Fall Neighborhood Scavenger Hunt

One of the greatest ways you can provide a child with a sense of belonging and establish a team environment in your home is to do fun things together.  Whether it’s establishing a new tradition or trying something new together that you may never want to do again, it’s always a good idea to connect as a family. Family connection time allows you to not only be together, but create fun memories together.  Talking, laughing, exploring, teamworking (yes, I just made that up), fighting (wait, what? Let’s just be real here–anytime you get family together, there is going to be some of that). But even the fighting within our families provides an opportunity for us to grow as a family and learn how to handle conflict and differences in opinions in respectful ways.  

Because family connection is so important, over the next few weeks, I will be sharing a fun fall outing or activity for you and your family to do together.  This weekend, how about a Neighborhood Fall Scavenger Hunt. We have done these in our own neighborhood, but we may shake things up tonight and go to another neighborhood to try this one out.  

PRINT YOUR COPY HERE

This fall, take time to connect as a family as least once a week!  Your relationships will grow; your laughter will increase and maybe…just maybe, the fighting will be minimized. ūüôā

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Back to School (and Remote Learning) Tips

Back to school time is hard every year…any year…but especially THIS YEAR!

These past 5 months have been hard—haven’t they?¬† We have all been facing unprecedented circumstances for our generation.¬† And our children are certainly a part of a life-changing pandemic that we have no idea about the true ramifications on their lives.

To make things even more difficult for our family…over the past 5 months, my mother-in-law’s physical and mental health quickly declined and just last week, she passed away.¬† My husband is a teacher and because of the coronavirus and the schools being closed since March, he was able to go up and take care of her and honor her during her last days on earth.¬† He had been gone so much over the past 24 weeks that I had a whole new appreciation for the single parent!¬† Wow–it was exhausting for all of us.

And starting next week, I will be facilitating remote learning for all three of my children even though I was counting on having the time to dedicate to serving, teaching, and coaching families through Real Life Families and taking classes for grad school to get my¬†master’s in Psychology–Child and Adolescent Development.

But I may not have time to do those things.¬† My own family comes first.¬† My job as a parent comes first.¬† I may have to pause grad school.¬† I may have to do less for Real Life Families.¬† I just don’t know what I will be able to do this fall.

I know you’re probably facing some of the same dilemmas and fearing some of the same challenges too.

I have no idea what to expect from this whole remote learning thing nor do I know how long it’s going to last¬†nor do I know if I’m going to have the patience to handle it all.¬† But I do know that as a family, when we face potential problems, crazy challenges, or unknown circumstances, it is critical that we remember that we are a team and we can solve any problem together.

So whether your kids are doing remote learning or actually going to school this year, here are some great tools to help you and your family…


1.¬†¬†THE PROACTIVE TOOL:¬† Let’s think ahead.¬† Identify potential problems or sources of conflict IN ADVANCE.¬† Set up expectations and consequences IN ADVANCE.¬† If your kids are older, get them involved in setting up their own expectations and consequences about their school work.¬† Work as a team to set healthy boundaries and find a system that will set your kids up for success.¬† Don’t wait for problems to fester or continue to break your relationship.¬† Solve the problem as quickly as possible and get ahead of the problems as much as possible.


2.¬†THE ROUTINE TOOL¬†helps you take your expectations about school work and put them into a checklist helping your kids create a routine.¬† Kids thrive on routines.¬† Routines help kids’ bodies and minds get into a rhythm.¬† Routines help their day feel more predictable and provide a sense of safety and security.¬† Plus, putting their expectations into a routine helps kids grow in responsibility and hard work.¬† Checklists can be a great visual reminder of your expectations too.

Here are a few checklists we have used to help establish a strong routine. Feel free to print them off and use them or use them as a springboard to create your own checklist specifically for your kids. You can even get them involved in writing them or drawing or cutting out pictures for them too.


3.¬†THE PRACTICE TOOL helps you focus on your job as a parent–teaching and training your kids…preparing them for life…to be responsible, respectful, capable human beings. If your kids aren’t meeting the expectations that you’ve set up as a team, then that simply means they need more practice.¬† Little kids especially need practice in getting used to their new routines.¬† Practice their routines together as a team until they feel confident to do them on their own. (This may take a while depending on your child’s personality and temperament. Be patient with them as they learn.).

