Surviving nightmares

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Halloween may be over, but nightmares can strike at any time and any age. According to the sleep experts, the reason our loved ones wake us up as we’ve settled into a nice deep sleep is that nightmares happen during REM when the brain is active.

Our dreams and nightmares are our brain’s way of processing thoughts and emotional situations that we have faced during the course of our day. Nightmares may be more frequent during times of stress or when dealing with change or events that have been unsettling. They can be a reaction to real life trauma, reading a scary book or watching a television show that has aroused an emotional response.

Nightmares are hard to deal with, no matter how old the inflicted person is. Emotions are real, and when you’re woken from a nightmare, the feelings are fresh and raw. Little ones may not understand the difference between a nightmare and real life due to how real the emotional response is.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them deal with nightmares. Be sure to check them out!

So how do we help our little ones go back to sleep after a nightmare?

  • Reassure them that you’re there for them.
  • Label it as a nightmare.
  • Offer them comfort and love.
  • Check places that they are afraid of, i.e., under the bed, the closet or behind the door.
  • Provide a nightlight or flashlight.
  • Help them settle back in with a comfort item, i.e., dream catcher, soft music, stuffy.
  • Talk about the dream they might like to have.
  • Give them a kiss to hold while they sleep.

* Most important be a good listener and if need be in the morning help them process by talking, drawing or writing about it.

How can we help prevent or limit nightmares?

  • Help them relax and unwind before bedtime.
  • Try to establish a routine and schedule.

These help children to feel safe and secure!

  • Try to avoid scary triggers before bedtime.
  • Try to provide space to talk about their day openly and honestly with you.
  • Children’s bedrooms should be a safe place. It should be a place of comfort and peace. Never use their rooms as a place of punishment.

* Most nightmares are not a cause for concern, however, if the nightmares present with other emotional or behavioral trouble seek professional guidance.

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Friends treasure or vice

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Over the years working with young people, I have had many discussions on the topic of good friends and bad ones. True friends are our most treasured gifts and can have a significant impact on our success and happiness, where a bad apple (or lousy friend) can infect a group of friends or ruin a young person in many ways.

Unfortunately, most of us have had to learn the hard way that someone wasn’t a true friend, so how do we help our young children to learn the difference?

By using their television and book heroes to open conversations, and by role modeling the characteristics we want them to cultivate we can assist young people in learning to identify and nurture the key character traits that make good friends. As parents, we need to be starting conversations early with our children on what makes good friends. Young people watch us like a hawk, and this means that we must put into practice, in our everyday lives what we say. Actions speak louder than words.

Good friends motivate, encourage, inspire, and support us to be the best we can. They help us to celebrate our achievements and help us to feel valued. Our bad friends do the complete opposite. They are jealous of accomplishments, offer little support or encouragement and are often bitter and resentful.

Everyone needs friends who listen and share without distractions or interrupting. These friends understand that friendship is a two-way street. There is also a difference between active listening and distracted listening. Active listening is engaging with the speaker to clarify, and validate, while distracted listening interjects an occasional “uh huh” to sound like they’re listening.

Listening has become harder with the introduction of cell phones and social media. Cell phones are a distraction for everyone (from senior citizens to children as young as 7 years of age have phones) these days. I often challenge parents to put their phones away and be present for their children no matter what their child’s age is. If a friend is always distracted or disinterested in hearing what you have to say, then it is time to evaluate your friendship.

Young people are generally good at seeking advice from people they trust, however, sometimes they have a hard time understanding what secrets are okay to keep and what secrets they need to share with a trusted adult. But everyone, not just young people, needs someone they trust to share with, and a true friend would not gossip. If you have a friend who talks about someone else when they aren’t there, then you can be sure that they will be talking about you when you aren’t there.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them learn what a good friend is. It’s never too early to cultivate good friend character traits. Be sure to check them out!

Five key traits:

1)   Trustworthiness

2)     Honesty

3)     Dependability

4)     Loyalty

5)   Stands up for you when you are being hurt, emotionally or physically.

all 3 books

Want to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled?

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Want to be happier, healthier, and more fulfilled? Consider volunteering!

I bet your reply is: Given that our lives are already so crazy busy how are we to even consider volunteering? Or something along these lines, am I right?

Wait, hear me out, the benefits of volunteering are tremendous for both the community and our families. Did you know that as a person you WILL reap far more benefits from your volunteering than you sow?

