Family Game Night and Game Gift Ideas!

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Have you ever felt yourself in a rut when it comes to spending time with your kids?  How about incorporating a family game night into your weekly routine to turn the blahs into belly laughs and get the connections going? In our family, with a 2.5 and 5.5 year old, we have recently gotten into playing Snakes and Ladders and Ludo.  Our girls can play matching games together with ease.  There are many classic as well as new games which will have kids of any age bonding and rolling with laughter in no time.

Many of us did not have this habit or tradition growing up, so it may at first not come to you as a natural idea, but once you get going and really get into different games together, all of you will be looking forward to game night as a highlight of your week!

Try remembering what if any were your favorite games growing up.  I remember long summer afternoons playing Go Fish, Spoons, Yahtzee and more physical games like Kick Ball and Capture the Flag.  Have you tried introducing your favorite childhood games to your kids?  There's no time like today to get started!

Many parents these days wonder if video games and app-based games count.  I encourage families to let go of the technological aspect of gaming for a while and focus on face-to-face, traditional games to build the bond.  Once you're in a regular weekly game night habit, you can look to things like Wii or apps to add variety, but it's not necessary to rely on tech-based games to create positive family traditions.

For an extensive list of games that are new, old school, top notch and organized by children's ages, please click the link below.  Games make the best Holiday and birthday gifts - the gifts that keep on giving!

http://www.modernparentsmessykids.com/gift-guide-2013-top-picks-for-family-game-night

Reach for the Sun

dream ave & believe st

“It's not only children who grow. Parents do too. As much as we watch to see what our children do with their lives, they are watching us to see what we do with ours. I can't tell my children to reach for the sun. All I can do is reach for it, myself.”         ― Joyce Maynard

While modern parents take the time to read every parenting book published, discuss behavioral, policy and schooling solutions with friends, educators, family members, colleagues and co-parents at every opportunity, deep down each of us understands the simple truth of this quote:  if we want our children to be their best selves, to grow into happy, well adjusted, life-loving, confident, capable, successful individuals personally and professionally, the power we have to influence that outcome is to do and be the exact same thing ourselves; to treasure our own lives by making them what we know they can be.

When I became a parent, I put my own life on hold for some time so that I could be available and present to the needs of each of my kids. I slowly took on building a new business serving parents, completed certifications, learned the tricks of my trade, but mostly, have spent the last 5+ years savoring the preciousness of these early years of life with my children.

At times, I have felt lost in my career. I gave up a certain career track that was headed in a workaholic direction that I didn't feel I could sustain while being the Mom I wanted to be nor modeling the life I most wanted to live to my precious new children.

I took my own path, and I am so glad. However, it has not been easy. There have been many days when I've worried about the future of my children, mostly from a place of projecting my own unfinished dreams and business.

It is on the days when I am attending to my own dreams and needs as a learner and doer and contributing member of society and feeling fulfilled in my life's purpose and mission that I parent at my best.  On these days, I attend to my self care by eating healthy foods, meditating and exercising.  I think, write and create and enjoy my time.  I serve others by giving talks and coaching.  I volunteer at our school.  I see friends and family and feel that I am living a rich, meaningful, FUN life!

This vision for what reaching for the sun means, looks and feels like is unique to every individual!  There is no cookie-cutter definition for what "success," "dreams," "reaching for the sun" looks like.  That is the beauty of this life - becoming centered and grounded in ourselves, our values, our skills, abilities and passions and then offering those to the world in the unique way that only we as an individual can.

I invite those reading this post to stop what you are doing and thinking for a few moments and get honest with yourself. How are you reaching for the sun in your life today, this week, this month, this year? Have you been allowing yourself to have enough time and space to experience and create in your life what really matters most to you?  What has been getting in your way?  How can you handle those obstacles this coming year in a way that gets you on track to your dreams?

I will help you to gain clarity, focus, motivation and action steps towards living the life you most want to live, so you can inspire your children to do the same in their one wild and precious life.

Click here to schedule today!

Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play When No One Has the Time

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In her best-selling book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, Brigid Schulte offers an illuminating analysis of the trends, myths, policies and historical circumstances that have resulted in overwhelmed modern mothers while providing a hopeful vignette-based prescription for what they can do to enjoy life and motherhood again. Schulte is also an overwhelmed mother who, as a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist raising two children, marvels that she has survived the years of running on empty in a blur of “time confetti”, from meeting to errand to games, escaping accident and injury at moments when she multitasked haphazardly, unable to respect her own physical and emotional limits.

