Parent and Toddler Classes

In Tune Parent’s and Toddler’s class

Tuesdays at 10.30 – 11.30 at Integral Therapy, Letterkenny, Co.Donegal. Learn how to connect on a deeper level with your child/children through simple meditation and mindfulness practices. At this calm and gentle class you will learn how to align yourself with your child , tune in on the deepest level and enjoy blissful connection whilst observing your child as they engage in quiet play activities. All you learn in the class can be easily replicated in your home environment , effortlessly creating a calm and peaceful safe haven for both you and your children. If life is full on at the moment , always busy and distracted , this class is for you. Take just one hour a week to deeply connect in this way and see how freely life begins to flow again once you have achieved this level of connection. €40 per family for 4 weeks booking essential

€40.00

Tips for better bedtimes

conscious bedtime stories logo

My webinar guest this Tuesday (11th of July 2017) at 9.30 pm is none other than the author of The Conscious Bedtime Stories Collection , Andrew Newman.

Andrew and I share a vision ;

  • one in which children enjoy the comfort and security of deep meaningful connection with their parents .
  • One in which , a generation of children are raised feeling that they are safe , loved and that they truly belong.
  • A generation of healthy loving individuals who don’t need to recover from their childhoods , but rather instead launch into adulthood , strong and empowered , ready to spread love , and connection to all those they meet.

Now , you might say I’m a dreamer , but it’s quite evident that in the words of John Lennon , “I’m not the only one” .

Andrew Newman has identified the 20 minutes before sleep as a transition point where we process our day. For children , if unsupported during this processing period , they can come to believe it is safer or perhaps necessary to thwart their true essence in order to be accepted. Of course , it isn’t true that any child should suppress themselves and so , in order to help them stay connected to their true essence , Andrew has created the conscious bedtime stories collection . Andrew says that by connecting in this way during the 20 minutes before sleep, we can rectify any negative experiences from their day.

Andrew’s belief in the power of peaceful bedtimes is perfectly in tune with my own beliefs , and attitudes expressed in my e-book , The In Tune Parent’s Sleep Guide.

The methods and routines outlined in The In Tune Parent’s Sleep Guide will help you to connect deeply in the moment with your child and also build lasting connection . Connection is a key element in enabling your child to enter deep restorative sleep after a busy day.

The conscious bedtime stories can easily and effectively be incorporated into step two of the In Tune Parenting Sleep Induction Method.

Below is an excerpt from The In Tune Parent’s Sleep Guide;

In a family where everyone feels heard and seen no matter what time of day or night it is , you’ll find everyone is more co-operative and understanding . Better days lead to better nights , and of course a good night’s sleep leads to better days , we all want in on this loop!

A simple and consistent routine will help your children to learn healthy sleep habits that will stand you both in good stead for the future.

Guiding Babies and Toddlers into Sleep

Babies and Toddlers

Eye fixation is a powerful technique when readying your baby for sleep.If you hold your baby until they are asleep no props are necessary as your face is naturally at the perfect angle just above their eye level, but if you wish to have your baby fall asleep beside you on the bed or in their cot you will need to invest in a prop which you will affix above them , just above eye level so they will need to look up slightly in order to gaze at it. This will help to fatigue baby’s optic nerve and their eyelids will feel heavy and start to naturally close within minutes.

Your face is naturally at the perfect angle just above their eye level

As baby’s eyes close speak quietly to them to lull them over to sleep. The sound of your voice will help them to feel secure. A mantra is helpful. I like to use ‘safe comfortable and secure’ . Repeated in a monotone quiet voice .

If you are holding your baby the slight disorientation that comes from rocking or swaying your baby back and forth can be the final touch in getting them off to sleep. If you are lying beside your baby gently stroking from top of head down to lips and off – top of head down to lips and off again repeatedly can have a similar effect.

Sleep Induction – age 3+

For older children , perhaps from about 3+ .Those children with a well developed  imagination, I have a method which I call -Sleep Induction.

Similar to sleep meditations but when it’s their parent’s (or other trusted caregivers ) voice , you’ll find they sleep twice as quick.  

The first step , as with babies is to ready your child’s room.The room should be dark , black out blinds are a fantastic investment.Fresh comfortable bedclothes , good airflow through the room , toys tidied away to avoid distractions.

