10 Children’s Books That Will Make Your Kids Feel Absolutely Loved

Inside: These are the best picture books about love that will make your child feel absolutely loved. Add them to your collection of the best picture books.

One morning a few weekends ago, my toddler Charlie asked me to read her a book. My mental to-do list screamed at me to go-go-go – load dishes in the dishwasher, pay that bill that’s been sitting on the counter for a week, clean up the colony of crumbs under the breakfast table, and on and on.

But I stopped and looked into her big eyes – eyes hoping for a small moment of connection with me but expecting me to say, No, I’m too busy right now.

So I took a deep breath to quiet the to-do list swirling in my head, and I said yes.

She immediately pitter-pattered off to pick out a book, then met me at the couch with a grin of anticipation and seven big picture books in her little arms.

The best children's books about love will make your child feel treasuredA pregnant me reading to Charlie. (Photo by Aleks Gajdeczka, Austin family photojournalist.)

Then She Surprised Me

We cozied up next to each other on the couch, and I grabbed the first book on the stack: one that just so happens to be a favorite in our house and one the kids ask for often.

Typically, when we sit down to read together, Charlie will turn to the next page before I’ve read the current page. Or if she’s feeling extra antsy, she’ll get the next book and hand it to me before we’ve finished the first book. And then some days, she wiggles off the couch mid-book and runs off to play with Magna-Tiles or climb on the dining room table instead.

But as I read the book that day, Charlie sat perfectly still. A miracle for my rambunctious toddler.

Her rapt attention inspired me to take my read-aloud game to the next level:

  • When the book said “kissing you,” I gave her a quick peck on the cheek.
  • When the book said “hugging you,” I wrapped an arm around her and pulled her in close.
  • And when the book said “bugging you,” I gave her a gentle tickle on her side and was rewarded with the best sound in the world: toddler giggles.

Related: How to Connect With Your Child: The Magic of the 5:1 Ratio Printable

This is what happens when you read the best picture books about loveMe and Charlie cuddling. (Photo by Aleks Gajdeczka.)

But It Didn’t End There

When I got to the last page, I closed the book and looked at Charlie, expecting her to grab the next book and hand it to me like she always does.

“Can you read it again?” she asked. Those same big eyes, hoping for a yes but expecting a no.

I smiled. “Sure.”

Usually, reading the same book over and over makes me want to gouge out my eyes. But that time through the book, I took a peek at her face every page or two.

Glowing.

In that moment, that particular book – or rather, me reading that book to her – made my child feel absolutely loved.

Midway through the second read-through, my preschooler climbed up on the other side of me on the couch and listened in.

At the end, both girls were smiling, their faces lit up with the love they felt.

Related: 150 Family Conversation Starters That Will Unlock Your Child’s Heart

A Big “Aha” Moment

We’ve always been big readers in our family. Every Saturday, we visit the library and check out at least 20 new picture books. All three of our kids love being read to.

So I knew that reading to your kids was a great way to slow down and connect. And the beauty of connection is that it leads to more cooperation, which means my patience isn’t tested at every turn.

But it took me nine years of parenting to finally understand how powerful the right book can be for making you and your child feel completely connected.

While the “aha” moment settled in and took root in my mind, my 9-year-old walked up behind us and leaned forward to rest her elbows on the couch.

“Can you read it again?” she asked.

I smiled and flipped back to the start.

Related: 7 Best Family Bonding Games That Will Help You Reconnect Quickly Printable

On the hunt for the best picture books about loveOn the hunt for the best picture books about love. (Photo by Aleks Gajdeczka.)

A Quest for the Best Children’s Books About Love

Later that day, I scoured our shelves for picture books about love where I’ve noticed my kids beaming after we finish reading.

Before that morning, I’d never made the mental connection between certain books and the reaction I saw in my kids that day. But after connecting the dots, I realized I’d already seen that reaction before. I just was too busy or too distracted to notice it.

On our shelves, we had a handful of gems. But I wanted to make a comprehensive list of all the best picture books about love that will make you and your child feel connected. The picture books that will make your child feel absolutely loved.

So I set off on a research project to find the most special children’s books about love. Instead of checking out 20 books a week at the library, we checked out 40 to 50. And as I read each new potential gem to my kids, I watched for their reaction.

10 Picture Books About Love That Will Make Your Child Feel Absolutely Loved

This book list is a true labor of love from our family to yours. Read one of these children’s books about love to get an extra dose of connection with your child.

And the best part? These picture books about love are so well written that you’ll enjoy reading them, and you won’t even mind reading them three times in a row.

Related: The Ultimate List of the Best Picture Books, Endorsed by Kids And Parents

1. That’s Me Loving You

This is the book my kids couldn’t get enough of that day, and it’s written by one of our all-time favorite children’s book authors. She left this world too early, and That’s Me Loving You is one of her last books published.

If you can get only one of these children’s books about love, get this one because it has magic woven into each page. It’s especially perfect for kids who have separation anxiety when you’re away from each other during the day or if you travel for work.

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2. No Matter What

Because of this sweet picture book about love, “no matter what” has become a common refrain in our house.

One day, my toddler Charlie insisted on getting her own toothpaste on her toothbrush, and I turned around for about 30 seconds to help my preschooler brush her teeth. When I turned back, I saw that Charlie had squeezed toothpaste all over the floor.

I sucked in a quick breath, and she looked up. Her eyes met mine, and she said, “I’m sorry, Mommy. I made a mess.”

By some miracle, I was able to keep my temper at bay while we cleaned it up together. Then after we were done, I scooped Charlie up into a hug. The book came back to me, and whispered into her ear, “I love you no matter what. Even if you squeeze toothpaste on the floor.”

And ever since we got No Matter What, on the days I do get super frustrated with the kids, they always smooth things over with me later saying, “I love you no matter what. Even when you get frustrated with me.”

3. What Wonderful Things You Will Be

My toddler smiles the whole way through this book! What I love most is the message: As your parent, I’m excited to see what you will become, and I will accept and love you no matter what path you choose.

And here’s a bonus: What Wonderful Things You Will Be doesn’t play into silly gender stereotypes that tell boys and girls what they can and cannot do. For example, it’s a boy having the tea party, a boy using the sewing machine, a girl on the tree swing, and a girl as a superhero.

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4. You Made Me a Mother

Full disclosure: As I’m reading, this book gives me a huge lump in my throat…every time. It’s not sad – just so incredibly sweet.

You Made Me a Mother is perfect to read aloud to your first child, but all my kids love to cuddle up next to me for this book.

5. Silly Wonderful You

If you’re looking for picture books about love that have a little splash of humor too, Silly Wonderful You is for you. A couple lines in this book make my kids giggle – still after having read this book countless times.

Just like with No Matter What, this book delivers the message that we love our little ones even when they make mistakes or drive us a little bananas.

6. Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes

Infants and toddlers love this book for the diverse pictures of babies from all over the world. But what we love most is that the “ten little fingers and ten little toes” refrain gives me an opportunity to count or tickle my little ones’ toes. Guaranteed giggles.

And when you get to the last page of Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes, be sure to follow the book’s lead and give your little one kisses!

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7. If I Could Keep You Little

Of all these picture books about love, this book is the one I most need to read on a regular basis.

The sweet text in If I Could Keep You Little reminds me to slow down and enjoy my kids when they’re little because it really does move so fast.

8. The I Love You Book

This is a playful book about the unconditional love of a parent for a child. Just like with Silly Wonderful You, this book makes my kids laugh every time.

They love the “I love you when…” repetition in The I Love You Book. When the book is over, we always have fun making up our own “I love you when…” phrases – sweet and silly!

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9. You’re All My Favorites

This book is unique on this list of picture books about love because it tackles the issue of whether parents have a “favorite” child. Each bear cub in the story wonders if their parents love them less because of how they’re different from their siblings, and their parents answer in such a sweet way.

You’re All My Favorites would be an especially great fit for your child if you’re expecting another little one to join your family soon.

10. I Wish You More

This is another lovely book by the same author as That’s Me Loving You. The text is simple but powerful.

My personal favorite line in I Wish You More is next to a picture of a child tying her shoes: “I wish you more can than knot.” Then at the end of the book, my kids love when I make up new “I wish you more…” phrases, like “I wish you more ladybugs than ants.” or “I wish you more frosting than cupcake.” or “I wish you more Kleenex than boogers.”

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

What are your favorite picture books about love? Share in a comment below!

10 best picture books about love that will make your kids feel treasured

Author information

Kelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

The post 10 Children’s Books That Will Make Your Kids Feel Absolutely Loved appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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How to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence With the Best Secret Weapon

Inside: Blank journals can work for teens and adults, but most kids need more support for journaling to work well. Here are the best journals for kids that will help your child get all the emotional benefits of journaling for kids.

Some mornings before school, my daughter won’t eat her breakfast, no matter what I say.

“You’re going to be starving when you get to school.”
“This is your last chance to eat for six hours.”
“You won’t be able to focus on anything if you’re hungry.”

She’ll take a bite or two to get me off her back, but that’s it.

Or on other days, she gets home from school, grabs a book, and heads straight for a quiet spot to read, barely acknowledging me or her sisters.

In both situations, I used to needle her for an explanation: What’s wrong? Did something happen today? What are you worried about?

But that never worked, and eventually I got the message. Because when you’re in the middle of real emotional upset, you don’t exactly want someone following you around and incessantly bugging you about it.

How do you help a child who's upset but won't talk about it?

What You Don’t See As a Parent

My child happens to show every bit of emotional upset outwardly, but every child experiences big emotions on a regular basis that they don’t know how to talk about or process on their own.

For example:

  • Another kid might have said something mean to your child, and it’s been eating at her all day.
  • Your child might have received a homework or test grade that made him feel like a failure.
  • Her class might have been running late on their schedule today, meaning your child had to rush through lunch and didn’t get to take a bathroom break mid-day.
  • He might be stressed about having to speak in front of the class soon or about a big project he doesn’t know how to get started on.
  • She might have heard about a birthday party her friends are going to but that she didn’t get invited to.

Every day, our kids encounter moments like this that leave their little hearts bruised.

As parents, we typically don’t know about these moments, and our kids don’t necessarily know how to bring up what happened in a positive, proactive way. Which makes sense because some adults don’t even know how to do that!

So how can we help our kids process these emotions and move forward?

Because if I’ve learned anything from watching Frozen 42 gabazillion times, it’s that “conceal don’t feel” is not a recipe for emotional wellbeing.

And as it turns out, research shows that kids who have a healthy emotional intelligence do better in school, have more positive relationships, and develop more empathy.

