Five Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children

Five_WaysFive Simple Ways to Strengthen Your Relationship With Your Children

If you’re a parent, chances are you’re working more hours than you’d like, and you’re feeling a little guilty about the limited time you get to spend with your children. Perhaps you’ve missed a few too many evening sporting events or school activities. I’ve been there, so I can identify with how you’re feeling. One thing I’ve learned is that if the quantity of time you get to spend with your children is sometimes limited, you can make up for it with quality time.

When your children are older they’re not going to remember that you missed four of the 12 basketball games they had when they were in the 5th grade. What they will remember are the little, everyday things you did with them. It’s the little things, done consistently, that pack a big punch.

Here are five things you can begin doing with your children on a daily basis that will not only be high in quality, but will also teach them how to be wonderful and loving adults one day. After all, our children learn just about everything from us.

  1. Get Home Early: I listed this as number one because it is the most important. It is also the hardest. Our jobs demand more from us these days and our families suffer because of it. I don’t care how you do it, but make it a priority to try your hardest to get home at a reasonable hour during the week. Many of my friends and associates don’t see their children at all Monday through Friday because they don’t get home until 9:00 PM or later when their children are already sleeping. Yes their jobs are demanding, and their bosses need them, but I promise they will have regrets later because their children need them more. If you fit into this category, try to make an effort at least one day a week to get home relatively early. It’s a start.
  2. Tuck them in to bed at night: Make this ritual—every night. I do, and my kids love it. I am a big fan of tucking the little ones in, lying in their bed with them and having some hugging and snuggling time. This physical closeness teaches them how to connect with their powerful, emotional side. Our children will learn how to feel and be loved. Out of everything we teach our kids, this might be the most important. If you don’t get home from work until after they have already fallen asleep, it’s OK to wake them from their grogginess and give them a kiss good night. Don’t worry, kids are resilient and will fall right back to sleep.
  3. Enter their world: There’s a good chance that when the weekend arrives you want to relax, read the paper and do your own thing, as you should. However, it is important to your children that you participate in some of the things that they like to do. Sure you might not like the idea of playing with dolls or shooting the basketball around when it’s 30 degrees outside, but your kids sure will. I’m not saying that you should participate with them in every one of their activities, just some. They need independence too. What I’m saying is that if you show a vested interest in what your children are interested in, they will feel proud and noticed.
  4. Have dinner with your children every night: A couple of years ago I hosted a television pilot for Food Network called, “Can Dinner Save My Family?” Boy, would it have been great if Food Network picked up the series, because the traditional family dinner is slipping away and our children are suffering because of it. All of the statistics show that families who have sit-down dinners together most nights of the week are far more likely to be stable. When I say “sit-down” dinner, I’m talking about eating and talking to one another without any electronic devices included, just good-old fashioned family dinner.  Research has found that teens that have two or fewer family dinners per week are twice as likely to smoke daily and get drunk monthly compared to teens who have 5 family dinners per week.
  5. Watch Television Together: OK, if you know me and a lot of what I write about and lecture about, you know that I’m pretty much anti-technology. But one thing that my wife and I and our two children do together several nights a week is lay down in my bed and watch a show on The Discovery Channel or maybe America’s Funniest Home Videos — something that is either educational or fun. We do this for about a half an hour right before my kids go to bed and it is only allowed if my kids have completed their homework, taken a shower and brushed their teeth. It really is great family bonding time as we’re all cozied up together and laughing together. We learn together and we love together.
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Stop Feeling Like Crap and Start Feeling Great

Feel_Good_NowI think a lot about who I am and what my mission is, and something hit me this morning while I was running on the treadmill. I am a person who feels great every day and I know why—because I practice it, and I want everyone in the world to do the same. It’s all about using your time wisely.

For example, when I am running on the treadmill, rather than mindlessly watching the television screen that is attached to the treadmill or listening to music, I close my eyes about halfway and focus my attention on my thoughts and feelings. I visualize my goals and aspirations. During these “hypno-runs,” I focus on the good things in life. I give thanks for all that I am blessed with and I visualize a great future. The treadmill isn’t the only place where I practice this. I practice this mindfulness while I’m driving. I practice it when I take a break at work. I practice it whenever I have downtime, and I’ve been doing it for years.

The fact is, you too can feel great every day, but you don’t because no one has ever taught you how.  I’m going to teach you how, because feeling great is the key to success—period. Once you conquer you, you will start to conquer everything in your life, including your relationships, your job, and your future.

Here’s where I want you to begin. Start by becoming aware of your inner voice, those inner conversations you have with yourself every day. This self-talk is something we all do all day long. When you practice tuning-in to your self-talk, the way that I do when I’m in the car or on the treadmill, you will quickly notice that most of your self-talk is, well, crap. It is filled with fear, worry and doubt, because that is what you have been exposing yourself to. The only way to change this negative mental program is by becoming aware of it. Then you can begin the changeover process toward creating thoughts that are more positive and inspiring. You will become the captain of your own vessel.

