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Conscious parenting is connection-based parenting, where we prioritize relationship and mental health over parental dominance. Still, "conscious parenting" sounds rather funny, doesn't it? It's as if the alternative is unconscious parenting, and that's what I do when I'm asleep. That aside, there's a lot of confusion about what conscious parenting is and why it's such an important shift for parents and children alike.

One thing to know for sure, though: conscious parenting isn't a fad. It isn't going anywhere. In fact, I daresay it's changing the world.

What people get wrong about conscious parenting

Some people assume that conscious parenting is permissive parenting. Some even call it "lazy" parenting. Much to the contrary, conscious parents are well aware of the importance of healthy boundaries that are appropriate for the child's age. And parenting this way can be incredibly hard work.

A conscious parent often spends a lot of time in self-reflection, working to understand their own behavior and patterns from their family of origin. They also get curious about children's behavior to learn what's developmentally appropriate, how to be peaceful despite triggers, and how to raise emotionally intelligent kids.

This parenting style requires parents to look at the bigger picture of their relationships rather than addressing children's behavior only at a surface level. The parent works to understand the child's needs and underlying motivations.

Conscious parenting is not the "easy way out." In fact, practicing conscious parenting requires a much deeper level of support and self-reflection than do many other parenting styles.

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How does conscious parenting work?

1. We model respect rather than preach it.

As a conscious parent, we know that kids are going to emulate whatever they experience firsthand. If they experience respect, they'll have respect to pay forward. Children learn respect from an early age because we've been mindful about how we act towards them.

If kids live in a naturally loving home, they'll share that love with others. They'll act out what they know from their own awareness of what they've encountered in life, much more than what we teach through words alone.

Example of what it can look like:

Instead of, "Don't use that tone with me," we make sure we haven't instigated using a negative tone with our child. We're willing to look in the proverbial mirror.

2. We embrace emotional authenticity and welcome all feelings.

This does not mean we welcome all behavior; we still get to have healthy limits and loving boundaries. However, we accept all feelings as messengers. Additionally, we model what to do with those big feelings.

Example:

A child is having a meltdown. Rather than sending the child to their room, we might say, "All of your feelings are safe here" and invite them onto our lap for a hug.

Moreover, knowing emotions are messengers, rather than running from or avoiding them, we can ask, "What's this feeling here to tell us? What are we needing?" We get to the root cause of the big feelings (or big behavior) rather than just addressing it at the surface level.

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3. We use non-violent communication.

Naturally, in any relationship with other humans, there will be times of conflict. Conscious parenting does not mean everything will be perfect all the time (if only!). When a conscious parent feels upset, though, we don't take it out on our children. We work to avoid passing along our stress and unresolved trauma.

Instead, we model healthy conflict management skills and self-control. We avoid blaming and shaming. When we mess up, we fess up. We repair our wrongdoings and apologize.

Example:

Instead of yelling at a child for spilling their drink on our papers, we pause, take a breath, and remember that accidents happen. To our child, we might say (modeling emotional authenticity), "I feel frustrated about the papers, but I know it was an accident. Let's grab a rag and wipe up the spill together."

Then, we go about the task peacefully, using whatever calming tools the parent needs to avoid taking out our frustration on our child. We model emotional regulation and self-control.

Self-awareness and self-regulation skills take practice and certainly don't happen overnight. However, we're willing to muster the internal control to stay calm and peaceful.

4. We encourage self-expression.

Rather than trying to mold our kids to meet others' expectations of them, children are encouraged to be themselves and pursue their own passions.

Example:

We might have a child who wants to wear yellow and green plaid pants with a rainbow shirt. Rather than telling them they look ridiculous, we realize that many children love expressing themselves creatively, including in their clothing choices.

We might choose to worry less about what people will think, and forgo the "cute" outfit we picked out because our child is happy.

5. We involve children in decision making.

Rather than giving children our unsolicited advice and expecting them to follow through in their life, we collaborate with them whenever possible.

Example:

Instead of, "I signed you up for piano lessons because it's important that you learn to play an instrument," we might say, "There are all sorts of benefits to playing an instrument, and I think you'd like it. Do any particular instruments appeal to you?"

6. We don't pretend to have all the answers.

The parenting choices we make intentionally usually requires a significant paradigm shift from believing that adults should control their children, to viewing effective parenting as a journey of growing up together.

Conscious parents rarely, as new parents, believe they naturally know what their kids need "because the parents are the adults and the children 'should' listen to them." Instead, they take cues from their children as individuals and tailor their support accordingly.

Example:

Although conscious parenting doesn't put children in the inappropriate position of leading or supporting their parents, we do model healthy vulnerability. We realize, when met with adversity, that it's alright to say to our child, "I'm not sure what to do here. Let's think about this together and come up with a good plan." We can be confident and vulnerable.

7. We're willing to do the inner work of conscious parenting.

Raising children really seems to come naturally to some parents, doesn't it? Although there may be some truth to that perspective, I've never met a conscious parent who didn't have some significant inner work to do. 

There are exceptions, of course, but many conscious parents are actively choosing a parenting approach that differs from that which they experienced growing up. Breaking generational patterns is not for the faint of heart.

Example:

Our own parents might criticize our parenting style and say we're being "too soft" with our children. Rather than caving under pressure and doing what other parents have done, we can be brave enough to say, "Thanks for the advice. I'm choosing a different path that feels right to me." This bravery requires that we show up for ourselves, questioning what we've known before and peacefully challenging it. Here are more ways to handle advice that doesn't feel right.

More about breaking generational patterns

If we want to be a better parent, we need to do better--in some cases, better than our family of origin. That doesn't mean we love our parents any less. It simply means that we have some new tools that perhaps they didn't know about at the time. Raising kids requires an evolution of knowledge.