But with older kids, a conversation could go like this:¬† “Hey, I’ve noticed you haven’t been showing responsibility in getting your daily checklist done.¬† Because your’e older and we are a team, is there anything that we need to discuss or change or that I can help you with so that you show responsibility and get your stuff done?¬† Do we need to practice your checklist Saturday morning before you go play with your friends?¬† Or do we need to add additional consequences? Or do you feel you’ve got this and just needed a little reminder about the importance of following through with your responsibilities?”¬† This usually does it.¬† If not, then practice time it is!¬†¬†The Practice Tool reminds us that our kids are learning and need more practice…not more punishments.¬† Just follow through with any consequences that have been set up in advance but focus on helping them practice and improve every day.


4.¬†¬†THE CONNECTION TOOL¬†is your greatest parenting tool no matter how your kids are getting their schooling done this year.¬† Remote learning or in-person learning doesn’t change the fact that your kids will always need time with YOU!¬† The Parent Child Connectedness (PCC) model supports The Connection Tool and is defined as the “quality of the emotional bond between parent and child and by the degree to which this bond is both mutual and sustained over time.” No matter how old our kids are, they value time with you.

Being proactive, developing a strong routine, and allowing your kids to practice that routine will definitely help make this very strange 2020 back-to-school time better.¬† But making sure to be intentional about spending time together, building that strong relationship with your kids, and solving any problem as a team will help anything…including school work…be even better.¬† And these tools may just be able to help you be a little bit more patient too!

And if you need help in establishing routines or handling some of this back-to-school stuff, please don’t hesitate to email me or¬†set up a coaching session or two with me.¬† I’m here to help!

Lord, be near us all as we transition to this back-to-school season.¬† Guide us in finding a routine that works for our individual family.¬† Give us patience to be the teacher to our kids that You are calling us to be—not just in school work, but in life work.¬†

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

CHRISTINE LEEB
Executive Director and Founder of Real Life Families

Marriage and Parenting Coach–Helping Families Build Better Relationships

Save Your Sanity during Quarantine

Don’t get me wrong…I’m ALL about family time and as a parenting coach and educator, I always stress to every parent I meet the importance of spending more time with their kids and as a family. Now is a critical time to build those strong relationships with our kids and create memories as a family, but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard. And being together all day every day under the circumstances we’ve all been through makes it even harder.¬† But we do the important things even when they are hard, right?

During these close-quarter times, let me share a tool that has saved my family and my sanity…The Rewind Tool.

Because our kids mess up a lot, I mess up a lot, and my husband messes up A LOT (just kidding, honey). In all seriousness, we all mess up a lot. Let’s just be real about that.¬† And when are all together so much…so, so much…the frequency of the mess ups seem to be much, much for frequent.¬† Whether it’s a snotty attitude or spilled milk or saying the word “butt crack” one more time even when they’ve been asked repeatedly not to say it, the mistakes are endless and boundless.

But it’s how we handle ourselves in those moments that matters.¬† In some cases, like the spilled milk, it’s just a simple: “No big deal. Grab a rag and some vinegar spray and clean it up please.”¬† (little kids might need some teamwork here, but it’s never too early to teach them the responsibility of cleaning up a mess they made).¬† But with the snotty attitude or the disobedient “butt crack” remark, you have some choices to make.¬† You can either let them turn it into a big power struggle followed by issuing consequences with fighting and yelling…or you can simply do The Rewind Tool.

The Rewind Tool is POWERFUL.¬† It’s simple.¬† It’s on-the-spot training which gives me, my kids, and my husband a chance to try again…to practice getting something right without making it a huge issue.

For the snotty attitude, it’s just a simple:¬† “Can you please rewind and try that again with respect?” Sometimes it takes more than one rewind, but I don’t give up because it’s the character trait of respect at stake. So I stay calm and keep saying: “Try that again with respect, please.”

When they get it right, I can say: “Thank you for speaking to me respectfully. Remember, we are the Leebs and that’s how we treat each other.”

But kids aren’t the only ones who need The Rewind Tool to get things right.¬† Parents do too.¬† One time, my oldest and I let our discussion raise to a level of argument.¬† We both said some disrespectful and uncalled-for things.¬† We were both at fault.¬† He stormed upstairs and slammed his door.¬† Immediately, I knew that I shouldn’t have escalated like I did.

I gave us both some space and time to cool off and then I went upstairs and said:¬† “You know what? Neither one of us handled ourselves in a respectful way. Leebs treat others with respect and we didn’t do that, and I’m very sorry for my part.¬† We let an argument happen instead of our normal discussion. How about we both rewind and try again so we both can get it right…so we both can listen better…so we both can respect what the other person is saying. Sound good?”

