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.

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.

Mental Health Resources for Parents

The global pandemic has impacted the mental health of children, youth and adults in significant ways. Parents are faced with the challenges of supporting their kids to develop in healthy ways, while paying attention to their own stress and overwhelm levels.

Weekly Parenting Tips

November 17

Gratitude is good for you

Over the past decade, research has demonstrated the incredible benefits of practicing gratitude, ranging from improved social connections to enhanced physical and psychological well-being. Increased happiness, greater life satisfaction, a bolstered immune system, and reduced anxiety and depression are just a few examples of how gratitude can significantly improve our lives.

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches in the US, families will gather to celebrate and express appreciation for one another. While Thanksgiving inherently embodies gratitude, fostering a culture of gratitude within your family can extend far beyond this holiday.

I encourage you to cultivate gratitude as a daily practice, not just reserved for special occasions. 

Here are some simple yet impactful ways to incorporate gratitude into your family’s routine:

  • Notice the Small Moments: Take the time to cherish the seemingly insignificant moments that bring you peace, joy, or love. Deliberately seek out things you can be grateful for in your daily lives.
  • Express Appreciation: Show gratitude towards others through meaningful gestures. It doesn’t always have to involve material things; acts of service or spending quality time with someone can be powerful ways to demonstrate your gratitude.
  • Self-Appreciation Matters: Encourage your children to recognize and appreciate their own strengths and uniqueness. Equally important, as parents, remember to extend this practice of self-appreciation to yourselves. Acknowledge your strengths and value as individuals within your family unit.

I am grateful to be part of this community, and I appreciate each one of you for your dedication to your children’s growth and well-being.

Wishing you and your family a joyous and gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

November 10

Celebrating Native American Heritage

Have you ever delved into the rich history of the land you call home?

In the San Francisco Peninsula, the Ramaytush (ra-MY-toosh) Ohlone lived in ten independent tribes for thousands of years. The Ramaytush Ohlone, a part of the broader Ohlone/Costanoan peoples in the San Francisco Bay area, numbered around 1500 individuals before the Spanish arrived in 1769.

While our children may encounter fragments of local history in school, it’s crucial for us, as parents, to join them in understanding and appreciating the depth of our community’s past. November provides a great time for this exploration.

November is National American Indian Heritage Month, offering us a dedicated time to delve into the history of our surroundings and honor the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans.

This month provides a unique chance for us to connect with our children, learning together and gaining insights into the history of the land where we live.

There are many ways to celebrate National American Indian Heritage Month with our children. Whether it’s delving into local history, exploring museums, or reading books about Native Americans, there’s always something new to discover about the indigenous people of our region.

Here are a few valuable resources:

November 3

A better pathway to discipline

All kids make poor choices at some point. It is part of growing up, even when we (parents) have a hard time understanding why they behave that way.

As parents, it’s crucial to remember that our children’s behavior is a form of communication. When our kids make poor choices or exhibit challenging behaviors, it’s often their way of expressing unmet needs or emotions they can’t yet articulate.

This can be a significant hurdle, as addressing these behaviors can be both frustrating and perplexing.

Traditional methods of discipline, such as punishment or taking away privileges, have often proven to be ineffective in the long run because they don’t address the cause of the behavior or create alternatives to poor choices.

However, there is an alternative approach known as restorative practices that focuses on empathy, understanding, and learning.

Restorative practices encourage open dialogue between parents and children, promoting responsibility, and accountability, and teaching valuable life lessons. It fosters a nurturing environment that empowers kids to make amends for their actions, learn from their mistakes, and build strong relationships with their families.

As a starter, you can use these questions when you have to address your children’s behaviors:

  • What happened?
  • Who was impacted?
  • What part can you take responsibility for?
  • How we/you will make things right?

Check out this great resource for more tips to bring restorative practices to your parenting.

October 27

Offensive Halloween costumes

Are your kids excited about Halloween?

