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The comments on my last post were so very thoughtful. A couple, in particular, led me to think about the entire issue of feelings and emotions and how important expressing them is to a healthy and happy family.
When we get upset at someone, it’s often because they didn’t respect our feelings. Maybe we were a bit off track but our feelings are still our feelings. When we try to hide our feelings from those we love, we often come off as not caring. When we seem like we don’t care about something or someone, that’s when real, long-lasting hurt can develop.
There’s no sense in dismissing anyone’s feelings, especially our own.
Here are 5 Family Activities to Express Emotions:
The Talking Stick — We have one of these lovelies at our house and it’s one of my favorite things we’ve ever made together. It sits on our book shelf in the living room, waiting. The girls aren’t ready to use it much just yet but when we’ve had tough times, we’ve sat in a circle and who ever had the stick could share what was on their mind. Easy brilliance from the Native American culture.
Emotion Rocks — Lyndsay at Our Feminist Play School created emotion rocks for her family to use. I love this idea so much. This can easily be adapted for older kids by having them paint their own happy rocks, sad rocks, angry rocks or whatever feelings might fit on a rock.
Feelings Check in — I’ve probably written about this before, but I’ll use it again. On the way home from school — or anywhere for that matter — we often play a game we call the Feelings Check-in. This is when we talk about everything in our day that made us feel sad, happy, excited, anxious, mad, disappointed and jealous. My girls absolutely love this game, and they are in Kindergarten. I love this game, and I’m not in Kindergarten.
Get Musical — Few things stir emotions quite the way music does. Strings, Keys and Melodies has created a lovely idea of using music to help understand emotions as well as others emotions. This is a great idea that I had never thought to do. We listen to a lot of music. What a lovely way to think about emotions as a family — while in the car on a long road trip, even — and while listening to a song that evokes happy feelings.
Create Together — Being artistic together as a family can really be one of the most relaxing ways to connect and learn together. I love the idea of creating art and discussing emotions. We do this often at our house. But, we’re not alone. One of my FAVORITE activities when my girls were little was asking them What Color Was Your Day? Click to read more about this great concept for toddlers and pre-schoolers. You can also create a photo book using real pictures of your family members demonstrating real emotions. We’ve done this before and it’s a ton of fun.
Do you have any special times for your family to engage long enough to share feelings? If so, please share so we can all learn from your ideas and rituals!
Relationships don’t have to be complicated.
And yet we make them so.
Children want to know that you love them.
Parents want to know that their children love them back.
What better way to demonstrate your love than by being together. I’m talking casual, easygoing connections. The kind that leave your heart bursting with joy and gratitude.
What better way to do any of that than simple, old-fashioned family time. This is about seeing the ordinary as extraordinary.
That’s what this project is about, you know. Staying awake to what matters most in a human being’s life. Loving and being loved. Embracing family. Restoring faith in humanity. Remembering to give your whole heart and your whole mind to the ones we love most — before it all disappears, whoosh!
To make this kind of impact in a lifetime is a special gift, but it takes practice. Some parents never, ever grasp this concept of showing their love.
Let this not be your fate. Let this not be your child’s fate.
Grab them by their face — big or small — and show them that your eyes are so full of love. Give every bit of your heart today to your child and you will not regret it. The only regret may be that you held back, that you let that special love pale in comparison to other people, places and things.
I asked my village of friends around the world, again, to give me their favorite, ordinary moments as a family. Their words are wise. This is not about traveling to Disney World or Paris. It’s not about spending a ton of money or throwing amazing parties. Their advice is simple: The best moments are when we’re together because simple traditions and rituals are powerful. Those moments are what make make for the best childhood memories. Please add your own ideas in the comments.
10 Easy Ways to Connect as a Family:
“My oldest daughter (age 5) and I love to read chapter books together. At the end of the day, we’ll snuggle together on my bed and read a chapter or two. I love sharing some of the books with her that I loved as a child,” said Terri from Creative Family Fun.