One of the best rewind moments in our family to date.

My authority wasn’t lost and our relationship was restored.

During this time of quarantine, The Rewind Tool continues to show its strength and effectiveness…saving our sanity and more importantly, preserving our relationship with our kids.

The Rewind Tool allows our kids to get things right. It allows them the grace to have a do-over. It gives them the opportunity to practice the life skills and character traits that we want them to learn. It frees us from constant punishments or arguments and allows us to be the teacher that our kids need us to be. Because they can try again and again and sometimes again and again to get it right…and so can we!

Lord, thank you that in parenting, there is grace. Thank you that this Rewind Tool reminds us that Your mercies are new for us every day and we can do the same for our kids every day and even every moment. Bring us peace in our parenting as we give our kids the opportunity to be more like You even in times when they mess up. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Seeking Racial Unity As a Family


From COVID-19 to racial division and upset, 2020 has brought a whole new meaning to real-life moments!  Our world is really struggling, and Real Life Families wants to be a beacon of hope and encouragement as well as continue to provide you with tools to build a strong family and close positive relationships within your family.

But we also want to equip you and your family with tools to help bring unity to our world and do it in a way that strengthens your family too.


THE FAMILY MEETING TOOL–A family meeting is a very intentional and proactive way of coming together as a family each week.¬† We used to have family meetings that went like this:¬† “That’s it…family meeting RIGHT NOW!!!!”¬† And we would just let the kids have it.¬† It was a very reactive parenting approach and not very effective.¬† But since developing the Teamwork Parenting Approach which helps parents (including my husband and myself) be more proactive, we’ve seen the value in having family meetings on a regular basis (not just when we are ticked off).

And we can use our family meetings to teach—to teach about character, communication, and even current events and community concerns like racism.

In fact, we had an open and honest conversation around the dinner table the other night about racism.¬† It was sweet to see their puzzled expressions when we talked about the fact that some people treat people differently because of the color of their skin.¬† My 6-year-old couldn’t believe it.¬† That’s a good thing because that means we have done our job so far to teach him that as a Leeb, we are to treat everyone with kindness and respect.¬† But it also made me aware that we need to do a better job teaching him about the realities of racism in our world so he can be better equipped to handle situations as they arise when he gets older. This is another reason to have intentional family meetings.

Have a family meeting about racism and talk about what your kids know and don’t know (of course in age-appropriate ways).¬† You may just have some great opportunities for some insightful discussions like we did.

Need help getting a family meeting started?¬† We use the 5 P’s—

1. P—Praise—Start with positives—take turns sharing one good thing that happened in your day or week.¬† I think we could all use to hear some positive things.
2. P—Plans—Share any plans for the week (we’ve been skipping this one lately because we have nothing going on because of COVID-19), but you can use this time to share any family special time or individual kid time stuff you have planned.
3. P—Practice—Use anything you saw your kids struggle with that week and practice it.¬† For example–

  • if there was a lot of sibling rivalry over sharing, have them role-play sharing a toy.
  • if there were a lot of issues about listening and obeying, put some silly requests (like run around the table barking like a dog) and/or serious requests (like go upstairs and put your pajamas on) in a cup and have them take turns picking something out that they have to do.¬† Practicing listening and obeying can be fun!
  • if there were a lot of struggles turning off electronics, have them practice turning an electronic off the first time you ask them.
  • here is where you can add any other teaching moments pertinent to what’s going on the world like with racism–at our family meeting this week, we had our kids practice standing up to a¬†bully¬†who was¬†picking on someone because of their skin color.¬† They used one of our family phrases:¬† “Hey, leave him alone. Everyone deserves respect.”

4. P—Pray—Sit or stand in a circle and hold hands and pray together.¬† Pray over your family issues and even our community or world issues.¬† Here’s another way we can all help end racism. Imagine every week if every family from every race prayed for racial unity and for wisdom to make that happen!¬† Wow! What a difference that could make.

At the end of our prayer time, we do a big family hug.¬† Then, before we move on to the last P, we all stack our hands in the middle of our circle and do a quick…”Gooooooooooo, Leebs!”¬† (Because remember that your family is your team, let’s build that idea with some fun.)

5. P—Play—This is such a great one.¬† Taking time to play as a family together is so powerful.¬† SO POWERFUL! Not only is play powerful for relationship-building in your family, it’s good for your kids and for YOU!¬† Play helps our brains, our bodies, and our emotions.¬† In fact, in my research for my master’s in Psychology, Stuart Brown, The Founder of the National Institute for Play, shared something profound: “Work isn’t the opposite of play.¬† Depression is the opposite of play.”¬† He goes on to say: “Nothing lights up the brain more than play.”

