By Anne McCarthy, Cattails teacher
Children in deep play are like whales who only come to the surface, every once in a while, to breathe—out of sheer necessity. Children want to stay deep, immersed in the waters of their imagination, only coming out when a need arises. That’s why ending play abruptly must feel like a small trauma to them, a sudden yank, crumbling the place they had been before to nothingness. Like waking up from a dream, you wanted to last just a bit longer… How then can we as parents transition our children gently when the time comes to end play?Singing to them—putting your request in song—is a wonderful method. Singing carries children from one state to the next, allowing them to come to the surface slowly. They have time to acclimatize, realize, and are therefore much more willing to transition out of play and into what’s next.
Set up the tent!
Pro-tip#1 Do you have a camping tent? If you set it up in the yard or the house, put a special toy inside(keep it simple) just legos, just drawing supplies, just beads and string....this will give your child a different environment to retreat
to while you get some work done.
If you don't have a tent, build a fabulous fort. Allow your child to feel that the tent is just for them. It's important not to combine this tent with parent boundaries, like time outs, clean up or napping. If they feel it's their special space just for them, they will enjoy it longer.
Pro-tip#2 Give yourself permission to do what you can, which is not everything and then tell yourself..."I'm doing enough"And remember to laugh at yourself and tell jokes in unexpected times, especially to other adults.
Just remember - you are never really completely useless, you can always serve as a bad example. just kidding :)
If you need any specific survival tips, feel free to email us,
we got your back!
BEDTIME(A poem for the end of the day)
The evening is coming,
The sun sinks to rest;
Straight home to the nest.
"Caw!" says the rook, as he flies overhead;
"It's time little people were going to bed!"
The flowers are closing;
The daisy's asleep;
The primrose is buried
In slumber so deep.
Shut up for the night is the pimpernel red;
It's time little people were going to bed!
The butterfly, drowsy,
Has folded its wing;
The bees are returning,
No more the birds sing.
Their labour is over, their nestlings are fed;
It's time little people were going to bed!
Childhood Memories and Thoughts on Parenting in a Difficult Time
By Anne McCarthy
Lately, I find myself pondering what memories my daughters will have of their childhood when these days of magic and play have become past. What will they remember of their Dad, of me, their grandparents, of family and friends we hold dear, of places we spend our time?
Or more specifically and in the spirit of the time: What will they remember of this strange episode we’re living through, where things fluctuate between feelings of paradise on the one hand—long wanders through the hills, family togetherness, morning to evening play outside— to a subtle but pervasive anxiety on the other.
All this raises yet other questions for me: Am I doing a good job at this parenting thing? Am I shouldering the burden for my children in a way that allows them to stay light and (relatively) worry-free in a time of crisis and isolation?
To ground myself, I think back to my own childhood—to my favorite memories of a time where someone else carried the weight of the world for me. For me the best way in are olfactory memories, those linked to very specific smells. Many of these memory triggers I know and seek, others are unexpected memory gifts, that instantly and out of nowhere transport me to a different time and place.
Growing up in Europe, where food is tradition, food is family and love, many of my triggers are of course food related: onion frying in butter is the quintessential “dinner is cooking” smell that conjures up feelings of comfort and memories of a family gathered to talk and eat (now add mushrooms to that, and we’re going places); bone broth simmering on my stove puts me right into my Oma’s kitchen where good food was always just a spoon away, served up with stories and laughter. Okay now I’m getting hungry…
Nature smells are of course the next big memory train ticket: apple blossoms, lilac, hay meadows, sweet grass and wet leaves, to only name a few of my very, very favorites. These scents I hold dear, they are my keys to a treasure chest of memories locked deep inside, waiting to be opened when I most need it: At times like now, that feel so surreal and strange, when grounding is needed to preserve my sanity.
Undoubtedly my kids will have other smells to guide them back: maybe rain and sage, woodsmoke, dusty juniper? Their bone broth scent memory will perhaps remind them of how I make them smell the pot and say “It smells just like Uroma’s kitchen” … who knows?
After going on that journey I feel much better. It seems as long as there is good food, ample time outdoors and love my kids will be just fine—filling their treasure chests not with a perfect parent or a perfect world, but instead with a deep sense of belonging: belonging to family, to community, to nature, to this Earth.
Now I’m off to my kitchen to cook up some memories and breathing much easier.
What smells trigger your favorite childhood memories?
What do you remember of times spend outdoors growing up? Have you ever climbed a tree? Picked berries? Waded a creek? Buried yourself in a pile of leaves? Remember what that smelled like? hmmm....
Parent Survival Kit
Resources, Links and Stuff to Support
"We Got This!"
Pro-tip#1 It's been said that being at home with the young ones can make
days feel like years and years feel like days.
