Category: Summer

Add Presence to Your Summer!

I’m glad summer is here. I like summer. I like the freedom that comes with summer. BUT summer can be a very busy time. Sometimes the pace outstrips my ability to keep up.

For me the pace began to pick up in March as I worked on my garden. It was so rainy that I worried I might not have a garden this year but it’s coming along nicely now.

My poor patio garden really took a beating last year and through the winter with the free range chickens. Then totally covered over early spring until the chicken run was done and they were contained. I feel as if it’s a gift from God especially for me every time I look at it. There is no way that we could have this little piece of heaven after the chickens. But here it is and it’s so beautiful.

Putting up the pergola came next and since my husband has physical limitations I learned that I can do some pretty difficult things. Very cool!

I spent almost two weeks in Seattle with my youngest daughter’s family. New babies are so wonderful! I helped them landscape the front yard. Whew, that was a lot of work. They waited until I got there because they had this idea that I know a lot about plants, how they grow, how to design gardens, etc. Yikes! It was a real adventure at the greenhouse picking everything out. It was an even greater adventure designing and planting everything. However, it turned out great and we got some good together time in the bargain.

Don spent part of his time helping the kids create a fairy village in the crooks of the big tree by the front door. The kids LOVED that. I learned all about play dough and the wonderful things that kids can create. : ) Then we moved on to bubble snakes. We also built and exploded a volcano because Elliott like everything prehistoric.

This Friday I returned home after a three day service project at my sisters house. I and another sister and her husband were hanging sheet rock, mudding, and taping the basement. Whew, that is a lot of work and a lot of ladder time. They project that they may have it all done by the end of July and so I may have the opportunity to do another stint on the ladder.

I also made a big decision this spring, to spend the summer writing. So I sat down and set up a writing schedule because without a firm plan it wouldn’t happen right? Two days later I became ill for the first time in two years. Hmm, might be my bodies comment on the whole writing thing. : )

Then a week later my computer went down. That in itself wasn’t so bad but that is how I discovered that the backup system I have been paying for for two years wasn’t backing anything up. YIKES!!! Not the systems fault but mine. Didn’t know what I was doing. It was a miracle we were able to retrieve all the data from the dead computer. So grateful because many files are not replaceable and all my writing would have been lost.

Now the computer is in some faraway manufacturing site being repaired and I am working on a cobbled together computer system. I have been out of sorts over it and haven’t quite gotten my feet back under me so the writing has been going slow. Not to fear though because I am fairly resilient and Monday is a new week. Pressing forward.

Summer is a wonderful, as well as a challenging time. If you have kids added to the mix then it can be even more so. Despite the distractions and business of summer, make sure you spend some present time with your children. As each summer passes it can’t be reclaimed. So hang on to what you can of them and make some memories. You will treasurer them later. Happy Summer!

Screen Free for a Month! WHAT?

What if you went Screen-Free, as a family, for a WHOLE MONTH!! Do you think you could do it? Would your family go nuts? Would everyone crack up? Would the fighting increase? Yikes!! A whole month!!

One of the main tips I give to help families connect better and more often, is to manage technology better. Turn off your digital devices, ditch technology – just for a while. Have technology free moments every day. For example, you could have a TV, computer and no phone hour just before bed. When you’re willing to let go of technology for even short amounts of time you will be surprised at how much time you can open up for your family. Finding a few moments each day to turn technology off is a good idea.

A few years ago, I met a family that goes screen-free for a whole month, once a year. I got all the details from the mom, Courtney, and I want to share them with you because I think you will be so impressed that you might consider making this a tradition in your home.

So, what is screen-free you ask? No TV, no movies on TV, no computer time, no games on the phone or TV, no screens!

HOW TO MAKE GOING SCREEN-FREE WORK

Here is how the Smith family makes it work:
1. Prepare your kids ahead of time. This family goes screen free in June, every year. However, one year they didn’t begin talking about it early enough. They usually begin talking about it and making plans about a month in advance. So, for the sake of having a successful Screen-Free Month, they moved it to July that year.