Play together—play board games, play freeze tag, play kick ball, play cards, play hide and seek.¬† End each family meeting doing something fun together.¬† One of my favorite things to do is have a big family tickle fight. Or better yet…a big family pillow fight (I know I’ve shared this before, but it still feels good to hit my husband with a pillow. And any child who has irritated me that week–and they just laugh and laugh. LOL!)

Use play as a way to connect your family and bring some joy to your life.

And use The Family Meeting Tool to unite, to educate, and to have fun with your family…and that just might be a big step to bringing unity to the world.

Here is a PDF of the 5 P’s of a Family Meeting.

Lord, it is good and pleasing to you when Your people live in unity. Show us what we can do in our families and in our communities to make that happen.  

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

Ending Racism Starts at Home

I think we all want to do something here.¬† Something to help.¬† Something to make a difference.¬† Something to bring unity to our divided world.¬† But it’s hard to know what to do…what to tell our kids…what to say…where to start.

I say, we have to start somewhere.¬† Because sometimes when our world feels so divided…so full of hate…so overwhelmingly out of our control, we just don’t know what to do and sometimes, sadly, we end up doing nothing.

But we can do something.  We can absolutely be a part of bringing positive change to our world.  Because I truly believe that what we do in our homes can make a difference!


THE MODELING TOOL--I just shared this tool with you yesterday about how bad habits can be formed simply by what we say in front of our kids. What are we saying about people that are different than we are?  Are we instilling a hatred, a fear, a prejudice, a judgement without even realizing it?  Think about the words you speak about others.  Your kids are listening and learning and will follow your lead.

How can your words increase an awareness and appreciation for diversity?


THE 24/7 TOOL–When modeling unconditional love and kindness, we have opportunities every single day all throughout the day to instill a love and appreciation for others–no matter what their skin color.¬† One thing I’ve always done is point out all the different colors, shapes, sizes, and uniqueness in nature and say: “God loves variety and that’s why He made us all look so different. That’s why He made us all different colors.¬† That’s why He created such a beautiful, wonderful diverse palate in our world. And when you see anyone, no matter what color their skin is…no matter what shape or size they are…no matter what they look like…just remember this: God made them just the way He wanted them to be. And they are perfect in His eyes just the way they are.”

How can you use every minute as well as the world around you to inspire inclusion and a love for every race and color?


THE FAMILY IDENTITY TOOL--identify your family as people who love everyone—–who respects everyone, who values everyone, who sees everyone and who is no better than anyone.

  • We are the Leebs and we are kind to everyone no matter what their skin color is.
  • We are the Sanchez family and we believe that God calls us to treat everyone with respect…EVERYONE.
  • We are the Zang family and we see everyone as beautiful and deserving of our kindness.
  • We are the James family and we understand that this world may be divided, but we choose to seek peace and unity!

How can you use your family name to encourage a sense of belonging in what you believe promoting the just, fair, respectful treatment of others?


THE SERVICE TOOL--Modeling with our words is powerful, but modeling a love for EVERYONE in action is more powerful.  One thing I recommend with your kids is finding ways to serve in your community.  For years my oldest son and I have served the homeless population in our community together. Serving side by side with diverse people to help diverse people models the responsibility we all have to help ALL PEOPLE!

How can you include your kids in opportunities to share love to everyone in need in tangible ways?


THE TEACHING TOOL—As¬†parents, our job is to teach our kids. Yes, we are already teaching them by what they hear us say and what they see us do, but we can also be very intentional about teaching them about the beauty of diversity as well as about what’s going on in this world in age-appropriate ways.

For younger kids—

For older kids, we do things with them that provide great talking points—

  • we can read books like A Kids Book About Racism, Stamped: Racism, Antiracism and You, The Hate U Give¬†(please check ages and appropriateness for your own kids)
  • we can watch movies like The Perfect Game, And The Children Shall Lead, and Hidden Figures
  • we can talk to them…have a deep heart-to-heart discussion about what’s going on and ask them to share their thoughts and feelings about it.
  • we show them short video clips or news footage of what’s going on in our world right now and ask what they think we can do to make this world a better place and end racism–love all people, treat everyone with respect, and give everyone equal opportunities.¬† I’ll bet your kids will surprise you with their answers.