Related: 150 Family Conversation Starters That Will Unlock Your Child’s Heart

Kids with a healthy emotional intelligence do better in school, have more positive relationships, and develop more empathyPhoto by Caitlin Regan

How to Help Your Child Learn and Grow From Challenging Moments

Asking a direct question like, “Did anything happen today that upset you?” usually doesn’t work, and as I learned, needling your kid until they spill the beans isn’t terribly effective either.

But about a year ago, I stumbled on one essential tool for my parenting toolbox that’s helped my daughter process big and small emotional bumps in the road: journals for kids.

Journaling is a powerful tool for coping with emotions – for kids and adults – because:

Not to mention journaling is an excellent (and fun) way to help your child build your writing and communication skills. Many kids get discouraged by the experience of writing in a school setting because they get negative marks for grammatical errors or misspellings instead of encouragement for expressing themselves. Journaling gives kids a positive and healthy way to express themselves without fear of doing it “wrong.”

And yet, as effective as journaling is, you can’t just throw a blank journal at your child and expect magic to happen.

Related: 7 Best Family Bonding Games That Will Help You Reconnect Quickly Printable

The best journals for kids that will boost your child's emotional intelligence

10 Best Journals for Kids That Will Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence

Blank journals can work for experienced journalers, but most kids need more support for journaling to work well.

The problem is if you go search Amazon for “journals for kids,” you’ll get a whole slew of results to wade through. How do you know which journals for kids are the best ones? How do you find the kids’ journals that will actually help your child get all those emotional benefits of journaling?

In my family, we’ve taken several kids’ journals for a test drive, plus I’ve been kind of obsessive about asking friends and family if their kids use a journal, which one they use, and if their kids enjoy it and keep up with the journaling.

The list below is the culmination of our own personal experience as well as the experience of many other families – so you don’t have to wade through hundreds of Amazon reviews to find out which journals for kids are the absolute best.

1. Just Between Us: Mother & Daughter or Between Mom and Me: A Mother Son Journal

One of the best ways to ease your child into journaling is by joining her with a shared journal. We have personally used this mother-daughter journal, and my friends with boys have loved this journal for mothers and sons.

You take turns with your child writing in this journal, and in the process, you find out what’s weighing on your little one’s heart. Of all the journals for kids on this list, this one has been our personal favorite because it gives you a magical way to get your kid to open up about what’s going on so you can stay connected.

Side note: Unfortunately, I haven’t found any high-quality “dad and me” writing journals for kids that build the father-child relationship in the same way. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

This journal for kids is the perfect fit for moms and daughters who want to connectOf all the journals for kids on this list, this mother-daughter journal is our personal favorite

2. Mom and Me: An Art Journal to Share or Draw with Me, Dad!

A similar journal that a few of my friends rave about is this gorgeous mom and me art journal.

One of the co-authors is a licensed art therapist, so the book includes tips on how to start an open conversation with your child, the best ways to communicate when you’re creating side-by-side, and more.

Draw with Me, Dad! is from the same publisher but written by a different author who’s a licensed psychologist.

If your child isn’t ready for a writing journal quite yet, these art journals for kids give you a fun way to dip your toe into the world of journaling for kids.

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3. Q&A a Day for Kids or for Teens

This is another favorite in our family. You can fill it out as a family, or each child can have their own journal to fill out.

Here’s how it works: Every day, you answer one question from the book. You record up to three years of answers on the same page, which means after a year you get to see the answers from the previous year. Adorable!

This is how we started ours when we first got it:

If you love this journal idea, you can also get a version of this journal for couples and one specifically designed for moms.

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4. Me: A Compendium

In this journal, kids draw or write to fill in the prompts on each page. The illustrations are gorgeous, and the simple design makes this journal the perfect fit for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and early grade schoolers.

This journal for kids is perfect for preschoolers, kindergarteners, and early grade schoolersThis fill-in journal is perfect for younger kids

The prompts on each page are fun and keep kids engaged, from “This is my favorite thing to say” to “If I had a robot, I would program it to…” and “These are my top three ice cream flavors.”

After your child fills out this journal, it makes a one-of-a-kind keepsake.

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5. Time Capsule

With prompts like “How to have the best day ever” and “How to fix the worst day ever,” this kids’ journal is for an older crowd than Me: A Compendium. The publisher recommends ages 8 and up, but I’ve heard from parents whose kids enjoyed this starting at the age of 6.

A few parents reported that this journal was particularly great for getting reluctant writers excited about writing, which is a fun bonus of journaling for kids.

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6. Choose Kind Journal

If your child enjoyed the bestselling book Wonder or the movie based on the book, this journal is a lovely tie-in.

The journal includes daily prompts to inspire kids to “do one wonderful thing every day,” from writing a compliment for someone else on a Post-It Note, to reflecting on someone who’s taught you something you’ll always remember, to a challenge like, “How many smiles can you give out today?”

The prompts also feature quotes from the book, so this journal would be best for kids who’ve already read the book or seen the movie.

This kids' journal will inspire your child to be kindThis kids’ journal will inspire your child to be kind

7. I Love Science

This journal is tailored to kids who like to tinker, discover, and experiment. It’s from the same author as the bestselling (and gorgeous!) Women in Science book that features 50 profiles of famous female scientists. (The journal is geared towards girls, but I know of a couple parents who got it for their boys who love science, too.)

The book includes inspirational quotes from famous scientists, fascinating infographics, and writing prompts like “What is a challenge you’ve overcome recently?”

Many of the pages include just a quote and no writing prompt, so this journal would be the best fit for a child who feels comfortable with journaling without a prompt.

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8. Rip the Page!

For kids who enjoy creative writing, this journal includes writing prompts, notes of encouragement from famous authors, and fun activities for getting your creative juices flowing.

This journal will definitely get your child thinking outside the box when it comes to writing and creating. I’ve also heard from some teachers who’ve used this journal to create their writing lesson plans.

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9. Journal Sparks

When your child is ready to move beyond the fill-in journal style for younger kids, this is the perfect companion to go along with their first blank journal.

This collection of creative journal prompts includes ideas for both art and writing entries. Some parents enjoy using this alongside their child to journal together – and some parents just flat-out steal their kid’s copy when they’re at school or asleep.

Pair this book of creative prompts with a blank, unlined journal like this beautiful leather journal that comes in several colors and sizes.

10. The Blank Comic Book

This blank comic book is a fun twist on a blank journal that will spark your child’s creativity – the blank panels encourage kids to design their own comic book.

This journal is especially perfect for kids who love comic books and graphic novels.

I’ve also heard from friends that these blank comic books work well for a wide age range because preschoolers can draw a story without having to write words, and teens can get pretty detailed in their storytelling.

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

What are your favorite journals for kids? Share in a comment below!

10 best journals for kids that will boost your child's emotional intelligence

Author information

Kelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

The post How to Boost Your Child’s Emotional Intelligence With the Best Secret Weapon appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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How Your Brain Stops You From Enjoying Motherhood—And How to Fix It

Inside: What’s the secret to enjoying motherhood when the daily work of motherhood drags you down? Thanks to recent brain research, we now know the most effective and powerful way to take charge of this mom autopilot mode so we can enjoy motherhood.

I stood outside my kids’ bedroom door, smiling as I listened to them wrestle and laugh while they were supposed to be putting their pajamas on.

During the day, I’d checked off a handful of items on my to-do list, I’d gotten my kids where they needed to go on time (well, mostly on time), and no one was sick or seriously injured.

Today seemed like a win.

But then my smile slipped, and that relief and gratification started to fade away. New feelings of emptiness and guilt settled deep in my gut.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free cheat sheet of 7 quick fixes to help you enjoy motherhood.

When you find that you're not enjoying motherhood

Here’s What I Realized

After a full day of being a mom to my sweet young kids, I didn’t take the time to stop and be fully present with them. I wasn’t enjoying motherhood.

Instead, my thoughts of daily tasks and to-do’s took control of my day.

  • I didn’t tune into the excitement in my daughter’s voice as she told me all about her solo in the upcoming school concert. How did I forget to pull dinner out of the freezer again?
  • I missed taking a pause during our naptime story to appreciate my 3-year old’s dimple that’s already starting to fade away. Just two more minutes until freedom!
  • I didn’t enjoy the 15 blissful minutes where all three of my kids played with kinetic sand – without fighting. What a mess! I’d better go get the vacuum.

Why Regret Keeps Coming Back

I start out every day with the best intentions of finding time to connect with and enjoy my time with these little people who also happen to be my favorite people.

Papers to sign, field trip money to send, lunches to be made – and that’s just the first three minutes of the day. So much to do and never enough time to do it all.

When you’re caught up in the current of day-to-day tasks, it can feel more like being pulled in by an undertow.

But I don’t want to spend motherhood pulled under and dragged around by all the doing at the expense of being with my kids.

So my question became: What’s the secret to enjoying motherhood when the daily work of motherhood drags you down?

How to enjoy being a mom

The Biggest Hurdle to Enjoying Motherhood

From my training as a family therapist, I know that our brains are wired for survival. They keep us going, even under stress. This means we can perform many tasks throughout the day without thinking much about them. In the span of 10 minutes, we can chop veggies for dinner, mediate a sibling fight, and restart the laundry in the dryer (again).

What makes this possible is our implicit – or automatic – memory.

Implicit memory helps us be the masterful multitaskers that we need to be – like when the stomach flu hits at 2:00 am and we have to become a carpet cleaner, nurse, and laundress all at once. But implicit memory can also get us into trouble.

When we engage in thoughts and behaviors from implicit (subconscious) memory on a regular basis, we find ourselves in a state of mom auto-pilot. In other words, we’re productive but not awake or intentionally engaged in enjoying motherhood.

In essence, our brains are designed to survive and function under stress, but they cannot thrive under stress.

But thanks to recent brain research, we now know an effective and powerful way to take charge of this mom autopilot mode so we can get back to enjoying motherhood.

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How to get back to enjoying motherhood

The Secret to Enjoying Motherhood, According to Science

Most moms want to live intentionally and spend more time in being mode and less in doing mode. We want to enjoy time with our kids and not just view them as a set of tasks to be checked off.

The good news? Science has found a powerful key to slowing down and enjoying your child. It’s something we are all capable of, and we can do it anywhere at any time.

Mindfulness.

This is a buzzword nowadays because of how powerful it can be, but mindfulness just means being aware of the current moment in a kind and non-biased way. This could be as simple as putting a thought into words or paying attention to your bodily sensations. (More on what that really means in a minute.)

When you tune into the here and now by noticing thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations, you engage an important area of the brain known as the pre-frontal cortex. This area of the brain helps you regulate your behaviors and emotions. In other words, that part of the brain allows us to be the calm, responsive, and loving moms we want to be.

But when you operate on mom auto-pilot, your pre-frontal cortex is not engaged, so you’re more likely to be reactive, tuned out, and stressed.

