Category Archives: healthy habits

Time for an Empathy Self-Audit

Teach Yourself to be More Understanding and Empathetic

“Everyone that hasn’t suffered a brain injury or mental illness is capable of empathy.” – – so I read.

But some of our children DO have brain issues that impact their ability to show empathy. And it seems so easy to spot in them, and even easier to become exasperated at their apparent lack of empathy.

I’m guilty of this.

And so I end up being “the pot calling the kettle black” with my own lack of empathy.

Some of us are in touch with this ability, while others could use a little practice. If you’ve found yourself exasperated over your child’s un-empathetic behaviors, how about taking an empathy self-audit?

What is empathy?

Empathy is the concern for the welfare of others. It’s the ability to detect or predict the emotions and thoughts of others.

It’s easy to see why this would be a handy skill to master. Empathy has an impact on your relationships. This is true for both your personal and professional relationships. Empathy can make your life easier and more fulfilling at home and at work!

It’s an ability that our children need to become competent in. And our modeling empathy to and before them is crucial.

So after your empathy self-audit if you find you need an empathy tune-up, I have some empathy tune-up tips for you.

Empathy Tune-Up Tips

Try these tips to increase your empathy for your child/children and others:

1. Avoid making assumptions.

Your view of the world is limited. Your experiences are just your own. Others have lived a different reality.

If you’re from a well-off and intact family from the United States, you don’t really have a clue what it’s like to deal with the weight of growing up in an orphanage in Ukraine. If you’ve never lost a job, avoid assuming that you know exactly what that experience feels like.

Making assumptions only gets in the way of developing empathy. When you catch yourself making assumptions, question them. Prove your assumptions to be true or false before making any decisions.

2. Ask questions.

One way to understand others is to ask questions. Develop a genuine interest in them. Enhancing your communication skills assists your ability to connect with, and to understand, other people. Ask open ended questions.

3. Listen intently.

I used to think I was a great listener! But I’ve found myself only half-heartedly listening and dividing my attention with my kids. Yikes! What types of messages does that send to them?

I’ve also been trying to help a couple of my children learn to pause and wait for my attention before they start blasting out their message and getting frustrated at me then. If they want understanding they need to learn to wait for my attention. Plus that’s a clue to me to give it.

Listening intently is related to asking questions and avoiding assumptions. We also seek to understand the emotions that the other person is feeling. Asking questions and then listening to the answers is a pivotal part of creating empathy within yourself.

4. Learn about a group of people outside of your experience.

You could learn about people of another religious background or culture. If you’ve never been poor, you might learn about the homeless and how they live day to day. Read books and talk to people. Strive to understand what it would be like to be born a part of a particular group.

5. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

One way to relate better to others is to imagine yourself in the same situation. This can be painful. It’s not enjoyable to imagine that your spouse has died or that you’re completely out of money. Ask yourself, “What would I be thinking and feeling if I were in this situation?” Just asking yourself this question is the biggest step you can take toward being empathetic.

6. Be present. Give your undivided attention to others. You can’t be empathetic if you’re thinking about something else. This goes along with number three above, but extends to family activities, meals, meetings, etc. We are so tempted to multitask and it’s an even bigger temptation these days with our smartphones and other tech at our fingertips constantly.

Related: Be interested.

You’re not as good at hiding your disinterest as you think! You miss most of the information, verbal and non-verbal, communicated to you if you’re not paying attention.

7. Have more meaningful conversations.

Talking about sports is fine, but it’s not a deep and personal topic. One way to get the ball rolling is to talk about something that’s important to you. The more you share, the more you’re going to receive in return. Be open, and others will be more open with you. (Maybe.)

But don’t forget to give the other person a turn. One sided conversations are counterproductive to mutuality and connectedness.

Empathy is an important skill. It can greatly increase the ability to communicate and connect with others. Being able to understand their feelings and thoughts will boost your rapport with them, whether it’s your children, your spouse, or those outside the household. Enhance your relationships with empathy and you’ll benefit in many ways. And you’ll be modeling this important skill to your child or children!

“Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”

Romans 12:15

First Things First

When our more basic needs are unmet is can put the brakes on empathy. If you feel unable to access your empathy or otherwise feel like you are missing out on basic needs such as safety I implore you to seek the help YOU need, putting your oxygen mask on first as it were, to address those needs and free up mental and emotional space for empathy.

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If this post is helpful to you you might like to join the small but growing Yesterday’s Orphan Facebook group for parents and caregivers. The group is free to join but closed — members only.

Posts in the group touch on a variety of topics that may affect you if you are caring for a child with a history of early childhood traumatic parental loss and possibly other serious trauma in their background.

Life Lessons from Baby Shark

Life Lessons from Baby Shark

What makes Baby Shark so catchy? It’s a children’s song and a top 40 hit that appeals to kids and adults around the world. It has spawned dozens of variations and its own line of toys. It’s been viewed more than one and a half billion times on YouTube.

By now, you’ve probably seen the video regardless of whether you have any small children at home. Maybe you’ve even danced along as the family of sharks goes hunting and cheered for the happy ending where everyone winds up safe.

Besides the FUN factor, there’s plenty of unpredictable “magic” behind any internet sensation. However, you can tap into some of the ingredients that make these little sharks such a success, starting with these 3 basic principles.

The Value of Simplicity

The song is only 1 or 2 minutes long, and most of the lyrics consist of repeating the sound DO.

 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first and foremost, what could be simpler than that!? We tend to stress, strive and strategize over so many other things. But putting first things first – – prioritizing God in our every day living is the number one way to simplify your life.

Free up your time, save money, and reduce stress by getting down to basics.

Use these strategies to simplify your life & model simplicity to others:

  1. Buy only what you need. Studies show that experiences rather than possessions contribute more to happiness. Develop a hobby instead of shopping for entertainment.

  2. Clear away clutter. Take a look at the possessions you already have. Put aside things you can donate or sell. Owning less stuff means less time spent cleaning and maintaining it.

  3. Be mindful. Forget about multitasking. Instead, focus on doing one thing at a time. You’ll experience less stress and the quality of your work will increase.

  4. Give thanks. Appreciate what you have rather than longing for more. Make a list of the things you’re grateful for.

  5. Set priorities. Your values and beliefs are foundational to making choices for living a meaningful life. Schedule your time so that you put God first, and allocate the rest of your time and your other resources where he leads.

The Importance of Family

Baby shark sticks close to his parents and grandparents. The quality of your relationships plays a big part in determining how happy and productive you are. Put the time and effort into building and maintaining quality relationships, remembering to put your relationship with God first and foremost. Always give space for the other person whether your spouse, child or someone else in your life to start fresh and reconnect. You may know you aren’t holding any grudges, but do they still feel a disconnect? Let them know that even after a blow up, your relationship is on solid ground.

Try these techniques to strengthen your family bonds:

  1. Talk more. Listen closely to each other. Describe your dreams and express your feelings. Help each other to feel valued and understood.

  2. Eat family dinners. Sit around the same table for a meal at least once a week. If dinner is difficult to coordinate, make it breakfast or lunch.

  3. Spend one on one time. In addition to family outings, plan activities that you can do separately with each child and your partner. You’ll create a closer connection and lasting memories.

  4. Share decision making. Giving each family member a voice in the process increases the enthusiasm for working towards shared goals. Vote on where to go for your next vacation. Let your child decide which homework assignment to complete first.

The Power of Repetition

Major accomplishments usually require many small actions. Repetition helps important lessons to sink in.

Follow these steps to make small changes with big results:

  1. Clarify your thinking. Even when a subject seems basic, reviewing the matter may deepen your understanding or reveal new facets. You could wind up with a stronger business plan or a scarier shark costume.

