Leave the schedule behind & Enjoy Family Time!

Over the Easter holiday, my family spent a long weekend with cousins in Charleston, SC. We had such a great time, and the kids just love spending time with their cousins.

Today’s families have so much on their schedules; work, school (parents and kids), homework, sports, music lessons, church, choir practice, birthday parties, appointments, etc., etc….

Sometimes we need to schedule unscheduled time! 

It is so obvious when we watch how our children react to unscheduled time that it is necessary, and a valuable must for all of us! Being able to enjoy the great outdoors, a family meal, or holiday memories is more special than many of us realize.  The over-commitment and over-scheduling of today’s society can create stress and anxiety. Having time to just relax and enjoy each other without the rest of life’s demands keeps us healthy in ways that we don’t even think about. These demanding schedules can raise stress hormones, such as cortisol. Increased cortisol levels can cause difficulty concentrating, obesity, depression, sleep problems, high blood pressure, thyroid problems and many other health issues. Many of today’s kids are over-scheduled, it is important to make sure that children have time to unwind and relax. Given time to relax, cortisol levels will decline.

Unscheduled time allows for creativity. I’ve mentioned it before, creating and accomplishing things builds self esteem. Kids learn to make up games, build forts, and just explore their surroundings. One thing that time playing outdoors can do is help regulate neurotransmitters such as dopamine and norepinephrine. These neurotransmitters are important for normal brain function, concentration, organization, retention of information and paying attention. There is no doubt that kids need all the help they can get with focus and attention, especially those ADHD kids I talked about in my previous post.

Josh and AK battling it out!

During our time away, our children didn’t have a schedule, they ran around outside playing, jumping, climbing, bouncing, swimming, building, and just doing things that kids do. One thing I noticed during this time is that their was no complaining, no crying, no battling over attention, and the kids worked together to help one another! What a bonus for everyone!! 🙂

G reading Drew a book on our way to dinner.

Another cool thing I notice about hanging with our cousins is how kids bond, and you just can’t predict these things.  Most of us, as I did, would would assume that the girls would play girl things, and the boys would play boy things, but that isn’t necessarily the case. What happened is that the oldest cousin, Garrett (13) and the youngest, Drew Elizabeth (5) spent time together, and Joshua (10) and Anna Kat (11) spent time together most frequently.  It has been this way ever since they were very young. It is so cool to watch Garrett try to teach and explain things to Drew, and help her learn new things. I even caught him reading to her on our way to dinner. This changed just a little on this trip because Cousin Garrett has a girlfriend. When G’s girlfriend was around, Drew had to share , but she didn’t seem to mind. Even adding another kid to the mix didn’t cause any problems, everyone got along great. Drew climbed right up in the paddle boat with G’s girlfriend, and he had to take care of both girls, it was pretty cute! He bucked up and met the challenge, I think it really got him some brownie points with the GF! 😉

Overall, I think the unscheduled time is good for everyone, kids and adults alike! Taking time out to relax and smell the roses is one of the best coping mechanisms we can teach our children! It never hurts, and always helps to let those cortisol levels go down every now and then! The hard part is leaving to go back to the schedule of day to day life. Both of our children were very unhappy when it came time to leave, Morgan and I were too. 😦 Joshua hid in my cousins Suburban so he didn’t have to leave, it took a few minutes to find him too, crazy kid. Drew Elizabeth was carried on the verge of tears, kicking and pouting to the car. You don’t have to be very old to know that unscheduled time is the best for everyone. 😉

I hope that you figure out how to balance your children’s time.  There are so many things we want our children to experience and enjoy as they grow up.  Don’t forget some of the best things in life are things that happen by chance, not by a schedule.

My wish for you and yours is that you find lots of opportunities for unscheduled time along your journey! 😉

Bullying Info from Child Psych Mom


What most kids don’t realize is that most bullies really have low self esteem and need to pick on others to make themselves feel better.

