How to let go of stress and chill — as a parent

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Life is less stressful at the beach.

We’re only a few days into 2019 and it’s a perfect time to take a look at how our family lives are going. We can decide to make changes if needed, right? Here are a few questions to ask: Is life too hectic? Are you and your kids too exhausted at the end of the week? Do our kids have any downtime? Are we rushing our kids from activity to activity and then facing homework late at night?

I found this helpful article in the HeraldNet (which was one of the two daily papers we subscribed to when I was a kid — back then it was called The Everett Herald). In “Parenting is stressful; here’s how to be a more relaxed parent,” Paul Schoenfeld explains “Two full-time working parents have become the norm in America — mostly out of financial necessity.”

Here’s an excerpt:

No doubt, one of the hardest jobs I ever had was parenting. Of course, once you have kids, you are always a mom or a dad.

But during the first 18 years of life (at a minimum) parents have a huge responsibility — not just to provide for their children, but to help them become independent, decent adults.

When children do become independent, we can sit back and relax a little. But it takes a long time to reach that moment.

As both a grandparent and a child psychologist, I can see how today’s parents feel particularly stressed. Two full-time working parents have become the norm, mostly out of financial necessity.

Upward mobility was always a fact of 20th-century life — children were likely to do better than their parents. But in the 21st century, that is not a given. Indeed, most kids won’t be better off than their parents. There is even the possibility that they will do worse.

This new economic reality pushes parents to enrich their children’s lives with all kinds of extra activities — music lessons, dance, art, sports and tutoring. Parents are spending more time helping their children with their homework, too. This new reality has been called “intensive parenting.”

For many working parents, it’s plain exhausting.

Schoenfeld says there is no evidence that all this extra time we’re spending on activities result in our kids becoming successful adults. In fact, with anxiety rates rising in our youth, it may be one of the underlying causes. We do have more kids with anxiety and depression than ever before. That’s a fact. What can we do as parents to help our kids become independent and happy adults — and alleviate stress in their lives? We can try to be less stressed ourselves.

Here are some tips from Schoenfeld:

Here’s how to be a more relaxed parent in 2019:

At the end of the day, trust yourself. Sure, there is a lot of useful information out there. But you know your kids better than anyone else. Trust your own intuition, knowledge of your child and your own common sense.

Be realistic. Too much is too much. If you see that both you and your kids are exhausted at the end of the week, take a step back. You can’t be everything to everybody.

Take care of yourself, too. Try to get enough sleep. So what if your house and your yard won’t be perfect. If you don’t take care of yourself, you are going to be a grumpy, irritable parent. You won’t like yourself and neither will your kids.

Limit screen time. I know, I sound like a broken record. But too much time on email, computer screens, television, smartphones and video games sucks your time up like a vacuum cleaner. It doesn’t really add quality to children’s lives. I don’t think it makes parents’ lives better either.

Savor your child’s childhood. Turn off your cellphone, step back from your “have to’s” and “shoulds” and simply enjoy your children! These are precious, fleeting moments. Savor them, drink them in. Engrave them in your memory. Be 100 percent present and in the moment. You won’t regret it.

Paul Schoenfeld is director of The Everett Clinic’s Center for Behavioral Health. His Family Talk Blog can be found at www.everettclinic.com/family-talk-blog.

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Angus and the kids during one of our relaxed summers. No wonder we treasured our summers!

Looking back, I sure could have used this advice back in the day. I’ll never forget when my son was in middle school and he was super busy (which means I was tearing my hair out). It was his choice to audition for the school play, try out for basketball, continue with piano lessons, enter a piano competition, have his science fair project make it through the local and county levels and then prepare for state. Plus, continue with the Piranha Swim Team. It was great he wanted to do all these things. But, as a parent, I was the one who should have said, “No. Let’s pick a few things and try the others at another time.”

