Archive of ‘parenting’ category

An Important Announcement Regarding the “Becoming an Empowered Parent” Online Series

In recognition of the the racial injustice and civil unrest that continues to plague our communities, I have decided to *postpone the launch* of the Becoming an Empowered Parent Online Series (which was scheduled to begin 6/9) for the time being. I am using this time to pause, reflect, listen and educate myself and my family.

I can do better. I will do better.

I understand that solving the deep, structural issues causing this unrest will take time, dedication and empathy. It will also take much needed, meaningful action. I am committed to doing all that I can to support ending injustice and systemic racism. I will continue to teach my family what it means to be the positive change we want to see in this world.

It is up to us to educate ourselves and our children and demand change when it comes to the treatment of people of color. What that looks like is up to you. Every voice matters. Your voice matters. With this in mind, I will continue to share resources which I hope will be helpful to you and your family.

I sincerely appreciate your understanding, support and patience and look forward to sharing when this incredible series is ready to go live!

Until then, I wish you and your family good health and safety.

With warmth and gratitude,
Debbie

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Time to Take the Pressure Off!

During this COVID-19 pandemic, and even before it started, I’ve been hearing from so many parents who are putting so much pressure on themselves. I’m guilty of it too. I think it’s time we say enough is enough! It’s impossible to do it all and be all things to our kids, family members, friends, co-workers etc. It’s completely unrealistic, not to mention exhausting!

Here’s the thing, we’re all doing the very best we can with the crazy situation we’re in. I’m sure you’ve been hearing this often and I think it’s worth repeating…many times! Please, sweet parents, give yourself a break and practice being kind to yourself.

It’s ok if you mess up.
It’s ok if you lost your temper.
It’s ok if the house is a mess.
It’s ok if you had cereal for dinner.
It’s ok if you haven’t showered (for days).
It’s ok if you’re feeling overwhelmed, scared, frustrated, disappointed, angry, sad or any other emotion under the sun.
It’s all ok.

You are an amazing person doing your best to keep your family healthy and safe during a very challenging and unprecedented time. Eventually this will pass. Eventually life will resume. And when it does, maybe, just maybe, we will actually realize how strong we really are. For now, let’s stick together, honor whatever it is that we feel and do all we can to lift each other up.

Sending love, hope and comfort your way 

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A Tip for Parenting During COVID-19 – “Look for the Good”

With all of this extra togetherness due to COVID-19’s “shelter in place” order, I invite you to take some time to really notice your child’s “positive” behaviors, no matter how little they may seem. Recognizing and looking out for these moments can have a significant impact on how your child sees him/herself. In other words, by choosing to see our children’s “goodness,” we positively and directly impact their self-concept and sense of self-worth.
Remember, we all long to feel seen, heard, acknowledged and accepted and tend to DO better when we FEEL better!

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It’s Time to Give Yourself a BREAK…

We all know that stress can take a huge toll on us, physically and emotionally. Yet, it’s amazing how, as busy parents, we constantly go and go, always doing for others, rarely slowing down to check in with ourselves and our own needs. When is the last time you asked yourself, “How am I feeling?” and “What do I need?” Many parents I work with tell me they’re not even sure *what* they need; they feel they’ve completely lost sight.

How can we fully show up for those we love and care about if we’re not fully showing up for ourselves? 

With this in mind, I invite you to take a moment to pause and just be. Take a breath. If it feels right, take two more. Look around. Notice what you see and hear. If possible, look outside the window at something in nature.

Bring to mind someone or something that makes you smile or brings you joy. If you’d like, try putting a little smile on your face. What do you notice?
Allow yourself to stay with this image as long as you need. Whenever you feel ready, take a few more deep, cleansing breaths in and out.

Consider trying this little act of self-care, which only takes a few minutes, whenever you feel stressed, overwhelmed or just out of sorts. You need and deserve the same amount of attention and kindness that you offer to everyone else!

Could you use a little support in this area? You’re not alone! Please know I would love to work with you. Feel free to email me at debbiezeichnerlcsw@gmail.com or call me directly at 858.822.8878. I’m here for you!

With love and gratitude,
Debbie


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So Honored to be a Guest on this Amazing Podcast!

What an honor and TREAT it was to be a guest on Jamie-Lynn Sigler and Jenna Parris’s podcast, Mama Said!


These two incredible women are truly a dynamic duo…so fun, so sweet, so open and so REAL about the roller coaster ride of parenting!
We had lots to chat about and could’ve talked all day 
It’s definitely a podcast worth listening to!

Check out the episode here.