At bedtime, make an agreement with yourself to cherish what sometimes feels like a daunting chore...bedtime. Tell yourself, It's not forever, it's just for now.
If you are calm, instead of preparing for a power struggle, you might find peace in the process
(I know, easier said then done, but give it a try).
Heather Boyd, OT is a wonderful resource for parenting and sleep.
Here's her link: https://www.heatherboyd.org/blog
Check her out on facebook as well.
Want to create ritual at bedtime?
Pro-tip #2 - Use "The Rose and the Thorn" practice of sharing what was the best part of your day and what was the hardest(not to be confused with the worst).
Light a little candle with your child, allow each person to share the rose and the thorn of the day, then have the child blow out the candle and crawl into bed. ZZZzzzz....
Pro-tip#3 Use the personal bedtime story written above ;)
or the Bedtime poem read out loud once young ones are tucked in.
If you need any specific survival tips, feel free to email us,
we got your back!
Your Child’s Personal Bedtime Story
By Heather Young
As a bedtime story for your child, recollect the activities of his/her day in a story format.
Begin the story with descriptions of your child, the main character. “Once upon a time there was a little girl who loved to collect rocks and climb trees. She lived with her mama, her daddy, and her baby sister in a little blue house with a big oak tree in the front yard….etc.”
Continue with a retelling of the story of your child’s day, including as many details big and small about what happened that day as you can recall. Amplify the goodness that the day held. Your child will have fun adding what she remembers and correcting you when your re-telling does not match her recollection.
End the story with what is happening now, e.g., the child is safe and warm and is getting tucked into bed with snuggles and hugs by her mama/daddy who loves her more than anything in the whole wide world.
Children love to be the main character of a story. It makes them feel seen and heard. In fact, no matter our age, ordering the events of the day by recalling them at bedtime and feeling the fact that we are here, at the end of our day, safe and warm in bed, with all that we need in this moment, is a soothing way to end the day.
Posted by Erin Boehme, Dandelions teacher
Can you remember a time when you felt mostly free?
You might think back to childhood, possibly a time when you were outside, on your own, far far away from all the adults? (or maybe in reality just in the backyard or field?)
Children need solitude just like adults. Solitude gifts us all the opportunity to process emotions, imagine new possibilities, reflect on our relationships with others, and in fact, solitude enhances our ability to feel empathy and improves our social skills.
Children need to "feel" alone, left to their own imagination, left to feel themselves, not under the supervision of an adult. This is a time they will feel truly free.
In this time, children will be experiencing emotions that they have no context to understand. They will be picking up on the adults sense of hyperawareness and the collective consciousness of anxiety, uncertainty and, significantly, grief. They are likely also feeling a sense of calm and joy in having their parents home with them all day, every day. All these changes are confusing, yet, with the gift of solitude, they can build the skills needed to process and cope with these emotions in a healthy way.
How do you give your child solitude?
- Be a model. Show your child that taking some time to yourself is to be respected and desired. Spend some time on your own, you might go on a walk, go to your sit spot or just be on the porch, just enjoy it, your child will understand.
-Allow your child to feel like they are wandering off in a safe space outdoors. You can behave as if your distracted and not watching them, but you can follow at a safe distance and tend them from afar. Avoid interacting with them. Allow them to "feel" alone. Trust them. Use your super stealth parent spy skills!
Spending time in their room alone, is good, but being outside is different....Why?
When we experience the sense of solitude outdoors, we are not alone. With the lack of stimulation from other humans, we pick up on the immense life that is all around us. We are capable of switching our awareness to the vast sky and the tiny ants. We find ourselves in the web of life. We find ourselves internally. This is where your child will really begin to know themselves.
Mother Earth is our home, she's bigger than anything we can touch, hold or feel. When emotions are bigger than we can hold, Mama Earth holds them for us. Out on the land is where we build those connections to empathy, trust, wonder, gratitude and the true nature of our purpose. We all know this, because we have each been overwhelmed at some point in our lives and have turned to the sky, the mountains, a bird, a plant, the sunset, the stars or the sea to guide us inward.
Children are connected beings, they need to stay connected. Giving them solitude in nature is one of the best parenting skills you can rely on. Let go of being a supervisor and become a ninja parent with super spy skills...you might find yourself in a state of solitude while your at it. ;)
Posted by Heather Young, Water Striders teacher
Sing of the earth and sky,
sing of our lovely planet,
sing of the low and high,
of fossils locked in granite.
Sing of the strange, the known,
the secrets that surround us,
sing of the wonders shown,
and wonders still around us.