I let him do it all and tried to support him. It meant I was dropping my son off at his piano teacher’s in Cathedral City, running my daughter to the pool (that was the one activity besides school she was passionate about) in Palm Springs. Then I drove back to piano to take my son to basketball practice at St. Theresa’s in Palm Springs — driving back and forth on the Cross Valley Parkway like a maniac trying to get to the activities on time. One night, I missed a turn, tried to do a U-ey — and smashed into the curb. Flat tire, bent rim. I realized it was time to stop and slow down.

Today, my son says he has recurrent stress nightmares from that time in his life. Mainly that I signed him for a swim meet, and he’d been too busy to go to practice. Talk about a nightmare!

robertkatbangsWhat gives you a clue that you’re trying to do much in your life? What do you do to slow down?

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Why are parents hiring coaches — for themselves?

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With my grown-up kids at the PAC 12s Swim Meet last year.

I was interviewed for an article in the Deseret News about parenting coaches, written by Jennifer Graham.

 

This was an interesting turn about for me, because I’m usually the one asking the questions. I wrote a piece recently about the parents hiring coaches and expressed the view that I didn’t think much about paying hundreds of dollars for hour-long Skype talks with a stranger. You can read that story here.

Here’s an excerpt from the article “Why some parents — including Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — are hiring parenting coaches:”

SALT LAKE CITY — Cheryl Cardall has a degree in early childhood education and has read “a ton” of parenting books, but she still wasn’t sure what to do when one of her children morphed into a full-blown teenager with anxiety and anger issues.

Instead of calling her mom, who had raised seven children of her own, Cardall sought help from a parenting coach near her home in Sandy, Utah.

Likewise, when Rachel Anderson, who lives in Minneapolis, grew tired of fighting with her 3-year-old every morning, she consulted a Florida parenting coach via videoconferencing.

“I talked with family and friends, and they all provided some little tips and advice, but the general consensus was that this was just a stage he’s at and you’re going to have to endure and work through it. And I wasn’t OK with that answer,” Anderson said.

Cardall and Anderson are now enthusiastic proponents of parent coaching, which is one of the fastest growing segments of the $1.2 billion personal-coaching industry. Once a service offered mainly for divorcing or blended families, parent coaching is now available for any sort of parenting challenge, from getting a child to sleep to communicating with a taciturn teen.

Even Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, whose baby isn’t due until spring, have reportedly hired an American parenting coach, “super nanny” Connie Simpson.

The growth of parent coaching has occurred amid a trifecta of change in family life: a desire for perfection driven by social media, a blitz of contradictory advice on the internet, and the emergence of technology as the No. 1 challenge facing parents.

“Our mothers were not raising us with the same challenges that parents raising their kids now have,” said Vicki Hoefle, a parent coach in Petaluma, California.

But skeptics see parent coaching as a dubious use of resources, and evidence that Americans are obsessing about parenting to unhealthy extremes.

“Through the years, you learn that overparenting doesn’t work,” said Elizabeth Wickham, a mother of two who writes about parenting for the website SwimSwam, but says she can’t imagine anyone paying her hundreds of dollars for her advice.

I understand why someone may choose a stranger over their parents or in-laws for advice. Our own family members can be very judgmental — or we may view them as such when they are trying to give us advice. They may give us unsolicited advice when we aren’t asking for it as well. The common thread according to the article was that parents were fearful. One of the many challenges they are facing today, which are parents never had was the powerful tech world and social media.

Here’s more from the article:

Of course, not all parenting challenges can be resolved with a coach, DeGaetano said. Issues that arise from trauma or a psychological condition may require a mental-health professional, and a good coach will refer parents elsewhere in cases like that.

“Counseling is about healing. We don’t do that; we’re not licensed counselors, and I make that clear,” she said.

Wickham, who lives in Palm Springs, California, and whose children are 22 and 25, said she’s never used a parent coach and doesn’t know anyone who has.

But she said she understands the desire for input from an impartial, nonjudgmental expert, and said maybe she could have benefited from one.

“I wish I had done less for my kids — for example, when kids forget their homework, don’t drive to school with it, let them suffer the consequences. That’s one thing I really wish I’d learned, from a coach or anybody, but I never got that advice,” she said.