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How to Stop Yelling at Your Kids – An 8-Step Plan…

Yelling, for many parents, has become their “go-to” reaction. Many well-meaning, well-intentioned parents feel that yelling is the only way they can get their kids to listen or take them seriously. Been there? Yep, me too!

You see, even though I’m a parent coach, I *still* find myself yelling from time to time, even when I know I “shouldn’t,” because, like all of us, I have triggers.
What I’ve learned over the many years of doing this work, is that managing our own emotions and responses takes practice and patience – lots of it!

Although yelling may feel like the answer in the moment, it’s important we consider the longer-term effects this behavior has on our kids…especially when it’s happening more often than we’d like.

Consider, for a moment, what it feels like to be yelled at. Yelling signals the brain that a threat is looming. When the brain senses a threat, it moves into fight/flight/freeze mode. This is when you may see, for example, defensiveness/back talk/yelling back (fight), running into another room (flight) or blank stares (freeze). Unfortunately, by this point, kids have already tuned out. They’re more focused on self-preservation and will do whatever their temperament dictates as a way of “protecting” themselves. The original message gets lost and the relationship enters shaky ground.

Many parents turn to yelling as a way to exert control, but have you ever noticed that you may resort to yelling when you’re actually feeling OUT of control?? We can’t expect our kids to control their behavior if we’re unable to control our own.

So, to reduce (and ideally eliminate) yelling, it’s helpful to begin by coming up with a plan for yourself.

Here are 8 steps to help you yell less and connect more:

1.) Think about the situations that trigger you the most. Maybe it’s when your child ignores you after you make a request. Or maybe it’s when they talk back to you. Or maybe it’s when they throw that wonderful meal you spent hours preparing across the room?

2.) Notice the feelings that come up. Anger? Irritation? Frustration? Powerlessness? Defeat?

3.) Pay attention to the thoughts that arise. “I can’t believe he/she just did that! How dare him/her!” “I need to get a handle on this or he’s going to turn into a delinquent!” “She sounds like such a spoiled brat!”

4.) Challenge and replace those thoughts – “My child is still learning.” “My child is not out to get me.” “I can help him/her learn a kinder way of speaking to me.” “I can handle this calmly and respectfully.” “I need to focus on connecting before correcting.”

5.) Commit to PAUSING when you notice any of the above and do something to TAKE CARE of yourself. For example, BREATHE (slowly and deeply), walk out of the room, count to 10, close your eyes, give yourself a hug (yes, a hug!), go outside and notice something in nature, grab a piece of paper and write out your thoughts/feelings or just scribble! Whatever works best for you.

6.) Let your kids know about your plan and the commitment you are making to reduce your yelling. Invite them to help you come up with a silent signal (peace sign, hand over their heart, finger on their lips) that they can do when they sense you’re hitting your boiling point. Tell them it will serve as your reminder to pause and choose another tone. The discussion may sound something like, “I know I’ve been yelling a lot. I’m sure it doesn’t feel good to you and it certainly doesn’t feel good to me either. I love you and, it’s not ok for me to yell at you. I want to let you know that I’ve come up with a plan for what I can do instead of yelling. You may see me taking lots of deep breaths, or you may see me walking away. You may even see me give myself a hug! I yell when I’m angry/ frustrated (etc) and it’s my job to take charge of my feelings and reactions and speak to you with respect. I may need some support and would love your help in coming up with a signal you can use when you see I’m starting to lose my patience (ask what they like best).  That signal can help me get back on track.  If you forget, that’s ok.  I’m working on remembering myself.  Please know how much I love you and care about our relationship.”

7.) If you end up yelling, do you best to recognize it, take responsibility by apologizing, let your child know what you will do differently next time and focus on reconnecting. For example, “I yelled at you and that wasn’t ok.  I apologize.  It’s not ok for me to speak to you that way.  Next time, I will walk into the other room and take deep breaths like this (show them). I’m sorry.  I don’t know about you, but I could sure use a hug!”

8.)  Practice, practice, practice and be kind to yourself – you’re learning new skills right alongside your kids.

I completely recognize this is not an easy habit to break! The good news? You don’t have to go through it alone. Please feel free to reach out if you’d like a little support from someone who’s been there! 😉

Wishing you all the best,
Debbie

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6 Parenting Tips to Start Off the New Year

Happy New Year! With the holiday hecticness behind us, now is a wonderful time to slow down and give yourself permission to take some time for you. How have you been feeling? Drained? Energized? Somewhere in between? What might you need to better nurture yourself? I recently read a quote which really touched me, “You matter because of who you are, not just who you parent. Let that sink in!

