True Happy Meals

When there’s a little time and energy, use these ideas to connect.

¤ Start by smiling upon seeing the kids.

¤ Trow together an impromptu picnic and eat on the living room floor, in the yard or at the park.

¤ Ask the kids to read aloud while parents cook.

¤ Balance a soſt item on a spoon held between the teeth and stage a fun race.

¤ While cooking, keep kids busy prepar- ing a restaurant-style menu, a place setting with utensils wrapped in paper napkins and a way to take orders.

¤ Put on aprons and whip up homemade pizza, cupcakes or something unusual, like BLT pancake sandwiches.

¤ Buy write-on, wipe-off place mats and have kids doodle while they wait to eat.

¤ Dress up for dinner. Wear old Halloween costumes, put clothes on backwards or eat in pajamas.

¤ Share thanks. Everyone shares one thing they are grateful for.

Source: Adapted from 101 Fun Tings To Do With Kids To Enjoy Everyday Family Life, by Sumitha Bhandarkar

Take the kids outside to play. “Nature is very soothing,” says Muse. “Climbing trees, searching for rocks and pine cones, playing with dirt, sticks, water and leaves all offer healing down time.” To escape from worries and distractions,

Stiffelman suggests three or four minutes of meditation or simply designated quiet time. For little ones, lay a stuffed teddy bear on the child’s tummy and have them notice how the animal is moving. A parent and child can also be aware of the sounds they are hearing, plus incorporate a little mind- ful breathing into the bedtime ritual.

Know the Power of Space Most parents think their children would go crazy if half their toys and books were removed, but this isn’t true. “My train-

ers and I have August 2018 29

worked with thousands of parents on decluttering, and the results have been powerful,” says Muse. Te Simplicity Parenting approach encourages parents to discard broken toys, give away anything no longer being played with and attractively store current playthings. She observes, “As you decrease the quantity of toys and clut- ter, you increase the child’s attention and capacity for deep play.”

Build Resilience Simplifying parenting means releasing the notion that children must be happy, well-behaved and delighted with life and their parents at all times. Unell used the daily multitasking challenges with her twins as exercises in developing resilience and modeling these skills for them. If children spill milk, the parent comments, “No big deal. We all spill things.” When there’s a mi- nor accident, “Let’s just get towels and clean it up.” A resilient attitude is, “Something goes wrong, we fix it.” It’s also about being flexible and coping with disappointment. “To build resilience, parents need to feel

comfortable in the presence of an unhap- py child,” says Stiffelman. “If parents don’t allow children to be disappointed, kids can become rigid, lack confidence and struggle with unreasonable expectations.” During meltdowns or disappointments,

she recommends sitting quietly, listening, and then empathizing and helping put the children’s feelings into words. “Tis is not the time to lecture or advise,” she says. “Up- set children can’t really listen.” Yet, they can be heard—a key way to help them mature. Parents that learn to simplify happily

discover that their children feel calmer and more loved, socially and emotion- ally adept, and resilient. Concepts fo- cused on creating connections, rather than parenting perfection, are easy to weave into everyday life. Deborah Shouse is a writer, speaker, editor, dementia advo- cate, parent and grandmother. She’s also the author of Connecting in the Land of Dementia: Creative Activi- ties to Explore Together (


Heart-Strong Parenting

by Deborah Shouse I

ncorporating love throughout the day keeps a child’s tank full. Consider

these tips from love languages expert Gary Chapman.

Physical Touch – Get Close ¤ Greet the child with a hug ¤ Stroke their hair while they talk about a challenging day

¤ Snuggle while watching TV

Affirmations – Encouraging Words ¤ Put a positive note in the child’s lunch box

¤ Appreciate something the child did or said

¤ Create an encouragement jar, with praising words to use as needed

Quality Time – Periods of

Undivided Attention ¤ Ask a specific question about their day that elicits discussion

¤ Schedule a date with each child ¤ Create something together, like a photo album

Giſts – Tangible

Expressions of Love ¤ Make a special meal or dessert; maybe do it together

¤ Have some small giſts the child can choose from as rewards for positive actions

¤ Seek natural giſts, like a special feather, stone or flower

Acts of Service –

Volunteer Assistance ¤ Ask, “How can I help you today?” ¤ Help a child repair a broken toy or resolve a challenge

¤ Do a family service project together


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