Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

How often do your kids really share their thoughts?

Do you always encourage your kids to say whatever they want or do you censor them?  Your immediate reaction might be confusion – how or why would you censor kids?  But, think about it.. have you ever told your child to watch what they say in certain company?  Gave them a stern look as they randomly opened up about their thoughts or observations in front of strangers or your in-laws.  Most parents probably don’t restrict their kids from what they say and we all try and teach them ‘how’ behaviors which we hope will stick as they grow older (we have all been in work situations or at a cocktail party when we notice some adults seem to be lacking in the how).   Nevertheless, it is important for us to really allow our kids to be heard. Not only does this help with their confidence but you will no doubt learn more about who your child is.

My kids very freely discuss their views on anything from politics to gender bias on TV to what to ask Santa for Christmas.  They seem to have an opinion about everything and have no problem sharing it and yes, my son who has absolutely no filter will blurt out something embarrassing.

These are just a few ways in which you can encourage your kids to share their thoughts:

  1. Provide a space for them to share their views in a way they are comfortable with.  My daughter, who is an introvert has her own blog where she will write about random views on any subject.  She has learnt to fine tune this and can discuss them so articulately that I find it hard to believe she is only 11.  Forget CNN having political experts on their panels, they should invite my daughter and ask her what she thinks about the USA elections and the outcomes.  Creating ways for your kids to share their views especially if their personality might be one where they back away from the limelight can reinforce the significance of what they want to share with the world.
  2. Discussions around dinner. I suggested this in an earlier blog- pick a topic and just go from there.  Try something you all heard on the news, maybe saw on a poster, an advert, the latest fad that kids are into, an upcoming event etc.
  3. Responding with active listening.  This is so important to do as a parent and I know we are all guilty of sometimes not really listening.   Our kids have little tidbits of things they say as their minds process their environments – really listen to what they are saying and don’t react but ask open ended questions which will allow them to expand their thoughts and share more with you.  I have found this approach has not only had my kids discuss various topics in depth with me but their friends tend to do the same when they are over at our house.

15178226_1397466740273310_3569625004042050821_nI saw this quote on Facebook and I know you Supermoms would agree with Margaret Mead.  Provide your kids with the tools to expand their minds and become problem solvers. Allow them to understand more of what is happening in the world around them and encourage them to create their own thoughts.  Make them feel that their voice is important, relevant and you truly are interested in what they have to say.

Yes, they live with you and their views will no doubt be a reflection of you and how they have been raised but teach them to question what they see and hear.

You would be amazed at how much we can learn from our children!

 

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

There is no such thing as Tom Boys!

Now this is something I never gave a thought about until this morning.  The notion of a girl being a Tom Boy is so sexist and offensive and just ridiculous how can we even be taking about it in 2016!  My kids were watching some kids show on TV this morning and there was this skit about 2 Tom Boys and which one was more of a Tom Boy.  Just watching it I could feel myself getting more and more irritated.  The whole notion that a girl has to act and behave a certain way and if she is into rough sports, does not wear dresses or play with dolls then she is a Tom Boy is something that should have disappeared 30 years ago.  But, here it was this morning and it made me realize we still have a long way to go to get stereotypes out of the minds of so many and to stop having these type of programs that perpetuate them for kids.  Of course I will also be writing a very stern letter to the station that aired it!

labelsOkay, I will get off my soapbox but it made me realize that we go through life with so much happening around us that probably should have disappeared centuries ago. The truth is many of these prejudices do exist and we probably think about it and then just let it go.   I am all for not taking on more then you can but I urge all you Supermoms out there to please challenge the social stigmas our kids may still be facing.  It is these prejudices that leads to so much bullying and cyberbullying and we know how that has impacted children of all ages.

Does it matter what a child chooses to wear (obviously I am taking into consideration weather and not walking around half-dressed), what they play with or what games they are interested in?  My daughter was 2 and had a Spiderman birthday party because that was her obsession at the time.  My son at 5 always wanted his sister to paint his toenails with nail polish. This is our future leaders expressing themselves and we need to embrace it, encourage them and most importantly not label them.  I know you Supermoms are already doing all of this with your own littles ones so please take a minute and think about is there anything else you can be doing in the outside world so we can move away from hearing the absurdity of girls proving whether or not they are Tom Boys in 2016 and our kids can be whoever they choose to be!