At the start of a new year (and daily!), I love to set intentions. Intentions are focused on how we want to live our lives; how we want to “be” in the world. Unlike a goal, which is about achieving or attaining something, intentions reflect our values and a sense of purpose. For me, intention setting typically involves asking myself “How do I want to “show up” – in my life and in my parenting?” I invite you to give it a try and see what comes up for you!

With this in mind, I wanted to offer 6 positive discipline parenting tips to support you as you ease into this new year:

1.) Know your “no” – The endless list of events, parties and volunteer requests is enough to drive any of us to the point of exhaustion! Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. Before saying “yes” to an invitation or request, take a moment to pause. Do an honest self check-in. Ask yourself if this “event” realistically fits into your busy schedule and if you’re attending or helping out of joy or obligation? Just know, it’s ok to say “no.” Remember, saying “no” to one thing creates space to say “yes” to yourself!

2.) Look for “yes” – On the flip side, when it comes to our children, “no” and “stop” are words that kids tend to hear all too often (“No hitting!” “Stop jumping on the bed!” “No, you can’t have a cookie.”) Hearing these words can easily trigger our child to break out their boxing gloves, ready for a fight – they instinctively raise anyone’s defenses! Instead, see if you can look for a “yes.” Some examples, “Yes, you can have a cookie after dinner.” “Yes, we can read stories as soon as your jammies are on.” “Yes, you can go to your friends as soon as your homework is done.” Save your “no’s” for when you *really* need them.

3.) Set realistic expectations AND make agreements ahead of time – Children thrive on structure and routine and do best when they are clear about what’s expected of them. Let your kids know what will be happening ahead of time and together make agreements about what behavior is expected. For example, “We’re going to be going over to grandma’s today. There will be a lot of people there who are very excited to see you and it’s kind to acknowledge them. How would you like to greet everyone? High fives? Hugs? Fist pumps?” The other most helpful question to ask your child/children is, “What do we need to remember about how we ______?” As in, “What do we need to remember about how we behave at grandma’s/a restaurant/our friends house?” Once decided, come up with things they can do to take care of themselves if they start to get tired, feel overwhelmed etc. Problem solving with your child models respect and increases the likelihood of cooperation.

4.) Ask more than you tell (and offer choices) – All day long, children are constantly being told what to do, when, how, where and why to do it. It’s no wonder they tune us out! Engage their critical thinking, decision making and problem solving skills by asking questions such as, “What do you need to bring with you so you won’t feel cold outside?” “Would you like to walk the dog or take out the trash?” “Would you like to hold my hand or have me carry you when we cross the street?” “What’s supposed to be happening now?”

5.) Create “special time” – It’s so easy to get caught up in the mad rush to get things done that we may not realize the effect this has on our children. What our kids want more than anything is to feel significant and connected. I like to think of our kids as having little “love tanks.” When these tanks are low, we’re more likely to see acting out. When they’re full, the day tends to go more smoothly. So, aim to spend dedicated, uninterrupted, device-free, 1:1 time with each child. Even 10-15 minutes can do wonders for your relationship. Life is hectic, so just do the best that you can. The message you’re sending is “I’m all yours!”

6.) Don’t sweat the small stuff – At the end of the day, it’s important to know and remind yourself that the way things are today won’t last forever. Our children are always growing, maturing and evolving, especially as we guide them in learning the skills they need to thrive in this big, complicated world. Ideally we’re evolving too! This too shall pass. ❤️

Wishing you and your family all the best!
With warmth and gratitude,
Debbie

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Tips for Managing (and Understanding) Challenging Behavior…

Looking back on your childhood, were your emotions acknowledged and accepted? Did you feel validated? Was it ok to feel what you were feeling or was there a different message you received?

Many of us certainly “turned out ok,” but looking back, imagine if your parents or caretakers would have handled your behavior/feelings/attitude differently? Perhaps with more patience, acceptance and understanding?

It’s been said that all behavior is a form of communication. “Misbehavior” often happens because a child is simply lacking the skills and resources he needs to get his needs met appropriately. Hard as it can be, we have to remember that our children haven’t been on this planet very long – they are doing the best they can with the (limited) skills they have. So are we!

What is your child’s behavior trying to tell you?

The thing is, children learn “right from wrong” and how to “be” in this world through loving, patient and calm guidance from the adults they trust most – us!  Limits do indeed need to be set, there’s no doubt about it. However, when limits are too strict or enforced without an understanding of where a child is developmentally, those limits only fall on deaf ears and the behaviors continue. Children then end up focused more on our anger, irritation or frustration (or what’s been taken away from them), rather than on the important lessons we’re trying to teach. Reminding ourselves “This too shall pass” and “My child is acting like a ___ year old because he/she IS a ___ year old” are truly sanity savers!

