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In the West, a grand experiment has been unfolding over the last one hundred years. For thousands of years, humans had been deeply embedded within a broader net of community life — fitted within the spheres of family, social class, faith and work. But then we shed community and embraced the nuclear family as the container for our lives.


We believed this small, isolated structure would allow us to create the lives we really wanted, unencumbered by the demands of extended families, meddling neighbors and social pressures to conform.

The demands of the collective gave way to the liberation of the individual as, at the turn of the 20th century, rural dwellers piled into crowded cities seeking jobs. By mid-century, a post-war economy made a new exodus possible, and life in the suburbs became the new ideal. Citified folks were now moving out to expansive green lawns where splendid isolation was the new dream for modern life.

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More recently, hip urban centers with lively cafés, cool cultural centers and app-reviewable restaurants have captured our collective imagination as the best place to live. Young adults, in particular, are flocking back to cities.

Despite skyrocketing rents and increasingly tiny apartments, these are great places to experiment with identity, seek out one’s tribe, and eventually search for a life partner. And it’s all quite wonderful— until perhaps two people meet, settle down and become parents.

And here’s where contemporary culture may be encountering a profound but forgotten truth: Whether in the city or in the suburbs, I believe we’re not meant to raise children in nuclear families without the support of a community. We’re simply not wired for it.

Raising families without community makes the burden of parenting exponentially harder for us all.

Community reinvented

A year ago, my wife Hélène, our children — then six and 3 years old — and I made a bold move. We boxed up our life in Belgium and flew over the ocean while our stuff slowly made its way in a container across the ocean. We changed not just countries, but how we lived.

We left a bustling city to join an ecovillage in Ithaca, in upstate New York. We now have views of rolling hills and ponds and woods and trails. There’s an organic farm on the village’s land, which feeds us. Our neighbors have become friends and extended family. And there are kids and playgrounds all around.

We loved our life in Brussels, but something had begun to feel off. Like everyone around us, “home” was limited to the four walls of our house. Outside, we greeted our neighbors but we barely knew them.

The default assumption was that we should be self-sufficient, that we had to own everything we needed. It would simply be too awkward to ask a neighbor to borrow a drill. Or for some butter to avoid a trip to the supermarket.

If something needed fixing, we had to hire someone for the repair. If our children wanted to play with friends, we had to call their friends’ parents or go through a long back-and-forth of text messages to arrange the logistics of a play date: How about Thursday? Can you drop them at 4:00 p.m. if we bring them back at 6:00 p.m.?

A longing began to develop — for more meaningful relationships, for genuine community. For lives that were closer to nature. To consume less. To live a little lighter on the earth.

For all these reasons, moving to our ecovillage in Ithaca was an inspired decision. Three months after our move, we had to fly back to Brussels for administrative reasons, and it already felt like a past life. Boy, everything feels tense and complicated here, we thought. In no time, our new life just felt right.

From our stays in the village before our move, we knew that living here would be a priceless gift for our children. Cars are parked at the entry of the village so kids may roam safely and freely on hundreds of acres of meadows and woods.

There are two ponds to swim in the summer and skate in winter, and several outdoor and indoor playgrounds. In our previous life, our children’s world was literally the size of our house. Now it’s extended to hundreds of acres. Children here are truly “free-range kids”.

More important even than space, there are other children and loving adults. Children here are graced with autonomy—they run over to a friend’s house to play and when it’s time for dinner, will often spontaneously be invited to stay. I love to add a plate or two when my kids’ friends (well, really, they are myfriends, too!) stay for dinner or add that extra mattress for a sleepover they’ve just organized. What a childhood they get to have!

So, we knew we would be offering our children a wonderful life, and yet there was something closely related we completely failed to anticipate — how much community would change our lives as parents.

Being a parent is hard. Not all the time, of course. There are many joy-filled moments — times when we look at our children and our hearts nearly burst. Times we can’t possibly imagine what our lives would be without them. But studies find that over the course of a lifetime, happiness levels take a serious dip during the parenting years for most, while stress and tiredness peak.

