Making Memories

4 Oct

Memory is a potent thing. It can bring a smile on an otherwise gloomy day or send you down a spiral of negative thoughts. It brings laughter and sometimes tears. It fills us with anger and sometimes induces fear. A familiar smell, an old school building, the ringing of bells all have the potential to send you down a path of both sadness and joy.

The good times we’ve had, our accomplishments etc all get stored as ‘core memories’ deep down in the vast realm of our long term memories.

Memories shape our preferences and beliefs. They serve as a guide in the present and go on to shape future experiences. Our attitude and perception are coloured by them.

Our childhood memories stay with us- things that brought joy , times when we felt crushed, all maneuver us either into a life filled with passion, joy and growth or one smeared with guilt, blame and unhappiness.

If these souvenirs of the past play such an important part in our present ,it is only natural to ask ourselves as parents and caregivers this one question- ‘ what kind of memories are we creating for our children? Which echoes are they stocking up in their vast repertoire of memories?

Creating memories with our children means being with them in the moment and giving them our time and undivided attention. No special day or no special occasion is needed …..just a typical day doing all the predictable stuff can sometimes be etched in our children’s minds forever.

As I look back I am reminded of the quiet pillow talks I had with my mom before I fell asleep, the diligence with which we sang hymns before dinner, the countless games of snakes and ladders we played, Cheering for our cricket team while gorging on moms banana fritters ….all of which helped create memorable moments which sustained me through the years.

Even today when I meet my sister our favourite line is undoubtedly…’Do you remember the time we ………..’

One doesn’t need a lot of money for these ‘Do you remember’ moments. All one needs is a desire to intentionally make an effort to set up fun things to do with your child.

A bit of imagination mixed with love, kindness and patience will help us gift our children  a rich tapestry of experiences  from which they can draw upon  whenever they need to.

 

 

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Yield to your Moods

27 Sep

This morning seemed like an otherwise normal morning, except that I didn’t feel too upbeat about anything. I preferred to laze around doing nothing, but my brain wouldn’t let me be. I’ve been wired to believe that feeling down is not acceptable and that I should find ways to bounce back immediately.

Thinking of ways to shake off the blues only caused more distress. My inner grump insisted on being around. Social media doesn’t help here – coz its for ever broadcasting happiness, as if to say – ‘If you are anything other than joyous, you are a loser’.

The pressure to feel good makes you mirthless.

Why are we so uncomfortable with our not so nice moods? Why do we feel that we have to be happy all the time? Why are people comfortable with the ‘Duck Syndrome’?  Like the duck who maintains its calm exterior while pedaling furiously in the water we are happy on the outside while frantically trying to juggle our moods.

Research has shown that those who allow themselves to go through their dark moods are less prone to stress. Like most things its got a name – Constructive Wallowing – where you give yourself time and space to understand your feelings of anger or sadness or fear, cope with them and move ahead at your pace.

This sure makes things easier for me. I’ve given myself the permission to feel …… allow this mood to drift by without clinging or resisting it

Denying or judging my feelings only prolongs the very feeling I’m trying to avoid.

Time gives me the luxury to understand the value and meaning of my negative mood.  It helps me to remember that all moods have their unique role to play in helping us navigate the world.

All we need to do is sit back Embrace the gloom, Accept your grouchiness and know that your feelings are like dark passing clouds that you don’t need to control.

 

 

 

Why Digital Curfew is pivotal in a teen’s technology dependent world.

8 Sep

digital curfew.jpg

Gone are the days when mobile phones and laptops were just for adults. Today almost every teen has his/her own cell phone and the result – constant communication with friends and sometimes even strangers.

Texting goes on until they fall asleep and then whenever the ‘ping’ demands their attention they are up and ‘sleep texting’. The definition of sleep texting being- use of a cell phone to send messages while remaining asleep.  Is this a cause for concern?? …. yes it is!

Our teens need 8 to 8.5 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Gadgets in their rooms are definitely not conducive to falling asleep. The artificial light from these gadgets suppress the release of melatonin – A sleep inducing hormone, not to mention how much they never end up discovering the joy of reading before bedtime. The chance to read, think or just be alone with oneself is fast vanishing in our tech dependent world.

Many kids admit to talking or texting after their parents go to bed. As a result, they lose out on sleep and in school they are bleary eyed, distracted and moody. Their performance and productivity drop; Health in general is sabotaged.

Asking them to stay away from their phones post 9 pm is like Canute trying to hold back the tides. Not happening! They have a zillion reasons why they need their phones beside them. The only thing that works is a sit down talk and then  set a consistent digital curfew time at least an hour before they go to sleep. Teens are so attached to their phones that doing something like that would feel like ripping off a band aid …Ouch! No doubt they will protest for a while but it will free them from from their addiction.

Family rules like – Cell phones powered off and out of sight an hour before bedtime is a good way to begin. A bedroom needs to be free from anything that obstructs sleep. Make this a default family habit. Before you even think its impossible; remember you’ve lived through the landline days.

