remind your spouse why you love him or her, whether it’s generosity toward those in need or unfailing ability to make you smile. Ask your spouse out on a date. Most of all, keep your writing positive and focused on each other. When you do, you’ll end up creating the ultimate mood-booster and a family heirloom that generations to come will read and cherish. Send a greeting card. Sending a text message or email is a quick, easy way to say hello to a friend or relative, but sending a physical greeting card shows thought and effort and love. Plus, your recipient can post your card on his or her refrigerator or desk as a daily reminder of you and your relationship. Collect ticket stubs. Remember when you enjoyed the evening under the stars and listened to your favorite band play? Or when you saw that awful movie together? Keep the ticket stubs from wherever your life as a couple takes you, collect them in a glass jar and place it visibly in your home. When you add new tickets to your collection, take a couple of minutes to look at the other stubs in your jar and reminisce about the fun you’ve had together. Plan the ultimate family fun day. Mark it on your calendars. Treat it as seriously as you would a work meeting or soccer practice, and escape the commotion of life for a day of family fun. Get the entire family involved in the planning—surprise the kids with a short day trip; attend a local festival; or maybe even spend the day at home baking, watching movies and building a fort. Your family fun day doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg; it’s more about the entire family spending time together, creating memories and laughing. Take it From the Experts How can we communicate more effectively with our loved ones? “For more than four decades I have been privileged to share the five love languages with people around the world. Understanding this concept gives individuals the information needed to effectively express love. By nature, we do for our loved ones what we wish they would do for us. We assume they feel loved. When they eventually say to us, ‘I feel like you don’t love me,’ we are surprised. The problem was not our sincerity. The problem was we were not speaking their love language.”—Gary D. Chapman, Ph.D., author of The 5 Love Languages series What are some of the relationship-building benefits of the family dinner? “In today’s fast-paced, technology-steeped culture, having family dinner is the most doable way to hang out together; there are few other settings where the family gathers….Family dinner provides a way to connect...a time to unwind, to check in, to laugh together, to tell stories. These benefits don’t depend on you making a gourmet meal, using organic ingredients or cooking from scratch. Food brings the family to the table, but it is the conversation and the connection that keeps the family at the table and provides the emotional benefits.”—Anne Fishel, Ph.D., author of Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun, and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids What is the single most important thing we can do to improve our relationships with our children? “Our relationships with our children improve the most when we work on our relationships with ourselves. When we find ways to be happy and calm and present, we are warmer and more responsive to our children, better listeners—and more consistent disciplinarians.”—Christine Carter, Ph.D., author of The Sweet Spot: How to Find Your Groove at Home and Work How do we use play to make our relationships stronger? “If you get into a win-lose situation, ‘I have to win and the other person has to lose,’ you are in an irresolvable situation. If on the other hand you can play with the others’ ideas without reacting to them and they can play with yours, you usually can arrive at a solution or compromise, a creative way of unifying these two differences.”—Dr. Stuart Brown, author of Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul. How can we create long-lasting, happy relationships? “Relationships thrive when there is an investment in an emotional piggy bank. Without a balance of positive feelings for each other, there is little to draw on during difficult times. The best way of allowing these positive feelings for each other to grow is to not deplete them. If you can have fewer negative emotions and reactions with each other in the first place, it can help preserve your positive resources.”—Daniel Tomasulo, Ph.D., MFA, MAPP, author of Confessions of a Former Child: A Therapist’s Memoir Just the Facts Be an Active, Constructive Responder Fact: Martin Seligman, Ph.D., says our responses to our partners can turn a “good relationship into an excellent one.” Use positive emotions when engaging with your partner by genuinely smiling, touching and laughing. Source: Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being Be Social Fact: Research suggests that your future spouse is less than three degrees from you in your social network. So, go out and be social—you have a 68 percent chance of meeting your soul mate through someone you know. Source: Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives—How Your Friends’ Friends’ Friends Affect Everything You Feel, Think, and Do Happy and Healthy Fact: According to psychologist Ed Diener, Ph.D., close relationships influence our happiness and health. Being in a relationship with someone who shares mutual understanding, caring and validation can greatly improve your life satisfaction. Source: Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth Happiness Attracts Fact: Studies suggest that people with higher levels of wellbeing are more likely to eventually find marriage partners than those with lower levels. Also, they are more likely to have stronger marriages. Source: The Oxford Handbook of Happiness Laughter Is the Best Medicine Fact: Adults with children at home are more likely to have stress, but they are also more likely to smile and laugh a lot. Source: Gallup.com Bonus Tip Bring a smile to a loved one's face with a promise ring. They are symbolic pieces designed to shout your feelings from the rooftops.