Julie at Creekside Learning said she loves reading to her kids. “I love making different character voices and putting emotion into my voice based on what is going on in the story. I love how captivated my kids are when they are being read to and that books are such a big part of their everyday life.”
Snuggling was actually one of the big themes that came up for this post. Krissy at B-Inspired Mama said her family “loves snuggling up on the couch for family movie night. We get pizza and a movie from the Redbox. It doesn’t cost very much but seems so special to the kids.”
“Snuggling in bed with my daughter before she sleeps and talking about our favorite parts of our day,” said Rebekah Patel at The Golden Gleam.
“I’ve often told my husband that when I think of a truly warm and happy moment, it is the moment that I wake up and see that both of my kids have crawled into bed with us. Once we are all awake and cuddling as a family before we start the day…if I ever have to to my inner happy place now or when I’m older- that’s the memory and feeling I’ll invoke.” Tricia of Critters and Crayons.
MaryAnne at Mama Smiles loves spending time outside with her kids. “I love watching them explore, find an ordinary rock that they find extraordinarily beautiful, and the joy they see in discovering the ‘perfect’ stick!”
“All of us piling in the hammock—a tangle of children’s feet, arms, and legs in all different sizes—and we tell stories,” said Heather at Word Play House.
“We love going for a walk or heading to the local park! In the summer the kids and I enjoy even just walking around outside the house looking at the plants & gardens to see how they are growing and changing and looking for butterflies. A current favorite at our house is a basketball game in the driveway… I think they like it best because Dad plays :).” Jennifer from Plain Vanilla Mom
“Our family loves walks. We enjoy exploring the neighborhood, the park, a trail, or the woods. Spending time together outside, talking, listening, and taking in nature. It’s the best.” Trisha from Inspiration Laboratories.
“In this warm weather we love to sit on the old couch on our back balcony in the evenings and watch the sky get dark and the moon get brighter and brighter, watch the birds fly off to their trees for the night, and watch the bats come out. We have an ongoing competition to see who spots the first star, and the second, and so on,” said Jane from Mama Pea Pod.
Katherine of Creative Play House said she loves her family’s snuggles before bed. “Chatting about the day. Just playing; tickles, rolling around, being silly together. I also love cooking dinner while Jake sits on the counter helping, learning how to peel veggies, talking about food and anything else he wants, and watching everything I’m doing.”
Gina at Famiglia&seoul has found connecting with extended family and old-fashioned play to be a very meaningful connection for her family. “I really want my son to get to know his grandparents and great grandparents. A couple of weeks ago, I asked them what they enjoyed doing outside as a child and some of the answer I got included playing with chalk, bike rides, making mud pies, and jumping rope. So, we decided to try out each one of their favorite memories (with them) to be able to enjoy the simple things in life that were important to them as a child. It is wonderful to see the smiles on my son and my family’s faces when they share these experiences for the first time.”
Danielle at 52 New Experiences said, “I love waiting for the bus with my children. We are the only ones at our bus stop, so we play tag, Simon Says, Mother May I, Red Light Green Light…all the games I used to play as a child!”
Amanda at Dirt and Boogers said, “We horseplay a lot around here. We tickle each other, run around the house, give piggy back rides, and wrestle around on the floor. The giggles are contagious, and we have a great time!
Valerie from Glittering Muffins said cooking and baking is a favorite “because we all love food and to be able to make it together and see Nico’s excitement when stirring, pouring or cutting is just contagious.”
TAKE A DRIVE
“We love to go for ‘dinner drives’. We pack our dinner into foil containers, jump in the car and drive around until we find a spot we like (next to a beach, lake or playground usually). If the weather is nice we open up the rear hatch and sit on cushions in the cargo area together to eat, chat and sometimes watch a movie if we take the portable player with us. The kids particularly like parking near the airport and watching the planes land while they eat!” Carrie at A Little Learning for Two.
“Hauling all our blankies and pillows to the living room floor on friday nights, making marshmallow popcorn, and giggling our faces off while we try to watch a movie. With 6 kids, it’s not so quiet and we miss most of the movie every time!” Arlee from My Small Potatoes.
