Tag Archives: Addiction

Finding Light Within Loss

light

Photo by RickyLesser.com

It’s nearly impossible to find the light, any light, when lost and in pain. Any platitude will ring untrue, like a well-intentioned stranger who says, “It’s God’s plan, dear,” or “Let Go & Let God.” Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is really mis-understood. What a person ‘intellectually’ and ‘spiritually’ understands, is not felt within the body of someone who has been traumatized. Ask any veteran. Ask any survivor of horrific abuse. It leaves a water mark that I believe melts into our muscles and settles into the deep subconscious within our bones that whispers in another language—but one that triggers our insecurity, our doubt, our sense of not belonging, our sense of not being enough. One yoga class, one therapy session, one confession, one psychic healer isn’t going to fix it. Post traumatic stress is something triggered by the body, from something buried deep within. And sometimes, we aren’t even cognizant of what that is, if it’s been blocked out.

Think of the person who ducks every time she hears a car backfire because she was a young child in a war-torn area where her parents were shot. Her heart is racing, palms sweating, and she might manically race to get away from the noise—to the point of running into the line of cars. She isn’t conscious of why she is fleeing, but the noise has triggered a buried memory that she never processed fully and her body is forcing her to feel the fear, feel the anxiety, feel the terror. The problem with PTSD is that, if not treated, this flight or fight mechanism repeats over and over until a sane person is no longer sane. The woman who has been attacked, for instance, may try to shake it off. Years later, she may have a full-blown panic attack in a parking garage when her car door won’t open. Her body, reliving a time when someone grabbed her, will start an internal revolt until she is bent over, throwing up, or passes out. This same woman may begin to suddenly leave restaurants or night clubs if her friends don’t return from the bathrooms on time because her heart is racing and she can’t look other men in the eyes. Her body is forcing her to feel—but it isn’t from a healthy sense of intuition. It’s from blocked pain that has nothing to do with the reality of the present moment.

No one likes to feel pain, or relive pain. Some people may have even disassociated with what they were going through, like a child who was abused, in order to survive. Years later, she may not understand why she won’t allow men to touch her. Again, it’s the body’s memory. It’s the body echoing out through our senses to force us to feel, in order to heal. But feeling sudden panic and reactivity, spurs insanity.

That person becomes paranoid, makes bad decisions, is untrusting and desperately seeks a way to end the torture—which can make alcohol, or any escape, alluring. When trying to kick the escape habits, that person can start to isolate, become severely depressed or even suicidal.

When we can grow compassion for someone suffering from PTSD, then we can foster forgiveness for whatever escapes that person sought out—even those that caused our own suffering. Because it isn’t personal. He or she was in severe pain they couldn’t endure anymore. Period. End of story.  It wasn’t about you or me. And they didn’t mean to hurt us.

For 5 months I’ve lived every day wondering if my sister was still alive. It’s been excruciating. We both lost our mother last May and one of the last things I remember her saying at our mother’s funeral is how mom always reminded her: “there’s someone for everyone dear.” The someone my sister found hurt her badly, beyond comprehension. And she just got lost in the trauma. I won’t go into the details.

Two weeks ago I was convinced my sister had died. I grieved the loss. I cried so hard. But I also remembered her light. It’s so bright. It shines all over my house in every room with some bizarre trinket, picture or perfect gift, (usually an exotic frog of some sort, long story) that she has given me over the years. I recalled the way she played piano and sang. How rebellious and creative and genius she was. How compassionate she was: always rescuing animals and strays of any kind, lol. After two days of grieving, I found out she was alive! And I spoke with her for the first time in nearly 5 months too. She’s now getting the treatment she desperately needs.

She may think that she’s lost everything, but she hasn’t. Her eternal light is burning so bright. Her future can actually be strengthened from this, if she lets it. As a therapist, she’ll be able to help even more people, especially those going through PTSD, because she’s been there. And it’s nothing to be ashamed of. Nothing.