Start thinking about everything in life that you are grateful for. Do you have your health? Is your family healthy? Do you have a job? Do you have food and water?  Do you have a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head? Think about all of the wonderful things that lay ahead. Direct your thoughts towards the things that you want, the things you like, and the things you are passionate about.

Think about it for a moment: if the inner conversations you have with yourself are positive and encouraging, don’t you think your emotions will correspond to those thoughts? Of course they will! Take a guess as to what happens when your emotions are positive and encouraging. You become motivated and confident. You start to feel great. Can you see the cycle? Stop the worrying and start taking control of your thoughts. Do this every day for a month and check back with me. I guarantee you will be a different person.

Here’s a self-hypnosis/mediation audio file that can get you started.

 

 

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Alone or Lonely: Which One Are You?

Lonely_or_AloneAll morning, I was looking forward to the pineapple fried rice. When my lunch buddy, Mike, told me that he wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t go to our favorite Friday Thai spot, I was a little disappointed. I don’t remember the last time we missed a Friday lunch at this place. So I had a decision to make. Should I go alone or should I do something else for lunch? The idea of a sit-down lunch by myself seemed a little strange, because it’s not something I normally do. As I thought about it a little harder, I said to myself, “why wouldn’t I go alone?” After all, I had been looking forward to the pineapple rice all morning, and I happen to enjoy my own company. Yes, I do like myself and could care less what other patrons might think of the poor guy (me) sitting alone with no friends. So I went.

As I sat at the table, I found myself quite tuned in to my thoughts. Although I missed Mike’s presence, I embraced the alone time. I very much enjoyed it.

It got me thinking about a topic that I discuss with many of my patients at my private counseling practice: the difference between aloneness and loneliness. The difference is quite extreme — here’s why. People who avoid idle, alone time fear being lonely. They don’t like the idea of having a front row seat to their thoughts. People who embrace alone time, on the other hand, enjoy the adventure and creativity that their thoughts can bring. It can be rather exciting for them, as it should be, because these are the people who literally attract the things they want into their lives.

Which type are you? Are you the type that looks at alone time from a perspective of loneliness or from a perspective of aloneness? If loneliness is your answer, here are some strategies that will help you to start embracing your time alone.  Doing so will help you to build a stronger relationship with yourself and will help you in the direction of your goals a lot faster.

  1. Have a meeting with yourself every day. That’s right. Make it a priority to have a 15-minute meeting with “you” every day. While you’re at it, really pay attention to your thoughts. What exactly are you thinking about? How are you feeling? Are your thoughts filled with worries or fears? Are your feelings down? If so, start replacing those thoughts with positive ones. Breathe in feelings that are abundant. The more you practice this, the quicker you will become it.
  2. Give thanks. During your alone time, steer your thinking. Start giving thanks for all of the wonderful things you have. Give thanks for your health, your family’s health, the home you live in, the car you drive, and the bed you sleep in. You get the picture. Creating a daily “attitude of gratitude” will literally have you loving yourself in no time.
  3. Meditate: Speaking of alone time! Meditation is the epitome of it. Have you ever closed your eyes for 15 minutes at a time in a quiet place for several consecutive days? Try it. Not only will you learn new things about yourself, but you’ll also discover who you actually are.
  4. Stretch: Take a few minutes to lightly stretch your body, and do it slowly. You can do this right from your desk. Not only does this help you to tune in to your physical body, it also help you tune in to your thoughts.  This is a great way of creating a balance of mind and body.
  5. Accept aloneness: The next time you have some serious downtime with basically nothing to do, don’t try to fill in the downtime with meaningless activities like Internet surfing or texting. Instead, embrace the boredom. Boredom time is probably the most mentally creative time there is. It is the Miracle-Gro of the mind.

As always, contact me if you have any questions about my blog or anything else. Let’s talk!

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Post-Holiday Vacation Memories

While I enjoyed some moments lounging by the pool and sipping Pina Coladas last week in the Bahamas, that wasn’t the focus of my much needed vacation. The focus was the quality time I spent with mfat fish Atlantisy family. It was about enjoying one another’s company, and creating memories that we’d forever cherish. It was about the excitement in my children’s faces as we raced around Atlantis, plunging down the water slides.  That sense of pride in my
8-year-old daughter eyes, as she stood tall with her back against the measuring chart, proving to each water-slide attendant that yes—she was indeed 48 inches tall, thank you very much!!!