 

 

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Sunday, November 13th, 2016

Supermoms, do you remember how to fly?

It seems like the universe is in such disarray with social media taking over our lives, kids not being able to survive without technology and we can’t find any time to just have a conversation with our friends and partners.  Maybe it is that time of the year with the Holidays near or that change has become a constant in our lives.  Either way don’t you just feel so drained?  I’ve spoken to many of you Supermoms out there and this feeling of spiraling every day and being exhausted is happening to all of us and we just take it as part of what life has become.  As you read this, I’m suggesting to you that maybe it doesn’t have to feel this way.

We are Supermoms for many reasons, one of them being our ability to use that cape of ours and fly above the rest.  I think many of us just forgot how to do it.  My suggestion is if we want to fly again and feel in control then we need to start small – can you find 15 minutes each day just for you.  15 minutes to have a cup of tea and just be in the moment. 15 minutes to journal or maybe read a chapter of a book.  15 minutes to listen to some music you love.  I know some of you might be thinking right, even 15 minutes is impossible.  If it is then why not start with 5 minutes and see how it goes.

dreamstime_xs_21614407When you get to that point where your feet start to lift off the ground, where you can almost feel the relief as you envision your cape starting to flutter,  this point will not only help you with being in a better space but it gives all of us the strength to carry on.   To carry on when we sometimes feel like we can’t even catch up.  You could be a single mom just trying to raise your kids as best as you can,  maybe you’re at a point where you need to make a decision about your relationship or it could be deciding your next career move.  It is not easy having to do any of this or even focus on making a decision when we are in a spiral and can’t find our balance and can’t fly anymore.  So, give it a try and find a few minutes each day for you and see if it helps.  What do you have to lose?

Let us not forget the woman warriors that we were born to be.   If we can manage car pools, after-school sports, leading in the board room, glass ceilings at work, as well as the laundry basket that never empties then I know we can all find a way to learn how to fly again!

 

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

How your stress impacts your kids

I know you have heard how your behavior and emotions impacts your kids but have you ever heard it directly from them?  I recently have and it was a big a-ha moment for me!  We recently went through a big change with moving once again across borders and this time the kids were older and much more expressive in how they feel.   Without going into the lengthy details of the move,  I underestimated the impact it would have on me leaving our beautiful character filled village and amazing group of friends and neighbors.   Being thrown into suburban Toronto was a shock to my system and my reservations about the move and where we were living impacted the kids.

My realization came when I was watching a movie with my very articulate 8-year-old and he said he was going to play in his room because he could feel how stressed I was and it was stressing him out.   I was in “getting everything done” mode and clearing the house of boxes to the extent that in less than 1 week everything was unpacked and our pictures were on the wall.   I was physically and emotionally exhausted and all of that was being reflected onto the kids.  So, instead of them enjoying their first week of being in a new place they were drained and miserable and started school not being in a great mood or with an energized outlook to what lie ahead.

dreamstime_xs_33193038We may think if we act like we are positive and relaxed then our kids will be okay.   The truth is they know how we really feel and the older they get, having spent more time around us, they know when something is wrong and when we’re covering up on how we really feel.   How we feel and what we do impacts them significantly.  When we are stressed they feel it even at the young age of 8.

What does this mean for you?   Supermoms need to find some time for themselves, you need to get yourself into a better state of being both physically and emotionally.   This may mean saying no to requests, having your home untidy and telling people around you that you need some time to yourself.  When we are in a better space the little people around us are in a better space too and I know that is what all you Supermoms strive for!

 

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Stop watching what you say

We live in a world of constantly watching what we say, making sure we are not offending anyone and being politically correct.  I agree, we should be mindful and ensure that any language we use does not offend or disadvantage any group of people.  However, what can happen is this mindfulness creates situations where we tend to watch everything we say and we stop being truly open about what we think and feel – in a way we censor ourselves.  I’ve always been someone who speaks my mind and although I have toned down my directness, I never have been one to hide away from how I feel or what I think.  Being a Mom in this current global environment I feel the need now more than ever to stop watching what I have to say.

