Learn to Relax
August 24, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Communication, Mental Health · Permalink · Comments Off on Learn to Relax

The following exercises are ancient yoga breathing techniques shared by Francesca Bove, a registered yoga instructor in New York City.  One is called Sama Vritti Pranayama or “same length breathe”; the other is “alternate nostral breathing” or Nadi Shodhana in Sanskrit. These both work to calm the mind and body, clearing the way for sound thinking. Enjoy!

Sama Vritti Pranayama

Benefits: Calms the body and focuses the mind.

Instructions:

1. Come to sit in a comfortable, cross-legged position or on a chair with your feet flat on the ground and your knees hip width distance apart. Take padding under your seat as necessary.

2. Close your eyes and begin to notice your natural breath, not changing anything at first.

3. Begin a slow count to four as you inhale. Then also count to four as you exhale. The exercise is to match the length of your inhale and exhale.

4. You may experiment with changing the number you count to, just make sure your inhale and exhale stay the same length.

5. Continue breathing this way for several minutes.

Nadi Shodhana

The term nadi shodhana means the purification of the nerves.

1. Sit in a comfortable cross legged position, spine straight, shoulders down, and relaxed. Head centered between the shoulders, chin tipped slightly downward, eyes closed. Use the thumb, and fourth finger (ring finger) of your right hand. The two middle fingers can rest gently on your forehead. To avoid strain in the neck, and shoulders, keep them closed into the palm. The pinky is not in use.

2. Gently close your right nostril with your thumb. Inhale through your left nostril, then close it with your ring-little fingers. Open and exhale slowly through the right nostril.

3. Keep the right nostril open, inhale, then close it, and open and exhale slowly through the left. This is one cycle.

4. Repeat 3 to 5 times, then release the hand position and go back to normal breathing.

Benefits

Lowers heart rate and reduces stress and anxiety

Said to synchronize the two hemispheres of the brain

Said to purify the subtle energy channels (nadis) of the body so the prana flows more easily during pranayama practice

Special Note:

Do not force the breath in any way. At the slightest sign of discomfort reduce the time of each inhalation, and exhalation or discontinue the practice, and check with a health professional.

Alternate nostril breathing should not be practiced if your nasal passages are blocked in any way. Forced breathing through the nose may lead to complications.


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The Truth, It’s Dizzying
July 8, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Buddhism/Parenting, Relationships · Permalink · Comments (1)
by Bethany Saltman
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I just finished reading Andre Agassi’s memoir, Open. I loved it because it is actually a fascinating memoir, and also because in the 80s I had a big crush on Agassi, so it was almost like reading about an ex-(fantasy) boyfriend. Growing up, though, I had no idea how tortured he was, or that he had dropped out of school in ninth grade, or that he, in his own words, “hated tennis.” I had no idea he was suffering so terribly, doing drugs, destroying himself, but looking back, that certainly explains why I found him so attractive.
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Another thing I had no idea about was the fact that Agassi was driven by a ruthless father who was determined to raise the world’s number one tennis player. It’s not like I had ever really considered Agassi’s childhood before, or pondered how such a talented tennis player comes into being, but there was something about the absolute power his father had over him that was, in fact, surprising. Comforting? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I am catching a parenting vibe these days that cautions us not to think that we are actually having an effect on our kids. Like, sure, go ahead, knock yourself out, but just remember that in the blink of an eye our sweet little “Look, Mommy, Buddhas are everywhere!” babes can turn into the neighborhood dealer, depressive, garden-variety A-hole, or much, much worse. And of course, ultimately, we have little or no control over what will happen to our children, or the kind of karma they come into this world carrying with them. And god help us all, it’s the most heartbreaking work in the world—to cultivate sincere intentions, make mistakes galore, and then not attach to any result. But sometimes I feel like we forget just how much influence we really do have on our kids. Or, more to the point, I deny how much influence I have over Azalea. And fancy this: in a good way.

