Let’s Take More Photos of Moms

by Kristen Thompsonkristen.thom@gmail.com

There’s a photo of my mother and me that I know by heart. I’m in her arms in my grandparents’ backyard. I’m reaching out and smiling at someone off camera. My  mother’s blonde hair is cut short. She is wearing a lavender blouse and is looking down at me, smiling. She looks beautiful. And she looks proud.

I love this photo. There aren’t many pictures of just the two of us together, and I cherish the ones that I do have.

I want to leave my daughters beautiful photos like this: candid pictures that will tell them the story of my love for them. So I take a lot of selfies. If I didn’t, there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.

For some reason, there seems to be something unremarkable about my daughters being in my arms. Whether it’s a family gathering or an average day at home, chances are few people will aim their camera our way.

It began the day my first daughter was born. Family converged on our hospital room to meet this wonderful new little person and shutters clicked as she was passed from one beaming family member to the other. We turned down the hospital photographer, figuring there would be dozens of photos of just the baby and me. Somehow, there is only one.

The trend continued through the first months of her life. When a family member picked her up, the paparazzi would swarm. But the shutters fell silent when she was in my arms. I took to begging, sometimes in tears, for people to take more pictures of us together. When they did, I didn’t often receive a copy.

I wonder if people are so used to seeing mothers and their children together, that these everyday moments no longer seem special to the people who ought to be pointing their cameras our way. The fallout is that it can make us feel invisible. And we worry about what evidence will be left behind to show our children how much we loved them when they were small.

Allison Tate wrote a beautiful piece for the Huffington Post – The Mom Stays in The Picture – about her own resolve to overcome poor body image and be in more pictures with her children. In it, she writes how much of a mother’s life goes undocumented and unseen.

“I’m everywhere in their young lives,” she writes. “And yet I have very few pictures of me with them. I want them to see how much I am here, how my body looks wrapped round them in a hug, how loved they are.”

You see, it’s not just the remarkable moments that should be captured for posterity: babies being held by their great grandmothers or uncles or second cousins twice removed. Posing in front of Christmas trees or blowing out first birthday candles. It’s the quiet, everyday moments of mothers and their children that we should chronicle: reading to them before bed, napping together on the couch, wrapping them in a towel and cuddling after a bath. Pictures that tell the true story of our time together.

Those are the photos I cherish in my own childhood photo album. And I reckon they’ll be the ones my daughters will cherish when they are grown.

So if you have a wife, a sister, a friend or a daughter, and she has children of her own, pull out your phone and take some pictures. They don’t have to be perfect. They’ll tell her story all the same.


Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.thom@gmail.com.


 

Improving the Transition from Spouses to Co-Parents

by Sara Klemp

Transitioning from spouses to co-parents isn’t always simple, especially after a painful divorce. Conflict stemming from the relationship may have a tendency to continue even after spouses have parted ways. As with the end of any relationship, it takes time to accept that it’s over and move forward. But for divorcing parents, simply cutting ties and moving on can be much more complicated.

In this situation, it is often in the best interests of your children to work towards forming a new kind of relationship as co-parents. It may take time to get there, but transitioning into that relationship can help get you to a place where you can raise your children as partners in co-parenting. Here are four ways that can help you improve the transition from spouses to co-parents.

Confront Your Emotions

Apart from the matters that involve your co-parent directly, you may be facing other personal emotions that make it challenging for you to move forward. No matter what it is you’re facing, letting those emotions sit without confronting them now could make them harder to deal with later on. They could even start affecting your parenting and, in turn, affect your children.

Be proactive about finding emotional stability. Talk to close family members and friends about what you’re dealing with, and let them offer their support. Your close confidants want to be there to help you, whether that means listening to you talk through your emotions, helping you with household tasks, or even watching your children if you need to go out for a few hours. Apart from those closest to you, consider seeking help from a professional. Working with a counsellor or a therapist can help you learn skills for coping with your emotions. They can also help by providing you with a neutral perspective when discussing what you’re feeling, which is something that even close family and friends cannot always do. Above all, spend time with those who bring you the most joy. Having positive people around you, like your kids, can help to bring you up when you’re feeling down.

Find a Better Way to Communicate

Poor communication is often cited as a factor that can lead a relationship to end. If spouses faced poor communication during their relationship, those issues could continue once the divorce is final. However, this doesn’t mean that co-parents can’t find a better way to communicate now that they’re no longer together.

If phone calls, emails, and text messages frequently lead to conflict in your relationship, change the way you communicate moving forward. Tools built to facilitate co-parent communication can provide a better way to share information and reduce conflict. These tools can provide much more than just messaging between parents, which is important for ending the cycle of conflict. Shared parenting time calendars, expense registers, file sharing, and organized vital family information will help parents to share only the most important details without drawn out emails or vague text messages.