WORK

Schulte does American workers a huge favor by naming what she calls The Ideal Worker norm that has set up all of us, especially working mothers, for failure in the effort to live balanced lives. When workplaces define a successful worker by this Ideal Worker norm, they expect an employee to work as many hours, filling as many roles as possible, without regard to flexibility or life balance. Increasing productivity is expected, even when it threatens a worker’s emotional and physical health. This is the current myth that dominates work culture in the United States, and that creates a culture in which working parents must miss a meeting to attend a child’s performance or stay home with a sick child to the detriment of their potential for success on the job.

As an alternative to the Ideal Worker culture, many new companies are embracing flexible workplaces and cultures. Schulte showcases several workplaces in which parents can bring kids to work, schedule time to go to the doctor or take some personal time. These workplaces trust workers to concentrate and produce in roughly 90-minute blocks of time, and to take breaks to attend to themselves, their lives and their children as needed. Neuroscience research has proven this method to foster creativity and efficiency; it draws on a sense of worker satisfaction rather than depletion so that workers get more, not less, done and have the energy to vision longer-term projects after completing their regular job tasks.

LOVE

Another societal myth that Schulte introduces in this section is the Ideal Mother myth, the myth that the “ideal mother” does everything for her kids, her household and as a wife perfectly—she cleans, folds laundry, cooks with a smile on her face while seamlessly tending to all household- and child-related tasks. This ideal was exhibited during the ’50s and has led to what UC Berkeley professor Arlie Hochschild termed “The Second Shift.” Schulte points out that many stay-at-home mothers internally judge themselves against this ideal and have a tough time enjoying their kids or staying home, becoming just as overwhelmed as their working-mother counterparts.

Schulte urges that when parents welcome their first baby, critical patterns are set for the family’s life. Mothers and fathers must view themselves as equals in the parenting and domestic spheres at this pivotal time. Mothers must not automatically succumb to the pressure of the Ideal Mother myth in the beginning, or they will spend years trying to undo these patterns. This is when each parent must split household duties, when Dad must experience just as many sleepless nights as Mom does, when friends, family and neighbors are recruited to lend a helping hand and share the work of raising a family in a community. Kids need to be raised to do their fair share of the work as well.

If parents don’t create more equality in their homes, mothers will continue to feel overwhelmed—if they can free up more time to be present, kids can enjoy more unstructured time to just be and learn to become relaxed instead of stressed.

PLAY

Schulte spent an afternoon with a New York–based group for moms called Mice at Play—she   went with them to the trapezium and experienced the terrifying and dazzling sensations of flying through the air from a two-story platform as well as being caught mid-flight. She believes all women, and especially all mothers, need to have more of these kinds of experiences. Life is not supposed to be a fuzzy confetti of housework, childrearing, work and responsibilities. The good life is also about play!

In Denmark, when women become mothers, many will take classes in the evening in any hobby or passion that interests them while the father or family watch the baby. Most workers are home by 5:00 p.m., and many people know that Danish parents have long parental leaves from work. These are parents who are not trained to feel guilty about enjoying life and its many experiences. We all could stand to learn a lesson from this.

Schulte recommends that mothers start a gratitude practice and let go of the tyranny of their To-Do lists. What if we lived our daily lives as if we didn’t have that much time left? How would that change choices we make? Would we spend so much time worrying about being perfect? Try it and see! And read this book if you are feeling overwhelmed being a mother. It is well researched, creatively presented and full of inspiring ideas and practices to improve your everyday life, communications and priorities.

You Can Be the Parent You Want to Be

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Parents today struggle to be present with ourselves and our kids as our 24-hour connectedness to technology and work often pull our attention away from the present moment. Our children feel this distractedness and act in ways to pull our attention back to the present moment, to them, to meet their developmental needs. Our children's cries, tantrums, yelling to get our attention back to the present moment and to them can feel grating on our nerves. We have been taught to interpret these signals for our presence and attention as something to get rid of, to shut down, to punish. Add to that the intense pace of life which leaves little room to be aware of the present moment and before you know it, parents are yelling, dismissing, disengaging from the opportunity that these behaviors are actually giving us to re-connect with our children in a patient, present and positive way.

