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How to Be a Happier Parent When Happier Moms and Dads Mean Happier Kids

HAPPIER PARENTS= HAPPIER KIDS!

Do you want to be a happier parent? Most might say yes. Would it surprise you to know that for many years, research has shown that non-parents are happier than parents on an everyday basis? It’s true.

In today’s world where many parents are often shuttling kids from one destination to another, coping with high anxiety around school, sports, college, their children’s friends, their children’s interests, screen time, keeping their children safe and perhaps also trying to keep up with the Jones too- there seems to be a “happiness gap” between childless adults and those who have children. This is NOT what we had imagined when we pictured family life, is it?

So the question is- is it possible to change our families and our family lives so that they are full of the joy that we always hoped for?

Turns out- yes we can be happier parents! We need to turn our attention to the habits and concessions we’ve made and make some important changes. And don’t worry about feeling guilty. Parents who are happier have kids who are happier!

What makes you happy?

  • Laughing with a friend over coffee?
  • Performing on stage?
  • Dancing?
  • Biking?
  • Exercising?
  • Yoga?
  • Playing an instrument?
  • Reading a good book?
  • Going out to dinner with your main squeeze?

NOW– Want to know exactly what to do? I interviewed New York Times contributing editor and columnist (remember Motherlode?), KJ Dell’Antonia about her forthcoming book, How to Be a Happier Parent, and we discussed some things we have to stop doing and some things we need to start doing to ensure our happiness. She says some controversial things like “don’t put your children first unless they are bleeding” which may make you dig your heals in and question how what she is saying applies to you- but it’s kind of like the whole airplane directive (put your own mask on first before assisting others).

Take a listen. It’s right on my #talktokids podcast over here.

Here’s to you and wishing you a lifetime of happiness (starting…now!)

Xoxo,

Bah Humbug! 7 Ways to Spread Holiday Cheer to the Cheerless

sad_dog-201x300Not feeling too cheerful this holiday season?

We all know that some people aren’t feeling particularly cheerful this holiday season.  Perhaps you are in that same boat. Recession. Poor health. Bad breaks.  Family frustrations. Maybe it isn’t even you—but you are constantly surrounded by doom and gloom such that you feel that you have to be (as one of my friends confided in me) “the proverbial daisy popping through the cement sidewalk for all.” Whatever your specific frustration, the holiday music reminding listeners of white snow and the commercials demanding that you buy the latest gadget are probably not helping.

So how are you supposed to bring cheer to the cheerless…especially if you’re the one who just wants to say “Bah Humbug?”

(1) Reach out to those who put a smile on your face: While you may not be able to leave your frustrations behind, you can catch a little time on the phone, on skype, or even in person with one of your favorite friends.  Sometimes the temptation is to block out all cheerful people to wallow in your own challenges but this will leave you in the same place you are in now.  You don’t really want to feel this bad, do you?  It is true that when you surround yourself with positive people, you feel more positive yourself…even if it is just for a little while.

Ask yourself; Who makes me feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Going to someone who used to make you feel good but is now a toxin in your life. Going to someone who doesn’t make you feel good but asking them to do it anyway. Telling yourself you don’t need anyone.

(2) Grant a wish: Helping others can take you up a notch.  Whether you know of a friend who has fallen on hard times and can’t afford a holiday gift for her child or you know of a military family in town who could really use a home cooked meal, volunteering and charity might be just what the doctor ordered.  There is even a charity service called Wish Upon A Hero where you can grant wishes for others right in your area or around the US.  There is something about helping others that can really help yourself too.

Ask yourself; who can I help?

Pitfalls to watch: Getting sucked into someone else’s problems and taking it on as your own.  Spending hours reading about the problems in the world and actually taking no action.

(3) Treat yourself to something you love: Whether it’s taking a trip to the park, a walk with a friend, a massage, a hair cut, or even whipped cream on your hot chocolate, do something that feels good to counter the bad.  Perhaps this is the time you take the drive to see your old friend.  Maybe going south for the weekend would give you a little refuge from your current situation.  A movie? Night out with friends? Reading your favorite book again?  No doubt you have favorite things—break ‘em out.

Ask youself: What helps me to feel good?

Pitfalls to watch: Spending money you don’t have. Putting off treating youself.

(4) Ask for help: Sometimes we feel like we’re on our own little island.  We have so much to do and we can’t catch a break.  Is this really the truth?  Or is there something—anything—that someone else can do to help you out.  Maybe it’s having a friend babysit for 2 hours so you have coffee out with a friend—or having a classmate’s mother pick up your child from school so you can go to the gym.  Maybe it’s having someone come over at night to be there while your elderly mother sleeps so you can go shopping with your sister while having peace of mind.  Perhaps it’s asking a neighbor if they could put leftovers aside for you one night so you don’t have to cook.  These are little things.  They really aren’t a big deal—but they may mean a few moments of sanity for you.