“Sundays are family day for us. Everything we do is together as a family and we love it. From the mundane grocery shopping to an afternoon family spa (hot tub) to dinner at grandpa’s house.” Deborah with Learn with Play.
“I enjoy our mealtimes together. Sometimes we sit for a couple of hours talking and eating. It’s not always at dinnertime either, sometimes it’s over pancakes on a Saturday morning. We have some the most memorable and interesting conversations with our 4-year-old because he wants to know more about something or simply because we’re just reminiscing about something from the past,” said Heather at Little Moments to Embrace.
I’m drawing on a lot of wisdom of the world right now. Mary Oliver always heals me.
By Mary Oliver
From her Why I Wake Early collection
I see or I hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It is what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
Let’s grow wise together this week and continue to deepen our study of paying close attention to the moment we’re in and not the moments we long for.
In fact, let’s stare lovingly at those who are around us and who demonstrate their love to us each day. Let’s give it up to the little charming rays of sunshine that grace our days and our nights and all the in-betweens. Let’s celebrate all that surrounds us — like little love notes, the way someone holds our face with compassion, and friends that just get us like no one else ever will. We are well on our path to being Awesomely Awake but let’s really devote our presence to the drab and the common, and try to crack open the beauty in all of it. Let’s surrender to that moment when we find ourselves lost in it.
I’d love for you to share a moment in your week when you uncover profound beauty in the ordinary — maybe a stack of dishes, maybe a face sticky with strawberry jam.
Please share here when you find your own prayers in the blades of the green, green grass and Amens in the blue skies adorned with the whitest of white, fluffy clouds.
Find more weekly intentions right here. If you have any interest in going deeper into becoming Awesomely Awake, please sign up for the newsletter on the right sidebar.
There was ample, tall metal fencing protecting us from falling into the water.
But memories of a news story I wrote as a young journalist of a child that drowned haunted my every thought that day and all I could do was rush my curious toddlers along, sweeping them away from their live-in-the-moment tendancy and rush them to safety far, far away from that raging creek. Sweat formed on my hands. Knots twisted in my stomach. I was anxious and agitated.
They could squeeze through those bars and fall in and drown!
I blame my active imagination on the fact that I am a writer, for goodness sake. I see endings of stories before they are written.
Still, I know that we can’t spend our whole lives thinking the worst is going to happen. A lot of time has passed since that day at the bridge. My girls are older and their ideas of risk are greater.
At our house, we’ve been talking a lot about being risk takers lately.
Partly because the girls are at an age where they are starting to experiment with pulling away from us. And partly because they are talking about being risk takers at their school. And partly because I know that I have to let go.
I’ve researched this quite a bit and found a few ideas that have been inspiring to us to live a little deeper and to be more Awesomely Awake as a family. These tools have helped ease some of our self-doubt and helped us realize our children are much more capable to live fearlessly at this point. Might as well let them!
6 Ways to Encourage Children to Take Risks
KEEP AN ADVENTURE JOURNAL — We started a family adventure journal years ago after the movie “Up” came out on video. If you aren’t familiar, the movie encourages adventures both big and small. In our journal, we write the adventurous things we’ve done together. You can keep this in your kitchen drawer, in your backpack or in the car’s glove box. Just don’t forget to keep it close at hand so you remember to make new adventures all the time. Things we’ve added were playing in 20 inches of snow, rode a train, made new friends and raised butterflies and set them free.
MAKE AN “I CAN” CAN — We recently let the girls make “I Can” cans. I printed out strips of I can _____ strips and they fill in the blanks on what they can do. We brainstormed the list on our easel but I was proud of the fact that one of my girls really took this project to heart and came up with her own ideas that weren’t on our original list. They loved thinking about the things they can do and I have a feeling that they will add new “I Cans” to the can all the time. This idea could easily be adjusted for an older age range. Film a video of what they can do. Design a book with photos of all the things they can do. Print your own “I can” strips right here.