Here’s what I’ve discovered: much of that strain is self-inflicted.

The dream of individualized lives, of the nuclear family as the basis of modern existence, is not conducive to joyful parenting. For hundreds of thousands of years, children were raised within multigenerational family structures. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors and other members of the tribe or community watched over the children and interacted with them. Not everything depended on the parents! As the saying goes, “it takes a village.”

Both parents and children pay the price for modern isolation. I wonder how much of the stress, depression, and existential anxieties increasingly diagnosed in both adults and children might be related to this isolation?

The solution, I’m convinced, is not to dial back the clock and try to rebuild past forms of community. Who would want to live under constant scrutiny and judgment from extended family, neighbors, or fellow churchgoers, anyway? Ecovillages, co-housing and intentional communities much better suit our need for privacy and community.

In our particular ecovillage, we have our own house where we enjoy full privacy, as any other family might expect. But when we want or need it, a loving community is just at our doorstep. We can engage with our community as little or as much as we desire. People here are pretty diverse but we respect one another’s differences; we feel no pressure to conform to any particular mold.

Parenting transformed by community

How is parenting changed through intentional community? Here are a few things I’ve learned.

Our children’s newfound autonomy to roam and seek out friends translates into the biggest luxury we as parents can ask for: more free time! Often, we are not quite sure where our children are, and we feel great about it (well that is, until its dinner or bedtime!). We know they are safe and they are having fun somewhere.

At times, their autonomy even translates into more sleep for us. Last winter, my wife and I awoke some mornings to discover that our 6-year-old son had been up for two hours. Rather than waking us, he’d put on his skies and left for an expedition in the snow. Greater autonomy meets a deep need for the children. And boy, it’s been a blessing for us, as well.

While we are on the topic of more free time, did I mention our three common dinners every week? Some neighbors volunteer to cook regular meals for the community and everyone is invited. Especially as young parents, to get a break from having to cook every night feels like luxury!

Most weeks, we join two or three of these meals in the week, but at times, the four of us simply like to snuggle at home and may not join any common meals for a week or two. Other times, it all depends on what is on the menu.

The calming influence of nature has been another boon for us as parents. When things grow intense around the house, when a disagreement breaks out between the children, or when the noise level threatens to turn us into the kind of parents we don’t want to be, we tell our kids: let’s go for a walk. We often do this spontaneously, sometimes just before bedtime when the kids are already in pajamas. We simply close the door behind us and become enveloped by the quieting presence of nature.

No longer the only entertainers, no longer the only role-models

A few weeks into our lives here, we noticed we’d stopped planning for the weekend ahead. When we lived in the city, we had to make plans. There would always come a time when the kids needed to be out of the house or we would all go mad. Will we go to a park? A museum? Arrange a play date with friends?

But here, something is always happening. There are blueberries to pick or apple cider to press. There’s a pond to swim in, or broom ball to play on its frozen surface in winter. A neighbor has a new pet! Or a grandpa has put out a telescope and kids line up to marvel at the moon. The pressure of entertaining our children no longer rests on our shoulders alone.

As our children grow up in the caring web of this community, their mother and I will no longer be their only role models and inspirations, which brings a subtle sense of relief. In the ecovillage, people have such a wide array of talents and interests.

Hélène and I are not musicians, but we sense that our 4-year old daughter has a musical inclination. Will she choose to spend time with Lizzie, who plays cello, or with Joe, a guitarist, violinist and touring songwriter? Or with Kathryn or Robert who play piano? Perhaps she’ll listen in on the village’s Cuban drumming group or its choir practice.

And as she and her brother grow into teens, I’m sure the bonds they build will serve them well. Parents who’ve raised children through teenage years here tell us how wonderful it is when their sometimes shy and awkward teen has other adults with whom they can talk and relate.