Contrary to popular belief, we are much more effective in improving behavior (and equipping our children with the skills they need) when we first focus on connecting with our child. This involves slowing down, empathizing, getting curious about the behavior(s) we see and responding thoughtfully, rather than just reacting out of anger, frustration or impatience. It’s about understanding that there are needs and emotions beneath the behavior.

Connection also involves acknowledging those needs and feelings and then focusing on teaching our child what to do instead of what not to do. In other words, we allow feelings, while limiting hurtful or destructive behavior. For example, “I know it made you angry when your brother grabbed your toy. It’s ok to feel angry, it’s never ok to hit/yell/throw. What words can you use to tell your brother how you feel and what you need?” Because kids are natural pleasers, they can more successfully follow our guidance when they are clear on what’s expected and when they feel connected. This of course all takes time, patience and lots of practice, which is why it’s so important that we have realistic expectations – of our child AND ourselves!

We know from neuroscience (notably mirror neurons within the brain) that children learn how to manage and regulate their emotions (and actions) by how we regulate and manage ours. We can’t expect our child to “behave appropriately” if we’re frequently in the throes of our own adult tantrums!

Here are some steps you can take the next time you’re being faced with challenging behavior…

1) Do your best to pause. Take a breath. Slow down and focus on connecting with your child.

2) Be mindful of your tone of voice, body language and non-verbal’s – I find it helpful to ask myself, “How am I showing up right now?” “What is the message I’m sending my child?” “Am I inviting cooperation or resistance?”

3) Be mindful of your self-talk. Telling yourself “What is the matter with her???” isn’t helpful. Instead, try telling yourself something more along the lines of, “My child is having a hard time and needs my help.” or “This isn’t an emergency, I can handle this.”

4) Get below your child’s eye level and acknowledge the need or feeling your child may be having. Author Dan Siegel refers to this as “name it to tame it.”

5) Ask for the behavior you want versus what you don’t want.

As Positive Discipline author Jane Nelsen says, “Children listen AFTER they feel listened to and DO better when they FEEL better.” We all do!

I’m convinced that parenting is the hardest job out there. Raising little humans isn’t easy – the struggle is real! Please know you are not alone on this journey and that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We’re all in this together!

With ❤️ and gratitude,
Debbie

Do you feel like you could use some support in navigating parenting? You’re not alone! Consider a 15 minute “exploratory call” to see if parent coaching is right for you! Email debbiezeichnerlcsw@gmail.com for more information.

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Tips for Managing (and Understanding) Challenging Behavior…

Looking back on your childhood, were your emotions acknowledged and accepted? Did you feel validated? Was it ok to feel what you were feeling or was there a different message you received?

Many of us certainly “turned out ok,” but looking back, imagine if your parents or caretakers would have handled your behavior/feelings/attitude differently? Perhaps with more patience, acceptance and understanding?

It’s been said that all behavior is a form of communication. “Misbehavior” often happens because a child is simply lacking the skills and resources he needs to get his needs met appropriately. Hard as it can be, we have to remember that our children haven’t been on this planet very long – they are doing the best they can with the (limited) skills they have. So are we!

What is your child’s behavior trying to tell you?

The thing is, children learn “right from wrong” and how to “be” in this world through loving, patient and calm guidance from the adults they trust most – us!  Limits do indeed need to be set, there’s no doubt about it. However, when limits are too strict or enforced without an understanding of where a child is developmentally, those limits only fall on deaf ears and the behaviors continue. Children then end up focused more on our anger, irritation or frustration (or what’s been taken away from them), rather than on the important lessons we’re trying to teach. Reminding ourselves “This too shall pass” and “My child is acting like a ___ year old because he/she IS a ___ year old” are truly sanity savers!

Contrary to popular belief, we are much more effective in improving behavior (and equipping our children with the skills they need) when we first focus on connecting with our child. This involves slowing down, empathizing, getting curious about the behavior(s) we see and responding thoughtfully, rather than just reacting out of anger, frustration or impatience. It’s about understanding that there are needs and emotions beneath the behavior.

Connection also involves acknowledging those needs and feelings and then focusing on teaching our child what to do instead of what not to do. In other words, we allow feelings, while limiting hurtful or destructive behavior. For example, “I know it made you angry when your brother grabbed your toy. It’s ok to feel angry, it’s never ok to hit/yell/throw. What words can you use to tell your brother how you feel and what you need?” Because kids are natural pleasers, they can more successfully follow our guidance when they are clear on what’s expected and when they feel connected. This of course all takes time, patience and lots of practice, which is why it’s so important that we have realistic expectations – of our child AND ourselves!