2. Presentation is everything. That’s my phrase and you’ve probably heard me say it before, but it is what they do. They talk it up. They talk about all the great things they’re going to be able to do as a family, how much fun they’re going to have together, and the family reward at the end of the month.

3. Get everyone to buy in. As Courtney was telling me how they get their kids to cooperate I said, “Oh you get them to buy in.” She smiled and said, “Well I didn’t have a term for it but yup, that’s what we do.” They get their kids to buy in by allowing them to pick a reward they would like to have at the end of the month. It could be swimming, camping, eating out, going to the movie theater, visiting grandparents, a road trip, whatever the parents want to throw out there. When the kids pick it, plan it and talk about it – they are IN.

Here is their families one caveat concerning rewards – They don’t use screen time as the reward. They don’t want to reward ‘no screen’ time with ‘screen’ time. : )

4. Parent’s have to be honest! It isn’t the kids who struggle the most, it’s the parents. They really do have to commit. Courtney told me that the hard part for her is at lunch. She usually has lunch when the big kids are at school and her little one is taking a nap. She likes to read Facebook, watch a show, catch up on the news, whatever, as she eats lunch. It’s a challenge to read instead or call a friend.

It is also challenging for her and her husband in the evening when everyone is in bed. They usually veg out a bit in front of the TV, just the two of them but – YIKES – it’s their screen-free month. She told me that they have learned to play games together or read to each other. It’s become really fun.

The one adult caveat – They do occasionally check email, pay bills online or prepare church lessons. Just no screens for entertainment purposes.

5. Plan ahead. Get the games out. Check some great books out of the library. Stock up on popcorn. Know in your mind what you’re going to say to your kids, how are you going to direct them when they come and ask to watch a movie or use technology. Get mentally and physically prepared.

This family goes screen free in the summer months because they feel that in the winter you’re shut in and it’s more difficult to disengage from TV, videos, games, etc. In the summer you can get out, walk, go swimming, go to the mountains, etc.

THE RESULTS

Courtney said that it’s challenging the first few days because it’s a serious transition, but then they settle right in. They have a lot of fun. They play together, they talk, and they laugh. She said that it’s something they all really look forward to each year.

They feel more connected at the end of their Screen-Free Month. It takes a while for screen time to become important to them again. The break feels good – after the first few days. : )

In fact, Courtney shared this with me, “Last time we did it our kids wanted to continue for more than a month! And they hardly ever asked when it would be over.”

So why not consider it and give it a try. You just might find out how much your family likes to read, play games, hike or swim.

Who else out there goes screen free for a day, a week, a month? What is your experience?

Your shares are the best compliment!

Touchpoints For Summer PRESENCE

Maggie doing her chores.

As much as we love summer and our kids both can challenge our patience and our energy. My new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Connecting with your children in five minutes or less teaches you how to use touchpoints to connect with your kids. What is a touchpoint – the point at which one person feels seen and heard by another person; when they know they matter. Most touchpoints, there are eight of them,  happen daily and many require five minutes or less. Let me share one touchpoint that will really sweeten the summer pie!

TOUCHPOINT 4 – Chores and Family Work

Thinking about the word WORK can make a parent groan inside because work is often a point of contention in a family. But work can be a place where we create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention if building relationships are our ultimate goal.

CHORES

Often we get so involved in the management portion of family life that it’s difficult to address the relationship portion. But when we’re Present things work out better.

Everyone wants support when facing a tough job. No one wants to be isolated in a mess. We sometimes forget our kids feel the same way we do.

Moms have had the experience of walking into a disaster of a kitchen after a long day. Your family’s watching TV, and here you are, in this messy kitchen. Where do you start?
How does it feel when your husband abandons his show, comes in and begins helping you pick up? And how does it feel when he also asks you how your day went? It’s amazing!

