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Parenting while feeling emotionally exhausted is no small feat. The old saying is true: “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” When we’re too tired to get up and refill that cup, though, how are we supposed to manage? When we're mentally drained, even the smallest tasks can feel incredibly overwhelming.

The answer is simple. We can’t.

So…what now? Our kids can’t fend for themselves, so there must be something we can do. (Please make it an easy something, though, yes? As in, really easy?)

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Here are three easy ways you can recharge your battery when you’re emotionally exhausted.

1. Reframe your perspective. Denying our exhaustion isn’t going to help anything, but we often push through anyway. To the extent we try to keep powering through, however, we’ll just keep digging deeper into non-existent emotional reserves. Give yourself permission to say, “I’ve got nothing. I’m tired. I'm done. The body wasn’t designed to keep going without a break. I need a break, and it’s healthy to take one.” Reframing your perspective from "must-keep-going" to "It's healthy for me to stop" can be really empowering.

2. While the kids are still awake and to the extent it’s possible, have a “Yes Day.” It’s just what it sounds like: they ask for something and you say yes. Cereal for breakfast? Yes. Cereal for lunch? Yes. Same for dinner? Sure! Sit in front of the TV for a gajillion hours straight? Sure, that’s fine. Color the walls? Maybe (tape some paper up there and go for it). This is temporary. The point is to get you out of feeling emotionally exhausted by having fewer power struggles. Unless someone’s safety is in question, it’s perfectly okay go with the flow.

3. After the kids go to sleep, do nothing. Absolutely nothing. Turn off the screens yourself for awhile (this can help if screen addiction creeps in on you). Let the dishes sit in the sink, let the laundry sit on the couch like you did when your babies were newborns, and stare at that ceiling for as long as necessary. Catch up on sleep. Trust that whatever news / responsibilities / obligations you had will still show up tomorrow. They can wait.

> If you catch yourself thinking, “But then I’ll be more emotionally exhausted tomorrow,” counter those thoughts with, “This isn’t about tomorrow. This is about recharging my batteries right now, and that’s what I need to do.” You have all the permission in the world to just BE.

> If you get stuck in a negative mental loop where you're replaying scenarios that make you feel more emotionally exhausted than before, tell those thoughts they can come back tomorrow -- but they're not welcome now.

The antithesis of feeling emotionally exhausted is feeling emotionally peaceful and present.

Think of it as a really good stock option that you've just lucked into. You invest very, very little into something important and worthwhile, and you get a huge return soon thereafter. Is it hard to invest, though, when you're not sure you'll get anything in return? Of course it is -- the habit of constant productivity is hard to break. Here's the thing, though. This is an almost certain win for you. Only good things can come from feeling more emotionally grounded.

What will tomorrow bring? It might very well be another day that leaves you feeling emotionally exhausted, but maybe it won't. If it does, you'll at least have some reserves from which to draw. And if it doesn't -- well -- you likely know exactly what started things back in the right direction again for you.

Take care of yourself. You matter, too.

Related post: How to Take a Break When You Can't Take a Break

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wooden blocks
Great for open-ended play
Kids can jump those wiggles out!
sprinkler for kids
Warm weather fun!
Who doesn't love dinosaurs? (We also have a rainbow version on our website.)

Family bonding is a wonderful thing under normal circumstances. Spending time together with family is simply irreplaceable; it's how we make memories that our children will carry warmly for many years to come. Be it family game nights, Sunday night dinners, or just "Tuesday mornings with Dad," -- things your kids can count on -- they all can be a magical part of the familial bond.

These weeks are hard, though. We're out of our comfort zone. This isn't just quality time; it's quantity time. A whole lot of it. As much as we hate to admit it, we can do only so many things together before we crave a little peace and quiet. It's human nature. And there's no shame in feeling that way -- science says silence helps us regenerate our brain cells.

How can you enjoy family bonding when it starts to feel like family bondage—and it feels like too much of a good thing?

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1. Be fully present in whatever your family members are doing together for 10 minutes at a time.