My last blog post that touched upon raising kids who will always be a minority received some interesting reactions.  There were many comments of support and the re-posting of the blog globally.   Not surprisingly other parents feel the same way and have been faced with challenges associated with this.  There were parents who have reached out to me and want to meet, want to discuss the details more etc.  The other reaction was the more interesting one.  These were from parents who felt that I was creating a situation and making my kids more aware of diversity then they should be.   That I should be telling my kids that everyone is the same and everyone should be treated the same.  That by wanting our kids to be in a more diverse environment it meant our current friends did not value diversity.  I was asked why I seem to have an issue but other parents who were part of a minority group didn’t feel that way.  That if my kids were not being bullied because of any issues related to diversity then maybe I was making this more of an issue that it was. Really? Do people think that because they don’t hear someone talking about issues that they don’t exist?  Can I really raise kids with blinkers on?   Can the best environment for my kids be one defined by whether they are bullied or not?  In 2016 do people still think diversity refers to only color?  Does it mean just because my kids and I are happy and have great friends that I should be okay with the status quo?

dreamstime_xs_48843498Once again I will be open and direct.  We will not raise our kids with some fairy tale notion that everyone is the same.  If this means that I am creating an environment where my kids become activists then so be it.  I would prefer this then them not being aware.  Embracing diversity is not about everyone being nice to each other. It is about acknowledging differences and then ensuring we include all of them. Without the acknowledgement there is no real inclusion.

We all walk to our own beat especially when we are parents.  The beat I choose to walk to will be one of open, direct parenting.  One of discussing what is happening around the world with our kids at the dinner table and allowing them to watch the news.   I want them to question what they see and what they hear.  I want them to have a social conscience.  They may choose not to be interested in any of these discussions and that’s okay.  My goal as a supermom is to raise them to be mindful but never to stop stepping out and letting the world know who they are and what they have to say.

 

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Monday, July 11th, 2016

Raising kids who will always be the “minority”

There is so much going on in the world that makes a person feel so unsettled especially having young kids who have so many more years of growing up to do.   For me the past few months have brought so many questions to light in terms of where do we actually belong and what is the best place for my kids to be.   The realization is we will always be the minority race group especially as we don’t really fit into any one group,  we are Muslim in a world that fears Islam and we have raised kids who openly express themselves.   So, what does this all mean?  It means acknowledging we will always be unique from the rest of the “group” and that we are more than okay with that.

I notice my kids being excluded in the communities we live in.   I notice the school system initiate programs that don’t take into account the small group of kids who are not white.  I notice sports coaches with such an unconscious bias that not only do they not realize their actions but get offended when you raise it with them. While all of this drives me crazy and at times to the point where I think living on a remote island, home schooling the kids and running a surf shop would be the best solution;  I know that is not realistic.  Discussions about diversity is part of our everyday dialogue at home.  We need our kids to know the type of world they are facing and how to deal with it and not to shy away or walk away from conflict about who they are.  We cannot hide from the many families around us who think race is not an issue because they really don’t need it to be.   It always amazes me when friends in my community seemed shocked at the idea that the notion of embracing diversity and ensuring inclusion does not always exist around us or that we may have felt the impact of racism in this picturesque village we live in.

dreamstime_xs_41380672Like every other parent out there we make a decision to live somewhere with great schools, safety and opportunities for our kids.   We then have to make sure that in this world where many will not accept our kids based on what they look like or their religion that they will be strong enough to stand up for themselves and be proud of everything that makes them who they are.  I cannot be responsible for the behavior and actions of others but I can make a difference to my kids by making them aware.  We choose to do this because our kids lives matter.

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Wednesday, June 29th, 2016

What is the “normal” family?

Firstly, there is the word “normal” – a word I constantly have a problem with.  The definition of normal is “conforming to a standard, typical, the usual”.   What I am hoping most of you would ask next is – What is standard, typical or usual?  In the world we live in there is no Leave It To Beaver family and there is nothing standard about a family.  It is time everyone realizes that there is no definition of a perfect family and all that matters is what works for you!

As someone with a husband who constantly travels and is more often than not spending weeks, and sometimes months without him not around I feel the constant questions and judgement about our family arrangement.  Yes, he is away;  yes, we miss him and yes, we are okay.

dreamstime_xs_34273318This blog piece would be too long to mention all the different types of families – same-sex parents, grandparents raising grandchildren, uncles and aunts raising their nieces and nephews, single parent homes, stay at home dads, families with diverse religions and ethnicity etc. etc. etc.   While you may think that your family environment which could be a home in the burbs, a stay at home mom, a 9-5 dad, a mini-van and a dog is perfect and ideal,  that may not be what everyone wants to defines as a their family.