Another rule could be – No devices during meal times.

 These rules work best when you hand them their first cell phones as preteens. Children will benefit from knowing that while you can stay connected easily through technology you also need to set boundaries so others respect your need for family time.

Teens need both parent and peer connection and also some downtime, that is, connection with oneself to synthesise information and develop a personal self. The 24/7 peer connect deprive teens of having a separate family connect or even some downtime on their own.

While cell phones are a teens most cherished possession and essential for their social lives, they need to be educated about the ill effects of excessive social media consumption, sleep deprivation and the other risks posed by the overuse of technology.

The digital world will only expand in the years to come, therefore as adults we need to we show young people the benefits of a healthy, balanced approach towards technology.

 

 

The Mental Mayhem

28 Aug

imagesSome days all my mind does is chatter. Visualizing fears, Reminding me of the past, Building  ‘what-if ‘ scenarios, Recalling the times that I’ve had setbacks, Analyzing situations.  A constant mental noise in the background .

It gets exhausting! It makes me moody, unhappy and so very often I miss opportunities coz I am busy attending to all this chatter and not being fully present in the moment.

I’ve tried to ignore this constant prattle of  – ‘How can she do this to me’ or ‘ Why do I have to deal with this ’ and other inner talk that disturbs my peace, but in vain. The more I ignore it, the louder the mental magpie gets.

Eventually I figured that I need to change my approach. I let the chatter badger me for a little while and then I reassure it with statements like –It definitely seems unfair but let me understand it a little more, or, her behaviour is strange, and maybe I should check with her if she is going through a tough period etc. When my mind felt heard, it quietened and I was able to be more focused and think clearly.                                  Creating counter thoughts like these does not always work [ I soon discovered]. That’s when I experimented with a few other techniques to lessen the mental noise.

The crown – navel breathing technique. When my head is full of unhelpful thoughts, I stop and inhale deeply, feel my breath going in through my crown, flowing through my body and leaving through my navel as I exhale. Its very difficult to pay attention to my inner chatter while I do this and it also calms my mind.

Journaling is a powerful practice. I set aside a specific time each day to address the concerns of my monkey mind. if negative thoughts thrust their ugly head during the rest of the day I gently push them aside and inform them that I have a time fixed for them and will not entertain them at other times.

Another helpful practice is to consciously pay attention to any 5 things in the environment and fully experience the sight, sound, smell and feel of these. Be in that moment. I noticed that this helps me to turn my attention to the present away from the noise of the thoughts that course through my head like the roaring waves

None of these are easy, but the times that I have engaged in them and managed to stop a little of the incessant mental monologue have been very rewarding. It bought my body and mind back to equilibrium.

The Buddha said, that the human mind is filled with dozens of drunken monkeys screeching, chattering and clamouring for attention.  Our mind is too precious a commodity to allow it to be seized by this unruly band.  Its up to us to consistently practice training our mind to be still, calm and in the present – a skill that takes a while to develop but can be done

Loneliness……That feeling of disconnect

22 Aug

We humans have an instinctual need for social connect. These connections that we have both with ourselves and others are a lot like the air we breathe. We need it to survive.

Strong relationships give us that feeling of belonging and help us give and get support.

Yet many a time we feel as though we are in one end of a long dark tunnel. On the other end we can see people laughing and having a good time, but we feel far removed with no means of knowing how to get there.

Lack of close relationships can be distressing. Feelings of emptiness and loneliness begin to creep in, gnawing at every cell in your body. You slowly get sucked into a terrifying cocoon that you’ve spun for yourself.

Loneliness is an inner experience where the person does not feel a connect with the people around him. This is draining because humankind is hardwired to feel the need for affiliation with others of his tribe. There is a large proportion of people today who live day by day with this agonizing feel of disconnect and isolation.

An awareness that they do not have anyone with whom they can connect, make them pessimistic, tightly wound and difficult to get along with . Without anyone to confide in or share their daily experiences they detach themselves from others, feel that life has no purpose and are swept away in the current of despair.

Loneliness is pervasive; its not restricted to any one age group or gender. A school going child with no friends, a youngster with no one to share his feelings , a retired person who feels no one cares, all feel alone and dissatisfied.

Neither does being alone make us feel lonely, nor does  being in the company of others protect us from it. It could be nature or nurture that make us predisposed to loneliness.  It could be the competitive  society we live in that promotes the feeling of independence over interdependence. Or perhaps our growing reliance on social media make our relationships less nurturing and rewarding.

Whatever be the cause, our unmet social needs take a toll on both our physical and emotional wellbeing.

The good news is that this feeling of forlornness can be overcome with conscious effort.