Those who blame, shame, or ridicule anyone who has lost their way, due to PTSD, are heartless bullies. Compassion requires that we all take a moment to think about what someone else has gone through—to imagine their pain, their anxiety, their stress—and to think about ways to extend a hand, lighten their load, lessen their pain. Once we do this, even if it is a prayer we say, a candle we light, or a note we send saying we are thinking of that person, we return to love.

Compassion always returns me back to the amazing power of love. I can no longer stay mad at you, if I love you. If I love you, and realize that nothing you did was intentional to hurt me, than I can forgive you and fill my heart with love and acknowledge your light. Whenever we are back in that space of love, that space of light, there is no room for the ego or blaming or shaming or criticizing or ridiculing. And in that light, we are one, we are equal.

This experience, like others when I’ve lost loved ones or friends from sudden tragedies, reminds me of how fragile we all are. Even so, we all have an eternal light with lifetimes of knowledge and grace within us. If we allow ourselves to feel the pain, bless it, acknowledge it, enter stillness, and risk asking for help when we need it, we can actually feel our light as bright as the sun.

May we all find our way to loving each other, as the sun loves the Earth, without asking for anything in return, except for the blossoming of our potential, like wild flowers on a hillside.

With so much love and gratitude,

Laura x

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Holding the Reflection of Our Compassionate Light

Jnsunset

The sun shines down, and its image reflects in a thousand different pots filled with water.

The reflections are many, but they are each reflecting the same sun.

Similarly, when we come to know who we truly are, we will see ourselves
in all people.

amma the Hugging Saint

This month I’ve been challenged to hold tightly to my compassion for others, while allowing myself the breathing room of making loving, yet firm decisions.

We all contain our own unique and direct link to God, our Higher Power, the Universe. Not one of us is more ‘Divine’ than another. We communicate, we grow, we change, we express ourselves differently. Yet Each of us is, and can be, a reflection of the same sun, the same light, the same Source we all come from. Light can’t reflect in running water easily and it’s impossible to see our own reflection in turbulent waters…we must find stillness. When I find that stillness within, I then can hear my compassion for others—I feel that light within them and me.

Each class I teach ends with me saying the light in me honors the light in you. It’s a deeply spiritual belief that I hold. I believe that we are all each a reflection of one another. Yet at times, such as this month, I had to detach, take a step back, to protect myself and my boys. We are all reflections of each other, yet some may be battling mental illness, addiction to drama, drugs, alcohol, depression…and not behaving in ways that are for their, or anyone else’s, highest good. I know I’ve had days when I’ve said something I didn’t mean—usually when I’ve pushed myself too hard, been racing around with a million activities for my boys, and have not been meditating or doing my regular practice of yoga.

I read this beautiful quote today from my friend’s organization Spirit Rock Meditation Center . I reminds me that with each day—with each conscious breath—we can begin anew. It all starts with compassion for ourselves and a willingness to let go, to forgive and to let go of our stubborn resistance to change.

spiritrock

Awareness is key. Where do I need to begin anew? That’s a big question, but I’d say mainly I need to put an oxygen mask on myself first, before helping others. For me, daily meditating, yoga and writing help me (try) to be patient, let go of expectations and find beauty in the present moment. As a single mom, a daily practice of self care is hard to achieve. But it’s worth it. I made a commitment on October 20th, after recovering from a crazy month and weekend that left me depleted mentally, physically and spiritually, that I’ll DO yoga every day for a month. I teach, but I’m going to practice daily. Some days I’ll just do a 10 minute flow at home. Some days I’ll just stretch with yin poses. Other times will be power yoga—which especially fills my body and spirit with the positive energy and knowledge that I do have power over my own life, my own choices.

And this month required a lot of effort to consciously choose decisions, rather than fall into default reactions or fear. It was hard, but bore beautiful lessons. For instance, I learned the following:

I can’t control whether a stranger continued stalking me daily and my family. … I can, and did, call the police, installed a security unit and borrowed a friend’s dog for protection.