This happens to dads in garages and backyards. How does it feel when your seventeen-year-old volunteers to help get the backyard in order? How about when your thirteen-year-old offers to spend time helping you organize the garage? It feels better, doesn’t it?

When a child is faced with what seems like a daunting task, check on them. Put your hand on their back or rub a shoulder and say, “Let me give you a hand.” Help them for 2-3 minutes while having a mini-conversation. Then head off to the next child or to your own work. It makes all the difference in how chores feel and in how well they get done. It solidifies relationships. It allows you to be Present with your child for a few minutes.

Chores can be a touchpoint!

You can get more details on how to make chores a touchpoint rather than a point of contention in your home in Chapter four of the book and you can read it for FREE.

FAMILY WORK

Family work is another time when you can create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention. When working as a family we need to keep in mind the objective isn’t just to get another item off the to-do list – we’re creating relationships and bonding our family.
I love gardening alone. I love the quiet and feeling the dirt in my fingers. But I understand it’s an opportunity for me to teach and connect with my grandchildren. Gardening can be transformed into an enduring memory for us all when I remember the garden isn’t what’s important, the relationship is.

Add fun to any work you do as a family – sing, dance as you clean, play great music, tell jokes, laugh, have mini-conversations and lots of random touches.

Things aren’t going to work out all of the time. You’ll have family work that turns into chaos or contention. We’re all imperfect, we get tired, and we have grouchy moments. It’s inevitable. But what if you could make family work more pleasant even one-quarter of the time?

If you can be Present as you work together even one-quarter of the time, your family members will feel supported and relationships will be built. You’ll experience GREAT results in the happiness level of your family.

Learn about the other seven family touchpoints. Read chapter four, Touchpoints, FREE

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann

Family Fun with Summer Science

When I was a girl in the 50’s and 60’s we were expected to do a few things. Grow up, be respectful, get married and have children. Being the fairly obedient person I am that is exactly what I did.

If I was a girl growing up now I would be expected to find out what I love and go do that. If I was a girl now that would include getting married and having children and becoming an entomologist! Yes, I realize that I have a passion for bugs. They are hanging in frames all over my home.

Here is something else I realize, I am intrigued by science. I didn’t fare well in science when I was in school, not even when I was in college. I think I believed that science was beyond me but I have come to understand that science is about every day, it’s about living. Why not have some science moments with your family this summer. It will be fun.

In the following article, by Jamie Strand, an unashamed science nerd, you will discover four ordinary summer events that can help you enjoy a bit of science with your children.

Take it away Jamie –

As the temperature increases, so too do the opportunities for learning science outdoors. When kids explore their environment and connect classroom concepts to their own worlds, they develop not only a deeper understanding but also a more engaged approach to learning science. If you’re looking for ways to teach science to your kids outside as the weather warms, you’ll be inspired by these four outdoor science lessons for warmer weather.

1. Cannonball Splash Physics

Swimming is such an important life skill, and including swimming and water-related activities in science lessons is a perfect way to keep kids interested in what they are learning while teaching them water safety. That’s why one of my favorite outdoor science lessons for warmer weather is Cannonball Splash Physics.

Confident, competent swimmers love to do cannonballs, and using the popular swimming pool jump is a great way to teach kids the science behind winning the splash game. Learning about fluid dynamics helps jumpers understand how to make the biggest splash, so it’s a good idea to let kids experiment with dropping spheres into water first. Water displacement and fluid dynamics will make more sense to kids when they can see what happens on a smaller scale than when they watch people cannonball into a swimming pool.

Kids can experiment with their cannonball technique after learning about fluid dynamics and water displacement to see if they can make a larger splash using their new science knowledge. Try recording kids in slow motion on a smartphone or tablet so they can watch the science behind their cannonballs in action. This outdoor science lesson for warmer weather is sure to make a splash with your kids!

