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Health: Nutritional Quality of Children's Menus Not Improving

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, January 18, 2017
Updated: Sunday, January 15, 2017

The American Journal of Preventative Medicine has been studying the nutritional content in children’s meals since 2012, estimating the changes in calories, saturated fat and sodium in the menu items of 45 chain restaurants.

According to the journal, restaurant food is widely consumed by children and associated with many of their poor diets, and while many restaurants have been committed to reducing the nutritional quality of the meals offered, there hasn’t been an industry-wide impact.

Of the kids’ meals researched, the average entrée far exceeded recommendations for sodium and saturated fat, while desserts were as calorie-dense as meals and contained nearly twice the amount of saturated fats as an entrée.

In an article on, Alyssa Moran, a doctoral student in the Department of Nutrition at Harvard Chan School says that  "Although some healthier options were available in select restaurants, there is no evidence that these voluntary pledges have had an industry-wide impact. As public health practitioners, we need to do a better job of engaging restaurants in offering and promoting healthy meals to kids."

The study’s data was obtained from MenuStat, where researchers examined the nutritional content of 4,016 beverages, entrees, side dishes and desserts offered at 45 of the nation’s top 100 fast food, fast casual and full-service restaurant chains between 2012 and 2015. Fifteen of those studied are Kids LiveWell, an initiative launched in 2011 to improve the quality of restaurant meals for children, restaurant participants.

Tags:  food  health  nutrition 

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Four Stress Relief Tips for the Holidays

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, December 13, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 27, 2016

It's official -- the holiday season is here-evidenced by all those commercials. Does just thinking about all the shopping, entertaining, and decorating and your ever-shrinking budget send you into a tizzy? Relax. With a bit of thoughtful preparation and some helpful parameters, you can achieve the look and outcome you want for you and your family-without being so stressed you can’t enjoy the season.

What are the tips to reduce stress and still enjoy the holiday season?

1. Spend Smarter
Consider a budget. Don’t get caught shopping until you’ve given some consideration to how much you are able to spend. Think of those credit card bills in January-what can you honestly handle? If you love to shop, it may seem to take some fun out of it, but being faced with big bills in the New Year isn’t fun either.

Be specific. Once you’ve put a realistic limit on spending, you know what you have to work with. Are you getting just a few high quality gifts or would it be better to get a number of less expensive gifts so kids and family have more to open? You decide what works best for you. Encourage your extended family to draw names instead of everyone getting gifts for the whole family.

Make a list. You can make it very specific or general. Coming up with ideas of what your family would like gives you a starting point and helps you estimate how much you plan to spend on each person.

Use only one credit card. This will help to keep track of purchases.

2. Shop Shrewder
Start early. Don’t run the risk of being frustrated because they have run out of what you wanted. If you enjoy the hustle and bustle of last minute shopping, save it for small gifts such as stocking stuffers or little treats. Get the bigger items out of the way first.

Go online. You are savvy enough to know this can lead to finding things at a lower price. You can also research where to find something if you want to buy in person and save time driving from one mall to another.

Negotiate. It may surprise you to know that it is possible to ask for a lower price. You never know until you try. If you are buying in bulk, one or more could be slightly soiled, or you are in a small store that is owner owned and willing to bargain. They want the sale. Give it a try.

3. Entertain Effortlessly
KISS: Keep it simple sister! As much as possible simplify the event. Make part of the menu take-out items from your favorite deli. Ask some guests to bring their specialty- most likely they will be happy you asked. Invite a family member or friend to co-host. If a fine dining experience is a must, hire some help. Plan to do as much as you can in advance. Setup the table the day before and prepare as much of the menu ahead of time.

How about January? Some social events could be delayed until January. Consider which ones can be postponed. People’s schedules are generally more open mid-January. You may find more people can make it and you will have a better time because you aren’t so tired.

