great with kids: three easy-peasy ways to show up for the kids in your life this holiday season

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If you are like me and don’t have kids of your own but have plenty of kids in your immediate family, all of which will soon be swarming upon you over the holidays, this post is for you.

Compared to the average twenty-something without kids, I have an inordinate amount of experience with children. I’ve studied them at university and in a post-graduate Montessori program. I have worked with them in a variety of professional environments for over a decade, and for the past three years, I led a 3-6 environment of my own at a local Montessori school. My husband calls me the kid whisperer. I call myself adaptive. Patient. But I would be lying if I said I was always that way.

Plenty of things about children have historically stressed me out, which is precisely why I became so determined to learn. To adapt. To practice leaning into the things I can’t control, and making the most of what I can — my responses. Which brings me to the first and most important part of being around kids:

  1. Keep it calm

Okay. This doesn’t mean we can’t get them riled up and have a Great Big Silly Time together. We are, after all, not their parents which means we are Novel and Exciting in and of ourselves. Keeping it calm just means that after we rile them up, especially if they’re younger (say under 7), we help them regulate back to a calm state.

Note: this does not mean telling a young child to go and “Calm their body.” That’s like a photographer telling me to, “Relax my chin.” Neither of us have much experience doing that — especially not on command!

It’s better to lead them in the direction of calm by engaging them in an activity they enjoy and that comes naturally — blowing bubbles, dancing at an increasingly slower rate, doing a puzzle, reading a book, going to check on an animal. Any activity that causes them to gradually slow their heart-rate, helps them breathe deeply, engages their senses, and transitions them out of the wound-up yellow and/or red zone and into the calm and alert green zone, where the upper regions of their developing brain are online and ready to learn.

2. Keep it positive

Another way to help children stay in the green zone is to speak to them affirmatively. Don’t believe me? Try saying, YES! out-loud to yourself a couple of times. Now try saying, NO! aloud several times. Notice the shift in your body when you heard no? It is important that we tell children what they can do instead of what they can’t i.e. You can walk in the house, and if you want to run, you can go outside.

If they want something that’s not available, try telling them when they can have it, or follow up with a reminder of what they can have. i.e. Mom said no more candy today, but you can have some more tomorrow! or Mom said no candy right now, but you can have something else. Do you want a cheese stick or pretzels? By giving children choices and putting power back in their hands, we give them a feeling of control and can minimize a potential power struggle.

Commiserating and/or engaging in short-term wishful thinking can also be helpful in transitioning out of these moments. Kids, like all humans, just want their feelings validated. They want to feel heard. Commiseration can help with that, as long as we are solid on our boundaries. Kids tend to spot weakness a mile away, so only allow yourself to commiserate if you’re able to strike a balance between kind and firm.

After you validate and/or commiserate, it’s helpful to redirect or distract the child onto something else. The best way to sell any idea to children, is by being sold on it yourself. Thanks to “mirror neurons” we tend to mirror the behavior of people we are around, so the better a version of ourselves we bring to the table, the better a version of themselves a child will bring. Which leads me to…

3. Keep it respectful

Respect is a two-way street. A good way to get respect is to give it. To the child and to ourselves. Each child is an individual, and it’s important that they be treated as such. Take your time in getting to know what is important to them. Some avenues of respecting children that adults often overlook include —

  • getting on the child’s level to talk to them

  • making eye contact

  • giving them our full undivided attention

  • asking permission before hugging/touching them

  • asking permission before touching their stuff

  • asking permission before helping

  • respecting their “no” (note: if it’s not a choice, don’t ask it! Instead of, Are you coming to dinner? try, It’s time to come to dinner. Do you want to sit by me or by Granny?

  • respecting their focus (think about how annoying it is when you’re trying to read or work on something, and people keep interrupting you!)

Equally important to respecting the child, is respecting ourselves. This not only models for children how to respect and advocate for ourselves, it also gives them opportunities to practice giving respect. General guiding principles include requiring children to behave and communicate in non-violent ways.