2. Water Balloon Drop

Allowing kids to experiment with water balloons helps them to cool off when the weather gets warm. It also gives them hands-on experience with learning the scientific method, as they form hypotheses about the experiment results in Water Balloon Drop. Kids may like to experiment to find the fastest way to pop a water balloon, which shapes of water balloons are easier to pop, the height of drop required to pop the balloon, and more.

Another option for Water Balloon Drop is to observe the splatter patterns that occur when dropping the balloons from various heights. This outdoor science lesson for warmer weather will help kids to determine whether a water balloon dropped from a greater height falls with more speed and has a larger spatter pattern than a water balloon of the same size dropped from a lower height. Consider adding paint to the balloons to help kids see the splatters more clearly.

3. Chalk Rockets

Most kids love to use chalk outside when the weather warms up, and this spring and summer you can use it to teach science through fun chemical reactions. Chalk Rockets require cornstarch, water, food coloring, film canisters, and Alka-Seltzer tablets. Kids can practice measuring by making liquid sidewalk chalk with the cornstarch, water, and food coloring.

Ask kids to make a hypothesis about what will happen when they add pieces of the Alka-Seltzer tablets to the canisters and put on the lids. Then, break the tablets into three or four pieces and drop them into one canister at a time, before quickly putting on the canister lid and flipping over the canister. Stand back and watch the rocket fly and then observe the chalk art it leaves behind. Students should observe each canister and record height and distance traveled. They may want to experiment by adding more tablet pieces to a canister or changing liquid amounts in each canister.

4. Rainbow Bubble Snakes

Nicer weather means bubbles, and Rainbow Bubble Snakes is an outdoor science lesson for warmer weather that kids will love. This science lesson involves elasticity, surface tension, and chemistry. To allow kids to explore these concepts, help them to create Rainbow Bubble Snakes with an empty water bottle, duct tape, a sock, water, dish soap, and food coloring.

Cut off the bottom of the water bottle and slide the sock over the open bottom. Secure the sock with duct tape. Kids should dip the sock-covered bubble blower into the dish soap/water/food coloring solution and then blow through the neck of the bottle. Once kids see how the Rainbow Bubble Snakes form, they should experiment by blowing with more or less force, adding more dish soap to the solution, and measuring the length of their snakes.

Getting outside as the weather improves can be an educational experience for the whole family. Outdoor science lessons for warmer weather give kids the opportunity to experiment in a hands-on way while asking questions and gaining a better understanding of the scientific method and science concepts.

If you enjoyed this article by Jamie Strand and the resources it provides then you will also enjoy Five Ways to Help Your Child Think Like a Scientist.

Jamie Strand is an unashamed nerd. He teaches community college and loves spending time with his two daughters. He wants to share his love of science and math with kids today and that’s why he and friend got together to create SciCamps.org. Jamie enjoys hiking, camping, and doing science experiments with his daughters. This article originally appeared on home-school-coach.com on April 7, 2016

Making it through the Last Month of Summer!

The Summer Dilemma –

Mary and Jack learning to water the garden.

 

As much as we love summer and our kids, both can challenge our patience and our energy as the season winds down. We want to enjoy fully the last weeks of this magical and free-feeling season but there is also the thought that it is coming to an end. School isn’t far away. Clothes need to be purchased. If you homeschool there’s curriculum and a schedule to plan. Add to this the feeling that there is still a multitude of things that need to be done before the cooler days of fall set it. We all go into the summer with so many plans for organizing, cleaning out, etc. It can feel a bit manic in our minds. Possibly you, as I have done in the past, have begun pushing your family to get things done – yard work, organizing, cleaning, one last outing, etc.

None of this internal and sometimes outward chaos is going to go away until the slow days of fall actually arrive but we can do something during these waning summer days to relieve the pressure a bit. We can turn a family activity that is usually a point of contention into a point of connection. If we adjust our thinking we can make chores and family work a point of connection. This will help you savor being with your children, ease the sense that there are things that must get done, as well as help you actually get things done.