4. Downsize Decorating
Get the whole family to help. Rethink how you want the house to look based on the ages of your children. What can they do so they can be a part of the celebration as well? If much of your decorating is complicated and time consuming, perhaps you want to pare things down a bit until your children are older. The point is to have FUN! And it’s no longer fun if you are up late at night working on hanging, arranging, etc. after everyone is in bed.

Rein in. Count how many boxes you’ve taken down from storage. Sort out those items that you are tired of looking at or that simply look a bit tired. Donate them to a shelter or retirement home. They won’t think they look tired and will greatly appreciate new items to liven up the place. Decide to use some of the boxes and put the rest away. You won’t miss the decorations you didn’t use.

This year make your resolution BEFORE the holidays begin: More fun, less stress!
Use these tips to keep stress at a minimum and enjoy the holidays. Would enjoy hearing from you on any tips you found helpful. Enjoy the holidays!

Janada Clark, MA is a parent educator and teaches Love and Logic at Stanford and public and private schools. Her parent education classes are a well-respected resource for parents. Join her Facebook community and get your parenting questions answered within one day.

Tags:  health 

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Eating Healthy During Pregnancy

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 29, 2016
Updated: Sunday, November 27, 2016

Eating healthy while pregnant may seem like a no-brainer however there are also many women who think that being pregnant is a license to eat anything they want.  During my first pregnancy I joked that my husband was the food police, but quickly believed his approach was valid when my daughter was born at 36 weeks – considered a late pre-term delivery – and was perfectly healthy – no NICU, no lung issues, no issues even today – that my diet played a big role in her outcome.  Wanting to see if this would work a second time, I followed the same nutrition regimen with my second daughter – now three weeks old – and she too was born healthy.  Admittedly I was a little less strict this time around yet remained true to the core approach.

Based on our experience, here are some tips to consider for your pregnancy diet (author’s note: this does not replace the advice of your physician):

Eat Organic
Buying organic fruits and vegetables in the Bay Area is pretty accessible via certified Farmer’s Markets however many grocery stories carry fresh organic produce and organic products including non-GMO (genetically modified organism) items.

Know Where Your Food Comes From
For all meat and fish, my husband was careful to ask whether it was farmed or wild-pole-line caught, and where the meat, poultry or fish came from.  Knowing the farm or information about how the animals are fed and treated  - including use of antibiotics and hormones - helps you understand what you are ingesting.  If eating local is an option, try to learn about the farm practices as well.

Take Your Vitamins
Prenatal vitamins are a must and your physician will concur.  Omega-3 fish oil capsules are a good second addition.  Omega-3 fish oil helps with brain development while in utero and post-delivery as well. To complement your prenatal vitamins and also provide a tasty snack, I also discovered the Belly Bar.  During my first pregnancy these were easy to find at Whole Foods or any pregnancy-related store.  The second pregnancy I had a harder time finding them.  They come in flavors that make you think you are eating dessert but you are not.  

Limit Coffee
I usually drink half-caffeinated coffee on a regular basis and didn’t give this up while pregnant.  Once a day I had my treat so I didn’t feel like I was giving up everything.  Some physicians say it’s fine, others say not to drink it.  Ultimately, you want to enjoy being pregnant and not be resentful for 10 months.  

Eat, Eat, Eat
This may sound strange and you may worry about your weight, but if you eat a lot and eat healthy options, you will gain a healthy weight for you and your baby.  Don’t skip breakfast, do eat a snack before lunch, do eat lunch and eat another snack in the afternoon.  Do eat dinner and if you have no aversions, spice up the menu.  Eat fruit, almonds, graham crackers, protein like hard-boiled eggs and cheese sticks, and more.

Plan Ahead
Working outside the home can sometimes make it more challenging to eat healthy meals and snacks so plan ahead each week.  Pre-pack your snacks on Sunday so you can grab-n-go when you are heading to work.  Think about your lunches for the week and instead of eating at the local café each day (which can also be pricey), buy pre-made organic salads or meals from your local grocery store.

