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You’ve probably heard talk of the concept of mindfulness in your workplace, your yoga class, or your Facebook feed.  It is a concept that traces back to ancient Buddhist meditation but is growing in popularity as a helpful practice for our modern busy lives.


Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the leading visionaries in the modern mindfulness movement, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.”  Kabat-Zinn emphasizes that being more present in our daily lives, and aware of the moments that shape them can help us to “realize the richness and depth of our possibilities for growth and transformation” (1994, p. 4).

Mindfulness is not exactly equal to meditation (which is a relief for those who can’t imagine sitting cross-legged for hours in silence), though meditation is one form of mindfulness. It encompasses a wide range of practices from seated meditation to moving meditation, and from simple breathing exercises to philosophies on how we approach our daily lives.

A 2012 American Psychological Association comprehensive analysis of the benefits of mindfulness cited research showing that the practice: decreases depressive symptoms, increases working memory, reduces stress, increases ability to focus, decreases emotional reactivity, increases “cognitive flexibility”, and increases relationship satisfaction, among other empirical findings.  It’s no wonder the adult world is grabbing on to this practice in a multitude of settings.

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How can you pass up an approach that might help your child to focus on tasks, calm nervous energy, control negative behavior, or build self-esteem?

Over the last few years practitioners and educators have begun to explore the potential for mindfulness practice to bring similar benefits to children.  While in some ways the jury is still out on long-term impacts of mindfulness programming for kids (more research is needed), preliminary research has shown promising evidence that children can in fact participate in well-designed mindfulness activities and that they may reap similar benefits to adults.  In addition to the benefits described above, research has shown that mindfulness can improve self-esteem and self-regulation as well as academic performance in children. 

Schools, counselors, and other youth settings are beginning to integrate mindfulness in many ways, but parents can also use mindfulness with their kids at home.

How can you pass up an approach that might help your child to focus on tasks, calm nervous energy, control negative behavior, or build self-esteem?

The question, then, becomes: where do I start?

The following is a curated list of resources and activities for beginning the journey of mindfulness practice with your children; it is simply a place to start but may help you to begin integrating these practices into daily life in your own house.

Explaining mindfulness to kids:

Let’s start with some resources on how you can explain mindfulness to kids.  Mindful Magazine is an excellent resource for ideas on mindfulness practice at home (or at work).  Their article on teaching kids about the brain uses a visual metaphor of a house (“upstairs and downstairs”) to help kids understand how the brain relates to the rest of the body.  You can use this concept to help teach your kids about how the brain works and to talk with them about this complex idea in a way that may help them to understand how it plays out in their life.

An artistic and tactile activity is also an option.  The glitter jar activity described in Mindful Magazine engages kids in creating a jar of water and glitter (like a snow globe); by watching the glitter float around in a frenzy when shaken up, then settle to the bottom as it is allowed to rest, kids can begin to understand how the activities of their daily life may cause their brain to get overloaded.  You can use the jar as both an explanatory tool and a mindfulness practice (“let’s sit together and take some deep breaths while we watch the glitter settle”).

I was pleasantly surprised by my son’s reaction to this project on a Sunday afternoon when he was starting to get antsy.  He embraced the fun side of the project (shaking the jar around) but also was able to relate to his father how the jar represented his brain and how it had to be allowed to rest a bit in order to calm down.

Practicing mindfulness with kids:

There are a million ways in which you might practice mindfulness with your kids, and they range in formality from encouraging your child to really focus on a given activity (my son immediately calms down when he takes on the challenge of building a new Lego figure) to doing intentional exercises with them like yoga or mindful walking.  Even my toddler is beginning to understand what I am asking when I ask her to “take a deep breath” with me.

Here are a couple of my favorite resources for kid-friendly mindful activity ideas:

  1. The Mindful Teachers website has a great list of potential mindfulness activities for kids that can just as easily be done at home.  For example, when my son is too anxious or excited to sleep we use the body scan (something I use frequently myself) to help him redirect his energy and stop thinking about whatever is keeping him awake.
  2. The Mindful Schools website also has a list of guided practices, with audio explanations to help you learn more.  Our interest in connecting our kids with nature makes “mindful walking” a favorite – simply invite kids to take a slow, quiet walk and to intentionally notice how their body moves or to gently take in what is around them through all of their senses.
  3. Scott Sampson’s book How to Raise a Wild Child is a great link between nature-based play, learning, and mindfulness.  The concept of choosing a “sit spot,” where you simply sit and notice the natural world around you, is one of Sampson’s strategies for nature exploration.  My son’s teacher uses this practice as part of her Forest Kindergarten curriculum and we have used it at home as a way to connect with the land around our homestead while also encouraging quiet time.
  4. Gonoodle.com is a site I often recommend for helping kids to use technology in a way that encourages movement.  Among their list of “channels”, Go Noodle also includes “Flow” and “Think About it” which offer short breathing and guided thought exercises (you can also find these through the “calming” category).  They also have a stretching category which includes a number of yoga videos designed to capture kids’ attention.    Most of these videos are under five minutes and many focus on positive self-image.  My son will often start with an exciting exercise video on the site and follow it up with a more calming option.
  5. Lastly, I love this “Follow the Bird” mindfulness activity profiled in Mindful Magazine.  Just invite your child to simply stand in a field until they see a bird, approach it slowly, then gently follow it as it flies away.

We cannot expect our kids, or ourselves, to be intentionally mindful every minute of every day.  But I do believe that we can use the concept of mindfulness to bring a little bit more peace to each day; in fact the essence of the practice is the act of redirecting our attention when faced with stress, anxiety, or complexity. We can also equip our children with a skill that will last a lifetime, a skill that many of us are just trying to learn as adults.  What an advantage that would be!

If mindfulness seems counter to your daily frenzied life, begin with something small and see how it goes. I would love to hear how it works for you.

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Student loan debt is a major problem for many mamas and their families―but it doesn't have to be. Refinancing companies like Laurel Road help families every year by offering better rates, making payments more manageable or helping them shorten their loan term.

If you're ready to start taking control of your student loan debt, here are five steps that could help you conquer your student loan debt and get a loan that works for you.

1. Understand your refinancing options.

Like motherhood, managing student loan debt is a journey made much easier by experience. If your eyes start to cross when you hear variable and fixed rates or annual percentage rate, start your process with a little education. Laurel Road offers a user-friendly resource hub with student loan refinancing guides and articles that can help explain your options and get you started on a more informed foot.

2. Potentially improve your credit score.

Your credit score is important because it provides an objective measure of your credit risk to lenders. It also has an impact on many aspects of your finances, so it's a good idea to understand and track your score regularly. To try and improve your score, pay your bills on time—your payment history is one of the most important factors in determining your credit score. Having a long history of on-time payments is best, while missing a payment may hurt your score. Another action to improve your credit score would be to keep the amount you owe low—keeping your balances low on credit cards and other types of revolving debt, such as a home equity lines of credit, may help boost your score. Remember, good credit scores don't just happen overnight, but taking positive financial steps now can lead to more positive outcomes in the future.

3. Get a better understanding of your current loan benefits.

Different loan types have different benefits and you want to make sure you don't lose any valuable benefits by refinancing your current loan. Before you're ready to apply for a better option, you need to know what you have. Determine your loan terms (how long you have to pay off your loan and how much you're required to pay each month) and find out your current interest rate.

When you took out your original loan, especially if it was a federal loan, everyone who applies is given the same rate regardless of their personal credit. When you look to refinance, companies like Laurel Road look at your credit score and other attributes to give you a personalized pricing option―one that's often more competitive than your original terms. However, it is important to know that federal loans offer several benefits and protections, including income based repayment and forgiveness options, that you may lose when refinancing with private lenders (learn more at https://studentloans.gov). Try Laurel Road's Student Loan Calculator to get a bigger picture perspective of what it will take to pay off your loan and the options available to you.

4. Pick the terms that fit your lifestyle.

Your long-term financial goals will determine what refinancing terms are right for you. For example, a 3- or 5-year loan means faster payoff times, but it will mean a higher monthly payment―which might not be possible if you're planning to purchase a home or looking to move your toddler to a more expensive school. A loan with a longer term will have lower payments, but more interest over the duration of the loan.

Want to see what your options are? Check your rates on Laurel Road. They'll perform a "soft credit pull" using some basic information (meaning initially checking your rates won't affect your credit score ) so you can make an informed decision. If you do proceed with the application Laurel Road will ask for your consent on a hard credit pull.

5. Don't miss out on discounts.

With a little research, many people can find opportunities for lower rates or discounts when refinancing their loans. For example, if your credit isn't the best, look into the possibility of adding a cosigner who may help boost your rate. There are also many associations and employers who offer student loan benefits. Laurel Road partners with a number of groups and employers who offer discounts on rates―so check with your professional associations or HR to see if any options are available to you. Finally, talk to your financial institution, especially if you're planning to take out another major loan like a mortgage. In some cases, having another product with an institution can get you a preferred customer rate.