  2. Pick up new skills. Expertise is usually developed through extensive practice. Persistence and patience pay off.

  3. Form positive habits. It’s easier to make constructive choices when you make the process automatic. After a month of jogging each morning, it will seem like the natural thing to do.

Baby Shark is so much fun that it will make you feel safe to go back in the water. Let this children’s song inspire you to simplify your life and create your own happy endings.

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Connect with me above or with my virtual business card to find out how to get yours and plug in to a group of people who are serious about being the gatekeepers of their homes when it comes to the safety of the products they bring into their homes and use around their families.

Ask for the information about the Natural Cleaner when you contact me with my Virtual Business Card.

Help! My Adopted Child is Terrified of Sleep

For the first year or so home, my youngest (adopted) child literally screamed himself to sleep.  One of my adopted daughters would often yell out in her sleep (still does occasionally after 10 years), never fully waking up and never remembering it in the morning.  Another one of our adopted children used to get to sleep okay, but get up during the night or wee hours of the morning, unable to fall back to sleep (and wander the house which also caused problems).

Adults may be able to self-talk and work through their night-time anxieties, but kids have less experience and big imaginations!  Even as adults we understand that worries, fears, concerns often loom larger at bed-time, weighing on us.  But children from traumatic backgrounds may have an even harder time with all of this.  It’s harder for them to separate what’s real and what’s not, especially at night.  And it can really affect their sleep which affects their days and the rest of the family, too.  The cycle can spiral downward if it doesn’t stop.

Lack of good, restful sleep on an ongoing basis can affect a number of things and can be detrimental to their health.  It is during sleep that our brains make a clean sweep of accumulated toxins, so among other things we can think clearer the next day.  It’s during sleep that production of several hormones rises, including growth hormone.  Ever hear that children grow in their sleep?  Lack of growth hormone can impact not only growth in height but even cellular repair.  Another hormone, lack of melatonin, the sleep hormone can cause greater sleep problems.  A strong immune system is supported by good sleep.

Sleep is should be restorative and our children need even more sleep than we as adults do in order to function optimally during the day.  I recommend making sleep a priority for your entire household.  Try not to deal with stressful issues near bedtime.  If you can table it until morning, do so.  If there is always conflict over pajamas or tooth brushing, drop the issue or do a workaround – – maybe brush teeth right after dinner so it’s over and done long before bedtime, for example.

We are super careful not to use supplements with food coloring or msg (an excitotoxin to the brain).  But using melatonin has helped so much, as well as other supplements depending on the person,  and specific essential oils that are beneficial for sleep either for calming or with a sedative effect or to help alleviate racing/troubling thoughts.  Some are effective to help with pain that may seem worse at night and be a hindrance to getting to sleep.  There are different ones for different issues.  With my large family, we have had lots of sleep issues which vary from person to person.  I know I personally cannot take anything that will up my blood pressure.  Essential oils have been a huge help to me, too as well as my kids.  Wish I had had them sooner!

I want to emphasize that there are a lot of reasons you or your child may have difficulties sleeping.

IMPORTANT:  I am not a doctor and nothing in this post is meant to diagnose, treat or cure anything.  Please see your healthcare provider for any medical issues.  I am not giving medical advice here.

And please don’t give up looking for the right solutions.  There ARE solutions and it IS important.

When you become your own sleep detective you may gain new insight as to what you can change in your daily routines for optimal sleep to take place.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools. 

Contact me to request my free “Sleep Detective” PDF booklet to download.  It’s a fun way to help your child or teen start to focus on their need for sleep and empower them to be an active force in making positive changes.

And if you like the content on this blog you might like to check out Yesterday’s Orphan on Facebook with the link in the sidebar.

 

 

When Sleep is Elusive

I recently hosted a 5-day Sleep Challenge (my first time to host a Facebook challenge group experience!) and I want to share here about some key thoughts.

One, sleep is crucial.