Recently, Ethan, a strong, tall 18-year-old who grew up in our ecovillage returned home from college for a visit. I was walking with a neighbor, Phebe, in her sixties, who has known him since he was a child. Like many adults and children here, they’ve developed a special bond.

When Ethan saw Phebe, he broke out in a big grin and started running. He threw himself into her arms. Witnessing the scene, I was deeply touched, tears springing to my eyes; I’d never seen a young man run and throw himself into the arms of an adult for an embrace. Here was a child that had been loved not only by his parents and grandparents, but by his wider community. And here was a woman who was blessed to be in a place where she could love not just her own child, but this boy too — and probably a few others in the community as well.

Community and non-violent parenting

Like an increasing number of people, Hélène and I try to raise our children without punishments or rewards, threats or promises. This is sometimes referred to as non-violent parenting. We strive to help our children express their needs, share with them our own needs, and together make decisions that work for everyone.

Most of the time, this works beautifully. Our children are both very strong willed, and yet they have developed a capacity for empathy and cooperation that many adults find surprising. But they are only four and 7 years old. There are moments in which their needs are all-consuming, when they’re simply not open or able to engage. They insist on getting what they want, not matter what, and may yell, cry or sometimes hit to make it happen. In more traditional parenting, this is where we’d bring out the arsenal of threats and punishments.

Recently, I talked about this with Miki Kashtan, a friend and leading figure in the world of non-violent communication and facilitation. I explained to her that in some of those moments, I feel stuck.

I’ve forfeited the weapon that parents have used for thousands of years: to “make” my children obey me and do what I want, by threatening them into submission. And I’m glad I have. And yet, I can become frustrated at times when my children become stuck in a place where my needs (say, my need for quiet) are ignored, while they loudly insist that theirs get met. In those moments, I sometimes feel lost.

Miki’s answer will stay with me. She said, “You are trying to solve the problem in the wrong context. You can’t solve this within the nuclear family. You can only solve it in the context of community.”

Of course, she’s right! It’s not reasonable to ask young children to be able, at all times, to engage in problem-solving to meet everyone’s needs. It’s hard enough for them to understand and express their own needs (I mean, it’s hard for us adults too!), and at times, they are simply too overwhelmed to listen to our needs. In those moments, our greatest tool is the support of others. We must be able to say: I’m stepping out to get my needs met. Can you please take over?

The only way to parent in non-violent ways, without exhausting ourselves, is within the context of community. Now that Miki helped me see this so clearly, I’ve started knocking more often at a neighbor’s door to ask: “Can you be with my kids for 15 minutes / an hour / the afternoon? I really need some time on my own! And I’m more than happy to do this for you next time you need it.”

Too rosy a picture?

What are the downsides to parenting in community? Perhaps at this stage, it sounds like I’m painting a very rosy picture. When I question elders around our ecovillage who’ve been parents here before us, one downside is often mentioned. Living in close proximity exposes children to different parenting styles and rules.

Our children often come home with challenging questions: “Why can Julie keep playing outside when it’s bedtime for me? Can I watch x movie or play x video game since Flynn is allowed to watch/play?”

In community, even more than in some traditional settings, our children will challenge us to justify — and sometimes even reconsider — our parenting choices. “Because I say so!” would be a difficult line to toe here!

There have been cases in the past where different perspectives and choices have led to tensions between some parents. We haven’t personally experienced this so far, and gratefully, we seem to be navigating differences in style with grace. Our children are still quite young, however, and I can imagine that by their teens, any issues we face together will grow in size.

What if we feel that a friend is not the best influence? If this is not a friend from school, but a friend living in the community, things could be both easier and trickier. We could witness things firsthand and have more power to participate in the dynamics and shape them, but that child’s parents would also be our neighbors and perhaps our friends.

I hope the shared context of community will invite us to work any potential problems out, to dive deeply into conversation, and continue communicating in respectful ways. That is essential to what I signed up for when I joined the ecovillage — sharing in meaningful conversations and not shying away from the beauty and occasional messiness of human relationships.