One of the things I explained to Graham was that no two children are alike, and they all have different personalities and will react differently to parenting techniques. Once you find something that works, by the next week it probably won’t. Parenting is thinking on your feet, being flexible and learning when to pick your battles. Our goal should be to raise children who become independent, happy, self-sufficient and kind human beings.

robkatrock

One of the pics from a Christmas card–a few years ago.

What are your thoughts about hiring a parenting coach? 

Did you know gratitude has health benefits?

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I’m grateful for these two.

I try to have an attitude of gratitude. I didn’t realize how many benefits being grateful brings to your life until I read “Gratitude yields health and social benefits” by Jenni Stahlmann and Jody Hagaman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune.

Here’s what they had to say:

Positive emotions such as gratitude open our minds.

With Thanksgiving having passed, we may want a jump start on our New Year’s resolutions. Research shows such a long list of health and social benefits that families might want to focus on cultivating an attitude of gratitude all year long.

Researchers at Northeastern University found that grateful people are more likely to be patient and make wiser decisions.

Gratitude also makes us more likely to take better care of ourselves. In one psychology journal, a study showed that a grateful attitude correlated to a greater willingness to eat healthier foods, exercise more and go to the doctor. Some research even shows that being appreciative boosts willpower.

Counting our blessings before bedtime can also translate to better sleep. One researcher said it may help soothe the nervous system. Not only can gratitude improve our quality of sleep, it can also help us fall asleep faster and sleep longer.

The health benefits of gratitude can’t be overstated. It’s been shown to decrease physical pain, reduce symptoms associated with depression, decrease blood pressure and boost energy levels. In fact, simply cultivating a lifestyle of gratitude can add an average of seven years to your lifespan.

Being grateful also makes us more resilient, less envious, more optimistic, kinder and more social. It’s no wonder that the more grateful a person is, the more likely the person is to have strong social connections, healthier marriages, larger friendship circles and improved networking skills.

Not only does gratitude have the power to transform our health, our social lives and our careers, it can transform our personalities. Research shows that gratitude contributes to a wide range of positive character traits. It makes us humble and it makes us more generous. Together, these traits combat entitlement and self-centeredness. Grateful people are more willing and able to focus on others and can therefore contribute more broadly to their communities.

We the parents have both the opportunity and the obligation to raise children who will have a positive and transformative effect on the future. As we focus on grooming an attitude of gratitude in our kids, we are not only improving their own quality of life but we are helping to change the world one child at a time.

I do believe it’s our duty as parents to instill gratitude as a trait our kids should embrace. One way is to start a gratitude journal. Another tip is to ask your children at dinner or bedtime to name three things they’re grateful for. In the book I’m reading called “Finding Water: The Art of Perseverance” by Julia Cameron, has exercises to list 10 things you cherish. Another day there I was asked to write 10 things I’m thankful for. It’s not a bad thing to do. By the way, I gave my husband a journal of gratitude and he’s enjoying writing a few things each day.

As parents, I think we need to let our kids and family know how much they mean to us. It’s that time of year!

What are you most grateful for in your life?

9 Tips on How Not to Fail as a Sports Parent

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Seniors!

Sports are so great for our kids. They keep our kids active, socializing, learning new skills and life lessons. Unfortunately, some parents take the fun out of sports by not following the list of nine tips  I read in Psychology Today by  Frank L. Smoll, Ph.D. In fact, if you’re tired of driving to practice and games or meets, try to do the opposite of the nine tips and your kids will be back on the couch in no time!

In an article posted a few years ago in Psychology Today called “Moms and Dads; How to help your son or daughter get the most out of sports” he has a list of nine tips that make a lot of sense:

“There’s no set formula, but the guidelines below are designed to increase the chances of producing favorable results.

ONE

Set a good example of an active person

TWO

Let kids participate in determining when they are ready for sports.

THREE

Give priority to your child’s own interests.

FOUR

Don’t use sports as a babysitter.

FIVE

Emphasize the process of enjoyment rather than the product of winning.