Children haven't changed much over the ages: their brains, bodies and hearts still need what they have always needed. What has changed is the way we live, what society expects of parents, and the pacing of life, all of which conspire to make parents overwhelmed, stressed and reactive.

What if there were another way to do this parenting thing? What if we could liberate ourselves from this reactive way of life and choose to parent from a place of patience, presence and positivity? Imagine a time when you child's behavior grated on you and you reacted. Now imagine instead of that response, you had learned the skills to respond with patience, presence and positivity. Stop and imagine what that would feel like. In your body, what would the sensations be with this new way of being? How would your facial expression change? What words would you speak? How would you feel differently about your child and his/her needs?

When I discovered the connected parenting and mindfulness tools that I teach, I viscerally felt lighter and I started to live and parent from a more authentic place that felt right to me. These tools and practices empowered me to let go of the messages swirling around me from the outside to move faster, expect more, schedule more and more, to curate this ideal, "perfect" child in response to some pervasive modern parenting fears.

What I embraced instead what the actual child standing in front of me, her strengths, her personality, her wants and desires. And in embracing her, I embraced myself. I started to really celebrate myself for who I am, shedding layers and layers of who I thought I was supposed to be. Talk about freeing! Ultimately, the invitation our young beings offer us, their parents, from the moment they are born is that by unconditionally loving them, they teach us to unconditionally love ourselves and all other beings. Thank you, dear child, for this gift :-).

I work with parents who are in all kinds of situations: parents who are overwhelmed by their to do lists and are not enjoying life or parenting much at all, parents who are so connected to their work they find it hard to find the time to connect to parenting, parents who have changed careers and are still defining their post-child identities, parents who are finding it tough to communicate with loved ones without yelling, parents who are feeling isolated and lonely and want to find that village that will raise their child they always hear people talking about, parents who are confused about what good parenting looks like because they weren't parented that way, parents who want to add a few more tools to their tool kits to be the best parents they can be, and parents who are looking to join with other likeminded parents to have more fun, create more community and redefine the current parenting paradigm on their own, more freeing terms.

Please call me today at (650) 308-9425 or email me at kiran@theconnectedfamily.net so we can talk about your authentic vision of parenting and together, create a plan of action for you to realize it. You can be the parent you want to be and I will be the biggest supporter on your journey.

Service as an Antidote to Privilege

Kiran Gaind Community Service
Kiran Gaind Community Service

How many of you live in a place like we do (Silicon Valley) where there is so much money floating around that kids realities are skewed to believing that things like expensive European vacations, multimillion dollar homes and every opportunity known to human kind lies at their finger tips?  It's great that the world is their oyster in a lot of ways, but the price of privilege, as Dr. Madeline Levine calls it, can be very high. I believe that involving kids in service of all kinds can counteract the price of privilege.  From having friends of diverse backgrounds who live in less privileged places, feeding the hungry, growing a garden, caring for animals in the shelter, hammering nails in a home for a family in need, cleaning up the beach, spending time with a child in the hospital or an elderly person who loves the company of kids, tutoring a child who goes to a less resourced school, having discussions about inequality and making a difference, there are all kinds of ways that we can support our children growing up in privilege to have more perspective, compassion and value for putting their privilege to work in order to make a difference in their world.

As parents, what we do in our own lives and with our own educations has perhaps the biggest impact on our children's sense of perspective and values growing up in an environment of privilege.

   “Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed

I have a commitment to using my own education as a means to transform some aspect of the world and I intend to shape the experiences of my daughters to do the same!

My years of teaching in inner city schools taught me that there is so much need right in our own backyards, the understanding of which has been intensely magnified by having my own children who have been born into such privilege, that daily my own desire and commitment to shaping my children's hearts and minds to give back and to transform this world with all that they are given increases and multiplies.

I'd love to hear from other parents raising children in privileged communities - how are you supporting your children to use their privilege and educations to transform our world?

Special Time Can Take The Edge Off Sibling Rivalry!