My girls are absolutely thrilled about Halloween! They eagerly anticipate this holiday, spending weeks discussing and, in some cases, changing their minds about their costume choices at the last minute. This year, they’ve settled on the themes of angels and fortune tellers.

The Halloween tradition has a fascinating history. It originated from the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, during which people would light bonfires and don costumes to ward off ghosts. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints, incorporating some of the traditions of Samhain into what later became All Saints Day. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, which eventually evolved into Halloween. Over time, it has become a day filled with activities such as trick-or-treating, carving jack-o’-lanterns, festive gatherings, donning costumes, and indulging in treats.

It’s essential to ensure that Halloween costumes are fun and enjoyable for everyone while being sensitive to the potential to perpetuate stereotypes or reinforce hurtful ways of thinking about people. Some costumes can be outright racist or offensive. To avoid last-minute challenges, having a conversation with your children about their costume choices is crucial.

Here are some general rules to help 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 should be avoided unless it accurately represents your child’s ethnicity.
  • Never use blackface or any form of makeup that mocks or caricatures someone’s race or ethnicity.
  • If your child wants to dress up as a historical figure, consider what this figure represents and the historical context. Ensure that the figure portrays positive human values.
  • Avoid costumes related to COVID-19, as it has been a challenging time for many people, and humor related to the pandemic can be hurtful.
  • Avoid costumes that represent mental illnesses, unhoused individuals, or any form of animal cruelty.

If your children have chosen costumes that can be hurtful or offensive, it’s an important opportunity to have a conversation with them about why certain choices might be problematic. This discussion can serve as a valuable teaching moment to instill important values within your family.

Have a spooky Halloween!

October 20

Talking with kids about war

I have felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of the war in Israel and Gaza and, at times, unable to discuss these events with my kids. Maybe that has been the case for you too.

Even when we try to protect children from the news, they generally end up knowing about tragic events and humanitarian crises. Kids hear adults talking about the news, see it on TV, or hear it from friends at school.

I know it is difficult to have these conversations about war and violence. However, it is better to discuss scary events at home than to let children process them on their own.

These discussions can help kids better understand global events, foster empathy, and encourage critical thinking. Our children may have questions or concerns, and by initiating the conversation, we can provide a safe space for them to process complex topics and instill values of care and compassion towards other human beings.

For me, it has been helpful to process my own emotions first, so I am ready to answer questions and hold space for their own feelings.

In this article from the Greater Good Science Center, you will find additional tips for how to talk to children about war and difficult events in the news.

May we build a more peaceful world for all children.

October 6

Does my child feel lonely?

Last May, the US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released a new Surgeon General Advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country.

According to this report, loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. They contribute to physical health problems, such as the risk of heart disease, strokes, and dementia, and mental health challenges, such as depression and anxiety.

As parents, we know how important it is for our children to have opportunities for social connections in and outside of school. In this case, however, we want to pay attention not only to how frequently our kids interact with other children and adults but also to the quality of those relationships and interactions. 

In addition, social media experts are concerned that children are growing up with more anxiety and lower self-esteem because of social media and texting.

Many youth friendships are conducted online and through text, in a context that lacks body language and facial expressions and where you cannot see or feel how your words impact others. Many teens feel bad about themselves when they see others online looking “perfect,” negatively impacting their self-image and sense of worth.

While this is a complex topic with many layers, these are some things that you can do to raise children who feel connected:

  • Check-in time: Make sure you check in regularly with your kids to discuss their day, including their experiences with friends both online and offline. This routine provides a dedicated space for communication and helps you stay connected to their social world.
  • Open conversations about friends: Encourage open discussions about their friends, both online and in person. While they may not want to share many details, it is important for parents to show genuine interest in their social interactions.
  • Promote offline socialization: Actively support and participate in your kids’ offline social activities, such as playdates or outings with friends. This involvement allows you to observe and, when needed, guide their social interactions in a positive way.
  • Digital literacy: Establish clear guidelines about the use of screens and social media, and support your child to understand and navigate the digital world. Be open about the positive and negative aspects of social media.