SIX

Emphasize striving to improve skills rather than comparing oneself with others.

SEVEN

Establish and maintain open lines of communication.

EIGHT

Evaluate your child’s coach.

NINE

Don’t live your dreams through your children.”

Of course, he goes into more detail on each point, but the basic list is helpful. For example, if you’re not moving and don’t value exercise like “number one” says, then your kids aren’t going to think it’s of much value to exercise either.

In “number eight on the list,” evaluating the coach, Smoll asks the following questions:

“Parents should talk to the coach, regularly go to games, and occasionally attend a practice. Additionally, they should ask themselves the following questions:

Are the young athletes treated with respect?

Are they being taught?

Are they given a chance to perform?

Are they made to feel what they’re doing is a fun activity?

If not, it may be necessary to find another team for your child.”

 The National Alliance for Youth Sports, did a stury and found that around 70 percent of kids in the United States stop playing organized sports by the age of 13 because “it’s just not fun anymore.” We can be one of the major reasons why the fun disappears. If you’re more into than your kids, then chances are they’ll be part of that 70 percent.

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In it for the long haul.

What can you do to become a successful sport parent?

We can teach our kids to be good sports

 

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Open Water Nats–being good sports after a close 5k race.

Nobody likes a sore loser and I think it’s even worse to have a gloating winner. In an article on CNN called “If I Were a Parent: Teaching kids to be good sports” by Kelly Wallace, the number one way to teach good sportsmanship is through role modeling.

“Losing is not easy for many kids, and being a graceful winner can in some ways be even harder, so the question becomes: what can parents do to teach their children good sportsmanship?

“Rule No. 1 seems simple enough but is too often overlooked by helicopter parents who are living vicariously through their children. Parents should model the behavior they want to see in their kids, said John O’Sullivan, author of “Changing the Game: The Parent’s Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes, and Giving Youth Sports Back to our Kids.”

“Kids are not very good at listening, but they are fantastic at imitating,” said O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing the Game Project, which says it seeks to “put the ‘play’ back in ‘play ball.’ “

“And so if you want your kids to display good sportsmanship, you should. If you don’t want your kids to yell at referees, you shouldn’t yell at referees.”

The article goes on to talk about the flip side, lousy winners:

“And as for teaching your child how to win and win gracefully, remind them how it felt when they were on the losing side. “The biggest thing that I always say to my team when you’re winning by a lot is, ‘you know what, you’ve been on the other side of it where you’ve lost by a lot. Do you remember how that felt? So don’t do anything that’s going to make your opponent feel any worse right now,’ ” O’Sullivan said.

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Cheering on a teammate.

What do we mean when we talk about being a good sport? It’s easy to point out kids and parents who aren’t. They are mean, rude, usually loud and they do not care about how they affect those around them. Parents who are bad sports are causing fights these days with coaches and landing in jail! With social media catching every incident of bad parent behavior, it seems like it’s happening more frequently, but I haven’t seen any stats to know if that true or not.

Being a good sport is simple. It’s treating others with respect. It’s not talking badly about others behind their backs or throwing your equipment down. I remember when my brother was on the golf team in high school, there was a player that broke their golf clubs more than once when they lost. Staying composed and not getting too caught up in the moment helps us be better role models. In our kids’ sports, the process is just as important–or more so–than winning.

I think another important element in teaching good sportsmanship, besides being good role models, is to compliment our kids when you see them being a good sport. In swimming after races, you often see swimmers reaching over lane lines to hug the winner or you see the winner reaching out to competitors to shake hands. When you see your child being a good sport, point it out and say you’re proud of them. If you see other kids showing good sportsmanship, be sure to tell your child how much you admire them for their actions.

How do you teach your children good sportsmanship?

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My daughter showing good sportsmanship.

 

Why I’m a fan of Sam Darnold–and his parents

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I wrote this a while ago when Sam Darnold was a quarterback with USC. I liked his low key, humble way about him. Tonight I’m watching his debut as starting QB for the Jets. Yes, I’m still a fan.

