Parenting during the pandemic

How Your Structure Determines Success in the 2020-21 School Year

Regardless of your political affiliation, your beliefs on mask wearing, the re-starting of the economy, and everything else pandemic related, your kids are starting school in some capacity. You may not like what it looks like, how it’s being handled, your options, or any other number of things.

It’s happening.

Your attitude and actions are key players in how your child will succeed, now more than ever before.

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

You may be one of those parents who simply wants to send their child to school and not really have to think about it. Or you have no choice in the matter because your school is the only place your kids get food, while the rest of your income goes to shelter and clothing. The variance in what school provides for families is vast and finding one solution to meet all of those needs is not likely any time soon.

What can you do?

Look at your circle of influence first. Keep coming back to this, knowing that when things start to feel out of control this will re-center you and bring it all back to what’s important. In her article, Psychologist Claire Newton describes how to use the Circle of Influence, and most specifically how to hone in on the center circle, the Circle of Control.  Being clear about the center circle brings one back to what they can actively create and change in their lives. Being able to do this brings a sense of empowerment and ease that each one of us needs right now.

Once you have a sense of what you can control, you can start building a structure that supports you and your values. Assuming that you want to make it through this school year in an intact relationship with your kids, and they with what they’ve learned, keep those specific values in the forefront of your mind when you build daily structure.

Before you get all gung-ho or freaked out by creating a schedule or structure to live from, take a moment for reflection. Do you know how you work best? Have you stopped to realize that just because you work that way, your kids may not? We need to think about these things so what you create works.

Take a moment and answer these questions:

  1. When do you focus best? What is the environment like when you do? What time of day is it? When did you eat last? What did you eat last?
  2. Do you need to have everything in order, or do you do best when life just comes your way? When life blows up, are you able to stop what you’re doing and manage it then return to your work unfettered? Does any distraction when you’re focused cause you to loose everything?
  3. Are your kids demanding of your time or are they self-motivated and self-directed? Can your kids find an activity that doesn’t require you to be fully present that isn’t device related?
  4. How much flexibility do you have in your work tasks? Can you shift and build in a way that supports online learning for your kids, or do your kids need to shift around your work?

Take a moment and look at your answers. This may help to organize a thought process around your needs and the needs of your kids that will begin to build a schedule. Remember, you have control over how you respond to all of this. Look especially at the parts where you feel helpless, defeated, or have an automatic “This will never work,” or “I have to give this up because of that.” These places need special attention and creativity.

There will be compromise. Let’s make sure that the compromise isn’t done in such a way that you lose the connection to yourself, or to your kids.

Get out a sheet of paper and build a 24-hour set of time to fill in. Now, do it again on another sheet. And again, so you have at least three of them to look at.

Step One in creating structure is to look at your needs first. Remember the constant saying to put your oxygen mask on first before anyone else’s? This is that part. You will only create disaster for everyone including yourself unless you thrive on martyrdom. If you’re a creative, choose a color or marker that represents your time. If you’re not, then just go with it.

What are your needs? Sleep really needs to be the first and foremost piece. Plan out a minimum of six hours per night. Block this out on the first sheet. We’ll re-build this on the second and third in a minute. Notice where you put sleep, this is likely your current sleep pattern at this time and you may change it.

Step Two is sustenance. Food. Are you in charge of food for your whole family? Just you? Take a moment and look at that. When I have my kids (I’m a single parent 50/50 of the week, so I have two schedules that I’m building), I make meals for everyone. When I’m planning for all of us, I’ll consider what they can create on their own for breakfast or if I need to cook, making lunches the night before to maintain “school structure” and they can grab-and-go as if they were in the classroom, and meal-prep for the week so dinner is simple and easy.

Back to what sustains you. What do you need for breakfast, snacks, lunch, dinner? Does it help you to make lunches for everyone so you have it too? Or is work so demanding of your time that taking a break and making lunch with your kids will give you a moment of connection that is needed during the day? Depending on how you answer this, block out 30-60 minutes for lunch on your first page.