Yes, volunteering offers vital help to people and animals in need, worthwhile causes, and the community, but volunteering also helps you as an individual. You will benefit by connecting to others, making new friends, broadening your support network, boost your social skills, and helping others can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide you with a sense of purpose and bring fulfillment to your life.

There are so many benefits for families who volunteer together. Children watch everything parents do. One of the greatest gifts we can give our children is the gift of giving back to the community. Volunteering shows our children firsthand how to make a difference and how good it feels to help other people and animals and enact change.

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help start a conversation about helping others. Be sure to check them out!

Some important questions to ask yourself before looking to volunteer:

Would you like to work with seniors, children, intergenerational groups, or animals?

Do you prefer to work alone or are you a team person?

Are you better at working behind the scenes or do you prefer to take a more visible role in events?

How much time are you willing and able to commit?

What causes are important to you?

Tips for getting started (from the World Volunteer Web)

First, ask yourself if there is something specific you want to do.

For example, do I want…
…to make it better around where I live
…to meet people who are different from me
…to try something new
…to do something with my spare time
…to see a different way of life and new places
…to have a go at the type of work I might want to do as a full-time job
…to do more with my interests and hobbies
…to do something I’m good at

The best way to volunteer is to match your personality and interests. Having answers to these questions will help you narrow down your search.

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Fear of the Unknown

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I was talking to my mom the other day, and she shared with me that my great niece was terrified of a toy, so much so that even seeing it on the counter made her cry and scream in terror. Unfortunately, her slightly older brother loves the toy. It’s not unusual for toddlers to be afraid of loud noise or sudden movements and this toy does both, without warning.

There are times where fear is useful! It can protect us from jumping headlong into trouble, and some fear is evolutionary. Children naturally grow out of evolutionary fear as they grow and develop their anxiety landscape changes.

Evolutionary fear can be:
· Separation anxiety in toddlers,
· Fear of the dark or masks in preschoolers,
· Storms, spiders, or needles for school children,
· Rejection and failure for teens.

Parents make a huge difference in how well children can adapt and handle fear. When a toddler or preschooler are experiencing strong emotions, the situation is real for them no matter what a parent says, therefore, it will take small steps to help them over time realize that that dark closet isn’t something to be afraid of. It will also take a parent who the child trusts to help them overcome their fear.

One of the ways I helped my son overcome his fears was with positive, fun, and sometimes goofy games. When he was afraid of the dark, we played games by flashlight and read books by flashlight. We made forts and sang songs by candlelight (replacing the campfire).

Both Timothy’s Adventures and Kaylee’s Adventures have chapters that you can share with your little ones to help them deal with fears. Be sure to check them out!

Many experts suggest approaching fears in steps.
* There is a balance between overprotecting and belittling.
*Be age appropriate in your methods!
* Always approach with respect and love, never assume you know the precise source or reason for their fears!
1) Don’t try to talk them out of being afraid.
2) Stay calm and confident. How you speak to them about their fears is as important as what you say.
3) When helping your child to confront their fears find out what feels comfortable. Don’t force your child to do more than that. However, don’t give your child a total out. Complete avoidance isn’t the answer for anxiety. Practice coping response in a variety of ways. Teach and provide relaxation tools.
4) Reward efforts both big and small.

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Children and pets

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I always joke that I don’t understand people who don’t like pets, but there is a hint of truth there. How we treat animals says a great deal about our character. We don’t have to love animals to treat them with respect and decency. Children watch how we interact with all creatures from the tiniest bug to a massive elephant.

Pets are amazing, and I can’t imagine my life without my cat and dog. I am somewhat biased having grown up in a house full of pets though. One year we had two dogs, two kittens, a canary named yellow eagle, an aquarium full of fish, two teddy bear hamsters, and some newts. There was never a dull moment or a lack of chores that’s for sure.

I always encourage people to let their children have an age-appropriate and family appropriate pet. The family will need to decide what classes as age suitable or family appropriate, but there are so many benefits to owning a pet that it’s worth talking about.

Last week I read an article that reviewed 22 different studies on the benefits of owning a pet. The conclusion was that children who grow up with pets have higher self-esteem, higher cognitive development, and higher social skills. All the studies discussed the general health benefits which are: lower stress, lower blood pressure, increased mood, and that pets help to prevent strokes in older people.

But did you know that according to the studies that children who have pets tend to be more obedient, physically active, are less moody, and have fewer behavioral problems?