I’m so impressed with the parents of Sam Darnold, who is rumored to be the first pick tonight in the NFL draft. They were parents who let their phenom athletically-gifted kid, be just that. A kid. Tonight we’ll find out if Sam is the first pick, or not. We can learn so much from Sam’s parents regardless of the level of talent our kids have, or what their passions are. I wrote this about USC’s quarterback eight months ago:

My husband asked me to read a story from the Bleacher Report about USC Quarterback Sam Darnold. I put him off for a day because frankly, I wasn’t that interested. I finally read it to appease him and found Sam’s story to be fascinating—mainly because of the parenting style of Mike and Chris Darnold.

From childhood through high school, Sam played basketball, football, and baseball. I think he played volleyball, too. His parents let him try and decide what sports he participated in. They didn’t make him specialize or get him private lessons or coaches. In fact, Sam believes his success in football is from playing all different sports and learning a variety of skills. In a refreshing story written by Jeff Perlman, you find out about a dying breed of parents—ones who believe in fun and no pressure. Parents who let their child lead his own life.

“USC’s star quarterback and his parents do not live by the LaVar Ball theory of the universe. They let a multisport supernova grow up into his own man. And that’s why this 20-year-old might be the No. 1 pick in next year’s NFL draft.”

Yet the story of Sam Darnold isn’t the story of the modern quarterback, loud and sparkly and created to own the internet’s 24-hour hype machine. Nope, it’s the story of a young man on the verge of superstardom because, not long ago, he was allowed to diversify.

He was allowed to be a kid.

The Darnolds’ Capistrano Beach household is in the heart of south Orange County, where there are youth sports leagues atop leagues atop leagues, and private coaches atop private coaches atop private coaches.

In Orange County, it’s not uncommon for a nine-year-old pitcher to throw sliders and curveballs nine or 10 months of the year—with a father behind the backstop holding a radar gun. It’s not uncommon for a quarterback to play Pop Warner, then a season of flag and then spend the summer under the watchful eye of a $200-an-hour passing guru.

This was not going to happen to Sam.

“My parents,” the quarterback says, “wouldn’t have allowed it.”

On paper, this might come as a surprise. One would be hard-pressed to find a more sports-centric family than the Darnolds. Mike (Sam’s dad) was an offensive lineman at the University of Redlands, Chris (Sam’s mom) a volleyball player at Long Beach City College. Sam’s older sister Franki starred in volleyball at the University of Rhode Island and three of his cousins—Allie, Michele and A.J.—also participated in collegiate volleyball. Sam’s late grandfather, Dick Hammer, played basketball at USC and was on the 1954 team that went to the Final Four. He was also a member of the 1964 U.S. Olympic men’s volleyball team.

Put simply, organized athletics are a big deal in the Darnold world and have been for decades.

“But,” says Chris, “they’re not everything. We’ve always tried to keep things in perspective. Yes, our children have always loved playing sports. But around here, in this part of California, it too often becomes live and die. That’s a big mistake in my opinion. It has to be fun.”

“One day you open your eyes and it’s, ‘Holy cow, your son is in this position,’” Mike says. “I mean, it’s crazy, right? Crazy, crazy, crazy—one in a million.”

He pauses. Though Chris is acknowledged by family members as the emotional one, the father has been showing his soft side of late. He insists he never cared whether his children played sports or an instrument or worked a job—as long as they were involved and happy and tried different things. But to have a son as USC’s starting quarterback; to have a son who is a Heisman Trophy front-runner; to have a son who is humble and decent and respectful?

“Say what you want,” Mike says. “Sam’s not flashy, he’s not a yeller, he’s not a trophy collector, a bragger. But I feel like we worked hard to raise our kids the right way. And it’s paid off.”

I believe the Darnolds have lessons for many sports parents, myself included. Of course, they had an exceptionally athletic son who could have been recruited in basketball, baseball or football. But more than that, they raised a humble, balanced kid. They are proud of him as a person, not just as a star athlete. Their attitude and parenting style helped develop Sam into the man he is and will become.