Indeed, it can be incredibly hard work to break generational cycles and unhealthy patterns. Over time and with practice, though, it's absolutely possible. You're likely to find that conscious parenting actually results in reduced stress as a parent because there's more harmony in the first place. Through your peaceful example, you can absolutely help your child become the kind of person--kind, loving, respectful--that you want them to be. Punishment isn't necessary.

You'll help your child's sense of right and wrong grow because they're watching you as a role model. When we're mindful of our own emotions and behaviors, our children benefit.

Related mini-course: The World Is Tough, So Shouldn't We Toughen Up Our Kids?

Why punitive methods don't work

Most parents genuinely want to do well for their children, and if they're punishing them, they believe it's the best path to raising children who thrive in the world.

This is a tricky and misguided message, though. Many of these same parents were punished when they were children, and they believe they "turned out fine."

However, my compassionate inquiry is, "Is there something better than 'fine' to which we can aspire?" I address this topic more thoroughly in this article about spanking and punishments. In short, though, when we bring awareness to our children's mistakes by punishing them, the focus moves away from the teaching and into fear. We don't want to parent our child from fear.

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Why conscious parenting vs. other styles

There's plenty of research about parenting styles, and historically, the authoritative parenting style came out on top as being most beneficial.

Authoritative parenting encourages parents to offer high degrees of warmth while they also have high expectations for their children. Although that doesn't sound "wrong" at face value -- in fact, there's plenty that's right about it -- some parents focus too much on positive reinforcement tactics for the sole purpose of furthering their children's achievements. Some take the "expectations" part too far and the child gets lost in the process.

If we want our child to thrive, we need to couple that warmth with focusing on what's really important to them, rather than just what's important to us. A child's growth depends not only on warmth and direction from the parent, but also on the child's ability to feel a sense of self-agency (which means, "I'm in charge of myself.")

Conscious parenting considers and respects the whole child.

Why parenting books don't mention it

Traditionally, only the most commonly recognized parenting terms--authoritarian, authoritative, permissive, and neglectful (explained here)--showed up in most books.

By contrast, however, we now have more terms than we know what to do with -- helicopter, snowplow, lawnmower, bulldozer, elephant, tiger, dolphin, positive, gentle, peaceful, respectful, and the list goes on.

Do the differences in nomenclature matter? When we're talking about conscious parenting, not really. There's no "quiz" you need to pass; there's no certain way you need to live your life on a daily basis.

My personal brand of conscious parenting is called peaceful discipline, and I've written a book about it. As far as I'm concerned, if you can your kids can both go to bed most nights feeling good about your relationship, that's the end goal. We don't need to overcomplicate it.

What children say about conscious parenting

I've heard from parents I've coached around the world that their children's lives are positively transformed by conscious parenting. Not only do they agree that conscious parenting works, but the children feel more connected, more joyful, and more peaceful toward their parents, too. Here's what my own child has to say about it.

How conscious parenting is changing the world

At the beginning of this article, I noted that conscious parenting just may be changing the world. When you have a movement of responsible adults who want to be better parents through connection rather than control, we create a more peaceful world. Peaceful parents raise peaceful kids. It's a virtuous cycle.

We've all been there. We're sitting nose-to-nose with a human much smaller than we are, and we're simply not connecting. We want x. They want y. And neither of us is budging. We want to be peaceful parents, but it doesn't always come easily. In moments like these, might playful parenting be the key?

If "play is the work of childhood" (a quote by child psychologist Jean Piaget), then playful parenting is the best way we can work with our children. It's the absolute key to cooperation. It's speaking in their own true language; the language of their hearts and minds.

Playful parenting is all about connection.

Children play "rain or shine"---it helps them decrease stress, learn new things, and figure out the world (source). The time we invest in playful parenting helps us connect with our kids, while also helping them feel emotionally safe and understood. That, in turn, makes our job as parents easier.

Playful parenting helps foster cooperation naturally.

We want to enjoy our interactions with our children. If we focus on "getting" them to do things, the relationship becomes about power. Instead, I'd encourage parents to work alongside their children as partners against whatever problems they're trying to solve.

Playful parenting embodies what positive parenting is all about; working with kids rather than against them. Being a playful parent signals to a child that we're on their side—we're in this life together.

We can connect and be close without power struggles.

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What does playful parenting look like in action?

These playful parenting tips below work especially well for ages of 2 - 8, but versions of them can continue well beyond these years.

An important note to remember is that playful parenting works best before emotions have escalated. If the initial engagement with your child is positive, it's the surest way to maintain a sense of peace in your home. As they say, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."

Playful parenting certainly can work retroactively, however. Perhaps our first attempt at talking with our child didn't go over so well. Make space for the child to become emotionally regulated again, then try a fresh start.

Here are 7 common scenarios where playful parenting can work wonders.

Brushing teeth

One fun way to accomplish this is to feign total incompetence. As you approach your child with her hairbrush, say, "Open wide! Time to brush your teeth!" Similarly, holding the toothbrush, say, "Oh, this will make your hair so fancy!"

Your child will love the feeling of power and total competence as they point out the error of your ways. You, of course, will be shocked to learn your mistake. With exaggerated hesitation, you will agree to try it their way for a moment.

After a minute (especially if they start to protest), add, "That's right! I use this on your ARM! Arm, be still." Use it near your own arm if need be. It's okay to go back and forth a time or three to get it done.

Going potty

Try to trust your child's body and timing here. If they need help remembering to check, however, make it fun. Maybe they're climbing onto a choo choo train. Perhaps it's a rocket that's about to blast off to a new solar system.

Putting on clothes

Do YOU, parent, fit into that 3T sweater? Please try. If your child isn't keen to get dressed, a bit of laughter clears the air and helps you connect. It's worth the time to slow down and be silly if it cancels the 45-minute tantrum that might otherwise ensue.

Another great way to accomplish getting your child ready for the day is to involve the stuffed animals. They're your allies. Can your child dress a doll while you're putting on his socks? Can your kiddo tell you what his animal friend needs to wear for his rainy day, and what he might need to do to match him? Get your kids outside their heads here. Involve them in care taking.