Take a walk either alone or with your child. As you walk slowly along try singing or humming in response to what you are noticing around you. Your song can be a tune with or without words. Open up all of your senses and notice what you feel inside of your own body as you perceive the shapes, textures, colors, smells, sounds and sensations of your surroundings. Aboriginal creation myths tell of creator-beings who wandered over the continent in the Dreamtime, singing out the names of everything that crossed their path - birds, animals, plants, rocks, waterholes; singing the world into existence. As simple as it is, when we sing or hum a known or improvised tune, we participate in ancient medicine. Modern science now confirms what humans have intuited all along, that no matter our age or culture, singing is one of the best ways to help ourselves feel better.
Posted by Lia Grippo
Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house, so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. ~ Rumi
In all times, young children take emotional cues from their caregivers and their environment. You might have seen this when your child falls down and looks at you before deciding whether they should, cry, laugh, or shrug it off and keep going. They are looking to us for meaning and context.
In times like these, this inborn need to imitate is fully engaged. Our children can feel that there is tension, anxiety, and fear in the air. Unable to see the big picture (they are simply not mature enough to do so for a good number of years to come), they simply absorb the mood of their environment.
While we might like very much to protect them from these feelings entirely, knowing they are not ready or able to carry the burdens, we can not do so completely. The grief and anxiety is simply too pervasive.
What, then, shall we do to care for their tender feelings in this time?
Can you remember a time when you had a good deal of stress built up inside you and you picked an argument with someone you loved? The feelings you were releasing probably had nothing to do with the topic you argued over. You simply needed an eruption, a space where grief and tension could find an avenue of release.
Our children will do just this. They may seem to “overreact” to a very minor injury (physical or emotional). They may push against a limit you have set, in a way that feels as if they are poking at you repeatedly. They might try to exert inflexible and unyielding control over a situation that seems extreme and unusual to you. These scenarios, and others that have a similar feeling, are often our child’s attempts to find a strong enough boundary, or container if you will, that allows their grief movement. Grief that doesn’t find avenues of release “leaks” out in tense and unpleasant interactions, adding tension to an already challenging situation.
But what do we do when our children show signs of grief?
The first and most important thing we need to help our children navigate these powerful feelings is to cultivate and show loving compassion. The second is to avoid trying to “make” our children feel happy. Everyone has a right, and indeed a need, to feel unhappy at times. In our attempts to help our children not feel sad, we are giving the message that feeling sad or frustrated isn’t acceptable. However, successful attempts at appeasing or distracting our child from expressing these feelings does nothing to make the feelings themselves go away, rather they go underground, erupting in ways both unexpected and confusing for parent and child.
When you feel your child is exhibiting these signs of stress, allowing them to cry is often the kindest thing we can do. Sometimes, we must hold a boundary, lovingly and firmly, to give them the opportunity to cry. Sometimes, we must simply get out of the way when a big cry begins.
Allow yourself to sit quietly near your child when the cry comes and cultivate your own calm and compassion. You need not, and ought not, let them hurt you or themselves, but even this must be done with as few words as possible. They might throw themselves to the ground, belly down, and kick and thrash about. This is healthy. Young children are very good at letting their whole body get in on the grief release. As long as everyone is physically safe, let them do this. There will likely come a time where they will want to continue crying in your arms and/or lap. Let them. You will feel their body soften and quiet. Allow yourself to remain in quiet presence even then. Sometimes, after a restful pause, more tears will come. Sometimes, your child will signal they are done for now by bringing up a topic of conversation or getting up and beginning to do something different. Follow their lead. If they are done, let them be done. There is no need to discuss this further.
What about us parents?
This can be hard for us, especially if we ourselves did not grow up with the freedom to feel our grief openly. It can also feel hard when we ourselves are not having the solitude and space to express our own feelings of grief, anxiety, and frustration because we are with our children without respite and without our accustomed external supports.
Be aware of how grief shows up in you. Do you retreat into yourself, becoming quiet and withdrawn? Do you become short tempered about things that would otherwise elicit a different response? Do you feel the urge to move your body intensely? There are so many ways our bodies signal the need for release and we must come to know ourselves.
You are likely having these feelings come up, but aren’t able to give them expression throughout the day, because there is simply so much to tend. You may find yourself having to set your own feelings aside, even the ones stirred by your child’s release of grief.
When you can find space for them, here are some suggestions for helping oneself to access those feelings again and give them expression.
I will leave you with the words of the great poet, Pablo Neruda,
“… And here am I, budding among the ruins with only sorrow to bite on, as if weeping were a seed and I the earth’s only furrow.”
Wild Roots staff authors include Erin Boehme, Lia Grippo, CJ Cintas, Anne McCarthy, Tyler Starbard, Jenn Sepulveda, Heather Young, Amalia Smith Hale, Natalia Pareja...