Blog

family life, Festivals, parenting

Lent as a teaching opportunity to grow

As carnival approaches, I start preparing for Lent at home.

Lent, gives us tons of opportunities to teach our children even when not christian (you might want to use Lent to teach about different religions instead).
Starting with the Resurrection itself, we are teaching waiting for the good things in life, rather than the current way of having everything there and then. The giving alms aspect of Lent, can be used to teach kindness and love to others whether we know them or not. Giving up something we care about during this season teaches  self control.

I love this season and over the years a lot has changed in the way I present it to the children.

For a while we did something for the 40 days of Lent. For the past 3 years I have opted for a simpler approach where we have something happening weekly rather than daily.

This calendar, is something we look forward to. Our count down to Easter (similar to an Advent calendar). Each day, a child moves a tiny caterpillar on the day, till on Easter Sunday they will find a big butterfly instead. You can find this calendar here

6 Simple ways to start celebrating Lent and add it in your parental teachings

  • Do a Lenten Calendar. There are many variations available online if this one is not suitable for you. A calendar I used when they were younger was simply to have the outline of a lamb cut out of cardboard and split in 40 days and every day we glued a piece of cotton wool so by Easter, the whole lamb was full of wool.
  • Make a prayer chain. Together with your children, think of whom or what you wish to pray for and add them into a chain, every day, take one out to pray accordingly. We’ve had prayers for rain, animals, old, sick and also specific people.
  • Make a crown of thorns and every time you do an act of kindness, you take off a thorn. By Easter, you should have all thorns taken off and the children can get surprised with the crown turned full of flowers on Easter morning.
  • Temptation Cookies: While baking cookies, tell your children about the temptation of Jesus in the desert. When the cookies are done, leave them on the table, but they cannot eat them until the next day. Talk about how tempting this might be and what we can do to resist temptation.
  • Do resurrection cookies. It is a great way to teach the Easter story!
  • Make a sacrifice bin. Everyone in the family, decides to let go of something they are really fond of throughout Lent. This can be changed weekly. It can also be anything from toys to screen time to sweets etc.

How do you celebrate Lent? Any other ideas you care to share?

family life, Festivals, parenting

Valentine’s Day

It is the feast of love this Friday!

For the past 3 years I have rekindled my love for this feast ….. in a different way!

There was once (which I would like to do again next year), where we did felted hearts and a small note saying “you are loved” and posted it them randomly in homes around our village.
Last year and this year, it was more specific to my family as a way to remind all not just that they are loved, but that they are special in different ways and loved specifically because they are all different. This I did by cutting card stock paper in heart shapes and listing on them attributes specific to each child (and husband actually). It also helps as a boost in confidence. these hearts I distribute from 1st February with one last big one that I love them no matter what on the actual day.
Last year, I attached them to their wardrobe in the evening so that every morning they saw them when they were going to get dressed. This year I randomly leave them in shoes, lunch boxes etc so it is kind of more fun and exciting not sure where they will end up in.
On Friday than, we will have a love filled breakfast together as a special way to start this day.

What are your thoughts on Valentine’s? How do you celebrate it?

breastfeeding, encouragement, parenting, raw reality

Sexual arousal and breastfeeding

There is this big elephant in the room. No one wants to really see it and talk about it.

Yet, it is an important subject to discuss seeing that our breasts and specifically our nipples are an erogenous zone. It is in fact VERY common for a woman to feel aroused while nursing. Some can experience orgasm. There is nothing wrong with it per se. However, the idea of it, make us cringe, feel ashamed and for sure if it happens we are not going to talk about it! Most likely a mama will promptly decide that breastfeeding is not good for her and switch to formula.

As this study says:

One issue rarely mentioned is that the breastfeeding experience is very sensuous in itself and some mothers may become aroused during breastfeeding (Hotchner, 1979Lawrence, 1989Mueller, 1985Reamy & White, 1987). This is a normal phenomenon. Yet, mothers may feel guilty if they have these feelings. Consequently, some may decide to stop breastfeeding. Should a mother decide to speak about such feelings, both lay people and health care professionals may be shocked, may ridicule her, and may even report her to child protection services (Huggins & Ziedrich, 1994).

It is a sad truth! Women are feeling guilty, thinking something is wrong with them and quitting breastfeeding for the way our bodies are wired. In breastfeeding, oxytocin and prolactin are released to help us bond with the baby. The same hormones are released when having sex to create (a different) bond with our partner.

It is important that such issues are spoken more often, especially to new mothers. It not only starts stopping stigma for having natural feelings but it prepares a mum. Knowing it might occur, would definitely help accept such feelings without fear and guilt.