Next consider the bedtime routine ,comfortably full belly, clean teeth , hands and face (you may choose to bath nightly , but for children with eczema this isn’t recommended , and for some children a bath can be exciting and will therefore not be conducive to sleep, you know your child best) , pyjamas on , and any other sleep associations you’d like in place , (saying prayers, goodnight kisses, putting a special teddy to bed etc etc.)

Now its time to climb into bed.For the first four nights your child will be adjusting to the routine and step 1 will be absolutely necessary, after 4 nights it’s likely they will be able to relax each body part without your guidance.

Step 1

I like to use some form of eye fixation for older children as with babies and toddlers. Absolutely your face is still the most pleasant thing for them and if your happy to continue cradling your child so they may gaze up at you as you guide them into sleep , then you won’t need to invest in any further sleep props. However , if you find it’s harder to slip away once your child is sleeping when you’ve been cradling them , or if simply, you feel your child is of an age where you’d like them to fall asleep with minimal guidance , then , a cot mobile or stars projector (as long as it doesn’t play music!)is a great tool for utilising eye fixation for sleep induction.Something that will hold your child’s attention fixed slightly above eye level. This way they need to look up slightly to see it.This will fatigue the optic nerve , just enough to provide a heavy eyelids sensation.Encourage your child to watch the mobile/projector while together you’ll tell each body part to sleep.

It’s good for children to recognise that they are in control of their body and that they can simply command each body part to sleep.You’ll get a kick out of seeing their confidence rise too, as they remember what a powerful little being they are.

Together you’ll tell each body part to sleep

You can guide them here “feet go to sleep , you’ll notice now that your feet are getting soo heavy now sinking into the bed , and just so so relaxed , tell them to sleep, ok now your legs – legs go to sleep , they’re sinking into the bed too now, feeling heavy “ and so on. Soon you’ll notice your child’s eyes getting sleepy , speak quietly and slowly “close your eyes baby it’s time to sleep, shhhhhhh” , you can also signal to them to close eyes by passing your hand from their forehead to mouth and away ,without touching or with a feather light touch. Continue to verbally suggest drifting off to sleep , “sleep now love ,time to sleep , sweet dreams, that’s it ,get really comfy now its time to sleep”. Speak slowly and draw out your words. When their breathing gets deeper and they’ve relaxed their body, you can move on to the next step in the sleep induction. The bedtime story.

Step 2

The bedtime story will guide them towards pleasant dreams

The bedtime story .

Encourage your child to follow your voice , to listen to your words and imagine as though the story is real , or a movie in their head.Favourite characters going on a journey of some kind can work well but be mindful to avoid any kind of excitement in the story.It should be sufficiently interesting that they want to follow along yet not so interesting that they want to ask questions or contribute to the story.

Since discovering Andrew Newman’s Conscious Bedtime Stories , I now recommend reading one of his beautiful conscious bedtime stories at this stage. The conscious bedtime stories set the perfect tone for bedtime and encourage deep meaningful connection.

To learn more about the conscious bedtime stories collection follow this link 

And you can buy the full ebook , The In Tune Parent’s Sleep Guide , here.

Selective hearing?

Are your kids zoning you out? Only hearing what they want not what you actually say?

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Today I received a comment from a mum who is taking my 5 day mini course to better communication at home. She liked the lesson but struggled with what she named as ‘selective hearing’ from her kids.

I really wanted to address this in order to ensure the 5 day mini course is providing the transformational effects on your communication with your kids that it was designed to.

So , first of all lets look at some reasons why your children might suffer from ‘selective hearing’.

  • You are saying too much – Kids will zone out and stop listening if you’re being boring. I know that sounds frank and blunt , but really , if you’re in the habit of rambling on , you need to curb that.

    You need to use directional , short and snappy sentences that don’t require much concentration from your children.

    If you have a list of jobs you want your child to fulfil deliver them one at a time.