Rediscovering the obvious

Through 99% of human history, anthropologists tell us that children grew up in community. We know from surviving hunter-gatherer societies that adults don’t entertain the notion that children need to be “raised.” In these cultures, youngsters learn all essential skills — physical, social, emotional — through play with other children in the tribe and by imitating and interacting with adults.

Children are much more autonomous than their modern counterparts, and play and learn all day in mixed-age groups. When they need adults, they seek out anyone at hand. Their parents aren’t their only resources.

While I knew this, I’d believed it was ancient history. It took living in supportive community to understand that we are still deeply wired for this. We can try and live in isolated, nuclear families, but there’s a price to be paid. Restlessness and anxiety rises in children who are denied the autonomy to roam and play and learn among peers. Stress and overwhelm reign for parents who shoulder a burden they are not meant to carry.

A century ago, people began rejecting communities which felt restrictive and suffocating, and aspired for the freedom of more individualist lifestyles. The good news is that we are reinventing communities of choice. There is a growing movement of ecovillages, co-housing, and intentional community-making around the world.

Many offer the best of both worlds: autonomy andcommunion. Privacy and freedom. The liberty to express ourselves fully and wholeheartedly within the context of a meaningful, rich community — to whatever degree we choose. For young parents, in particular, I believe this combination at this time in history is almost irresistible — and perhaps deeply necessary.

What do you think?

If the idea of parenting in community resonates, I encourage you to go and visit ecovillages and co-housing communities. Our ecovillage near Ithaca, NY hosts monthly public tours for a quick introduction. You can also come and stay for a few days in one of the village’s BnBs, to feel the place and see whether it might be something for you.

Houses regularly come up for rent or sale, and we are always thrilled to welcome new families. Many of the children of the village’s founders have grown up, and we are currently welcoming a new generation of parents.

My experience is that it’s best to visit a few different places, to help you better understand what might work best for you and your family. They come in all colors and flavors. I wish you happy exploration and I believe your children will thank you. And I have a hunch you’ll thank yourself too! As my wife and I have so joyfully discovered, there is an easier, more fulfilling way to be a parent.

I highly recommend Peter Gray’s book Free to Learn. Learning about childhood in hunter and gather societies asks powerful, and at times disturbing, questions about how we think about raising children, in families and in schools.

Originally posted on Medium.

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As the saying goes, "failing to prepare is preparing to fail," and that seriously applies to parenting. With no fewer than one dozen items to wrangle before walking out the door on an ordinary errand, mamas have plenty on their mind. That is why one of the very best gifts you can give the mamas in your life this year is to reduce her mental load with some gear she can depend on when she's out and about.

Although it may be impossible to guarantee completely smooth outings with kids in tow, here are the items we rely on for making getting out of the house less of a chore.

1. Bugaboo Bee 5 stroller

This stroller is a dream come true for any mama on the go. (Meaning: All of us!) Lightweight, compact and easy to maneuver with just one hand, this is made for navigating busy sidewalks with ease—or just fitting in the trunk without a major wrestling match. It's designed for little passengers to love just as much, too, with a bassinet option for newborn riders that can be easily swapped with a comfy, reclining seat that can face forward or backward for bigger kids.

$699

2. Bugaboo wheel board

This wheel board will let big brother or sister easily hitch a ride on the stroller if their little legs aren't quite up for a full walk. We love the smart details that went into the design, including a slightly offset position so Mom or Dad can walk without bumping their legs. And because toddlers have strong opinions of their own, it's brilliant that the wheel board allows them to sit or stand.

$125

3. Nuby Keepeez cup strap

If you know a little one gearing up for the major leagues with a killer throwing arm, this is a must-have so parents aren't buying new sippy cups on a weekly basis. Perfect for tethering to high chairs, strollers, car seats and shopping carts, it allows Mama to feel confident she'll return home with everything she left with in the first place.