I can’t control a former loved one’s sudden anger, outbursts or unkind words. … I can pray for him and distance myself.

I can’t control someone who hurt and lied to me. … But I can walk away, speak my truth and still wish that person well.

I can’t control not getting enough time off from full-time single parenting … But I can take breaks, I can meditate, I can take a bike ride, I can do yoga, I can hire a sitter, I can slow down.

I can’t control whether people I care about don’t take care of themselves or allow others to abuse them. … But I can love them anyway, I can pray for them, and I can try to not enable or judge.

I can’t control how disease ravishes my cancer yogis or my mother. … But I can pray, provide comfort, breathe deeply, be grateful for their presence in my life.

I can’t control the steady requests for myself to volunteer or activities for my boys. … But I can say no or find other parents to help with carpools.

I can’t control whether an agent gets back to me about my book. … But I can continue to pitch others and write my 2nd novel.

It’s all about finding balance and not losing gratitude. My goal is to hold myself and others in a reflective, compassionate and humbling light. When I’m hurt, threatened, or when I don’t take care of myself and jealousy, depression or a pity party creeps in—it’s a reminder to pause and take better care of myself so I can see my reflection and the light of others in the stillness of my heart. In this space, I am convinced that I will remain ever teachable, humble, (mostly) calm and inspired, determined and grateful.

Life is beautiful. Even more so when trouble hits—as the light of love and those who are filled with love for me, shine more brightly. I am so grateful to my senior and cancer yogis who teach me to live with positive gratitude and strength. And I am forever indebted to my dear friends, whose presence makes my life feel musical and in sync. You know who you are, dear friends, and I love you.

Have a beautiful, light-filled month. ((( ❤ )))

Beach Yoga for Balance, Strength, Inspiration

beachyoga

Photo By KellyGonzalez.com

Join me for basic yoga classes Fridays at 9 a.m. just south of the Neptune Lifeguard Tower, @ Hermosa/Manhattan Beach border: Sept. 18 – Dec. 18, 2015. Suggested donation: $10, but ALL are welcome!

There is nothing better than listening to the steady crash of the ocean, feeling the pacific breeze in your hair, watching a few surfers or dolphins float by as you flow, sweat, and breathe deeply into intentions that ignite your soul. What a way to start off the weekend too?! Lets beat the heat together. All that is needed is your yoga mat. These are basic yoga classes, for all levels of fitness, that will still ignite your heart, strengthen your body, increase balance, aid in prevention of injuries and just make you feel GOOD. It’s my happy pill. After we sweat and flow, we’ll lay in savasana, listening to the ocean, allowing our minds to find stillness so we can listen to our hearts, our inner voice that is never critical, never negative—allowing you to connect to your dreams, to your best self, to visualize your unlimited potential. That’s the magic of yoga. And a backdrop of the gorgeous Pacific ain’t too shabby. So, Join Me!

I’ll leave you with a powerful excerpt / affirmation from Louise Hay, who has been critical in my own journey to fitness and self love. This summer I spent a few weeks solo in Barcelona and read from her book You Can Heal Your Life every day as I did yoga from my rooftop with views of the Mediterranean Sea. The healing, the joy, the inspiration was incredible and hard to explain—some things in life must be felt to be understood, even for this writer!  I hope to see you soon. Shoot me a message with any questions. Until then, have a beautiful week. Namaste. xo