September 29

Will you play with me?

The other day, my 8-year-old daughter walked into my office, her eyes welling up with tears. Eager to play, she had approached her older sister, only to find her buried in homework.

“She is never going to play with me again… she is always doing homework now! Will you play with me, mama?”

In the midst of preparing for a presentation and with a looming grocery run on my to-do list, the usual response would have been a regrettable no. However, at that moment, I sensed its significance.

I chose to say yes, setting aside time for an impromptu game of hide-and-seek in the backyard. The joy that lit up my daughter’s face afterward made me realize the value of those unplanned moments.

“Mama, that was SO much fun. We should do it again soon,” she exclaimed, and I couldn’t help but agree. Though my work lingered unfinished, the experience was a poignant reminder of the importance of investing quality time to connect and play with our kids.

As we navigate the week ahead, I invite you to observe those short-lived instances with your children. Are there moments when you can choose to say “yes” and connect with them in meaningful ways? These small moments may be more impactful than we realize.

September 22

Language is culture

During this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, I am reflecting on the importance of teaching children our families’ traditions, language, and ways of being.

As you may recall, I grew up speaking two languages and am raising bilingual children. It is hard work, but bilingualism has many cognitive, social, and emotional benefits for my kids, so I persevere.

But language is not only important as a way to communicate and connect with others. Language is also culture–it impacts how we perceive the world, influences our values, and is a lens into people’s behavior.

Sadly, many bilingual and multilingual students (particularly our Indigenous, Asian, Hispanic, and Latinx children) attend schools that don’t consider these students’ language practices in the educational program, which leads to students internalizing harmful messages about themselves.

Sometimes parents avoid speaking their home language outside the house for fear of being ridiculed, singled out, or plainly rejected in social environments. For example, 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 week, I am resharing an article that I wrote for Confident Parents Confident Kids last year, where I describe my experience growing up bilingual and raising bilingual kids. You can read it here:

Raising Bilingual Children

Let me know what you think! I always love to hear from you.

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

September 15

How to support our adolescents

Do you remember being 12, 14 or 16 years old?

Things were going well for me until I turned 13, then the fights with my mama increased significantly.

I wanted my independence, was quick to talk back, and was not willing to share details about my outings. My mama and I couldn’t agree on an appropriate curfew time, so our arguments would go on and on until everybody was very upset.

Looking back, I feel bad about my behavior and, at the same time, I recognize that it was developmentally appropriate! I was pushing boundaries and she was resisting. Needless to say, it was a difficult time for both of us.

This week, I attended a keynote given by Dr. Andrew Fuligni, Co-Executive Director at the UCLA Center for the Developing Adolescent. His talk was very informative, and a good reminder of how much the teenage brain grows and develops during the adolescent years.

One key takeaway from Dr. Fuligni’s talk was the importance of parents’ and caregivers’ support and the cultivation of positive relationships through adolescence.

This can be challenging as our teenagers increase risk-taking behaviors and claim their space and identity. However, continuing to be there for them and having a door open for communication at all times can have positive effects on their development. Thank you, mama!

Even when they reject it,  this is actually a time when our adolescents need our warmth and support the most. So don’t give up! Keep showing up for them, keep asking them how they are doing, find activities that you can do together, and do not hold your love back!

If you want to learn more about the latest research, check out these key concepts about adolescent development  AND play this game of adolescent discovery to take on the role of a young person.

Happy Rosh Hashanah to all who celebrate!

September 8

Sleep is health

My girls are very different in the morning. One wakes up refreshed and ready to go, and the other one likes to sleep in and needs a few minutes to become awake and alert.

In both cases, if they go to bed too late due to back-to-school events, homework that wasn’t finished, late dinners, or because they were messing around, I know that we will have very cranky kids the following day. For ages 6 through 13, children need between 9 and 11 hours of sleep.