  1. ‘Please ,tidy your room now’ – and only when they’ve finished say the next job ,

  2. ‘Now,do your homework please’ and when you’ve checked their homework then you can say

  3. ‘ok, please set the table’

    Instead of , – ‘your room is a mess you need to tidy up everything where it belongs and don’t forget to hoover the floor , there is always tiny bits of lego left there and I don’t want your little brother picking them up , you know that’s a choking hazard , when your done don’t forget its Sunday and you still need to do your homework before school tomorrow , I’m starting the dinner so I’ll need you to set the table soon too’

I’m sure you can notice how much easier it would be to respond in the first instance , right?

  • Your child is focused on something else – There is a lot of benefit for both you and your child when they are deeply immersed in their play , see my video post on independent play here. Normally , I recommend respecting their play and not disturbing them , but if you need them to listen to something important – see my tips below .

  • You are speaking to him while you are doing something else – when you are not fully focusing yourself , your child will follow your lead. If you want your child to fully listen , you need to be fully engaging . It is extremely important that you also model good listening skills for your child. When they speak to you , give them your full attention – and they will return the favour!

  • You are criticising – If your spouse or partner was highly critical towards you , pretty soon you’d stop listening , just to protect yourself. It’s quite likely you’d avoid talking to them about yourself and the inner workings of your soul – is that how you want your children to approach interaction with you? So if you like me , want for your children to willingly come to you with the big stuff, you have to listen just as intently to all the little stuff – openly , and without judgement or criticism.

    Let’s flip this again , imagine , your friend hangs on your every word. They openly express how much they love conversations with you, because, everything you say is so in tune with who they are they feel completely validated in your presence .When they chat to you , you feel compelled to listen , the two of you are just so completely on the same page . Now imagine , one day , this friend shakes their head and says ‘ um no , I don’t really see it that way , for me it’s more like …’ . You’ll be intrigued to hear their opinion , because you’ve come to value their input so highly. It’s likely their differing belief will swim around in your head for a while , and you may even alter your behaviour slightly, because what they said made so much sense , you’ve given it thought and come to your own conclusion ,that they are right. If you didnt hold this friend in such a high regard , you might have rejected their opinion right away , even tried to argue why you are completely right.

    Our relationship with our children is the same as a relationship with anybody else. You can be critical like in the first example , and they will zone you out after a while – it’s human nature. Or you can build up a strong connection , you can set up mutual respect for each other through your words and actions.

  • You are not following your words with action – Are you following through? When you say you will do something , do you do it? Pretty soon , if you’re consistently saying one thing but doing the opposite , your child will stop listening and taking you seriously.

So now that you know some reasons why a child might not listen, how do you get them to pay attention to what you are saying? Try some of these strategies for nurturing good listening skills and sign up here for my free 5 day mini course , to learn how to speak in a way , that your children truly WANT to listen.

  • Eye Contact Get down to your child’s level and ask them to look directly at you while you are speaking to each other. This is a way to, both, make sure you have your child’s full attention and also, to teach your child good manners and to listen in a respectful way when someone is speaking to them.

  • Model good listening As with other behaviors, your child will learn how to listen by following the example you set.

  • Try to find out why Consider what may be causing them to zone you out , instead of just dismissing it as them not being respectful or purposefully ignoring you.

  • Keep your cool.As exasperating as it may be when your child does not listen, try to stay calm and refrain from shouting or speaking in an angry tone. Here’s why:

  1. When you get angry, you are showing your child that you are not in control

  2. While shouting might get you results in the short-term, it will eventually lose its effectiveness over time.(the boy who cried wolf)

  • Explain that it’s not respectful.Teach your child that not listening or ignoring someone when they’re talking to you is not a nice way to treat people.

  • Be Playful.Change the dynamic of your interactions by lightening things up a bit. E.g if you are frustrated by your child dawdling make it a game , use timers to see who can win a race to the door .Use your imagination to encourage their cooperation instead of making demands.

Don’t expect results overnight.Building good comunication habits in your home is an ongoing process. Instead of expecting your child to always obey you the first time you say something, look at the development of their listening skills as part of building an important foundation that will help you and your child develop a strong relationship for years to come.

If you’d like actionable tips on how to build better communication in your home, and. speak with more influence please sign up for my 5 day FREE mini course – 5 days to better communication.

Staying connected while grieving

grieving

I’ve been there , I’m still there , I choose joy.