Bullying is such a huge problem in our society! I am grateful that my children go to a school that is very in tune with the students and their interpersonal relationships. Not all children have an environment that keeps them as safe as we hope. Now that I have delved into the world of blogging, I have found a few really great parenting blogs, one of which is Child Psych Mom. I recently read a post by Child Psych Mom that dealt with Bullying that I wanted to pass along to my readers. She has some great references to check out too.

Parents, teachers, and all adults should be hyper-vigilant about how children interact with one another. Bullying can affect a child’s self esteem for the rest of their life. Growing up in this society is hard enough without having some bully make it worse.

Read Child Psych Mom’s post Bullying: How Do I Save Myself? to educate yourself. The more parents and other adults know about bullying, the better we can protect our children.

And, remember, your children watch what you do, and learn from what you do! Spread happiness and smiles! 😉


Small Dose #5 – Don’t just say it, live it!!

Be an example for your children!

Children watch and learn from the adults in their life.

Do not judge other’s for their differences, but embrace what makes us all unique! 


Be kind to others, and teach your children to treat others the way they want to be treated!

Say “Hello” to passersby.

Encourage your children to help those in need.

We all need to come together in our own community to make it a better place for our children’s future.

Volunteer in your community and encourage your children to do the same!

SPENDING TIME with your child is the MOST VALUABLE thing you can do for them,

and the one thing they WANT and NEED most in this world!

Don’t just say it, live it! 

There is no such thing as INNOCENT VIOLENCE!

After seeing today’s news about yet ANOTHER high school shooting, I felt compelled to share some information on children and violence.  The future of our children and the society we are creating weighs heavily on my mind.

Children that do not get the needed love, support and guidance during the first few years of life will constantly be seeking attention for the remainder of their life. This can lead to many issues for the child, as they do whatever it takes (good or bad) to feel valued. This feeling of worthlessness leads to inappropriate and high-risk behavior (see below).

I found some information online at the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry that I wanted to share. This is serious stuff, so I’m not going to have any funny jokes or stories today, just feel the need to share some info….

The following information is copied directly from www.aacap.org:

1. “Hundreds of studies of the effects of TV violence on children and teenagers have found that children may:

Children with emotional, behavioral, learning or impulse control problems may be more easily influenced by TV violence.”
(if you click on the above writing in red, you can view the website directly)
2. “Factors Which Increase Risk of Violent Behavior: Numerous research studies have concluded that a complex interaction or combination of factors leads to an increased risk of violent behavior in children and adolescents.  These factors include:
  • Previous aggressive or violent behavior
  • Being the victim of physical abuse and/or sexual abuse
  • Exposure to violence in the home and/or community
  • Genetic (family heredity) factors
  • Exposure to violence in media (TV, movies, etc.)
  • Use of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Presence of firearms in home
  • Combination of stressful family socioeconomic factors (poverty, severe deprivation,    marital breakup, single parenting, unemployment, loss of support from extended family)
  • Brain damage from head injury”

3. “What are the “warning signs” for violent behavior in children? Children who have several risk factors and show the following behaviors should be carefully evaluated:

  • Intense anger
  • Frequent loss of temper or blow-ups
  • Extreme irritability
  • Extreme impulsiveness
  • Becoming easily frustrated

Parents and teachers should be careful not to minimize these behaviors in children.”

4. “Can anything prevent violent behavior in children?

Research studies have shown that much violent behavior can be decreased or even prevented if the above risk factors are significantly reduced or eliminated.  Most importantly, efforts should be directed at dramatically decreasing the exposure of children and adolescents to violence in the home, community, and through the media.  Clearly, violence leads to violence.  In addition, the following strategies can lessen or prevent violent behavior:

  • Prevention of child abuse (use of programs such as parent training, family support programs, etc.)
  • Sex education and parenting programs for adolescents
  • Early intervention programs for violent youngsters
  • Monitoring child’s viewing of violence on TV/videos/movie”
Pretty heavy info, I know, but so important to share. The well being of our children and the future of our society are at risk.  The one thing we can do to make a difference is try our best to raise mentally and emotionally healthy children.  What a difficult, but important journey we are on friends! I hope some of my advice helps you along your journey!

