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Filtering by Category: Family-Parenting

PARENTING: FROM TIGHTLY WOUND TO COME UNDONE

Kelly Bos

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HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT TENSION

Stress appears to be the norm for most of us, and for many of us it is chronic. Most parents I know are operating at some level of stress at all times. We try and pull it all together, the work demands, the school forms, tidy rooms, a meal schedule and the list goes on. We feel it in our necks and stomachs, it is visual by the complex schedules listed on the calender, and we hear it with the constant alerts on the phone. The stress can manifest in our moods and how we parent and we fluctuate from smiling and patient to the angry and losing it.

My friend had one such she's come undone day in the car highlighted then by a ditty her daughter started to spontaneously sing about how she has two mothers, one nice and one mean. She felt ill at the lyrics, a virtual tale of two Mommies, but felt she couldn't entirely disagree. We don't want Jeckyll and Hyde parenting but so often we are running on empty and the energy to feel healthy and well enough to keep an even and balanced disposition. My life coach friend Shauna once painted a great picture of balance stating that for a tight rope walker, tension is needed and too much slack would be bad. This is the same with stress and anxiety. A little bit helps us, with motivation, resilience and the protection of ourselves and our family. It is when the tension is always high, we have an issue. This chronic stress can hinder our self regulation and cause a 0-100 reaction in seconds or a slow boil throughout the day. Sometimes you know you are actively worrying and other times your subconscious is doing it all for you (hello teeth grinding!). If you are looking to keep that balance despite what your kids have done to their bedroom, regardless of how late you were at school pick up, and independent of work stress, help is needed.

IN THE MOMENT HACKS:

BREATHE:

An easy step is to take a deep breath and unwind! It sounds trite, but it works. It fills your body with a big burst of oxygen and give you that two second break from a hair trigger reaction. Breathing also sends a message to brain that tells your body to calm down and relax which can help you gain perspective.

ASSESS:

This sets you up nicely for step two. Before blowing up, take a quick assessment of what is actually bothering you. Think about it, your kids could be up to antics in the back of the car, fighting, teasing, singing an annoying song, and some days you can roll with it. Now add in feeling ill, not getting enough sleep or the distracted stress of thinking about a mistake you made at work and quite understandably, you are more likely to lose your cool. The real things eating away at you have nothing to do with what is going on in the back of the car. If you could tease out what is going on before you erupt or emote, you will no doubt be less reactive.

BE PROACTIVE:

Are you taking care of yourself? Make sure you are getting enough sleep, exercise, nutrition and enjoyable activities in your schedule. A good nutrition and exercise routine can be powerful. Exercise releases endorphins, and as Elle in Legally Blonde says ,“happy people don't shoot their husbands” or more to the point snap, so readily at their kids. I recently had a client share that her self care was making sure her child had everything ready for school. Although that might have made everyone's day calmer and in turn run smoother, this was certainly not self care. If you are having a hard time thinking of something to do for yourself, make a list of things you once enjoyed or modify things you once did that could still work for you now and be creative.

Our moods can flux, we are human, but taking time to breathe, assess and be proactive about our reactions and moods can be beneficial, not just for our relationships but also for how we feel and view of ourselves. Think about how you can create a more balanced tension in your life.

I DON'T WANT TO WRITE THE SCRIPT FOR MY CHILD'S INNER CRITIC

Kelly Bos

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HOW SELF COMPASSION CAN HELP

I've been working a lot with the concept of self compassion with my clients and in my own personal life. Self compassion has specific tenets. It focuses on being kind and talking to ourselves like we would a friend, rather than hearing that judgemental and critical voice in our head. Self compassion recognizes that problems happen, but they happen to everyone and we are part of common humanity, with all of its ups and downs, which helps us not get stuck in “why me?", a powerless feeling that might make us isolate ourself with our problem. And lastly it encourages us to be mindful and be in the now, not getting stressed about the past or the future and this keeps us from being that problem through over identification. I personally find these ideas helpful when dealing with the myriad of feelings I have throughout the day. I can fully be there for myself. And if the feelings are what I would normally deem to be ugly, like jealousy or resentment, self compassion is incredibly useful, I can acknowledge the feelings are hard for me and not assign them value or decide if I “should” have them. I comfort myself through the feeling, not judge myself for having it.

For some reason we are drawn to the self flagellation. We have beliefs that if we aren't hard on ourselves or self critical we won't make changes and become lazy or stuck. This outlook does have the occasional result which spurs us on. It could be the same in parenting, you could chastise until a desired end is reached. You could criticize so much that a child could tow the line, but what else would be produced? What might that child feel regarding their self concept? What might their relationships be like? The same is true for us. Does a good brow beating make us feel better, more able to face the challenges ahead of us? Usually not. We often shame ourselves into inertia. Would we ever say these words to a friend? There is a better way. We can be kind to ourselves and get better results and I definitely want kind self talk for my kids.

These voices often have roots. What does your negative voice sound like? And who does it sound like? You might find you call yourself similar names that were used against you as a child by a teacher or a coach. You might find that you feel the guilt that a parent laid on you every time you respond in a certain way. This brings me to my fear, if I might be the narrator and the script writer for my children, than as this key influencer I want to be aware of what and how I am saying things. When I get frustrated, use broad characterizations, tactics laced with shame, and act out of a fearful place on how a certain behaviour might reflect on me or what might be down the road if this continues, I am not speaking words of compassion nor teaching a loving response.