**

Here’s an example. One of the things that we have been wrestling with lately is kindergarten. For now I would like to set aside the complex and fraught socioeconomic/political details of public v. private school, and just say that the questions concerning Azalea’s education, and whether or not we would even entertain the idea of sending her to a private school, brought up a wave of such deep confusion in me it was actually stunning.

As I have mentioned here before, I grew up in a pretty hands-off house. Grammar school…please…I just walked there, suffered alone at my little table, then walked home. Middle school? Were there books in that building? In high school, I won my one award for anything in my whole life, ever, in Mr. Martel’s Biology class: Most Talking During Filmstrips. I wasn’t even planning on attending college until my even-then professorial friend, Stephen Jost, who spent senior year slumming it with me in the back of Mr. Norris’s English class, said, “B, you should go to Antioch.” Lucky for me, Antioch was a truly “self-selecting” institution, meaning—if you want to come here, and you are not currently in rehab or jail, welcome! After my first semester, which was a continuation of my hang out, smoke, read, and resist life, I plugged into something new and found myself wandering around the beautiful 1850s Ohio campus, holding my head, wondering, Woaaaa, what’s that strange sensation? And then it hit me: This must be what learning feels like. And what do you know? I kind of like it!

Where were my parents during all this?

This article first appeared online in Chronogram Magazine, May 26, 2010.

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My Father’s Daughter
June 17, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Fatherhood, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

Well that was a long time ago. Almost 50 years. So many other snapshots have been taken, by the camera, in the mind:  the good, the bad, the ugly, as in all relationships with one’s father. But this is my favorite. It captures the best part of being my father’s daughter. There I was, just being me, looking out at the world, holding my ball, red Keds ready for jumping and dancing. There he is, just looking with love.

I am not whitewashing the complexity. I am just going for the essence. I am grateful beyond belief for that adoring look. It has immunized me from many of life’s trials. It has given me drive and confidence.

Hopefully, each of us can find one essential, wonderful thing about being our father’s child. Despite how many other parts of the relationship may be fraught or disappointing, or complicated– on Father’s Day let’s just honor and be grateful for that one thing.

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Caution: Smart Phones
June 15, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Technology · Permalink · Comments (1)

“Get off the iPad! Come hang out with me!!”

Not me to my daughter, mind you–my daughter to me.

It’s true. I am in love with my iPad. It is hard for me to put it down. It calls to me. Even my adult children who are quite the techno-wizards themselves feel they sometimes have to pry me away from my iPad. They think I escaped a terrible fate by not having a cell phone or computer when I had small children. I cannot imagine I would have been good at setting it aside when bored at the park, or while bathing them or sorting Barbie clothes.

Thursday’s New York Times article “The Risks of Parenting While Plugged In” was upsetting. Not only because I meet with kids who by age 8 report that their parents love their blackberry more than them, but because I know full and well how hard it is to focus on relationships with children when the call of the responsive, neat and fast smart phone asks you to just take one more “hit”. The lures of technology are like quicksand–before you know it you are buried under cravings and habits and it feels impossible to get yourself out.

I feel for parents. It seems like an unavoidable addiction. Take out calls and texts while at the park and you too would shovel sand, push on the swing or pretend to be captain hook. I think my kids lucked out on having an unplugged mother and I hope parents can sometimes fight the urge to put it away.

Here is a challenge–for one entire day pretend it is 1987 and ban yourself from all modes of technology other than a land line. You will walk away with a clear understanding of the difference technology makes in the quantity and quality of time spent with children. It is unrealistic to cut everything out on a daily basis, but if you can follow any or all of these guidelines you are guaranteed to have a richer relationship with your child:

  • No phone, computer, etc from the time you come home from work until the kids go to bed
  • No phone/text usage during meals
  • No talking or texting while you take your children to school

And for myself. When I have the gift of a daughter home from college who wants me to hang out with her, I better let go of my beloved iPad. I am going to make sure she holds me to it.