Praise & Encouragement go a long way…Be your child’s cheerleader!

Kids need to know that they are doing the right thing, and they depend on Mom and Dad to keep them in check!  We all have had our moments when our children are definitely not acting the way we raised them, or so we thought.

Remember, much of our teaching is by example, and much of what kids learn about behavior is observed.

I find myself raising my voice more often than I like, it is a bad habit that I am trying to stop.  There are days that Joshua just makes me lose it, and if I don’t walk away, I could turn into a Drill Sargent. When I say do something, I expect it to be done, you know what I’m saying??? I don’t want to have to repeat myself 2, 3, 4 or more times!! It definitely takes a lot of patience to be a parent, more than I ever imagined!

The louder I get, the less they hear…. The longer I talk, the less they hear…. 😦

It’s not that I have chosen to parent this way, there are just those days that I’m on the go and/or stressed over something, and I have less patience. On days like this, I am grateful for a husband that can balance me.  Fortunately, we balance each other well! 🙂 When he has his days, I have to call him down too. We talk about it, and know we need to keep our cool and address the issue at hand.  Instead of focusing on what Josh has done wrong, focusing on the behavior and how to change it is the key. I mention Joshua, because he IS the reason James Dobson wrote the books, Raising the Strong Willed Child and Bringing Up Boys! Which I highly recommend! Good info, and fun to read!

Consequences are the best answer to unacceptable behavior!! I have tried to chose my words carefully with my children.  It is important to mean what you say, and follow through! Don’t give empty threats; like Santa won’t bring you any toys……Really? I doubt it! I do tell Josh that I can take those toys Santa brings and put them in the basement!!  😉 This is the ultimate consequence for Josh. If we take a toy that he is currently obsessed with, he straightens right up.  We have started to take some of the toys and electronics away during the school week.  It makes for better focus, and actually more “creative time”!!  I’ve talked about the importance of what I call “creative time” for a child’s self esteem. Win – Win!

Praise is one of the most effective mechanisms of good parenting. Praising a child makes them feel good about what they have accomplished…making them feel good about their self… building self esteem! When children feel good about an accomplishment, it creates drive and ambition to create something else that mimics that ‘feel good’ feeling.

Encourage your child to reach for the stars!! Children are limited or unlimited by their surroundings. An environment that is negative and lonely can severely limit a child. Children want to be loved and accepted, it is a basic human need. If a child feels neglected, they will do whatever it takes to seek the attention they so desperately crave. These attention seeking behaviors can be acting out, crying, throwing toys, and in adolescents drug use and sexual promiscuity, just to name a few.  Encouraging a child to take that next step, like singing that song in front of the church congregation, or playing a sport, or building a lego house….. Whatever it is that they want to do, encourage it! 

Basically, if you praise and encourage your children for their positive actions and behaviors you will get positive behavior in return. Be your child’s cheerleader! Tell them they have nice manners.  Encourage them to do well on that test and on the playing field. Cheer them on! Be an example of happy, positive behavior!

Pick your battles. Let them express themselves! Encourage pink or purple hair, if that is what makes them happy, it’s only hair, long, short, or different colors, what’s the big deal (unless there is a special or formal event).  I saw two kids yesterday, one with pink and one with purple streaks. I thought it was a fun way for them to express themselves. BTW- Drew Elizabeth wants purple hair, we settled for a couple feathers in her hair the for the first time, but I’m all for the purple hair.  I’ll definitely keep you posted on this one!

I ask the teenagers that I see in the office what they want to do when they grow up, some know, some don’t.  I ask them what they like to do the most?  When they have free time, what is it they are doing? I tell them to take whatever it is that they like the most, and think about a career that is similar. I tell them they can take whatever it is they like the most in the world and use their imagination to find a way to make a living doing it. They look at me, smile a little bit, and I can see the wheels start turning.  Teens are a different bunch, they torment their parents, I’m not looking forward to the teen years.

SO, Praise your children & Encourage them to reach for the stars….It makes for happy healthy kids!! Happy, healthy kids are what this journey is all about, ENJOY!