This article is sponsored by Laurel Road. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's Father's Day and dads around the world are getting some love from their loved ones, and we are loving all the adorable posts on Instagram today.

Celebrity dads are getting (and dishing out) a lot of love today, and these 10 Instagram posts, in particular, are melting our hearts.


James Van Der Beek 

James Van Der Beek will always be Dawson to many millennial mamas, but to his five kids he's just "Daddy." His wife Kimberly posted the cutest pic of James with their kiddos, Olivia, Emilia, Annabel Leah, Joshua and baby Gwendolyn.

James posted the same photo to his own account, with a caption that may make you cry.

He wrote: "For me, being a father means having that quiet little voice inside of you that says 'Be a better man,' get louder and more consistent... to the point where you can't really remember where that voice ends and where you begin. It means being tired beyond what is probably healthy, and patient beyond what you previously thought possible. And even though you know you're far from perfect... being a father also comes with an unshakable awareness that all your actions have consequences - context that reaches far beyond your own self-interest. It's scary to feel that interconnected with the rest of the world - especially with your heart now walking around outside your body - because it demands more personal responsibility... but it will make you a better man. Of at least that I'm sure. #HappyFathersDay to all the imperfect dads out there, trying their best and learning on the job.👊#fatherhood"

That post gives us more feels than any episode of Dawson's Creek ever did.


Today, our Istagram and Facebook feeds are filled with evidence that today's dads are doing more than any other generation of fathers. Congrats guys, you really deserve a Happy Father's Day!

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The bond between sisters is special, but Jill Noe and Whitney Bliesner have a unique bond that goes beyond just being siblings. As twins, Jill and Whitney shared a lot throughout their lives, and when Jill became Whitney's surrogate they even shared a pregnancy.

As first reported by Today, Whitney has a rare disease called NF2 (Neurofibromatosis type 2). Because of NF2 she lost the vision in her left eye and hearing in her right ear, along with partial hearing loss in her left ear. The condition makes pregnancy risky, and the disease is hereditary.

Whitney and her husband, Pete, wanted to start a family, but adoption and surrogacy fees seemed to be putting parenthood out of their reach. Until Jill stepped in as their surrogate.

"We have always had a strong connection, I do think this experience made our connection stronger, for sure," Whitney tells Motherly, adding that she's sure that when Jill eventuallu has kids of her own the sisters will likely bond over motherhood, too.

Through IVF, Jill carried donor eggs fertilized with Pete's sperm to make her twin sister's family, and on June 7 Jill delivered Whitney and Pete's son and daughter, little Rhett and Rhenley.

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"Going through this with Jill was so easy," Whitney tells Motherly. "We both had no idea what was going to happen or how we would deal with stuff during this journey. We had our ups and downs, but I think that's life, and in any situation you would experience that. But with my sister, there was a sense of everything was going to be ok, like always. We always get over our annoyance and disagreements with each other very fast with no hard feelings. It was just a great experience to have with my best friend, my twin sister."

Rhett and Rhenley are keeping Whitney super busy these days (with twins, someone is always hungry!) but she's making time to share her story because she wants other people who can't physically be pregnant to not give up on their dream of being a mom.

"It's not about blood or biologically carrying a kid that makes you a mom, it's the unconditional love, care, and security you give a child that makes you a mom," she explains.

Whitney continues: "Even though you aren't carrying or blood-related, you still have those feelings of babies being yours!"

Whitney calls Jill her best friend and Jill says the feeling is mutual, telling Today that she knows Whitney would have done the same for her if the roles where reversed.

"She's always wanted to be a mom and her disease has already taken so much from her. I wasn't going to allow (NF2) to take this opportunity from her, too," Jill said. "It just felt like the right thing to do. Our family is so strong and so supportive of one another, especially since Whit's diagnosis in 8th grade."

Thanks to Jill, Whitney is now living her dream, taking care of her two adorable babies.

Jill is an amazing sister, and Whitney is already an amazing mom.

[A version of this post was originally published June 14, 2019. It has been updated.]

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A dad's first Father's Day is always special, and Prince Harry is no exception. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex released a new photo of Baby Archie clutching his father's finger.

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It's been just over a month since little Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor came into the world and changed his father's. Shortly after the birth, Prince Harry described new fatherhood as "the most amazing experience I could ever possibly imagine."

This sweet Father's Day Instagram post is the first look at Archie the public has had since the royal family did their post-birth photoshoot in May.