Sometimes, when we spend time with others but wish we were doing something else, we can start to feel

kids bike
Available in many colors and multiple sizes. (afflink)

resentful. It’s tempting to mentally check out, disappear into our phones, or get plain ol’ grouchy. When we're in it for the long haul, though, it's helpful to tell ourselves, "I can do this for 10 minutes."

Perhaps it's playing someone else's favorite game (the one that's the bane of our existence); perhaps it's doing something else that we find slightly less than enjoyable. Whatever it is, if you know you're allowing yourself a stretch break / coffee break / mental break in just 10 minutes, you can probably power through it and stay engaged. You might even enjoy it more knowing there’s an end point. Oftentimes, you can check back in with yourself and ask, "Can I do this for 10 more minutes now that I made it through the first 10?" Some of the best parenting is done in 10-minute increments. You've got this.

2. Change your "have to" to "get to."

A great, hands-on way to understand math concepts. (afflink)

Family bonding time doesn't mean you "have to spend time with family;" it means you "get to" do it. Remembering those who can't is both humbling and sobering. Perspective is a gift. You get to spend time together. We're doing what we're doing right now because a lot of other people no longer get the opportunity to be together.

As Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote, "Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind." Before we know it, these days will merely be shadows, as well.

3. Find family bonding activities that everyone enjoys -- or a fair trading system.

Family bonding activities can be as simple as looking through an old family photo album together, sitting down

aerogarden indoor garden
Works great as a seed starter or permanent indoor garden. (afflink)

together with some good books, or starting a makeshift band in your living room. It doesn't have to involve anything that would "look good" on social media.

If the activities your five-year-old enjoys don't match those that your 12-year-old would choose, develop a rotation system. (Yes, you get to be a part of it, too.) All family members get to contribute ideas. Putting the ideas into a jar and randomly drawing the "winner" is a great way to keep it fair.

Spending time together like this, even a LOT of it, can be a wonderful gift for the whole family.

One day, we will look back at this season -- and we will have an emotional memory of how we spent it with our children. Things may not be picture perfect in the world right now (or even close to it), but we have the power to make peace with what we have. We can be available and vulnerable and emotionally present with our families---for our partners, for our children, and for ourselves. This bonding time might just have the potential to be the most healing thing we've ever done together.


This article was originally published here.

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

As much as I hate to say it, Easter is going to feel really weird for a lot of us this year. We're going to be looking for Easter egg alternatives, for one thing. Why? So that people who need food (and can't get it easily with all the shortages) can have a better chance of eating. Yes, it's important.

Truth be told--and personally--it's always felt wasteful to me to buy a carton of eggs knowing full well that I'm going to decorate them, hide them, and then shortly thereafter, throw them away. I didn't plan to look for Easter egg alternatives for this reason, but in a way, I'm glad to have a reason to start a new tradition. One thing at a time, though.

But geez, we have kids, right? How the heck are we supposed to tell them they can't dye eggs this year?

Fortunately, we have a few good things on our side.

  1. Kids are really resilient--especially if we involve them in problem solving. I opted to be really straightforward with my child. I told her matter-of-factly that the grocery stores are short on eggs this year, so we'd need to find something else to decorate. Being that she's six, she instantly and naturally went into creative mode. She proceeded to grab a peel of garlic off a clove, wrap it in some packaging tape, and say it would work as an "egg." So, yeah. At my house, we'll be hunting for...you've got it right...wrapped garlic peels this year. We have her full enthusiasm and buy-in since it was her idea. (I'm still working on my peace with it, truth be told.) But garlic it is!
  2. We have lots of Easter egg alternatives at our disposal. We can dye other things. Some might even look and feel a lot like the real deal.
  3. Kids have the best imaginations of any of us.
easter egg alternatives
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Easter Egg Alternatives

Brainstorming at the dinner table last night, here's what we came up with for Easter egg alternatives. Maybe some of them will work for your home this year, too.

Easter egg alternatives don't replace the "real deal." But maybe this is one of those reminders that the eggs aren't what Easter is really about, anyway.

Easter itself, by its very definition, is a holiday about sacrifice and rebirth. It's about losing one thing so that we can gain another -- a much better "thing" that goes far beyond that which was temporary. When we keep that in mind, it's the perfect metaphor to help us let go of some of our traditions this year -- including Easter eggs -- and help us start something new. There's no time like the present to be putting others first.