Kiran Gaind The Connected Family Special-Time-timer-900x851

Do you find that your  angel children often act like devils when they start fighting with each other over what seems to you like the silliest things?  In Siblings Without Rivalry, the authors discuss the roots of the constant tension often present between siblings:  their need for individual connection to their parents and their desire to be known and seen for their uniqueness. When you sit and plan your week, one tool to start adding to your parenting toolkit is Special Time.  It's designed to create and foster an intimate connection with each individual child.  All you need is 15-30 minutes, at least 3 times per week.  When you carve this time out, you simply tell your child "We're going to have some Special Time" and you explain that during Special Time, your child gets to do whatever he/she wants to do and that you will simply give all your attention and do whatever he/she wants you to do.  This gives the child back the power he/she needs to feel confident and often loses throughout his/her day as a child living in an adult world.  You put away any distractions - no phone, no computer, no cooking, no side conversation with the sibling or partner.  You give ALL your loving, focused, undistracted, warm attention to your one child for this period of Special Time.  Set a timer for the time you have (15-30 minutes).  This helps the child know that Special Time is different from regular time and helps set clear expectations.

During Special Time, you let go of control or influence over this time and let your child lead the way.  You watch with your full, focused love and warmth as your child starts a game, runs and wants you to chase, pulls out the dolls or trucks, sings, dances, jumps, and you see how he/she wants you to participate.  You let go of control.  You can have limits around how this time is spent.  I do not allow screens or sugar during this time.  And just enjoy taking in the beauty and awesomeness that is your unique child.  And he/she feels this love and warmth and awe and takes it in fully.  This practice fills the emotional and neurological needs of your child so fully that when you've been doing it regularly, you will notice changes in his/her cooperation and sense of ease throughout your days together.  And if each child is receiving this Special Time regularly, you will see a decrease in sibling rivalry because their individual needs for connection and recognition will be met so fully!  YES!

If you have certain times of day that are most challenging, try inserting some space for Special Time before those times (the morning routine, a meal, bath, bed, when sibling comes home from school, etc.).  When the off track behaviors occur, that is your child's brain signaling a need for connection, which is well met and nourished using Special Time.

You can start using Special Time with children of any age.  When they are babies or too young for verbal interaction, you can take a stance of observation instead of forced interaction or teaching.  Let the child's curiosity and interest lead the way.  When a child is older and "Special Time" is not a fun or cool enough name, let the kid name it.  My daughter started calling it Birthday Time or Science Time and I've heard of teenagers calling it Hangout Time or perhaps it becomes centered around Baseball or Basketball or Nature.  Let it evolve and let your child have control over it.

Enjoy this sacred time with your children and the amazing results and benefits that it brings!

If you would like to learn more about this and other useful, practical, neuroscientifically-based parenting practices, check out my 6 week Connected Parenting classes which are offered throughout the year from September- May in a call-in video format on Tuesday evenings from 8-10pm so parents do not need to find a sitter or leave their kids in order to learn practices which improve the whole parenting experience and family dynamic.  You can find out more by visiting http://theconnectedfamily.net/services/connected-parenting-6-week-class/.

UME Play Space: Fun for the Whole Family!

Kiran Gaind Parenting Coach in Palo ALto UME
Kiran Gaind Parenting Coach in Palo ALto UME

When I first had my second daughter, I was staying at home with her and often had full days of care for both she and her older sister who was about 3 years old.  As many Moms can relate, I often felt overwhelmed with sleep deprivation and their un-synced schedules for eating, play and naps.  I often was feeling stir crazy being in the house. UME Play Space in Menlo Park became a haven for me during that first year of my transition to being a Mom of two kids.  It was perfect.  I could go there and be completely comfortable sitting on the floor breastfeeding when the baby needed it, while her older sister was happy as could be playing on the trampoline, shopping in the grocery store, cooking at the toy kitchens or making art in the studio.  I also could order myself a carmel macchiatto and organic snacks and lunch for everyone at a reasonable price.  We often spent many hours here until the baby had to nap - we all were so much happier than if we had stayed home.

I've attended great birthday parties at UME as well where parents organized supervised activites, brought in great food spreads, and where happy birthday was sung in the back room which was expertly decorated for the occasion.

Every day, UME offers a schedule of activities to people who come through its doors.  There can be storytime in the library, an art activity in the art room, structured play activities in the gymnastics space and outdoor activities on the back porch, all included for free in the price of admission.

In the winter time when neighborhood parks are not really an option, UME is an awesome space to bring kids aged 0-7.  It is a huge space where kids can run around, get their energy out jumping on the trampoline and engage their creative side doing art.  Plus the cafe served delicious, healthy food and great coffee, and there are plenty of plug outlets lining the wall near windows overlooking the play space so parents can get work done while their kids play.