For instance, when a child speaks to me in a way that is bossy or rude, I gently but firmly remind them that I speak to them kindly, and thus, I expect to be spoken to kindly in return. If they don’t understand this as a concept, we’ll talk about what “kind” requests look like, but often kids six and older understand the sentiment.

If the child understands the above but is habituated to making harsh or bossy demands, I will tell them ahead of time that I know they can ask nicely, so when they speak to me in ways that are not nice, I will pretend to not hear them until they practice the nicer way. This is exactly how boundary enforcement should go. It should be simple, direct, and action-based (never lecturing or inciting guilt, fear, or shame).

If I was playing with a child at someone’s house where the rules included not climbing on the furniture, and the child began to climb, my first response might be, You realllllly like climbing on this couch! It look fun, but at this house, the rule is the couch is only for sitting. Let’s go find something else we can climb on. Come on! If the child refused or ignored my words, I might try, Do you want to step off the couch or JUMP off the couch? and if nothing playful worked, it would likely end with the action-based boundary, Are you going to get off the couch on your own or with my help? but chances are with most kids, one of the first responses will have worked, and by now, we would be outside climbing trees and laughing ourselves silly.


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During the holidays there is a lot of emphasis on toys and material goods, but you know what’s WAY better than a cool gadget that may very well break moments after its unwrapped? An engaged and loving adult. On behalf of our future, thank you for giving that special gift to the children in your life this holiday season :)

Anything I missed? Another incident where you struggle with knowing how to respond? Let me in the comments know below <3

Five Tiny Steps Toward Showing up As Your Authentic Self

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The best equation for uncovering inner confidence is deep [female] relationships, body movement, and constant, supportive conversations with yourself. Also, laughter. Laugh often. You don't come into yourself. You come out of yourself. Your cells are malleable and looking for inspiration. You just have to call it out of you.

—“To the women that I love—”

Chelsey Reardon

In my messy non-linear development, I could not have found the above to be more true. FOR TOO LONG, I kept a wall between how I felt and how I presented to the world. My self-worth was all wrapped up in the way other people responded to me, and that shit was not only EXHAUSTING but also kept my self-worth from flourishing. No mas.

Keep in mind, you are the best expert on yourself. What I’m about to share are some guiding principles that helped me — if any of them resonate with you, pick them up and try them on. If not, leave them be.

  1. be picky about who you choose to be around.

Showing up as your real self can be hard enough on its own without having to deal with people who treat you poorly. While it’s true we can’t completely avoid interacting with people who are hateful, that’s all the more reason to be selective about who we share our free time with. Protect yourself by choosing people who regularly respect your time, thoughts, and feelings even when you disagree.

2. be honest with yourself.

This requires a regular practice of putting down your phone/device/whatever you’re distracting yourself with and tuning into your body, thoughts, and feelings. Unplug. Listen to your breathing. Go for a walk. Get out a pen and write.

Every day when I wake up, I commit to filling three pages in my journal with whatever junk is floating around in my head. When I first started this practice a year and a half ago, I would censor myself on the page. Certain topics were off limits, but over time, as I got more comfortable with the practice, my journal became a safe place for literally any thought. One of the *many* cool + brain changing things about journaling is that you can only hear yourself complain for so long before you’re moved to action which brings me to....

3. align your actions with your values/beliefs.

Every once in a while, a chasm will creep between what I believe I should be investing my time in and what I am actually investing my time in. One way to spot these chasms is by tuning in to the things you pay lip service to. For instance, this time two years again, even though I valued reading, creating, hiking, and friendships, what I was actually investing in was working overtime, obsessing over petty details, and responding to creative blocks with avoidance behaviors like online scrolling and TV. It was helpful to take a step back and make a list of the things that added real value to my life, take a long hard look at my schedule, and begin making choices.