LIGHT CANDLES — I’m an avid light-a-candle mom. We light candles for the simplist things that we want to sparkle and let shine in our hearts. It’s often for things we’ve done something brave or tried something new. We light candles for the baby steps we are all taking each week to push ourselves to be risk takers. We recently celebrated when one of our girls stood her ground about wanting to play with different friends at school than her best friend. Her friend was really badgering her and trying to make her feel guilty but she wouldn’t back down. We lit a candle for that moment to show her that she knows what is best for herself.
TALK IT OUT — We talk a lot about what it means to be afraid and how it is really great to try new things. Notice when they take a risk. Point it out to them and see how their faces light up with just the notion that YOU noticed them being brave. It’s a beautiful thing.
RELEASE YOUR OWN FEARS — We absolutely push our fears onto our children. I have a fear of spiders. I try very hard not to show that fear too much. We have to really catch ourselves doubting our children’s abilities because of our self-doubts. Yes, they might fall into the water if they get too close but should we stop them from enjoying that amazing view of standing too close? Yes, they might fall off their bike if they lose control while going too fast but should we lock up their bike? Of course not … risks are risks. They are all possible and they are all worth doing.
LET THEM GO — The hardest of the hard, as your children are pulling away, let them go. It will only prepare all of you for phases to come. Trust that they know their way. Trust that they will do the right thing. Trust that if they do not, you can help guide them on better ways in the future. Some of the ways we do this now is by letting our girls walk well ahead of us on walks and there are times when they’ve rounded the corner and we can no longer see them. Trust. We give them the space they need to even walk on the other side of the street and pretend they are not with us. Trust.
All of these tools give children the strength they need to be on their own as adults. They may still be young but they are taking baby steps to being independent. One of the things one of my girls wrote on her I can _____ paper was that she can go places by herself. I was puzzled by this since she’s NEVER alone. So I asked her, “Where do you go by yourself?” She answered wisely … “I can go to birthday parties by myself. I was scared but I went and I did it.” She’s right. She was dropped off for the first time last weekend.
I would not have thought of adding that to the list of things she could do but she knew it was a risk that she took, that we both took. I may not ever be able to completely stop worrying but I can certainly give my children the tools they need to find a balance of being cautious yet abundantly, amazingly and awesomely courageous.
In a sense, we’re all working on being fearless around here.
Sometimes the biggest act of courage is a small one.
— Lauren Raffo
Not enough time.
And all of those what-ifs pile up on top of each other, weighing us down.
Best to err on the side of caution. Best to play it safe. Best to do what’s right.
I have a secret for you.
I get tired of never taking any chances. I get tired of worrying.
I get tired of always doing what’s best for others.
Let’s hook our dreams to the back of a rocket, light it up and let them soar into the universe.
Let’s burn our fears that are holding us back and ignite the dreams that will propel us forward.
Do the hard. Push your way through it. Put in the effort.
Tell yourself it will be OK because it will be.
No one said this dreaming business was going to be easy.
Some people never gave you any credit. They never understood you anyway. They never heard your cries. They never cared about your dreams. They only shoo’d you along now, patted you on your head, laughed at your big city dreams.
They don’t know you. Not then. Not now.
You know you. You know that brave center that exists inside of your core.
Call upon that force without thought, without fear and just let Her roar.
Whatever it is that sets your soul on fire. Light a candle and give it life. Keep lighting that candle each day until it’s true or until you’ve moved on.
Whatever it is that’s keeping you back, hugging that wall, hiding under that stone, toss it like a stone in the river.
Begin doing what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand-and melting like a snowflake.
— Francis Bacon Sr.
Uncertain of the future? All you need is right here and right now.
Take the first step. You have you.
You don’t need anyone’s permission but your own. You don’t need anyone telling you what you already know to be true.
Find your energy list.
Do the hard.
What’s that one thing you keep thinking about? That one thing that is nagging you this way and that?
Let’s do some writing and activities this week to figure it out.
Writing Exercise I: If money is no object, how would you like to spend your days? What would you do? Where would you go? How would you live? Perhaps there is something you’ve always been afraid to do — like flying. Perhaps you want to be an artist. Or live in another country. Write it all down. Write it down and keep it in a very special place that you can refer to often.