Chores and Family Work

Thinking about the word WORK can make a parent groan inside because work is often a point of contention in a family. But work can be a place where we create a touchpoint, a place of connection, rather than a point of contention if building relationships is our ultimate goal.

CHORES
Maggie doing her chores.

Often we get so involved in the management portion of family life that it’s difficult to address the relationship portion. Everyone wants support when facing a tough job. No one wants to be isolated in a mess. We sometimes forget our kids feel the same way we do.

Moms have had the experience of walking into a disaster of a kitchen after a long day. Your family’s watching TV, and here you are, in this messy kitchen. Where do you even start?

How does it feel when your husband abandons his show, comes in and begins helping you pick up? And how does it feel when he also asks you how your day went? It’s amazing!

This happens to dads in garages and backyards. How does it feel when your seventeen-year-old volunteers to help get the backyard in order?How about when your thirteen-year-old offers to spend time helping you organize the garage? It feels better, doesn’t it?

When a child is faced with what seems like a daunting task, cleaning their room, for example, check on them. Put your hand on their back or rub a shoulder and say, “Let me give you a hand.” Help them for 2-3 minutes while having a mini-conversation. Then say, “I’ll be back to check on you”. Now head off to the next child or to your own work. It makes all the difference in how chores feel and in how well they get done. It solidifies relationships. It allows you to be Present with your child for a few minutes. Chores can be a touchpoint, a place of connection!

FAMILY WORK

Family work is another time when you can create connection rather than have a point of contention. When working as a family we need to keep in mind the objective isn’t just to get another item off the to-do list – we’re creating relationships and bonding our family.

I love gardening alone. I love the quiet and feeling the dirt in my fingers. But I understand it’s an opportunity for me to teach and connect with my grandchildren. Gardening can be transformed into an enduring memory for all of us when I remember the garden isn’t what’s important, the relationship is.

My daughter knows how to add fun to family work!

Add fun to any work you do as a family – sing, dance as you clean, play great music, tell jokes, laugh, have mini-conversations and lots of random touches.

Things aren’t going to work out all of the time. You’ll have family work that turns into chaos or contention. We’re all imperfect, we get tired, and we have grouchy moments. It’s inevitable. But what if you could make family work more pleasant even one-quarter of the time?

If you can be Present as you work together, check on each other and add a bit of fun even one-quarter of the time, your family members will feel supported and relationships will be built. You’ll experience GREAT results in the happiness level of your family.

Enjoy the waning days of summer,
Mary Ann

P.S. You can learn more about family touchpoints in my new book Becoming a Present Parent, Connecting With Your Children in Five Minutes or Less. There is an entire chapter on this one topic. In fact, you can access this chapter on Utilizing Touchpoints FREE by visiting becomingapresentparent.com  It can be life changing for your family. I promise!

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Why Take Your Kids Camping?

I had the opportunity to go camping for four days, twice this summer. When I was a younger mom, with seven kids at home, we went camping a lot. I loved cooking over the fire and toasting marshmallows. But now my kids are grown and camping had become something from my past.

I wasn’t sure how I would feel going camping again. And it wasn’t just any camping, it was ‘rough’ camping. You know, no flush toilets or showers, just an outhouse, and a fire pit. Yikes! However, I survived and was again reminded why I used to take my kids camping, as I interacted and watched my grandkids learn about and experience the great outdoors.

The following article by Simon Baker will remind you of some of the reason we take the time and trouble to get our kids out of doors through camping. It’s sprinkled with some super pictures of my own grandkids and our camping experience.

There are a few weeks of summer left and Labor Day is coming up. Why not take a couple of days and go camping. Enjoy!