Looking back on the days when I’ve found myself in mom auto-pilot mode, this explains why I get to the end of the day and feel that tug of regret for how the day went.

3 simple but powerful steps for enjoying motherhood

3 Simple But Powerful Steps Every Busy Mom Can Take to Enjoy Motherhood

Here are three quick and easy mindfulness tricks even busy moms can squeeze in periodically throughout the day.

These techniques will help you move from doing to being in the moment, but their magic goes even further than that.

Every time you take a minute to use one of these tricks, you’ll actually build new pathways in your brain. Over time, strengthening your mind in this way will translate to the rest of your day, and you’ll experience more positive moments with your kids – even without consciously using one of these techniques.

Related: How to Stop Being an Angry Mom Now…Using 5 Hair Ties Printable

1. Observe Like a Friend

While attending a professional training on mindfulness, I was surprised to learn that approximately 80 percent of our daily thoughts are negative. Many of our thoughts are what’s considered “automatic,” meaning they happen very quickly and originate from our past experiences or circumstances.

Because thoughts are often fast-moving and subconscious, your thoughts can sometimes be inaccurate and unhelpful – to put it mildly. The best way to stop letting unhelpful thoughts control you and your thinking is to step back to observe your thoughts from the outside, through a lens of kindness towards yourself.

Some moms find it helpful to talk to yourself as you would talk to your best friend.

For example, you might say, “Wow, I’m really beating myself up over forgetting the classroom treat. I’m really hard on myself when I make a mistake. I can give myself the same grace and forgiveness that I try to give my child. I’m doing the best I can.”

Or as another example: “I just snapped at the kids over something small, and I think it’s because the living room floor is cluttered with all the kids’ toys. It’s common for clutter to cause stress, and it’s understandable that it’s frustrating me. I can ask the kids to help me tidy up so we can play a quick game of Duck, Duck, Goose.”

2. Forget About Bears

Remember how our brains are wired for survival? This means our minds grab onto the negatives in our environment much easier than the positives. This is how our brains keep us from zoning out while staring at a pretty flower when a bear is chasing us down. But because we aren’t necessarily running away from bears on a daily basis any longer, we need to take control of our unhelpful survival instincts.

To do this, notice and describe the details of pleasant experiences.

For example, while watching your kids play together without fighting, you might notice and describe the bodily sensations: “I feel warm in my chest, relaxed, and full of gratitude.”

Noticing and describing the details of pleasant experiences will help you enjoy motherhood

3. Think of a Label

In the course of a busy day as a parent, it’s tempting to avoid unpleasant feelings by turning to food, scrolling through our Facebook feed, or even exercise. Noticing negative emotions can be uncomfortable, so we often develop patterns of coping that seem helpful in the moment. But unfortunately, they’re not helpful in the long-term.

The next time you feel a strong emotion, label that emotion and allow yourself to sit with the feeling. Use just a word or two to describe how you’re feeling, starting with “I’m feeling…”

Research shows that the simple act of labeling a strong emotion and acknowledging it can allow the emotion pass through – whereas trying to deny an emotion can derail your good intentions for the rest of the day.

By the way, the phrasing “I’m feeling angry” is important compared to just “I’m angry.” The extra word “feeling” helps you separate the emotion you’re experiencing from your sense of self. It’s a lot easier to overcome a negative emotion when you label it as something you’re feeling instead of something you are.

Related: How to Be a Happy Mom: Science Says Do These 7 Things Printable

Before You Go: An Important Note on Mindfulness

To be clear, mindfulness is not a quick one-time fix. You can’t do one of these techniques one time and expect to suddenly enjoy every moment of motherhood from there forward. As anything in life that’s worthwhile, shifting to parenting with mindfulness takes intention and a commitment to enjoying motherhood.

But these small practices give you a practical and meaningful way to slow down your busy days so you can enjoy motherhood again. Parents who use these tricks regularly even report that they feel like they have more time in their days.

More time to breathe in the sights, sounds, and smells of those tiny people who keep you busy from sunup to sundown.

This quote from Jon Kabat Zinn says it best:

“The best way to capture moments is to pay attention. This is how we cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness means being awake. It means knowing what you are doing.”

Mindfulness gives us an anchor as moms, allowing us to slow down and stand strong amidst the undertow of busyness.

And that is an invaluable gift in our stressed out and fast-paced world: the gift of learning how to enjoy being a mom so we get to the end of every day feeling a sense of deep fulfillment instead of nagging regret.

Download Your Free Cheat Sheet

When you’re struggling to enjoy motherhood, it’s hard for your brain to settle on the right steps to take. Use this cheat sheet to help you get back to enjoying motherhood. You’ll get a reminder for the previous tip plus 6 bonus quick fixes. For the full story behind each quick fix, check out How to Be a Happy Mom: Science Says Do These 7 Things.

  1. Download the free cheat sheet. Join my weekly-ish newsletter and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable! Just click here to download and subscribe.
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
  3. Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like the fridge.

Here’s a sneak peek of your printable cheat sheet:

Cheat Sheet: How to Be a Happy Mom

The research for this article is based on the 8-week Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) training Angela completed with her therapy clinic. Get more information about The Mindful Academy International or mindfulness training from accredited MBSR teacher Tina Romenesko here.

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

What’s your secret to enjoying motherhood? Share in a comment below!

How your brain stops you from enjoying motherhood—and how to fix it

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Did I Say “I Love You” Enough to Last a Lifetime?

Within three months, my world turned upside down.

I’d had a cryptogenic stroke, which left me with Broca’s aphasia and apraxia. Aphasia and apraxia are just fancy medical terms for saying that my expressive communication – speaking and writing – was devastatingly affected.

At the age of 31, with two boys to raise, with a nursing career, and in the middle of training for a half marathon, a stroke was not on my agenda. Strokes very rarely affect someone of my age, but more important than my age was the age of my two children: 4 years old and 15 months.

My kids were much too little, and they needed their mother.

When your world turns upside down and you wonder if your children know you love themThis was taken two weeks after my stroke when I was allowed my first day pass out of the hospital.

This is what was left of me.

Three days after my stroke, the shock had subsided and the gravity of what disabilities I had been left with came into focus. As much as I tried, communication with the rest of the world was not coming back as easy as I would have liked.

My sister was at my bedside, as she was most of the time that I spent in the hospital. We were working on my speech rehabilitation, which was essentially what you would learn in early elementary school. She was reading out sentences that I was supposed to attempt to write.

I sat cross-legged on my hospital bed with a note pad, trying to write “The dog was black.” I couldn’t do it.

After what seemed like an hour, I scribbled “dog black.” I knew that wasn’t correct. I knew I had missed the connecting words of a sentence, but I had no idea what they were. My internal dialogue could say this simple sentence, but when I opened my mouth or put pen to paper, all I could muster was “dog black.”

And then, clarity.

I could feel the sting of tears welling up in my eyes and the lump rising in my throat. But at that very moment, I was not frustrated, I was not feeling sorry for myself, and I was not overwhelmed.

All I could think of is: What was the last thing I wrote to my boys? What was the last thing I told them? Would they remember any of the things that I had taught them?

I surely did not give them enough encouragement, enough words of praise, and enough words of wisdom to get them through to adulthood. I surely did not say “I love you” enough to last a lifetime.

I had written letters to my boys since the day they were born, detailing their lives. But as life has gotten busier, the letters had been few and far in between. What if I could never write to them again? They needed to know how perfect and how miraculous they are to me. I needed to tell them they are enough, I loved them more than anything, and my heart beats for them.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining Kelly’s weekly newsletter, download a free cheat sheet of 30 simple ways to show your child you love them.

How many words did I waste that didn’t mean anything?

I regretted every time I fought with my 4-year-old about what type of pants to wear to preschool. The times where I uttered the words, “I’m tired” or “I can’t right now, I’m busy.”

I should have used my energy to tell my 4-year-old, “The clothes on your body don’t matter. I respect your choice to wear what you want.” Or “I will always have time for you, you are important.”

I regretted the time I spent on social media instead of writing the most amazing love letters to my children, documenting every cherished memory. How I longed for those moments back.

How I longed for those moments back

Would I ever get a second chance?

My sister looked at me with compassion and empathy in her eyes. I gestured to what I had wrote and with tears threatening to spill over, I could only say, “Boys…not write.”

She grabbed my hand. She looked at me, and I knew that she understood what I was trying to say. She said with such conviction that I would get better and would be able to say the things I so desperately wanted to tell my children.

Remarkably, I did get better.

With a lot of help from my husband, sister, and speech pathologist and a lot of determination and hard work, I relearned sentence structure and began to speak and write again. I recovered enough to say what I so desperately wanted to express to my children.

Now, I make a point to focus my energy on choosing the words that come out of my mouth with hopes that I never forget the way this feels and what the stroke has taught me.

Among the many things this experience has taught me is that communication matters. Conversations matter. The words you choose matter. Talking leads to understanding, and that is never a bad thing.

Words have a magical power to make people feel wanted, loved, and special. They let people know they are not alone and even in extreme cases, to want to live another day.

The opposite is true as well. Words can give sadness, anger, and disgust, and they can break a child’s spirit.

We can live in heaven or hell by the sentences we string together. What power! We can choose our words to give love to this world. If it’s honest, kind, and is used to lift someone up, say it. Don’t let fear get in the way.

Related: How to Connect With Your Child: The Magic of the 5:1 Ratio Printable

Words can give sadness, anger, and disgust, and they can break a child's spirit

Please, imagine this for me.

I want you to imagine that you’re a child or young teenager. Remember when you felt like an utter disappointment and regretted your actions. Is it when you failed that math test? Is it when you cut your own hair (or your sister’s)? Or dropped a very breakable ornament?

Now, can you imagine that when your mom, dad, or a loved one found out, they said, “I understand that was a mistake. You will need to fix this, but we can work through it together. You have not disappointed me. My love for you is unconditional.”

How good would you feel? The words they spoke can make you feel safe and supported and important to them.

Now imagine that your loved one had a difference response. They rolled their eyes and sent you to your room, and the look of disappointment haunted the lines in their face. How would you feel? Certainly not safe or loved or important.

I try to remember this in every interaction with my children. Although it sometimes isn’t easy, I want them to feel loved and that I understand they are human and will make mistakes.

Related: 7 Most Powerful Ways to Get an Emergency Dose of Family Connection Printable

Full disclosure…

I’m not pretending to be some sort of expert or prodigy of parenting. I have made many mistakes and will continue to do so.

I have gone to bed more often than not worried about whether I made the right choices for my children or said the right things. If we’re honest, my guess is everyone has. In all our parenting wisdom, we are perfectly imperfect and will make blunders along the way. I have accepted that.

But what I do ask of myself is to choose to fix my mistakes and never let a relationship suffer for my impulsive or harsh response.