Cleaning up toys

It's important to remember that once you have children, it's normal for your home not to look, well, like it used to. That's okay.

You might walk into a room and see a mess, but your child sees a world of possibilities. Allowing for some "mess" might be one of the best gifts you can give yourself stress-wise.

When it does start to feel overwhelming, however, cease talking about cleaning and all that "responsibility" rubbish (child view). Your child will inevitably pick up on any anxiety you convey around cleaning. For everyone's sake, work to make it a peaceful and lighthearted process.

Since this is a common trouble spot, I'll share several ideas of how you can incorporate playful parenting into this sometimes tricky topic.

The key idea is this: Changing your nomenclature helps tremendously. Use kid terms. Not only enter, but lead, the world of make-believe.

When you see a bunch of toy cars all over the floor, notice the incredible traffic jam. The drivers need help getting back to their proper parking garage (the toy box)! "Drive" them back together. Sound effects help.

Building blocks have somehow scattered across the floor and need to make it back into the bag? No problem! You're not holding a bag; you're holding the HUNGRY MONSTER. "Feed me!" it bellows playfully. "Hungry! Must eat blocks! More! More!" On it goes until the mess is gone.

Even for adults, playing this way lightens our moods. Imagine what it does for our kiddos!

Get creative. If something doesn't have a logical "home" (like cars in a box you call a parking garage), make it silly. "Let's put all the dolls in the tree house [on the shelf] for the night!" Even a paper bag can be a "tent" for something. Bring toys and their storage spaces to life.

Lastly, remember how incompetent you were at brushing teeth and hair? You're even worse when it comes to picking up the toys! A ball? It weighs as much as a semi truck! How in the world can you lift it? Can someone save the day? (Many children love to rescue adults.) That giant toy elephant, however, is a breeze for you---it's light as a feather.

Your superpowers are very confusing---and hilarious.

Getting out the door

Although I often shy away from competition, this is the one time I'll offer a race. Who can put on shoes the fastest and touch the doorknob? For some kids (particularly highly sensitive children), however, competition can cause anxiety, so use it with caution.

Would anyone like to hop to the door like a bunny? Roll across the rug to get there? Be carried and spun in circles? Sometimes a different mode of transportation is all they need.

Supporting parents with day-to-day responsibilities

If your child can help put away non-breakable items from the dishwasher, for example, let them try. A great question to ask (even if they've done it before) is "Do you think you're strong enough to move these cups from the dishwasher to the counter?"

Children love feeling competent. So much of their existence includes not knowing what to do, so when they feel capable, it's incredibly empowering for them.

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Encouraging positive behavior

If your child is struggling with a particular task that involves his or her body, for example, talk to the body part directly through playful parenting. Let's say a child is handling the family dog too roughly. One option is to remind the child what to do in simple terms: "Gentle hands, please." This lighthearted and clear approach often works well.

A playful parenting modification would be, "Excuse me, hands? Yes, all 10 fingers -- wiggle your way over here, please." Rather than looking your child in the eye, look at, speak to, and gently touch your child's hands as if they, alone, are the offending party.

This works particularly well for sensitive children who might feel embarrassed about what's transpired, or who have a tough time with correction.

You continue, "Dear hands, I could really use your help here. Our dog needs gentle hands only. Here are some things you CAN do. Would you rather play a game, do some clapping, or wave yourselves up in the air?"

Playful parenting gets the "correction" done in a lighthearted yet still entirely effective way.

What if playful parenting doesn't come naturally to us as adults?

How does it work, though, for adults who aren't as naturally playful as kids are? Our brains are wired quite differently from theirs! As we know, kids can have fun playing with parents, friends, and even cardboard boxes. Not all of us have been to comedy school -- do we have to be naturally funny?

Not at all.  In short, we can meet our kids where they are in their play. Join in and see what they're doing. Opportunities for playful parenting often present themselves naturally if we enter our children's world of imagination.

Example: Let's say your child is busy playing castles and dragons / dress-up. However, it's time for dinner. Rather than making them disengage from their play, roll out an imaginary red carpet and march to the table together. Or, climb into their invisible chariot that takes them to the banquet hall for the royal feast.

We don't need to manufacture something new and creative to make playful parenting "work" for our kids. We just need to let our guard down a bit and, to the extent that we can, see life through their lens for a little while.

I'll speak more about this in an upcoming course (details forthcoming).

Playful parenting is involved parenting.

This is parenting for connection; parenting for the relationship not just for today, but also for the long run. Sure, if you're new to playful parenting, it might seem to take more time "in the moment." Ultimately, however, it can spare your family buckets full of tears and be entirely worth the effort.

Oftentimes, after some practice, cooperation happens so easily through play that it's faster than any other alternative.

As a side bonus, you might be surprised how self-sufficient children can become after they've learned how to do all these things in an emotionally safe place with you---and they feel connected. Studies show that secure and healthy attachment actually foster greater independence in the long run (source).

Playful parenting is a wonderful return on your investment. Long-term connection starts when kids are little. It has a compounding effect--it grows over time, decreases conflict, and increases trust.

Being a playful parent is a part of the equation that fosters connection for many years to come. It's all about relationship.

What are some of your best playful parenting examples? I'd love to hear about them!

Books for Further Reading

playful parenting

playful parentingplayful parenting

This post contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases. Your purchases help us support important charities.

If "play is the work of childhood" (a quote by child psychologist Jean Piaget), then playful parenting is the best way we can work with our children. It's the absolute key to cooperation.

Children play "rain or shine"---it helps them decrease stress, learn new things, and figure out the world (source). Parents do well to remember that the time we invest playing not only helps us connect to our kids, but also makes our job as parents easier. I've never met a child who didn't love it when a parent brought a playful attitude and laughter to the relationship. It helps kids feel close and emotionally understood.

Playful parenting is all about connection.