However, despite accepting such feelings, they will probably still make you uncomfortable, so here are 3 tips to help if such a case occurs:

  • Stop breastfeeding for a few minutes if possible
  • Think of mundane things, like the laundry or cooking
  • Look at your child. It reminds your brain you are nursing

Women be reassured that pelvic arousal while breastfeeding, is not unnatural but normal. It does not happen often but it is still a common occurrence.

discipline, positive discipline, encouragement, parenting

Attachment

One of the reasons I wanted to homeschool my children was attachment. At the time, I didn’t really understand the importance of attachment as much as I do today, but it still felt important to me. While, I didn’t manage to homeschool full time, I learnt that attachment can happen even when the children are not home all the time.

What I would like to talk about really though is how the development of independence is intertwined with attachment. Being attached does not mean children will not develop independence and remain enmeshed in the family. On the contrary, attachment is what helps us to make adults that have meaningful roles in their families and in society.

A healthy attachment starts with connection, a lot of it of course when they are babies. This connection is strengthened through term breastfeeding and co-sleeping. It is further encouraged and increased through kindness and firmness (or in other words boundaries). Now boundaries, I need to add a bit on this; HEALTHY boundaries, help children grow into separate individuals. It is not about being strict, but about GUIDING them, showing them how to create balance and know the limits with love.

Now to go back on attachment, children, start to separate from us from around 3 years of age – when they become self-aware and are most likely to start using the “I”. It continues at 6/7 years – or what in Waldorf Education is called the 6 year change. Children here can be difficult and are likely at some point to say that you are not the boss of them! Children start feeling the need to be valued for what they are at home and at school. This individualization can be quite a difficult transition for them but by keeping the attachment strong, we can help our children find their footing, help them separate, yet keep them close.

The next change comes around 9/10 years. A time where children can feel really alone and misunderstood. It is a feeling of being so aware of yourself as a separate being, that you feel without family, apart from the rest of the human race. As these children start becoming individuals, it helps immensely to have again kindness and firmness. To strengthen further attachment through connection. A strong family connection and/or community can really help make this transition easier!

And as they grow older this individualization keeps growing and changing but the need for attachment is as strong and as needed. Attachment to us adults, keeps the children close to us despite their increased separateness. Letting us help them through boundaries and kindness to make the correct choices OR just showing them love when they do not.

So throughout childhood, whether babies or teens, attachment keeps children close to us, their parents, so they can listen to us and give them a better grounding to make right choices with the help of connection through boundaries and loving authority. It is only than that they can completely become independent.

parenting, raw reality

Understanding emotions with boys

“I don’t think I am doing it right” , I hear.

“All your tips to understand my emotions and let them out are not working”, I am told.

“This is useless! I am not stopping being angry”, I listen.

But, he is not really hearing himself telling me…

“I am feeling disheartened today. It was hard at school and I feel so angry at you”

“I feel so sorry for what I told you earlier, but I truly was angry”

“I am feeling so sad and angry right now….I am not sure why!”

Yes son, boys..men…find it difficult to express and let go of their emotions and you might think you haven’t understood it, but you are doing it. I know you still don’t believe me when I tell you this, I know you expect instant results, but, it took me 35 years to get where you are now!

Be proud of yourself, you got this!

book review, discipline, positive discipline, encouragement, parenting

Holding on to your kids chapter 3

This chapter starts with a question that many of us parents ask in a different way….How is it that in today’s world, children so readily transfer their attachments from nurturing adults to each other? What we ask, but which can be translated to the above is, how is it that parenting is so hard in today’s world?

The answer to both are given to us by Dr Gordon Neufeld: The cause is not individual parenting failure but an unprecedented cultural breakdown for which our instincts cannot adequately compensate. After thinking of this for a long time, after reading the book and going through it again for the second time, I can see how true this is!

Our society does not cater for our children; or to be more precise to the developmental needs of our children. We are shown how the economic forces and cultural trends dominant in the past decades have dismantled what used to be a natural process – the innate attachment drive that bonded the young with their caregivers until maturity.

The effects of society in forcing both parents to work outside the home has had a profound impact on attachment. We are reminded really, how caring for the young is undervalued in society and how that effects not just the parents but also the institutions that are caring for the young instead of the parents.

Children are lacking a set of nurturing adult relationships and they compensate for that by attaching to their peers. Many of us see nothing wrong with children starting day care from babies, go to kindergarten and school and are most of the time for their whole childhood with peers instead of adults. It is actually I feel revered that children spend so much time with peers ‘so they learn socializing’.