Dream Catcher Activity: Let’s pretend the above is possible — and it very well could be — and take one tiny step this week to making it happen. So, for instance, say you want to be a photographer and have your own business. Make a list of three things you could do to turn that dream into reality. Pick one of those things and do it this week.
Please share your dreams here and that one tiny step you plan to take this week. I will share one of my dreams on the Awesomely Awake Facebook page on Monday.
This week’s intention, incidentally, and the exercises are based on a writing course that I have taught called Fearless Writing. It’s a great self-discovery creative writing class for writers and want-to-be writers that I will be offering online later this year! Please sign up for my newsletter to get the details on all e-courses that I’ll be offering. Sign up on the right sidebar. People have been asking for this course to go online, and I’m happy to make that happen.
Let us close our eyes and send loving thoughts to all mothers of the world doing their absolute best despite their circumstances.
Dear wonderful, sweet tired, worn-out You.
Sit down. Rest.
Clear your mind of all thoughts.
Forget the morning’s drama. Forget the battle cries. Forget the way things just didn’t go well this morning.
Rest. Let go of the day’s worries and stresses. Just be.
Know this. Know just this.
You are doing a great job.
In the middle of all of what you see as mistakes and failures and imperfections there is so much perfection and beauty.
You are their Sunshine. Their umbrella. Their warm blanket. Their hand to hold.
You are their patient. Their student. Their baby to babysit. Their fellow swashbuckling pirate.
You are not told it enough but you are loved.
You are loved for how, at the end of the day, you make everything better with a single kiss and a bedtime story.
Love you to the moon, and back.
You are loved for your gentle touch and playful laugh even when all you feel like doing is taking a nap.
Sleep little baby don’t say a word.
You are loved for how you bring everyone together by offering a nourishing meal, a good night’s rest, clothes that match, games to play, piles upon piles of books to read.
You are loved for making sure everything is just the way it needs to be. Always. Day after day. Season after season. Year after year. Phase after phase.
In the middle of what you see as mistakes and failures and imperfections there is so much perfection and beauty.
Your warmth. Your security. Your faith. Your trust. Your love. Your give-everything-you’ve-got heart. Your it-will-be-ok messages. Your eat-your-veggies please pleas.
There may not be a village holding you up.
There may not be a village patting you on the back. There may not be a village giving you a break. There may not even be a village there to catch you when you fall.
Catch yourself doing things right. Catch yourself doing things well. Catch yourself being full of love.
Catch yourself doing your very best.
Appreciate yourself and all that you offer to the world. Show yourself the love that you’ve been longing to receive. Immerse yourself in the joy of living as a precious gift to yourself.
Wear the crown of Mother proudly. Let it shine upon your kind soul and light up the world as much as you light up your children.
And at the end of the day, you will be there.
Even when they are gone. Even when you are apart. Even when times are hard.
You will always be their mother.
And everyone is just fine. They are doing great. They are wonderful. Amazing.
Because of you.
Oh yes … because of you.
May you, for just a little bit this week, stop worrying.
Your children are fine.
Truly, they are.
May you think back to your own childhood.
You turned out Awesome.
When your children hit bumps, and they will, hug them.
When they run into trouble, guide them.
When they face uncertainty, coach them.
Each day is a new day.
A new day to appreciate how great they are right now.
A new day to appreciate how far they’ve come along.
A new day to appreciate how independent they are becoming.
A new day to appreciate each other.
A new day to try a little harder, do a little better, give a little more.
May you keep wiping their tears.
Keep kissing those boo-boos.
May you respect their broken hearts and all of their wild emotions.
Keep cheering them on.
Keep dusting them off.
Keep steering them this way and that.
Keep watching them soar.
May you keep encouraging them to fly, even away from you bit by bit.
Keep at it. Keep at it. Keep at it.
The children are fine.
Your children are fine.
They will continue to be fine.
And so will you.
For even more doses of inspiration, check out all the other weekly intentions.