Ask yourself; who can I ask for help?

Pitfalls to watch: Not seeing that help may be right in front of you.  Making excuses that keep you from asking for help.

(5) Do things that make you laugh: We have all heard that laughter is the best medicine.  What brings you to tears…in a good way?  A hilarious book? A funny movie? A new comic on TV?  Maybe you just need to hang around with your 2 year old niece who literally says the darndest things or your uncle who never censors what goes through his head.  These are all little bits of medicine we can give to ourselves to relieve some of the stress and tension that is building…and building…and building.

Ask yourself; What makes me laugh?  What were the last few things that made me laugh so hard I cried?

Pitfalls to watch: Wallowing in self pity.  Telling yourself you don’t deserve to laugh or be happy.

(6) Get out: Get out of your room. Get out of your house. Get out of town!  Sometimes changing the scenery, even if it’s just for the day, can give you a difference perspective. Or some distance.  Or a refuge. Don’t know where to go? Sometimes it doesn’t matter much.  But I would say somewhere that gives you peace.  Open space.  Beautiful views.  The park.  The beach. The mountains. Or towards someone who adores you (see number 1)—a friend, a sibling, an older relative that would just plotz to pieces with joy that you came for a visit.  You could use a little plotzing with delight. (Note: To plotz means to collapse from surprise or excitement).

Ask yourself; Where can I go? What place makes me feel at ease? Where can I go that makes me feel happy?

Pitfalls to watch: Telling yourself you haveno way to get out, nowhere to go and no way of getting there.  Where there is a will there is a way.

(7) Move your body: Walk. Run. Ski. Work out. Turn on the music and dance.  There is nothing that can change a mood like a great piece of awesome music.  Turn it up and be a fool.  You can even break out the air guitar if you’ve got the notion.   Ask some friends to join you.  You might be surprised how many people could really use a good jig in the middle of the holiday season.

Ask yourself; What physical thing do I love to do?

Pitfalls to watch: Laziness, lethargy due to feeling sad or depressed.

Now I know what some of you are doing.  You are making excuses.  Shall we list a few? I don’t really want to see people…I want to stay in bed (get into my pjs, cry by myself, bury myself in a bowl full of rocky road icecream…) I don’t want to laugh. I hate asking for help. There’s nobody to ask for help. Everyone has their own problems…

Now stop it.  That’s not helping at all.  It may not be easy but the choice itself is quite simple. Commit to doing at least 1 of the 7 tips above.  Today. If you are feeling really ready to make a change, commit to doing 2 or 3 or more.  Then go do them.  People often quote Mahatma Gandhi “Be the change you want to see in the world”but it has to start with you.  So be the change you want to see in yourself.  You can do it. All you need to do is take the step and have a little faith in yourself.  You deserve it.  You really do.

Happy Holidays, my friends. Peace, joy, and love.

drrobynsig170

No Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat-Talk Free Thanksgiving

untitledThanksgiving is my family’s favorite holiday. Is it one of yours too? There’s something so powerful about a holiday that everyone celebrates in America because it is part of American culture, not religion.  But you know what can really ruin a good holiday meal? Fat Talk.

Hold the Fat Talk! 10 Tips for a Fat (Talk) Free Holiday Dinner

A collaborative body image article by Dr. Robyn Silverman & Dr. Lynne Kenney

With Thanksgiving on Thursday and many of the major holidays right around the corner, expectations run high. The grand dinner, the family gathering and…who’s done what since the last get together. You know what I mean. Who’s dating and who’s been dumped. Whose daughter was accepted early to the best program and who is licking her wounds?

And of course, who’s gained weight.

The comparisons slip off the tongue as easily as the marshmallows are stolen off the sweet potato casserole. It easily, seamlessly, and expectantly becomes part of the dinner conversation. Between bites, stares of “should you be eating that” meld with apologies for eating too much and promises to be “good” at dessert time. Each plate is then served with a hefty heaping of shame, blame, and naming names of those relatives or celebrities who are or are not adhering to the narrow definition of what is considered the standard of beauty these days. Is this really what Holiday Dinners are supposed to be about?

Fat-Talk-Free Holiday Tips

It’s time to take control of our holidays instead of allowing Fat Talk into the driver’s seat. Dr. Robyn Silverman and Dr. Lynne Kenney give you the tips to make your Holiday a positive experience where everyone involved can come away feeling good, strong, powerful, and supported.