If you have teenagers in the house, this is a real issue! For ages 14 through 17, they will need between 8 and 10 hours of sleep. And I know getting them out of bed can be a struggle and a source of tension and stress for many families.

Although it is hard to protect our kids’ sleep given late afterschool activities, homework, and early school starts, sleep is a crucial biological function.

Getting enough sleep is essential for kids’ overall well-being and development. Sleep plays a vital role in their physical, mental, and emotional growth. It helps their bodies recover and repair, strengthens their immune system, and enhances cognitive functions such as memory and learning.

A good night’s sleep also contributes to better mood regulation and emotional stability. So, prioritizing a consistent sleep schedule for your children is essential for their well-being and the happiness of their parents 🙂

According to the Mayo Clinic, better sleep is possible! So, if you are struggling with this area, check out this article for guidelines on the recommended hours of sleep and how to set up healthy sleep habits.

August 28

How to create your own robust habits

As a parent and caregiver, one of the hardest things during this back-to-school season is making sure that you are building healthy routines for yourself.

We tend to focus on our kids–setting up their morning routines, preparing healthy lunches, supporting homework time, and coordinating after-school activities.

However, many parents forget to pay attention to their own healthy routines for this time of year.

If you were working out first thing in the morning during the summer, will you be able to fit it in before morning drop-off? Or will you need to get up an hour earlier to make it happen? Those lazy weekends won’t be possible if kids have games, so how will you build time to rest and relax?

It is important to take these first few weeks to (re)calibrate our own healthy routines and habits, so we can enter fall with sustained energy and motivation for a great school year!

Here are three key insights from Atomic Habits by James Clear that parents can apply to their own lives:

  • Tiny Changes, Big Impact: Just as you want your kids to develop good habits, focus on making small positive changes in your routine. Over time, these minor shifts can lead to significant improvements in your well-being and daily productivity.
  • Design Your Environment: Shape your surroundings to align with your wellness goals. If you want to exercise more, set up a workout space at home or choose the stairs instead of the elevator. Creating an environment that supports your desired habits makes it easier to stick with them.
  • Embrace Progress Over Perfection: Give yourself credit for every step forward, regardless of how small. Celebrating your progress—no matter how gradual—helps you maintain a positive outlook.

Remember, creating your own healthy habits is the pathway to a more balanced parenting journey. You’ve got this!

And If you are committed to growing your social and emotional capacity this fall, join me and other parents to grow HEART skills. We intentionally explore and practice SEL strategies to support ourselves in increasing awareness and developing purpose. Join us!

August 20

Back-to-School Season Is Here!

It is hard to believe, but school is back in session! My children started school this week, and there’s a part of me that does not want to let go of summer.

What about you? Are you feeling ready for the new school year?

The start of school can trigger a wide range of emotions in children and parents.

While many kids and their caregivers welcome this transition with enthusiasm and eagerness, others may feel anxious about starting school again.

In many cases, this anxiety will go away as children settle into the new routines and expectations. It is not an easy transition, so don’t expect things to go smoothly on day one! Children generally need additional support and reminders to get off to a good start.

Here’s a great resource from the Child Mind Institute that can help you with this process if your children (or you) feel anxious!

If you want to support yourself this fall, check out my course for adults, Growing Your HEART Skills. It is an online program to help you grow your social and emotional capacity. Take a look and let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to support your growth!

Resources to Talk with Children about Racism and Injustice

Resources for Adults Looking to Develop their Cultural Competence

Mental Health Resources for Parents

According to a recent Pew Research Center surveymental health concerns top the list of worries for parents:

Four-in-ten parents with children younger than 18 say they are extremely or very worried that their children might struggle with anxiety or depression at some point.

This is not surprising given what we know today about the long term impact of the pandemic on our kids.

Resources to support the mental health of children:

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