I recognized that there are many factors that contribute to your baby’s health like genetics, the environment, and your mental health, to name a few.  That said, if you are vigilant with your diet while pregnant, then your health and your baby’s health have been given the best start possible.  And if you are lucky, your newborn will grow into a child with healthy and diverse eating habits for the long term.

Kelsey Combellick is a career-loving parent who us is passionate about travel, food, wine and her family. Email her at


Tags:  expecting  health 

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Mentally Preparing for Motherhood

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, November 15, 2016
Updated: Friday, November 11, 2016
There’s so much attention given to the physical changes of a woman’s body during pregnancy, and yet the common emotional changes that many women experience often do not get discussed. The arrival of a new baby can be both exciting and challenging, and it’s normal to have a mix of emotions coupled with exhaustion. For about 80% of mothers, childbirth brings the “baby blues,” and another 15% experience postpartum depression. How can expectant mothers mentally prepare for their new role?

Expectation Setting
Postpartum depression can be linked to trying to meet or exceed societal expectations about what new motherhood is supposed to look like. There are unrealistic expectations often placed on new mothers such as being happy and functional at all times, immediately knowing how to soothe their babies and never feeling alone or isolated. In reality, new motherhood is full of highs and lows, new experiences, tears and sheer joy. There is no one correct way to feel, and each mother will adjust on her own time period.

Although it's common for this transitional period to cause raised emotions, it’s important to pay attention to extreme and unusual feelings of sadness, anger and anxiety. Crying often, feeling angry, withdrawing from loved ones or feeling numb or disconnected from your baby are all unique signs for postpartum depression.

Paying attention to and acknowledging your thoughts and feelings can help you be a better partner and parent. Develop a mindfulness practice and internalize your breath to be in the moment. Be aware of your own thoughts and be prepared to step back when necessary and applaud yourself for the work you’re doing. Repeating phrases such as “This is temporary” and “I am a great mom doing my best” can be helpful for some mothers when they are experiencing a difficult period.

Consider learning to practice meditation during your pregnancy. For some, it may be as simple as quieting your mind through focused breathing. Other women may find it helpful to take a class or retreat to your own created space in your home with a yoga mat and complete silence. Benefits of meditation include improved sleep, revitalized energy, anxiety and stress relief and an opportunity to connect to your changing body and new baby.

Prenatal Yoga
If you are looking to increase your flexibility, concentrate on your breath and connect with your new baby and evolving body during pregnancy, prenatal yoga may be right for you. In a typical prenatal yoga class, you can expect stretching, mental centering and focused breathing. Yoga can be adaptable for all levels of experience. Check with your physician before beginning a new exercise regimen.

Poor sleep has been shown to significantly worsen the symptoms of many mental health conditions. Since newborns rarely sleep more than two to three hours at a time, a mother’s sleep is constantly interrupted. This continuous sleep deprivation can lead to physical discomfort and exhaustion, which can then contribute to the symptoms of postpartum depression. Try to nap when the baby naps, as this will help prevent you from reaching exhaustion. Don’t hesitate to ask a friend or family member to watch your newborn for a short period so you can rest.

Seek out a therapist ahead of time
Locating a therapist in your area that is familiar with counseling mothers can be especially helpful for any new mom. It’s important to develop a relationship ahead of your delivery so the therapist can get to know you prior to this life-changing event, even if it’s just for one introductory visit. Finding a therapist that’s right for you can also take time, so identifying one ahead of your delivery will only ease the stress if you’re in need of one after having your baby. This is especially important if you have experienced depression in the past, since you are at a higher risk of developing postpartum depression. Talk to your primary care physician for a referral.

Shelley H.K. Howell, Ph.D., J.D. is the Outpatient Manager at El Camino Hospital Mental Health and Addiction Services. El Camino Hospital offers a full spectrum of mother-baby care and services, including a specialized support program for women experiencing prenatal or postpartum depression and anxiety. The Maternal Outreach Mood Services (MOMS) program provides education, counseling and evaluation for mothers in a supportive, nurturing environment.