All I am asking is to stop the judgment and realize there is no normal.  Just as each person is unique so is every family situation. What is important is that kids are raised in an environment where they feel safe, loved and protected.   Would I love to see my husband every day? Of course I would, but that does not mean that we don’t have a family and home that works best for us.  To all the Supermoms out there just remember that our kids mirror so much of what they hear and see from us.   Help them realize that there is no judgement in choices they make especially if their choices are what works best for them.

 

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

How you can help women around the world

Chances are you have purchased from a Fair Trade store and may not even know it.   Does it really make a difference if you do purchase Fair Trade?  How can you, just one person impact a woman in India or Kenya or Guatemala just by purchasing a scarf for $15.00.  As a Supermom I always look at ways in which I can support other moms or small businesses.  I have nothing against the big retail stores and I do shop at some of them when I need to. However, when I have the opportunity of supporting a small business, then that is the route I go and I encourage you to do the same.

So, how do you help people by purchasing Fair Trade products.  Fair Trade is an approach to business and to development based on dialogue, transparency and respect that seeks to create equity in the international trading  system.  In simple terms it’s a way to help people in many countries who don’t have access to a market to promote and sell their goods.  Not only are you assisting the one person who created the product, but in many of these countries that 1 person is supporting a multitude of people.  You could be supporting a family of 10 with your $15.00 scarf purchase.

asia-slide1How would it feel knowing that when you purchased a bowl, a toy, chess board or jewelry that you have helped educate people on the need for reforestation to enable the products to be available for years to come and offer a sustainable income for generations.  Or the few dollars you spend at a Fair Trade store instead of a large retail chain promotes employment by training unskilled craftspeople, and by assisting the independent artisans through the introduction of new designs and a new market.  I am sure you would love to know that some jewelry you bought for $20.00 has improved educational programs for women in India and sent their girls to school.

It may sound very “save the world” but you can make a difference – every small act of thoughtfulness does impact africa-slidemany.   I’ve recently launched an online Fair Trade store and of course I would love you to be one of my customers.  Whether you visit my store or any other Fair Trade store I encourage you to do so and I know you will be hooked- both by the beautiful handcrafted products and by the knowledge that you are making a significant difference.  My store Worthy Origins is about being part of the journey of creating possibilities for others.  Wouldn’t you want to contribute to this journey of creating possibilities?

 

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Sunday, April 10th, 2016

Advice from a special needs mom to other parents

I am sure that many of you either know of a parent of a special need child or are one yourself.  I have tried my best to understand the wide spectrum that exists under the words “special needs”.  The best thing that I have done is to speak to parents who are open and wanting the rest of the world to understand what they go through on a daily basis.   I recently asked one mom if she would be willing to share her thoughts and advice on being a parent of children with special needs and what would she tell other parents going through the same thing. Below is her response verbatim.   I know this is longer than my regular blog posts – but trust me, everyone should take a few minutes and read this.

