Parenting with the HEART in Mind

Parenting tips and resources to grow the social and emotional capacity of your children and family.

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Weekly Parenting Tips

Parents need tools to develop their own resilience and confidence, as well as support their kids in growing their social and emotional skills. In Lorea’s weekly newsletter, you will find curated resources and tools for your parenting toolbox.

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Talk with Children about Racism and Injustice

In order to dismantle racism, we need to raise anti-racist children. This requires having difficult, yet important conversations about race, social justice and equity. Check out these resources to get you started.

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Coronavirus Resources for Parents

The global pandemic has impacted families in significant ways. Parents are faced with the challenges of supporting their children at home, carrying their own job responsibilities, and maintaining a sense of harmony in their homes.

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Weekly Parenting Tips

January 22

Are You Giving Your Kids Enough or Too Much Vitamin N?

A good friend, who had been an educator and school principal for many years, once told me:

“Children need Vitamin N.”

I looked at him puzzled and he explained, “You know… they need to be told ‘no’, so they can learn the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong.”

This is a lesson that I haven’t forgotten, and one that I revisit and question as new things come up in my parenting.

However, I have noticed that many parents in my community are afraid to say “no” to their children. Maybe they are concerned about hurting their feelings, making them upset or losing their love.

So, is it possible to set up healthy limits while being respectful of our kids’ perspectives?

In her positive parenting approach, Dr. Laura Markham recommends setting limits, but doing it with empathy. That is to say, we can enforce rules and behavior expectations while acknowledging our kids’ perspectives and desires.

To learn more about positive parenting, check out this article. The call for vitamin N is number 4 🙂

January 15

What Are You Doing for Others?

How was your week?

We’ve had a LOT of rain in California over the last few weeks. Many families and small businesses in our community are struggling with flooded houses and muddy floors. In other areas, schools have closed their doors due to fallen trees, flooding and unsafe conditions. My heart goes out to all affected by this weather.

On Monday, we celebrate and honor the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. He once said:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: ‘What are you doing for others?'” 

Even under difficult circumstances, this is a question worth considering as parents and with our children. What would happen if this was a question that we asked in our families everyday?

I image we would raise a generation full of empathic and compassionate individuals, committed to build a more just and equitable future.

As parents, we can model for our children what it means to live a life with purpose, where we can be of service to others. With the recent storms, our favorite taquería in town got flooded. My husband and my oldest child went there to help clean up the restaurant. The owner thought they were there to eat, and was shocked when they told him that they were there to help.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting started.

This weekend, find an activity that you can do with your kids to help others. Here are some ideas:

  • Volunteer at a local organization.
  • Put together hygiene kits for the homeless.
  • Donate non-perishable foods to your local food bank.
  • Remove litter in your neighborhood.

There are many ways for families to contribute to their communities in significant ways. Find something that works for your family today and into the future.

December 18

Can the Holidays Be Stress-Free?

Growing up in Spain, celebrating la Navidad was a big deal. The expectations for how the table was set up, which food items were served and how people got along were very high.

While everybody tried their best, there were always high levels of stress which made people exhausted and cranky by the time they sat down to eat dinner on Christmas’ Eve.

When I started my own family, I made a decision that I didn’t want to put so much pressure on myself or my family to have the “perfect” holiday celebration. It is not easy, and sometimes I still get caught up on how things should be or look.

I know that I am not the only one.

Many parents struggle to create or keep meaningful traditions, while enjoying themselves. The holidays are supposed to be a time of family celebrations, however having certain expectations can really harm our ability to be present and focus on what really matters.

This week, I would like to offer you these three tips to reduce stress during the holidays:

  • Check your expectations. Are they reasonable, for yourself? What about for your family? While you may be tempted to think “we always do it this way…”, sometimes it is just not possible and we need to practice our flexibility.
  • Prioritize things that bring you and your family joy. This may mean saying “no” to certain invitations, skipping certain activities or taking a nap (adults included!).
  • Stay present and practice small moments of gratitude. Even when things are difficult, we can pause to appreciate each other and the positive things in our lives.

Wishing you and your families a peaceful holiday season, and a joyful and healthy New Year.

I’ll be back in 2023 with more tips for parenting with the HEART in mind.

December 11

Helping Kids Understand Marketing Tricks

How many times have you bought something just because it showed up on your Facebook feed or a Youtube video? I have done it a few times…

With the holidays around the corner, companies are increasing their marketing efforts, trying to get you to click on their “holiday sale” or purchase the latest gadget that you really “cannot live without.”