  1. Find ways to connect with others

Think of things that you are interested in, join a forum where you meet like minded people like a book club or a dance class

  1. Consider community service.

Focusing on the needs of others steers your mind away from feelings of despair. Its impossible to feel lonely while reading to the elderly or singing along with little children

  1. Look for similarities in people

Loneliness sometimes presents itself as judgmental, which make us look only at the difference between us and the others. Practice looking at similarities between people. Just as many differences there are between us; there are as many common emotions like joy, love sadness we all feel. Talk about them

  1. Be vulnerable

If you want to make a connect, share parts of yourself with others. That’s how people will get to know about you, your feelings, your opinions. That will help you develop a bond.

  1. Strengthen existing bonds.

Scroll down your phone list, call a friend you haven’t called for a while and chat up or meet up for coffee.

  1. Adopt a pet

A sprightly little pet can do wonders to your mood. The time invested in taking care of your new companion keeps you in a cheerful mood.

  1. Social Media can hurt

It’s a fine way to stay connected but social media also envelops us with feelings of gloom when we see all our friends holidaying and having a great time. So stay away from it.

  1. Address underlying issues.

Assess the reasons behind your feeling isolated – shyness, low self esteem etc can be addressed with the help of a therapist

By now you’ve surely realised that there is no instant way to overcome loneliness. Putting in place an action plan and then courageously moving ahead through the fog of loneliness is the first step towards dealing with it in an effective manner.

 

 

 

 

Keeping our children safe online

14 Aug

Childhood today is greatly different from what it was a decade ago.

Today it’s common to see toddlers play games and entertain themselves with ease on smartphones and tablets.

By the time children are in grade 5 or 6, they have their own cellphones on which they can spend a lot of time interacting with their peers or browsing the internet completely unfettered by parental supervision.

Although tech savvy, they lack the maturity to understand the potential dangers of the virtual world.

Today online safety extends beyond pornography; there is cyber-bullying, sexual predators, and precarious online games. With just a click your child can post information, or even unknowingly connect with dangerous online predators.

Few things you can do to keep your child safe include:

  • Educating them on the online world

The online world is replete with both useful and unsafe information as is the real world, except that the dangers in online world are many fold as you have no idea who the recipient of your posts and confidential information is.

The thumb-rule on safety for our children should be –

if they wouldn’t do it, watch it, or say it with a parent in the room, then it is not an ok thing to do.

Inform them that their posts are similar to the news being read over the PA system during assembly which mean that these posts, pictures are visible to everyone and can never be erased completely.

  • Keeping phones away at night

As a practice, keep a place at home where all phones and laptops are left to charge for the night. Not only is this beneficial for health but it keeps your child from attending to all the beeps at night.  Night-time is when kids are alone and vulnerable to a lot of dangerous stuff.

  • Limiting screen time

From the time you give them a phone it is important to establish a few rules. For every hour of screen time there needs to be at least 15 minutes of outdoor activity. I have seen it work when you sit them down and mutually decide on an ‘Acceptable Use Formula’ for using their phones.

  • Having ‘device free’ time

Even as adults it is so easy to get sucked into the limitless world of the internet. Having a few hours, say on Friday/Saturday evening, will help them learn to connect with the family, play board games or even have healthy discussions. Help them build hobbies and interest that on its own will limit their dependence on the virtual world.

 

As parents we all hope that we can keep our children away from every impending danger; but the truth is sometimes we can’t. Hence it is important that along with taking advantage of technology we also sprinkle in some involved parenting.

Its time for a hug

18 Jul

 

 

Hugging your teen isn’t an easy task. They either wiggle their way out or else just freeze as if to say – ‘Go on, get over with it quickly.’  Not very encouraging! But believe me, for all the awkwardness they display I don’t think they mind it too much. So although Virginia Satir’s 12 hugs a day advocacy may be a little difficult to achieve; I certainly believe that every teenager needs his daily dose of affectionate physical contact from his parents.

Hug them when you see them in the morning or maybe you can make it a practice to hug them before either of you leave home for the day.

So what does a hug say- It says ‘you are special to me and I care about you’which to the teenager translates as ‘I am loved and valuable.

Most teens elect to give up on expressing or even reciprocating physical affection with parents. All the more reason you need to find those little windows of opportunities to make physical contact. Parental touch is irreplaceable. Pat them on their back; put your arms around them or even a side hug can sometimes help get through those high walls of non compliance.

Affectionate touch allows them to feel safe and secure, lowers anxiety and make them less hostile. When their behavior really drives you up the wall – lean in and give them a hug that says ‘I’m giving you a hug so that I don’t end up yelling at you; but as you hug them , what they are hearing is- ‘I’m angry but I love you’……and they need to feel that warmth and acceptance.

The adolescent years comes with a certain angst of its own.  Even though they roll their eyes in protest, they want us to reach out to them and need constant reminders that we care. Whether its just a squeeze on the shoulder or a big bear hug or ruffling their hair we need to invest in the flow of touch which will do wonders to their wellbeing.