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How Teamwork Can Make Your Life Better

Anytime two or more people come together with shared goals, common vision or commitment, the character strength of teamwork becomes important. Research shows that those who are high in this character strength have a positive view of others and more social trust, which can lead to greater success on the task or goal at hand. Consider the many ways that teamwork is important in your life. Here are some examples: A mother and father work together, as a team, in parenting their child with behavioral challenges. They ensure they give the child consistent messages of positive support and steady boundaries, in which they are on the “same page.” A family has a “family meeting” each month to discuss what went well and what needs improvement in their efforts to keep a clean, well-maintained home. Each child and parent equally listens, shares ideas and offers a way to help. Five adolescents on a basketball team pass the ball back and forth selflessly as a unit, looking for the best opportunity to score. Eight members of a work group verbally comment on the strengths they appreciate in one another after working together for two months on an important and demanding project. A committee initiates a new recycling campaign that involves a team of city employees and several volunteer teams to make the community project a success. Want to give your teamwork strength an extra boost? Try these research-based activities from my latest book: 1.) Use “team talk”: Try using positive self-talk about your team (not yourself). Instead of saying “I will do a good job,” say to yourself, “we will perform well,” “we are focused and ready” and “we believe in our abilities.” 2.) Use a positive approach: Whether your team members are fellow students, family members or co-workers, be positive, encouraging and proactive by taking initiative and making efforts to hear their opinions. 3.) Validate successes: Look for team members’ mini-successes (finishing a small task, starting a project early, having a difficult conversation) and compliment them on their efforts and progress. This will build team confidence. 4.) Link strengths and roles: When you notice another team member doing something that is energizing or seems to make them happy, point it out. Talk about the strength you see them using and connect it to the role they are playing on the team or the task at hand. For example, “I see how excited you get when you use your curiosity strength. That seemed to really help you connect with that customer." This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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6 Ways to Raise Kinder Kids

The thought of raising a brat of a child can bring panic and anxiety to any parent. It’s an especially overwhelming thought if you don’t have the proper tools on hand to teach your child how to be a kind person. Sometimes we don’t even know what we are doing wrong. Thomas Lickona, Ph.D., developmental psychologist and author of How to Raise Kind Kids, says the most common mistakes parents make in childrearing is not exercising moral authority with confidence, constantly making kids happy by sparing them from disappointment and not being intentional in creating a positive family culture. Kids who do respect their parents’ moral authority create a foundation for moral development later in life, Thomas says. “It’s difficult to teach kids anything if they don’t listen to you, they don’t obey you, they don’t respect the fact that you are the mom and dad and you have the right to expect obedience,” Thomas says. Try these six tools Thomas recommends for raising kinder kids: Develop a Positive Family Culture. Creating a family mission statement gives your children a sense of belonging to something bigger than themselves. Thomas suggests sitting down together and discussing your family’s core values and virtues. For example, “the Smiths don’t lie, cheat and steal,” “the Davidsons are kind, gracious and don’t hurt people,” or “the Lannisters always pay their debts” (OK, maybe that last one