I'd love to hear what traditions you're starting this year -- or what you're trying on a temporary basis. Comment below!

Related: The Easter Bunny: Should We Tell Kids the Truth?

Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on FacebookPinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.

Growing up, I always wanted a white Christmas--there was just something magical about waking up to a blanket of snow on that special day. It was the perfect day to stay inside with all the physical and emotional warmth Christmas offered before diving into the snow and playing outside. I still hope for a white Christmas, but these days, what’s even more important to me is a green one. By a green Christmas, I don’t mean I want to see the grass instead of the snow. Instead, I mean I want one that’s still as heartwarming as those from years gone by, but a much more sustainable version of that with which I was raised. 

After all, conscious parenting and the need for sustainability apply all year ‘round, including during the holidays. Raffi’s Child Honouring course includes a full section about sustainability for those who want to learn more. 

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With that in mind, here are eight great tips to help you have a green Christmas.

1. If you’re going to get a tree, get a real one.

With 8m real trees in the process of being purchased this Christmas, the idea of saving one from the axe might be prompting the move to fake ones this year in the belief that they are more environmentally friendly.

But environmentalists and energy analysts would disagree. Take one

BONUS IDEA: If you're willing to forgo gifts this year, please consider donating what you would've spent to reputable charities who support people in need.

 key product detail of these thousands of artificial trees – they are made of plastic. It is the manufacture of the plastic tree,

from oil, which creates most of its carbon footprint; around two thirds, according to Dr John Kazer of the Carbon Trust. Another quarter is created by the industrial emissions produced when the tree is made. They are also often shipped long distances before arriving in the shop and then your home.

A 6.5ft artificial tree has a carbon footprint equivalent to about 40kg of greenhouse gas emissions – which is more than twice that of a real tree that ends its life in landfill and more than 10 times that of a real tree which is burnt...” (Source)

2. Send electronic cards instead of paper ones.

I confess that I love touching paper. Books, cards, you name it; paper is practically my love language. However, as much as I love cards, they're just not worth their negative impact on sustainability. 

The average letter has a carbon footprint of about 29 grams of CO2. The carbon footprint of a normal email footprint is much less, about 4 grams of CO2. (Source)

With just a couple of exceptions, we'll be sending e-cards this year. 

If the idea of not sending paper cards troubles you, you can take small steps. Strike 20 names from your list. If you can’t do that, try 10. Start somewhere. 

You might also like: Teaching Kids How to Protect the Earth and

The Best (Greener) Stocking Stuffers for Kids and Kids at Heart

3. Trade gifts for experiences.

As conscious as we are about sustainability the rest of the year, it’s really tempting to continue habits we’ve held onto since we were kids. Part of that, of course, is gift giving. To be clear, I’m not saying don’t give gifts. It makes sense, however, to consider the planet and our impact when we’re thinking about how to put a smile on a loved one's face.

green christmas
Recycled golf balls make a great (and green!) token gift to represent the experience gift that's coming. They're also great on their own!

Here are a few green Christmas "experience gifts" that people in our family have loved:

Sure, it’s fun to have something to touch; something to open. If that's important to you, there are ways to accomplish this while keeping the gifts themselves to a minimum. For example, buy a package of recycled golf balls to represent the gift to Dad and Granddad (afflinks). Choose a pretty frame for a homemade drawing from your child, or a family photo, for Mom and Grandma to represent the art you’ll see together at the museum. Find a really sweet stuffed animal for your child to represent the sanctuary. 

Moreover, for whatever you do choose to purchase, buy locally whenever you can. This can make a big and positive impact on your carbon footprint.

4. Reuse wrapping paper or gift bags (or skip them!). 

green christmas
Reusable gift bags available in lots of colors and sizes.

My great grandmother was infamous for urging us not to rip the paper every Christmas morning. Now that I’m older and understand better, she was really onto something! We are reusing previous years' paper for as many years as we can make it stretch before it nearly falls to bits in our recycling bin. And once it’s gone, we aren’t replacing it. In the meantime, it still looks just as pretty as it ever did under the lights of the tree.