Tags:  expecting  health 

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Five Tips for a Healthier Today

Posted By Communications Manager, Monday, October 3, 2016
Updated: Monday, October 3, 2016

Today is National Child Health Day! It's a great time to make a few easy changes that can help kids -- and families -- get healthier and stay that way.

Here are five tips for healthy choices you can make today, or any day, to support your family’s best health:

Take a walk together.
Walking is the easiest way to get lasting health benefits. Even a short walk around the block gets your circulation going, gives you a breath of fresh air and offers a little shared time for you and your child to talk—which is incredibly important to your child’s overall well-being. If your kids are up for it, add some skipping for fun, or make it a bike-ride instead.

Trade screen time for face-to-face time.
Limiting total screen time (including computer, hand-held devices, and television) to an hour or less per day is essential to fighting obesity and building good health. But when it’s time to shut down the screen, it’s good to offer alternatives. Have a plan ready, and offer your kids choices they enjoy. Also, don’t hesitate to get personally involved. Encourage them to play a board game with you, join you for a visit to the playground or play with a favorite toy together. It’s also fine to let them figure it out on their own. Boredom is where creativity begins.

Read a book together.
For young children, few things are as delightful as having a parent or caregiver snuggle in to read them a book aloud. Establishing reading time together has a profound impact on children’s health and future learning abilities. It also tells them that they’re important and that it’s meaningful to spend time together. As kids get older, reading side by side continues to be beneficial, and is a great way to relax together.

Serve veggies first at mealtime.
Think of it as an experiment. Before dinner, set out a plate of any sliced vegetables – raw carrot sticks, cucumbers, jicama, zucchini, red bell peppers, sugar snap peas or green beans, maybe with some hummus for dipping—and see how many disappear. Kids are often hungry before mealtime, so it’s a great time to offer the healthiest snacks. They also develop a taste for what they eat first when they’re hungry, so be sure to take advantage of that opportunity.

Skip the soda.
If there’s one item in your child’s diet to eliminate, it’s sugared soda. Every 12-ounce can of soda has about 40 grams of sugar. That’s about a dozen sugar cubes. Being ready with a tasty alternative is important. Offer your kids bubbly water mixed with a splash of juice or a squeeze of fresh citrus. Teach them how to make their own bubbly lemonade and they’ll enjoy it even more.

Creating healthy habits for your kids may take a little planning, but it can also be spontaneous. Be sure to keep it fun and encouraging. The more kids associate healthy choices with feeling good, the more likely they are to make those choices again and again. And since kids learn so much about choices from their parents, the more involved you are, the better.

Here’s to your health!  

Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH, is a pediatrician at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital at Stanford, medical director of Stanford's Pediatric Advocacy Program and assistant professor of pediatrics at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Tags:  health 

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The ABC's of Spotting Eye Issues in Infants & Toddlers

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2016

As parents, it’s so exciting when we bring home that little bundle of joy and begin to anticipate their future growth and achievements.


For infants and toddlers, their developing eyesight is of the utmost importance. But for those little ones that don’t necessarily communicate so well, it can be difficult to know if they are experiencing problems with their vision.

Experts agree that children should have their first eye exam at six months and then the next before they enter school, usually around age five or six. They also report that 5 - 10% of pre-schoolers and 25% of school-aged children have vision problems. So the gap between birth and 24 weeks and waiting another half-dozen years is a critical time for parents to be on the lookout for possible issues with their youngster’s eyes.

What to Look For
While it would take an eye expert to diagnose something like
astigmatism (a warping of the curvature of the cornea), there are still some ways parents can take charge of their child’s vision during this young age.