Effective advertisement = increased sales.

This also exists in the media that our children consume. Advertising has evolved far beyond traditional TV commercials. Nowadays, advertisements are “embedded within content in ways that are hard to see, and they’re also more uniquely targeted to kids.” says Michael Robb, senior director of research at Common Sense Media.

Since our children consume so much digital content, they are more exposed to ads than ever before, making them vulnerable to selling tactics. Our children may not know the difference between a commercial and media content, so we need to help them identify the difference and start thinking critically about the intent behind those advertisements.

This is a good time to have a conversation with your children about what they’re seeing, discussing the marketing techniques used in each commercial and the intent behind it. You can also talk about media influencers and how they may impact their desire to purchase goods.

For more tips and examples, check out this article from National Geographic.

December 4

Is That Your Best Effort?

Do your kids play any musical instruments? One of my children has started playing the flute with her school’s band and let me tell you, it has led us to have very insightful conversations about effort and what to do when something is hard to learn.

Being the first time she was learning to play an instrument, the first few days were very frustrating, with strong feelings of anger, overwhelm and a bit of blaming-the-parent-for-telling-me-to-join-the-band.

She quickly learned that playing the flute was difficult and was not happy with the amount of “effort” it would take to learn it.

Even though the band teacher had told them “you need to practice EVERY day”, she didn’t do it. When she picked up her flute the evening before band class, she realized that she couldn’t play the songs the teacher had assigned and didn’t have enough time to learn them. It was a hard evening!

When kids realize that something is difficult, they may want to quit and give up. While it is understandable and it happens to adults too, we know how important it is for our children to stick with something that doesn’t come easy, especially something that requires practice and doesn’t have an immediate reward. This is how kids develop grit and resilience, right?

However, sometimes children don’t know what to do when we tell them “give your best effort.” The trick here is to support the child to understand and experience what “effort” means for that particular situation and/or skill.

In my case, I helped my child by working with her to create an afternoon schedule that includes flute practice most days. For her, effort means that she needs to give up other activities, in order to dedicate the time that it takes to learn something new. In other situations, effort may mean focus and concentration, or doing the same thing over and over again until you master it.

As parents, we can develop our kids’ grit and resilience by supporting them in understanding what effort looks and feels like, and by helping them create the conditions that make their best work possible. 

November 20

Gratitude

Over the past decade, research has shown that practicing gratitude has great social, physical and psychological benefits; increased happiness and life satisfaction, stronger immune systems or reduced anxiety and depression are just a few examples of how practicing gratitude can improve our lives.

In other words, we can feel happier, be healthier and stay more connected to others by making gratitude part of our lives. 

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the US, many families will get together to celebrate and show appreciation for each other. While gratitude is built into the Thanksgiving holiday, you can practice gratitude with your family every day!

  • Pay attention to the small moments and experiences that bring you peace, joy or love. That means intentionally looking for things that you can be grateful for.
  • Appreciate others by doing something that shows you are thankful. It doesn’t need to be material things, acts of service or spending time with someone may be a way to show your gratitude.
  • Show yourself some gratitude. Recognizing your strengths and appreciating who you are as an individual is an important part of living with gratitude.

Wishing you all a restful and peaceful Thanksgiving holiday.

I am grateful to be in community with you all.

November 6

National American Indian Heritage Month

Do you know the history of the land where you live?

I recently learned that the Ramaytush (ra-MY-toosh) Ohlone lived in ten independent tribes on the San Francisco Peninsula for thousands of years. The title Ramaytush Ohlone recognizes the Ramaytush as a part of a larger group of the Ohlone/Costanoan peoples who lived in the area of the San Francisco Bay south to Monterey. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1769, the Ramaytush Ohlone numbered approximately 1500 persons.

While children may learn some of the history of their town or county in school, it is important that parents learn along with them and have a good understanding of the local history. And November is a great time to do it!

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, a great time to learn about the history of the land where we live, and pay tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.

There are many ways to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month with our children. From learning about the local history, visiting history museums to reading books about Native Americans, there is always something new that we can learn with our kids about this land and its indigenous people.

Here are a few resources:

October 30

Discipline and Preteens

One of the hardest things about parenting is having to change our parenting tricks as kids grow older.