Playful parenting helps foster cooperation naturally.

We want to enjoy our interactions with our children. If we focus on "getting" them do things, the relationship becomes about power. Instead, I'd encourage parents to work alongside their children as partners against whatever problems they're trying to solve.

True, for our kids' well being, we need to set healthy boundaries—our influence is key in that. That's what positive parenting is all about; working with kids rather than against them. Being a playful parent signals to a child that we're on their side—we're in this together. We can connect and be close without power struggles.

playful parenting
Pin for later!

What does playful parenting look like in action?

How does it work, though, for adults who aren't as naturally playful as kids are? Our brains are wired quite differently from theirs! As we know, kids can have fun playing with parents, friends, and even cardboard boxes. (Fortunately, boxes are wonderful toys.)

The tips below work especially well for ages of 2 - 7, but versions of them can continue well beyond these years.

Brushing teeth

One fun way to accomplish this is to feign total incompetence. As you approach your child with her hairbrush, say, "Open wide! Time to brush your teeth!" Similarly, holding the toothbrush, say, "Oh, this will make your hair so fancy!" Your child will love the feeling of power and total competence as they point out the error of your ways. You, of course, will be shocked to learn your mistake. With exaggerated hesitation, you will try it their way for a moment. After a minute (especially if they start to protest), add, "That's right! I use this on your ARM! Arm, be still." Use your own arm if need be. It's okay to go back and forth a time or three to get it done.

Going potty

Try to trust your child's timing here. If they need help remembering to check, however, make it fun. Maybe they're climbing onto a choo choo train. Perhaps it's a rocket that's about to blast off to a new solar system.

Putting on clothes

Do YOU, parent, fit into that 3T sweater? Please try. If your child isn't keen to get dressed, a bit of laughter clears the air and helps you connect. It's worth the time to slow down and be silly if it cancels the 45-minute tantrum that might otherwise ensue.

Another great way to accomplish getting your child ready for the day is to involve the stuffed animals. They're your allies. Can your child dress a doll while you're putting on his socks? Can your kiddo tell you what his animal friend needs to wear for his rainy day, and what he might need to do to match him? Get your kids outside their heads here. Involve them in care taking,

Cleaning up toys

Cease talking about cleaning and all that "responsibility" rubbish (child view). Since this is a common trouble spot, I'll share several ideas. The key idea is this: Changing your nomenclature helps tremendously. Use kid terms. Not only enter, but lead, the world of make-believe.

When you see a bunch of toy cars all over the floor, notice the incredible traffic jam. The drivers need help getting back to their proper parking garage (the toy box)! "Drive" them back together. Sound effects help.

Building blocks have somehow scattered across the floor and need to make it back into the bag? No problem! You're not holding a bag; you're holding the HUNGRY MONSTER. "Feed me!" it bellows playfully. "Hungry! Must eat blocks! More! More!" On it goes until the mess is gone.

Even for adults, playing this way lightens our moods. Imagine what it does for our kiddos!

Get creative. If something doesn't have a logical "home" (like cars in a box you call a parking garage), make it silly. "Let's put all the dolls in the tree house [on the shelf] for the night!" Even a paper bag can be a "tent" for something. Bring toys and their storage spaces to life.

Lastly, remember how incompetent you were at brushing teeth and hair? You're even worse when it comes to picking up the toys! A ball? It weighs as much as a semi truck! How in the world can you lift it? Can someone save the day? (Many children love to rescue adults.) That giant toy elephant, however, is a breeze for you---it's light as a feather. Your superpowers are very confusing---and hilarious.

Getting out the door

Although I often shy away from competition, this is the one time I'll offer a race. Who can put on shoes the fastest and touch the doorknob? For some kids (particularly highly sensitive ones), however, competition causes anxiety, so use it with caution.

Would anyone like to hop to the door like a bunny? Roll across the rug to get there? Be carried and spun in circles? Sometimes a different mode of transportation is all they need.

Supporting parents with day-to-day responsibilities

If your child can help put away non-breakable items from the dishwasher, for example, let them try. A great question to ask (even if they've done it before) is "Do you think you're strong enough to move these cups from the dishwasher to the counter?" Children love feeling competent. So much of their existence includes not knowing what to do, so when they feel capable, it's incredibly empowering for them.

Playful parents aren't doling out chores to their kids and leaving them to complete them on their own.

This is involved parenting. This is parenting for connection. Sure, it might seem to take more time "in the moment," but ultimately, it can save your kiddo buckets full of tears and help you both feel like you're really in this together as a team. Because you are!

And, you might be surprised how willing children become to do tasks on their own after they've learned in an emotionally safe place with you---and they feel connected. It's a wonderful return on your investment. Long-term connections start when kids are little. Being a playful parent is a part of the equation that you can both enjoy.

Books for Further Reading

playful parenting
This post contains affiliate links. As Amazon Associates, we earn from qualifying purchases. Your purchases help us support important charities.

playful parentingplayful parenting

Moving with kids isn't easy. Heck, moving without kids is hard, too. I understand so well; my six-year-old child has known four homes in her life so far, and she's about to know more. Although it's not any easier to pack the boxes this time around, I've learned some important lessons that truly do make moving easier on children.

Some of these tips address the emotional side of moving; some are logistical.

Tell kids when you know the details of your move.

How's your poker face? Yeah, mine isn't so good either, and especially not with big news. To the extent that it's important to name the proverbial elephant in the room, let kids know early that you're moving. Children don't like life altering surprises sprung on them any more than adults do. Allow them time to process. Besides, it's much better if they hear the news from you directly than if they overhear it in conversation (or from someone else). Our kids deserve honesty.moving with children

That said, if possible, do wait until you can share some details with them versus an anxiety-fostering "We might be moving." Kids thrive on knowing what to expect in life, so an ambiguous "We're selling the house and that's all we know" would likely cause some unnecessary worry. A better option might be, "We're selling the house and moving in with Grandma for the summer" or "We're going to move from this apartment to a house that's closer to the beach!" It helps all of us to have something specific and positive to imagine when we're fantasizing about our new life ahead.