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Talk Sex With Your Daughter
June 3, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Teens · Permalink · Comments (1)

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A recent study in the American Academy of Pediatrics shows a positive correlation between mother/daughter communication about sex, and the daughter’s decision to get the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine protects against a certain kind of cervical cancer due to an STD. Unvaccinated women were more likely to vaccinate in the future if they thought their mothers would approve. This is not to vote yea or nay on the vaccine itself, but rather to point out the impact of mothers and daughters talking together about sexual health.

The CDC reports adolescent girls are more vulnerable to STD’s than their male counterparts.

“Adolescent girls ages 15–19 years had the largest reported number of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases (409,531) when compared to any other age group, followed closely by women ages 20-24, according to an annual report on sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)…The report finds that more than 1.5 million cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were reported in 2008.”

Whatever your daughter’s age-whether she is potty training, wanting to know where babies come from, developing breasts, or beginning to be sexually active-you can create an open door for her to come to you with questions. It will impact her health, self-esteem and sense of herself as a women one day.

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They’ve got 70 years: Sibling Relationships
May 11, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Parenting, Preschoolers, Relationships · Permalink · Comments Off on They’ve got 70 years: Sibling Relationships

310px-SiblingRivalryCan you imagine a better feeling than watching your children enjoy each other?  From your preschooler making your baby erupt in giggles, or your two teenagers laughing and conspiring, to your grown boys joking and wrestling with relish. Nothing like it. Unfortunately, in addition to those times, and maybe even more common is your preschooler “accidentally” bumping in to the baby, teenagers bickering, or older bothers letting the other down. It is this intense combination of deep connection and deeply ambivalent feelings that characterize sibling relationships.

Think back to your own relationships with sisters and brothers if you have them.  Were they static? Is the way  you got along in elementary school the same way you relate now? Themes may be the same, but the actual relationships have probably gone through many twists and turns with loyalty and protectiveness as well as envy or guilt.

So why do people ask the question “Do your kids get along?” or “Are they close?”.  Our culture tends to frame things in back and white, rather than nuance. Inherent in that mindset is that there is one way or one answer, a close sibling or a bad relationship. Unfortunately, this thinking leads to parents feeling like they have either succeeded or failed. So let’s remember that most siblings have about seventy years to have a relationship. It will be full of everything: competition and adoration, hurt and comfort. Keeping that in mind, here are some things that these important relationships teach our children no matter how old they are.

Sibling relationships and rivalry are an opportunity to practice:

  • Handling the coexistence of positive and negative emotions.
  • Turning jealousy into admiration.
  • Learning about sharing.
  • Problem solving.
  • Experiencing protective instincts.
  • Healthy competition.
  • Empathy.

Here are some helpful ideas that help parents support closeness and not further inflame natural jealousy:

  • Divide and Conquer: spend time alone with each child or divide family time with each parent and a kid.
  • Fair doesn’t always mean equal.
  • The Buddha says: The cure for jealousy is celebration.
  • Be aware of pigeon holing.
  • You are not the judge and the jury.
  • Teach your children to use “I” messages.
  • Avoid micro-managing.
  • Keep dialogue open about sibling rivalry.
  • You as the enemy – a common bond.
  • Don’t allow abuse.

Sibling relationships have and always will be complex.  The question is not whether your children have conflict – all do – but rather how you respond to the issues.  This is an opportunity for you as a parent to examine the place of your own sibling relationships in your reaction to your children.

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Snark Alert! Sarcasm Stings
March 4, 2010 · Posted in Adult Children, Communication, Fatherhood, Parenting, Relationships, Teens · Permalink · Comments (2)

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This post from Straight Talk On Relationships reminds us that our tone and general attitude toward our partner influences the relationship greatly. Often times what we think is ‘all in good fun’, really puts a rift in the communication.