It’s almost 6 years since my beautiful first daughter Rosie was stillborn.
In an instant I felt as though I was about to fall off the edge of the universe. My screams echoed around me , but not from me. No God – Take me! Outside looking in at Simon holding me as I screamed – was I already dead?
I willed my body silent , couldn’t she close those eyes and just go now?
Instead I watched her sit , I watched her borrow the midwifes phone to ring home , I watched her gaze un-moving at the phone in her hand , ‘is that your son? – he’s beautiful’. Still gentle , still polite , still Helen.
The birth was harder than I ever could have imagined . The pain we so graciously endure in anticipation of the joy to follow ,would not be my experience – this time.
As I sat on the hospital bed with my still, lifeless baby in my arms , faced with the heartbreaking task of dressing her in the only babygro she would ever wear , I glanced up and saw my beautiful 2 year old son sat on the floor with a box of pringles.
In an instant , my attachment parented nursling felt miles away and the disconnect began.
Overtaken by grief , I drifted off. Spending most days searching the Internet for someone who understood. It was 2011 , a time before facebook groups, but I did find a few blogs by women as grief-stricken as I. Some were 2 , 3 or even 10 years on, writing they’d never recovered , and that a grief like ours forever changes you.The thought scared me. I already felt a distance forming between Kevin and I , could this really be our story now?
Here’s what I learned , and wish I could have found online back then.If I can help even 1 grieving mother see the light , this post will have been worth the vulnerability of writing it.

Dear grieving mother,

I’ve been there , I’m still there , I choose joy.

Please remember that you have not failed and this is not your fault.

I was afraid to even allow myself to think it – but it was there in the back of my mind , the guilt . I’d failed to deliver our baby and it hurt so bad to see my husbands pain and grief.It wasn’t my fault , it probably wasn’t anyone’s fault . While I could blame my midwife or Dr for not forcing induction when I reached 42 weeks , or not picking up on a problem during my daily check-ups , or even for not checking on me often enough during early labour that day , how would that serve me? And , it wont serve you either. Practice forgiveness , forgive yourself , forgive everyone else involved , and set yourself free.

 

You will wonder how the hell you will ever survive this pain.

But you will. And the person that you will become will be even more whole than the person you knew before.When the joy you exude has long since been your identity it can be scary to feel such a depth of sadness. When you look in the mirror and see you have lost all sparkle from your eyes and your smile looks fake no matter how much heart you try to put into it , you feel like a shell of the person you once were -you’re at a cross road and its up to you to choose which direction you’ll take.You can let grief overtake you forever more , you can sit in a darkened room and no one would blame you.

Or ,

you can choose joy. You and only you , can choose the direction of the energy you put out into this world.

You will love as intensely as you hurt.

 

You will still question ‘why us?’  These thoughts and emotions are all valid , but remember that they are transient and you will not be consumed by them.

Relationships will change.

Some friends won’t be able to cope with your pain.  This is not your responsibility. Let them Go. Other friends will show the amazing capacity of their heart. They will know how to hold you , as you need held , as you fluctuate from grief to joy to grief again allow them to help you and thank them. Seeking and accepting help doesn’t mean you’re not coping. It doesn’t mean you’re not choosing joy , you are on the road to joy. The beautiful winding road. Choose to enjoy the journey.Express your gratitude.

You will be a different person, which is hard, But the core you is still in there. And you will grow into someone new, someone stronger, someone with more compassion and with a bigger heart.

The contrast of your intense pain will become a new barometer in your life , increasing the intensity of your joy  and will give you back the sparkle in your eyes and the fire and determination in your belly.

Know that your baby will always be with you.Wherever you go and whatever you do.Never born into her body she has a freedom most of us have forgotten. She will be forever with you , spurring you on and giving you strength.An angel on your shoulder.

You couldn’t go then , no matter how much you longed to , for you still have so much , and thanks to this experience , even more , to give the world.This is not the end. This is just the beginning.

From my heart to yours

With love and in joy

Helen

 

In the days and weeks that followed my decision to choose joy , I concentrated on restrengthening the connection between Kevin and I.