There are certain things like timeouts or consequences that may not work during the preteen years.

Younger children tend to respect their parents; however, when kids become preteens, parents realize that they need to start earning their kids’ respect, otherwise there is NO cooperation.

Parents quickly become aware that the things they used to do to control or set up boundaries with their kids no longer work.

If that’s you, you may be wondering… what now??

One of the most important things is nurturing a positive relationship with our children, where we can be firm with family non-negotiables or behavior expectations, but can also be flexible and kind, and have a healthy dose of patience!

For more ideas on how to develop a positive discipline with your preteen, check out this great article from Aha Parenting.

Have a spooky Halloween!

October 23

Why Does My Child Whine so Much?

Do your children whine?

Mine do… especially when they have to clean up their bedroom. Everything seems to be great until I ask them to clean up. Then, they behave as if the world was coming to an end.

We have a “talk” about the state of their bedroom several times a week. It is exhausting and quite upsetting, since I feel that my standards are WAY lower than my mom’s when I was a child.

Are my children particularly messy?

I felt in lack this week, when my friend and colleague Jennifer Miller from Confident Parents, Confident Kids published a post on how to transform whining into positive connections.

In reading it, I realized that when I talk to the kids about their bedroom, I am already experiencing big feelings, which is not a great place to build connection, right?

This weekend, I am going to work on communicating my expectations from a place of calm, and also on breaking down the cleaning into smaller tasks.

What about you? What can you take from Jennifer’s suggestions to decrease whining and increase positive connection in your family?

October 16

Is That Costume Offensive?

Are your kids excited about Halloween?

My girls love this holiday and spend weeks talking about their costumes, and changing their minds at the last minute! This year the themes are soccer and Harry Potter.

The Halloween tradition originated with the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, when people would light bonfires and wear costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints. Soon, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween. Over time, Halloween evolved into a day of activities like trick-or-treating, carving jack-o-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes and eating treats.

While Halloween costumes are designed for fun, some costumes still perpetuate stereotypes or reinforce limited and/or hurtful ways of thinking about people. Some are plain racist. To avoid last minute challenges, make sure you have a conversation with your children about their costumes.

These are some general rules to avoid offensive costumes:

  • Avoid costumes that can be associated with an ethnicity, race or culture that is not your own. For example, dressing up as a Mexican, Chinese or Native American, unless this is your own ethnicity.
  • No blackface.
  • If your child wants to dress up as a historical figure, consider what this figure represents and the historical context. Did they portray positive human values?
  • Avoid costumes related to COVID-19, since it has been a very painful time for many people.
  • Avoid costumes representing mental illnesses, unhoused individuals or any kind of animal cruelty.

If they have chosen something that can be hurtful or offensive, have a conversation with your children about why and support them to choose a different costume. These can be important moments to teach your family values!

Here are some additional resources to get educated on the topic

October 9

Don’t Become Your Children’s Referee!

Soccer season is in full swing! Every weekend, you will find me watching games and cheering for my girls’ teams. When the rules aren’t followed, the referee steps in to ensure a smooth running of the game. The referee is the final decision maker about the play and the one that enforces the rules.

You may be wondering, what does soccer have to do with parenting? A lot! 

Let me illustrate. 

When children fight with their siblings, many parents step in as a referee–they take a side to enforce rules: “Your brother is right. You cannot take his magnet tiles without permission.” They may continue by saying: “Apologize to your brother and say you won’t do it again.” The kids go back to playing, and five minutes later you need to intervene again. This time they are punching each other and you need to take out your red card.

Does this situation sound familiar?

The challenge with this scenario is that when parents fix the situation or intervene taking sides, the kids don’t learn how to solve conflicts or disagreements on their own. If we don’t teach children the skills they need in order to navigate sibling relationships, we will get stuck being the referee of their relationship. It’s no fun and actually counterproductive in the long term.

A better alternative is to use a mediation approach. That is, helping kids to come up with their own solutions and supporting them to follow through on those agreements. Although this is not an easy task, or something that will happen right away, it is worth the effort.

Check out this article to learn how to do it.

October 2

Raising Bilingual Children

Last week, I shared with you that 23% of Latino Spanish speakers said they had been criticized for speaking Spanish in public, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2021.

This data is disheartening considering that there are more than 62 million Hispanics living in the U.S., and the fact that Spanish is the world’s second largest mother tongue and the third most widely used language on the internet.