Sometimes the things we value feel inaccessible because of a limiting belief. For instance, a creative block is often symptomatic of a negative feeling or belief about ones’ creativity. In my experience with blocks, they came, as a result of sitting to create and hearing only voices. “Why bother?” “You’re just going to mess it up.” Lets call these voices “blurts.” The blurts are not you. You are just the listener, and guess what? Principle one applies here, and you don’t have to listen!

But don’t merely ignore them. Dismantle them. Write it down, and spin it on its head. “Why bother?” becomes “My creativity guides me to forgiveness and self-forgiveness.” “You’re just going to mess up” becomes, “My job is to make the work, not judge the work.” These deconstructed blurts can become mantras to repeat and over time, the blurts began to lose their voice and new beliefs take root.

4. be honest with others.

You are in charge of your own happiness. If you have someone in your life that is doing something that bothers you, it’s your job to speak up.

Starting with “I feel _____ when _____” is helpful because it gives you ownership of your feelings, and it isn’t something that anyone can argue with. It’s just information. Sometimes getting out how you feel is enough. Other times, it’s helpful to follow up with a boundary. An example from my household, “I feel annoyed when you take pictures of me without my permission. I want you to ask next time.” :)

Humans were never meant to read minds.

5. forget the haters & meditate

One of my favorite things to remember is that at any given time, about half of people will be into what I’m doing and half of people will not. If I try and please everyone, I will just end up displeasing myself, so IMO, it’s just better to be who I am and let others be who they are too. We can’t “click” with everyone, and there’s no sense in dwelling on those who aren’t about you. Struggle with dwelling? I got you —

Anytime you find yourself getting lost in a trance, try thought-labeling. There’s no right or wrong way to do this, but for me, most thoughts fit into one of these four categories — “remembering,” “judging,” “planning,” and “imagining.” As I notice my mind running away and dragging me along behind, I catch and label the thought, bring my attention back to the present moment, and repeat.

The mind is a thinking machine — it’s just what it does. We can’t fight it, but we can keep it in check —like a dog tied to a tree. It may wander some, but if the leash is doing its job, it won’t go far.


Any of these resonate? Any thing that helps you that I might benefit from? I would love to hear!

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colors of calm

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1. the color of  my favorite sweater and first piece of Elizabeth Suzann clothing. My parents gave it to me four Christmases ago, and it’s my hanging-around-the-house staple.   2. the color of  grass through the Kentucky early-morning fog   3. the color of  my favorite cardigan which I “borrowed” from my mother’s closet years ago because she never wore it, and I loved the color so!   4. the color of  the color of the Kentucky Crider soil I grew up digging and building and playing in   5. the color of  moss, which I spot anywhere and everywhere and always stop to touch   6. the color of  rosemary, my favorite smelling herb + the color of my lover’s eyes   7. the color of  how I like my morning (and afternoon… sometimes evening…) coffee

1. the color of my favorite sweater and first piece of Elizabeth Suzann clothing. My parents gave it to me four Christmases ago, and it’s my hanging-around-the-house staple.

2. the color of grass through the Kentucky early-morning fog

3. the color of my favorite cardigan which I “borrowed” from my mother’s closet years ago because she never wore it, and I loved the color so!

4. the color of the color of the Kentucky Crider soil I grew up digging and building and playing in

5. the color of moss, which I spot anywhere and everywhere and always stop to touch

6. the color of rosemary, my favorite smelling herb + the color of my lover’s eyes

7. the color of how I like my morning (and afternoon… sometimes evening…) coffee

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This art therapy activity came to me through the grapevine of girlfriends, and my friend Amber and I decided to try it out for ourselves. Of course, I needed to share it with you all.

It began with me going to Home Depot and picking up allllll the paint samples. Every one that called to me or reminded me of something calming, I grabbed.

When I got home, I considered what each color reminded me of. Some of them traced to items I had around my house while other things went deeper into my past and took me a while to call to mind. I picked a handful to share with you, and the others I’ll come back to another time. I’m looking forward to using this as a color palette inspiration for some new work!

What are your colors of calm?