We are reminded how owing to geographic dislocations and frequent moves, today’s children are less likely to enjoy the company of elders committed to their welfare. Further examples are given to us like the family doctor, generic businesses etc. He asks us: Where are the surrogate grandparents, uncles and aunts who supplements and substituted the nuclear and extended family? Where is the adult attachment safety net should parents become inaccessible? Where are the adult mentors to help guide our adolescents? Our children are growing up peer rich and adult poor!

We move on to how family ties are under pressure all the time even if the nuclear family is still intact. How society puts a higher value on consumerism than the healthy development of children. How the natural attachments are actually discouraged for economic reasons.

The rapid changes and technology have lost us our cultural customs and traditions – which take hundreds of years to build up. It gives us insights here on how technology is undermining our own parenting and inhibiting attachment with adults by our own doing.

Lastly in this chapter we are introduced to 2 types of how attachments form…one is through us parents by knowing others and showing our children they can trust them and the other is through a need of attachment because of a void he children actually feel.

This is quite an intense chapter. It hurt reading it. It made me sad and angry. It made me see why I have to work so much harder with my children and why as a family we find it so difficult to embrace modern life with our ideals.

family life, Festivals, parenting, seasons

Christmas time…..what kind of celebration are you bringing to your child?

It’s that time of the year again.

Christmas is literally round the corner and I am sure all parents are now starting to work on Christmas for their families!

What is Christmas for you? What do you want to bring to your children from this festival? Is the way you have been celebrating it reflecting this?

There are also many families who have different spiritual leanings and Christmas as a christian festival does not really work for them but the holidays are still celebrated worldwide with a lot of fanfare. So how do you bring this festival to your children when you are not christian?

I think looking at Christmas as a festival of light can help many a parent whether christian or not to embrace more and find what this season truly means for them. Essentually, Christmas is the birth of Jesus the bring of light to humanity. Throughout this season there are also other celebrations that have similar meaning like Diwali, Hannukah and Solstice. These festivals of different faiths all bring us the celebration that means from the darkness of winter we are now moving towards the light of spring.

So through this wonderful time, I invite you to draw inward and to really penetrate what you want these festivals to be for your family and how do you propose to celebrate them as a special time of family closeness and togetherness.

I look forward to hear more of your own plans. I will definitely be updating you on my celebrations in this space.

breastfeeding, encouragement, parenting, weaning from the breast

Is your baby on a nursing strike?

Babies are known to fool mums into thinking they are weaning from the breast.

The truth however is that between 3-5 months, babies can suddenly stop nursing and refuse to do so. That, is called a nursing strike! A nursing strike means that a baby will refuse to take the breast for a period of approximately 5-6 days. There are various reasons why they do that.

  • A cold or stuffy nose, which makes breathing difficult while nursing
  • An ear infection, which causes pressure or pain while sucking and swallowing
  • Discomfort from teething, a cold sore, or an infection (such as thrush)
  • A fever or a heat wave that makes bodily closeness less appealing
  • A newfound preference for bottles (if your child is given frequent bottles, they may like the faster milk flow, or be reacting to a reduction in Mother’s milk supply)
  • A major disruption in routine, such as moving or your returning to work after a maternity leave
  • Reduced milk supply – if you’ve been stressed out, your supply may be reduced
  • A change in the taste of mother’s milk, caused by the resumption of your periods, spicy or unusual foods, a vitamin or drug, or a new pregnancy
  • A new deodorant, soap, or perfume applied on or near the breasts
  • Strong let-down – the milk may be letting down too quickly for Baby’s liking, which may make him frustrated and refuse to latch on
  • Poor nursing habits – at around four months, when a baby begins to realize life is happening around him while he nurses, he may be squirmy or position himself awkwardly at the breast
  • Too much to do – busy six- to nine-month-olds are easily distracted and often opt to “snack” at the breast over settling down for a full meal
  • And sometimes for no perceptible reason at all!

To say nursing strikes are trying is an understatement! It can be a very stressful period for both mum and child. This previous blog post on nursing strikes gives you more information on how to deal with it.

discipline, positive discipline, encouragement, parenting

Parenting through unconditional love

Love is the absence of judgement – Dalai Lama

We judge so easily – without even knowing!
Unconditional love, is to love someone no matter what. Parents, feel that for their children; that is, till everything is sparkling and beautiful. When the going gets tough, unconditional love becomes difficult and judgement the go to.

Odd as it may seem, misbehaving children are children who are afraid, their attachment not secure, who need unconditional love most. Yet, we start seeing through judgement: the naughty child, the disrespectful child and so forth.

How do we consistently bring unconditional love to our interactions?