I hope you take the time to read the entire Bleacher Report article about Sam Darnold and his parents. There’s also another great article in the Los Angles Times called “As expectations swell, USC’s Sam Darnold finds comfort at home near the beach” by Zach Helfand.

I’m excited to watch him play football this year. Here’s a YouTube of his 2016 highlights.

Click here to watch a recent interview with Sam Darnold by CBS’s Allie LaForce.

What do you think about kids specializing in one sport at an early age?

 

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photo of Sam Darnold from the Bleacher Report

 

Are you a “wimpy” parent?

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I was fascinated with the sound of “wimpy parenting.” I wondered, did I fit the bill? I looked through the list of bullet points and no, for once I didn’t do all of these things. Therefore I’m not a wimp! That’s the good news.

The bad news is I did plenty of them. I had no issue with saying “No!” and set plenty of limits for my kids, but I never liked to see them fail. I often protected them from their choices and tried to fix their problems.

In the article “Dr. Randy Cale’s Terrific Parenting: Wimpy parenting makes for wimpy kids” from The Saratogian Lifestyle, here are his traits that make a parent a wimp:

Many parents today seem to have graduate degrees in wimpy parenting. What are the characteristics of the wimpy parent?

• Can’t seem to set limits for children

• Protect them from the consequences of poor choices

• Respond to almost every request or demand from child

• Try to fix every problem their child encounters

• Constant work harder at their child’s life…than the child does

• Cringe at the thought of their son or daughter being upset at them

• Incessantly negotiate to keep child happy

• Becomes personal chauffeur on demand

• Let’s child decide what good for them (i.e., food, video games, phone time, apps, etc.)

• Changes plans in an instant when child requests something

•  Can hardly stand the thought of just saying ‘no’ to their child

How many on the list have you done? I did four of them a lot, so a little less than half. I was so good at saying no to my kids that when we’d go to Disneyland and we were corraled into a gift shop after “It’s a Small World,” my kids wouldn’t ask for a toy! I had them trained to not ask by saying “no” so often. What dreary little lives they led, right? Hardly, but I didn’t want to be the dad who bought his daughter an ice cream cone while we were waiting for our table at a restaurant with friends. I also didn’t want to be the mom who caves and buys their kids something to make them stop a temper tantrum in a store. No, I was the one who let them have a hissy fit and tried to ignore it.

Here’s what the consequences are to being a wimpy parent according to Cale:

SO, WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL? I GO EASY ON MY KIDS

It’s not a big deal. If you have space for your children in your home when they are 35, and have a trust fund set up for them to live on. In other words, they should be just fine, if you are prepared to care for them forever. They will not be happy or satisfied, but they should be okay.

WHY SO BLEAK A FUTURE FOR THESE CHILDREN OF WIMPY PARENTS?

Everything about wimpy parentings puts children on the wrong path to excel or find happiness in life. It creates a set of expectations that is not in line with reality. The wimpy parent is teaching their child that they can get everything that they want, with virtually no effort. In what world is this true?

These children grow up expecting everything while giving very little. This ‘entitled’ attitude not only fails in relationships, it fails in the work place. What happens is that these young adults end up ‘entitled’ to a room in the basement, and ‘entitled’ to dad’s paycheck.

They also grow up expecting few limits on their behaviors or actions. Having felt few consequences for their choices, they believe they can get by with just about anything. In fact, often they do not believe that consequences apply to them!

Who is Cale? According to The Saratogian Lifestyle: Dr. Randy Cale, a Clifton Park-based parenting expert, author, speaker and licensed psychologist, offers practical guidance for a host of parenting concerns. His website, http://www.TerrificParenting.com, offers free parenting guidance and an email newsletter. Readers can learn more by reviewing past articles found on the websites of The Saratogian, The Record and The Community News. Submit questions to DrRandyCale@gmail.com.

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One of my favorite pics taken in Laguna. Look at the love–pinches and squeezes, too.

What are your thoughts about wimpy parents? Are you one and how have you changed?