It is not something you can really do without and still function at your best.  Sure you can burn the candle at both ends or pull an all-nighter once in a while and get by with it, but not as a regular habit.  Before long, the spiral downward will take its toll.   So getting a new mindset about sleep may be a big deal for you if you tend to view sleep as the enemy.

Two, a good night’s sleep starts early.

It’s not enough to decide to go to bed on time.  (Whatever time that is may need some analysis. We talked about this in the challenge group.)  You can make adjustments throughout the day that may be a benefit to your ability to get to sleep and sleep soundly through the night.  While I am all for napping, for instance, it may help to discern if your napping – – perhaps the timing or length of them – – is negatively affecting your ability to get a good night’s sleep more often than not.  If so, it’s an easy (and free!) adjustment to make sure your naps are helpful, not harmful to your overall quality of sleep.  Some people may need to add a nap if their current schedule does not allow for their optimal amount of night-time sleep.  Guilt-free, of course!  Throughout our sleep challenge, I asked the participants to keep a sleep journal.  This helped to track items throughout the day that could possibly be affecting their sleep at night.  Some other possibilities were caffeine/stimulants; evening snacking; stress and worries; pain.  Of course, there are lots of things that can hinder sleep.  And none of this was/is intended to diagnose/treat/cure anything medical.  (I recommend you see your healthcare practitioner for any medical concerns.)

Three, there are solutions!

While not exhaustive, our sleep challenge pointed to possible solutions and at the end of the challenge I offered a free resource guide with my recommendations for products to help with sleep that I have gleaned from my own experience (and that of my large family who have had a variety of sleep struggles), and others recommendations.  As with our sleep challenge group (I told them they would become their own Sleep Detectives!) it can take some focus time to sleuth out the issues that are negatively affecting your sleep and put in place a workable plan that will address them successfully.

If you are in need of consistently better sleep, I would like to share my resource list with you as well as my Sleep Detective Journal so you can become your own Sleep Detective!

Hit CONTACT above and shoot me your email and I’ll send both documents right out.

Sweet dreams . . .zzzzzz

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.

I have begun using some fantastic essential oils and other products that make a big difference in helping some of my family members with often overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus better.

Hit Reply (if you are reading this in e-mail) or Contact (if you are on the website) above or below to learn more about our toxin-free natural plant-based personal care products and dietary supplements and how they can help you and your family, too.

 

Play’s the Thing

It can be hard to break out of serious mode when life gets chaotic. But notice your child. With them, play’s the thing. They might try to lighten the tensions with awkward attempts at play or joking that may seem inappropriate at the time to adults or older teens. Yet in their own way these children are doing the right thing – – attempting to move out of the negative and onto the positive, letting go of heavy, negative, even scary emotions and urging us to do the same.

When your child attempts to lighten things up, take their lead. And maybe initiate some play yourself, when feeling stressed. It may be just the thing to help everyone to recharge and tackle the serious issue with renewed assurance that it’s the issue – – not the person – – that needs solving. Knowing that the relationship is secure can be HUGE in garnering cooperation and communication.  And it may only take a little playfulness on your part to show that acceptance to your child.

Try it and see how it goes!

Zechariah 8:5 English Standard Version (ESV):

And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets.

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Real life is often emotional and kid’s from hard places often have overwhelming emotions. As a parent, I want to help my children learn to use positive coping skills and give them helpful tools.

I have begun using some fantastic essential oils and other products that make a big difference in helping some of my family members with often overwhelming emotions, to manage and focus better.

Hit Reply (if you are reading this in e-mail) or Contact (if you are on the website) above or below to learn more about our toxin-free natural plant-based personal care products and dietary supplements.  Learn how they can help you and your family, too.