5 Reasons to Take Your Kids Camping

It might not seem like a good idea to bring your kids when you go camping. However, bringing your kids with you is less work and stress than leaving them alone at home. For one, you won’t need to worry about them staying up too late or how they’re treating each other while you’re gone. You won’t even need to feel stressed about who’s going to look after them. : )

If you’re still not buying the idea, here are 5 more reasons why you should consider taking your kid’s camping.

1. It increases your children’s physical activity

With the internet and all the cool devices today, it isn’t surprising to find a lot of kids who would rather sit on the couch and play mobile games than to spend time outdoors. The problem with this is that it encourages a sedentary lifestyle. Furthermore, it can make children overweight and weak.

Camping encourages your kids to participate in a lot of outdoor activities. You will also be exposing them to the sunshine and fresh air, which are essential in boosting their natural immune system. Camping activities can strengthen their muscles and bones, too.

2. It helps them appreciate what they have

It’s easy to take things for granted if you have everything within easy reach at home. You have food ready when you get hungry. You have a roof over your head when the weather gets bad.

With camping, you’ll be able to let your kids see a different way of life. You can teach them how to create fire from scratch and barbecue on it. You can teach them to cook simple meals and the importance of cleaning up after themselves (to keep the rodents and small animals at bay). There will also be a lot of hard work, particularly when it comes to erecting tents, hauling drinking water or chopping firewood.

When you get back home they will have an appreciation for hot water from the tap, clean sheets, and a refrigerator. For a while at least, they will be very grateful for home.

3. It builds memories

Even though you may experience a few mishaps while camping, they’re likely to be the same memories you’ll be laughing at in a few years. Camping allows you to bond with your children in a different way than you do at home.

There will also be fewer distractions so you won’t need to compete for your child’s attention or them for yours. It’s a great break for everyone in the family.

4. It’s a cheaper alternative for a family vacation

Camping is an affordable way to vacation with your family. With proper planning and preparation, there are ways to make it even more affordable.

National and state campsites are  far less expensive than hotels or theme parks. Meals cooked on the fire are cheaper than restaurants and often taste better. It isn’t hard to find a place with water for fishing and canoeing and that costs less than a fancy waterpark.

You can build up the necessary equipment over  time so that it doesn’t need to break the bank. Look for durable equipment, high on quality and be less concerned with name brands.

A great option to consider is an electric cool box. You can fill it with ready-to-cook meals and lots of water so you won’t have to buy from nearby stores. Make sure there’s enough snacks for everyone and include sandwiches, cookies, and chips in your box.

5. It’s a good opportunity to enhance their skills

Camping skills don’t come naturally to everyone. They need to be taught and learned. Taking your kids camping gives you the chance to teach them survival lessons they’ll be able to teach their kids. It’s a good opportunity to pass on or even start your own family traditions. You can learn many things together – to identify flowers and trees, animals and how to care for the earth. Camping can also enhance your children’s social skills. They’ll be able to meet a lot of people from different places and with different cultures, depending on your chosen campsite. If you find a lot of kids in your area, make sure to invite them over for a campfire, some smores, and a few scary stories. These experiences are the ones your kids will remember for a long time.

Camping is a truly connected, family activity that pays dividends for the time and effort it takes. So use what’s left of the summer and take your kids camping.

 

Author Bio:

Simon Barker writes to inspire people about low-cost ways of traveling and camping. Aside from sharing his best tips in saving while making the best out of his trips, he also does in-depth electric cool box reviews.

Take Control This Summer – Your Stories Affect Your Family Relationships

One of the chapters in my upcoming book is about the stories we tell ourselves and how those stories affect our relationships with our kids.

You’ve all heard this old saying or something like it, “What you say is what you get.” It’s true.

If you say “My kids are driving me nuts,” they’ll drive you nuts. If you say “I can’t stand my kids today,” or “My kids are so sloppy, messy, noisy, naughty, etc.,” that’s what you’ll get. It’s what you perceive is happening, regardless of what’s actually going on. This will influence your response and your ability to be Present.