I see now with such certainty that words with intention can bring about peace or can spew out venom that poisons the space around you. Words have the power to mend relationships, stitch together an open wound, and heal the heart.

Say the things that matter to you. Have the conversations you always wanted to have. Tell your children that your heart beats for them. We don’t know when we can get another chance.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but living with the aftermath of a stroke reminds me that it has not been long at all. It also reminds me to not take my second chance for granted.

Now, every day I try to live my life at the pace of my children. I read more stories, I have more playtime and attempt to see the world through my children’s eyes.

At day’s end, when the last story is read and I tuck my children into bed, I ask myself, “Did I give enough encouragement or words of praise to last them into adulthood? Did I say, ‘I love you’ enough to last a lifetime?”

I don’t know, but I’m working on it.


Download Your Free Cheat Sheet

This cheat sheet gives you 30 simple ideas for showing your child you love them. (Find out why this is so powerful in this post about the Magic 5:1 Ratio.)

  1. Download the free cheat sheet. Join Kelly’s weekly-ish newsletter and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable! Just click here to download and subscribe.
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
  3. Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like the fridge. You’ll actually get two versions of the cheat sheet, and you can use them a few different ways:
    • For the one that looks like a bingo board, you can cut out each square and put them in a jar. Then when you need an idea for connecting with your child, pull out a random idea and do it. Or leave the whole thing intact and pretend you’re playing blackout bingo to see how many you can mark off over the course of a week.
    • With the list version, you can use the sections to help you try out a variety of ideas. For example, if you tend to rely heavily on words of connection and forget the more physical acts of connection, this version of the cheat sheet can help you remember to mix it up.

Here’s a sneak peek of your printable cheat sheet – first the bingo version:

How to Connect With Your Child: A Bingo-Style Cheat Sheet

And here’s the list version:

How to Connect With Your Child: A Cheat Sheet

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

Share your thoughts in a comment below.

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The post Did I Say “I Love You” Enough to Last a Lifetime? appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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9 Powerful Phrases That Will Inspire Your Kid to Keep Trying—Even When It’s Hard

Inside: These are the best growth mindset posters because they help kids internalize the crucial message that putting in effort is how you grow your brain.

A few weeks ago, my 4-year-old Bailey was sitting at the breakfast table with a stack of paper, a stencil, and a bunch of colored pencils when she said something that broke my heart.

I’d been washing dishes about five feet away, so I saw her in my peripheral vision, holding the stencil to the paper with one hand and tracing with the other hand.

But then she sat back and said, “I’m not a good artist.”

I glanced up. The corners of her mouth pointed down, and her eyes were starting to fill.

This is the girl who tells me every day that when she grows up, she’s going to be an artist during the day, then at night she’s going to be Wonder Woman and fight bad guys.

But in that moment, I could see her confidence in her dreams slipping away.

I felt a tug in my chest. I turned off the faucet and dried my hands.

Settling into the chair next to her, I asked, “What makes you feel that way?”

“I just can’t do it right. Every time I try to draw with the stencil, it moves and messes it all up.” She hung her head, and I reached out to rub her shoulder.

Download: Get these fun coloring posters for your child to teach them the power of hard work and sticking with a problem.

The problem with negative self-talk in kids

The Problem With Kids Talking Like This

A little self-doubt can be healthy – as long as it drives you to put in more effort and try to improve.

But getting stuck in a negative mindset can cause you to give up on what you set out to do.

As parents, that’s the opposite of what we want for our kids. We don’t want to raise quitters who give up at the first sign of a challenge. We want to raise determined kids who work hard and persevere through challenges until they succeed.

A few kids seem to naturally learn that lesson and need no support to transform moments of self-doubt into a determination to work harder.

But after talking to my friends and reading messages from parents who write to me every day, what seems to be the most common situation is this: Our kids need our help to learn how to catch themselves in these moments of self-doubt.

They need our guidance on how to turn negative self-talk from something that makes them give up – into something positive that drives them towards success.

Why fostering a growth mindset is so important

Here’s Why This Could Be the Most Important Lesson You Teach Your Child

A few years ago, I volunteered as a mentor to a small group of girls in a second-grade classroom.

During the volunteer training, the educators running the program taught us a powerful concept I hadn’t heard before: fixed versus growth mindset.

  • Kids who have a fixed mindset believe that you’re as smart as you’ll ever be. You can’t change how smart you are, no matter how hard you try. You can’t change your personality, how creative you are, or anything else because your traits and abilities are fixed.
  • But kids with a growth mindset believe that if you work hard, you can become smarter. These kids thrive on challenge. Fixed-mindset kids see failure as evidence of not being smart, but growth-mindset kids see failure as an opportunity for growing. In fact, they don’t even see failure as a failure. They see it as learning.

Can you guess which kids end up being most successful in school and in their careers later in life? Which kids have the greatest capacity for happiness?

More than 20 years of research shows that the key to success in school and life is being able to apply a growth mindset. In other words, if you believe that trying hard will make you smarter, it will.

But if you believe that nothing you do will change how smart you are, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What’s more, fixed-mindset kids don’t enjoy the learning process. Their mindset even drives them to lie about their school performance so they can maintain the perception that they’re smart. They certainly can’t handle mistakes.

“In one world, effort is a bad thing. It, like failure, means you’re not smart or talented. If you were, you wouldn’t need effort.

In the other world, effort is what makes you smart or talented.” – Carol Dweck, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success

How to foster a growth mindset in your child

How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Your Child

To be clear, if your kid is showing signs of a fixed mindset, you won’t find a quick overnight fix. Shifting your mindset takes time. In the words of the top researcher on growth mindset, Carol Dweck:

“Change isn’t like surgery. Even when you change, the old beliefs aren’t just removed like a worn-out hip or knee and replaced with better ones. Instead, the new beliefs take their place alongside the old ones, and as they become stronger, they give you a different way to think, feel, and act.”

In other words, pretty much everyone has both a fixed and a growth mindset. As a parent, the best thing you can do to help your child is give them a toolbox of growth mindset tricks they can use when they’re struggling with a challenge.

Guiding your child from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset will take time and patience, but it will pay off for your child. In a minute, I’ll share a powerful trick to add to your child’s growth mindset toolbox, but first: How do I know?

The best way to nurture a growth mindset in kids

What Happens When You Foster a Growth Mindset in Your Child

In my family, we’re no stranger to the struggle of shifting from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset.

Our oldest daughter has struggled with her mindset since she started school. We reacted by nudging and encouraging her towards a growth mindset, and we’ve seen a huge transformation in her attitude about making mistakes, working hard, and not giving up.

We’ve tried countless parenting techniques to get to this point – some of them total duds and some that thankfully made an impact.

<!– At the end of this post, you can get my free 4-day email series about how to foster a growth mindset in your child, with quick golden nuggets to help you encourage your child. But for now, I’m going to share with you one powerful trick you can start using right away. –>

But we stumbled on one powerful growth mindset trick that I wish I’d done much earlier with my oldest daughter because the results have been fast and impressive with her and my preschooler.

Growth mindset posters.

But not just any growth mindset posters. Kids color in the phrases on these posters – phrases specifically designed to help kids internalize the crucial message that putting in effort is how you grow your brain.

Because the truth is that overused platitudes like “never give up” don’t stick in kids’ minds. But these special growth mindset mantras will burrow their way into your child’s internal dialogue and come out at the exact moment your child needs them.

Growth mindset posters that will inspire your kid to keep trying

9 Unique Growth Mindset Posters That Will Shift Your Child’s Mindset

The problem with most ready-made growth mindset posters you can get is that you stick them on the wall and they become…wallpaper. Your child may notice a pretty poster for a day or two, but then they blend in, and your child’s eyes will gloss right over them without really seeing the important messages you’re trying to get across.

Because of this, I put together a special set of printable growth mindset posters for my kids, and they loved them so much I decided to share them here.

You can use these color-in mindset posters at home with your kids, or you can use them in a classroom of students then decorate the walls with the students’ creations. (Just remember to move them around every now and then to keep them from becoming wallpaper!)

9 mindset posters to foster a growth mindset

The phrases on these special growth mindset posters include:

  • I can’t do it yet, but I will
  • I’m the boss of my mind, and I can tell it what to do
  • My brain is a muscle, and mistakes are like lifting weights
  • I’m perfectly imperfect, and that’s a beautiful thing
  • Winning doesn’t matter. Learning does.
  • The more I try, the more my brain grows
  • There is no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. (A quote from Zig Ziglar)
  • Worrying about mistakes is like putting a leash on my brainpower
  • I can (This one’s our favorite because it shows “I can’t” with the “t” being cut off with a pair of scissors!)

Download now: 9 Best Mindset Posters That Will Inspire Your Child to Keep Trying

Why These Growth Mindset Posters Make the Mindset Message Stick

These are the only growth mindset posters that will actually make the mindset message sink in with kids.

Here’s why:

  • Powerful mantras arm your child with positive sayings they can repeat to quiet internal negative thoughts, so they’re ready when they hit speed bumps during the learning process or during the everyday challenges of childhood.
  • But kids may have a hard time grasping abstract concepts and remembering a string of words, which means phrases like “strive for progress not perfection” end up going in one ear and out the other. But the mantras on these growth mindset posters are as literal and concrete as possible. When you can paint a picture in your child’s brain to go along with a mantra, your child is much more likely to remember it.
  • After you download these posters, you can print new copies for your child to color as often as you want. Here’s why that’s important: For your child to shift to a growth mindset, she needs to internalize the lesson so she won’t have to think about it consciously. But she can’t just hear a message once and internalize it immediately. She needs repetition. From math to vocabulary and beyond, repetition and rehearsal of new information support a process that’s essential to memory – a process called consolidation. During consolidation, the brain moves memories from temporary storage in the brain’s hippocampus to more permanent storage in the cortex (the outer layer of the brain). Translation? The more your child colors these growth mindset posters, the more the message will sink in.
  • And most important of all, these color-in growth mindset posters are just plain fun. Whereas slapping a ready-made poster on a wall and asking kids to read them aloud veers into drill sergeant territory, engaging kids in the fun activity of coloring unlocks their creativity and invites them to be an active part of the learning process. In fact, brain research suggests that fun isn’t just a “nice to have” for the learning process but that it may be required for authentic learning and for storage in long-term memory.
The only growth mindset posters for kids that will make the message stick

But…Will These Growth Mindset Posters Spark a Change in Your Child?

When I first set out to create these growth mindset posters for kids, my goal was to shift my kids’ internal dialogue in those moments when they struggled. Specifically, I wanted to erase the internal dialogue where they painted a picture of themselves as incapable of improving – and replace it with a handful of powerful, positive mantras to remind them that hard work and sticking with a problem will help their brains grow and help them become the people they want to be.