$6.99

4. Bugaboo footmuff

For those mamas who live anywhere where the temps regularly dip below 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter, this ultra-soft, comfortable footmuff is a lifesaver. Made with water-repellant microfleece, it keeps little ones dry and cozy—whether there is melting snow, a good drizzle or simply a spilled sippy cup.

$129.95

5. Bugaboo stroller organizer

Because we know #mombrain is no joke, we are all for products that will help us stay organized—especially when out and about. With multiple zipper pockets, a sleek design and velcro straps that help it easily convert to a handbag when stepping away from the stroller, it helps keep essentials from spare diapers to the car keys within reach.

$39.95

6. Bugaboo Turtle car seat

It may be called a car seat, but we love that this one is specifically designed to securely click into a stroller frame, too. (Meaning there is no need to wake up a sleeping baby for a car-to-stroller transfer!) More reasons to love it are the lightweight design, UPF 50+ sun protection shade and Merino wool inlay, meaning it's baby and mama friendly.

$349

7. Chicco QuickSeat hook-on chair

This hook-on baby chair will almost certainly earn a spot on your most-used list. Perfect for dining out or simply giving your baby a space to sit, it's portable and beyond easy to install. (Plus, it's a great alternative to those questionably clean high chairs at many restaurants!)

$57.99

8. Bugaboo stroller cup holder

Chasing after kids when out and about can work up a thirst, just like neighborhood strolls in the chillier months can get, well, chilly. So we love that this cup holder will help mama keep something for herself to drink close at hand. Designed to accommodate bottles of all sizes and easy to click onto any compatible stroller, it's a perfect stocking stuffer.

$29.95

9. Bugaboo soft wool blanket

Fair warning with this luxe stroller blanket: It's so cozy that you might want to buy another one for yourself! Made with Merino wool that helps it stand up to any elements parents might encounter during an outing, it will help baby stay warm during the winter and cool enough as the temps start to pick up.

$109.95

10. Munchkin silicone placemats

Made to roll and stow in a diaper bag, these silicone placemats will make dining out a (relatively) less messy experience. With raised edges that will help contain spills and a grippy bottom, they will stay in place on tables so that parents might be able to enjoy their own meals, too.

$8.99

11. Bugaboo Breezy seat liner

Designed to keep baby warm when it's cool and cool when it's warm, this seat liner will minimize fusses during all seasons—which is one of the very best gifts you can give a mama. Because accidents of all types can happen on the go, we also love that this seat liner is reversible! With a number of colors, it's also a fun way to help a stroller to stand out at the playground.

$79.95

12. OXO Tot Handy stroller hook

If you ever catch yourself thinking it would be nice to have another hand, these stroller clips are the next-best solution for when you are out and about. Perfect for lugging a bag or anchoring a cup, you'll want a set for every stroller you own.

$14.99

This article was sponsored by Bugaboo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's so interesting how the popularity of baby names ebb and flow over time. Think about the most popular names when you were growing up—chances are, you probably don't see too many new babies being given those monikers in 2019. Khaleesi overtook Brittany in terms of popularity, for example.

But if you're noticing that names like Charlotte, Henry and Amelia seem to appear in a lot of your friends' birth announcements, you're onto something: These are three of the most popular names from 2019.

BabyNames.com has released a list of the top baby names of this year, and you may find a few of them (but not necessarily all of them!) a little surprising. 2018's biggest boy name, Atticus, dropped off the top 10 list. Also missing from this list? Sophia, the beautiful female name that has dominated on a global scale in previous years.

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But some names have held their popularity: Liam, Owen, Olivia and Violet are a few of the names that trended both last year and this year.

RANK

BOYS

GIRLS

1

Liam

Charlotte

2

Oliver

Amelia

3

Theodore

Violet

4

Declan

Aria/Arya

5

Henry

Aurora

6

Owen

Ava

7

Finn

Olivia

8

Caleb

Vivienne

9

Emmett

Hazel

10

Benjamin

Nora

The top name for baby boys probably won't come as a surprise to most. It's Liam, which has been a consistent powerhouse for a few years now. It's easy to see why—Liam is one of those names that everyone just loves. With that being said, if you're hoping to avoid giving your child a very common name, you may want to cross this one off the list, along with Oliver and Theodore (these were the top three boys' names). And if you're expecting a girl, forget about Charlotte, Amelia and Violet, which took the three top spots.