is a bad example). Having a family charter sets a tone of how the family should behave and will give children moral clarity in why and what the family believes. Become a Character Coach. In order to raise a kind person, you need to be a kind person. Model good behavior and teach them the responsibility to care for others. Instill good virtues, such as kindness, respect and self-control. Thomas writes that the surest way to be happy is to make others happy. Good character also means not letting little infractions slide. “Take the small stuff seriously,” Thomas says. “If you don’t correct rudeness and tantrums, for example, in your 6-year-old, you’ll have a lot more trouble reining in swearing and door slamming by your 16-year-old.” Keep Constant Contact. The responsibility of raising children well falls on parents’ shoulders. Stay in touch by holding regular family meetings to discuss anything that may be exciting or troubling in their lives. Thomas suggests a technique he used in his own family, called the back and forth questions. The key is to ask your child a question, such as “what was the best and worst part of your day?” Encourage the child to reciprocate and ask you the same. After a while, you and your child will develop the art of good conversation. “Meaningful conversation enriches family life, builds relationships and gives you a vehicle to transmit your deepest values,” Thomas says. “Without those conversational exchanges, we really are on the sidelines of our children’s character formation.” In his book, How to Raise Kind Kids, Thomas provides 40 conversation starters to get the verbal ball rolling. Reduce Screens. Technology is great, but not at the expense of a deteriorating family life. A sad statistic is that screens—TVs, phones, tablets, video games—are drastically changing the amount of face time families put in each day. When kids “disappear” into their own worlds, parents know less about the goings-on within their children’s lives, and problems like irritability and poor sleeping habits can emerge. Challenges grow as teens begin to seek validation from social media. Thomas suggests a four-week electronic fast, a technique developed by child psychiatrist Victoria Dunckley, author of Reset Your Child’s Brain. He admits the first few days may be rough, but parents can start to notice real changes in their kids, such as fewer tantrums and arguments. After four weeks, slowly reintroduce devices, allowing one hour of screen time per day. A Little Hard Work Never Hurt Anyone. Our kids learn all their habits, good and bad, from what happens at home. Continuously trying to appease and not disappoint them can turn our kids into self-absorbed meanies. It undermines the family culture and can have adverse effects on the rest of the family. A good way to avoid these feelings of entitlement is to make the kids part of the household team. Thomas suggests giving them responsibilities and chores to do within their abilities and hold them accountable when they don’t meet expectations. They should know the value of work, and everyone within the household should contribute. Make Gratitude the Right Attitude. Constant complaining can be a drain on the family. It makes children unhappy, and it certainly is no joyride for the parents, either. Teaching good gratitude practices, such as using a gratitude journal or counting your blessings, can shift your child’s focus from what they have instead of what they don’t have. If this is a part of everyday life in your household, for example, giving thanks for a meal and asking around the table what everyone is grateful for, then positive feelings will start to cultivate and the negatives will dissipate. “Gratitude is an act of kindness and ingratitude is an act of unkindness,” Thomas says. “We should teach our children what gratitude means and why thankfulness is important. Gratitude is feeling and expressing thanks for the benefits we receive. Why does it matter? Because it makes us feel better, and counting your blessings is the secret of a happy life.” For more, listen to our podcast with Thomas Lickona, Ph.D. on Live Happy Now.