And although I’d done a ton of research ahead of time about the science behind how growth mindset posters could help my kids, I didn’t know exactly how well the messages would stick.

The day the final posters were ready, I called my two oldest kids over to the dining room table while their toddler sister was napping.

“Hey guys, let’s color!”

I’d laid the growth mindset posters on the table, along with my fancy coloring pencils that I keep on a high shelf in my closet except for special occasions.

They walked into the room, glanced around the table, and hurried to sit down.

We each took a sheet and started coloring. My preschooler Bailey wanted to talk about the letters on her poster while she colored, and my grade-schooler Abby said, “We have posters kind of like this at school in some of the classrooms, except you can’t color them in.”

“Oh yeah?” I said. “What do they say?”

“I can’t remember,” she said.

“Hmm,” I said. Probably not the effect the teachers were going for when they took the time to pick out those pretty posters and hang them up to inspire the kids to keep trying.

As we colored, we talked about the phrases on our posters – what the phrases mean, situations we’ve been in where the phrases would have helped us, and more. I kept it light and breezy by asking lots of questions and biting my tongue when I felt like lecturing. Just let the posters sink into their minds, I reminded myself.

We had a fun afternoon coloring together, then we picked out a piece of prime wall real estate to hang up our creations.

Later that day, I was in the kitchen while the girls were building with Magna Tiles in the living room, and I overheard Abby say, “I can’t get it to work.”

And 4-year-old Bailey said, “You can’t get it to work YET. But you will.”

Score.

Download now: 9 Best Mindset Posters That Will Inspire Your Child to Keep Trying

Growth mindset posters that are actually fun for kids

But Would the Messages Stick Long-Term?

I smiled at the fast impact, but I still wondered if the messages of the growth mindset posters would stick with my kids for the long-term.

Every week or so, I’d bust out a fresh set of the posters with my special pencils, and we’d have another group coloring session. I overheard the girls repeating the growth mindset phrases to each other for encouragement, and I noticed a shift in their self-talk – so I was one happy mama.

But after picking up Abby from school one day, on the ride home she said, “We have to write two paragraphs every week with six to eight sentences each on the same topic. And we have to use these stupid prompts! I can’t write with a prompt.”

“Hmm,” I said. “Have you ever written with a prompt before?”

I expected her to get more frustrated and focus on why writing prompts are so hard, but she surprised me. “Well, it’s not that I can’t write with a prompt. I’ve done it before. It’s just that it’s hard to get started because it’s not my own idea.”

She got quiet, and I glanced at her in the rearview mirror. She was staring at a piece of paper, and I wondered what thoughts were churning behind the scenes.

She said something under her breath, so I asked, “What’s that?”

“Oh, I just said maybe this one will work. And if I don’t like how it turns out, I can try again.”

I smiled. “That sounds like a good plan.”

She was no longer just repeating the growth mindset phrases from the posters. She’d internalized the message.

But the real clincher came for me that weekend while we were in the car running errands as a family.

The two big girls sit in the back row, and I could hear them talking to each other but couldn’t quite make out the words.

Then after a bit, Bailey called up to us. “Mommy and Daddy, we have a new phrase!”

Ty and I glanced at each other. “A new phrase?” I asked.

“Yeah. Wanna hear it?”

“Sure.”

She and Abby whispered to each other some more, then Abby said, “She wants me to go first. My phrase is ‘A life without mistakes is no life at all.’”

I couldn’t keep the grin off my face. I leaned across and whispered to Ty, “The growth mindset posters!”

Then to Abby, I said, “That’s awesome!”

“Wanna hear mine?” Bailey asked.

“We’d love to!” I might have been a little excited.

“Okay,” she said. “Winning doesn’t matter. Trying does.”

Not only had they internalized the messages from the growth mindset posters, but they’d been making up their own growth mindset phrases in their own words. All because of our special set of growth mindset coloring posters.

The girls have even taken it one step further and started coming up with their own rules to live by in the same style.

So far, my favorite from 4-year-old Bailey is this one:

If you have something nice to say, say it. Otherwise, if you can’t say something nice, shut your mouth.

Wise words, little one.

Mindset posters that will inspire your child to keep trying

How to Download Your Growth Mindset Posters

Invite your kids to color these growth mindset printable posters, then you can hang them in your house as a gentle and positive reminder of the power of your mindset. For an extra dose of fun, try printing two copies, then sit by your child and color them together.

If you’re a teacher, these are the perfect growth mindset posters for the classroom because you can print as many copies as you want and have a built-in growth mindset activity for your students.

  1. Download your mindset posters here. After you order, you’ll get a special link to download your growth mindset posters PDF.
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal, especially if you plan to hang the posters on the wall later.
  3. Set your kids up to color the posters. Regular old crayons work fine, or you can pair the activity with a fun new art supply like watercolor pencils or 80’s Glam Sharpies.

For an extra treat for your kids, you can have these growth mindset posters printed at Staples using their “engineering print” option to make super-sized versions of the posters. We’ve had the best luck with the 18×24 size (less than $2) and the 36×48 (about $7).

We pick one of the growth mindset posters every now and then to do this with, then unleash all the kids at once for a group coloring project that keeps them moving towards a growth mindset.

Download now: 9 Best Mindset Posters That Will Inspire Your Child to Keep Trying

Your Turn

Which of these growth mindset posters is your child’s favorite (or yours)? Share in a comment below!

The best growth mindset posters

Author information

Kelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

The post 9 Powerful Phrases That Will Inspire Your Kid to Keep Trying—Even When It’s Hard appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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Doubt

There are some things that I’m sure of:
  • Snow is cold.
  • Carbs are addictive.
  • My husband’s love.
  • The hospital is not the best place to spend your vacation.

There are some things of which I’m less sure:
  • The price of tea in China.
  • Selecting the best paint color.
  • What my dishes do when I’m not looking.
  • That I know what I’m doing when it comes to healthy dietary choices.

Ray and I had planned a summer vacation that would begin with a weekend camping trip with all my kids and grandsons in Utah, then north to Boise Idaho and east to South Dakota via Billings Montana. Instead we spent time in the hospital so Ray could have open-heart surgery. You know, like you do. In fact, I’m writing this on my tablet in his hospital room. This is day 12 here with a couple more to go if we’re lucky.

He’s doing amazingly well.

Ray was first diagnosed with coronary artery disease in July of 2008. He immediately quit smoking and has, over the ensuing years, added regular exercise, cut WAY back on beer consumption and made dramatic changes to his diet. He basically began doing everything he should to lead a healthy life and keep additional health issues at bay, and yet, here we are. The fact that we were doing everything right and his health still declined to scary-ass levels was shocking and confusing. Maybe all that research we’d done about healthy diets lead us down the wrong path! Maybe we don’t know what we’re doing after all! Did I just cook my husband into the hospital?

The answers: No, we do and hell no.

The body is an amazingly complex thing. There are no cut and dried answers or ways to ensure health. All we can do is our best, and we have been. When confronted with this situation, Ray and I experienced doubt. We wondered if our lower carb, no fear of fat ways had caused him to become sicker. Thankfully there was a doctor who explained it to us. Ray has heart disease and even though he had immediately changed his lifestyle, his disease didn’t just stop progressing. In fact, this great doctor told us that if he hadn’t made those changes he would have most likely become sicker long before this. In other words, his new lifestyle had prolonged a good life. Not only that, but his healthier body will most likely heal more quickly. Those changes were a good thing. Not one person, including the nutritionist, has had to tell us that we need to make changes because we already have! My husband is a rock star.

Dealing with any disease is scary, diabetes included. We are forced to make decisions about how we live, what we eat and the medications we take. Educating yourself on the best course of action for your life with diabetes is imperative. Make a plan and follow it. Don’t let doubt cloud your thoughts. Do what feels right to you and stick with it. If you feel stronger and healthier most of the time then you’re most likely on the right track.

Ray has a long road to recovery ahead of him but we’re hopeful that he will come out the other side able to continue doing the things he loves. There will be other chances for the family to camp together and Mount Rushmore isn’t going anywhere. Our summer “vacation” may not have ended up as we’d planned but we’re making the best of it and looking ahead to more years together. Self-doubt is a liar and I no longer believe it. We will make a few minor tweaks to our diet and forge ahead together. I hope that our story will prompt you to make some needed changes to your life too, whatever they may be.

Oh, and love your people like there’s no tomorrow. You never know.

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How to Be a Toddler Whisperer: 7 Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew

Inside: If your little one could explain what’s going on inside her toddler brain, this is what she’d tell you. Get ready because this peek inside the mind of a toddler will turn you into a bona fide toddler whisperer.

It’s a proven scientific fact that a toddler will engage you in approximately 57 billion power struggles every day. At least half of those power struggles will set off epic toddler tantrums.

And that’s just the power struggles.

That doesn’t even account for all the other instances of that special brand of toddler fun they bring to your day, like when they color on your carpet with a Sharpie, unlace all your shoelaces and re-tie them with 20 knots, or swallow a dime that gets stuck in their throat and requires a $25,000 surgery to remove. (Ask me how I know.)

Some days, parenting a toddler feels a bit like navigating a field of landmines, while balancing a tray of full champagne glasses on one hand and wearing boots three sizes too big…with your eyes closed.

Bonus: As a bonus for joining my weekly newsletter, download a free cheat sheet of 30 simple ways to connect with your toddler and ease power struggles.

What You Should Know About the Toddler Brain

This ain’t my first toddler rodeo – my third child is in the toddler phase right now. But we just welcomed a newborn into the family, so I’m more sleep-deprived than usual. Which means my patience for those typical toddler behaviors seems to be in even shorter supply lately.

So I decided to research the toddler brain and find out what’s developmentally appropriate for toddler behavior according to science. Maybe if I understood more about how my toddler’s brain worked, I wouldn’t get so frustrated with her.

And as I devoured toddler book after toddler book, I found myself wishing I’d known all the toddler parenting secrets before I became a parent – or at least one or two kids in, instead of on my third toddler.

Related: How to Deal With Toddler Tantrums Like an Expert Printable

7 things you should know about your toddler's brain

7 Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew

As it turns out, as frustrating as those typical toddler behaviors are, for the most part they’re 100 percent developmentally appropriate.

But in the moment of a power struggle, a boundary test, or any other typical toddler behavior, how do you keep that in perspective – and keep your sanity, too?

If your little one could explain what’s going on inside her toddler brain, this is what she’d tell you. Under each “What to do” section, you’ll find practical tips for how to take that understanding of the toddler brain and apply it to your daily life with a toddler in tow.

Get ready because this peek inside the mind of a toddler will turn you into a bona fide toddler whisperer.