We know from neuroscience (notably mirror neurons within the brain) that children learn how to manage and regulate their emotions (and actions) by how we regulate and manage ours. We can’t expect our child to “behave appropriately” if we’re frequently in the throes of our own adult tantrums!

Here are some steps you can take the next time you’re being faced with challenging behavior…

1) Do your best to pause. Take a breath. Slow down and focus on connecting with your child.

2) Be mindful of your tone of voice, body language and non-verbal’s – I find it helpful to ask myself, “How am I showing up right now?” “What is the message I’m sending my child?” “Am I inviting cooperation or resistance?”

3) Be mindful of your self-talk. Telling yourself “What is the matter with her???” isn’t helpful. Instead, try telling yourself something more along the lines of, “My child is having a hard time and needs my help.” or “This isn’t an emergency, I can handle this.”

4) Get below your child’s eye level and acknowledge the need or feeling your child may be having. Author Dan Siegel refers to this as “name it to tame it.”

5) Ask for the behavior you want versus what you don’t want.

As Positive Discipline author Jane Nelsen says, “Children listen AFTER they feel listened to and DO better when they FEEL better.” We all do!

I’m convinced that parenting is the hardest job out there. Raising little humans isn’t easy – the struggle is real! Please know you are not alone on this journey and that there is no such thing as a perfect parent. We’re all in this together!

With ❤️ and gratitude,
Debbie

Do you feel like you could use some support in navigating parenting? You’re not alone! Consider a 15 minute “exploratory call” to see if parent coaching is right for you! Email debbiezeichnerlcsw@gmail.com for more information.

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Gratitude: What it’s all about and 3 Simple Ways to Practice it Daily…

Since November is typically the month we focus on giving thanks and expressing gratitude, I thought I would join in on the fun ? For me, practicing gratitude involves intentionally looking out for and noticing things, whether big or small, that I appreciate, and I must say, it’s been a game changer!

Several years ago, I took part in my first day-long silent retreat, which was part of an 8-week Mindful Self-Compassion course. Unsure of what to expect, I decided to go in with my eyes and mind wide open. This meant letting go of any judgments, comparisons or evaluations that typically come with new experiences. Part of this day was spent outdoors, exploring our surroundings (which, ironically, included a large parking lot along with some incredible eucalyptus trees!)

The instructions were simple – just notice what you see, hear and feel. Keep in mind this was a *silent* retreat, so we weren’t sharing our observations with others; instead, we could “be alone with our experience.” I will never forget the moment I stood and really noticed the beauty of the trees around me. They were magnificent – I was completely in awe!

The setting felt like a beautiful forest with leaves everywhere, a minty smell in the air and colorful tree trunks that seemed to go on for miles. It was in that very moment, I burst into tears. I found myself overwhelmed with thoughts about how much I had missed over the years; so much beauty (among other things) that I had taken for granted, mainly because I was “too busy.”

That day, I decided it was time for me to slow down and show up better. Like many of us, I was living my life on auto-pilot – hurrying from one thing to the next, completely stressing in the process, trying to do it all and get it all ” just right,” (some might even say “perfect”). What I didn’t realize at the time was the effect my frantic attitude of, “Sorry I don’t have time for that, hurry up, are you kidding me?, we need to go NOW,” was having on those around me, especially, my two kids!

The thing is, slowing down, even just 5%, makes us better parents, friends, spouses, co-workers…you name it. I could go on and on about the incredible benefits of mindfulness, but for now, I will just say that slowing down and becoming mindful helps us become more grateful. The more open and aware we are to what is around us, the more we find to be grateful for! The best part? Research shows that practicing and expressing gratitude actually makes us happier! Sign me up!

With this “attitude of gratitude” in mind, I wanted to offer 3 simple ways to make gratitude a daily practice:

1. Keep a gratitude journal – Aim to record 3-5 things, little or big, you are grateful for daily. The simple act of writing it down has been shown to dramatically improve our physical and emotional well-being.

2. Take time to express your gratitude to others, especially to those who help and support you – Go beyond “thank you” by letting the person know what they did or do that you are grateful for, acknowledge the effort it took on their part and specifically how it was helpful to you.

3. Understand that gratitude is a choice – No matter how difficult things may be, there is always something to be grateful for. Choose to be on the lookout.

Do you have a gratitude practice that works for you? I’d love to hear about it!
With ❤️ and appreciation,
Debbie

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