"It seems there is definitely a royal influence to baby names this year," says BabyNames.com founder and CEO, Jennifer Moss. "Both Liam and Charlotte are linked directly to the British Royal Family. Liam is a shorter version of the name William, like the Duke of Cambridge, and Charlotte is the name of his daughter."

Classic names that have always been incredibly popular are expected to become less common as well. "For 2020 and beyond we see some traditional Biblical names like David, Michael, and Luke dropping off the top 100. This is almost unprecedented," says Moss. "Those are being replaced with more unique Biblical names like Josiah, Gabriel, and Elijah."

Expect lots of nods to nature and flowers to become more popular in common years, with names like Violet, Iris, Juniper, Rose, Daisy and Dahlia gaining speed. Want to see how your child's name stacks up? Check out the full list of 2019's top baby names at BabyNames.com.

News

In a culture full of consumerism and competition, it can be difficult to remember to feel grateful and not stressed when preparing the "perfect" holidays for our kids. After all, we create the magic. But how often do we stop to think about what is really good in our lives? Probably not often, mama. Days are spent worrying about what we have to do next, what we haven't done yet, what we did do, but not well—especially during the holidays.

This stress can make us tense and anxious. Our bodies think we are in flight or flight and our nervous system kicks into overdrive, releasing adrenaline and cortisol to ensure we can deal with this stress. Adrenaline increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure and boosts our energy and cortisol, the stress hormone, increases blood sugar and enhances our brain's use of all that energy. This response is all well and good if we are really in danger, but too much for too long can weaken our immune system, affect our digestive system and weight, impair our reproductive systems, and may lead to heart problems.

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This natural alarm system also communicates with the parts of our brain that control mood and motivation—a sure formula for no fun when combined with the pressure of creating the perfect holidays.

Instead of feeling burdened, what if we choose to be grateful for all we have to do? We get to shop. We get to wrap. We get to decorate.

Psychologists say that we can switch or replace one thought with another. It takes practice—like all good things do—but taking a moment to switch from I have to, to, I get to, can make all the difference.

Research at UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center found that having an attitude of gratitude can actually alter the molecular structure of our brain, making us healthier and happier. And the effects of practicing gratitude are long-lasting. In a study out of University of California, Berkeley, nearly 300 adults participated in an experiment that involved writing gratitude letters and reported significantly better mental health for up to 12 weeks after the writing exercise ended.

Need more reason to practice a little more gratitude? A study at the University of Southern California found that our brain is full of the love hormone, oxytocin, when we experience gratitude, which may account for those positive effects of being thankful has on our relationships, well-being and mental health. Bonus: The beneficial effects are likely to be amplified with more gratitude, producing a positive feedback loop that serves to create more gratitude.

Bottom line: By switching our perspective from "I have to" to "I get to," we can change our perception and affect positive changes in our lives. What a great thing to model for our littles during the holidays—and always.

Life

As part of my training to become a Montessori teacher, there was a big emphasis on building relationships with the children. When a child walked into the classroom, we would get down on their level, shake their hand and make eye contact (if they were open to this) and say something like, "I'm so happy you're here today."

This is because Montessori focuses on the whole child, including their physical and emotional well being, and also because it is much easier for a child to succeed academically if they feel comfortable and connected in the classroom.

So amidst the busyness of life, how can we make sure we're showing our kids enough affection? How can we make sure they feel our love when we're racing around being mamas?

Try these phrases and adjust them to fit your own style and family so your precious little one doesn't get lost in the shuffle:

1. "I'm happy to see you."

When I became a mom, I said this every morning in the classroom and made it a part of my morning greeting to my children each day. It can be hard not to start the day on a grumpy note when young children wake up (SO) early, but it's important to let them know that we're happy to be here with them, taking care of them, each and every day.