Related: The Only Thing You Need to Survive the “Terrible Twos” – With Your Sanity Intact Printable

Inside the mind of a toddler

1. Please tell me again.

When you say, “How many times do I have to tell you?” it seems like you’re annoyed with me. But I really do need you to tell me lots and lots of times.

Here’s why: Your ability to focus your attention, remember instructions, and control impulses comes from your executive function skills. But guess who doesn’t have those executive function skills yet? Your toddler.

Let’s picture the Grand Canyon. On one side is your toddler’s impulse to color on the walls simply because it’s fun. On the other side of the canyon is the ability to control that impulse because mom said you shouldn’t color on the walls, and you really would rather not see that look she gets on her face when you do something she told you not to.

In a toddler’s brain, these two sides aren’t yet connected. You have to build a bridge.

That first time you tell your toddler not to color on the walls, it’s like you’ve placed one long, rickety wooden board across the chasm. It wouldn’t bear any weight and it’s certainly not strong enough to hold up over time, but you have to start somewhere.

Each time you tell your toddler the same thing – or even better, show them – you add one more board to the bridge across the Grand Canyon in your toddler’s mind.

But building a bridge across the Grand Canyon would take a lot of wooden boards, not to mention some steel beams. And it would take lots and lots of time.

In the same way, it takes lots and lots of life experiences to create those connections in your toddler’s brain so they develop those important executive function skills.

“What molds our brain? Experience. Even into old age, our experiences actually change the physical structure of the brain. When we undergo an experience, our brain cells—called neurons—become active, or ‘fire.’ The brain has one hundred billion neurons, each with an average of ten thousand connections to other neurons. The ways in which particular circuits in the brain are activated determines the nature of our mental activity, ranging from perceiving sights or sounds to more abstract thought and reasoning. When neurons fire together, they grow new connections between them. Over time, the connections that result from firing lead to ‘rewiring’ in the brain.”
– From The Whole-Brain Child

What to do: How many times do we have to tell our toddlers? The answer is over and over (and over) again. For a toddler brain to learn, they need that repetition. So keep reminding and comforting and guiding your toddler because every single experience is building that bridge.

When I find myself losing patience while telling my toddler the same thing one more time, I take a deep breath and try to picture the Grand Canyon. Then I imagine that my words are laying one more board across the chasm.

What goes on in your toddler's brain during a temper tantrum

2. I don’t know how to say what I need to say.

I’m feeling big, scary feelings, and I don’t have the words to tell you how it feels. When the bad feelings overwhelm me, I can’t think straight.

Here’s why: Toddlers feel negative emotions just like adults do – they may feel angry, frustrated, sad, scared, anxious, confused, powerless, and so on.

As adults, we’ve learned that when you feel a negative emotion, it’s best to stop, think it through, and then carefully decide how to react. (Still, even after a lifetime of feeling those negative emotions, sometimes we still react without thinking – by lashing out or shutting down!)

But the part of the brain that’s capable of stopping, thinking, and deciding how to react isn’t fully developed in toddlers yet. And so when toddlers feel a negative emotion, that emotion takes over. This is one of the biggest reasons toddlers throw temper tantrums.

“Children can become shut down with shame, or lash out in anger, stuck in the experience of the negative emotion. Negative emotions are confusing at this age (as they can be at most ages), and our toddlers need our help to handle them…

For toddlers, who are just beginning to get their sea legs, these emotions are new, raw, exciting, and often very confusing! …The part of the brain that handles emotions and allows us to regulate them is just starting to form in the toddler, a process that will take another twenty years to complete. To say that handling these emotions for children ages two to five is hard is a major understatement.”
– From How Toddlers Thrive

What to do: Your toddler needs your help to put words to her feelings. Labeling an emotion is one of the best ways to help someone feel heard so they can calm down and move forward, and toddlers are no different.

Here are a few examples of how to validate your toddler’s emotions:

  • “You are so mad. You’re showing me how much you wanted that piece of candy.” (Source)
  • “I’m sorry you’re (state the emotion). When you calm down, I’ll give you a hug and we can talk about what happened.” (Source)
  • Use reflection. For example, if he’s stomping his foot: “Your foot is going like this (stomp your foot). Your face looks like this (mirror his facial expression).” He’ll probably look at you, so take a deep breath. He might unconsciously take a deep breath with you. Then say: “You seem (state the emotion). You were wanting (state the desire).” (Source)

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3. I can’t hear you right now.

I can tell you’re trying to help me feel better, but these big emotions are too much for me. I can’t understand what you’re trying to tell me.

Here’s why: Suppose your toddler is in the middle of a tantrum because you cut her PBJ in half when she wanted it whole. What happens if you push the two sandwich halves together and say, “Look, it’s the same sandwich, just in two pieces”?

It sure would be nice if your toddler would stop crying and say, “Oh, you’re right. Nevermind then.” But you’ve probably learned the hard way that you can’t reason with a toddler in the middle of a tantrum.

This is because her toddler brain just won’t compute what you’re trying to say:

“Your toddler becomes so angry that you poured water on his head to wash his hair that he begins screaming, throwing toys out of the tub, and wildly swinging his fists, trying to hit you. In this case, the lower parts of his brain—in particular his amygdala—take over and hijack his upstairs brain, [which is responsible for decision making, personal insight, empathy, and morality]…

In fact, the stress hormones flooding his little body mean that virtually no part of his higher brain is fully functioning. As a result, he’s literally incapable—momentarily, at least—of controlling his body or emotions, and of using all of those higher-order thinking skills, like considering consequences, solving problems, or considering others’ feelings. He’s flipped his lid.”
– From The Whole-Brain Child

What to do: In the middle of a tantrum, don’t ask questions, don’t use logic, and don’t tell your toddler, “That’s not important.” In fact, the maybe-I-can-talk-some-sense-into-her approach will probably intensify the tantrum and make it last even longer because your toddler will not feel heard.

Focus on validating your child’s emotion first, then when everyone is calm you can tell the story of what happened and build those brain connections for the future. (See the examples in number 2 above for how to validate those big emotions.)

In the mind of a toddler, mistakes equal learning

4. I’m not trying to be difficult.

You seem frustrated with me right now, but I’m not trying to make you frustrated. I’m just trying to learn.

Here’s why: Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Your toddler wants to make her own cereal for breakfast, then ends up spilling milk all over the counter.
  • Your toddler says he want to buckle his car seat himself, but it’s taking him forever and you needed to leave 10 minutes ago.
  • He gets dressed by himself in short sleeves and shorts, but it’s 40 degrees outside and no matter how much you try to convince him, he won’t wear a coat or even a long-sleeved shirt.
  • It’s bedtime, but she keeps asking question after question after question – when you just want to collapse in your own bed.
  • It’s time to walk out the door to make a meeting for work, so you get your shoes from the closet only to realize that someone has unlaced all your shoelaces.

Sometimes it feels like your toddler is out to get you. But even though it feels that way, she isn’t purposely trying to make a mess, make you late, or keep you up all night.

Toddlers learn best through experience. And they need lots of life experiences to fully learn a lesson. (Remember the bridge from number 1 above?) For example, they may need to spill milk all over the counter a few times before they learn to pour it out slowly.

And unfortunately for us as the parents who would rather not clean half a quart of milk off the kitchen counter, there is no shortcut to learning. In order for our toddlers to learn, they have to make mistakes.

“This age group seems to be in perpetual motion. They are heedless explorers ready to take on the world without all the necessary skills yet in place. And that’s the way we want them to be—curious and adventurous! It is from this place that self-confidence and the ability to take initiative emerge. The challenge for us as parents is in giving children between ages two and five enough freedom to start making some of their own choices, so they can start making—and owning—their mistakes. What we see as mistakes, they take as part of the natural process of growing.

Sound difficult? It may be for you, but it’s not for them. Young children are not yet self-conscious or judgmental about their actions. They leap into activities and toward situations without thinking them through. They live in the moment. Jumping off the slide at full tilt? Building a beautiful sand castle just to destroy it? Wearing rain boots when it’s sunny outside? These may seem like illogical choices to us, but they make perfect sense to a toddler…Indeed, many of these choices make us parents very nervous. Our response? We tend to overcorrect and attempt to control them, which just makes them feel bad about themselves, which then results in shame.”
– From How Toddlers Thrive

I don’t want to have to clean up an extra mess or be late for an appointment or re-lace my shoes every time I leave the house. But for my toddler to learn and grow, she has to figure things out through trial and error.

Another danger of trying to correct and control your toddler all the time is that your toddler ends up hearing “no” an awful lot throughout the day. She may feel like she can’t do anything right, and she may feel incredibly frustrated when she can’t do anything the way she wants to. And then when you need to say “no” to keep her safe, like if she’s unbuckling her car seat while you’re on the road, she’s much less likely to listen to you.

What to do: Pick your battles. If your toddler eats 3 peas instead of 20 or wants to leave the house wearing polka dots and plaid, it may not be worth it to turn it into a fight.

In those moments when I find myself feeling annoyed or exasperated at my toddler, I repeat a mantra to myself: “Let her learn. Let her learn.” That’s usually enough to remind me to let her make her own mistakes. But if I’m still tempted to overcorrect or control – or worse, step in and do the task myself – I’ll ask: “If I let her do it her way, what’s the worst that could happen?”

I’m not perfect, but this little habit has helped me back off and let my toddler try on her own way more often than I used to. As an added bonus, when you stop trying to control your toddler on those everyday tasks, you can step back from the situation and be ready to comfort your toddler if she gets frustrated during the learning process.

What you need to know about the toddler brain

5. I need you to be kind and firm at the same time.

I like doing things myself, but I need you to keep me safe.

Here’s why: When your child enters toddlerhood, she learns that she is her own person, separate from you. This is when she discovers she has the power to act on her own separate ideas, opinions, and preferences.

For example, suppose you’re crossing the street and holding your toddler’s hand, then she pulls away and runs off to pick up a shiny coin off the ground. She’s exerting that newfound power, which is exactly what her toddler brain needs.

But it’s our job as parents to set boundaries on that power to keep our toddlers safe:

“Two to five is an age of testing out who they are and their level of power. It is too scary to think their power is unlimited. They want to know you will keep them safe (even if they battle you!). The world they are exploring during these years is a big place. There is much to learn, much to see, and so much to figure out…So much is going on and they cannot do it solely on their own. Children count on parents to set up limits and guidelines, to show them when to stop and let them know we will keep them safe. The feeling that they are not on their own, that we are setting limits, gives them security and feelings of comfort…Deep inside, they want to know that we will not let them go too far.”
– From How Toddlers Thrive

Still, when you feel like your toddler has done something dangerous, it’s easy to lose your cool and say something like, “What on earth were you thinking? Never, ever do that again!”