Stick To Your Boundaries

Going from spouses to co-parents is a big transition to make. You will need to face the fact that your relationship will no longer be the same as it once was and that it’s okay. Improving the transition relies heavily on setting new boundaries between yourself and your co-parent.

Set your boundaries high in the beginning. Let your co-parent move forward with their life, as you move forward with yours. Don’t try to dive too deep into their personal life by making your child a spy or researching your co-parent on social media. When you do interact with your co-parent, keep your conversations as clear and peaceful as possible. Treat these interactions similarly to how you would treat your interactions with co-workers. Provide your co-parent with the details that they need to know, and leave out any sidebars that could distract from the matter at hand. Keep your interactions as focused on your children as possible.

Kids First, Always

Making the transition from spouses to co-parents will affect your whole family, especially your children. In some ways, they are making this change with you. They’re facing tough emotions that may be suprising and unfamiliar. They need your support through this transition.

Dedicate yourself to making the best decisions possible for your children. Work with your co-parent to reach agreements that work in your children’s favour before anyone else’s. Be there to provide emotional support for your kids during this challenging time. Tell your children how much both you and their other parent love them, even if you know they already know. You truly can’t say these things enough.

Improving the transition from spouses to co-parents is easier when you have the right strategies in place. Confront the emotions that may be holding you back from moving forward. Find a better way to communicate with your co-parent, particularly if you find yourselves running into conflict with emails or text messages. Stick to the new boundaries that you set for yourself when it comes to managing your new relationship with your co-parent. And, as always, keep your kids in the forefront of every parenting decision you make. Again, your transition may not simply happen overnight, but taking the time to carefully transition from spouses to co-parents will help to set your family up for success as you all move forward.


Sara Klemp is a content editor and business analyst for the OurFamilyWizard® website, an online communication tool built for co-parents www.ourfamilywizard.com. She also serves as editor of the OFW Blog.


 

6 Tricks to Help Your Kids be Positive

by Cynthia Crossley  •  www.habyts.com/power-of-positive-perspective

Our thoughts, or rather, the way we think, have a remarkable impact on our everyday lives and wellbeing.

Don’t believe me?

Who do you think would be most successful?

1. The person who believes they can achieve anything, become whomever they want, and follows up with swift action, or:

2. The person who complains about anything, is indifferent about everything and gets nothing done out of feelings of hopelessness.

Obvious, huh? 

But whilst our thoughts may influence our lives in the present, our perspective influences our thoughts in the first place.

The power of a positive perspective

No matter how bad or ugly a situation, some people are always able to see the positive side. They don’t have some superhuman power. And they’re certainly not being inappropriate. Rather, they are simply viewing the situation from an angle which makes them feel empowered.

Depending on our perspective, we will unconsciously choose to exclude some aspects, and hone in on others. Just like a photographer chooses what he/she frames in a picture, and what they leave out. This is because everything in life is relative. If we believe something to be bad, it’s because we’re comparing it to something we think is better. People who view life with a positive perspective – the glass-half-full crowd – are experts in reframing a situation in a positive light. They look for the positive in the negative.

And those who  approach life with a negative perspective, the glass-half-empty crowd, subconsciously hone in on the negative aspects often failing to see the positive. This is why it’s important to promote a positive perspective from a young age. But it’s not something that can be adopted overnight. It takes practice.

Equipping your child with a positive perspective

When you equip your child with a positive perspective, you’re setting them up for a happy and successful life. A way of thinking which helps them overcome life’s hurdles and make good decisions, even when the chips are down.

Children have such an amazing ability to learn. They’re babies one day, and the next they’re learning language and life skills at an astonishing rate. This gives us, as parents, a very important and sometimes overwhelming duty: to teach our children every day the power of a positive perspective.

There are many things you can do each day to foster a positive perspective in your kids. Keep the following tips in mind:

1. Lead by example. From a young age, your kids pick up on more than you know. While you may live by the notion that you should always put your kids first, you also have to concentrate on your own self development. Because, when you think positively, so will your kids.

2. Watch your reactions. Just as with leading by example, you must watch your reactions, especially when things go awry. If you learn some bad news, fight the urge to have a negative reaction. Where possible, try to reframe it in a positive light and don’t yell or outwardly worry. Teach your children that sometimes things don’t turn out the way we’d hoped for, but eventually, the tides will turn.

3. Find the silver lining in challenges. As your children learn and develop, they’ll be faced with all sorts of challenges. Some of them will be easy, while others are more challenging. Be sure to point out the silver lining in any challenge your child may face. It’ll help them to see your point of view when they’re facing challenges alone.

4. Help them change their thinking. When your child is in the midst of a tough challenge, he or she might be tempted to give up. Use your wisdom to judge whether their situation is worth persisting with, and if it is, offer encouragement and motivation. Perhaps there’s an angle to the problem that your child hasn’t tried yet. Nudge them in the right direction until they find the success they seek.