Also, this really hits home, because I grew up speaking two languages, and I am raising bilingual children. It is hard work, but bilingualism has many cognitive, social and emotional benefits for my kids, so I persevere. 

This week, I am excited to share this article that I wrote for Confident Parents Confident Kids, where I share my experience growing up bilingual and raising bilingual kids. You can read it here:

Raising Bilingual Children

Gratitude to Jennifer Miller, author and founder of Confident Parents Confident Kids, for making space for this important topic during Hispanic Heritage Month.

September 25

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

As we enter Hispanic Heritage Month–a time to recognize and celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Hispanics in the United States–I am reminded of the experiences of discrimination that many still face.

According to a Pew Research Center survey conducted in 2021, 23% of Latino Spanish speakers said they had been criticized for speaking Spanish in public, and 20% of all Latinos said they were called offensive names in the last 12 months.

There are more than 62 million Hispanics living in the U.S. They trace their heritage to countries in Latin America and Spain, and have varied demographic and economic backgrounds.

Hispanics are often perceived as a homogeneous group, when in fact there is great racial and cultural diversity within this group. “Hispanic” heritage includes a diverse range of cultures, nationalities, histories and identities. Although the term has been used to influence positive change, many stories have also been erased. If you want to learn more about when the term Hispanic started to be used in the US, check out this great article.

About half (48%) say discrimination based on race or skin color is a very big problem in the U.S.

While it is important to celebrate the accomplishments of influential Hispanics such as US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or activist Cesar Chavez during Hispanic Heritage Month, it is also necessary that parents intentionally build connections with those who live in their own communities. 

You can involve children in this process by asking them to interview and/or write a short story about Hispanic individuals in the community. How do they celebrate? What are their hopes and dreams? What can your family learn from their traditions, language and values? And how can you help eliminate the discrimination they experience?

By taking the time to know more about Hispanics in our community, we are increasing our racial awareness, reducing our implicit biases, and modeling for our children how to nurture bonds with others.

By acting to eliminate discrimination, we are showing our children that it is possible to build a more just world.

September 18

Do you want to be a better parent?

Do your kids play sports?

My girls both play soccer, which means I spend a lot of time watching soccer games during the weekend, and sometimes I observe interesting behaviors that provide good material for this newsletter.

Last weekend, I overheard a parent yell to their child in the middle of a soccer game:

Try harder! You can do better than that.

My eyes went straight to the child. Would these words motivate her or bring her down? When the parent finished saying these words, the 7-year old put her head down, and started moving slowly towards the ball. She looked defeated.

As parents, we all want our children to improve themselves and use the skills we know they have.

However, when we approach our kids with accusation (try harder) or judgment (you can do better than that), the outcome may be quite the opposite of what we intended. I assume this parent really wanted to encourage their child, but that was not the impact these words had on the kid.

What could we say instead?

Dr. Brooks says that empathic communication with our children can help us be supportive and encouraging parents.

In this article, he suggests considering the following three questions:

  • “In anything I say to my child, what do I hope to accomplish?”
  • “Would I want anyone to say to me what I have just said to my child?”
  • “Am I saying or doing things in ways in which my child will be most likely to hear what I have to say, not become defensive, and be willing to cooperate with me?”

I find the second one particularly helpful to check myself before I say something hurtful to my children.

I hope these questions will help you too, so you can apply more empathy and curiosity when you communicate with your kids in everyday situations.

September 11

Good Kids Can Be Mean

There is a big difference between bullying and being mean.

Bullying is repeated, aggressive behavior towards another person that involves a real or perceived power imbalance. Kids who bully tend to use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. There are three types of bullying: verbal (teasing, name-calling), physical (pushing, spitting, hitting) and social (embarrassing someone in public, spreading rumors). For more information, check out StopBullying.gov.

Bullying can have long-lasting negative consequences for those who bully and those who are the victims of bullying; this is why schools and parents work hard to eliminate bullying when it happens.

However, there are similar behaviors that although may not be considered bullying, can be very mean. Experiences such as being excluded from a game, being the source of gossiping or being avoided by peers can be very difficult for children and are common in childhood.

Even in supportive school communities and caring families, kids can be, intentionally or not, mean to each other.

As parents, we can teach our kids alternative behaviors if they are the ones being mean or help them navigate a difficult situation if they are the receivers of meanness. In this episode of Dear Highlights,  parenting educator Jennifer Millers explains how to support our children to be kind and effective advocates for themselves.