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Overjoyed young family with little preschooler kids have fun cooking baking pastry or pie at home together, happy smiling parents enjoy weekend play with small children doing bakery cooking in kitchen

7 Keys to Healthy Family Relationships

Your family is the foundation on which much of your happiness, success and physical and emotional well-being is based. If your family relationships are unstable, that can cause a ripple effect that affects work, friends, finances and even your health. The feelings of connection and security that come with strong family relationships can give you the lift you need to endure life’s challenges and meet your goals with confidence and courage. Some of the main causes of families’ reduced emotional health are changes in family structure, medical problems, parenting or relationship issues, career struggles and financial challenges. Long-term stress on a family—even if the stressors seem to be small—can also have a significant impact. Many of us are so busy keeping up with daily tasks and pressures that we do not focus enough on building and maintaining our closest relationships. Ideally, families are intended to provide a safe haven, serving as an enduring group of individuals who transcend time and life circumstances. Here are seven ways to improve your family relationships. Healthy families... 1. Learn what their strengths are and use them to overcome obstacles and to stay connected. They put in the effort to identify and work on their weaknesses as individuals and as a whole. If your family is great at networking, use your networking skills to help yourselves in times of need. If your family has weakness in the area of conflict, make a family pact to try harder to be calmer during arguments and to improve your conflict resolution skills. 2. Have a foundation of respect. John Gottman, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and researcher, has written books and articles stating that within minutes he can determine whether a couple’s relationship will be lasting and happy simply based on their behaviors regarding respect. The same is true for families. Respect relates to how members of a family feel and think about each other and how they interact with each other. You show respect if you always consider your family members’ happiness and place it equal to your own. 3. Value investment in the family. Anything that we truly care about requires investment of time and energy. Make sure that you and all of your family members make a concerted effort to spend time together, think about one another and work toward being a strong and happy unit. Plan family days where each family member is responsible for one component of the day. One member plans an outdoor activity, another an indoor activity and one chooses or prepares lunch. 4. Work on good communication skills. Communicating takes effort; it is not just about having a conversation. Focus on listening and understanding what your family member is trying to say. Carve out time to work on communication skills by putting away cellular phones and other devices at the dinner table so you can interact with one another. 5. Know the value of fun and laughter. All of us know that happiness can be the best medicine physically, psychologically and spiritually. Laughter and fun are guaranteed pathways to happiness. Plan time for your family to do shared activities that everyone enjoys: play games together, have a water balloon or snowball fight outdoors, tell bad jokes while decorating homemade cookies. 6. Establish traditions, values and goals, and work toward achieving them. One of the greatest ways to connect is to have shared traditions, values and goals. If you have already developed some, do your best to continue what you started. Sit down to discuss and reinforce values, invent new traditions and plan how you’ll accomplish goals together. 7. Problem solve as a group. One of the greatest things about family is that you can lean on each other for advice and support. Plan family brainstorming sessions or family meetings to solve important dilemmas or plan your next weekend adventure. Share your joys with each other as well as your challenges. This article originally appeared in the October 2018 edition of Live Happy magazine.
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3 Tips for Comforting Your Teen’s Anxieties During a Pandemic

As 2020 ushered in with gusto, many of us were feeling extra hopeful with the promise and potential of a golden decade. It was bound to be a wonderful year. Yet as January drew to a close and the pandemic became a reality, slowly, the glitz and glamour wore off and the stress and social distancing from COVID-19 were ever-present. To say this has not been the most ideal summer would be an understatement, but we all have to do our best to adjust to the current situation. For parents, navigating your teenagers being at home, home-schooling and trying to keep the house afloat are all very real struggles that COVID-19 has brought us. But, supporting your teenager during this time doesn’t have to be a struggle—even when new emotions, such as anxiety, might be arising. As a teen anxiety expert, I have spoken at more than 500 middle schools and high schools in the past five years. I remember what it was like to suffer from panic attacks (sometimes up to 20 a day!) as a teen. After learning how to manage my anxiety, I have become a resource for parents and teens to understand anxiety and how to navigate through its chaotic waters. Here are my top three tips for connecting to/comforting your teen during this quarantine: Hold the Space What teenagers really want more than ever is not just to be seen, but heard, understood and treated like an adult as well. They want validation and to know that they matter. During this time, so many emotions are running wild. Imagine being a teen (with all the hormones, body changes, peer pressure, etc.) then add a crazy global pandemic. Holy Guacamole. Start by taking away any distractions, such as screens and devices, and sitting your teen down to look