The negative stories you tell yourself over and over again impact how you feel about your children and your ability to be Present with them. Negative thoughts hinder you from achieving things you want. Positive thoughts do the opposite.

Saying, “My kids are so messy,” or “My son doesn’t respect me,” generates low energy. This low energy attracts the very thing which is distressing us. If our words are, “I love being with my kids,” “My daughter is sure helpful today,” or “I’m having a peaceful day,” we generate high energy which attracts what we want to have happen.

Think of all the phrases we say and hear over and over again about kids:

• You’re driving me crazy.
• You’re so messy.
• You’re so noisy.
• I can’t get a minute’s peace.
• Why can’t you listen to me? You never listen!
• You’re so irresponsible.
• I don’t know what I’m going to do with you!
• You make me so mad.
• You’re so sloppy, disobedient, messy, argumentative, quarrelsome, etc.
• You’re wearing me out.
• I can’t listen one more minute.

If we want better outcomes, we need to watch our words. Say what you want, not what you don’t want. Words are your thoughts/stories put into concrete form. Words generate emotions. You’ll feel the way you speak. How you feel moves you to an action which gives you a result, either good or bad. Your words move you closer to or away from the ability to be Present.

Take responsibility for your thoughts, the stories and emotions they create, and your responses. Stop blaming. Take responsibility for your words, which are your stories in concrete form.

You’re in control of the stories you tell; stories about yourself, your family, your children and the world, the past, the present and the future. Knowing this gives you ALL the power.

REMEMBER the summer Zing I mentioned was coming? Well, it’s here. On June 30th at 7pm MST I will be hosting a webinar for mom’s and dad’s who want to be PRESENT this summer in fun and easy ways. Ways that occur every day all ready. No pre-planning. No extra time or fuss.  Check it out here. I hope you’ll join me.

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann

Touchpoints For Summer PRESENCE

As much as we love summer and our kids both can challenge our patience and our energy. The upcoming book – Becoming a Present Parent: Maximizing Presence in Five Minutes or Less teaches you how to use touchpoints to connect with your kids. Let me share one touchpoint that will really sweeten the summer pie!

Maggie doing her family work.

TOUCHPOINT 4 – Chores and Family Work

Thinking about the word WORK can make a parent groan inside because work is often a point of contention in a family. But work can be a place where we create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention if building relationships is our ultimate goal.

CHORES

Often we get so involved in the management portion of family life that it’s difficult to address the relationship portion. We’ll cover this topic in depth in chapter 9. For now, know that when we’re Present things work out better.

Everyone wants support when facing a tough job. No one wants to be isolated in a mess. We sometimes forget our kids feel the same way we do.

Moms have had the experience of walking into a disaster of a kitchen after a long day. Your family’s watching TV, and here you are, in this messy kitchen. Where do you start?

How does it feel when your husband abandons his show, comes in and begins helping you pick up? And how does it feel when he also asks you how your day went? It’s amazing!

This happens to dads in garages and backyards. How does it feel when your seventeen-year-old volunteers to help get the backyard in order? How about when your thirteen-year-old offers to spend time helping you organize the garage? It feels better doesn’t it?

When a child is faced with what seems like a daunting task, check on them. Put your hand on their back or rub a shoulder and say, “Let me give you a hand.” Help them for 2-3 minutes while having a mini-conversation. Then head off to the next child or to your own work. It makes all the difference in how chores feel and in how well they get done. It solidifies relationships. It allows you to be Present with your child for a few minutes. Chores can be a touchpoint!

FAMILY WORK

Family work is another time when you can create a touchpoint rather than a point of contention. When working as a family we need to keep in mind the objective isn’t just to get another item off the to-do list – we’re creating relationships and bonding our family.