UME is also now offering lots of summer camps for preschool through middle school aged kids.  They also offer an impressive list of parent education classes, including my Parenting by Connection 6 week class.  Visit their site to see all their parent ed, camp and activities offerings.  There seems to be something for everyone offered!

So the next time you're looking to get out of the house and enjoy some fun for the entire family, check out UME Play Space in Menlo Park and have a blast!

http://www.u-meplace.com/

All Joy and No Fun Book Review

Parenting Coach in Palo ALto All joy and no fun book cover

In All Joy and No Fun, The Paradox of Modern Parenthood, author Jennifer Senior takes readers through a history and analysis of how modern parenting has become the paradox that it is today. Rather than asking, as most parenting books do, about what effect parents have on their children, she spins the question to ask what affect children have on their parents. This book is gracefully researched, argued and beautifully written with an entertaining style and powerful prose. I found myself deeply moved while humorously recognizing my own modern parenting journey throughout its vignettes.

“Concerted cultivation” is the term the author borrows to describe, analyze and name the origins of the current trend most parents are dealing with— overscheduled children. This modern tendency “places intense labor demands on busy parents, exhausts children and emphasizes the development of individualism, at times at the expense of the development of the notion of the family group.”

So why, Senior wants to know, do modern parents allow their children and parenting to create this level of stress and exhaustion for themselves and their entire families? Overcompensating behaviors are based in fear of something.  The parents showcased in this chapter, and all modern parents to a degree, have fears about the future that they are raising their kids to live in. Our generation of parents has seen so much change that it’s hard to imagine what kind of reality our children will face in 10 or 20 years. Most modern parents feel they are raising their kids to enter a reality they will barely understand: to compete with their peers across the globe for highly-skilled, high-tech jobs that will require them to attend top universities in order to be competitive.  So there is an external standard of how our kids should be raised in order to compete.

One of the most compelling lines in the entire book comes during the “Marriage” chapter when one father, who arrives home from his night shift so his wife can leave for her day shift job, says “I am my own standard” when he is raising his kids. The author asks what would happen if we eased the external standard of concerted cultivation and allowed ourselves to spend time with our children according to what we deem is enough, healthy and worthwhile for them?

In the chapter “Adolescence,” Senior relays an important study by Steinberg who found that “…adolescence is especially tough on parents who don’t have an outside interest, whether it be work or a hobby, to absorb their interests as their child is pulling away [into the autonomy of adolescence].” In his sample of parents, this was true whether the parent was an involved parent or a disengaged one, a helicopter or a remote-controlled drone. “The critical protective variable was not, as some might expect, whether or not an individual invested a great deal in parenting,” he wrote. “It was the absence of non-parental investment.”Mothers who’d made the choice to stay home were especially vulnerable to a decline in mental health. But so were parents without hobbies, and so were parents who didn’t find fulfillment in their jobs and viewed them more as a source of pay than a source of pride. “It was as if the child, by leaving center stage, redirected the spotlight onto the parents’ own life, exposing what was fulfilling about it and what was not.”

Reading this summarized most of the questions that I myself have felt in the early years of parenting in deciding whether to continue working, to stay at home, to take classes, to remain involved in my creative passions, cultivate friendships, pursue my passions through business.

I leave you with these two points to consider:

1. Are you parenting your children to your own standard? If you find yourself exhausted and depleted running from activity to activity, perhaps it’s time to stop and decide for yourself how to best parent your own child. Giving them time during their day and week to just be, with unstructured time to connect with you, will help them no matter where their life leads. It may seem tough and, sure, there are many things to be afraid of in our fast-paced, changing world. But ultimately, burning you and your child out will not bring that glorious future any more quickly or more efficiently. If overscheduling is an issue for you, your kids and your family, you could start by letting go of at least one thing on the frenetic schedule.

2. What are you doing today to invest in your own life? It can be a job, a hobby, a passionate interest or an activity. The point is it that it is YOURS. It’s something that you do FOR YOU. The kids are going to leave their daily lives and homes in several years to go away for school or work. When they do, it may be unbearably difficult for parents who haven’t taken time to invest in themselves.  Kids benefit greatly by seeing their parents engage passionately and with fulfillment in their own lives. It is the biggest factor in our kids’ learning to create a life they love, and one that means something to them and the greater world around them.