Hey there, I’m Lauren! I help special needs moms put their own happiness back on the list alongside their parenting and advocacy, so that they can redefine what it means to do more than just survive. I help them learn to thrive.
In an Instagram-perfect social media culture, these two sisters and authors of the book Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid! have started a movement of imperfection. They made me laugh and then they made me cry during our conversation as we talked about celebrating kids’ resilience and success, about the inspiration and support we’ve found in the special needs community, and about the gifts and personal growth that have come from imperfectly parenting our amazing and special children.
More than a few times over the years I’ve wished for a tightly curated list of sensory-friendly weekend activities for our family. Especially when my son was younger, when we couldn’t participate in the average Touch-A-Truck day or storytime at the library.
Some readers know that I spend a few hours each week as creative assistant to Christine Koh over at the award-winning blog Boston Mamas. Among other things, I pore through local event listings looking for cool, inexpensive things to do in the area for local families. And we almost alway include a couple of disability-friendly events.
But I wanted something more tightly curated for special needs families. My goal will be to include whatever sensory-friendly, deaf- and visually-impaired-friendly, and other disability-friendly events I come across each week. And I’d LOVE to hear from readers if you hear of cool, inclusive events in the area. You can let me know in the comments here on the blog, on my Facebook page, or via email.
So – here’s my first official Special Needs Boston Activities Roundup for the weekend. Enjoy! And please me know if it’s helpful to you!
2. Join more than 50 speakers, including Marlee Matlin, Joyce Banda, and Mandy Harvey, along with 1,000 attendees, at the 2017 Inclusion Summit to keep up the work of full inclusion of people with disabilities in every aspect of life (Boston)
7. Eat, drink, and be thankful at this MAKSgiving Dinner Moms Night Out hosted by Moms of Amazing Kids at the beautiful and rustic Wayside Inn Restaurant (Sudbury)
8. A number of local malls (Burlington, Emerald Square, and North Shore) offer a free Caring Santa program, where kids with sensory and special needs get the chance to visit with Santa in a calm, subdued environment (Various Locations)
How do we keep our own identity and creative outlets despite the intense demands of special needs parenting? And how the heck do we keep a marriage strong at the same time? Photographer Kristin Chalmers and I talk about how she pursues her own creativity and self-expression while parenting two sons with special needs. She shares the strategies she and her husband have used to create an amazing marriage. And she offers some excellent advice about how families of kids with special needs can capture images ourselves and our children that honor all of our unique needs and differences.
Up, down, and all around. That’s how I used to feel as I navigated the tasks of motherhood, advocacy, and running a small business. Just as I’d start to get into a groove, my hormones would shift, and I’d feel derailed, frustrated, tired, and burned out. But over the years I’ve learned some special secrets from wise women about how to use the energy of each phase of my menstrual cycle to invite more ease, peace, and productivity into my life. This episode talks mothering and menstruation. Periods and parenting. I explore the ways we can use each part of our cycle to enhance our advocacy, self-care, and momming. Yes, even those two weeks before our period arrives have great value to offer if we know how to listen!
It’s a milestone that all special needs parents experience at some point. Repeatedly. Someone makes an insensitive comment and you have to decide how to respond. They’ve remarked about your child’s diagnosis or your parenting. They’ve implied that you’re doing it all wrong or declared you to be a superhero. And they’ve given you unsolicited advice that comes across exactly the wrong way. A listener’s question inspired this episode all about strategies for handling these super uncomfortable moments. I’m happy to share a few actionable tips and ideas for handling whatever nonsense might come your way from a well-meaning (or even a not-so-well-meaning) friend, family member, or stranger.
Today we have something simple to offer: a tried and true bedtime meditation for kids.
I started repeating this meditation aloud to my son every night at bedtime when he was just a year old. My daughter has been hearing it since birth! Eventually, I recorded it so that Dad could take over bedtime, which came in handy during some hospital stays my son went through. Several nurses actually requested a copy of the CD to keep on hand for other kids, and one asked me for a copy so she could listen to it herself at night! Enjoy!
As a former kids yoga and meditation teacher, I felt a special kind of woe when I couldn’t convince my son to practice with me. Come on, I wanted to shout! These are evidence-based resiliency and coping strategies! You need these!
So helpful for dealing with mood, stress, anxiety, and more, meditation and yoga have transformed me since I first met them in my early twenties. But with the exception of a bedtime meditation I created years ago that he has listened to every night since, I just couldn’t get the boy engaged.
How to Actually Make Meditations for Kids Work
Until I had a big lightbulb moment. Meditation needs to be an expectation in our home.
We already have a lot of structure and very clear expectations in our house. Each day, both of my kids are expected to complete certain jobs. They get themselves packed for school, take out the trash and recycling, must shower daily, and do a certain amount of reading. Every day also brings “Room Time,” when both kids independently occupy themselves in their own bedrooms, playing, reading, listening to music, or just relaxing (no audio stories or screens).