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2. "Let's snuggle."

Maybe you set the alarm just five minutes earlier every day and build in a little snuggle time when you wake your child up for school. Or maybe that sounds horrible and you opt for a Saturday morning weekly family snuggle party instead.

Whatever works best for your family, find a way to include regular opportunities to relax and snuggle together even as your child gets older. Some children need more physical affection than others, so make sure to follow your child's lead.

3. "I love that you are so generous."

One part of my Montessori training that really stuck with me is acknowledging "qualities of greatness." This is a strategy that can be particularly effective with a child who seeks negative attention. Catch them when they are doing something right, no matter how small it is, and make a big deal about it.

Does your child always take toys from their younger sibling, but then you catch them in the act of sharing a favorite book? Let them know that you see it. Say something like "I love seeing you be so generous with your sister! You are a really giving person."

This lets our children know that we see them as good people, and it also helps shape their perception of themselves.

You can extrapolate a quality of greatness from almost anything.

Your child put their own shoes on? "I love that you're so independent!"

They picked up their Legos without you asking? "You sure are conscientious!"

Find a way to give them a meaningful compliment and it will stick with them.

4. "Do you want to know one of my favorite things about you?"

Especially if you have more than one child, it's important to let them know that you love them for who they are, uniquely. The more specific the compliment you offer them, the more it will mean to them.

"You're a good boy" doesn't really mean much but "I love that you take good care of your things" is specific enough to matter.

5. "Come sit with me."

Sometimes affection looks like a big bear hug and kind words and sometimes it's simply a quiet moment together. Especially for young children, it's not always clear what their love language is, but quality time together is always important to our children.

It's easy to put a lot of pressure on yourself and think "quality time" has to be a special one on one date to an unforgettable place, but it can be as simple as a few cozy minutes together on the couch.

6. "Is there anything you want to chat about?"

I often ask my 3-year-old this at bedtime (well really after bedtime, when he's called me back into his room for "one last song"). He usually doesn't come up with anything in particular at this point, but it's important to me that he knows I'm there to listen.

I imagine that one day he'll surprise me with an answer that gives me a little window into his heart, but even if he doesn't, what matters is that he knows he can talk to me and that I always have time for him.

7. "You give the best hugs."

One day when I was in my Montessori classroom, a little 3-year-old girl walked up to me and randomly gave me a hug. As she walked away I heard her to say to herself, "I give the best hugs," and it brought the biggest smile to my face.

I am sure her parents tell her this all the time. There is a big difference between "Do you need a hug?" (which is also a great thing to say) and "You give the best hugs!"

Let your child know that you're hugging them not just because they want to be close to you, but because you want to be close to them, and value and treasure their affection.

8. "Did you get my note?"

I'm not entirely sure why, but one of my earliest and most clear memories from my young childhood is of receiving notes in my lunchbox at daycare from my mom. I couldn't even read yet, but it meant the world to me to have a little note from my mom in the middle of the day.

It doesn't need to be every day, but writing little love notes to your child lets them know you're thinking about them.

9. "What would you like to do together?"

Try letting your child lead the way in choosing what to do with your quality time on occasion. Even if it's only for 30 minutes, they will get the idea that you want to spend time with them doing what they want to do. Showing interest in your child's hobbies, even if you have little interest in them yourself, pays off over time because you learn so much about what your child is thinking and feeling through watching them play.

10. "I love you no matter what."

It's easy to show your child that you love them when they're being fun and adorable, but it's a bit harder when they're getting in trouble at school or yelling at you. Even, and especially, amidst the tantrums and notes from the teacher, make sure to let them know that your love for them is unconditional.

At the end of the day, you have to find a way to show your love that feels natural to you. Experiment with different types of affection and you will be able to tell what resonates the most with your child.

Maybe you're a snuggler and they're not, maybe you're not big on compliments but they crave your words of affirmation. That's okay. Just becoming a little more aware of how you show your affection will help you make sure your child is really feeling the love you send them each day.