We also have plenty of reusable gift bags to last us many years. These work for birthdays and other celebrations, too! It's not just about having a green Christmas; sustainability works all year 'round.

green christmas
Find gifts that get your kids outside, that are good for their bodies, and that will last for years.

5. Skip bows and ribbons entirely.

We have a few large red bows (which we've given the moniker “tarantula bows” because they've existed in our family for generations and are mangled enough to show it). They look pretty terrible, but they’re actually kind of hilarious that way. We’ve all come to love them and dive to protect them if someone is handling them too roughly. Aside from these, though---which we can place strategically on top of whatever's most visible under the tree---we don't need any other ribbons or bows. Let your kids decorate the wrapping paper with markers. It's more fun, anyway, and it's a great way to involve them.

6. Ditch plastic for sustainable gifts.

Choose more sustainable products instead of conventionally manufactured ones. Gifts made of natural and renewable materials are best by far. Many are specifically marked for sustainability. If you shop locally, make sure to ask your merchants for the sources of their products.

green christmas
A play house for years of fun.

7. Get a bigger bang for your buck.

Just the other day, my six-year-old said to me out of the blue, “Do you remember that year I got my jungle gym for Christmas? It was so big — I didn’t even think there could be a present under blankets like that!”

That Christmas was three years ago, and it stuck with her half her life. Rather than lots of little presents (which, as much as we hate to admit it, might not be entirely memorable), consider a single big gift that will last for years. That's a much more sustainable option. We've never regretted having done this when we could. Similar fun and big ideas to the jungle gym would be a bike, a play house or a trampoline.

green christmas
Bikes last for years and are better for the planet. A great way to get your kids off to a healthy and sustainable start!

Buy fewer gifts; make them count.

8. Adjust your holiday meal.

For those of us who have a history of having more leftovers than we can freeze / turn into soup / repurpose into another meal somehow, consider revising the meal plan. Many grocery stores will sell partial portions of their "big serving" options if you simply ask. Downsize the meal plan to fit your family. No need to buy more than you need just because it's Christmas.

If you do end up buying more than you need, find a place to donate your excess. There are many hungry people at Christmastime and throughout the year.

A green Christmas is one focused on sustainability.

More importantly, however, it's one that focuses on the true spirit of the season.

I'm fully aware that I'm writing this from a place of privilege compared to most of the world. Find a way to help others. For a bonus idea, if you're willing to forgo gifts this year and have the option financially, please consider donating what you would've spent to reputable charities who support people in need. Discuss it with your family. Make a difference not only this time of year, but whenever you can.

I'm sending you and yours all the love in the world. Happy holidays to you and yours!

"...and the stockings were hung by the chimney with care." Still, it's sometimes tempting to consider the stocking stuffers for kids a formality before moving to the "good stuff" under the tree. Truth be told, and writing as a Mom who shops for the aforementioned stocking stuffers for kids, they're sometimes an afterthought even for me. With that in mind, we'd like to bring some joy and creativity back to stocking stuffers for kids! (afflinks)

Here are our family's top picks for stocking stuffers for kids (and kids at heart). They're simple. Fun. QUIET (bonus for highly sensitive kids and parents alike). They're reusable or recyclable, so they're better for the planet. And for extra points, they don't break the bank.

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1. The classic Slinky

stocking stuffers
Aside from rocks and sticks, this is pretty much the original low-tech fun.

What we love about it: everyone in the family wants a turn with this low-tech, old-fashioned goodness. And

long after the other presents lose their novelty, this one is still slinking around the house (sorry, not sorry). I don't know anyone, young or old, who tires of seeing how far it can stretch and whether it's going to get stuck on the stairs. It's a sure winner in the eternal fun category for stocking stuffers for kids.

2. Fake mustaches.

What would you think if I told you one of my favorite memories is my entire extended family

stocking stuffers
Just TRY not to have fun with these.

putting on fake mustaches together? My cousin's baby kept trying to eat hers from her upper lip, so her Mama turned it into the most hilarious baby-unibrow instead. My then-three-year-old mostly looked concerned about the facial hair everyone had spontaneously sprouted (but seemed unconcerned with her own).