Take a look (pardon the pun) at these three red flags when it comes to your children’s eyesight. They’re easy to remember given this A-B-C format. You should check regularly for these important signs to safeguard your child’s sight:

This one is perhaps the easiest to spot of the three. By the age of 4-6 months, a baby’s eyes begin to stabilized and should be properly aligned. If they’re cross-eyed (strabismus), have a wandering or “lazy eye,” they should be taken to see an ophthalmologist immediately. There are treatments available that can help to correct these conditions before they become permanent.

When your child is playing with books and other toys, do they bring the object close to their eyes to get a better look or draw it away at arm’s length? By the age of 18 months, a child’s vision should begin to mature enough to see things clearly at a reasonable distance. If they’re not focusing on items, this could be a sign there is a problem with the proper development of their vision. Also watch for squinting as they could be trying to correct the problem themselves.

Look for cloudiness in the pupil and surrounding area, which could be a sign of infant cataracts. Although rare, this condition needs to be treated immediately to prevent further damage. Similar to older children and adults, if not treated surgically, the tissue continues to deteriorate and it could cause permanent vision loss or even lead to blindness.

Be on the lookout for any unusual vision or eye behavior that seems out of the ordinary. For example, while it’s cute to watch a baby rubbing their eyes with their tiny, little fists, if they’re doing it consistently, there could be trouble.

When it comes to protecting our children’s invaluable vision, it’s always better to be safe than sorry and take them to “see” a professional.


Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.

Tags:  health 

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Don’t Miss This Discussion on Postpartum Blues

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Updated: Monday, May 9, 2016

How prepared were you (or are you) for becoming a new mom? Or a second-time mom? Not did you get the car seat/baby sling/cloth diapers, but were you (are you) prepared for all of the emotions and feelings that come about after a child is born?

Did you know that 1 in 7 women experience a maternal mental health complication? Each year more than 600,000 women, children and families are impacted by a maternal mental health complication like postpartum depression, pregnancy depression, postpartum and pregnancy anxiety, panic, OCD and anger.

There is much emphasis on the mental and physical preparations for the act of childbirth and less mental preparation for after baby comes. Enter the upcoming panel discussion on the healthy minds of mothers.

The goal of this discussion is to further educate the community on postpartum and maternal mental health, and to help remove the stigma associated with mental health issues -- specifically postpartum issues. How can mothers and their significant others be more aware of and better prepared for the mental impact of having a child? How does the physical impact the mental? What do recent studies tell us about postpartum depression?

Listen to panelists share their personal stories and experiences. Find out how to reach out for help without hesitation and talk about your own feelings. This discussion is perfect not just for moms and expectant mothers, but also fathers, significant others, grandparents, siblings, etc.

A Healthy Mind: A Discussion with Moms on Maintaining Their Mental Health

Wednesday May 18, 2016

7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Cubberley Community Theater
4000 Middlefield Rd., Palo Alto


Tags:  health 

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Make a Fresh Start this New Year

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, April 13, 2016

originally posted January 1, 2016

We’re several days into the New Year, and many of us are still basking in the glow of a fresh start.

Every year, January brings renewed optimism for change, for a better life, for a better you. And that’s a wonderful thing.

It’s wonderful, because this fresh start gives us a chance to reinvent our lives and ourselves. It allows us to reinvigorate ourselves, to shed the baggage of the previous year and do anything. Anything is possible!

That is a gift, my friends, and I suggest we make the most of this gift. Not just by creating and sticking to resolutions, but by reinventing the way we live.

Here’s how.

1. Let go.
Many times we are held back by the tangled web of previous failures, commitments, emotions, barriers. We cannot change careers because we’re used to what we’re doing and it’s too hard to change. We cannot find time to get healthy and fit because we have all these other things to do. We cannot find time for our loved ones because we have too many commitments.

This is all old baggage. A fresh start demands a clean slate. Let everything from the past go (easier said than done, I know). Clear your plate and your palate.

Let go of attachments to what you’ve been doing for the past year, or years. Let go of failures. Let go of fears you’ve built up. Let go of reluctance. Let go of your ideas about what your life has to be like, because that’s the way it’s evolved so far. Let go of long-held beliefs and habits.