From your toddler’s perspective, she made her own decision as her own person, and you got upset at her for making her own decision. Feelings of shame overwhelm her toddler brain, and she’s unable to learn anything from the experience. It’s a missed opportunity to build onto that bridge across the Grand Canyon (from number 1). If she experiences that shame on a regular basis, she may become anxious, defiant, or less confident.

What to do: Your toddler needs you to set limits when something is important, like running across the street or throwing her whole dinner plate on the floor.

To avoid overreacting and making your toddler feel shame for making her own decision, first try to connect with your toddler on why she made that decision. That way, you can let her know that there’s nothing wrong with how she felt, then you can set the limit.

Think, “kind first, then firm.” For example: “You were excited to see that shiny coin, and you wanted to grab it! But it’s my job to keep you safe, and running across the street can hurt your body. Next time, hold my hand tight when we cross the street, no matter what.”

Tell your toddler what you want, not what you don't want

6. I’m not ignoring you.

I’m just not sure what you want me to do.

Here’s why: Don’t think of an elephant right now. Whatever you do, don’t picture an elephant. You better not be thinking of an elephant.

So…are you thinking of an elephant? Because that’s 100 percent normal if you are, and your toddler is no different.

Suppose your toddler is running through the house while your infant is sleeping, so you say, “Don’t run!”

What sticks in your toddler’s mind is simply: Run. Saying “don’t run” puts the focus squarely on what you don’t want to happen. Pretty much the opposite effect of what you’re going for.

Plus, when you say “stop” or “don’t,” your toddler has to double-process your request. First, he has to understand what you don’t want him to do: don’t run. Then he has to translate that into what you do what him to do, which can be confusing for young kids.

What to do: Erase “don’t” and “stop” from your vocabulary with your toddler because they’re just setting you both up for frustration. Then reframe your statements to communicate to your toddler what you do want him to do.

Here are a few examples for you:

  • Instead of, “Stop banging your fork on the table.” Try, “Your fork goes in your mouth or on your plate. Can you pretend your fork is an airplane landing in your mouth?”
  • Instead of, “Don’t run!” Try, “Please walk slowly. Let’s pretend we’re turtles!”
  • Instead of, “Don’t color on the walls!” Try, “Markers are for paper only. Can you draw me a picture on this paper?”
  • Instead of, “Don’t be rough with the baby!” Try, “Please use a gentle touch with the baby. It’s our job to keep the baby safe.”
  • Instead of, “Don’t take that toy from your sister!” Try, “Your sister is having that right now. You can ask, ‘Can I have that when you’re done?’”

I’m usually pretty pumped if I can catch myself before a “don’t” slips out, but if you want to go above and beyond that to really make your toddler sit up and take notice, try adding a statement at the front to empathize with his emotions. For example, “You really wanted that toy right now! It looks like so much fun. But your sister is having that right now. You can ask, ‘Can I have that when you’re done?’”

With a toddler, connection fosters cooperation

7. When I feel loved, I do better.

I’m happiest when we get some special time together every day. Then I want to do everything I can to make you happy with me.

Here’s why: When my toddler is being particularly uncooperative, the root cause every single time is the same thing.

For example…

  • I’ll be doing dishes, and she asks me to read her a book. “Later,” I promise. “I’m busy right now.”
  • I’ll be paying bills on the computer, and she asks to play a game. “Not right now, honey,” I say.
  • I’ll be putting the baby down for a nap, and right when he dozes off, she bangs the door wide open looking for me. “Go back out there!” I hiss.

Then the next time I ask her to do something (or not do something), she doesn’t listen. Sometimes, she’s outright defiant.

She’d told me exactly what she needed from me – a story, a game, my physical presence – and I brushed her off.

She needed connection. And when I didn’t give it to her, I paid the price in the form of less cooperation or none at all.

“Children freely, even enthusiastically, cooperate when they believe that we’re on their side. When they don’t have that belief deep in their bones, our standards of behavior seem unfair, contradicting what they perceive as their own best interests, whether that’s taking the biggest piece of cake or lying to us. No amount of “parenting skills” can make up for an eroded parent-child bond. It’s like riding a bike up a very steep hill. By contrast, parenting with a good relationship is like coasting downhill—you still have to pay attention and stay on the road, and twists and turns certainly arise, but the momentum is with you.”
– From Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids

What to do: Science shows that in happy relationships, you need a ratio of five positive interactions to every one negative interaction. If you have too few positive interactions to balance out the negative ones, you’ll end up with an unhappy, unhealthy relationship.

To get more cooperation from your toddler, aim for five positive interactions to balance out every negative experience.

Below, you’ll find a printable with 30 ideas for how to connect with your toddler. Before you go, download the printable so you can hang it on your fridge to help you remember how to connect with your toddler and reap the benefits of more cooperation.

Download Your Free Cheat Sheet

Use this cheat sheet to help you bond with your toddler, especially after tough moments.

  1. Download the free cheat sheet. Join my weekly-ish newsletter and as a bonus, you’ll get the printable! Just click here to download and subscribe.
  2. Print. Any paper will do the trick, but card stock would be ideal.
  3. Hang your cheat sheet somewhere handy like the fridge. You’ll actually get two versions of the cheat sheet, and you can use them a few different ways:
    • For the one that looks like a bingo board on steroids, you can cut out each square and put them in a jar. Then when you need an idea for connecting with your toddler, pull out a random idea and do it. Or leave the whole thing intact and pretend you’re playing blackout bingo to see how many you can mark off over the course of a week.
    • With the list version, you can use the sections to help you try out a variety of ideas. Personally, I tend to rely heavily on words of connection, and I forget the more physical acts of connection. This version of the cheat sheet helps me remember to mix it up.

Here’s a sneak peek of your printable cheat sheet – first the bingo version:

How to Connect With Your Child: A Bingo-Style Cheat Sheet

And here’s the list version:

How to Connect With Your Child: A Cheat Sheet

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Your Turn

What surprises you most about the toddler brain? Share in a comment below!

The toddler brain: 7 things your toddler wishes you knew
How to Be a Toddler Whisperer: 7 Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew

Author information

Kelly

I’m a mom of four, a recovering perfectionist, and the author of Happy You, Happy Family. Parenting is hard enough without all the guilt we heap on top of ourselves. So let’s stop trying to be perfect parents and just be real ones. Sound good? Join my mailing list and as a bonus, you’ll get 25+ incredibly helpful cheat sheets that will ease your parenting struggles.

The post How to Be a Toddler Whisperer: 7 Things Your Toddler Wishes You Knew appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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Moving? How to help your child settle into a new school. 

Dear Dr Justin, 

I’ve been offered a promotion at work, which is great for the family – or at least it’s great for me and our income. Unfortunately it means a big move for my two boys (ages 7 and 10). They are both nervous about the move but especially about starting a new school. How can I help them settle in easily? 

Moving is tough – even when it is for all the right reasons. Of course your kids will feel a bit unsettled. And outside of their home life, their entire lives revolve around school. Starting over at a new school can feel extra challenging. 

New classmates, new teachers, new systems, new friends and an entirely new environment – all of these things can increase anxiety levels in our children. So, while it is normal for children (and their parents) to feel some anxiety in this situation – the great news is, there are ways we can help. 

Prepare your child 

It’s quite common for kids to change schools, but it is also normal for them to resist change and feel anxious about going to a new school. The best thing you can do to help is to prepare them for the change. 

You can do this by involving your children in the process. Discuss the move and talk to your kids about the things that will change. If there are choices for schools, invite your child’s input. If your child is old enough, sit down together and go over the pros of cons of each. Giving your child some decision making power will help them feel more in control and less anxious

Be positive 

Sometimes, as well meaning parents, we can actually be the biggest cause of anxiety in our kids! If we are nervous our children will notice and they are at risk of catching those jitters. It is important to be calm and positive about an upcoming move and the new experiences you are going to have. This will help your children feel calm and optimistic as well. But don’t disagree with them either. If they’re nervous, telling them “you’ll be fine” isn’t going to be reassuring. Instead we want to focus on what the positive possibilities are, and acknowledge the challenges if they arise. 

And in the same way your children can catch your jitters, they can catch your excitement as well! You can help them feel enthusiastic by being enthusiastic yourself. Talk about the things you are looking forward to in your new city and your new home. Talk about the great park up the road, or the fantastic rugby team you can get tickets to, or the awesome museums. And, most importantly, talk about all the wonderful things their new school might offer.   

Ask them what they are looking forward to at their new school, or what things they are excited about that the new school offers. Maybe it’s a fantastic robotics program, or a new after school activity not offered at their old school. Whatever it is, focusing on the future can help them feel hopeful rather than fearful. 

Address their concerns 

While being optimistic and excited is a great approach, our kids still need us to help them work through their anxieties. Now is the time to ask about the things that are worrying them. 

Their primary concern will probably be related to making friends. Talk to them about how they made friends in their last school. Talk about how exciting it is to have a whole new set of friends. And make concrete plans about inviting their new friends to your house or having play dates in the new park that will be up the road. 

Other concerns might be about who their new teacher will be, what class they’ll be in and whether they can find their way around the new school. Tackle each of these worries head on. For younger kids you might like to set up a meeting with your child’s new teacher so they can get to know him or her a little bit before they start their first day. Buy the uniform and books they’ll need. Take them to visit the classroom and the school grounds. Find out where the toilets are, the sports field, the tuck shop and other school facilities. Show them where you will be picking them up. Make the school feel familiar and safe. 

Whatever the concerns, addressing them will help reduce anxiety in your kids before they start school. And when new school hiccups arise (and they probably will), problem-solve the issue together. Working on the solution with your child empowers them and raises their self-confidence

Practical tips 

There are also few other practical things you can do to ease the transition: 

  • Request a portfolio of your child’s work to take to his new teacher. 
  • Make a scrapbook of their friends, activities, teachers and other memories from their old school. 
  • Make a contact list of your children’s friends. 
  • Plan a farewell party! 

A change of schools can cause very real anxiety and your kids may struggle a little bit at first. But children are very adaptable and most children assimilate quickly, happily and easily into a new school environment. 

Focus on what you (and they!) can control. Emphasise the positives and the things that you can all look forward to. Pretty soon they will be settled and happy in their new schools.

Find more like this in our Happy Families Shop:

      

The post Moving? How to help your child settle into a new school.  appeared first on Dr Justin Coulson's Happy Families.

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Dear Stranger, Yes, My Hands Are Full…

Inside: This is for the people who say “you have your hands full” in a way that sounds like I have an incurable disease. Because if you think my hands are full, you should know this.

Dear stranger,

This is for the ones who say “you have your hands full” in a way that sounds like I have an incurable disease.

It’s for the ones who asked if I know how birth control works. It’s for the ones who ask how old I am, like I sold myself short somehow. It’s for the ones who want to know if I’m “done” even though they don’t know my first name.