So why couldn’t I just set the expectation that this is a daily self-care practice we do together? Why couldn’t I just increase their daily checklist to include 5 expectations instead of 4? Because for a nine-year-old boy with a mood disorder, and a six-year-old sibling of someone with mental illness – a daily meditation practice might arguably be as important a form of self-care as their daily shower is.
So just like that, meditation became a regular practice for both of my kids. And one that I enjoy with them. I invite you to try out our family’s four favorites, and see how it goes. We find these work better 1:1 with a parent – silliness tends to ensue when we try to do them with both kids at the same time!
1. Sleep Meditation for Kids
I used to say this meditation every night to help my son fall asleep. When he was very little, he had lots of anxiety at bedtime. And as he got older, hyper euphoria often took hold.. Long before he got support from medication, he was already getting support from meditation when it came sleep. Eventually, I recorded the meditation, and now both of my kids listen to it on repeat at bedtime independently.
The introduction of what we call “Star and Meditation” around here is borrowed and adapted from Maureen Garth’s book, Meditations for Children, which I highly recommend. The rest is my own creation.
2. Metta (Loving-Kindness) Meditation for Kids
To practice Metta Meditation as an adult, I wish loving-kindness toward myself and my loved ones, my teachers, people I find difficult, and then, finally, toward all beings. A tip for parents of kids with special needs – sometimes in our own practice, spending extra time on wishing Metta toward ourselves can be incredibly powerful. Most of us need it desperately. To do my own Metta practice, I repeat the phrases below for myself and for the others I mentioned:
May I be safe
May I be happy
May I be peaceful
May I live with ease
3. Breath Control Meditation
This one is my six-year-old daughter’s favorite. She likes the little monkey (even though we don’t watch it, we just listen to the audio). I like that it gives both of my kids the chance to practice calming breaths when they are already calm and centered. The more we use this meditation for our daily practice, the more I notice both of them using it when they are upset.
4. Concentration/Sound Meditation
Definitely our family favorite. Children and adults alike really love this one and I LOVE watching the focus kids bring to it. When I taught kids’ yoga, I used to bring a singing bowl to classes. At the end I would play it and ask the kids to close their eyes and listen until the sound disappeared, then open their eyes back up. GoZen has made a lovely animated version of that practice. In addition to playing it from my phone during our daily meditation practice, I often pull this one out during a playdate when things get too wild, or when my kids’ antics threaten to move from silly to unsafe. It’s pure magic and never fails to settle things down.
BONUS – Essential Oils for Meditation
My top five oils to support our meditation practice here at home:
Any Citrus Oil – these are kid-friendly and very calming. Favorites in our home to diffuse include Tangerine Oil + Lemon Oil.
Lavender Oil – well-known for it’s settling effect, we use this oil often in our house. And actually, it blends beautifully with Tangerine Oil in a diffuser!
Stress Away Blend – the name speaks for itself!
Frankincense Oil – blends well with Lavender and Citrus Oils, many call Frank the “attitude adjuster”!
Peace + Calming Blend – fabulous for bedtime meditating!
Mountains of redundant paperwork. Repeating painful memories for new team members. Endless hours on the phone untangling insurance issues. Year-long waiting lists for services and evaluations my child needs right now. Feeling the eye prickle and throat lump that preface tears in the midst of a meeting. Providers or teachers who don’t seem to get it. The ones who totally do but leave or retire.
Maybe you can relate.
Actually, I know you can. Because I’ve received numerous emails, messages, and comments already asking for help with this:
“The advocacy part is so tricky. Because you want to advocate hard for your kid, BUT you want whatever providers you are advocating to, to see themselves as on your kid’s team not on an opposing team. So it’s always such a delicate line to balance.” – M
“Maybe you can also do a segment on how to appear calm when you’re seething because you repeated yourself and they don’t appear to hear you…” – K
“…When I am advocating for my little boy, knowing I am fighting so hard to get him what he needs and deserves, it is so emotional, and I cry….I try so hard not to cry, but it all just means so much. I’m working on thinking of it all as a cold, stark business meeting!” – J
How do we balance being a fierce mama warrior advocate with diplomacy and tact? Is there a way to keep fighting the good fight without becoming bitter, angry, and oppositional? Can we be kind and compassionate and still make sure our child’s needs will be met?
I think so. And in this episode, I share 13 actionable ways to be a fierce advocate with a gentle heart.
Pay attention right now, though, because I don’t want you getting overwhelmed when you’re listening to the podcast. There is a lot here. So start by picking just one strategy.
Choose the one that resonates most or that you believe will make the most difference for you. Or perhaps the one that inspires the strong resistance for you (sometimes the idea I need ends up being the one I most resist!).
And again, take a peek at the companion guide for this podcast:
Kai, always eager to share (and be on camera), helped me make this for you:
Ice Diving with Kai
So far, this week, Kai has used the technique to calm down a panic attack – much more quickly than ever before. And I got to take it for a test drive myself after unexpectedly learning that we will need to move later this year (shhhh – kids don’t know yet, so don’t mention it in front of them!). I only had 30 minutes or so to go from getting the news to greeting kids after school. No joke, I went from ugly crying to smiling + problem solving mode. Instantly.