I decided to share a little about my recent vacation, because I’ve always felt that it is important for us parents to remember that when we are on vacation with our children, we need to be aware of their needs, not just ours. For example, there was a boy I met on one of the water-slide lines. He was around my son’s age (11), and by himself. He told me that he was there with his father, but that his dad was relaxing by the pool. I felt bad for the kid,
because his father obviously didn’t realize that being on that slide with his son was probably more important to his son than the slide itself.  The memories that you help your children create with you in them will last a lifetime. When they are older, your kids will remember how involved you were with them. Here are some of the memories that my family and I will be talking about for years to come.

  • The massive, ugly-looking fat fish in the underground aquarium maze that we laughed about the entire trip.
  • Seeing major league baseball great, Albert Pujols, at Carmine’s restaurant. The best part was that Pujols looked right at me and did a double take. My son then looked at me and said, “Dad, you know Albert Pujols?”
  • The waffle maker at our hotel during breakfast. My kids loved it. Now I’m going to have to buy one of these things.
  • Going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide over and over again. My butt was killing me, and my kids found that to be quite humorous.
  • The unbelievable yachts in the Atlantis marina, especially the one with the basketball hoop. My son pointed that one out.
  • Teaching my daughter how to negotiate at the souvenir kiosk. She was able to get the Coca-Cola guitar for $20 instead of $25. And she felt quite proud of herself.
  • The bill at Bobby Flay’s restaurant – yikes!!!
  • My son and I flipping over in the river rapids.
  • My wife finally going down the “Leap of Faith” waterslide. My kids loved it.

As parents, it is absolutely OK to unwind and pamper ourselves while on vacation, but we also have to remember to attend to the needs of everyone, not just ourselves. Go to breakfast with your kids. Take them out to dinner with you. Go on the slides with them. Ride the waves with them. Take some risks with them. If the only memories my kids had of me on our vacations were of me sitting by a pool all day with a drink in my hand, I would feel like I failed them. Instead, I feel confident that when they are older, they will remember just how involved I was in their lives.

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Parenting Children to be Leaders Instead of Followers

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Do you feel pressured to sign your children up for lots of sports and activities so that they keep pace with the other kids, even though your gut tells you it’s too much? Do you fear they won’t measure up and succeed in this competitive world? Do you allow your children to spend too much time on smartphones and video game devices because that is how kids  communicate these days, and that depriving them of this will lead to social isolation? The reality is that all of these activities and devices that we provide our children have little to do with them and everything to do with us.  Here’s why.

We want our children tofit inbecause we fear that they won’t be happy and successful. Take a deep breath for moment and really think about this. Do you really want your children to “FIT IN”, to follow the crowd? Or, do you want them to be leaders? As parents we get sucked into the fitting-in trap and we may be setting-up our children to be future followers instead of future leaders.

Here are a few tips to help you raise children that are future leaders instead of followers.

Unplug the phone: Getting smart-phones for your children is the furthest thing from “smart.” You know how addictive these things are and how dangerous that world-wide-web is. So does it make sense to place these dangerous devices in your children’s hands? I understand that all of the other parents in the community are ok with it, but does that really make it ok? Wouldn’t you rather your child do things the safe way instead of societies way? If your children are among the few that don’t have smart phones then you’re already teaching them how to march to the beat of their own drum; to lead rather than follow. Their time to have a smart phone will come, there’s no need to rush it. And remember, this fear you have of your children being left behind is your fear, not theirs.

Limit the sports: Are your kid’s schedules jam-packed? Again, do you fear that they will fall behind and not be any good, and not have a social life? Again, these are fears, not facts. Here are the facts: If your child is on the football field practicing every night until 8:00, what he’s really missing out on is what he needs the most—time with you. You are your children’s teacher and mentor, and the only way you can teach them and guide them is if you are with them.

Rated M video games/Rated R Movies: Leaders play by the rules. Why? Because the rules are the rules. If you allow your children to play games and watch movies that aren’t age appropriate, what do you think that teaches them? It teaches them that it’s ok to break the rules, which is something leaders just don’t do. If you start playing by the rules your children will too.

In a nutshell, human beings tend do move with the crowd, to go with the flow. This is similar to the flock of birds in the sky or the school of fish in the sea. We unconsciously conform to the things that others around us are doing and we don’t even realize it. This is known as the collective consciousness or social conformity. Unless you start becoming more aware of this fact and pass it on to your children, your children will start to, well, follow the crowd. Here is a great clip from an old candid camera episode that will help you understand this more. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgRoiTWkBHU

 

 

 

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Should you get your preschooler an ipad?

Every parent on this planet should go to www.commonsensemedia.com and sign up.  Common Sense Media helps families make smart media choices. They offer the largest, most trusted library of independent age-based and educational ratings and reviews for movies, games, apps, TV shows, websites, books, and music.  Their Parent Concerns and Parent Blog help families understand and navigate the problems and possibilities of raising children in the digital age.