Well, to learn to love unconditionally more consistently, we need to first love ourselves. When parenting is not happening the way we envisaged, it is good to look within us and see what is keeping us from growing into the persons we wish to be.

Parenting means healing ourselves so that our children can truly experience unconditional love, a love without judgement and grow into adults who can also love unconditionally without judgement.

There are different areas we can work on to do this and here I am listing a few easy steps you can take to start the process.

  1. Show compassion to yourself. Working on us is the quickest way to be able and bring change to our families. So when you start putting yourself down….the ‘you’re not good enough’ into the equation, stop and think of what you are good enough in. This of course should be extended to all eventually; but practice on yourself, and as you learn to love yourself more, and be more compassionate of your achievements and the still in progress achievements, doing it with the rest of the family will be easier.
  2. Jazz up your self-care. That’s right we are still working on us! When we are happy, healthy and not over stressed, we are able to give of our well being to the rest of the family. If we are not, we are giving without refilling and eventually the engine will stall. Self-care is much more than nutrition, hydration and movement. It involves sleep, time for ourselves, time for things we enjoy, time with friends and time to think. Learn more and by attending the workshop.
  3. Let go of perfection. We are not perfect period. When we strive for perfection we are not making the bar way too high for us but also for our children. It is much better to strive to love more everyday instead. When we start looking at ways to love more instead of how to be better we are releasing perfection and making way to presence and appreciation. Again start by being aware of how you talk to yourself, look at your goals and adjust these to show love instead of perfection. Remind yourself EVERYDAY when you start falling back into old habits that your aim is love.

Want to learn more? Join Conscious Parenting for weekly prompts starting next week to help you move forward.

breastfeeding, encouragement, parenting

The Elimination diet

Most breastfeeding mothers can eat anything throughout their breastfeeding journey. However, exclusively breastfed babies can be intolerant or allergic to traces of proteins that enter mother’s milk.

The most common culprit is cow milk protein, however there are other known allergenic food. Like, tree nuts, nuts, soya, wheat, egg and fish. The best way for a mother to deal with an allergy is to find which food(s) are causing the reaction and eliminate it from her diet. This is called an elimination diet.

How does an elimination diet work?

As mentioned above, an elimination diet works by removing the allergenic food from your diet. This can be very challenging, especially when the allergen is cow’s milk protein, because this is found in many other things that we do not think of and/or given unusual names we are not aware of. When doing an elimination diet, it is recommended to work with a dietitian that can support you not just through this challenging time but by helping you find alternative options that keep you healthy.

When a baby is sensitive to some food, it is very likely your child can be sensitive to other allergens as well. This can be very overwhelming to a mother and can feel very confusing to know where to start. Therefore, consider keeping a diary – mainly for food.

Keeping a food diary can help to quickly understand what is the allergen your child is reacting to. In it, you write the foods you ate throughout any given day and next to it your baby’s reaction.

An example can be ate pasta with tomato sauce. Later baby had a blocked nose, rash, explosive nappy, irritable, couldn’t sleep well…..

Because, some allergens can be found ‘hidden’ in other products – especially when it comes to cow’s milk protein – it might be prudent to also add unusual reactions that you believe are not associated with the food. Example, certain cosmetics contain dairy which can cause a reaction to your infant.

A mother has 2 ways to go about an elimination diet.

  1. Eliminating one allergenic food at a time, wait approx 6-8 weeks and if little to no difference noted add another food group. Example you took off dairy, you saw improvement within 72 hours but baby still has reactions. So you move on to another allergen, normally soya and so on and so forth till you notice no more reactions.
  2. Eliminate all allergens from your diet straight away and once baby has settled start introducing one food group at a time and see if there is a reaction or not.

Why wait 6-8 weeks to make sure about an allergen?

While a food protein will leave the breast milk within 2 weeks,it can take another 4-6 weeks for the baby’s gut to heal. Hence one needs 6-8 weeks to make sure about an allergen.

Help for your elimination diet

  • Tips for Avoiding Your Allergen by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE)—a guide to help identify hidden allergens in several elimination diets including milk-free, egg-free, wheat-free, soy-free, shellfish/fish-free, and nut free diets.
  • Dairy Elimination Diet 2012 fact sheet on the Infant Proctocolitis website discusses the places to find hidden dairy and the unexpected names used labelling .
  • Soy Elimination Diet is another fact sheet on the Infant Proctocolitis website and includes a list of soy foods, ingredients and places soya can “hide”.

What is important to remember when your child is allergenic, is to take one day at a time. Making changes to your diet is never easy but it always the better choice for your baby. Also knowing that this will not be forever helps to minimize the overwhelm.