## From You Can Heal Your Life:

In the infinity of life where I am,
All is perfect, whole, and complete.
I live in harmony and balance with everyone I know.
Deep at the center of my being, there is an infinite well of love.
I now allow this love to flow to the surface.
It fills my heart, my body, my mind, my consciousness,
my very being, and radiates out from me in all directions
and returns to me multiplied.
The more love I use and give, the more I have to give.
The supply is endless.
The use of love makes me feel good;
it is an expression of my inner joy. I love myself;
therefore, I take loving care of my body.
I lovingly feed it nourishing foods and beverages,
I lovingly groom it and dress it, and my body lovingly
Responds to me with vibrant health and energy.
I love myself; therefore, I provide for myself a comfortable home,
One that fills all my needs and is a pleasure to be in.
I fill the rooms with the vibration of love
so that all who enter, myself included, will feel this love
and be nourished by it.
I love myself; therefore, I work at a job I truly enjoy doing.
One that uses my creative talents and abilities,
working with and for people I love and who love me,
and earning a good income.
I love myself; therefore, I behave and think in a loving way
to all people for I know that which I give out
returns to me multiplied.
I only attract loving people in my world,
for they are a mirror of what I am.
I love myself; therefore, I forgive and totally release the past
and all past experiences, and I am free.
I love myself; therefore, I live totally for the now,
experiencing each moment as good and knowing that my future
is bright and joyous and secure,
for I am a beloved child of the Universe,
and the Universe lovingly takes care of me
now and forever more. All is well in my world.

Got Power?

photo by @rickylesser

photo by @rickylesser

Where is your power? What represents it? Is it your car? Is it your house? Is it your job and who reports to you? Does it stem from giving a husband or a wife a “honey-do list” of chores a mile long? Is it in your job as a parent “guiding your children?” i.e. telling them what to do, who to be, what to think? How’s it all working out for you? Do you feel powerful? Maybe. For a little while.

Authentic power doesn’t come from how much money you have or with the ability to boss minions around. Authentic power can’t be created by trying to control someone else, either. Shaming, blaming, criticizing, cajoling, nagging, belittling—none of these control tactics will change another person’s behavior or thoughts—and especially not make a dent in their addictions. That’s the kick. Addictions can’t be managed because they trigger a chemical reaction that make a person crave that substance, or hormone high from a behavior, again and again and again. They give a temporary relief, a ‘time-out’ from life or feeling whatever a person doesn’t want to feel or think about. I’ve been there. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, food (sugar!), porn, multiple dramatic relationships, gambling, compulsive shopping—it’s all a way to distract from whatever ails a person. They all distract from feelings of sadness, from trauma, from betrayal, from neglect, from frustrations, lost dreams…whatever needs to be felt, gets stuffed or shuffled or juggled with drama, things, substances. And there is NOTHING you can say or do to stop another person from doing any of it. Some are offended by that. Some don’t believe addictions are real. I’ve heard some, who continue to try to change a person, say: “If he loved me, he wouldn’t do this (insert alcohol, cigarettes, porn, compulsive shopping),” or, “If he cared about having a good life or this family, he wouldn’t drink every night” or “She chooses to binge eat every night. No one put a gun to her head. It’s disgusting.”

Last month a friend in Barcelona hared that a waiter brought their table a free bottle of champagne one glorious afternoon. A man, sober 10 years, said that while looking around at all the beautiful, smiling faces at other tables who were sipping exotic drinks by the sea, he hands began to shake violently. “Why can’t I be like them?” he thought. When he told the waiter to take it back, he said it was the first time in many years that he was “gutted.” He was so tempted, haunted, by the thought of having a sip that he had to excuse himself  because if he had one drink, he’d have to have more and more and might end up divorced and on a park bench again by month-end. Where is his power? In knowing that he is powerless over his addiction and in getting help. But no one can do it for him. No one can shame him, or blame him or criticize him into it. Why would they want to? This beautiful person knows he isn’t like social drinkers. By embracing his powerlessness, he can embrace his authentic power.

Where are you powerless? That’s our theme for our first Recovery Yoga class today at 2 p.m. at Haute Yogi Manhattan Beach. Join us!