Dr. Robyn Says…

(1) Declare the Holiday Table a Fat Talk Free Zone: In Good Girls Don’t Get Fat, I talk about establishing a Fat Talk Free Zone in order to take charge of what kind of “talk” you surround yourself with on a daily basis. Holidays, of course, are special occasions and times when we see people who aren’t in our every lives. While it may take guts, ask your guests (YES, your mother-in-law too!) to join you in making this holiday a positive one where you build people up rather than tear them (including yourself!) down. Hang it right on the door or by the Holiday Table; “You are now entering the Fat Talk Free Zone!”

(2) Don’t forget what Holiday Family Dinners are really all about:When you think of the true meaning of your holiday get togethers, they’re really about love, family, friends, and gratitude, right? I mean, what happened to the “Thanks” part of Thanksgiving? If we can focus on what we have—our strengths, our assets, and our support system—instead of what we lack, our Holiday dinners will surely be more enjoyable…and something to fondly look forward to and remember.

(3) Remember what Your Mama told you (if you can’t say something nice…): Whether it’s about yourself or someone else, snarky, rude comments hurt. They impact our minds and our moods and poison the dinner environment. And let’s not forget that such toxicity isn’t contained to that day. We remember those negative messages for years to come. Girls internalize it.  Boys learn that this is a practice that girls do AND that girls should indeed hold them to such a narrow standard. Frankly, it stinks. So let’s change the dialogue we say to others and to ourselves.

(4) Start a new tradition: Some go around the table and say what they’re grateful for while others retell old family stories. In the spirit of Fat Talk Free Holidays, why not start a tradition of celebrating our strengths? Ask everyone to say 1-3 things that they feel are assets they possess. You can also go back around the table and flip it—what are 1-3 assets you admire about someone else at the table? This is not about competition or comparison but rather, about seeing people for their strengths rather than their deficits.

(5) Nip it in the bud: If someone starts to “fat talk,” pull them aside and remind them kindly about your Fat-Talk-Free Holiday plan. While some adults may be able to filter out opinions about fat, calories, and weight, children and teens are very impressionable. Your silence, in this case, can be seen as an endorsement of the behavior and what the guest is saying. Speak up so that everyone can get back to focusing on enjoying family, food, friends, and some fat-talk free time.

Dr. Lynne says…

(1) Think first, speak second. The messages you send your girls really matter. They listen closely and watch even closer. Are you commenting on your need to diet? Do you identify some foods as “good” and others as “bad.” At the dinner table recently I heard a mom say, “Eat your dinner so we ca get good stuff, the dessert.” Desert can indeed be yummy, but it’s not the good stuff. Stop labeling foods, eat a touch of it all without comments and judgment. Fat-Talk-Free is the way to be!

(2) Lift one another up. Family meals are not the time for devaluation and gossip. No need to criticize those who are not present or take advantage of the audience to make yourself feel better by putting others down. Turn conversation into opportunities to share experiences, learn what your family members have been up to and celebrate one another’s passions.

(3) Offer to share the space. Do you get anxious each holiday knowing that your mother or mother-in-law is going to steal the limelight with her extravagant meal offerings, only to hear that you forgot to add the garlic to the mashed potatoes? Call ahead of time and offer to host an evening in your own home so that you can all have an opportunity to throw a family gathering the way you like it. Perhaps Thanksgiving is always at one home, ask to switch it up. Have dinner Wednesday evening at your own home and invite everyone you love. Celebrate everyone’s passion for entertaining by telling family members they can bring a favorite dish. Just because Thanksgiving has always been one way doesn’t mean this year it has to be the same old status quo.

(4) Add an activity to the holiday weekend. Family activities like sports, games and crafts bring each other joy. Consider a family game of football, a walk in the forest, or a game of Bananagrams. You can find a list of fun family activities for your fridge in The Family Coach Method. Rebecca Cohen offers great tips on planting and playing outdoors. Download her family activity list and put some family fun in your holiday.

(5) Do something nice for others. There is no better way to teach your children to give back than to offer to make crafts with elders at a local senior center, serve a meal at the local food pantry or clean out your closet and give away what you don’t need. Enjoying a family meal is only one aspect of the holiday experience.

Conclusion

This holiday season is one you get to design. So move away from old habits and introduce new ones with some thoughtful planning and preparation. You may be surprised by how others willingly join in.

Are you ready to set the stage?  Are you ready to speak up?  We all must be accountable for stopping fat-talk at our holiday tables. Do it for yourself. Do it for the other girls and women at the table.  Do it to reinforce the message to boys and men that beautiful women come in all different shapes and sizes.  This Thanksgiving, let’s toast to a very happy, healthy, fat-talk free holiday! People will thank you for it…

Note: Dr. Robyn Silverman’s book is Good Girls Don’t Get Fat: How Weight Obsession is Messing Up Our Girls & How We Can Help Them Thrive Despite It.