them in the eyes and let them know you are available to talk just to see how their day is going. This removes the pressure and allows the emotions to naturally flow. Keep in mind that you can act as a friend and parent but keep the parent role as a higher priority. Exercise in Nature Moving your body is not only important for your physical health, but there are many benefits to mental health that come from physical activity too—especially if you can exercise in a green space. Being in nature can be very calming and soothing for anxiety! The next time your teenager feels ungrounded, anxious or you see they have been scrolling on social media for too long, get them outdoors. It will be very healthy for them to disconnect from the digital world while also getting in some needed family time. It also allows your teen to decompress so they can see the bigger picture. Sometimes when we get stressed or overwhelmed, we can get lost in our heads! It’s important to show them that they can take a breath, get outside and not get caught up in the small stuff. Whether it’s hiking, swimming, walking or running—it will make them and you feel better! Notice the Signs Everyone processes emotions and life experiences differently. Some bottle up their emotions, while others pour their heart out and want to talk it out. For teens, they are just starting to come into their own. Their bodies are physically changing, and their minds are developing and taking on new information daily. As the parent or guardian of a teen, it’s important to be aware of your child’s “communication language.” Noticing how your teenager says what’s on their mind or when their personality changes for the better or worse. Trust your gut feeling as a parent and if your teen seems like they are struggling, especially with these current times, step in and take action. You can sign them up for weekly virtual therapy sessions, a virtual summer camp, book club or doing fun workouts in the garage together. This pandemic won’t last forever, so you can use this time as an opportunity to bond with your teen instead of growing apart. It’s up to you as a parent to find the good.
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Pizza time. Young beautiful couple in kitchen. Family of two preparing food. Couple making delicious pizza. Man grating cheese. Nice loft interior with light bulbs

5 Tips to Keep Your Relationships Happy, Healthy and Strong

Like never before, many couples are finding they are spending more time together than ever. Rather than simply surviving this crisis, couples can use this as an opportunity to grow a deeper connection with each other. People who are intentional to use this time wisely are shutting off their television at night and working to create greater intimacy with their partner. Meaningful conversation, working together on projects around the house, making meals together, playing games and having intimate romantic connections are all ways to use this time to benefit your relationship. Marriage is hard and takes lots of work. No one inherently knows how to be a great spouse/significant other; it takes years to become proficient at being in a successful relationship. You can’t know if you can flourish as a couple until you learn the tools to create a happy relationship. Here are five tips to strengthen your relationship with your significant other: Learn to process your feelings. Couples should spend time talking about their feelings during this difficult time. Just as important, if not more so, is validating each other’s experiences and feelings. People tend to want to rescue others from difficult feelings, but sometimes people just need space to process their emotions before they can fully move through them to the other side. Have meaningful conversations. Couples should try and find time to have meaningful conversations—even if it’s just 10 minutes a day. Talking about more than the everyday tasks that must be accomplished. Ask each other questions about your childhood, your current goals, and future hopes and dreams. Many couples find even after decades together that there are still things to discover that will deepen your knowledge of each other. Find time to exercise. Exercise, whether together or alone, is extremely helpful for increasing positive brain chemistry, and working out stress. Taking the time to go on a walk outside the house when possible gives couples a much-needed change of scenery. Even if it’s just pushing a stroller or bringing the dogs along, walking is a simple activity that gives couples the chance to move together and reconnect through uninterrupted conversation. Take a break from electronics. Constantly having a screen in front of your face doesn’t allow for quality interpersonal communication. Setting aside a couple of hours a night or a day a week to go tech-free really forces couples to prioritize each other, and practice more face to face interaction. It gives the mind a break and challenges us to find ways to reconnect intentionally with our significant other. Be a helper to your partner. Asking on a daily basis, “What can I do to help you today?” is a simple way to make sure you are actively working to meet your partner’s needs. Whether it’s a long hug, help with laundry, a listening ear or assistance with the kids, checking in to see what your partner’s immediate needs are is a way of putting a “deposit” in your love bank. Having a full account means that, when times get tough, you will have a cushion to fall back on for a withdrawal. Many couples counselors have noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of couples seeking therapy and relationship coaching right now. If you are struggling, you should reach out to a competent, qualified professional with training and credentials. I would highly suggest scheduling a telehealth therapy appointment with someone who can show you how to repair your relationship before ending it. This is good advice for couples who are not in crisis too. Take the time to reach out to someone who can help equip you with the lessons you need to make your romantic life happier and more fulfilling.
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Love expression, Parenting teen, Young son, Mommy love Concept.

4 Ways to Parent Mindfully During Challenging Times

My yoga teacher Tiffany Wood loves to say, “you may not be in control of every situation, but you can always take charge.” It took time for this teaching to sink in, and becoming a mother gave me a whole new perspective on being out of control. Parents are handed a tiny human with their own agenda and pretty strong opinions out of the gate. It’s physically and emotionally exhausting and it only gets harder when your child is old enough to look you in the eye and shout, “No!” Add challenging situations like massive winter storms, losing a job, family health issues or coronavirus, which can all leave you feeling vulnerable and unprepared. The good news is when you apply a mindfulness lens you can learn to take charge of what’s meaningful and necessary without needing to control things that are not in your grasp. Here are four simple tips to mindfully take charge when life seems out of control: 1. Dedicated time for connection vs. independence. When I first got the news that my kids’ school would be canceled for three weeks straight, I panicked. The first few days I scheduled our time too rigidly and I always seemed to be “on,” as if I was running a three-ring circus. I learned after some trial and error that our daily cadence went much smoother when I create times for us to come together and times for us to play apart. So now we typically eat a meal together and follow it with 20-40 minutes of focused instructional or learning activity time that fosters connection with my kiddos. Then I say, “Okay, now it’s choice time! Would you rather play Magna-Tiles or go outside while I do my work for half an hour?” In an hour or so I help them clean up and transition back together for a snack and meaningful learning time before giving them an entirely different choice, “Play with your dolls or make a sticker scene?” 2. “Notice” when your kids are independent, responsible and cooperative. Many unwanted toddler behaviors come in response to a child’s deep desire to have more control, and you can help them be in charge where it’s possible. While it may feel strange at first to talk to a child like an adult, I encourage you to try it and see what you discover. Independence: “You are learning to do so many things all by yourself, aren’t you? I see you climbing up into your seat and getting yourself dressed. You’re working hard!” Responsibility: “Did you put your muddy pants in the laundry hamper? Thank you! That’s so responsible, you know just where they go, don’t you?” Cooperative: “Wow, I love how cooperative you are these days. I know it’s not always fun to brush your teeth or put away your toys, and your help is much appreciated.” 3. Learn together, naturally. Don’t pressure yourself into thinking you need to teach your child like their classroom teacher would. I’m a high school educator by trade, and I spent a few hours going down the homeschool rabbit hole trying to prepare myself to teach my Kindergartner and Preschooler while they were home from school. In just a few hours we churned through the resources I had prepped the night before, so I sent them out to “recess” feeling defeated. Instead, I started noticing small opportunities for learning unfold naturally around us. At meals, we played alphabet or rhyming games. The girls asked if they could make their own snacks, so I moved a selection of food to lower cupboards and shelves and discussed food groups so they could make a “balanced meal.” We “played math” using playing cards for a game of Go-Fish and Memory. Yesterday my girls, ages three and six collected various pine cones for a fairy garden, and I quickly found a chart online to help us identify the different trees. My favorite natural learning opportunity was when they counted, sorted, compared, created patterns and traded their mini-M&M’s, while I did the dishes! 4. Reassure them. Often times, parents see a rise in tantrums, bedtime call-backs, mealtime meltdowns and other unwanted behaviors during a time of instability or transition. The good news is that a little reassurance goes a long way. Let your child know that they are a priority in your life by carving out “Special Kiddo Time.” Put down your agenda, set a 10-minute timer and let them pick an activity to do together. Additionally, you’ll want to remind your children that life may look, sound and feel different than it used to, but you love them just the same. The great news is that there are tools to help parents take charge of big emotions and connect more deeply with their kiddos. Using mindful parenting practices helps us to solve problems more efficiently and experience fewer breakdowns in general.
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