THE STING OF SARCASM DOESN’T BELONG IN RELATIONSHIPS

By Lisa Merlo Booth

Lately I’ve been seeing the effects of sarcasm everywhere.  Whether it’s watching my own family, my friends’ families or the families of my clients, sarcasm still has that same familiar sting.  Sarcasm comes from the Greek word sarkasmos or sarkazein, which means to tear flesh, or to bite the lips in rage.

The purpose of sarcasm is to mock others.  The better the cut-down, the funnier we think it is.  Sarcasm hurts because it is meant to hurt.

Sarcasm is often an unspoken truth, judgment or resentment wrapped up as a joke.  We throw out a comment and then follow it up with a smile or a chuckle and think that’s okay.  It’s just a little joke.  Unfortunately, the smile or chuckle does not soften the sting.

Regardless of whether it’s an older brother greeting his little sister with “Hey mighty mouth,” a friend saying “Nice of you to show up on your time frame,” or a cousin chiding another cousin with “You always could eat. couldn’t you,” sarcasm is often a caustic attempt at humor.

Sarcasm has become a way for many people and families to connect.  They learn to constantly rib each other as a way of communicating.  They think when the ribbing hurts, it must be because the target is too sensitive.  Seldom do we actually think that the person is hurt because of what we said.  It must be, we think, because they don’t know how to take a joke.

Not surprisingly however, sarcasm is often funniest to the person who’s speaking it.  Typically it’s not nearly as funny to those on the receiving end. Unfortunately, when (and if) those on the receiving end try to stand up for themselves, the speakers tell them they can’t take a joke.  The target then begins to question themselves and try their best to ignore the sting.

When it comes to sarcasm and teasing, however, the rules to follow are simple;
•    If it stings—it’s not funny
•    Just because you say it with a smile and a chuckle, doesn’t mean it’s funny or it doesn’t hurt
•    If the person on the receiving end says they don’t like it or it hurts, then stop it—it hurts.

I love a great sense of humor and would never tell people to stop being playful.  Just make sure that when you’re using humor, it’s not at someone else’s expense.  That takes the humor out of it.

CHALLENGE:  Watch sarcasm in the world.  Pay attention to all the “jokes” at others’ expense and see if you can catch the underbelly or sarcasm.  If someone in your life doesn’t like your teasing or sarcasm, stop dismissing what they’re saying and LISTEN.  Be playful—not hurtful.  NOTE:  the person on the receiving end is the judge of whether or not what you said is hurtful—not you.

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Discipline…In Hindsight
December 8, 2009 · Posted in Adult Children, Discipline, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (1)

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The following is a piece by Laura Stephens, program coordinator for Soho Parenting and editor of Parentalk.  Laura gives us the young adult perspective on life after being launched.

I turned twenty five yesterday.  With a quarter century under my belt I can look back at my childhood with a more grown up perspective.  Here at Soho Parenting I see how much thought and energy parents put into thinking about discipline and limits for their children.  Half-way between being a child and being a parent myself is an interesting time to reflect on the way my parents approached discipline.

I really gave my parents a run for their money, constantly doing things I wasn’t supposed to.  My parents never wavered in their belief that consequences should always follow breaking the rules.  Their punishments evolved as I grew up.  “Now I’m going to give you three spanks”,  turned to “time out!”, and then switched to,”No friends after school”.  Some punishments felt unbearable – no phone calls or instant messenger for 3 weeks, losing the privilege to have my beloved dog sleep in my room.

As a typical teenager I despised their rules, but in hindsight, I see that somehow those rules gave me a sense of security. That may sound strange, but it is so true.  Unlike my friends who could guarantee that despite a two week grounding they would surely be at the party Saturday night, I always knew my consequence was set in stone.  My parents were steady and firm. Though I made my best attempts to get out my “sentences” it was to no avail.   When it came to deciding and executing their ‘punishment strategy’, they took time to calm down, they consulted together before responding and made the terms very clear. Most importantly they stuck to their word -EVERY time.