Be as specific as possible with them about what to expect. Spell out the steps and the process for them, especially if they've never moved before.

They'll want to know why you're packing; who will come get the stuff; all the things we take for granted as adults.

When moving with children, be real about all the feelings --- theirs and yours.

Whether or not you're happy about moving, you're likely to feel a whole lot of things. That's completely normal. As I write this and ponder our own upcoming move, I'm somewhere between joyful and excited and trusting, to panicking, feeling overwhelmed, and mourning leaving our friends behind. It's all there.

And do you know what children are likely to feel? All those same things. Just like our feelings can turn on a dime with "big life changes" like moving, theirs can, too.

Allow space for their feelings; allow grace for their feelings. 

It's important to be your authentic self with your children (they know you!) without having them feel emotionally responsible for your feelings. If you're sad, it's helpful to say things like, "I'm sad to be leaving my friend Tracy, and I'm working through my feelings about that. I want you to know, however, that I've got this. And I'm looking forward to staying in touch with her after we move." (The "I've got this" of a version thereof is important.) Your kids need to know that you're still their emotional rock.

help kids cope with moving

Similarly, when you're moving with kids, avoid imposing your experience on them.

Yesterday as we were leaving church, I mistakenly projected my own feelings and asked my child, "Wow, doesn't it feel strange to be leaving this church?"

My child replied, "Not at all, Mommy. We leave church every week."

Ha! Indeed we do. Not everything that's surreal to me needs to be a big emotional experience to her.

Let your child have as many "regular" moments as you can. Just because your head never strays from the impending move for more than 10 seconds, that's not your child's job. Your child's job is to be a child.

Let your kids say goodbye to all the things.

Ask your children what's important to them about where you live now. What do they like? Their answers might surprise you. For instance, I expected my child would want to see her favorite playground one more time before we move. We did that and we both verbalized our goodbyes to it. I didn't necessarily expect, however, that she'd want to say goodbye

otter at city hallto the bronze otter that sits outside our local City Hall.

Goodbye, Otter. We love you.

And goodbye, goats who live down the block. Goodbye, library. And my oh my, goodbye bakery with the really good cookies. (Sniff.)

Talk about moving by using books, songs, and play.

So much about moving involves adults talking to children. As with all important topics, though, kids sometimes assimilate information better if we communicate in child-focused ways.

For instance, you can sing songs about moving on to whatever lies ahead. I made one up that had lyrics somewhat similar to this one.

You can read books about moving. This one has stood the test of time in our house. (Ahem, our houses.)

moving day
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Draw pictures about moving. Ask your child to draw a picture to hang on his or her new bedroom wall. Help her envision joyful surroundings.

For little kids, role play. Stuffed animals are wonderful communicators when children speak to and through them. They're common in some types of play therapy and can be wonderful for children's stress relief.

When moving with kids, keep whatever sense of normalcy you can.

Keep your rituals as close to the usual and familiar as possible---especially those rituals that foster connection between you.

Make time for hugs, touch, and play. Be very conscious about these things. It's easy for kids to feel abandoned while we adults are busy being "productive."

One way my child and I connect on a regular basis is by reading together. Although I had to pack all of her books in various boxes, I borrowed copies of her favorites from the library. That way, we could still read and connect in our usual way. The stories gave her familiarity and comfort.

Keep mealtimes and bedtimes as consistent as possible, too. It's tricky enough for a child to manage all the changes without their physical body trying to figure out which way is up. Plus, if bedtime is still bedtime, you can get more packing done after hours.

Mark the boxes with your children's belongings differently.

Here's another logistical one for you when moving with kids. Obviously, it helps to label your boxes with their contents. What's particularly helpful for children, however, is to mark their boxes in really obvious ways so that they're the easiest to find.

We attach an inch or two of colorful masking tape to my child's most important boxes. We'll find those first once we're in our new place.

For bonus points, invite your child to help pack. For some kids, it helps them process. Packing makes others sad. Personally, I don't mandate my daughter's involvement. It's her choice and I let her know ahead of time what I'm going to pack next (since she might not see whatever it is for awhile).

Prioritize safety.

It sounds like it goes without saying, but make sure to keep scissors and other dangerous items out of places where a child might inadvertently knock them off a counter or step on them. That goes for when you arrive at your new home, too.

Have I ever told you about the time my child was 18 months old and I didn't realize the house we'd just moved into had a gas stove --- she saw interesting knobs to turn, and the next thing I knew, the nearby packing paper was on fire? There were no injuries, thank goodness, but it was an important lesson for me!

Most of all, connect. Offer grace and give yourself some, too.

Your child loves you where you live now. Your child will love you in your new location. The boxes will come and go and you'll all get through this. Moving with kids isn't the easiest life experience, but truth be told, it's an opportunity to grow together. Breathe and trust in that.

After all, home is where the heart is.

Once again, I love how life works sometimes. One of our favorite children's book authors, Asia Citro, just happens to live close to me and posted about her upcoming book festival in one of my Seattle-area Facebook groups. Surprised that she was local, I messaged her and asked for an interview. Although her schedule precluded us from meeting in person, we met via Skype for my child's first author interview.

By "my child's first author interview," I mean that my almost six-year-old kiddo came up with the questions per Asia Citro's request.Scannable Fake ID, What a fun idea! I've edited my child's questions only ever-so-slightly and summarized the responses.

First, though, what do we like about her books?

As I told the author, I love that I don't need to edit or reword the content to make it appropriate for my child when I read to her. Long before I'd even met Asia Citro, however, I'd put her Zoey and Sassafras series on our list of Best Books for Kids to Build Self-Esteem and Confidence. Be it this series or her other books, they all make us think. They're all fun. And they're all incredibly engaging for the whole family. The quality of the writing and the humor are rock solid. I've even caught my husband paging through them when no children are around. He'll freely and proudly own up to that.