You have a fresh start. Let go of last year, and start anew.

2. Decide what matters most today.
Forget about your goals for all of this year. Instead, decide: what do you want to do today?

What matters most to you, to your life? What are you most passionate about, right now? What excites and invigorates you? What would give you the most fulfillment?

Often the answer is in creating something, making something new, helping other people, becoming a better person, working on a project that will be an accomplishment to be proud of. But whatever your answer, have it clear in your mind at the beginning of the day.

This might be something you work on all year, or it might just last a month, or it might last a week or a few days, or just today. It doesn’t matter. What matters is today — that you’re going to work on this with all your heart, today. Tomorrow … we’ll decide on that tomorrow.

3. Clear away distractions and focus.
Clear away email and Facebook and Twitter and your favorite blogs and news websites and social forums, clear away the iPhone or Blackberry or Android or cell phone, clear away all the little nagging work and chores and errands that pull at your attention, clear away the clutter that surrounds you (sweep it off to the side to deal with later).

In fact, if you can, shut off the Internet for awhile. You can come back to it when you take a break.

Now, find focus. Even if only for 15 or 20 minutes at first, but preferably for 30-60 minutes. You can take a break and check your email or whatever after you’ve focused. Focus on the thing that matters most. Do it for as long as you can, until you’re done if possible. Feel free to take breaks, but always return to your focus.

When you’re done, focus on the next thing that matters most, and so on.

4. Find happiness now.
Don’t look at happiness as something that will come when you’re done with this goal, or when you’ve attained a certain accomplishment or certain amount of wealth or material goods. Don’t look at happiness as a destination, something that you’ll get later.

Happiness is possible right now. Always remember that. When you push it back until later, it’ll never come. When you learn to be happy now, it’ll always be here.

When you’re doing whatever you’re passionate about, whatever matters most, whatever you decide is worthy of your time and heart and focus … be happy! You’re doing what you love. And that is truly a gift.

5. Reinvent yourself, every day.
Every day, you are reborn. Reinvent yourself and your life, every day. Do what matters most to you, that day.

It might be the same thing that mattered most yesterday, or it might not be. That isn’t important. What’s important is today — right now. Be passionate, be happy, right now.

You’ll have a fresh start every single day — not just on January 1. And that, my friends, is the best thing ever.

Reprinted with permission from (public domain).

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer for Zen Habits. He’s married with six kids and lives in San Francisco (previously on Guam). Leo is a writer and a runner and a vegan

Tags:  health 

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3 Small Discipline Habits You Can Train

Posted By Communications Manager, Wednesday, March 30, 2016

While I’m not a fan of trying to be disciplined every moment of the day, there’s no doubt most of us could use a little more discipline in our lives.

We procrastinate, we waste time with online distractions, we go an entire day without getting done what we really wanted to get done.

How do we overcome this?

With training. Practice small, effective habits, and practice some more. Don’t expect yourself to be perfect at skills if you don’t repeatedly, deliberately practice.

If you want to get good at these skills, don’t worry about not being motivated. Just enjoy the joy of practicing something that you can get good at. It’s amazing when you’re learning something new, and that wonderful feeling is what can motivate you.

What should you practice? Three simple skills that can be turned into habits with repeated practice.

The habits that work for me are all about talking to myself:

1. Tell yourself, “This is what I’m going to do next.” Instead of having a long to-do list of things you want to do today, have just one thing you want to do right now. Instead of saying you’re going to do this important task sometime, say you’re going to do it right now. Instead of allowing yourself to randomly open websites that give you distraction, deliberately figure out what you want to work on next. Pick one thing. It doesn’t matter what it is, but try for things that are important in your life.