This is for the ones who say “better you than me” when they see me with my little troop at the grocery store, struggling to fit three grocery bags in one hand while I wrangle four kids with the other hand. It’s for the ones who cannot understand why anyone would want to do this to themselves.

If you think my hands are full, you should know this

If you think my hands are full…

You see, my hands are full, but so is my heart.

These days are long, yes, but I wouldn’t change a thing.

Even when you see me in the thick of it. Even when one of my kids is throwing a fit and another one is asking for a snack, and yet another is convinced that they must have this stuffed kitty or they will die. Even when my hands are truly “full”, I wouldn’t change a thing. I wouldn’t be anywhere else doing anything else.

You could offer me an all-expenses-paid ticket to any different life and even if it came with a white sandy beach and unlimited fruity cocktails, I wouldn’t take it. I wouldn’t give it a single thought.

I know it sounds crazy, but love is crazy, I guess.

Full hands, full heart

Stranger, don’t feel sorry for me.

Sometimes I imagine what it would be like to have quiet for 48 hours in a row, but I wouldn’t know what to do with my hands if they weren’t “full.” Never would I ever trade my “normal” for anyone else’s.

So don’t feel sorry for me for one second.

I am blessed. I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams to be this girl in this life.

I am grateful. I am grateful for the good days and the bad days and everything in between. I’m even grateful for the days when the tantrums and power struggles and sibling scuffles make me want to scream and run down the street.

What you don’t know…

What you don’t know is that I see the world in their eyes. You don’t know that when I tuck them in at night and they share what’s weighing on their little hearts, I feel like the wealthiest person on the planet. You don’t know that when a little hand touches my face with an “I love you,” every difficult moment comes into focus.

I’d choose all of this a million times again.

And you don’t know that when you see my four, there should have been six. I lost two babies before they took their first breath, before I held them in my arms. I have friends who have had to wait two years or ten years just to start their families. I have a friend who lost a child when that child was in the prime of his boyhood. I know those for whom motherhood is a dream not yet realized.

Related: House Full, Hands Full, Heart Full Graphic Tee

Don't feel sorry for me if you think my hands are full

Full hands, full heart.

So please, don’t for one second feel sorry for me and my “full” hands.

Yes, this job is hard, but most things that matter are.

The cost doesn’t match the reward…not even close.

I am living my best life. Even here, even in this grocery store, even with my hands full of groceries and chaos. Full hands, full heart.

But if you do happen to have an extra hand, I wouldn’t say no to a little help with these grocery bags.

Download my FREE cheat sheet as a bonus for joining my newsletter: 16 Miracle Phrases to Help You Reconnect With Your Child

Want More?

For more responses like “If you think my hands are full…” check out The 5 Best Comebacks to “You Have Your Hands Full”.

Your Turn

How would you finish “If you think my hands are full…”? Share in a comment below.

If you think my hands are full

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The post Dear Stranger, Yes, My Hands Are Full… appeared first on Happy You, Happy Family.

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How to Stop Losing Your Cool With Your Kids—With a Powerful Pause

Inside: The less regulated we are as parents, the more likely it is that we will react to our kids, letting their emotions overcome us. But this one little trick for calm parenting can make all the difference between reacting and responding, even when you’re exhausted.

My coffee cup was halfway to my mouth for that first sip of the day when the battle cries from the 5- and 6-year-old cousins drifted into my sister’s kitchen…

No, it’s MINE!
But I had it FIRST!
That’s not fair!
But I want it!

I sighed.

Then the 2-year-old shrieked, and I jumped up quickly, irritated before even entering the room. My body leaned forward, and my breath held tight in my chest. I went in hot.

And while I didn’t technically yell, my tone wasn’t much better. Maybe no one will get to have it if we can’t agree. Maybe we all need to take a break. Well, none of that is YOURS, actually, it all belongs to the 2-year-old.

Biting words. Fighting words. Words that certainly did not bring peace to the situation.

Looking into their faces with their furrowed brows and set jaws, I realized I was just reacting to their emotions instead of responding in a caring and constructive way. The opposite of mindful, calm parenting.

Bonus: Download a free cheat sheet of mantras for parents from Ashley, the author of this post and the mom behind the web site Nurture and Thrive.

When you find yourself doing the opposite of calm parenting

The Reason We Lose Our Cool As Parents

I’m a child development psychologist. I know reacting like that doesn’t teach kids how to regulate their own emotions. I know biting words don’t help kids learn how to resolve conflict. I know kids need connection in order to cooperate.

Calm parenting is a must for healthy childhood development. And yet, I still reacted to emotion with emotion. Why?

The truth is that the less regulated we are as parents, the more likely it is that we will react to our kids, letting their emotions overcome us.

For example, I’d spent the day before on a 6-hour plane ride and was operating on less sleep and a time difference. It felt like responding to the kids’ emotions in a constructive way would take too much energy.

But I’ve discovered that one little trick for calm parenting can make all the difference between reacting and responding, even when you’re exhausted.

How to be a calm parent

The Secret to Calm Parenting? The Pause

A few minutes later, the shrieks began again.

But that time, I caught myself tensing up and I paused.

I took a slow breath. I said my mantra: “Observe with an open heart.” I centered myself.

Here’s why: Research shows that saying a mantra can calm the brain. Pair that with the power of deep breathing, a proven way to halt the stress response, and you have a powerful way to center yourself. The secret to calm parenting.

After the pause, I was prepared to face the self-perceived injustice of three strong-willed boys.

After the pause, I saw their stressed faces and their struggle. I empathized – I can see you’re upset. You feel like this is unfair.

After the pause, I asked them if they could think of a way to work it out. We waded through their suggestions and settled on something everyone could agree to.

This is responding instead of reacting. This is mindful parentingcalm parenting.

Related: How to Stop Being an Angry Mom Now…Using 5 Hair Ties Printable

The secret to calm parenting is the pause

How to Be a Calm Parent: The Power of the Pause

Rapid breathing in your upper chest, tight muscles, a tight jaw, a sense of urgency – all of these are early signs of stress in the body. When you feel them, take a mindful pause.

Here’s how you can get started with this calm parenting technique:

  1. Stop what you’re doing and count to 10. If you need to remove a younger child from the situation, you can pick them up, but don’t react to anything yet. Simply hold them. Count to 10 out loud in front of your kids. (Modeling how to calm down is a great bonus for teaching your children self-regulation!)
  2. Take a deep breath.
  3. Say your mantra. (More on this in a minute.)

Developmental psychologists now use this kind of practice as a way to strengthen relationships between parents and adolescents.

Programs that teach parents mindfulness techniques include paying attention to the breath, recognizing signs of stress in your own body, and then being able to halt that process with a pause. Parents learn how to be a calm parent – breathe mindfully and say a mantra like “stop, be calm, be present.”

But First, Choose Your Mantra

Here are some calm parenting mantras that have worked for me:

  • “Ride this wave, mama”
  • “Respond with grace”
  • “I am their mom”
  • “Choose kindness”
  • “I am here for you”
  • “Observe with an open heart”
  • “Act with love”
  • “Choose joy”
  • “See how little they are”

Choose a mantra that works for you. Maybe you’d like a clear mantra that’s to the point, or perhaps you prefer one that has a deeper meaning.

After you’ve established taking a mindful pause as a habit, switch up your mantras to keep the words fresh and meaningful. Find words that inspire you, and you’ll feel empowered rather than exhausted.

Related: How to Be a Happy Mom: Science Says Do These 7 Things Printable

The powerful pause that will lead to calm parenting

Here’s the Best Part

What I appreciate about the pause is that it helps me thoughtfully respond to my child instead of react. But that’s not even the best part.

When you pause, you root yourself in the moment. You’re more present.

You’ll find yourself pausing for the good things too – for savoring and soaking up the sweetness and hilarity of childhood.

Like on our trip to my sister’s house. After the initial conflict, my sister reminded me that it’s always like that when the cousins first get together. They’re feeling each other out. She was right.

The next day, when it was a little too quiet I found them all huddled together amongst the vacuum and the mop, flashlights in tow, and a headlamp on the 2-year-old. They whispered to each other the stories that will form the memories of adventures with cousins – memories that will stay with them for life.

And I was present in the moment to enjoy it. I was finally able to enjoy a leisurely coffee and chat with my sister whom I don’t get to see face to face nearly enough.

Then later, when the oldest begged for a silly song to be played, we all danced like hooligans around my sister’s ottoman, right there in her living room. It’s a moment I’ll always remember.

Mindful, calm parenting can be exhausting. Being able to center yourself and weather your child’s storms takes practice. Half the battle is remembering to do it. But when you take a pause, you find your power there.

Download Your Free Cheat Sheet

This is a special note from Ashley, the author of this post and the mom behind Nurture and Thrive

To help you remember, I made a free printable cheat sheet of my favorite mantras to help you stay calm and centered. When you download the cheat sheet, you’ll also join my newsletter to get more calm parenting strategies. Just click here to download and subscribe.

How to Catch Yourself Before You Lose Your Cool

And now one final note from Kelly, the owner of this site…

I asked Ashley to share this post with you because this is a lesson I had to learn the hard way. After my family welcomed our third little one into the mix, we became a family of five with a second-grader, a toddler, and a newborn. Even though I could have used more sleep and way more coffee, we were happy. Then my husband’s paternity leave ended, and I was at home with the kids all day. As time wore on, my patience became razor thin. And one day, I just broke.

Happy You, Happy FamilyThe shame burns my cheeks just thinking of that day, even now. But thanks to that experience, I realized I had to make a change. I threw myself into researching how to find happiness in the chaos of parenting. Something beyond “make time for you” and “exercise more.” Because when you’re overwhelmed and at your breaking point, you don’t need the “experts” telling you more stuff to do on top of everything else.

That’s how I discovered the secrets: 10 secrets every parent should know about being happy. After hearing from hundreds of parents in the same boat as me, I knew I needed to share what I discovered. And so I wrote a book: Happy You, Happy Family. In the book, you get a Temper-Taming Toolkit with simple hacks like this to help you keep your cool during those everyday parenting moments that test your patience.

Click here to get your copy plus a bonus workbook and start your journey towards finding more happiness as a parent.

Because the truth is that happiness won’t come from a big promotion at work, or from winning the lottery, or from your kids all learning to put their toys away when they’re done playing. Because eventually, you just get used to all that stuff.

True, lasting happiness comes from a conscious effort by you to put the right habits in place.

Want More?

For more information about mindfulness, here’s a guided mindfulness exercise from the CSU Center for Mindfulness.

Your Turn

What’s your best trick for calm parenting? Share in a comment below!

The Secret to Calm Parenting That Every Parent Should Know

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