Learn + Play

We can't lie to you—the idea of matching family holiday pajamas gets us all sorts of giddy inside. They're the perfect early holiday present for kids to wear on Christmas morning and the best excuse to wear loungewear all day long.

So snuggle up next to the fire 🔥, grab some hot chocolate ☕, and get ready to rock these comfy, cozy matching PJs this holiday season. Shop our favorite looks below!

1. Hearth & Hand with Magnolia

matching family pajamas target

Matching family PJs designed by one of our fave design couple powerhouses Chip & Joanna Gaines? Yes, please. Even the family dog can get in on the fun. Starting at $9.99.

$9.99

2. Hanna Andersson Deer Collection

hanna andersson pajamas

Iconic brand Hanna Andersson pretty much wrote the book on matching family PJs, and we could not love them more. There are so many Insta-worthy styles to choose from, you're going to have trouble choosing just one. Plus, they're on sale right now! Prices start at $28 for kids.

$28

3. Feliz Navidad Collection

feliz navidad matching pajamas

However you say Merry Christmas, celebrate in style with this gorgeous green set. Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39

4. Sleepyheads Holiday

matching pajamas

Made for lounging, Sleepyheads' pajamas have the cutest polar bear designs. These would make the most adorable Christmas morning pictures! Infant pajamas start at $16.99.

$16.99

5. Hanukkah

hanukkah family pajamas

You don't need to celebrate Christmas to get in on the matching family pajama game! We love these coordinating Hanukkah PJs to kick off the Festival of Lights. And, yes, there's a matching piece for your pup! Pieces for your little ones start at $10.49.

$10.49

6. Wondershop Winter Wonderland

matching family pajamas

Nothing adds to the magic of the holidays like mama and a little winter wonderland. How gorgeous are these colors? Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39

7. Harry Potter

harry potter matching family pajamas

Add a little extra magic to the holidays with this Harry Potter set. Mischief managed by mama, of course. Prices start at just $9.09.

$9.09

8. PajamaGram Snowfall Plaid Set

matching family pajamas

These comfy plaid snowflake-filled PJs will keep everyone nice and warm this season. The snowflake theme isn't holiday specific and can be worn all winter long! Prices start at $29.99

$29.99

9. Plaid Collection

matching family pajamas plaid

The perfect pair for your holiday Instagram photo. Prices starting at $8.39.

$8.39

10. Gray Striped Collection

gray striped matching pajamas

If you're not into the holiday colors, or want sets that work outside of the season, we love this minimalist gray striped set. Perfect for cozy days all year long. Prices start at $8.39, mama.

$8.39

11. Jammies for Your Families

khols matching family pajamas

How fun are these festive fairisle prints? There's something everyone in your family will love. Prices start at $19.99.

$19.99

12. Hanna Andersson Stripes Collection

hanna andersson stripe family pajamas

For a classic look, these stripes would be adorable on any family. And, we can't resist that elf hat for your littlest family members. Prices start at $20.

13. Burt's Bees Baby Family Jammies

matching family pajamas burts bees

Made of 100% organic cotton, you won't believe how soft these jammies are. Plus, they're breathable so if you're the type of overheat at night, these are a great option. Prices start at $16.95.

$16.95

14. SleepytimePjs Fleece Deer Plaid

matching family pajamas

You can never go wrong with buffalo plaid and this set doesn't disappoint. The baseball tees offer a more modern look and the deer head is such an adorable touch. Prices start at $6.99.

$6.99

15. Frozen Pajamas Collection

matching family frozen pajamas

If you prefer to have a little Disney on your Christmas morning, we love the classic look of these pajamas. The cold won't bother anyone in this set. Prices start at $9.09.

$9.09

16. Red Buffalo Check Collection

buffalo check family pajamas

There's nothing more classic than buffalo check during the holidays. This one even has nightgowns available! Prices start at $8.39.

$8.39


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