I read a post earlier today from Common Sense Media regarding ipad’s or other tablets for kids – Click here to read.  The question in the article is whether or not you should get one of these devices for your child.  I didn’t have to think too long about this one.  My answer is a resounding NO…  The American Academy of Pediatrics agrees with me.  They recommend  ZERO hours per day of any screen time for kids ages 0-2 and ONE hour per day of screen time for kids ages 3-5.  And you want to decide whether or not to buy your toddler an ipad?

As many of you know, I lecture extensively on the topic of technology and its affects on kids emotional intelligence, coping skills, focus and attention; how it’s delaying development, creating an epidemic of obesity and leading to a substantial increase in mental health problems.  Oh, and I can’t forget the sleep deprivation part.   I think most parents are aware of this stuff but they kind of fluff it off as being benign.  In fact, at a recent lecture I presented I asked the audience of 200 fifth and sixth grade parents to raise their hands if they thought it was a good idea to allow their child to play the video game, Call of Duty.  Not a single parent raised their hand.  Then I asked them to raise their hand if their kid owned Call of Duty.  Again, not a single hand rose.  And here’s the kicker–roughly 70 percent of the parents in the audience have bought Call of Duty for their child and allow him/her to play it.  Am I missing something here?

The fact is, the majority of people in this world go with the tide, including parents.  They see what it is that everyone around them is doing and they make it ok in their mind.   Yet somewhere inside they know it is not ok.  It’s an adult peer pressure of sorts. This “going with the flow” mentality is known as the selective or social consciousness.  We simply make most of our decisions not from sound morals and values but from what we see others around us doing.  So in other words, the majority of parents out there are followers and guess what their children are becoming will be by the time they get to high school.  Guess what all followers have in common that leaders don’t? That’s right, they do what everyone else is doing. And that is just downright dangerous when you’re a teenager.

So no, your pre-school child should not have an ipad.  And no, none of your children, no matter what their age should ever be allowed to sit at a table in a restaurant and spend the entire time buried in a smartphone, ipad or similar device.  And no, your child should never have any type of screen in his/her bedroom and should never have one of these devices in his/her hand when sitting in the back seat of your car. I see this everywhere I go and it is driving me nuts.  Aside from the mental health issues and other issues I addressed earlier, all of this “virtual reality” is destroying “real world” families.  The question I have for you is this – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?

Come to my next lecture in Hohokus, NJ on 2/5/15 to learn more or visit my website at http://tomkersting.com/speaking/.

 

 

 

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Fox & Friends Segment 11/1/14

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Fox & Friends – Saturday 11/01/14  

This is an appearance I did on Fox & Friends as part or their expert parenting panel, which I appear on regularly.  Today’s topics include:

1. A school accidentally vaccinates the wrong child with the flu vaccination

2. A new movement by parents encouraging their children to call them by their first name.

Parent Panel discussion

 

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Fox & Friends Segment I did on 8/4

FoxBelow is a link to a segment I did on Fox & Friends with regards to the over-stimulation of technology that kids are getting.  Remember, this Fall I will be lecturing to parents about parenting in the age of technology.  It’s a great, interactive discussion.  Please tell your local school reps.  For more information send me an email and I will send you a flyer – tom@tomkersting.com

http://video.foxnews.com/v/3711526237001/crack-for-toddlers-kids-entranced-by-toy-review-videos/#sp=show-clips

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Brand new lecture about parenting in the age of technology overload

Hello everyone,

This Fall I will be providing an important new lecture to school parent groups called:

IT’S TIME TO TALK: Parenting in the age of technology

This will be a unique and interactive discussion with parents.  Parents will have the opportunity to learn about and discuss the following:

  • The connection between technology use and mental health
  • How much screen time is too much
  • The link between ADHD and Tech overload
  • Strategies to help your child lower his/her anxiety
  • How much sleep is acceptable for your overscheduled child
  • Creating leaders not followers
  • Your role as a parent

………… And much more!!

 

I am getting more calls than ever from parents with children suffering from anxiety, depression and behavioral issues.  What parents don’t understand is that the cause of these issues is the countless hours (8 or more hours per day) they spend plugged-into their smart phones, computers, video games and ipads.  Their brains are literally being re-wired and the result is an inability to cope with “real” life issues.  This lecture will cover all of this and will include lot’s of real cases I’ve dealt with.  Please spread the word.

Email me at tom@tomkersting.com and I will send you the flyer for this important lecture.

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Fox & Friends interview

NJ BB-gun lawFox    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=38_r8Vv2Tgw

 

Did you have a BB gun when you were a kid?

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