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New World Library Unshelved

New World Library Unshelved

Positive news and inspiring views from the New World Library community

Thursday, May 04, 2017
Modern parenting presents fresh challenges, including unrelenting time pressures, lack of support systems, and work demands, that often leave parents drained and worn-out. Erin Leyba, the mother of three young children, has been counseling parents on these issues for almost twenty years. She has developed techniques that help parents not only cope but also feel joy — in their parenting and in their relationships with their partners. Leyba draws from the latest research about child development, attachment, successful marriages, and mindfulness to create effective, doable solutions for balancing, simplifying, and communicating. In her new book, Joy Fixes for Weary Parents: 101 Quick, Research-Based Ideas for Overcoming Stress and Building a Life You Love, she presents powerful tools that parents can use right away to de-stress, stay energized, and create more warmth and passion with loved ones. 

We hope you’ll enjoy this excerpt from the book, in which Leyba suggests some tiny interactions that can strengthen relationships with children.

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Nothing you do for children is ever wasted. They seem not to notice us, hovering, averting our eyes, and they seldom offer thanks, but what we do for them is never wasted. — Garrison Keillor

A mountain climber will tell you that it doesn’t matter what peak you scale: what you remember is the moose you spot at sunrise or how you made someone laugh when their feet were covered with blisters. It doesn’t make a difference whether you take kids to roller coasters or roller derbies: it matters how you hug them goodnight. While no person can be “on” 100 percent of the time, making an effort to approach even a few tiny interactions with intentional positivity can strengthen relationships with children.

Reflect on:

  • How you greet a child upon getting home: hug and smile, or get right to business?
  • The first thing you say to your child in the morning: “Morning, beautiful!” or “Did you go potty yet?”
  • The first thing you do with your child in the morning: read a book on the couch, snuggle in bed, let them help you make coffee, check the weather together, or rush around?
  • How you ask your child to get ready to go out the door: “Five minutes to takeoff, can you zoom to our rocket ship?” or “Get in the car already!”
  • The first thing you say when you pick your child up from school: “It’s so good to see you! Can I see what you made?” or “Did you turn in your library book?”
  • What you do when your child is taking a bath: play coffee shop as kids pour you water in a cup to pretend-drink, or read your phone?
  • What you do during dinner: sit down and have a friendly conversation, or check your email?
  • How you respond when your child gets out of bed during the night: gently walk them back to bed after a hug, or act frustrated and put out?
  • How you read a story: ask questions and use silly voices, or adopt a get-it-over-with tone?
Even five minutes or less of loving connection can have enormously beneficial results, as it releases neurotransmitters in the brain that make both you and your child feel satisfied and connected.

Here are a few ways to connect with kids in five minutes or less:

  • Give your child a dog ride (riding on your back as you walk around on all fours), a foot ride, piggyback ride, or shoulder ride.
  • Do your child’s hair in a special way — braids, pigtails, or another style.
  • Help your child arrange their books the way they want them.
  • Fix your child a fancy drink, something they wouldn’t normally have, with a curly straw or an umbrella. Sit on your stoop and sip together.
  • Ask your child to teach you something they know, like how to work their remote-control car.
  • Watch a funny theme song, video, or sports song together on your phone or computer.
  • Make popcorn together with an air-popper machine or on the stove top.
  • Go for a walk, bike ride, or scooter ride around the block together.
  • Show your child the stuff in your wallet, and ask if they have ideas about anything else you could put in there.
  • Talk about the pictures in one of your magazines or newspapers.
  • Play catch or kick a ball around together.
  • Play dollhouse. Make up stories about who’s inside.
  • Play cars together. Zoom them, make ramps for them, and push them through tunnels made of paper-towel rolls or old PVC pipes.
How ’bout These Shoes, Mom?
“Mom! Can we help you get ready for work?” Jane’s kids take out all of her necklaces and bracelets to help her pick one out. “No, I don’t like that one. That’s not pretty. Here, try this one. How ’bout these shoes, Mom? Do you like this hat? Whoa, you look nice, Mom!” Jane cherishes the time with her kids when she’s getting ready for work.

TRY THIS: Think of a tiny interaction that’s a “low-hanging fruit” — a fun five-minute activity you could easily do with your child.

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Erin Leyba, PhD, author of Joy Fixes for Weary Parents, is an individual and marriage counselor specializing in helping parents of young children. In addition to writing her popular blogs, she speaks often to parenting and childcare groups. She lives in the Chicago area. Find her online at

Excerpted from the book Joy Fixes for Weary Parents. Copyright © 2017 by Erin Leyba.


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