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As parents, we strive to raise children that are kind and compassionate. We want our children to help make the world a better place. It is our hope that we are raising good little people who will grow to do good things.

Sometimes these traits come naturally to a child. However, parenting a child with a sensitive heart can come with its own set of challenges.

As a teacher, I have had years of experience with students who were a bit more sensitive than the rest. I treated them with “kid” gloves, so to speak. It was important to nurture their sensitive heart to ensure they could learn to their fullest potential.

As a mom, I realized early on that my daughter is one of these children with a sensitive heart. She is inherently sweet, but she feels things deeply. There is a hyper-awareness of the feelings of others.

This empathy can be great, but also painful at times.

There are a few things you can do to nurture your child’s compassion while protecting their fragile little hearts.

1. Role-play

I am a big fan of the art of role-play. It is a great way to talk through and act out situations that are difficult for your child to understand. This is a great strategy to use if you are trying to teach your child to have a bit more empathy, as well.

For the sensitive child, roleplaying is a wonderful way to demonstrate that everyone is going to be okay. Going to the doctor’s office, for example, is a great situation to role play. It is very helpful for all kids to know what to expect, but for the sensitive child, they may have a hard time seeing other kids that are sick.
My daughter will stop wherever she is if she hears a baby or child crying. She becomes worried or may even begin crying herself. We act out babies crying with her doll. I explain that maybe the baby is hungry or tired. We rock the doll or pretend to give it food to show that the baby will be okay.

It is important for sensitive children to see that people do experience illness, sadness or frustration because these emotions are a part of life. However, it is also important for these children to see that people will be okay and that are ways to heal if they are sick, injured or hurt.

2. Use the power of a hug

Toddlers are notorious for their tantrums and meltdowns. However, I have recognized that my daughter will melt down when she is overstimulated or feeling overwhelmed by her emotions. While I did discover one fantastic magic potion for toddler tantrums, I have another trick that really works! A hug.

That’s right, I said “a hug!” Simply asking your toddler if they want a hug can have a wondrous calming effect. For the sensitive child, if they sense your frustration at their behavior, it will only cause them to shut down further. Instead, offer a hug. The physical contact will provide the comfort your child really needs.

This small act will also show your child that a hug can also be very effective in helping someone else who is hurt or upset. Part of what affects sensitive people so deeply is a feeling of helplessness. However, a hug is very healing. There is even scientific evidence that proves it! Check out this article about the healing power of a hug!

3. Teach your child to problem solve

The emotions of a sensitive child can become like a runaway freight train on track for disaster. Being sensitive and empathetic are positive qualities to possess, but can cause a negative impact if they are not properly managed.

Problem solving: talking about feelings

Even at a young age, it is important to keep the lines of communication open with your child. Toddlers may have difficulty articulating their feelings because they are still developing their vocabulary.

This is where you grab your trusty picture book. Picture books are perfect for encouraging dialogue about how your child feels. The following are a few of my favorites:

The Way I Feel by Janan Cain

I love this book for the illustrations. Even toddlers can relate to the pictures. You could also take photographs or video of your toddler to compare. This book also covers a wide range of emotions which helps your sensitive child understand that all of their feelings are normal.

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings by Jo Witek

This book is ideal for the child who feels emotions deeply. It explains how the heart “feels” as happy and light or heavy and dark. It addresses the feelings sensitive children experience in a very kid-friendly manner.

Don’t Feed the Worry Bug by Andi Green

I actually think this book is equally good for parents as it is for kids! It talks about what worries are and how to keep them from getting out of control. Worrying is definitely something sensitive children struggle with. Beginning the dialogue early about emotions and worries will help you find real solutions right from the start.

Problem solving: finding a positive outlet

Feelings are a natural and normal part of life. It is important that your child feels safe in expressing both their positive and negative emotions. These emotions can seem so overwhelming when children are little, so offering a positive outlet can be very helpful.

Here are some ways your little one can put all of those big emotions into something positive:

  • Pretend play
  • Arts and crafts (drawing and coloring)
  • Playing sports
  • Drama/acting

Problem Solving: helping out

One way I help my sensitive child is to allow her to help me or help others. This can be as simple as asking your little one to bring you a tissue if you have a cold or to help with household chores if you are feeling stressed.

Interacting with a pet is a great way to teach empathy and compassion and I have learned that helping with our family dog is a great way to channel my daughter’s sensitivity. My daughter is in charge of feeding our dog her meals, but also the simple act of petting our dog is very calming when she is feeling worked up.

In the classroom, I often ask my sensitive students to be my “teacher’s helper.” They love putting those feelings to work in a positive way. These are the same students who love to help a struggling peer or sibling, so put them to work! Just be sure to let them know how much you appreciate their compassion and willingness to help.

The Highly-Sensitive Child

I love my daughter’s sweetness and sensitivity, but as a highly empathetic person myself, I know that there can be some struggles as she gets older. Right now, my daughter’s sensitivity means that she is full of hugs and kisses for anyone who needs it. She is careful to give her toys equal attention and is even happy to share her toys with friends. These are wonderful qualities to have, but these feelings can also manifest themselves into stress and anxiety.

For further reading on parenting the sensitive child, check out these articles:

Be patient and gentle with these little sweetie pies. This does not mean to avoid discipline. In fact, sensitive children may have an easier time if they know that there are structure and rules in place.

Also, think positively. Instead of thinking of your child as the occasional drama queen or king, remind yourself that being caring and compassionate are wonderful qualities to have.

Originally posted on HuffPost.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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