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

December 5

The Power of Showing Up

Parents worry about the emotional health of their children. A lot. It is normal–kids have experienced greater levels of grief, anxiety and depression due to the global pandemic, resulting in behavior challenges among younger kids, and increased violence and bullying among adolescents. This global pandemic has significantly impacted the mental health of our kids.

While all feelings are valid, if parents stay in a state of constant worry, their own mental health can be impacted, as well as their relationship with their children. We need to acknowledge the source of our concern, identify why we are feeling this way, and then make a choice that will support us moving forward.

According to Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson, authors of the parenting book The Power of Showing Upone of the very best scientific predictors for how any child turns out—in terms of happiness, academic success, leadership skills, and meaningful relationships—is whether at least one adult in their life has consistently shown up for them.

Showing up means offering a quality of presence to our kids, putting away devices and distractions, and intentionally focusing on being aware of and available for our children. To make it practical, Siegel and Bryson have identified the Four S’s that children need to experience in order to be emotionally healthy and how parents can show up for them:

  • Safe: We can’t always insulate a child from injury or avoid doing something that leads to hurt feelings. But when we give a child a sense of safe harbor, she will be able to take the needed risks for growth and change.
  • Seen: Truly seeing a child means we pay attention to his emotions—both positive and negative—and strive to attune to what’s happening in his mind beneath his behavior.
  • Soothed: Soothing isn’t about providing a life of ease; it’s about teaching your child how to cope when life gets hard, and showing him that you’ll be there with him along the way. A soothed child knows that he’ll never have to suffer alone.
  • Secure: When a child knows she can count on you, time and again, to show up—when you reliably provide safety, focus on seeing her, and soothe her in times of need, she will trust in a feeling of secure attachment. And thrive!

To learn more, listen to this Authentic Parenting podcast interview with Dan Siegel or watch this video with Tina Payne Bryson.

November 21

Practicing Gratitude Every Day

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 14

Overparenting Can Backfire

Overparenting is on the rise. An increasing number of parents insulate their children from experiencing any distress and discomfort by catering, accommodating and excessively meeting their kids’ needs.

While it is healthy and natural to be attentive to our children, overparenting can backfire. Research shows that well-intended “accommodating” behaviors on the part of parents are linked to the development of anxiety in our kids.

When parents insulate their kids from any difficult experience, children don’t develop coping skills and they don’t learn how to deal with discomfort. This can lead to increased anxiety, and avoiding situations that may trigger healthy levels of stress.

With this increased level of anxiety in children, parents become fearful of its consequences in their kids’ development, becoming more protective and accommodating, which inadvertently contributes to the problem.

In this powerful article, Julie Lythcott-Haims explains how her own overparenting journey had negative consequences for her son and family. I hope you will read it and consider if you are overparenting your children and what to do about it.

November 7

A Different Way to Manage Time

I have been working long hours over the past few weeks, trying to finalize my recently published Spanish book, Pedagogía con corazón, which is a translation of Teaching with the HEART in Mind. I thought the second time around would be better, but it took a lot more work than I had anticipated, and my family has been dealing with the consequences.

Longer work days = less time with the children = feelings of guilt

Can you relate?

As much as I want to tell myself that this was just a “one time event,” the reality is that there is ALWAYS more work to do. My to-do-list is long and, if I am being completely honest, it’s impossible to accomplish everything with the time I have. Do I need to get better with my time management?

Author Oliver Bukerman says that many of us function under the assumption that IF we master time management, we’ll be able to do all the tasks and gain control over our lives. However, he argues that we don’t possess time!

His recommendation is to actively accept and embrace our limited time on Earth, so it is easier to make choices about how we spend our time, which should be driven by those things that matter most to us. This 19-min podcast interview with Oliver Bukerman on Life Kit really helped me to think differently about time and make courageous choices about letting some things go, so I can spend more time with my family.

We cannot do it all. And do it well.

October 31

Too Much Violence in Children’s Media

During the pandemic, children’s exposure to inappropriate media content skyrocketed. With parents working from home while supporting distance learning, children and youth were left to their own devices… literally. Now that (most) kids are back in school, this trend hasn’t stopped with children as young as six playing “Squid Game” during recess.

This is very concerning since graphically violent images in games and movies can contribute to aggressive behavior, desensitization to violence, nightmares, and fear of being harmed.

As children grow up, their brains and bodies crave stimulation, which violent media certainly provides. The combination makes kids, especially those with other risk factors (for example, difficult home environments or emotional challenges), particularly vulnerable to the desensitizing effects of media violence.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and other child advocates recommend that parents severely restrict kids’ access to violent media (check out the research here). If you are unsure what is considered appropriate based on children’s age, you can always consult Common Sense Media, which rates movies and games.

October 24

Family Dinner = Stronger Family Connection

Growing up in Spain, family meals were a very important part of my family’s culture and social routines. As a teenager, I could be out and about as long as I was home for dinner. If I wasn’t there, I would get in big trouble. If it was dinner time, everybody had to be together.

Now that I have two children, being together as a family during dinner time is also very important to me. It is the time when we check in with each other about the adventures, frustrations, successes and failures of the day. Everybody takes a turn to share.

My husband and I often acknowledge when we had a hard day or felt frustrated with a particular situation. It normalizes for kids that adults also have good and bad days, and it models that it is okay to share when things are difficult.