Photo by August de Richelieu from Pexels

How about breakfast and dinner? Are you able to start work and end work consistently? Do you need to work early in the morning and/or after dinner to make room for the demands of the kids? Consider this as you block out a minimum of 30 minutes for those two meals, add more if you’re prepping it and cleaning up (your kids are capable of doing some of this too, at the very least by age 7).

Step Three is movement. Working from home in addition to stay-at-home orders are taking an already sedentary society and making it even more so. “Pandemic Pounds” is akin to the “Freshman Fifteen” right now and it’s not funny in an already obese society (I’m assuming most of my readers are American). Movement is not an option, it’s a priority, a must for your health, for your immune system, and your attitude. Stop right now and set your mind straight that movement is mandatory, for you and your kids.

Break it down so it’s fun. If you “hate” movement, know that it’s your brain telling you that being comfortable is easier. Movement releases all the happy hormones, so that voice is lying to you and resisting change. Now that it’s clear, ask yourself this:

Do I like exercise alone, guided, with others, silently, with music, inside, outside, slow, vigorous, pushing/pulling, stretching, jumping, etc…. Get honest about what inspires you to move. Then commit to something. It can be an online guided exercise group (Kinergy, Alo Moves, Vimeo, Egoscue), or going to the staircase in or near your home and committing to 10 flights and step-ups with ankle weights. If you’re tight on space, you and your kids will love a mini trampoline. The benefits I feel from just fifteen minutes of jumping are mind-boggling. It’s also a great addition to an obstacle course that your kids get to do once an hour.

Photo by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

Now that you’ve got this, put it in your calendar. Are you a first thing in the morning mover? Does moving first thing in the morning set your day? Does movement help you sleep? Does it get you through the afternoon slump? Put it where those happy hormones will benefit you the most.

Step Four Decide what takes precedence, your work schedule or your kids school schedule. Do your kids need a lot of support to get through their work and you need to support them (especially these first few weeks)? Is your boss uncompromisingly horrific or on calls/meetings that can’t shift? What can you control or create shifts in? Are there times of the day that your job needs to come first and times when your kids school needs to come first? Do they need you to help them get set up for a morning meeting, or to just check in with them every few hours to see that they’re on track?

This may change from day to day. Having structure doesn’t mean being rigid in the day-to-day. Structure is a framework that can shift and mold to what takes priority, and it’s a place to come back to when life happens.

Build out your first schedule to meet up with your work priorities and your kid’s priorities. You may want this to be step one if it’s the piece that creates the most anxiety. Make sure if you do this first, you get each of the other steps in as well. Remember, movement is not an option.

Step Five is a place to create the joy and the play in your life. This is where you block out the time to focus entirely on your kids, your partner, yourself. Kids will likely remember the time that you focused only on them to play hide-and-seek, board games, reading in bed, reading their schoolwork with curiosity vs criticism, painting a wall in the garage, or any other random thing. They will also remember you consistently telling them that you don’t have time for them, or half paying them attention. Committing to an hour every day with them where they have your undivided attention goes a very long way in their emotional development, and yours as well.

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

My me-time happens in the hour before my kids wake up and the hour after they go to bed. I have an exceedingly difficult time sharing that with anyone else, and it’s the first to get compromised if I’m not careful at guarding it. The time you create for yourself is a lot like the time you give to your kids, the impact is deeply meaningful to your self-worth and personal growth. This time is yours to do with as you wish. If you feel better when your kitchen is clean, then you might do that. If you want to connect with a friend, read from a high-quality news source, journal, drink tea in silence, any of that can fill you back up.

Fill in your schedule with this very important time to connect with those you love, including yourself.

What do you do with the other schedule sheets you made?? Well, the first one you made won’t likely be perfect. Look it over again and get really honest with yourself. Are you really going to exercise for an hour every day? Do you need eight or even ten hours of sleep every night? Is your boss actually not the demon you think he is and is he more flexible that you think? Build your second schedule with a little more honesty, or playfulness. Then do it again with the third. Start thinking outside your preconceived notions about “how it’s going to be” and build a structure that allows for creativity.