How can you intentionally and proactively teach your kids in visual and hands-on ways connecting with their hearts in order to guide their hearts?

THE PRAYER TOOL—Every day, pray with your kids.¬† Pray for God to bring His peace, His unity, and His love into all of our hearts. Ask God to shine His light on our racially divided world and ask for His wisdom for how each of us can make changes…what little things we can do to make a difference. Pray for God to increase our understanding and empathy of what others are going through and how we can help.¬† And pray for Him to give us the courage to do it.¬† What if every day, we all prayed together for unity?

How can you use the power of prayer to show your kids to rely on our true Source for change?

Sometimes it feels in tough situations like these, we can’t do anything to make a difference. But I hope you can make little choices applying these practical tools every day in your homes and…

  • model¬†kindness to EVERYONE
  • use¬†the world around you to share the beauty of God’s plan for diversity
  • establish¬†your family as¬†a family who cares about and loves ALL PEOPLE
  • serve¬†others and giving to your community
  • intentionally teach¬†about the beauty of diversity and the sad reality of racism
  • pray¬†for His wisdom on how to work towards unity in our world.

I’m going to choose to be the change in my family and I hope you will too.¬† I know some of these tools may fall short of uncovering the true brokenness behind the racial division in our country, but we have to try.¬† We have to start somewhere!

Please share any other ideas or tools you have used or are using. We’re all in this together!

Lord, Your light shines more brilliantly in dark times. We are asking you to shine brightly and show us how you are working now and how we can work now in our homes…with our kids…to bring Your call to unity to life.¬†

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

What Our Anxious Kids Need During COVID-19

It is certainly frightening times…things are so uncertain…there are so many unknowns.

All the mask-wearing, school and event-cancelling, and deadly virus-talking is enough to make anyone anxious.

It’s no surprise that my daughter has started pulling out her eyelashes again.¬† She struggles with an obsessive compulsive anxiety condition called Trichotillomania.¬† We had started to make so much progress through counseling and even tools I’ve developed, and for months, she had completely stopped hair-pulling.¬† And now this…

Sometimes there is no tool and not enough counseling to completely halt anxious feelings or the actions that go along with it.¬† That’s the life of an anxious child. But really, that’s just life.¬† It’s unpredictable.¬† It’s imperfect. And it can be very frustrating.

If you or your kids are struggling during this time, first of all, you are not alone. I’m right there with you!

But there are some tools we can use to make things a little better and ease some of our child’s anxiety (and even our own):

1. The Prayer Tool

God reminds us in Philippians 4:6-7 not to worry about anything, but instead pray about everything. We can come alongside our kids who tend to worry and remind them about the power of prayer.  Pray with them. Ask God to protect your family and your loved ones and watch over our whole community and world. What a great example of putting our worry energy into prayer energy.

  • A simple prayer for worry to teach kids:
    • God, please take my worries away
    • and watch over me and my family every day.¬†

You can pray with your child. You can also remind them to pray on their own. You can even give them a journal/diary where they can write or draw out their worries or prayers. Set up a little time every day to pray and talk about their anxious feelings together.

Anxious kids need to get their anxious thoughts and feelings out (otherwise that anxiousness will turn to anger.) Yikes!

2. The Routine Tool

Most kids thrive on routine, but anxious kids especially need routine. Routines are predictable and make kids feel secure.¬† And in such an unpredictable time, why not give them something they can count on.¬† Now that we are all home together all day every day, take time to create a routine in your day together. For our family, our routine basically revolves around regularly scheduled meals. On most days, everything in between is just play time. But when we need more structure in our day, I give them a sticky note of chores.¬† Then they need to complete their checklist before they have any TV or electronic time. And of course, any chore completion is always better with teamwork, so it’s OK to work with your kids to Team Clean their rooms with them or turn on some fun, dance music and do the house-cleaning together.

Your anxious child may complain about the chores (which is normal), but will definitely thrive on having the routine—even if it is a relatively loose one like ours.

3. The Connection Tool

Routine is definitely helpful for chores and schoolwork, but so is intentionally planning on some one-on-one time with our kids as well as time together as a whole family! The best thing we can do with our anxious children is to reassure them of our love and attention.  That is certainly one way that God is making all things good in this situation. For more ideas of ways to connect as a family or with your kids individually, you can print out these 2 resources and use them as a checklist:

The more we point our kids to the Source of our peace through prayer, the more we can create some routine and normalcy in their days, and the more fun and light-hearted moments we can provide will not only build our relationship with our anxious child stronger, but will also ease their anxiety longer.