I was thinking about dinner time the other day when I came across this article by Dr. Laura Markham, which explains how dinner is one of the best predictors we have of how kids will do in adolescence.

Dr. Markham explains that “the more frequently kids eat dinner with their families, the better they do in school, and the less likely they are to get involved with drugs or alcohol, suffer depression, consider suicide, or become sexually active during high school.” That’s a lot of positive outcomes for just eating dinner together as a family!

And this doesn’t mean that you need to eat a home-cooked meal at 6 o’clock every night! It means that you routinely use dinner as a time to nurture a closer connection, check in with each other and strengthen the bonds in your family.

October 17

Avoiding Offensive Costumes

How have you been? With the arrival of autumn, days are getting shorter, temperatures begin to drop and often we notice our energy levels decreasing. You may feel less energized to exercise in the morning and more excited to cuddle under the blankets with your children! As the days become shorter, sleep and waking cycles may become disrupted. The lack of sunlight means your brain produces more of a hormone called melatonin, which makes you sleepy.

Autumn is also a time for one of children’s favorite celebration: Halloween. The 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.

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. Here are some resources to get educated on the topic.

October 3

Are You Too Permivise?

Parenting is like trying to stand up in a hammock and not spill your lemonade.

These are the words of my friend, emotional intelligence expert and president of Six Seconds, Dr. Anabel Jensen. I think she is right. As parents, we are pushed to develop our resilience, patience and negotiation skills on a regular basis. It’s hard work! And sometimes the lemonade does spill…

In our parenting, we all have certain tendencies–some parents may avoid conflict trying to keep the kids happy, while others may ensure that rules are followed at all times. Some parents organize their kids’ schedule to the second, while others prefer to let the kids organize their own time.

Based on the work of Diana Baumrind, a developmental psychologist, and Stanford researchers Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin, there are 4 different parenting styles:

  • Permissive
  • Authoritative
  • Neglectful
  • Authoritarian

Research has shown that one of these parenting styles is better suited to raise independent, self-reliant and socially competent kids. Can you guess which one it is?

If you picked authoritative, you are right!  Authoritative parents are nurturing, supportive and often in tune with their children’s needs. They guide their children through open and honest discussions to teach values and reasoning. Kids who have authoritative parents tend to be self-disciplined and can think for themselves.

Learn more about your own parenting style and how to grow your authoritative skills in this article.

September 26

Don’t Be your Children’s Referee

Soccer season just started! On Saturday morning, 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.

September 19

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

I moved to the US from Spain 15 years ago. I still remember the challenges of navigating a new social and cultural context as an English learner and newly arrived immigrant. It took me years to find my “voice” and become the person I wanted to be.

During challenging times, I occasionally met a person who spoke Spanish, a “Hispanic,” as it is known in the US. Those were moments of joy. Being able to use my mother tongue, and connect with someone who shared similar struggles, gave me hope and strength.

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.

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.

While it is important to celebrate the accomplishments of influential Hispanics such as US Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor or activist Cesar Chavez, 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?

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

September 12

Teaching how to Ask for Help

Do you know how to ask for help? And I don’t mean asking for help watering the plants or feeding the dog. I mean asking for help when you feel that you cannot do things on your own or before you reach exhaustion.

It is an honest question that might be difficult for adults to consider. Asking for help can be perceived as a sign of weakness or evidence that you don’t have your act together. If that’s your perception, you may hesitate to ask for help even when you could truly benefit from support.

This is a learnable skill that many adults haven’t perfected, and yet they expect children to ask for help when they are in trouble. As I often say, we cannot teach what we don’t practice. So, if you want children to be able to recognize when they need support or communicate what they need to a trusted person, you need to start with yourself.

Once you intentionally model how to ask for help, you can teach your children how to do it. In this short video (3 min), Lessons for SEL (a platform with many SEL resources) explains how to teach children to ask for help. Check it out and let me know what you think.

September 5 

Punishment vs. Restorative Practices

Children and youth make mistakes. Some are small, others quite big… While mistakes and poor choices are part of growing up (many things just need to be learned through experience), it may be difficult for parents to approach these situations from a place of understanding and compassion instead of punishment.

For many parents, punishment may be the only tool they know to address children’s wrongdoing. It is what they experienced growing up and now what they use with their own children.

While we need to hold our children accountable for their choices, and provide an appropriate consequence if needed, punishments don’t restore a relationship that has been damaged or improve trust between adults and children.

On the other hand, restorative practices—taking responsibility, making amends, and seeking forgiveness—are a positive alternative to strict punishments and blame. In this article, you can learn how to use restoration and forgiveness when kids do something wrong. I hope you find it helpful!

August 29

Back to School! And Mastering that Morning Routine

Did your children start school yet? My girls started school last week. And let me tell you… it was rough! Despite my best efforts to have a peaceful morning, things didn’t work out as planned. I very quickly realized how “rusty” everyone is (both children and adults) with the morning routine.

This transition from summer to school is a big one! Everyone is going to need additional practice (and grace) to go back to a positive and healthy rhythm. We can do it, but we’ll need a little extra effort from all parties involved.

In this article, you can get ideas for how to master your kids’ morning routine and eliminate or reduce the amount of stress in those early hours. I am working on “get yourself ready first.” What about you? What’s something easy and something hard on this list?

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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