Now get a notebook, yes the $1 ones are perfect, and at the end of each day take 10 minutes with or without your kids and review how the day went. What part of the day was the best? What was most productive? What was the most challenging? Ask why to each of these. There’s gold nuggets in them whys. Then keep adapting to what works.

Keep the structure of when you wake and when you go to sleep. Sleep is the most important. Then the morning and evening routines (they set up the day, and take the worry away so you can rest). Then you fill in the rest for how and when.

Notice when you commit to this (at least a week if not a month), you can still have room for unstructured time, we all need a little bit of that too. Creating this also makes it easier to understand expectations, demands, and still connect with the values that drive you to live with passion and purpose.

Share your experiences with me. I’d love to see the schedule you created!! I’d love to hear what works and what doesn’t, I may get a little gold nugget from you. You can share on my Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter pages. Or send me an email at Emily@consciouslivingllc.com. I love hearing from you!   

Reflections from a Perinatal Mood Disorder

I was so excited to come to the Postpartum Support International Conference and Certificate Training this week. To be able to learn more and support the many families that I work with week after week; the mothers who are desperately trying to breastfeed successfully and the partners/dads that are standing by helping however they can, and the other couples that don’t like to admit that they hate each other at the moment because its so hard. So many of them are dealing with perinatal mood and anxiety and I feel like I don’t yet have the tools to be able to help.

It’s become a mission of mine to have the support that they need and get them the help they very much deserve. Sometimes the CranioSacral Therapy does what it needs to do for the baby and things normalize because that stress is no longer there. They’re able to breastfeed and finally get some sleep, then their moods begin to balance. Sometimes there are other things that need to happen and that helps as well. Other times, I wonder if those parents go away still struggling and I just don’t know how they are. I came here looking for tools. I had no idea what I would be facing as the first day unfolded.

Family Bonding


When I finally made it after navigating Philadelphia traffic and parking around the University, I found a room packed with 200 people there for similar reasons. I luckily got a seat and began to listen as the presenter described the various ways that Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders looked. Most often it looks like typical anxiety, then it can also look like depression. In a study of 10,000 women, 28% had it. That’s approximately one in four women. They estimate that 40% of women who suffer from this are diagnosed, and only 60% of those are actually treated. Looking back, I was one that never got diagnosed because of the shame I felt at admitting to my experience and never got treated. I listened further, working on not shaming myself even more for not having sought treatment and suffering in silence.

As they went through the depression symptoms, check marks were going off in my head. Then came the anxiety symptoms, and the check marks slowed down…..a little. The shock happened when I was struggling to hold back tears while they spoke about Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The biggest piece was the term “intrusive thoughts.” I had forgotten about those, which is why I never probably went down the road of mania, because I was able to see the thoughts for what they were and acknowledge that they weren’t real or even truly my own. Regardless, I was struck by how much I could fully relate to during the presentation just that morning.
Later they spoke about PTSD, something I was diagnosed with when I was 19, and I again had to look at while reflecting on the loss of our first baby at 29 weeks gestation. I had recently started my masters degree during that pregnancy and after he passed I remember thinking to myself like it was yesterday, “This is interesting, I can’t make sense of anything that I read.” Hmmm, a little relapse in my post traumatic stress disorder perhaps? I can joke about it now, but at the time I was terrified. I didn’t want to go on medication and deal with the stigma that I was somehow mentally sick. The shame that I thought my family would feel, the pity that I never wanted to experience from others because of the loss, and the perceived misunderstanding of my then husband. I felt so alone, and yet I still had two more kids after that. I had no idea the level of support I needed at the time, and the disconnection from my emotions only compounded with the following pregnancies.

My next child was born 5 weeks early and spent 10 days in the NICU. That’s another risk for a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder. Well, I had it and the acupuncture and visits to the gym helped…a little. I finally got the homebirth I wanted with my daughter, and she got stuck during her birth. Shoulder dystocia. If I wasn’t so hopped up on the hormonal roller coaster of birth, I think I would have felt more of how they attempted to get her out, but I don’t think I was really all there after a certain point, which may have been more of dissociation than anything. She needed to be resuscitated and put on oxygen for the next day. Again, another big risk for PMAD even though I was in this weird state of bliss and denial over the seriousness of her birth. It’s only now that I’m becoming aware of the pelvic floor trauma I endured during her birth and the consequences of it ranging from pain in my vagina to the issues I’ve glossed over with sex.