I am powerless over what another person chooses to do—or say—or think—or be—in this life. If that person is my partner or family member or best friend, it may be excruciating to watch—especially if they habitually drink, smoke, neglect their health, binge eat, gamble, make bad choices, etc… In fact, the more that I try “to help” i.e. suggest, criticize, nag, cajole, beg for whatever I want (therapy, exercise, better choices) the more likely it is that this person will resent me and continue with these behaviors. And when it comes to addictions, like the dis-ease of alcohol, I am truly powerless. If a person refuses to get help, they won’t be able to stop. Even if they say they will. Even if they go a month sober, even if they only drink on weekends, without help, without support, without therapy, the ‘dis-ease’ builds until it’s a gnarly chemical compulsion, needed, in fact, to stuff pain, mimic joy, mimic normalcy—and they will reach for it again and again. It’s not in my control. It’s not in their control. It isn’t “manageable.” I can’t save anyone. And putting my life on hold, my dreams on hold, my goals at bay in an attempt to rescue anyone, is surely another means of distraction, right? That’s co-dependency and it’s a wicked “dis-ease” as well.

So what can I control? What can you control? Where is our authentic power?

I can control my thoughts. I choose to spin negative thoughts into positive ones. 

I can control what I put into my body.

I can meditate for 5, 10 minutes a day.

I can find a way to exercise every day. (Can you? Even if it means taking the stairs at work, power walking at lunch…there are many options.)

I can stop criticizing, myself or others.

I can allow others to help me.

I can choose who I hang out with and who I live my life with.

I can create boundaries with those who hurt me.

I can choose a peaceful environment: what I watch on TV, what music I listen to, is within my power.

I can forgive others AND myself for not being what I needed them to be. (Read that again, it’s HUGE.)

I can breathe deeply, count to 10 and respond, instead of react, when drama emerges.

I can learn how to be present and be a good listener.

I can focus one hour a day on one of my dreams (and “not listen” to any of the negative or insecure thoughts that may linger or may have been said to me about it…for one hour, I can go for it and have fun with it.)

I can create traditions with my children: gratitude lists at bedime, love bombs at dinner, family game night or movie night…

I can dream, visualize, manifest as I meditate and write.

I can let go of expectations.

I can accept others for exactly who they are—AND love them, AND myself, anyway.

I can do one good deed a day, or week, without letting anyone know about it.

I can cut off my phone and my computer for a few hours every day.

I can de-clutter and give away what I don’t use: cluttered house=cluttered mind.

I can try to understand first, before being understood, or being right.

I can control what I say. I can ask myself the following before I spit out whatever is on my mind: “Is it kind? Is it true? Does it need to be said right now? Does it need to be said by me?”

I can open up my heart, take healthy chances, ‘get out of my head’ and open up to new experiences, new friendships.

What can you control? Where is your authentic power? Join us, as we meditate, flow and sweat while thinking about one area of our lives that we can control. We will breathe into that intention for the week and feel the power of letting go of what we can not control and embracing what we can: our own lives.

The light in me, honors the light in you ~ Namaste

Strengthening Your Wings

by: Stephanie Jones

by: Stephanie Jones

Yesterday, someone wise told me a story. I had actually heard it before. It’s a parable from a children’s book. Sometimes the most profound lessons stem from the simplest truths, don’t you think? It goes like this:

A little girl found a caterpillar in her back yard. She had just learned about metamorphosis in kindergarten. So, she picked it up, put dirt, leaves and moss in a jar, and placed it inside. She was careful to put holes in the jar’s lid. Then, every day, she watched the caterpillar eat and eat and then start to make its cocoon. For almost two weeks, the little girl watched the cocoon hanging from a twig—knowing that the fat, goofy-looking caterpillar was turning into a beautiful butterfly. She was mesmerized.

Finally, the cocoon began moving slightly. Then it really started swaying back and forth. The little girl began to get upset. She saw that the butterfly with struggling to get out. Even though her mother told her not to, she thought she should help the butterfly. So, she, ever-so-gently, poked a hole in the cocoon so the butterfly could fly away. She lifted the lid off the jar and waited. And waited. The butterfly stopped moving. Sadly, it died. The little girl cried and cried! She was beside herself. What did she do?! She was only trying to help. Why didn’t it work?!