 

Staying Fragrant

This spring has been a banner year for roses.  My old (neglected) rose bush is blooming.  My neighbor with the green thumb said a bush that hasn’t bloomed in nine years is blooming this year! I remember as a child my grandmother’s double driveway was lined with beautiful roses through the middle and the scent was so lovely!   Pure Rose essential oil is a bit pricey, but no wonder!  It takes 22 pounds of rose petals for a 5-ml bottle of Rose essential oil.  Rose oil is one of the most valuable essential oils you can acquire! (Let me know if you want to order some from my online store.)

Spring time is a great time to focus on being fragrant – – and I’m not just talking flowers & fragrances here.  As we focus on the attractiveness and beauty of the abundant and fragrant rose blooms this time of year, we can draw an analogy to ourselves and how we want to “stay fragrant” in our relationships with others.

Let’s replace smelly, unattractive behaviors (ours and our kids’) with more attractive, fragrant ones!

I designed this poster to help us do just that  – – to help us think about and teach ways to “stay fragrant” this spring and summer.

Train up a child in the way he should go;
even when he is old he will not depart from it. ~~Proverbs 22:6

With three key points, it can help us avoid being reactive in negative, even harmful ways and help our kids understand that people can respond in a more careful, intentional way that they purposefully choose, rather than allowing themselves to be controlled by knee-jerk reactions that are not well-thought out and not beneficial.

This colorful poster tells us to “stay fragrant” and to “Be the bigger (inner) person”.

stay fragrant poster YO

  1. Point one is to have Self-respect — with the affirmation: “I respect myself more than to speak or act in that way.  I won’t let you draw me into your misbehavior”  These affirmations may not necessarily need to be said addressed to anyone else and are meant mainly as helpful self-talk.
  2. The second point is Self-control — with the affirmation:  “I may feel upset, but I am not out of control.  I will feel better in a bit.”   Naming feelings out loud, such as in this affirmation, may help identify the feeling and help facilitate self-control, so though it is self-talk, speaking aloud might be useful, here, depending on the situation.
  3. The third is Personal Boundaries, Values & Commitments — with the affirmation:  “I choose for me. You choose for you.”  Allowing that others can have differing opinions and make different choices can help keep the peace and move forward in a number of different types of situations.

Save, print or jot these down as reminders to yourself and to teach and practice with your kids this spring.

And if you’d like a copy of the poster, I’d be happy to have one (or more) printed and mailed to you for $12 each.  Just contact me by email.

Hope this helps you and your family to have a smooth spring & summer!

Could Your Child have Parasites?

Parasites! Uggh!  

 

Who wants to think of the possibility that their child has a parasite problem?  But it is often a problem for adopted children, particularly internationally adopted children.  Overcrowded orphanages, poor hygiene and poor diet can contribute to the likelihood of a parasite infection.  

 

Testing & Treatment

 

Once home, your child’s doctor should do the recommended testing for parasites.  However it is not always that easy. I remember our oldest adopted daughter absolutely refusing to do the stool test at nine years old.  The most current recommendations I have see are for three rounds of stool tests. Signs and symptoms of parasite infestation are often general and vague, making it harder to recognize the connection to the possibility of parasites.  Vague abdominal signs could be attributed to any number of things such as new and unfamiliar foods, allergies, etc.

 

Two of my biological children have had parasite treatment through our functional medical doctor after Lyme disease caused them to have greatly lowered immune systems.  Even in the U.S., people with impaired immune systems are more susceptible to parasites. Many people do a parasite detox or cleanse once or twice per year. There are many options available over the counter, but I highly recommend requesting the CDC recommended parasite testing for internationally adopted children through your doctor if not already done and following the doctor’s recommendations for treating any positive findings of parasites.  

 

Tips for Parasite Prevention

 

As I have learned more about the prevalence of parasites and just how commonplace they are, I now understand that parasites are very opportunistic and can rapidly gain a foothold when there is a lowered immune system.  Therefore, keeping the immune system strong and healthy is key to keeping parasite infections from causing trouble.