To be clear, wearing goofy things isn't something my family would typically do. That's part of what made it so funny. Before you judge me too harshly, might I suggest you try your own? Handlebar or pencil-style, there's something for

everyone. We reuse them in funny art and craft projects. Caterpillars to glue on projects, anyone?

3. Mad Libs.

stocking stuffers
Hilarious fun for the whole family. What a great way to connect!

Remember these stocking stuffers for kids? They're pretty much the ultimate awesome stocking stuffer for kids, word lovers, and aspiring grammarians. I remember one night of playing Mad Libs when the entire family's noun of choice was "pickle." You can only imagine. We were all crying tears of laughter by the end of the game. What a fun way to connect!

4. A good book. 

(Click the heading for our full list and an easy way to browse.)

stocking stuffers
One of our all-time favorites!

Big or small, books are good for developing brains. With all the time we spend on electronics, there's something really special about snuggling up and reading together.

What makes our book list different from many others, though, is that we specifically chose these books because they're "safe" (as my sensitive five-year-old decided). They don't scare anyone in our house, and they have only positive messages. They make wonderful stocking stuffers for kids.

Like that one, others like Rosie Revere, Engineer and It's Okay to Be Different build self-confidence and acceptance (and even address the perfectionist in all of us, like -Ish and The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes). They help us relax and make friends like Scaredy Squirrel did. Some of them have made us laugh with Amelia Bedelia, or think with The Berenstain Bears Big Book of Science and Nature. Some warm our hearts like Mama Seeton's Whistle.

And personally, Zoey & Sassafras is one of my favorite series of books because it covers all those bases. Truth be told, I'm a book snob, and these are the ones that are on my "good list" as stocking stuffers for kids.

And of course, reading The Night Before Christmas  has become part of our Christmas morning tradition. Santa would approve!

5. Small puzzles.

stocking stuffers 2019
Great stocking stuffer for kids! Click each image on the website to see more styles.

Although we list some of these in our travel products (they're great for traveling with kids!), we play with them year-

round in our house.They're a solid stocking stuffer for kids because they're a wonderful activity to keep children still for awhile, or a great way to play when somebody's tired or under the weather. They're great for building concentration. Plus, I love how reusable they are.

These 3D wooden puzzles are SUPER cool, as well.

6. Microscope slides.

They're great as stocking stuffers for kids, and they also worked great in an advent calendar for us a couple of years ago (we use a "surprise" system for items that are too big for the compartments). Our

stocking stuffers
Reusable stickers are better for the planet and also make wonderful stocking stuffers for kids.

kiddo had a fantastic microscope, so we let her STEM skills soar by giving her some new things to examine. Plus, we delivered them in increments rather than all at once, so they lasted awhile. Still now, years later, she looks at them under the same microscope. These were a great investment for us, and in her education.

7. Colored pencils and stickers.stocking stuffers

Although these are a bit more "standard" when it comes to stocking stuffers for kids, they're universally entertaining. Plus, they're great options for the advent calendar, too.

8. The infamous Cube.

stocking stuffers
How fast can you solve it? How about a family-friendly race?

If my child (or my spouse) is going to spend hours lost in staring at something, I'd vote to replace electronics with something like the classic Cube puzzle! I've never solved it personally, but I watched a man sitting next to me on an airplane do "time trials" where he repeatedly solved it in less than a minute. It was incredible to watch. Can you do it? If so, how fast? How about a family challenge?

9. Magnifying glasses.

These are great for when I'm having trouble reading something  small (I mean...cough, cough, not me). Seriously, though, I had no idea how much use these would get in my house. You'd be amazed how often my child has "had to look at something more closely" and goes to fetch these to help her. She might go for a couple of weeks without using them but ALWAYS remembers them and comes back to them. They were a solid purchase for our house!

10. Kinetic sand.

Looking for some moments of zen in your playroom (or your kitchen or anywhere else)? This stuff is transfixing in the very best way. We all end up playing with it for hours on end. It's a great calm-down activity when it's time to relax post-Christmas hype.

No matter which you choose, these stocking stuffers for kids are sure to bring smiles to children of all ages.

Now, if only I can get my husband to share with my child...we're working on it.

And just in case you're counting days, here's the official countdown. May your Christmas be merry and bright!

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