I confess that I'm a go-to-the-library-kind-of-mom, but these books, we purchase. We put a lot of reading miles on them. Here's her ever-growing list (afflinks):

Author Interview
Zoey and Sassafras book series

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 1: Who reads your stories first?

Usually my family; my kids. And my mom, too. My mom used to be a second grade teacher, so she has a lot of good insight.

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 2: Why do you write books?

I used to be a teacher in a school, but when I became a mommy, I decided to stay home with my baby girl. I started a blog that people liked, and eventually I started writing books, too. The first one I wrote was called 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids. I'm still writing. In fact, I'm almost done with Zoey and Sassafras #7! Plus, I care about book access for kids. A lot of my work is about that.

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 3: What does your work area look like?

[She pans the camera around her workspace, showing her desk, a door to her right, and a picture with pretty rainbow colors behind her.best fake ids, Perhaps most importantly to our young interviewer, she shows us the wonderful cat who's been on her lap the whole time we've been talking. The cat declined to comment, but seemed sincerely engaged in the conversation. He winked at me. True story.]

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 4: What was your favorite book [when you were little]?

I loved so many books! Beverly Cleary, Judy Bloom / Ramona...oh, wow. So many!

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 5: What's your favorite [children's] book now?

There are so many great children's books! Some of our favorites have been the Elephant & Piggie series and Du Iz Zak.

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 6: Do you like to dance?

With my kids, yes.

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 7: Are you friends with your illustrator?

Marion (Lindsay) is wonderful. We love her. She lives in England, though, so pretty far from here in Seattle.

Asia Citro Author Interview Question 8: Can we meet you?

Yes! I'll be at the book festival on September 28 in Seattle. You should come! So many amazing authors are going to be there.

Here's the flyer about the book festival---hope to see you there! We'll be there and listening intently for the magic doorbell. (Zoey and Sassafras fans will understand.)

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The topic of homelessness doesn't typically come up in my life. I sleep in the same house every night with my family, except for when we're on vacation. Although our life isn't perfect, it's safely predictable. For some reason, though, homelessness has been on our radar far more than usual lately. So, we're paying attention, as is our daughter. We should be.

Just more than a week ago, I bought a healthy green smoothie at a store. Knowing we live in a city with a fairly visible homeless population, I planned to give it to someone who looked like they needed it. We never have to look very hard. That day was no exception.

Homelessness and kids

The following week, Teacher Tom, who's one of my child's teachers, shared with his class a thought-provoking picture book about homelessness called "I See You" after he'd eloquently written about the topic on his own blog. Although we'd missed that particular story time, he mentioned the book to me, so I picked it up. (This is an affiliate link, although the book might be available at your local library.) Since then, my child and I have paged through it and had some fairly profound discussions about it. She's been reviewing it on her own without my direction and definitely internalizing the message; definitely "seeing" homeless people differently, despite our prior discussions about homelessness. Something about the book is getting her attention.

We've discussed how important it is to really see everyone around us, including those who are homeless---not just the people it's "convenient" to see.

With homelessness still on our mental radars, we attended church the following weekend. Our small church houses approximately 35-45 homeless women every night during the coldest part of the year, so finding ways to support them is often a topic of discussion. This particular weekend, though, our pastor shared something shocking with us. A couple of days earlier, he'd discovered a homeless woman who had died just outside the doorway of our church. If that doesn't make it real, nothing will. Regardless of your belief system, his sermon about it is worth listening to (it starts about two minutes into the recording). It's a passionate wake-up call to all people about doing what's right.

This isn't just a message for adults, however. Children also need to understand homelessness, despite it being a "dirty" topic, like sex and slavery.

At this point, lots of parents reading this will cringe and close their browser. It's tempting. Of course we want to protect our children from discomfort of all kinds, especially those from which we can easily walk away. If anyone understands that, I do. My child is highly sensitive, and tricky topics affect her deeply, even if we discuss them in an age-appropriate way (as we always should with our kids). Some parents are more interested in lighthearted articles like "How to Get Your 17-Year-Old to Sleep Through the Night" or "How to Bake a Calorie-Free Sheet Cake in Zero Minutes." But just like other topics that some of us would rather not acknowledge, it's important to discuss homelessness with our children. As parents, it's our responsibility.

Here are some specific things you can do to talk to kids about homelessness.

For very young kids who may have seen people sleeping in unusual places, it might be enough to acknowledge that they see the person there. Homeless people aren't the untouchables, much less unspeakables. A simple, "You saw that person sleeping on that bench; do you have any questions?" can open the door for dialogue. Your child might or might not have questions, but you've modeled that it's okay to acknowledge that person's existence. Acknowledgment is a good first step. But please, don't stop "walking" there. If they don't ask, you can offer age-appropriate information proactively. If your child asks why that person was there, you might explain that the person is homeless and lacks permanent housing. Giving the topic a name, "homelessness," helps disarm the tension around it. It's beneficial to acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room.

What worked well when our child was very young was to add, "And here's what we can do to help." That way, it teaches kids that everyone can do something. We shouldn't consider anyone "someone else's problem." Specifically, we've said, "Let's pray for that person." And then we did, right then, and then we did something tangible to help whoever we saw. Model that prayer, feelings of compassion, or well wishes alone aren't enough when we see an urgent need in front of us. We also need to take action. For little kids, it's important to do things when they're top of mind; saving the prayer, donation, or whatever you do for "later" makes it less impactful for the child.

We've kept an ongoing stash of non-perishable items in the car and in my purse that we can hand out when we see someone in need. When we hand them out, we've said something to our child to the effect of, "That person doesn't have as much food as we have, so we're helping because we can." Kids pay attention.

For more mature and older children, we can drive discussions about homelessness to a deeper level.