Lord, you are the Source of our Peace…even during times of fear and uncertainty. Remind us that our anxious kids feed off our own anxious thoughts and words. Be our Source of Peace. Remind us to pray about everything and be grateful for what You are doing in our families during this time.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

Children’s Quarantine Anger

I want to make this short and sweet because if you’re like me, you feel very bombarded with information, and “things you must do”, and “things you must NOT do”, and finishing up schoolwork, and work. Oh and also parenting kids who have been cooped up and wonder why they can’t go to the playground or over to a friend’s house.

Life just feels weird right now. All of our emotions are high…and kids are going to share their emotions in quite a variety of ways…some sweet, some annoying…some whining…some raging. And sometimes you just never know what you’re going to get!

It’s hard. This is hard on all of us. And sometimes it’s easy to get angry or yell.¬† But there are better strategies…better tools we can use.

1. THE REWIND TOOL

If kids don’t do the right thing the first time, just simply ask them to rewind and try it again. We do not have to allow disrespect or disobedience in our home, but we also don’t have to issue consequences every time they do anything “wrong”. Our kids are learning, so why not give them “on the spot” training and have them do it again. This way they can experience success right away while also knowing that you are not going to allow their inappropriate behavior. By the way, with strong-willed kids, you may have to rewind many, many times. “Nothing else will happen in your day until you choose to try this again respectfully. Thank you.”

2. THE PRACTICE TOOL

The Rewind Tool is great if our kids say something or do something that needs to be done again to get it right. But¬†The Practice Tool¬†is very intentional time you set aside to practice the skills and character traits you want to instill in your kids. You can do this at a Family Meeting each week where you play a Listening and Obeying game. Or before they get on an electronic device, you have them quickly practice what they will say when you say it’s time to turn it off. For kids to get better at things, they need to practice them. Why not have them practice getting better at being obedient or respectful or helpful or kind?

Now is the time to practice better tools and better reactions. The longer we are all cooped up together, the more time we have to teach them better responses and build better relationships with them.¬† Let’s use this time to our full advantage.

It is my prayer that The Rewind Tool and The Practice Tool brings less anger as well as shorter fits and sweeter moments to your parenting interactions this week! We’re all in this together, parents.

Lord, You know what we each need to be the calm parent You are calling us to be. Bring Your patience and kindness into our homes and Your peace into our hearts. 

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

For more tools in the Teamwork Parenting Approach, click here. 

Let Kids Grieve Their Losses over COVID-19

My oldest is a 5th grader and was looking forward to his last class trip…now he’s home tripping over his little brother’s Legos. He was excited about his end-of-the-year band concert…now he’s getting to the end of his rope dealing with his siblings purposely annoying him.¬† And he was ecstatic about his final season of Little League Baseball…now he keeps waiting for the final day of this quarantine…but who knows when that will even be!

My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in July, and we were planning a trip to celebrate.¬† We haven’t gone on a trip together since our 10 year anniversary and we were really looking forward to a getaway together. But now…who knows?

I’m sure you’re seeing some loss in your own life too.¬† Last days of school, graduations, birthday parties, play dates, park time, going out to dinner, going anywhere as a family!¬† It’s crazy.

Here are three things we can all remember here…
1. There are so many other people dealing with deeper levels of loss especially those who have actually lost loved ones to COVID-19. (This sad reality always helps me to keep things in perspective.)
2.¬† Even so…It’s OK to be sad about the loss we are each experiencing. It’s OK to grieve the losses that none of us were prepared for.¬† It’s actually healthy to take time to grieve any loss.
3. And we have to help our kids grieve their losses too.

It’s truly hard to know at this point how all our kids are taking this. But be prepared. Just know that kids will have many emotions wrapped in one big complex emotional ball bouncing around your house.

One minute, they may be just fine, but then they think about missing their friends at school, and they will explode on you or their siblings for seemingly no apparent reason.

Here are few tools from the Teamwork Parenting Approach to help…

The Detective Tool¬†in the Teamwork Parenting Approach reminds us that we can’t always take our kids’ emotions at face value. Remember that anger isn’t really anger. It’s often just fear and sadness disguising itself. Do our kids have a lot to be afraid of right now? Yep. A deadly virus, no doubt. Do our kids have a lot to be sad about? Yep. No school, no friends, no play dates, no outings. Everything is different for them. And it’s hard. They are experiencing a lot of loss too.