I responded to this like any adolescent would – with complete abhorrence.  I would become furious when they insisted on waiting for the other to come home before telling me the details of my punishment.  I hated how specific they were when defining my ‘grounding’ – a sign that they had thought this out and would stick to it.  But I am so glad they did. Bottom line was that despite how much I hated the immediate effects, I could rely on my parents as trustworthy, dependable people.  My family life, though far from perfect, provided me with stability.  I could rely on my parents;  their word was my truth – and this knowledge as a child and then a teenager was monumental.

I am sure this capacity to be a reliable source for my future children – especially when disciplining – will be greatly tested.  If my kids are anything like me, the process will be tough.  It will feel easier to be lax here and there – retract a punishment by a few days to avoid a tantrum.  But like me, all children desperately need to know they can trust and feel safe with their parents. I know that the benefits of the hard work of sticking to your guns far outweighs the immediate relief.

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Weight and See
November 10, 2009 · Posted in Adult Children, Feeding, K-5 Kids, Media, Parenting, Preschoolers · Permalink · Comments (3)

Pair of big heavy dumbbells over white backgroundBody image, weight, eating habits and health is now a thoroughly unavoidable minefield for ourselves and our children.  The culture is now poly-partially-nonhydrogenatedly saturated in intensity about our bodies. Perfectly healthy girls and boys as young as four worry about being fat while a vast number of people in our country overeat to the point of morbid obesity.  There is pressure for women to be sexy and slim (except their ‘bump’) during pregnancy and a culture that orders in, dines out and watches Food Network 24/7. Oye!

It is all very confusing and daunting. If it were as easy as modeling good habits for our children many of us would fare well. But what about the inner negative thoughts that most women and many men have when we are even a few pounds overweight? Pretty hard to get rid of those. The bottom line is that this struggle between the love of food and the pressure to be thin is just a fact of life. The problems of our food system and the media influence are here to stay.

So what to do? One thing is to not buy into the fact that there are choices you can make to fully protect your children from weight issues or body image issues.  You can set a pretty good example and have a pretty decent balance between discipline and indulgence and still have children who struggle with weight or thoughts about weight. There is no one rule like “no junk in the house”, or “don’t prohibit or your kids will seek it elsewhere in spades” that ensures anything.  We need to admit that the forces are greater than any one rule or philosophy so we don’t carry all the responsibility on our shoulders.

Try to stay in the middle path is the best we can suggest. Model moderation, exercise and encourage physical activity. Have swimming, hiking, skiing or bike riding be family activities, not just activities that you sign your children up for–they imitate you more than anything. Have family meals. Teach your children about advertising early on — show them how billboards and commercials trick you into wanting more and more and subtly convince you that you are not good enough as you are.  Once kids understand how advertising works it provides a bit of protection against the media and gives a sense of empowerment.

Most of all try and accept the fluctuations in your child’s weight and work on accepting their body type as you work on accepting yours. This is very hard work for most people, no matter what they weigh, or how they eat, so know you are in good company.

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A Nest of One’s Own
August 20, 2009 · Posted in Adult Children, Parenting · Permalink · Comments (7)

met_nestEmpty-nester? Why define one’s status by what is not there? Yes, my last little chick is about to go off to college. Yes, this is the first time in twenty three years that my daily life will not revolve around what is going on with my children.  While I am sure there will be pangs of missing her and feeling out of sorts, I am very excited for this next stage. I want to feel the spaciousness, not the emptiness. I want to hear new sounds in the quiet.

I can remember the weeks and days before I had my first daughter. I had an intense drive to clean, organize, needlepoint–nest. I am having the same feelings in the weeks before the birth of this new phase. I have an intense urge to rearrange, redo and prepare my nest once again. Maybe I am not sad because I know that all the v-chats, texts, emails and calls will keep us connected. Maybe it’s because I am excited and hopeful about her new chapter.  Maybe, because after all this intense focus on my children I am ready to be fully in charge of my own time. The freedom to make whatever plans I want, work when I want, study new things. Settle into this nest of my own. Or maybe I am in denial. Stay tuned.

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