She was distraught when her mother looked up information about metamorphosis and discovered that the only way an infant butterfly can physically fly out of the cocoon is by strengthening its wings. The wings get stronger through the process of struggling with the cocoon to break free. Only after a certain amount of time battling with the cocoon and building strength, can it fly away.  Without the struggle, her wings are too weak and she’ll lay there and wither.

I guess some of you know where I’m going with this don’t you? No matter how hard it is to see during our pain, we need some of our struggles to build strength. Of course, I’m  not talking about tragedies like tornados or childhood leukemia. Seriously, some things are beyond reason. But, I’m beginning to see that our every day struggles to find ourselves and to listen to our intuition, are incredibly important. Taking steps to take care of ourselves and to form healthy relationships can be hard. Who knew four years ago, when my husband left while our 2nd child was a baby, that it would turn out to be blessing for me. I’m SO much stronger and grateful now. I have more confidence, more patience, more spirit and drive. Perhaps I  had to be on my own, to build myself up and find myself again. I still cater to my children’s needs—what single parent doesn’t?! But I’m also listening to, and honoring my inner voice. I’m writing fiction again. So, I’m working, raising my boys and trying to find time for work that pays AND my fiction. I’ve never felt more invigorated (and tired!). But that’s beside the point. Without my struggle, I wouldn’t have find myself or my courage. (I’m still working on flying, but I’ll get there someday.)

Conversely, if you feel like you’re the little girl watching someone you love struggle to fly—as I have found myself doing many times in my life—remember that it’s not always possible to help. If you’ve tried to help only to see someone fall back into old habits, remember that sometimes helping is enabling. Some need the struggle or need to hit bottom before they’ll be open to change.

It’s a good lesson for me, as I often want to help others instead of focussing on myself and my issues. And this past month I’ve been reminded again and again through some chaos and drama, that the only person who I can ever help and who I can ever change is myself. If someone in my life is struggling, especially with addiction or destructive behavior, I have to detach with love. Not everyone understands. And that’s okay.

Sometimes going through the struggle is the only way to find the will to fight…and hopefully find a way to soar above the problems.

Helping Your Kids Open Up

When’s the last time one of your children came to you for a real heart-to-heart chat? Has it been over a year since you’ve held your sides with giggles while doing something silly together? Do you feel like you are constantly battling video games, cell phones and the Internet in order to get a one-sentence response—let alone a conversation—with your kids? In this fast-paced, over-scheduled world, months can go by without real conversation and that’s too much for my liking. I’ve thought about the times when I’ve really connected with my kids to recall what triggered our closeness. And since no two kids are a like, I’ve reached out to experts as well for more ideas. Here are the top tactics that may help you bridge the communication gap and get your kids talking.

