Monthly Archives: July 2016

busy

Why to parent smarter, not faster

I spent the last two days in a hospital in northern Israel with my mother, who just underwent hip replacement surgery.

I’m grateful that this kind of medical procedure is available.  At the same time, I really struggle with a certain attitude exhibited by staff towards patients and I’ve seen all too often.

Simply put –  too many nurses aren’t kind to their patients.  They are brusque, impatient, rude and sometimes downright mean.

After hearing the elderly woman in my mother’s room on the other side of the curtained partition repeatedly saying something in an agitated way and not hearing anyone respond (she was speaking Russian and I didn’t understand what she said), I went to get help for her from the nurses station.

Her iv had come out, and the staff came in to replace it while loudly chiding her.  Apparently she was disoriented as a result of the post surgical anesthesia. A short time later they had to replace it again, because in her confused state she had pulled it out again.

A short while later the staff had finished and my mother had gone to sleep.  I continued to hear the woman repeatedly asking for something in Russian but no one was responding.  Finally I went over to her side of the curtain and began speaking to her soothingly in English.  As I thought about how she must be feeling, I put my hands gently on each side of her face and as I looked into her eyes told her I know it was hard for her to be in the hospital, to be in pain and alone and frightened.

She continued to talk to me, and while I didn’t understand what she was asking, I gave her what I could – my presence and compassion.

She became more calm, and I continued to sit with her.  I stroked her arm and told her she was safe, that it wouldn’t be long before she could go home and be with people who loved her.  As I took her hand in mine she gripped it like a vise, with a palpable sense of desperation.  I almost cried when I then saw that that each of her hands had been tied to the bed rails so she couldn’t move (presumably to prevent her from taking out her iv in her disoriented state).

She became more and more relaxed and after twenty minutes she fell into a deep sleep.  Even in her sleep, she didn’t want to let go of my hand.  Finally I loosened her grip and she continued to sleep peacefully through the night.

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So often we’re in such a rush that we end up creating more work for ourselves.

What if the Russian speaking nurses had spoken to this patient kindly when she first expressed her distress, instead of yelling at her?

I know, you’re probably thinking, “But they don’t have the time!” It’s true, they have a lot to do.  Maybe too much to do. Nurses are notoriously overworked.  And taking this kind of time isn’t part of their job description.

However, even when looking at this from a time management perspective (not from an emotional or holistic healing perspective), the most effective thing those nurses could have done is to have spent several minutes letting the woman know they cared about her and were there to take care of her.  In their rush to get things done, her anxiety went up, her agitation grew and twice they needed to bring in three staff members to hold her down, reinsert the iv and change the sheets (since blood had dripped on them).  In the end it would have saved them time and frustration.

This is true with parenting, too.  Whether a child is screaming, seems out of control or is balking at taking direction from us, there’s a tendency to want to lay down the law, to insist they do what we want and to do it NOW.  There’s a perception that taking time to connect or  to understand, will make one’s hectic life even more busy – and there’s just not enough time for everything.  So how can a busy parent make time to slow down and connect?

The answer comes from understanding that when it comes to people, fast is slow and slow is fast.  You can be efficient with things, but you can’t be efficient with people.  You need to be effective with people.

Effectiveness is relationships means making connection a priority.  When you make time upfront to connect to your child and try to understand what the situation is and how he’s feeling, he feels safer, more attached to you, more interested in your guidance – and there’s less backlash and resistance to deal with later on.  Making the time for connection really is a time and energy saver!

Avivah

 

summer fun

Going Crazy With the Kids Home All Day?

I wrote the following article last summer for a local publication, and now that it’s once again that time of year I’m sharing it here with you!

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We’re less than a month into summer vacation – are you feeling like the school year can’t get here too soon?!?

It’s challenging being out of a routine and having all the kids home, and it doesn’t take long for everyone to begin to feel bent out of shape. However, along with the challenge of longer unstructured days together comes an amazing opportunity.

Time.

Do you know what the most powerful tool you have as a parent is? The answer is deceptively simple and can be summed up in just a few words: the connection your child feels to you is the most powerful tool in your parenting arsenal.

What do you need to access your parental power and create connection?

Time!

Every interaction with our children can build our relationships with them. There is nothing – nothing – more important than building and maintaining a sense of connection with our children. Everything else flows from this core – behavior, motivation, emotional maturity and much more.

By adopting a different paradigm when we look at the noise, mess and crankiness, we can see potential opportunities where previously we saw irritation and frustration. What a gift the summer can be when we realize that the more time the kids are around, the more opportunities we have!

For the time to be beneficial to the relationship, it needs to be positive and enjoyable for you both. Take an hour to brainstorm things you can do with your kids that you’ll both enjoy. Look online for a list of 100 fun summer activities and see how many you can do together. Get your kids involved and ask them for ideas they’d like to add to the list.
When juggling multiple ages, look for activities that will span an age range – like trips to a zoo, water park or even a local park.

However, if your age span is wide, it’s almost impossible to find something that everyone will love. If the younger kids are all content, the older ones are bored and when the older ones are engaged, the younger ones will need a lot more active supervision! The best tip for how to maximize time with kids who aren’t interested in the family activity is to use it to emotionally connect with them – chatting together as you walk or sit together, an arm put around a shoulder, truly listening as they talk (even with all the inevitable interruptions!).

My personal favorite family vacation has been outdoor camping. We’ve done this a number of times over the years with a variety of ages from teenagers to infants and every time, every single person has loved it. This doesn’t work for those who don’t enjoy the outdoors and/or don’t have a car, but there’s an indoor takeoff on this idea that we’ve also enjoyed. Set up a tent and sleeping bags inside for an at-home camp out, making complimentary foods like hamburgers, hot dogs, roasted marshmallows, etc. (This can be done on the mirpesset or in your yard as well.) Minimize your use of electricity and use flashlights at night, turn off the phone and ignore knocks at the door – it’s family connecting time.

Don’t force yourself to do something that you don’t enjoy and don’t let the thought of spending relaxed time with the kids be intimidating – keep it simple and doable. You don’t have to leave the house or plan an outing to have fun. Get some great books and curl up on the couch together for a family read aloud. Gear this towards the older ages and the younger ones will often listen in and pick up more than you expect. If you have much younger children, I’ve found that starting with a short read aloud first; whether they choose to stay snuggled up with the big kids on the couch or to run off and play, they’ll be more relaxed after this time with you.

If learning to do simple home repairs interests you, get your kids involved with you. As we’ve learned to do things over the years, our kids have worked side by side with us on a long list of home projects. Our teenage son recently got his 6, 7 and 9 year old brothers involved in plastering the walls of our mirpesset with him – even the three year old got in on the action! They had a shared enjoyable experience and did a great job.

Involve everyone in a family baking session – even small kids can help add ingredients with your active supervision and it’s fun to eat the fruits of your labor together. Even preparing a daily snack or nightly dinner can be a time for connecting with your kids! Start earlier than you would if you were doing it yourself, and give each child a job. According to age and ability they can peel vegetables, add vegetables or pasta to a pot, and help set the table.

All chores have potential to become connecting time when you work together with your kids in a relaxed way. Being stressed and demanding of their performance obviously won’t build relationships, and it’s critical to keep in mind what our priorities are when we’re trying to get things – relationship first! Again, take more time than you need to get the kids involved. My three year old takes armfuls of sorted laundry and delivers each pile to the bed where I tell him to put it. It’s not efficient but it is effective – he loves doing laundry with me!

To sum up, it’s not what you do with your children that determines the quality of the interaction. It’s how you do it. Supercharge the value of even the most simple activity together by: 1) remembering that each interaction is an opportunity and 2) look for ways to engage your child while doing it, physically and/or emotionally.

As you extend yourself to actively invest in the relationships with your children, don’t forget about taking care of yourself, too. It takes physical and emotional energy to be present for your family members and this can only be sustained if you make self-care a priority. Be sure you’re getting adequate sleep (insufficient sleep makes monsters of us all!), eat regular meals, stay hydrated, and think positive thoughts.

There’s just six weeks left until school starts – make the most of of the unique summer advantage!

Avivah

shattered glass

How to prevent burnout for busy parents

“My husband and I would like to know: How do you and your husband prevent physical, emotional and mental burnout, when high emotions, lack of sleep and nutrition is neglected due to the high activity?”

The truth is that you can’t prevent burnout without taking care of yourself.  You just can’t.
That’s why we get burnt out in the first place, because we’re neglecting critical needs and treating ourselves like rubber balls that can bounce and bounce and bounce and never break.

green glass ball

Well, it’s not like that.  Sometimes when you drop a ball you find out it was made of glass, and not taking care of yourself will show you that the ball of self-care is a glass ball covered with a layer or two of rubber – it will bounce a bit and then as the rubber wears away, everything cracks into pieces.

shattered glass

Taking care of yourself is a process. Sometimes you do better and sometimes not as well.  There are three things that I’m going to suggest you start with, to keep yourself on an even keel:

1) Get enough rest.  Everything is harder when you’re tired, and it seems more overwhelming. I’m a much more flexible and kind person when I’m rested – to myself and those around me!

2) Regular, nourishing meals – What can I say, skipping meals leads to low blood sugar and irritation.  You have to eat! And once you’re eating, include foods that your body recognizes as food – not stuff that’s so processed than even a prehistoric wouldn’t have a long enough memory to remember where it came from!

3) Make time to do something that you love, something that renews your inner self.  It doesn’t have to be every day, it doesn’t have to take a long time – but make some space for this to happen in your life.

Now, I know you’re wondering, “but how can I take care of myself when there are so many more important things that need to be done?”

Nothing is more important than lovingly taking care of yourself.  Really.  Read that again and again, say it out loud until you start to believe it.

And then make the commitment to yourself to put first things first, recognizing where you belong on your to-do list: at the very top.

Avivah

red pencil

In My Words – video

This is not your typical video – you may feel impatient or irritable for the first few minutes, wondering what the point of what you’re seeing is.

Don’t turn it off.  It will become clear very soon and it’s worth the wait.

At about 3.5 minutes, via a voice synthesizer the person in the video explains her actions and perspective, asking some very profound questions about what communication, intelligence and thought is really all about.

I found this presentation highly insightful and thought-provoking.

What do you think?

Avivah

happiness

If you want to be happy, this is what you need to invest in!

Sorry I’ve been AWOL for a while!  I’ve been having computer issues that have been dramatically limiting my computer access.  The issue isn’t resolving as quickly as I would like (to put it mildly!) so I’m using it as an opportunity to practice patience and remembering to allow life to happen on G-d’s timeline and let go of my idea of when things have to happen.

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If you ask young people what’s most important to them, they’re likely to say ‘making money’ or ‘becoming famous’.  So much of our society is focused on these external goals.  While those goals are of value,  in a 75 year study of over 700 men, researchers wanted to determine- what makes a good life?  Is it the things that we strive for when we’re starting our adult lives?

The primary message to emerge from this study is that good relationships keep us happier and healthier.  It’s nice to have more relationships and connections, but what matters more than the number of relationships is the quality of those relationships.

As I watched the video above, I thought about my own life and agreed that this is what has brought me the most happiness.  My husband and I celebrated our 24th anniversary a week ago, tomorrow our youngest will turn 4 and two days later our oldest will turn 23.  So this is annually a period in which I’m conscious of completing one stage and turning the page to a new stage.

Over this period of time, there have been times of financial stress and of abundance, of physical health and physical challenge, of struggles and of triumphs.  Sometimes external validation has been there and sometimes it hasn’t. But throughout it all, the relationships with my immediate family members has given me a sense of stability and satisfaction.

It’s knowing the power of effectively investing in relationships that motivates my work as a parenting consultant.  As much as good relationships add to the quality of one’s life, constant conflict and stress in relationships downgrades your happiness  – even if in other areas you seem to have it all.  Often people feel hopeless and frustrated about relationships with their spouse and children, but just because that’s how it is now doesn’t mean that’s how it needs to stay.

We all want happiness but as the speaker above said, relationships can be complicated and messy, it’s hard work and it’s life-long.  However, the benefits of creating those relationships are deeply valuable; they heavily influences physical health, emotional health, cognitive health and life span.

After all these years of marriage, I continue to look for ways to invest in my marital relationship.  I shared with you about going away together for the weekend recently; we also go out once a week together.  It’s not where we go but just making space away from the house and kids that matters.  But once a week wouldn’t be enough if we didn’t connect during the week!  If a couple of days go by without having significant conversation together (not the day to day business of co-running a home kind of talk), it feels like something important is missing.

How do you invest in keeping relationships healthy and strong?  If your relationships aren’t supportive of you, what can you do to improve them or find other ways to nurture yourself?

Avivah