You know your child best, so trust your judgment about what's age appropriate. Do be wary of perpetuating stereotypes; many assume mental health is to blame, but that cause ranks fourth after lack of affordable housing, unemployment, and poverty (source). Certainly by the tween years, most kids can understand these concepts. If analogies help your kids understand better, by about age 10, many have learned about the Great Depression of the United States and similar circumstances elsewhere, and therefore understand some of its causes and ramifications. Without fear mongering, you can make the analogy that something similar can happen to people on a personal level, regardless of the cause. Moreover, older kids might have a better understanding of what it means to have affordable housing, particularly if they've been present during any financial discussions within their own homes.

I'd also urge you to help older kids "own" their understanding of homelessness. In school or otherwise, there are plenty of opportunities to do projects that deepen their knowledge of the subject. I can vouch for that personally; never had I been so passionate about organ donation until I did a project about it for a class. My own research was enlightening and shaped my mindset about it for life. Similarly, studying chronic homelessness, social services or health services, or even just the number of people experiencing homelessness, can drive curiosity for our children. Curiosity can drive knowledge, and knowledge can drive change.

Discussing homelessness doesn't make it contagious, aside from planting the seed for compassion.

Modern homelessness is painful; unsheltered homelessness (a term that simply means no shelter whatsoever) is unthinkable for most of us. Depending on the emotional maturity of the child, he or she might be able to visit a homeless shelter. Kids can pick out items to donate from home or from a store any time of year; people aren't just homeless at Christmastime. In fact, I'd urge you to rethink how and when you serve others, especially during the times of year when it's not on most people's minds. There are many ways to assist people, directly or indirectly, who are homeless.

Dropping off or serving a meal at a shelter can be profoundly impactful for a child who's emotionally prepared to do that. If the child is young or potentially too sensitive to handle it well, consider involving the child in simply planning or preparing a meal that you drop off yourself.

It's okay to be uncomfortable. We never grow when we're sitting still and watching.

It's also perfectly okay for your kids to know if you're uncomfortable with the topic of homelessness. Only in our discomfort can we feel compelled to change; only in our discomfort do we want to make things better. And better shouldn't be just for us. Or for our children. Everyone deserves something better, and that includes those we haven't wanted to talk about.

I acknowledge that I'm writing this from a place of incredible privilege. I'm indoors and warm. This is only the beginning of the conversation, and my family is working to do much more. I'd love to hear how you're having the conversation in your homes, along with the remedies you're enacting.

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I've thought long and hard about the best books for kids 2020. It's been an odd year; so odd, in fact, that my child said I might as well go ahead and give her all her Christmas gifts early. (Nice try.)

Not that things were necessarily easy when we were little--the playground could be a pretty rough place for everyone, and definitely so for a highly sensitive soul like mine. 

Fortunately, some of the best things from our childhoods are still around: great books. They were an incredible source of comfort and connection for me when I was a child, and they are for my child now, too.

That's part of the reason I've chosen some classics to represent the best books for kids 2020 -- keeping the eternal goodness of books alive and well!

I'm keenly aware of how books can help build a child's self-esteem and confidence in this ever-changing world.

Best books for kids 2020 -- benefits of reading to children

Did you know that reading books has particular benefits when you read them aloud together with your child? As Rasumussen College describes in this report, there are many benefits of reading aloud--not only to little kids, but from prenatal days all the way to adolescence! Wow!

That said, when I read to my kiddo and as I've admitted before, I'm something of a book snob. (Forgive me.) I really like good books that we can enjoy together and that engage us both. If I'm going to read a book 10,000 times (as I undoubtedly will), I want to like it, too.

Here are some of our top picks for best books for 2020, for ages 3-8 -- give or take a bit

Like I was, my daughter is a gentle and sensitive soul. She approves these as being among the best books for kids 2020, just like I do. Here's what we enjoy about each of them, along with how they build self-esteem and confidence! (afflinks)

best books for kids 2020
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Click on each title to see it on Amazon. 

1. I'm Gonna Like Me

Best Books for Kids 2020

Although I typically promote lesser-known authors, this great book for children just happens to be written by a celebrity. What we like most is that it's just an all around feel-good book.

Bonus points that it's witty and downright entertaining. My child and I come away smiling after we read it, even for the millionth time. No matter what mistakes the boy and girl (the main characters) make, they like themselves, anyway. When other kids are unkind, no problem.

Their self-esteem and confidence are independent of others kids' opinions of them (hello, playground wisdom)! (Special note to parents of sensitive kiddos: the so-called unkindness is extremely mild and the positive message is more than strong enough to compensate for it.)

Sometimes life hands us lemons, and these two choose to rise above it every time. We've read this book at least once per week for the past three years or so. It stands the test of time in our house!

2. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes

Best Books for Kids 2020

I'll begin by saying that I watched a 20-something year-old man tear up (slightly) as he read this one. If your child has ever lamented that his or her creation didn't come out "perfectly," this will resonate. It did very much for my child, just as it did for me.

The character, despite being "perfect" for most of the book, is somehow completely relatable at the same time. If ever there were a book that tells a child that it's okay to relax and enjoy who he or she is, this is it, in our opinion.

It so beautifully captures the joy of letting go of small or big anxieties about who we are. It gives us permission to like ourselves despite our imperfections. What a wonderful gift!

As one final bonus reason I put this among the best books for kids 2020, is that it's SO relatable. We've watched the world turn upside-down this year, and frankly, many of us have made mistakes in front of our kids. This is a great book to help us all feel a bit more normal and connected through our imperfections.

3. Ish

Best Books for Kids 2020

Similar to the book above, the main character in this story wants his drawings to be perfect and is devastated when someone criticizes his work. When he learns that it's okay to be "good enough," he thrives and rediscovers the joy he had lost.

This is on our list of best books for children 2020 because it emphasizes "process over product"---the philosophy that learning happens through the joy of the creation itself, rather than how it looks in the end.

No one can live up to perfection, and this book makes it perfectly okay to just do the best you can.