I have to ask how I walked through the mental fog of those years, miserable, wanting my life to be over, to simply escape this supposed joy of motherhood that was my jail? It all showed up for me as shame, irritability, hopelessness, anger and resentment, low self-esteem, irrational thoughts and fears, lack of joy, and fatigue. How is it possible that my friends or family didn’t notice or say anything? I know I’m a stubborn ass, but even so..? How was it that my doctors didn’t notice the flatness of my eyes or that I didn’t laugh anymore? Its not their job, but then it kind of is, right?
It’s why I’m here this week. It’s why I’m getting the tools so when these moms come in, I can say, I remember that. I see it in your eyes and I feel your suppressed emotions, something isn’t right. Lets talk about this for a moment. How can I support you, and if I can’t, here are resources that can when you’re ready or for your partner to do some research so they can support you and guide you to the help you need. Or if your partner is struggling as well, they can find support.

Suffering in silence didn’t make me stronger. It’s given me something to reflect upon and I’m damn lucky that I didn’t take my own life. I’m stopping the silence with this post. I will no longer sit back and hide in my pain, that’s not an option. It’s time to speak up and share with others that their pain doesn’t have to be there. There is help and there is no shame in asking for it. I know I will when I get back in town, because it’s never too late and I obviously still have a few things to look at. One in four women; that have answered the questionnaires honestly, are sharing your pain. There are likely more. It doesn’t mean we have to sit around the campfire and hold hands; although that is a great way to heal, it’s not for everyone. It simply means that there are others and speaking with one person about it or ten others in a support group, talking about it helps you to get out of your head and into the land of the living.

The best ways to support yourself is by getting sleep, telling your partner very specifically what you need (otherwise he’ll end up as frustrated as you and hide in the garage), do at least one thing a week that nurtures you alone, do one self-care item a day even if it’s just wearing your day clothes during the day and bed clothes to bed, get help from a qualified psychotherapist (one who specializes in PMADs), call Postpartum Support International for resources or their warm line, get a massage or acupuncture or work with a naturopath if you don’t want to do pharmacology, go for a walk every day, and at the very least, acknowledge that because you changed at least a few diapers today, you’re a good mom.

Resources:
www.postpartum.net
www.postpartumDADS.org
www.ppdsupportpage.com

Breastfeeding with assistance, solving breastfeeding issue with Conscious Living

Top 3 Reasons CranioSacral Therapy is Right for You and Your Baby

Top 3 Reasons CranioSacral Therapy is Right for You and Your Baby

To learn more follow Emily on Facebook or www.ConsciousLivingLLC.com
If you haven’t heard of CranioSacral Therapy (CST), now is the time. Our society is so full of constant input and our systems have reached a state of overwhelm.

When you decide to add a family to the mix of it all, overwhelm then becomes something much bigger and our bodies begin to protest. You feel exhausted or irritable, you start to create habits that don’t support you even though you think that they are, and your life generally starts living you instead of you living it.

CranioSacral Therapy (CST) is a very gentle form of bodywork that addresses the Central Nervous System (CNS), and can assist in bringing it back to a more neutral state instead of being hyper-alert and always “on.” When you have a family, it’s not just you anymore. You have to be “on” all of the time because now you have so much more to be responsible for.

Let’s look more deeply at why CST can help you.

1. You’re a husband or partner in child-rearing

Being the supporting partner in creating a family tends to be a little less rewarding that perhaps one may initially have thought it would have been. There is a level of stress that typically goes unnoticed because there’s a baby in the house that needs so much moment to moment care.
The partner that you used to come home to, who was once interested in your day is now handing a child over to you and is so exhausted that she may not even see you beyond the babies needs.