Pets teach children to give unconditional love, and that taking their fear and anger out on others is inappropriate. Pets help children learn empathy, confidence, and responsibility. Children with pets learn to socialize and have increased verbal skills.

Be sure to check out Kaylee’s adventures with her kitty Sir Thomas and Thomas’ Adventures with his puppy Melissa.

Moving with children: Stress or adventure?

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Saying that moving is stressful is an understatement. Even the ones that are for happy reasons. I’ve moved eighteen times, and eight of those were with my son. I cannot imagine what my mom went through moving with four girls and a house full of an assortment of pets.

You would think that moving would get easier as my son got older. There are only two things that make moving easier. The first thing that made moving easier was acknowledging that the things adults think aren’t a big deal still cause stress, loss, sadness, and apprehension for some children. Even if the move is for happy reasons some children are going to experience stress. The second thing that has made moving easier was accepting that no matter how organized I was something always got broken.

So how can moving be less stressful for everyone? The good news is there are things you can do to help!

Some children are more susceptible to experiencing stress during a move. If your child suffers from anxiety or needs routine and structure, you should prepare them ahead of time. If your child is an introvert or going through puberty, you should watch for signs of stress having a negative impact on them.

My personal experiences helped me write the chapters in Kaylee’s Adventures and Timothy’s Adventures that deal with moving. Both characters experience very different moves and have their stress and fears dealt with in different ways. Everyone deals with moving differently. But, there are benefits to moving with children, and that is children help adults get out and involved in your community right away!

Prepare for the move!
1) Get then ready
Break the news about the move a month in advance, unless you are selling a house.
Explain that the important things will be the same. (their belongings, the family time)
If it is possible, take them to see their new home, new playground, and new school.
2) Allow their angst
Moving stresses children. They will need your stability to help them process their emotions. Help them find healthy ways to both express them and voice them.
Some children may not have the vocabulary to express their emotions.
3) Walk the walk and talk the talk
Negativity rubs off, try to be positive.
If you are positive about the move, they will sense that everything is going to be okay.
4) Stick to your schedule
Keep family routines as much as possible. This provides stability for everyone.
New moves might not be the best time to introduce your toddler to a new bed!
5) Give them gumption
Give them things to make a choice on. This helps them feel like they have some control over their life.*This is really important!*
6) Expect regression
7) Get to know the neighbors
Provide an opportunity for them to meet new friends.
Talk about different ways they can make new friends. Share ideas and make it fun.
8) Read books where the characters move and deal with it in a healthy positive way!

Inspiration for Characters

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The inspiration behind the characters in my books can come from anywhere and everywhere. I love people-watching and reading, but some of my characters have unique and special inspiration from my own family and friends, and those are the ones I’m going to share a bit about.

My first devotional, Kaylee’s Adventures, as I mentioned previously was written to help my son deal with some difficult situations. Given this fact, you would think that the main character would be a little boy, not a little girl. However, the daddy character is inspired by my son because this character is how I envisioned my son to be when he has children and how my son envisions me to be like when I am a nanny to his future children.

“Kaylee” is the little girl I miscarried, and many of her conversations with her daddy and her nanny are actual conversations that my son and I had. Kaylee’s cat “Sir Thomas”, was my son’s cat, Thomas O’Malley. He wasn’t lost in a dark corner in a barn like Sir Thomas, but we did find him all covered in oil under an old, abandoned car.

“Farmer Fred” is a mixture of my late grandpa John and a dear friend from church. The old farm dog was my grandfather’s old farm dog. Kaylee’s two friends who sleep over were my son’s best friend and his little sister who begged me to do a special chapter just for them. The chapter, “The Calm After The Storm” was birthed after a particularly destructive tornado ripped through our little community and surrounding areas.

My second devotional, Timothy’s Adventures was already outlined and had two chapter written when my cousin suggested changing the devotional to deal with bullying and racism: an inspired change that I am pleased with. Timothy, Benjamin, and Reed were inspired by my son and his two cousins. My son and nephews were close in age, and I loved having them around. The boys’ puppies are a combination of all the different dogs I’ve had over the years. However, Teddy and Melissa have a special place in my heart, given that they were my late father’s favorite dogs.

Which brings us to the characters in my work in progress book. The characters in it are all unique and special as I mentioned in my blog post on September 12th, 2018. The inspiration for this novel came from my desire to show people that things aren’t always what they first appear to be. This book continues to be an adventure to write, and if you dare to read it, you’ll be transported to magical lands and experience many adventures.

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