  • The constant stream of Thomas the tank engine programs was turned off.
  • We spent a lot of quiet time (since that was what I needed) reading or playing play doh together.
  • We took nature walks , looking for Roses or white butterflies
  • My sadness hadn’t escaped him – on his 3rd birthday , 4 months later, I took him to the toy shop to choose a gift, he insisted he wanted a baby doll, and as soon as he left the shop he handed it to me “a baby for you Mummy – are you happy?” ,I thanked him (it’s now Lili’s favourite doll!), and I’m reminded every time I see it of what a kind and thoughtful boy he is.
  • We chatted lots , he tells me lots of stories , and I always stay mindful to listen intently.
  • I spent a lot of time just gazing adoringly at the little miracle he is.

And our connection grew. Perhaps we became even closer than we were before.

Rosie is still an important member of our family. We speak freely about her , and feel strongly about allowing her spirit to be free . I’m so grateful she came into our lives for those 42 weeks and amplified the love , connection and joy in my life.

Parenting a sensitive child

sensitive child

From a young age , I’ve been aware that how I process the world , is different from quite a few of those around me. It baffled me for many years. Then , I learnt to hide it in an attempt to fit in however unsuccessfully. Later , as an adult , I met my first born , and at last it all fell into place.

I recognised in my son , so many of the sensitivities I’d been lead to believe were ‘weird’ and ‘annoying’ for others, in myself. I was determined to parent him in a way that would nurture his sensitivity whilst still preparing him for and supporting him within our society as it is today.

I followed a trail of  books, and internet articles absorbing the works of Dr . William Sears especially his ‘fussy baby book‘ and Elaine Aron’s ‘The highly sensitive child‘ .  Elaine Aron’s description of the highly sensitive child resonated deeply with me as I recognised myself , simultaneously gaining a greater understanding of myself and my son as I read her words,”a highly sensitive child is one of the fifteen to twenty percent of children born with a nervous system that is highly aware and quick to react to everything.” Such children are incredibly responsive to their environments whether it is the lighting, sounds, smells or overall mood of the people in their situations – highly sensitive children will pick up on it.

The “highly sensitive” label doesn’t mean overly emotional. It describes the child’s nervous system, which is extremely sensitive and responsive.

This means that highly sensitive children startle easily, and don’t enjoy big surprises. They are extremely sensitive to smells, may seem to read your mind at times, and tend to be perfectionists. They don’t do well with crowds, loud noises, or violent movies or television programs.

The trait of high sensitivity is not necessarily a sign of introversion, though, with about 30% of highly sensitive people being extroverts.

In infancy the highly sensitive child may be considered a ‘high needs baby’ , a term coined by Dr. William Sears . You can check out these ’12 features of a high needs baby’ to see if your child fits the description here.

We knew from the beginning our child had a finely tuned nervous system. He was highly sensitive and high needs, without a doubt, though we didn’t know how to word it at the time.He cried easily and was difficult to soothe (apart from by breastfeeding – yey super boobies!). He was easily overstimulated and acutely attuned to changes in his environment.He was still a happy baby, if he got exactly what he needed to feel comfortable in his environment: he loved being held, he loved being carried, and he adored silence.

High needs babies grow into highly sensitive toddlers.By now ,I’ve experienced this with all 3 of my children. I’m not expecting them to grow out of it – after all , I didn’t!

After a few years of practice, most will have learnt how to create a happy environment for their little highly sensitive person. In our house the number 1 thing is building in lots of downtime into our days.

In general , highly sensitive children, may experience more intense emotions because they take in more information from their environment, and process it more thoroughly. This can lead to over-stimulation in busy or noisy environments.

Being a highly sensitive person myself, life experience had taught me a lot about how to process these high emotions.Translating what works for me into easily teachable skills for my children has taken years of thought and trial and error.

It’s important for children to be taught socially acceptable ways to express their emotions fully , and also how to direct their highly sensitive energy into a means in which they can serve society. One of the main benefits of high sensitivity is an increased sense of empathy , and an increased drive to steer away from violence and aggression , which I feel are traits the world needs more of today.

 

We’ve structured our lives and our days in ways that suit our whole family and on a good day, everything just works. (We have lots of good days. But of course there are bad ones, too.)