2. Ask yourself, “What is the smallest step I can do?” Most of us look at something on our (mental or digital or paper) list and subconsciously think, “That’s too hard.” So we put it off. But that’s because we’re thinking about an entire project, which has many tasks. You can’t do a project right now, you can only do a task. Instead of saying, “I’m going to write that paper that’s due,” you should say, “I’m going to write 3 things in the outline of the paper.” If the smallest task stills seems too hard, say you’re just going to do 5 minutes of that small task right now. Or just two minutes. Make it ridiculously easy.

3. Ask yourself, “What is stopping me from focusing on that small step?” Even if you figured out a task to focus on, and you’ve broken it into the smallest step, there will still be distractions or resistance. If you’re not immediately doing the smallest step of the next task, ask yourself why. What’s stopping you? Can you resolve this issue, close all browser tabs, shut off your phone, ask co-workers or roommates or family members to give you 30 minutes of focused time? Can you ask for help, get some accountability? The easiest solution is usually to close all distractions. Then get moving on the smallest step.

Once you’ve done that, repeat this process two more times, taking a few minutes’ break between each round. Then take 20 minutes off as a reward. That’s your training session. If you can do several training sessions a day, you’ll get good at this in no time. And as you get good, the cost of doing anything will begin to seem miniscule.

Reprinted with permission from (public domain).

Leo Babauta is the creator and writer for Zen Habits. He’s married with six kids and lives in San Francisco (previously on Guam). Leo is a writer and a runner and a vegan.

Tags:  health 

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Connect with Your Kids – Don’t Control Them

Posted By Communications Manager, Tuesday, March 22, 2016

What parent doesn’t know how it feels to lose control with our kids? When a child flings him/herself down on the floor in the middle of the grocery store, hits or bites a sibling or school mate, makes poor choices about their friends, schoolwork or health, talks back or rolls their eyes at anything we say, it can feel almost impossible to control our reactions.

Who ever told us we had control over our kids in the first place?

Think about it. When we’re coming from our egos, we have a personal stake in our kids’ behavior and how it reflects ON US. But the reality is that they are their own people — with their own ideas, their own independent needs — and the only people who can control them is themselves.

When we look at basic brain science of the limbic system where emotions are centered and the prefrontal cortex where reasoning and logic are centered, we start to understand why our kids’ behaviors can get so big. And how little they have to do with us.

What neuroscience teaches us is that a much more effective and relationship-building way to respond to our kids in their most challenging moments of big behaviors is to CONNECT with them rather than to try to control them or their behavior.

So instead of thinking during a huge tantrum, “How can I get this to stop? What can I say? How I can dole out consequences to get him to stop?”, we can turn it around. Connection helps us change direction by encouraging us to ask, “How can I connect with her right now?  How will her emotional needs be met if I get down, make eye contact, use a soft tone of voice and physical touch to let her know I’m here?”

Only then can we start to shift the way it feels in our bodies to connect rather than control. We can breathe, feel less tightness and less anger in ourselves as we connect compassionately and without expectation with our child.

Why is this hard to do for most of us? Simply, we weren’t parented this way. Many of us were parented in ways that often included yelling, punishing and shaming. Those old experiences from our past get triggered during a heated moment with our kids. The first step is to be aware of that happening. The second step is to have someone to talk to about it and to release those old hurts. The third step is to learn and practice new skills to connect. And voila! We’ve used connection to change direction! It benefits us as well as our kids.

This basic principle of relationship building with our kids actually applies to all relationships. Whenever someone is “acting up,” big feelings are at the root. Our spouse, a child in our classroom, a friend or a family member. Try connecting rather than controlling in response and see what happens. Asking someone how they feel or what they need can go a long way to understanding what’s actually happening, and can help us respond effectively to behaviors that challenge us to let go of control.

Adapted from The Connected Family.

Kiran Gaind owns The Connected Family, a boutique coaching practice for modern parents based in Palo Alto. She works with parents who are overwhelmed by their responsibilities and exhausted by the demands of parenting to feel overjoyed by their lives and being parents again.

Tags:  health  parenting 

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