The good news is as I work on this in myself, I can both model this and extend this to others. This is the oxygen mask analogy on the plane. You have to give the oxygen to yourself first before you can help others. When I am living in a place of self compassion I don't have the fears, judgement, or shame directing my responses. I also stop modelling behaviours such as calling myself names when I make mistakes or am being hard on myself because kids pick it up and I am already having to redirect my daughter away from labelling herself for her actions.

The other day I was raking leaves. I was having a hard day, my feelings and thoughts were heavy and they felt intrusive. I decided to approach it with a compassionate response. It brought tears but I was okay. My daughter witnessed this and became worried for me and said she wanted to get Daddy. I told her about how when hard feelings come you can practice self compassion. You can hold yourself, tell yourself it is okay and just rest in the moment. I showed her how to give herself a loving hug and talked to her about how she too can practice it when times are tough. Other people will not always understand your feelings and thoughts so you have to be able to draw it from yourself and from your beliefs. It takes practice to change this course and awareness to change the script.  

You're Busy; We Know. Here's How to "Practice Presence" Sometimes Instead

Kelly Bos

NOW IS THE PERFECT IMPERFECT MOMENT

It was sports day at my daughter's school. I had forgotten, and it was a particularly difficult day to find the time to go. It proved to be more difficult to tell my daughter that I wouldn't attend, so I decided to make it work despite many to-dos and too little time in the day. I arrived at sports day distracted and a bit stressed.

Have you attended events without really being present? At high risk of attending in body only – my thoughts, plans and feelings of urgency took any joy or presence out of the moment – it was necessary for me to regroup.

I needed to acknowledge that although the day wasn't going as planned, I could still be there for her and for myself. Practicing presence in the busy-ness of life isn't easy.

Being mindful is a constant battle for many of us. As a parent, we must manage competing schedules and meet varying needs. Despite this we can find presence, even in the chaos, if we are intentional and practice it. Those times when we are so in the moment that the contrast is remarkable and often rare. You think, “Hey, I am here! I am really here!” and it is special, but often fleeting.

Practicing being in the present moment means letting go.

We struggle with yesterday (Why didn't I respond in a lovingly to my child's behaviour?) and tomorrow (How will I handle the co-op meeting tension?). We are missing out on the right now by looking forward or back with our should've, could've, would’ve or the conjured-up outcomes that simply could happen.

Your child is resilient...

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You and Fun: Why You Should Prioritize It and How to Add Some In

Kelly Bos

YOU AREN'T THE "PLAYING" PARENT. BUT YOU SHOULD BE.

I know, I know, you aren't the playing parent. You might get anxious even thinking about playing for any extended periods with dinosaurs or baby dolls. Perhaps your other half is the more fun parent, the one that gets out there and gets dirty. My husband is always helping construct forts, sand castles or toboggan runs. But someone has to get dinner ready, am I right?

I get it. I am kind of that parent too, except I am not. I am fun. I like fun. I just don't allow myself to prioritize it enough.

How do you make the time with competing demands? First, try and ignore that voice that reminds you you are drowning in deadlines or alerts you to feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable about getting silly as an adult. Live in the moment. What can you let go of now? What “should's” aren't that important in this minute?

Second, remind yourself of the benefits you will experience. Think of the last time you had a silly and rewarding time. Remember your child's smile as you agreed to get down on the carpet to play. Think Merry Go Round's you had to assist your child onto and ended up enjoying yourself. Reflect on the board game nights that had the whole family laughing. That time your partner's silly antics made you cry with laughter. These are the memory makers. We often play on vacation, why only then? Play connects us to ourselves and to others. We need more of this, don't we?

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The Tao of Toddlers

Kelly Bos

THERE IS SOME SEUSS-LIKE TRUTHS BURIED IN THE BIZARRE

Parenting toddlers has a bit of a bad rap, but I love this age and stage! For all its frustrations dealing with a pint-sized dictator, it can be a fun and hilarious time. The headshaking moments of trying to decipher what on earth is going in that little head or what compelled that action makes life interesting. I think, despite the nonsensical presentations, there is some Seuss-like truths buried in the bizarre.

There are lessons to be learned from the Tao of Toddlers:

THEY LIVE IN THE MOMENT. 

Our toddlers teach us not to rush. They stop and smell the roses... or lick the snow... or roll in the sand, but they do practice a lovely “presence” with their surroundings that we all could learn from.

THEY TAKE THEIR TIME. 

Time does not matter to a toddler, and if we truly lived the way of the toddler, we would still only have one boot on halfway through the day. But, there is something nice to be taken from this. It slows us down (and then some), but this is often needed. Our lives need a reflective pause button now and then.

THEY LIKE THEMSELVES. 

They like the sounds they can make, the songs they can sing, the chatter they chat especially at bedtime.

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I'm Bringing Silly Back Into My Life

Kelly Bos

PLAY, FUN, AND BEING SILLY IS IMPORTANT TO OUR WELLNESS AND OUR RELATIONSHIPS

Being the adultier adult has some pretty un-fun bits to it, and it is important to find the fun. When the negative outweighs the positive in your life, something has to change. Perhaps your interactions with your husband are at an unfortunate ratio of 40 negative interactions to 15 positive ones; this is not a happy balance. I can feel it when my ratio is off with my husband, children, or even life in general. These are times when there is too much work and too little play.

John Gottman says that balance theory of relationships can predict the likelihood of divorce. This is done with the magic ratio - a stable relationship has 5 times as many positive interactions between partners as negative ones. If you want to increase the positive, consider increasing the fun.

There is something magical when I truly pursue silly fun, like when I jump on the back of the toboggan with my kids, sing in the car, laugh at nothing with my toddler, and dance in the living room with abandon. In these times, I let myself relax and get lost in the moment. It's rejuvenating for the soul...

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