So remember to look more closely at their anger and ask them to talk out their fear or sadness or draw pictures of what they are going to miss. Don’t be afraid to talk to them about what they are sad or scared about. Talking it out helps get the fear or sadness out a little each time which will greatly help with their ability to control their emotions later on. They need to know we understand…we get it.¬† Be extra patient here.¬† We are here to help them through this tough time. That’s what families do!


The Emotional Coaching Tool¬†reminds us that¬†even though we can be detectives to help our kids uncover the fear and sadness fueling their anger, it’s also our job to not only help them identify their emotions (“I can tell you’re feeling very frustrated.”) but also coach them through their emotions (“When you feel so frustrated, what’s a healthy thing you can do?”)

A critical part of coaching our kids and teaching them how to handle their emotions is to give them alternatives…provide them with tools they can use instead of allowing their anger to come out in aggressive, inappropriate ways. One thing we’ve found helpful is to review our “Calm Strategies” at breakfast each morning.

Last night my kids had a sleepover together and stayed up and watched movies, so we knew they would be tired today (Note–tiredness…also something that fuels anger—have your kids been staying up way too late these days too, by the way?), so we gave them 5 things to do if they feel angry.¬† In fact, we wrote these down and taped them to the wall where it would be visible.

  1. Go to room and get some space.
  2. Wash face in the bathroom.
  3. Go punch on the punching bag.
  4. Go outside and shoot hoops.
  5. Find a way to be helpful around the house.

You can come up with your own list that meets your kids’ and family’s needs, but the point is to be proactive and give them tools and options so they know what TO DO instead of just being told what not to do.

We are all experiencing some sort of loss these days. Take time to mourn it and help your kids do the same.¬† But I also encourage you to take time this week to write down everything that you have gained too (besides the #quarantine15 lol).¬† Sit down with your kids and have them add to your list to help them focus on the good things about this time together too. And maybe with the positive things in mind, they won’t get quite as frustrated when they step on that Lego!

Lord, you bring healing to the brokenhearted. You lead us to peaceful waters. You restore our souls. You refresh our minds. In all circumstances, we can find joy. We ask for your joy today in our homes, in our hearts, and in our world.

Here’s to building better families together–
Christine

38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

Kids don’t need one more toy…one more TV show…one more activity…nor one more minute on an electronic device.

They need more time with US!

They are craving it.¬† They will do anything to get it…including whining, fighting, bickering, moaning, groaning, complaining, fit-throwing, etc.¬† Even laziness, disrespectfulness, disobedience…you name it! In fact, most misbehavior can somehow be linked to the desire for our attention.

The truth is that if we give our kids more attention in positive ways, they won’t try to get our attention in negative ways.¬† Here are positive ways to intentionally connect and build a close, positive relationship with our kids (thank you for our board members for helping with this list)…

  • Each day (or as much as you can), ask them: “What do you want to do for our (Take-10 Time, Special Time, Our Time, etc.)?” Then do it for 10 minutes. For older kids, each time, take turns doing something they like and then having them do something that you like.
  • Leave a note that says “You’re awesome because‚Ķ” on their pillow, on the bathroom mirror, at the breakfast or dinner table, etc.
  • Each month, do something special with them on the day of the month they were born.¬† (Do something special with your spouse on the day of your anniversary!) You could let them pick the dinner for that night, stay up later for one-on-one time like a movie or game night.
  • Find a book that has a movie to go with it. Read the book together. Then, watch the movie together. (Charlotte’s Web, Benji, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, Wonder, A Dog’s Purpose, etc.)
  • Make a special meal together.
  • Learn something new—play the guitar, learn a new language, learn how to draw cartoon characters, etc.
  • Rub their back at night while you do the same 4 bedtime questions
    • I always ask:
        • 1. What was your favorite part of your day?
        • 2. What was your least favorite part of your day?
        • 3. How did you show kindness/love/teamwork/integrity (choose any character trait you are working on) today?
        • 4. Do you have any questions or anything else you would like to share about your day?
  • Give them a high five.
  • Tell them what makes them unique and why you love that about them.
  • Do a puzzle.
  • Memorize Bible verses.
  • Look through photo albums or make a new photo album.
  • Dig through the attic or basement relics.
  • Get outside and enjoy some fresh air and sunshine. (Vitamin D is so good for our mood!)
  • Try to recreate a science experiment you find/watch on YouTube or create one of your own.
  • Pop popcorn and watch a kids’ movie together.
  • Bake cookies.
  • Try a new fruit or vegetable. (Bonus–Eating healthy keeps our immune systems strong!)
  • Build or create something—sand castle, Legos, mud mountain, artwork, an invention, a rocket, a model airplane, a play-doh creation, etc.
  • Make a list of your top 10 things you love about them and share it with them at dinner time. (Have them do the same for you!)
  • Have a special notebook for writing back and forth with each child.
  • Go around the dinner table and share your high and low of the day.
  • Make a special breakfast on Saturday mornings.
  • Tell them a story about your favorite childhood memories at bedtime.
  • Read Bible stories together every night.
  • Snuggle and read a book side by side.
  • Do a house project–rearrange furniture, repaint a room, etc.
  • Color or paint a picture. You could even draw a silly picture of each other.
  • Learn how to sew on a button together.
  • Take turns telling jokes.
  • Play “Don’t laugh” where you tickle them and tell them not to laugh.
  • Tickle their “Grumpies” out.
  • Have an “I Love You the Most” Contest–where you take turns shouting “I love you the most.” “NO—I love YOU the most.”
  • Have a staring contest.
  • Play “Rock, Paper, Scissors”.
  • Leave little gifts at the breakfast table on Saturday mornings.
  • Make homemade slime.
  • Hug them every day and say “I love you” every day.