4. It's Okay to Be Different

Best Books for Kids 2020

Well, the title pretty much sums it up! The pictures are silly and simple. The author chooses lots of ways people can be different, and the core of the message is simply that "You're alright just as you are." What an empowering message for kids of all ages. When it comes right down to it, have you ever met anyone who's not different from everyone else in some wonderful way? Anything that boosts kids' self-esteem and confidence, and helps them accept themselves just the way they are, will make it onto our best books for kids list.

5. Zoey & Sassafras

Best Books for Kids 2020

We think this is among the very best kids' book series. 

These differ from the others on our list in that they're chapter books, but they're appropriate even for young boys and girls. We started reading them when my child was about four years old. By five, she didn't want us to put them down. Still at 7 and with no end in sight, these make our best books for kids 2020 list because they're sincerely engaging. (Even my husband and I look forward to reading them. My guess is that they have no expiration date age-wise, ever.)

Even I wondered how the protagonist of the stories would help each of the magical animals she encountered. The writing is fantastic. The creativity is solid.

And when it comes to building kids' self-esteem and confidence, there's nothing like watching a child who persists despite adversity and solves tricky problems, to show the value of never giving up. She believes in herself and models how to do that. For what it's worth, I've even caught my husband turning pages when our child is nowhere around. They're that good.

6. Made by Raffi

Best Books for Kids 2020

The main character, Raffi, is so extremely relatable, feeling different from other kids and wondering if all kids feel that way. He wonders if he’s “normal,” just like many children have. And by “many” children, I mean every human who’s ever been a child. (Yep, that’s all of us.) This book addresses stereotypes of all kinds and how the protagonist finds self-confidence and acceptance, even when everyone else isn't quite like him. It’s a book every parent should read to his or her child, and then read to his or her own inner child, too. It’s exactly the right combination of feel-good message along with important life lesson.

7. Scaredy Squirrel Makes a Friend

Best Books for Kids 2020

Many of us are comfortable only within our "safe zones," and Scaredy is no exception. He's about as endearing as they come, with all sorts of irrational fears about coming out of his proverbial shell (or in this case, his tree).

Hilariously, we get to join him on his journey to build confidence and trust that the world isn't quite as dangerous as he fears. Like many of these books, it's stood the test of time in our house.

It always makes me smirk, no matter how many times we read it together. It's an excellent (albeit intentionally silly) model to help kids' build self-esteem and confidence.

8. Rosie Revere, Engineer

Best Books for Kids 2020

Rosie has a passion, but she hides it away for fear of mockery. As this story unfolds, however, she transforms into a bold and confident inventor.

What we like about this book is how it demonstrates that even people with good intentions can inadvertently turn kids away from their dreams; but Rosie overcomes that. We all face adversity in life, but this book helps kids build self-esteem and confidence even after emotional roadblocks.

We love how she recovers from the letdowns and bravely pursues her passion!

9. Little Iffy Learns to Fly

Best Books for Kids 2020

A great book for younger kids, this is a sweet and wonderful book for children. It speaks beautifully to trusting kids' natural development and readiness for milestones, and how pressure to make them do things before they're ready seldom works.

Despite adversity, Iffy finds himself in a situation that he didn't really want, but proves to himself that he's braver and stronger than he thought. We cheer for this little creature when his confidence shines through, feeling a sense of recognition in ourselves along his journey.

10. Nadia: The Girl Who Couldn't Sit Still

Best Books for Kids 2020

Based on the true story of Nadia Comaneci, Olympic gold medalist, this is another wonderful example of a child overcoming adversity through incredible persistence.

Although my impression of Nadia is that she was confident from the beginning, it would've been easy for her to lose hope along her journey. She didn't start out as one of the best gymnasts in the world. She experienced failure.

But she kept trying, believing in herself and in her abilities. Knowing that the real Nadia went through all of this before success came, it's a lovely example for children to help them build self-esteem and confidence.

11. Beautiful Oops

Best Books for Kids 2020

My child received this as a gift when she was three. Still now, she loves to read it. With few words, it's a great introduction for showing kids that mistakes can turn out alright, with the right perspective. There's always a bright side, even when something goes wrong!

We believe that if kids can internalize that they can choose their responses to situations that don't turn out how they want, they'll be better off in the long run.

12. Mae Among the Stars

Best Books for Kids 2020

So many of us have had others' agendas imposed upon us, and we've been left to wonder what life would've been like had we pursued our dreams. This is a beautiful story that addresses just that.

Mae, the protagonist of this story, decides she won't settle for what others want. She rises above others' doubts and finds her joy. As I read this book, I wanted to be Mae. She's strong; brave; real. She perseveres.

This is undoubtedly on our list of best books for kids 2020 to help them believe in themselves.

13. The Little Engine That Could

Best Books for Kids 2020

If this isn't the classic children's book to build self-esteem and confidence, I don't know what is. (Heads up to parents of sensitive kiddos: two of the trains bothered my child just a little until she was about 5, so we skipped them until she was ready.)

The little blue engine, as we all know, isn't the biggest or the strongest, but she believes in herself. She has enough heart to pull a load much greater than her own, up a much higher obstacle than she's encountered before. When it all comes down to it, that's exactly what I want my child to know she's capable of.

14. Elephant and Piggie Series

Best Books for Kids 2020

What's not to love about Piggie and Gerald? These books are funny and clever. As in, they make my husband and me laugh, not to mention our child.

Moreover, they almost always gently teach a lesson; share a moral, at child-level, that's one the child can take with them throughout their life. Best friend trouble? Difficulty sharing? Navigating someone new who wants to play? These and so many more topics are covered beautifully--and always with a happy ending.

P.S. Make sure to check for the sneaky pigeon at the end. He's always up to something.

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Of course, the best way to help your child internalize these wonderful messages is to not only read the books together, but to discuss them, too. What a wonderful way to connect! 

Let's be friends

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