Monthly Archives: June 2015

When Summer Lacks Instagram-Style “Disney Moments”

Looking through Facebook and Instagram, or listening to other parents and Grandparents discuss their summer plans, and I become convinced that everyone, except for me, is having a Disney Summer.

“Disney Summers” are filled with sun drenched smiles, laughter and meaningful moments that can only be achieved on an expensive vacation or in a lavish beach house.

Meanwhile, parents who can’t afford these high-end vacations often tend to think that they’re missing out and depriving their children of a thrilling, brag-worthy summer adventure.

The expectations for a Norman Rockwell summer are on par with our expectations for the perfect Christmas! The pressure to create summer memories and stimulating educational experiences for our children, ultimately leads to our own exhaustion and frustration.

Disney SummersParenting has become more challenging and complex, because we’ve wrongly equated how much we love our children with how much we are willing to spend on them. The rising expectations of a meaningful summer can be overwhelming for those of us on a tight budget or for parents who are working a full-time job.

Those picture perfect moments that you see all over your newsfeed might make you feel guilty for not providing your own child with these far-off adventures, but we have to understand that these trips do very little for their self-esteem and development.  The truth is, parents often make the mistake of attempting to purchase an idealized moment for their children, but good times don’t have to come at a high price!

Good parenting is when your child is bored on the sofa and you allow him or her to complain, and then encourage your child to daydream and create an experience for themselves. Creativity thrives when it is nurtured. This happens when a child is given unstructured time and space. You may say, ‘Well my child is creative at summer camp” but camps are carefully managed and structured environments. The same can be said for vacations, where there is constant stimulation and activities planned throughout the day.  Natural creativity often happens at home -on the sofa, in the kitchen in the backyard; these are the familiar, comfortable places that are the fertile ground for mental growth and creativity.

Summer vacations and sleep away camps have their place, and everyone needs to get away from the mundane routine of life, sometimes. However, parents need to lower the bar just a little to allow time for boredom and downtime.  Most importantly, we shouldn’t feel guilty every time our child complains of boredom.

Try providing blank sheets of paper, a box of crayons, markers, or colored pencils for a start. Ask your kids to write their own adventure story and to make themselves the main character. Set up a tent in their bedroom or the living room and give them some books and a flashlight! For older children, it can be more challenging, but you can ask them to re-create scenes from their favorite movies and have another sibling film the production and then play it for a night of family entertainment.

Another way to take the pressure off of parents is to let your children play outdoors and limit screen time to allow for other interest. Overstimulation inhibits creativity and self-awareness and this is why parents are finding it increasingly difficult to get their children off of these devices. These gadgets are addicting, and as a smart phone user myself, I know  how this is challenging for adults, too, especially since they keep us plugged-in and working even when we’re not at our desks.

If we want to break these bad habits, we have to learn to unplug and to encourage our children to do the same.

Let them be the masters of their own creativity and encourage them to have confidence in their own abilities, and then sit back and watch the show! After all, it is summertime – a time for adults and children to relax and slow down!

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Karen Stabley ATR BC

 

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My Hero, Tara.

This is Tara with her son, Cam.

tara and cam resized

Tara is the woman who took care of my mother in the final six years of her life. She watched her slowly move from one stage to the next in her struggle with Alzheimer’s .

Although I was around, it was Tara who fed her, bathed her and cared for her on a daily basis. She was able to understand that I wasn’t strong enough to spend hours with my mother, and she never judged me for it. I would breeze in and out of the house in those last few years, unable to watch what was happening.

It was a slow, agonizing process to watch my once vibrant, funny, snarky mother, end up bedridden and completely helpless for the last two years of her life. It was simply too much for me to bare.

Even though, as a therapist, I hear my clients’ stories all day long and can be strong for them, I found my mother’s illness to be heartbreaking and unbearable to watch. To be honest, I found the entire ordeal quite frightening.

This is why I thank God for Tara.

The image of Tara with her son is quite significant, because she spent a lot of time with my mother when she could have been spending that time with her son. She was loyal and faithful, and showed up every day until my mother’s death, assuring me she would be with her till the end.

The transition for my mother was lengthy, cruel, heartbreaking and harsh, and I am grateful that I had Tara as a solid, loving presence.

Transitions of any kind can be head spinning, even when the progression is slow moving.

As a therapist, when my clients are experiencing times of stress and chaos, I advise them to look for the helpers in their life, because sometimes, we have to remember to lean on others. Friends, therapists and spiritual leaders can be lifesavers at a time like this, and Tara was my life savor and my helper. She was the person I leaned on heavily, and I am eternally grateful for her presence.