5. Promote laughter. Laughter breeds happiness and positive feelings. Play into your child’s humorous side by promoting situations that your child finds funny. You can play games, go to shows, or simply have a good time together as a family.

6. Share the Love. Let them know they make a positive difference in your life and love them unconditionally.

A Happy Healthy Home

When you remember to treat your kids in a calm and loving manner, they’ll be more likely to do the same. If your child tends to panic, don’t scold them for this behaviour. Put them at ease as best as you can and show them that there’s a solution to their problem. If you panic, the situation may spiral into an unhealthy cycle.

In the end, there’s no right or wrong way to raise your kids. Do what’s best for your family in the way you know how. When you maintain a happy and healthy home, your children will learn to have hope and think positively!

We can’t shield them from all the stones and arrows life throws but we can give them the tools to stay above the fray.


Cynthia Crossley is passionate about positive parenting and the co-founder of Habyts®, a habit-building app that helps parents regulate screen time, eliminate homework distractions and motivate kids to build good habits for life! For more information email: contact@habyts.com or visit our website at: www.habyts.com.


 

Deciding to Try Baby Sign Language

by Kristen Thompsonkristen.thom@gmail.com

I spent the first ten months of my daughter’s life quietly begging her to beam her wants and needs into my mind during her daily (hourly) meltdowns. If a magician had existed to translate her cries for me, I would have hired that person on the spot.

Everything changed for the better one quiet afternoon, when out of the clear blue sky she looked up and gave me the sign for eat.

We’d been diligently signing several words to her since she was old enough to open her eyes, and I had been starting to feel like it was for naught. Then she signed eat  and realized she’d found a way to communicate a very pressing need without tears. And life for both of us became infinitely easier.

Two months later she was signing up, all done, and more. By 18 months she had mastered help, want, sorry, please and come. It wasn’t long before we added gentle, wait, share, and thank you, as well as food signs. This quiet means of communication eliminated a huge source of tears and frustration. It felt like a blessing. We learned our baby signs from babysignlanguage.com, a free resource for parents and caregivers that offers easy-to-follow signing tutorials for hundreds of words we use every day with children (they also have a great free app for your phone).

The key was repetition. Lots of it.

The onset of signing also came with the onset of speaking. She started saying words around the same time that she started signing. Some words she signed exclusively, others she spoke exclusively. By the age of two, she had dropped her signs altogether. Which begs the question, and a valid question at that:

Does signing to your baby improve or delay speech?

Baby sign language is not without its controversy. There are three schools of thought. The first: baby sign language delays speech because infants learn to communicate through gesture and don’t bother using words. The second: baby sign language leads to early speech because it improves cognition. The third: baby sign language has no impact on speech  – babies all start speaking at roughly the same rate regardless of whether they’ve learned to sign or not.

Delayed speech

Evidence that links sign language to delayed speech comes almost exclusively from personal anecdotes. There is no shortage of articles from frustrated moms who claim their non-verbal 18 month old hasn’t started speaking because of baby signing. But would that child have started speaking late anyway? Right now, it’s not clear.

Improved speech

Playing devil’s advocate are a host of psychologists and speech experts who claim baby signing can lead to improved language and cognitive skills, as well as a reduction in tantrums and improved parent–child relationships.

In a five year study conducted by doctors Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn, babies who learned to sign at eleven months showed greater language and comprehension skills by three years than those in the control group who didn’t sign.

Dr. Acredolo, a psychology professor at the University of California, argues that crawling babies aren’t any less motivated to learn to walk, and the same is true for signing.

No impact on speech

Rounding out the hypotheses is a new study published in the journal Child Development that found baby signing classes do nothing to accelerate infants’ language development.

The researchers, from Hertfordshire University in the U.K., tracked 20 babies who learned to sign and 20 babies who weren’t exposed to baby sign language, and found no evidence the first group of babies were more advanced in language development twelve months later.

So… who do you believe?

There’s a lack of concrete evidence that baby signing hinders speech development. Most of the controversy is focused on a lack of empirical evidence that signing leads to advanced cognitive skills. But early language acquisition was not our aim with signing. Our aim was to arm our pre-verbal daughter with a means of communicating a handful of needs based concepts to reduce stress for everyone in the family.

We did not replace spoken language with gestured language. We never signed full sentences, and we didn’t sign in silence  – each signed word was always spoken aloud.

At the end of the day, baby sign turned out to be an amazing way to communicate with my daughter, and for her to communicate with me  – without the tears.


Kristen Thompson is a freelance journalist and blogger. You can read her stories in Today’s Parent, the Toronto Star, Metro and the Yummy Mummy Club, or on her blog RunningWithSafetyScissors.com. She lives in Kelowna with her husband and two little girls. Follow Kristen on Twitter at twitter.com/KristenThom or email her at Kristen.thom@gmail.com.