I love gardening alone. I love the quiet and feeling the dirt in my fingers. But I understand it’s an opportunity for me to teach and connect with my grandchildren. Gardening can be transformed into an enduring memory for us all when I remember the garden isn’t what’s important, the relationship is.

Add fun to any work you do as a family – sing, dance as you clean, play great music, tell jokes, laugh, have mini-conversations and lots of random touches.

Things aren’t going to work out all of the time. You’ll have family work that turns into chaos or contention. We’re all imperfect, we get tired, and we have grouchy moments. It’s inevitable. But what if you could make family work more pleasant even one-quarter of the time?

If you can be Present as you work together even one-quarter of the time, your family members will feel supported and relationships will be built. You’ll experience GREAT results in the happiness level of your family.

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann

Try Active Listening for a More PRESENT Summer

As you know I have been writing a new book – Becoming a Present Parent: Maximizing Presence in Five Minutes or Less. I started in August 2015 and finished in January 2016. Since then I have been learning the dance of being an independent author. Whew, it has required a lot of dance lessons!!

However, the book is in the formatting and cover design stage and it is going to actually make it to press this summer. Woohoo. I will breathe a sigh of relief for sure.

While we wait for the books release I thought I would share a bit of the content with you.

ACTIVE LISTENING

When we’re Present, we listen to connect with the speaker and to understand how they feel about what they’re saying. It’s active and engaged and seeks to hear the words and, more importantly, to hear the heart.

Because this type of listening doesn’t come naturally, I’ve had to develop steps to make it happen more often. They may be helpful to you also.

A. STOP what you’re doing. Turn away from any technology, book or project. If you truly can’t stop, tell your child you can see this is important to them and you want to hear what they have to say. Set a specific time when you’ll be free and keep it. Saying “we’ll talk about it later” is not specific and sends the message you’re not available to them, that whatever else you’re doing is more interesting or more important. If at all possible STOP and listen now!

B. Make eye contact with your child. I remember reading that an infant can tell the difference between a face which is in order and one with the features jumbled.

From my experience, I know babies are interested their parent’s faces. They look at their parent’s faces constantly and reach out to touch them. Infants want us to look back at them. As we grow older, desire for eye contact with the people in our lives that matter to us remains.

Eye contact is looking directly into your child’s eyes and not looking away at other things or looking down. When we look at our children as we listen to them, it sends a powerful message that we care, that we hear them, that they matter.

C. Respond to what your child is feeling, not only what they’re saying. When you’re Present you’ll respond to feelings more quickly and more accurately. This helps your child feel heard. You can say things like, “Boy – how maddening!” or “You didn’t like that did you?” or “How did you feel?” This helps your child know that you view their feelings as valid and important.

D. Listen with patience and interest. Whatever you’re feeling, your child will know! They’re like energy magnets. If your energy is inwardly impatient, they’ll know. If you’re dying to get back to your stuff, they’ll feel it. If you’re bored out of your mind, it’s coming across loud and clear. It may all be on a subconscious level, but they know. Hold thoughts in your mind which will help you maintain interest and patience.

For example, you can think, “I sure love this kid. They’re so interesting, funny, kind, thoughtful,” whatever. Hold thoughts which allow you to embrace fully the moment you’re sharing with your child.

Avoid interrupting. Ask only those questions which help clarify. Your job at this moment is not to teach, reprimand or to fix. It’s to listen.

Being present with your child is an end in itself. It isn’t about resolution, teaching, making progress, none of that. It’s about connection, pure and simple. You can always teach later. Right now, be Present!

During a day, there are dozens of opportunities to stop and listen. We can’t actively listen in all of them. But if we can increase those times we do, it will have a big impact on our relationships.

Remember, being Present is a gift we give another person without thought of return. It means giving full attention, our whole self, nothing left on the table.

I do have something special in the works to add a bit of zing to your summer and to help you get a head start on Becoming a Present Parent. Watch for it. : )

Happy Summer,
Mary Ann