I have never formally thanked her, and would likely to publicly acknowledge her service to my family.

Dear Tara,

Thank you for caring for my Mother in a way that I would never have been able to. Thank you for being patient, loving and compassionate. Thank you for being gentle and kind, and for taking care of all the details when I felt too overwhelmed. Thank you for tolerating the chaos that my family created, at times. Thank you for holding my mother’s hand when she was scared and lonely – something I was unable to do. I need you to know how grateful I am to you for being there during my mother’s moment of passing. You have been a blessing beyond words. You are one of the final gifts that my mother gave me, and for that I am truly grateful.

Thank you.

Love Always,

Karen

 

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How To Make Squishy Putty

Squishy Putty

PARENTAL WARNING: The first two weeks of summer can be a difficult transition as children move from structured days to a new routine. This can be taxing to parents and siblings, alike!

Karen's kids for blog
Karen’s children, many years ago, when playing with squishy putty was one of their favorite pastimes!

One way to alleviate summer boredom is to have a strategy and to plan some activities that can be accessed quickly. My clients’ favorite activity is one that provides sensory stimulation, is interactive and can be stored to use as needed.

Follow this simple recipe for squishy putty:

Ingredients:

One cup of all-purpose white glue (not school glue)

One cup of water

One teaspoon of Borax

Three tablespoons of water

Directions:

Mix the Borax and water until the Borax is dissolved. Set aside.

In a separate bowl, mix the glue and water. At this point you can add food coloring and scents if desired. Mix well, and then add the Borax and water mixture. Knead together and watch as the mixture transforms into a lovely squishy putty.

This will provide hours of creative play for your children as they squish the putty in their hands, create patterns, and make impressions of rocks, leaves and sticks. The inexpensive nature of this squishy putty allows it to be used for several weeks and then thrown out. To keep it fresh, simply store it in a Ziploc bag.

Happy Squishing!

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Letting Go: A Message for Life Transitions

Thinking back to my son’s graduation from kindergarten, I am reminded of an image of my little boy wearing a white paper graduation cap – secured to his head with masking tape!

Karens son graduation blog
Jordan, at his graduation ceremony!

His father and I watched in amazement as our first born entered elementary school. It’s an image I will never forget! 

Now living in Brooklyn, New York and working as a consultant, I admire my son’s fearlessness as he has approached each new stage of his life.

As graduation day approaches for many parents, I understand the difficulty that many face while confronting the idea of letting go. Releasing not only our children, but also our fears requires a great amount of strength.

We must be willing to conjure up this strength in order fully embrace joy, and to experience our children’s achievements. For some, it can feel as though there wasn’t enough time to prepare for this next chapter.

Many seniors feel just as apprehensive and anxious about this new phase of their life. Most people don’t feel ready to leave middle school, high school, college, or even an old job or a relationship.

No matter where we are transitioning from, moving forward always brings feelings of uncertainty and discomfort to the surface. These feelings are necessary, but, if they are not addressed properly, we risk making the changes in our lives unbearable.

There isn’t a magic wand to make transitions easier, but there are simple steps we can take to make the process less stressful. All you have to do is close your eyes, breath and use your imagination!

The first step is to identify any fears, regrets or sadness that you may be feeling. Make a list of the possible reasons behind these negative feelings to help you uncover all the things that are bottled up or kept hidden. The next step is to write down all the positive things that you hope to accomplish and want to feel.

For example, you may write the words “regret” or “insecure” on your negative list, and the words ”self-confidence” or “joy” on your positive list.

Next, close your eyes and take a deep breath in through the nose. As you exhale through your mouth, imagine your list of negativity being released into the air and then dissolving into smoke.

Repeat this step several times until you have vaporized all the negativity into thin air! Now, inhale through your nose again, and take in only the positive feelings and thoughts on your list. Repeat until you are full of positive energy.

Moving forward, forgive yourself and allow yourself to let go of regrets or fears each time they surface. Letting go of past regrets opens a space for joy to enter. Focusing on positivity also gives you more energy to move through life.

It takes courage to walk through the next door that opens for you, especially when you can’t see beyond the doorway. Surround yourself with people who can light your path and walk beside you to ease your journey, and provide the necessary support and strength that you’ll need. As you become more focused and confident, you will become a guide to others.

Don’t let the changes in your life paralyze you with fear, learn to embrace life as it comes, and most importantly, don’t forget to breathe and enjoy your own graduation from the past into the present!

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