This emotional strain of providing the blind necessities of life and then no longer having the depth of connection you may have once had strains the nervous system. This strain leaves the body with little of the much needed dopamine and other “happy” hormones that cause us to feel lifted in our lives and connected to those around us.

While CST work won’t provide a lasting boost of dopamine in your system, it does allow the brain to dump out some of the other stress hormones that are building up and essentially “reboot” the hard drive computer of the brain, thus allowing an individual to find a place of neutrality and go back into the world with a fresh view on life.

I have found in my practice that the most common benefit of CST work is an individual’s ability to rest, sleep, and not have the wheels spinning in their heads so fast or for so long. It can also help with any physical responses, like headaches, jaw clenching, and general constriction going on in your muscular system.

2. You have difficulty with breastfeeding or you have a fussy child

I want you to meet “Sam.” He’s a fussy baby that doesn’t sleep well, and nursing is a challenge. Mom is exhausted and is doing a lot on her own with her partner traveling for work on a regular basis. Sam is not yet a month old and when you “should” be in a blissful postpartum period, this is not happening for this mom.

Breastfeeding with assistance, solving breastfeeding issue with Conscious LivingThe next part is what I love the most about CST and newborns. While we’re working on Sam’s latching challenges, he starts to fall asleep. In this place the rhythm of the cerebral spinal fluid (the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord moves to reflect this and is palpable) starts to shift. I begin to follow this and feel deeper restrictions in the tissue in the brain as it pulls into the restriction that he had in his neck. As we work with this deeper restriction, he settles deeper, and deeper. Mom notices the shift in Sam, feeling him get heavy, his breath is deeper and softer; he looks like he’s in another world.

Sam leaves the session, still asleep while we transfer him into his car seat (Yeah, right! Like that EVER happens!!!), and I get a message from his mom that he slept for 3 hours that afternoon. At a later session, he still is resting wonderfully and we’re just checking in because he took a fall. Sam is still rocking a balanced nervous system. I’m so grateful, and mom is too.

CST work is so amazing with the newborns. In many instances I have found a very common trait among newborns with latching issues or almost any other challenge, as I mentioned with Sam. They typically hold their head to one side and have difficulty turning to the other side without using their chest and shoulders to get there. This is called torticollis. You can find a lot of information online about this, and please, don’t get google happy. It is simple and not anything to panic about. This restriction is found in the neck and base of the scull. A few times I have found that it originates lower in the body and a child is also showing signs of reflux or painful gas.

Applying CST work and even chiropractic (both by practitioners that are specifically trained with infants, PLEASE!) can help with this type of restriction. Again, CST is very gentle work that affects the fascial layer of tissue (connective tissue that holds everything together…the clear shiny stuff in chicken when you pull the skin away from the meat). When there is a rotation, it pulls on this tissue and thus continues pulling throughout the body. Quite similarly to a thread in your favorite sweater when it snags on a bracelet or on your partners watch when they grabbed you the other day to give you some much needed affection. (Hey, we have to keep that in the forefront of our minds, right??!!) This does need to be addressed as it can lead to other challenges as your child grows and can resurface later in life during developmental shifts.

3. You gave birth

With someone properly trained in CST work for Obstetrics, you will find a therapist that has the ability to work with not only your hormones like I stated above, but you will also find someone who is trained to work with the uterus and the surrounding tissue and ligaments. All work is done outside of the body to access your pelvic floor and your uterus to gently release any fascial restrictions that have been created by doubling in size over 38 weeks and then having to shrink right back down in the matter of a week or so.

Your body has done some amazing things and it needs time to heal and reorganize itself. From a physical perspective, CST work can ever so gently work on the tissue that has bound up and is now causing problems from a prolapsed uterus (ie: cramping with your cycle, difficulty with intercourse, inability to fully empty your bladder, etc…) to low back pain caused by the tension on the ligaments that attach to the bones of your pelvis and hold the uterus upright.

Even a mom that has had a C-birth can have any of the aforementioned challenges and now can add scar tissue to the mix. It is best to get in as soon as you can postpartum as the tissue is more pliable and responds more easily versus in five years when you finally feel like you have your “life” back.