While Archie's mom and dad recently attended the Queen's birthday celebration, Trooping the Colour, little Archie is still a bit too small for such a big party. His older cousin Prince Louis made his first Trooping appearance this year, so we can expect to see Archie at the Queen's birthday parade next year.

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Baby Archie and Prince Louis will likely be together soon for Archie's christening. Reports suggest the event will take place next month at Windsor Castle, the same venue where Archie's mom and dad got married, and where Prince Harry was baptized back in 1984.

We can't wait to see more photos of sweet baby Archie on his big day!

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Do you feel guilty when you don't want to play with your kid? I do.

Do you give in and play with them anyway, all the while checking your phone and wondering exactly how long you have to pretend to be a dinosaur? Or do you say "no" to play time and endure the inevitable whining, coupled with mom-guilt that ensues?

Neither of these options is particularly tempting.

So what's a mom, with a fully developed intellect and adult interests and subsequent lack of interest in playing with toys for 10 to 12 hours a day, to do?

Here are six phrases to try next time your kid wants to play and you need a break.

1. "I will be cleaning the kitchen. You're welcome to join me."

This is my personal favorite and one I use daily. The next time you need to get something done and your child is clinging to you, offer an invitation instead of a dismissal.

Try asking your child to join you instead of saying, "go play." The beauty of this phrase is that it gives your child a choice—they can either be with you and help with what you are doing, or they can go play independently.

Often my toddler will join me for a while and then drift off to play on his own.

2. "I'm not available to play dinosaurs right now. Would you like to read with me?"

While sometimes we simply need to get something done, other times we just honestly do not want to play whatever our child is asking us to. And that is okay.

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There are only so many hours in the day that you can reasonably be expected to play dinosaurs or princesses. If you are available to spend time with your child, but find yourself cringing at the idea of one more game of superheroes, offer an alternate activity.

It's important for children to get the chance to choose the activity sometimes, but it doesn't have to be all of the time. Offer one or two activities that you would genuinely enjoy doing with your child and give them the choice of whether to join you.

3. "I'm going to read for 20 minutes and then I will be able to play Legos with you."

Let your child see your interests too. You don't have to cram your own life and hobbies into nap time and after bed. It's okay, and even valuable, to let them see that you are a whole person with your interests.

Tell them that you want to read or garden or workout for 20 minutes. Invite them to sit nearby, or to play on their own. It helps to start with a very manageable amount of time, like 15 or 20 minutes, and stretch it as your child's ability to play on their own grows.

Your child may sit and whine for the entire 20 minutes. While this can be annoying, it is best not to respond in anger. Try to acknowledge their feelings, but don't give in to their demands. You might say, "I see that you're having a hard time waiting for my attention. Reading is important to me. I'm going to read for 15 more minutes, and then I would love to play with you."

If you do this consistently, your child will get used to the idea that you have needs and interests too.

4. "I don't want to play right now, but I would love to sit and watch you."

Be honest with your child. It's okay if you want to be with them, but don't feel like actively playing. This can be an excellent way to observe how your child plays when left to their own devices. It is also a way for them to share their favorite games with you, without you feeling forced to play something you don't enjoy. Children can tell when we're not having fun, even if we try to fake it.

5. "I would love to play for a few minutes. Then I will need to fold the laundry."

Sometimes children need help getting started. It often works well to play with them for 10 or 15 minutes and then back away to do something else nearby. This allows your child to play independently while also saving your sanity.

6. "Sure, I'll play! You choose the game today, and I'll choose tomorrow."

While we naturally do not share all of our young children's interests, it is important for children to get to choose what we do together some of the time. Create a system where your child chooses sometimes, and you choose other times. Once your child is confident that they will get to decide what you play together sometimes, they will likely let go of the need to always demand that you play certain games.

Bottom line:

The beauty of learning to say "no" to your child's requests to play is that you will enjoy the time you do spend playing together. No one has fun when they feel like they're being forced to do something, even if it's by a 4-year-old.

And the thing is, they can tell. Children know when we want to be there and when we're just phoning it in—we're not fooling anyone.

When I force myself to play, I imagine my toddler feels sort of how I feel when I drag my husband to the farmers market. Yes, we're doing what I wanted to do, but I can tell he's not into it and that kind of takes all the fun out of the experience.

Once you feel the freedom to decide whether or not you want to play, you can choose the times when you do feel like being silly, playing pretend or merely dropping everything to build the tallest tower ever in the whole full world.

And your child? They will know the difference. Their little heart will be so full of playing with you when you want to be there. That's what will stick with them, not all of the times you said no.

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