 

Many, many things can lower the immune system’s defenses, even temporarily, giving any present parasites an opportunity to spread.  Illness, stress (as with bringing a new person into the family or moving into a new family), even vacations!

 

Good hygiene is imperative. To teach and enforce good hygiene from the get-go is an important step that I am sure you are already aware of.  Hand washing; Not sharing of utensils, hair brushes, toothbrushes, drinks; etc. Some of the things a younger child would normally have already learned may need to be taught your older adopted child, plus they may need to “un-learn” some habits and practices.  (Nail biting and thumb sucking are difficult to curb!) Mouthing objects like a much younger child can introduce unwanted “germs” (viruses, bacteria, and parasites).

It is worth it to spend the time to focus and really train good hygiene practices early on, as all through life a healthy immune system is going to be a good foundation for health and prevention of not only parasites but other health maladies.  

 

In addition, though your child may not show any definitive symptoms of parasites, they could be present and easily spread to the rest of the family.  We know when traveling to a foreign country where parasites are rampant, the local folks may not show symptoms but travelers are often advised not to drink the water or eat any uncooked vegetables.  Those who do are often hold up with some painful symptoms, unable to enjoy the remainder of their trip due to an acute parasite infection. So it’s worth it to zero in on good hygiene practices for the whole family (Hey, we can all use a reminder sometimes).  

 

Be aware also that there are gentler household products that clean as well or better than some of the commonly available products with harsh ingredients.  Some of the common ingredients can not only aggravate pre-existing conditions (our youngest adopted child had persistent respiratory problems and severely dry skin), but can sometimes do further damage to an already lowered immune system.  We avoid the now common hand sanitizers and either use good old fashioned hand washing with soap and water, or the waterless hand purifier available through Oils for Orphans that does not strip away the skin’s natural protectants.

 

Good nutrition is certainly a great way to boost their immune systems and help them get over some of the issues they may have upon coming home.  Of course with picky eaters it may not be as easy as it seems. And then the Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) may be better than what they had if it was severely restricted, but yet not optimal.  If malnourished (and with possible parasites) even the food that they are eating may not be being utilized well in the body. You may ask your doctor about supplements and look into getting the most bang for the bite by offering nutrient dense foods more often and tweaking some of your recipes to include them.  Just google “nutrient dense foods list” from which to make your own list of foods to try. Just because your kid won’t eat liver doesn’t mean there isn’t something else that may become a favorite.

 

A transition diet may even be in order if they need healing time for gut health to improve.  Your doctor or dietician can give more help, but these are things to consider and perhaps ask about.  Being careful not to introduce harmful pesticides through serving mostly organic produce that is thoroughly washed is important, as is helping them flush out toxins that may have accumulated plus those they are continuing to accumulate.  A high antioxidant diet can be beneficial and can boost the elimination process. One of the ways parasites do damage is from the toxins they secrete in the human body, and eliminating these (as well as the parasites when they die) is paramount.

 

Supplements

 

While you are working on getting your child to eat healthy, a good multivitamin or at least a B-complex vitamin and/or multivitamin can give them a good boost, supplementing what they get in their food, and sometimes can be easier for the body to metabolize.  An enzyme supplement can help their bodies to break down their food more effectively as well as a good quality probiotic.

 

Oils for Orphans has a range of healthy supplements without unnecessary fillers and with proven ingredients from high quality sources.  Kids like our super-food high antioxidant drink supplement, Ningxia Red with micronutrients. With Ningxia Red you may want to begin with a half-ounce or quarter-ounce and work up to a recommended one ounce daily serving (two ounces for adults).  

 

Wherever you get your supplements, it may be a good idea to run them by your health practitioner if you are unsure.  If medical treatment of parasites is necessary, it may be unpleasant, but very worth it for healthy digestion and ability to break down and use the nourishment available in the diet.

 

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If you are interested in any of our children’s supplements or other products contact me and I will be happy to help you.  You can browse the Oils for Orphans website at http://www.oilsfororphans.com