You can print this out as a checklist— 38 Ways to Connect with Our Kids

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine

27 Ways to Connect as a Family

The Connection Tool

Even though I don’t like the circumstances behind this social distancing, and I do not take how scary this virus is lightly, I do believe that God makes all things good. And the good I see already happening is that we are getting back to the basics…family time. Not always on the go, not frantically running around from activity to activity. Just taking time to breathe…to connect…and for some families…to reconnect.

I believe that we’ve all been sucked into this “rat race” of busyness and have been made to feel that this is how our lives should be. In a sense, over the years, our society has gotten into the habit of family-distancing. We’ve been running around pouring our energy into our work, into kids’ activities, and even into volunteer activities instead of pouring our energy into our families and into building close relationships with our spouse and with our kids.

So again, even though I do not like that something like this virus is the reason behind families being forced to spend time together, I do believe that God is going to bless this time for all of us…if we make the most of out it. I’m seeing families out on bike rides…I see families walking around our neighborhood together. And I think–“Yes, this is how things should be more often.”¬† Maybe this time can be spent not only reconnecting but also reprioritizing our time and learning to put more time into our families.

Together, let’s turn this social-distancing into family-connecting!

Here are a few ways (thank you to our board members who helped with this list) to put The Connection Tool to good use and connect as a family—

  • Have a family movie night and pizza night.
  • Create a new family recipe.
  • Design a Family Flag.
  • Come up with a new family motto.
  • Start a new tradition—the crazier, the better!
  • Play Board Games.
  • Build a fort and watch home videos.
  • Make a family photo album or scrapbook or picture video.
  • Make up a family rap, poem, song, or rhyme. Bonus points for coming up with hand gestures. Extra bonus points for performing it! Extra extra bonus points for posting it on Social Media!
  • Have a “Taste the Rainbow Night”—where you buy fruits and vegetables of every different color of the rainbow and try them together (healthy food = healthy bodies)
  • Pretend to travel to another country—make food, listen to music, learn some new words, and imagine you are there! (We recently went to “Jamaica” as a family)
  • Have a dance party and each make requests of your favorite dance songs.
  • Put on a family concert (with actual instruments or with pots and pans and other household items).
  • Make up a skit and perform it.
  • Take donations to your local food pantry.
  • Have a Nerf Gun fight (Please wear your safety goggles)
  • Go on a Weird Nature Walk where you try to find weird things.
  • Have a family devotional time.
  • Design a family t-shirt. Come up with a team name, logo, and motto. Bonus points–order shirts for the whole family!
  • Get a head start on yard work or plant a garden – start with seeds in a cup.
  • Take turns letting each family member be the “teacher” where everyone gets to teach something they enjoy doing.
  • Do a “Show and Tell” time where everyone gets a few minutes to share their favorite item in the house.
  • Make a list of how your family can make the world a better place.
  • Start a “Wall of Gratitude” where you write down everything that you are grateful for.
  • Have a pillow fight. (Have safety rules in place—no heads or necks).
  • Come up with a secret family handshake.
  • Do a big “I love you” family hug every day.

Here’s a print-out 27 WAYS TO CONNECT AS A FAMILY in case you want to use this as a checklist. ūüôā

Put on love which binds them together in perfect unity. Colossians 3:14

Here’s to building better families together–

Christine