September 4

Emotional Literacy

Being able to name our emotions is an important skill. When children (and adults) can put a name to what they feel, they are better equipped to make good choices.

However, is annoyed the same as frustrated? Happy as content?

Many children can name emotions such as happy, sad or mad, but miss the subtle gradations in emotions because they don’t have the words to describe them. You may know an adult or two who also have a hard time naming their feelings…

Accurately naming emotions helps children to be clear about what is happening inside, so they can manage themselves in positive ways. According to neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, it is important that we help children distinguish between their different emotions and name them with precision. This is what she calls “emotional granularity.”

Barrett’s research showed that people who could distinguish finely among their unpleasant feelings were 30 percent more flexible when regulating their emotions, less likely to drink excessively when stressed, and less likely to retaliate aggressively against someone who had hurt them.

You can learn more about emotional granularity in her book, How Emotions Are Made.

And if you know an adult or two who need help with this, share with them my new online course Growing Your HEART Skills!

August 28

SEL and Parenting

This week, my friend and SEL parenting expert, Jennifer Miller, celebrated the 10th year anniversary of her well-known blog and parenting book, Confident Parents Confident Kids. You may recognize her name because I often share her insightful and practical articles in this newsletter!

This week, she invited me to celebrate this big milestone with her and a group of parents, who are also SEL experts.

We talked about what we have learned in our parenting journeys, how the pandemic changed us and what are currently working on in our parenting. You can watch the recording here.

And if you are inspired, let me know what you are working on in your parenting. It will help me curate additional resources to support your journey.

August 21

Ready for School?

Are you ready for the new school year?

For many children and parents, the start of the new school year is welcomed with enthusiasm and eagerness. However, it can also make children (and parents) anxious about starting school again.

While in many cases, this anxiety will go away as children settle into the new routines and expectations, there are things that you can do to support your child get off to a good start.

Here’s a great resource from the Child Mind Institute that can help you with this process!

And if you are looking to support yourself this fall, check out my new online course, Growing Your HEART Skills. I’d love to support your growth!

July 3

It’s Here! The HEART of Parenting

I have been away from home this week, teaching a course on Emotional Intelligence to aspiring principals at SPA, an intensive leadership program from Columbia University Teachers College.

Two times this week, my daughters called me crying because they missed me. It was very difficult to see them through the screen, tears flowing down their faces because Mama was not home.

If you are a working mom or dad, you know the emotions that come with this situation: guilt, sadness, sometimes even shame for being the cause of your own kids’ pain.

I had to sit with these feelings and honor their message: sadness helped me to focus on how important their love is, and guilt helped me to acknowledge my responsibility in the situation.

As parents, it is not easy to sit with our emotions, especially when we have caused pain to our kids. And yet, when we are able to do this work and cultivate our emotional agility, we are better equipped to teach and model it for our kids. 

So, how can we grow our social and emotional capacity to become more effective and compassionate parents? I’m SO excited to share that my new online course is finally ready!

Introducing…

Growing Your HEART Skills

Growing Your HEART Skills is a 7-module online course that will teach you the HEART in Mind Model and help you develop your social and emotional capacity so that you can become a more effective parent and live your entire life with more compassion, empathy, and peace.

As part of Growing Your HEART Skills, you’ll receive:

  • 7 Learning Modules that will teach you the five HEART skills step-by-step
  • 14 tools to help you dig deeper into what you’re learning in the course and implement it into your work and life, including a pre and post assessment of HEART skills

How does that sound?

While this course was created with educators in mind, HEART skills are as needed and relevant in the life of a parent. So, check it out! You can learn all about my new course and get started today by clicking on this link.

And since you are on my VIP list and I can’t wait for you to experience this course, I have a special offer for you! The first 20 people that sign up for my Course + Community will receive a FREE group coaching call with me. So don’t delay, and sign up today! I would love to see your name on that list.

Looking forward to supporting you in your HEART journey!

Resources to Talk with Children about Racism and Injustice

Resources for Adults Looking to Develop their Cultural Competence

Coronavirus Resources for Parents

The spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, continues to impact the lives of many families across the globe. While many schools are back to in-person learning, there are many reasons that make the 2021-22 school year very difficult. Here are a few resources to support parents as they navigate the challenges of this ongoing pandemic. And if you need any support, please send me a note. I am here for you.

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