Find some “creative time”…don’t let Life’s stressors get to your kids!!

Childhood is a time of creativity, free thinking, and discovering oneself in this great big world.   As parents it is our responsibility to provide an environment for our children to have fun, smile, laugh and run around just being kids. Kids should have the opportunity to explore and play with smiles on their faces while laughing with friends.  This is the beautiful mental image of childhood, but not everyone’s childhood….

Creating an environment that allows for exploration and creativity allows children to learn by maneuvering and managing through their world.  Children discover new things about the world just by exploring  every day situations.  As a child grows older and their world expands, they are exposed to more of the “real world”.  Children depend on their parents to protect them from the stressors life in this “real world” has to offer.

Recently, I have been seeing children that have stomach aches, headaches, are acting out in school, having anger issues, suffering from bullying, and/or are dealing with dysfunctional family issues.  Most of these children have one thing in common, they don’t know how to cope with the hurdles that life is putting in front of them.  Parents have a  responsibility to help their children learn how to navigate and cope with the world they live in.  

Did you know that 5% of all children and adolescents suffer from depression or anxiety problems, that’s 1 out of every 20 children.  That is one child out of every classroom! WOW!  Another unfortunate statistic I’m going to share with you is that only 25% of these children get help for their mood disorder. This is sad, and leads to problems not only for the child, but for his family and possibly others.

So, what causes mood disorders like depression and anxiety??  Chemical (neurotransmitter) imbalances in the brain are the organic cause of depression and anxiety.  These chemical imbalances can be caused by genetics, environment, and negative thought processes.  A child that is constantly surrounded by negative will have a negative thinking pattern.  A child that is surrounded by positive feelings and actions will grow up with a more positive outlook.  Children at risk for mood disorders are children that are in high stress environments.  Children worry about  peer acceptance, pressure to try drugs/drinking/sex, bullying, parental expectations, family dysfunction (arguing, divorce, etc.), normal development, school/grades, acne, and future plans, just to name a few. This is an awful lot for children to deal with while they are still learning who they are.  Teaching children to cope helps them deal with all of the stressors that they encounter.  Children that are unable to cope with stressors may act out, feel anxious, depressed, worried, down, hopeless, angry, irritable, overwhelmed, burnt out, causing  difficulty thinking, problems sleeping, headaches, and stomach aches.  This unhappiness frequently leads to depression, anxiety, substance abuse, sexual promiscuity, anger issues, violence, obesity and other health problems. So, how do we teach kids to cope??  It doesn’t happen overnight.

Coping skill for you to share with your children:

  • talk about what is going on in their world and about their thoughts and feelings
  • developing a support network of family and friends
  • live a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy, exercising, and getting enough sleep
  • write in a journal
  • change negative thoughts to positive
  • approach obstacles with small steps
  • help your child anticipate events that may cause anxiety, discuss ways to help your child feel better during these times before they happen

Helping your child build good coping skills will help to build self-confidence and increase self-esteem. Allowing children time for free thinking is important. I’ve started calling this “creative time” in our house, as this unstructured time allows creativity.  When left to explore their environment, they imagine something, and they create it. Job accomplished! It’s all about baby steps…. My kids get 30-90 minutes of free time before bed most nights.  They play in their room and do whatever they want.  Joshua is expected to find time to practice his guitar and drums, and likes to find time to read as well.  My kids love their free “creative time”.

Setting goals, formulating a plan to meet those goals, and accomplishing those goals is one of the best self esteem building experience for anyone. Accomplishment feels great!  It provides feelings of capability and confidence, and it is motivating as well.

If you have concerns that a child or teen close to you is depressed or having trouble coping, please help them get help. Sometimes listening and helping lead someone in the right direction is the most important step to helping them see a brighter future.

As you continue on this parenting journey, create goals, follow through, enjoy the feeling of accomplishment, and be an example for your children!

Remember, to succeed, you must first have a plan…

I will explore more issues with child and teen depression and anxiety in future posts.  Please click on the FOLLOW button on the right side of my page to receive updates.