Start…

1.- Join a support group. Whether it is a local support group or a social media support group. Because, let’s face it, we live surrounded by neurotypical children and their families. We all believe that we are not making comparisons, but deep inside the brain, in some hidden unconscious place the comparisons are happening… we need to remove that “normal” baseline as often as possible, and remind ourselves that we are not alone in this journey.  Plus, support groups can be a great source of information.
2.- Read. Learn as much as you can about your child’s condition. This will help you understand their world much better, set the right limits and goals, and advocate for them with confidence. When my oldest one got his evaluation results I was a full time working mom with a  4-year-old and a 11-month-old. Reading was close to impossible. I read one book, but was it the right one. I revisited the book when the youngest one got his evaluation. My life is in a different place now and reading is easier for me. I continue to read and learn more about their old and new diagnosis. But I get it, finding the time to read and the access to the books can be hard some times. I also listen to videos (TED, youtube) on my cellphone while driving to work and take five minutes here and there to read a short article or check my social media support groups. Stay informed and on top of things.
3.- Find those other parents.  As a mom of children with invisible disabilities I’ve got a lot of eye rolling and shocked expressions from other parents. You don’t need those… But those other parents…The parents of neurotypical children who think that your kid is awesome. The mom who says “I think he is so polite and smart, and you guys are doing an amazing job” and you know she is being honest. The dad who sees your son trotting through the house on his hands and feet and says “Wow! That is so awesome! He is so good at doing THAT!”. In a two hour play date they see their strengths so much more than their challenges… and you need those comments because when you have been there all day, day after day, in the mist of it you may lose that perspective. Those parents and their kids are invaluable.
 4.-Take no-thank-you-bites. Don’t be afraid to try new things, but be ready to quit if needed. We pressure our kids to not be quitters, but sometimes quitting is not just ok, it is necessary. In a family outing or vacation, the ideal situation is to quit just one minute before they hit the sensory overload, meltdown stage. Sometimes is better to try to avoid the situation all together, but sometimes it is good to push your child just a little bit out of their comfort zone.  The same goes for after school activities. We tried soccer and gymnastics for a few weeks, T-ball was a one-and-a-half practice session thing… Swimming? That one hit home.  Learning to read the signs of when is time to quit takes time. There is no manual, you just have to get to know your child. We get it wrong many times before we start getting it right. Because of that…
5.- Do the “self-care” thing, including forgiveness. Forgive yourself and others, and move on with a lesson learned. Embrace the five minute self-care choices out there. Get yourself a cup of tea, read two pages of your favorite book, call a friend… just do something that you enjoy, as simple as it may be, and write a mental note-to-self: “I’m enjoying this”.
6.- Make your partner a true partner. I think this is actually from “Lean In” but it applies here just as well. My husband knows when I am my wits’ end and he takes over, and the other way around. In a family outing, a trip to the supermarket, the farm… we split the work, “I’ll keep an eye on kid number one, you watch kid number two”. The buddy system works.  We both can read the signs of when it’s time to quit. We have both gone down this path together. Communication is key.
7.- Be thankful. I am thankful for a bazillion things: I am thankful for the other moms who post in the support group, for those people who took the time to write books about these invisible disabilities, for our school district, teachers and especial education team, for all the help that we are getting, for being able to write these lines after 8+ years of learning from and with my wonderful especial kids.
End….
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I really do hope that the 7 points above has either opened your mind and you have gained more insight into this world.  If you are a special needs parent, I really think the holistic approach of being thankful, making your partner a true partner and focusing on self-care is great advice.
To my friend – thank you for your time for sharing this…
Wednesday, April 6th, 2016

Not everyone is okay even when they say they are…

When you see someone you know the conversation normally goes, “Hi, how are you”,  “Okay” is the response and on we go.   Do we really listen to the answer and give some thought about if the person really is okay especially if they don’t look it.  Or is it more just a part of the busy life we all have and don’t really pay attention?  Let me give you one reason to sometimes stop, look at the person and when they say “I’m okay”  ask yourself, do they really seem okay.

Picking up my son from school I ran into another mom and got into the normal picking up kids conversation  – hello, how are you etc..  Her response was obviously I’m okay.   I looked at her and she seemed anything but okay – she looked completely exhausted – more than us moms usually seem.  We are all juggling so much but she looked weary and drained.  This is not a mom who I would say is a close friend but more just someone I know because of school.   But, I still kind of pushed it a bit and said “are you sure, because you don’t look that okay, you look exhausted”.   She mentioned her son hadn’t been sleeping well and we chatted for not more than 2 minutes when the door opened and kids came streaming out.

dreamstime_xs_34145046Guess what I received the next morning?  A thank you email from her.   Her exact words “I wanted to say thank you…thank you for asking and pressing how I was yesterday. I think we all move so quickly these days, that when someone says, “I’m okay”, we take it for face value and just walk away. Just hitting the surface. Thank you for not walking away :)”.   Turns out she is going through a lot with her little one being diagnosed with a sensory disorder.  I just happen to have a great friend who has 2 kids with the same disorder and has a wealth of information, support groups etc.   After chatting to each of them separately – I introduced them and they are now going to help each other out and share what they’re going through.   I’m not saying I solved a huge problem but by not just accepting the “I’m okay” response,  this mom may have one more person she can now lean on.

Sometimes being a Supermom means we have to look out for those other Supermoms as well.   Letting each other know we are not alone and sometimes taking an extra 10 seconds to really find out if someone is okay or not could make a world of difference.   It doesn’t take a lot to be more mindful, more present and more in the moment!

 

 

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