Here’s what has worked for us :

  • Simply furnished rooms. Minimal toys on display , and a big emphasis on keeping things in there place and tidy.
  • Lots of downtime built into the day. Even during playdates I allow my children to ‘escape’ into a room away from our guests if they feel they need it. I don’t want them to appear rude so for the younger ones I explain to our guests that this is something I give permission for as I feel it’s important they have space to regulate themselves. For my eldest who is now 8 , I expect him to explain and excuse himself before he leaves , and to return to say goodbye before our guests leave at the very least or sooner if possible.
  • Lots of time for independent work/play . All children thrive on un-directed play . Play is the work of childhood , they learn so many lessons ,which we could never teach , when granted free time and space to explore and play independently.When play is child-driven, children practice decision-making skills, move at their own pace, discover areas of interest on their own, and ultimately engage fully in the passions they wish to pursue.When play is controlled by adults – such as in organised sports – children have to follow adult rules and objectives (like winning) and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership and group skills. Free, child-driven, creative play protects against the effects of pressure and stress , which is especially important for a highly sensitive child.
  • Moderated noise levels.
  • Zero access to violent TV shows (including the news) , violent movies or computer games.
  • Structure and routine.Having a daily routine helps children to self regulate as they have a sense for what is coming next. Their day becomes predicable and in an uncertain world the predictability and certainty of home provides deep comfort.

We’ve been having lots of talks lately about dealing with uncomfortable content in the world around us , see my post on helping your children process news of terrorist attacks here.

There are no easy solutions: this is the world we live in. How do we shield our children appropriately, without being overprotective?

I feel that teaching and enforcing personal boundaries for all people , teaching consent and about giving everyone their personal space , is a good place to start.

We aim to teach our children resilience and a respect for their own boundaries , how to recognise when they start to feel overwhelmed and how to find that balance again , through connection with family , meditation and plenty of rest.

I am mindful to emphasise the perks of sensitivity.Highly sensitive people are :

  • gentle and compassionate,
  • natural peacemakers,
  •  responsible and intuitive.
  • creative
  • empathetic listeners
  • They have a sharpened sense of awareness and are often gifted intellectually, creatively and emotionally demonstrating genuine compassion at early ages.

Highly sensitive children need a parent who will show them compassion and empathy as they learn to navigate their path. So that they can learn how to see their sensitivity as a strength and begin empowering themselves with tools to tap into the “upside” of their sensitivity while simultaneously learning how to manage their rich emotional lives in socially acceptable ways.

Parenting a highly sensitive child can be extremely rewarding however some parents admittedly find it exhausting. Raising a healthy, happy and well-adjusted sensitive child is possible however it takes “sensitive parenting skills” to succeed such as these mindset shifts :

  • Mindset shift 1- View Sensitivity as a Gift – It’s easy to get frustrated with your child if they continually cry, withdraw and shy away from regular social situations. Instead of viewing your “sensitive” child as being  flawed it is more helpful to see your child as having a special gift. Creative artists, innovators and children who are talented in varying ways are typically sensitive. Some of the greatest thinkers like Carl Jung,  Abraham Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt are believed to have been highly sensitive.
  • Mindset shift 2 -Focus on Strengths – Training yourself to see your child’s strengths first like their incredible creativity, perceptiveness and keen intellect is important because it helps you accept their challenges (i.e. highly emotional, picky, shy or overly active).
  • Mindset shift 3 – see your child not their behaviour. – Focus on supporting your child and giving them the skills they need to live within our society.Instead of comparing Johnny (highly sensitive child) who melts down on every shopping trip out of the house , to Sally who smiles sweetly at every passer-by and seems to adapt and adjust easily to every situation thrown at her , trouble shoot the issue at hand. Johnny isn’t anti-social or a naughty kid , he just finds the bright lights , hard seat of the shopping trolley and hustle-bustle of the shoppers overwhelming and over stimulating.

Conventional parenting styles cause disconnect between parent and child.For highly sensitive children this is amplified. Highly sensitive children need compassionate , gentle and empathetic parents who focus on connection rather than punishment . Because connection leads to co-operation.

If you have a high needs baby or highly sensitive child I hope you have found some value in my words. Click through the links at the top of this post to the books by Dr . Sears and Elaine Aron (I’m not affiliated with either in any way but highly recommend both as they helped me on my journey so much)

Come find me , like , follow and subscribe on facebook , instagram , twitter and youtube for more from In Tune Parenting.