  • Get Active:
    Experts agree kids chat more with you while busy doing a physical activity together. I learned this when I was a camp counselor one summer break from college. Campers between the ages of six and 17 stayed the entire summer at this camp in the Pocono’s that catered to Manhattanites.  My job was to take each child out in a canoe, teach them the basic strokes, and later take small groups on trips. I was amazed at how the children, from the youngest to the oldest, would open up after 10 minutes or so of hard work in the canoe—especially the boys. The repetitive motions in the sun and fresh air, seemed to get even the shy kids babbling about friends, parents, school, pets, etc. I was overwhelmed with the sadness of some of the stories: a daughter raised by a slew of nannies; a son whose dad left when he was a baby; an eleven-year-old girl terrified her mom wouldn’t visit unless she landed the leading role of the camp play. …It goes on and on. I would listen and correct their J and C strokes. By the end of the summer, I was convinced that the best therapy in the world occurred while canoeing, hiking, running, or just walking with someone you trust. Even if you have a demanding work schedule, mini hikes on weekends or even walking into town for an ice cream, can inspire meaningful conversation or simple fun.
  • Family Dinner:
    Doing research for my article “How the Family Dinner Can Help Your Teen”, I discovered a survey conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that found teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and less likely to have substance abuse problems.Today, only about half of American teenagers say they have regular family dinners and the survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize—even more important than a host of extra-curricular activities.Will Courtenay, Ph.D, psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., father of two, and author of Dying to Be Men agrees family dinners work—but only if limits are imposed. “Family dinner is great—and research shows they’re beneficial for kids—but these benefits are lost if your daughter or son is texting at the table or engrossed in tunes streaming through their earbuds. It’s important for kids to learn that dinner time is a time to communicate with others at the table and to share stories of the day.” (I’d add that some parents are just as bad. Make sure the television is turned off before sitting down at the table!)
  • Family Game Night: (And, YES, this is possible for us single parents, too!)
    This may seem corny for some, especially teens, but give it a go anyway. Experts say it works if you incorporate your kids’ interests. So if your children hate scrabble or charades, don’t impose that on them.“It’s all about finding out what they like to do. What are their interests? And what is their temperament?,” points out Rona Renner, R.N., a parent educator, mom of four, and founder and host of Childhood Matters Radio Show. As an example, Renner says she purchased a ping pong table when one of her sons was 13-years-old and put it in the living room.“We just needed something to do together that we both enjoyed. When he turned 13 and entered junior high, it felt like overnight we just had nothing in common,” she reflects. The times playing ping pong were “precious” as it helped them reconnect and just have some fun.
  • Volunteer at School:
    I know this is a hard one for some. It may not be feasible to volunteer often at your children’s schools. But, if possible, find out all the different events and activities with parent involvement and sign up for one. Even if you’re only able to take off one day of work and spend one day being a chaperone on a school trip, you’ll get a chance to see your child’s friends and meet more parents. Dipping into your kids’ worlds at school opens up a host of things to talk about.
  • Sleep Talk Therapy:
    Can’t squeeze in quality time during the day? Try it at night! That’s right. Sleep talk therapy is becoming recognized by experts as a way to reinforce your love and encouragement to your children. Believe it or not, it works! A child hears differently in a sleep state and once you introduce yourself as his/her parent, your child rises into an alpha state of sleep where he can hear you, but doesn’t wake up. Please read my article “Connect With Your Children While They Sleep” to see how it works in detail.
  • Limiting “Kids’ Exit Strategies”:
    I call these the zone-out toys. For my oldest son it’s video games—but for others it can be online chat, Facebook, texting, Nintendo, TVs and computers in bedrooms or other solitary activities that keep kids away, silent and in their own worlds. Put limits on these and offer up fun activities to do together when possible and see what happens.
  • Family Pet:
    If you have the space and finances, a family pet, like a dog who needs to be walked every day, is a great way to bring unconditional love, silliness (and activity) into the family. Courtenay said one of his clients tried this strategy with great results: “A mom who was struggling with getting her adolescent son to open up, recently told me she decided to get a puppy—which she knew her son would like. The two have since been able to connect more deeply with each other, as they both care for their new addition to the family.”
  • Stay Present and Patient:
    It’s hard to connect to a parent who has his laptop on his knees at all times. So try to leave your work behind when you’re home and hanging out with your family. Experts say carving out family time—even if just for an hour in the evening—sends the message to kids that they are important. And if your teens (especially boys) barely notice, Courtenay says to have patience.
    “Patience is also important. A man I work with just today talked about how grateful he was to his mother for giving him time to “warm up.” Driving home from school, he’d be silent for what seemed like an endless amount of time—which she wouldn’t interrupt—and then finally, he’d be ready to open up to her.” The morale to that story is not to nag or push. Sometimes becoming a friend (even to your children) takes being a friend. Lighten up, listen and take the time to get to know one another.

Another article for inspiration: Stay Connected: Family Fun That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune.