The Inner Conversation I Need to Have with Myself Every Day.

The Inner Conversation I Need to Have with Myself Every Day.

I am sitting here watching my son play with his friend thinking about all of the things that have blown up this week all while smiling for him. Let’s be honest, there are times when this parenting thing is just hard. Like when you get to the point where you are not sure whether you’re going left or right. Organizing rides to practices, planning meals, working and trying to find 30 minutes to get to the store to get my favorite face wash. Every decision feels wrong and everything seems to be going wrong. What do I do when I feel like this? Sometimes I go behind closed doors and cry then put some makeup on my red nose, throw on my Nikes and get back to it. Other days I don’t hide it from my kids. I let them see the struggles, the frustration and the tears. 

Which one is right? I could argue both. I don’t want them to see me cry or cause them to worry about anything that’s my job as their mom. They are just kids and have enough adult life to worry and stress them out. However, if they see how hard I fight they can gain more appreciation for what they have and what I do for them. The life we live doesn’t come easy. No matter how I respond I beat myself up. I have painted a picture of me being superwoman to the world and now that’s the picture that I see of myself. No room for error even when things are tough. 

I have read article after article about ways to cope when you’re stressed or how to give yourself grace and even how to parent under pressure. When I read those articles I then think, how can I get to the point where I am as put together as those moms? Which either motivates me or makes me feel defeated. 

Ways I Find Peace in the Chaos

So what’s the moral to the story? Finding peace in the chaos looks different for everyone, and that’s ok. It looks different for me every day, and that’s ok too.

I remind myself a few ways:

  • I put sticky notes on my mirrors with positive quotes.

I take time to write down life’s little blessings and put them in a vase to read when things get hard.

Reading those really helps put things into perspective. 

    I call my mom friends and complain about the chaos and then brag about the wins.

    I have found my one release from the world in coaching basketball. Nothing matters to me when I am on the court.

    Building Parental Resilience Is Growing a Better Tomorrow for All Children, Together

    This is what parental resilience looks like for me and it’s built by learning healthy coping skills and strategies to manage your stress and function as well as you can when faced with challenges, adversity and trauma.​ Researchers at The Center for the Study of Social Policy have found that parental resilience is among the five Protective Factors that, when present in families’ lives, have the power to reduce the likelihood of child abuse and neglect and when I think about that, it makes complete sense to me. 

    When I’m not taking care of myself or managing my stress, I know I don’t show up for my kids the way I want to. But, who among us has not felt a little short-tempered, yelled or not been your best-self at moments in front of your kids. Everyone needs to practice self-care, especially parents. 

    Take the time to do little things that bring you calm during the storm. While I complain about the articles saying give yourself grace, it’s so true! I have to constantly remind myself that parenting is not for the weak, so we use the tools we have to make the best decisions we can to strengthen our families and ourselves. This is the pledge I make to myself and I’m sharing my story to grow a better tomorrow for all children, together. 

    Makita Cotto

    Makita Cotto

    Makita is a proud mother of three, human resources manager and high school basketball coach sharing her lived experiences so that children and families can grow and thrive together. She has a deep understanding of what needs to happen at a community level in order to transform systems so that families get the preventative support they need, having experienced the foster care system as a child.

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    Mom, You’re Too Much

    Working in the field of sexual assault prevention can make a mom a tad neurotic, no? When my three were babies, I added anatomically correct body parts to our sing-along songs “Head, Shoulders, penis, Knees and Toes.” My spouse would shake his head and laugh, “You’re too much!” Our parents were horrified. “Really?! You have to add ‘penis’ to a children’s song?!” I shrugged. I knew there was value.

    As they grew, I reviewed safety guidelines with them so often that they used sing-song voices to repeat them back to me. I persisted. They knew that their private parts should not be touched or viewed by others, and that they should not touch others’ without consent. 

    They understood that sometimes other kids and adults break the rules. They knew that abuse was never the fault of a child—at least they repeated that part back to me. They knew it takes courage to tell. “We KNOW, Mom! Stop! You’re too much,” they told me more than once. I worried about that—that my neurosis would translate into heightened anxiety in an already anxious world. I wanted to protect, not frighten. It’s a fine line, and I was never sure how elegantly I walked it.

    When they entered middle school, I taped articles facing in on our glass shower door under the tag, “Mom’s Hot Topic Board”, complete with illustrated flames. The nature and substance of the articles changed over the years as they passed into high school. Articles about kindness turned to anti bullying. Articles about empathy turned to consent. “Be an Upstander!” they would preach. Eventually, the science behind the risks of vaping and marijuana made an appearance, as well as the risks of anal and oral sex. I was met with eye rolls, shocked faces. They couldn’t believe I would broach such sensitive topics. They shook their heads at me and felt sorry for themselves. Their friends’ moms weren’t so weird. 

    In high school, our conversations focused on gender roles, identity and consent. We were well past sex ed. We connected bullying with sexual harassment and assault. We talked about why some survivors would choose not to disclose, why people enduring abuse might not seek help. My law-and-order one was mystified, my secretive one nodded, my contemplative one asked questions about systems. Sometimes their comments gave me a stomachache. This wasn’t easy. They often ended the conversations with “That’s enough!” or a child walking out of the room. I continued to worry. There I was, being a lot again. 

    Now they are all in college. As I hear about parties, dorm life and the Greek system, I wonder – did I teach them enough? Are they equipped? Do they have refusal skills? Are they kind and socially adept? Are they confident upstanders? They have anxiety related to academics, and sometimes social situations, but that’s normal, right? They seem well adjusted, but did I go too far?

    Questions about whether I’m too much ran through my mind until one of them called me from college. A friend had been sexually assaulted at a party. I was devastated to hear it. I asked what they did. My adult child had told the friend, “This is not your fault. It doesn’t matter that you were drinking. We can go to the doctor and you don’t have to report to the police, but I’ll help you if you want to. We can also call the Title IX office or an advocate if you aren’t feeling safe here. You get to control your story. I am here to support you no matter what you choose. You were brave to tell me.” I teared up with pride. They were listening all this time. I’m not too much. I am just enough.

    Creating a Colorado Where Children Grow Up Free From Sexual Abuse: An Issue Brief on the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse in Colorado examines data and trends related to child sexual abuse in Colorado, highlights efforts to prevent this trauma and presents recommendations to advance prevention statewide.

    About the Author

    About the Author

    Margaret Ochoa is a blog contributor helping to illuminate the protective factors in her family’s life by sharing her experiences through storytelling as a mother of three, one of the chairs of the Colorado Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Coalition and the child sexual abuse prevention specialist at Colorado Department of Public Safety.  

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    A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Your Child Baby Sign Language

    A Beginner’s Guide to Teaching Your Child Baby Sign Language

    Have you found yourself unsure of what your baby wants or needs? Baby sign language can help you and your baby communicate before they start talking. 

    What is Baby Sign Language?

    Baby sign language refers to the use of a limited vocabulary of modified gestures from American Sign Language (ASL). The signs typically taught to hearing infants and toddlers are different from the signs taught to children with a hearing impairment. Baby signs enable babies to express wants and needs that are typical of children this age, as well as to identify objects and events infants and toddlers frequently encounter and experience. Signs such as “milk,” “more,” “eat,” “all done,” and many others, are common signs taught to young children. 

    A

    Illuminating Child Care Using Baby Sign Language

    Infants and toddlers in our Illuminating Child Care mobile classrooms are learning baby sign language and so can you! The infant teacher has started teaching the words “more,” “all done,” and “eat” to the infants in our program. Teachers practice these signs in all of our routines throughout the day, especially during feeding times. The babies in our care haven’t mastered these signs yet, so we’ll continue to practice until they can do them independently. 

    Living Your Best Life With Baby Sign Language

    Research from the National Institute of Health shows there are many potential benefits to teaching sign language to a baby, such as less fussing, a closer relationship between parent or caregiver and child, and positive cognitive development. 

      • Less Fussing. Babies may react with tantrums and meltdowns when they can’t communicate with their caregiver. Baby Sign Language allows babies to communicate what they want and need, which reduces frustration for caregiver and child and leaves more time for the caregiver and the child to play and interact positively together. 
      • Stronger Parenting Relationships. Research from the Early Childhood Research Quarterly showed that signing allowed parents to feel closer to their child and increased their confidence about parenting.  
      • Cognitive Benefits. A longitudinal study performed by Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn found that children who used baby signs as two-year olds continued to outperform non-signing children at age eight, including a 12 point IQ advantage and stronger skills in vocabulary development, sentence construction, and reading. 

    Let’s get started!

      1. Familiarize yourself with basic signs. Learn the signs you would like to teach your baby. Resources can be found in books and websites. Teach your baby signs that are relevant and meaningful, such as more, drink, eat, all done, or pacifier. 
      2. Start at an early age. A great time to start teaching a baby signs is when they are 6 months old, but you can teach a baby signing at any age. Most babies, however, won’t begin to start signing on their own until around 8 months of age. 
      3. Model using the signs in everyday life. For example, if your child wants another bite of food, say “more” while modeling the sign, and then give your child another bite of food as reinforcement. Continue to model using this sign every time your baby asks for more food. 
      4. Keep lessons short and sweet! Teaching your child to sign is intended to decrease frustration, so make sure to keep lessons to only about five minutes each. Make it a fun activity with a ton of positive reinforcements. 
      5. Allow the baby to set the pace. It is important not to overwhelm your baby with learning too many signs at once. Be sure to only teach 3-5 signs at a time. Once the baby masters those signs, you can add a few more. 
      6. Stay patient. The goal of baby sign is to provide another form of communication, not to be fluent in sign language. Follow your child’s lead and try not to get discouraged if your child uses the signs incorrectly or doesn’t start using them right away. Continue to work with your child and communicate with them using signs and spoken language daily. 

    Practice at Home

      1. Show your baby the sign while saying the word, then help them to make it with their hands. 
      2. Once your child is able to perform the sign, ask them to show you the sign then give them 5-10 seconds of time to process the request. If she doesn’t perform the sign within 10 seconds, gently help them to make it with their hands and then reward them! 
      3. Always offer a reward or positive reinforcement when your child performs a sign with your help and independently. 
      4. Model the sign and say the word again as reinforcement after your baby performs the sign. 

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    Taking Care of Others Starts with Employee Wellness

    Taking Care of Others Starts with Employee Wellness

    Earlier this year, Illuminate Colorado provided these beautiful branded yoga mats to our staff to welcome in the new year. Not only did they make great gifts, but they actively promoted self-care, highlighting a growing–and important–trend in the workplace.

    The importance of wellness in the workplace is expanding rapidly.  Many companies are starting to realize that a healthier and happier workplace starts with caring about the people who work there–the employees.

    Kaiser Permanente states that “you have an opportunity to improve the health of your employees every day. Making small changes to your workplace and company policies is a great way to start, and it’s where you can make the biggest impact.” More business owners are starting to embrace this idea that facilitating the health of their employees is a great investment for the company as a whole.

    Employee Well-being Through Yoga  

    One way companies are implementing this is by offering yoga, which promotes both mindful awareness and physical fitness.  Many employers are even re-inventing their offices to accommodate its practice.

    A 2017 study by the CDC, discussing yoga and mindfulness, found that “the benefits to everyone involved ripple out from a productive workplace, to a happy home, a more energetic life, and hopefully, a more compassionate society.”

    Some other benefits that were found through this study on mindfulness and yoga in the workplace were:

    • increased awareness,
    • improved mood,
    • reduction of stress and
    • fights illness.

    But yoga isn’t the only option for employee wellness. There are numerous other ways that employers can promote wellness and self-care for their employees, including:

    • accessible fitness,
    • education,
    • benefits,
    • lunches,
    • breaks,
    • team building,
    • massage,
    • cards and notes from supervisors,
    • gifts,
    • time off,
    • flexibility and so much more.

    Support Wellness Where You Work

    We offer free yoga to all of our employees at Illuminate Colorado, along with yoga mats, through our Bloom Yoga program and you can too. This is just one small way that we are supporting our employees at Illuminate Colorado and making sure that we’re all able to do the important work that we do every day.

    How are you taking care of the people around you?  Be creative and support wellness where you work!

    Contact us to learn more about opportunities to partner with Bloom Yoga through trainings, classes or other support in the workplace.

    Sarah Crisafi is the program manger for Bloom Yoga at Illuminate Colorado.

    The Importance of Building Teacher-Child Relationships

    The Importance of Building Teacher-Child Relationships

    Imagine this scenario: A parent drops off their sleeping child at Illuminating Child Care. The teacher and parent transition the child successfully without waking her up.  A few minutes later, the child starts to wake up, noticing that the environment is different and that her mom is not there. Now, we all know what happens next. She starts to cry, looking around and trying to figure out where she is. The teacher, noticing the child’s discomfort, starts to interact with her at eye-level.

    Lead teachers at Illuminating Child Care are building positive relationships with infants and toddlers ages 0-3, just as these kiddos are beginning their first educational experiences. The Center on the Social and Emotional Foundations for Early Learning says that “teacher behaviors such as listening to children, making eye contact with them, and engaging in many one-to-one, face-to-face interactions with young children promote secure teacher-child relationships.” And these types of teacher behaviors are critical to establishing a teacher-child relationship.

    But why are teacher-child relationships important?

    Relationships between a teacher and a child are important because they are built in agreement.  Children agree to show up as themselves and teachers agree to create the environment and experiences to meet their needs.  The child naturally needs to feel comfortable, responded to and loved in their environment. The role of the teacher is to influence the relationship and learn how to positively interact with the child in their care while also responding to the needs of the child. These teacher-child relationships create foundational experiences that influence trust, encourage developmental milestones, social and emotional regulation, healthy interaction and the ability to form secure relationships throughout life. 

    In the scenario described above, the teacher picked up on the child’s needs and immediately started to interact with her by using her name, using warm language and strategies that calm the child.  As the teacher interacts with the child, she begins to respond to the teacher and settles into the environment.  

    In every teacher-child interaction, there is an opportunity to build relationship.  The teacher supported the relationship by assuring the child she is in a safe place and the child responded to the teacher by demonstrating the ability to self-regulate. Teacher-child relationships are important because they are built on trust, familiarity, consistency, and following the lead of the child. Research from the Early Childhood Training and technical Assistance System tells us that “what you do to foster these relationships in your environment, interactions, and routines can have a long-term positive impact on infants’ and toddlers’ development.”

    Teachers play a special role in the lives of children in their care. They create repeated opportunities to build trust in the relationship. And that’s exactly what our Lead Teachers at Illuminating Child Care are doing every day.

    Patsy Bruce is the Child Care Manager for Illuminating Child Care at Illuminate Colorado. 

    Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

    Think You Won’t Fall Asleep? Think Again: Infant Safe Sleep and the Impact of Substance Use

    Few things are more exhausting than a new baby. Increased infant crying, perhaps a few older children to care for, and trying to get back to work after a few short weeks all result in very, very tired caregivers.

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    October is Safe Sleep Awareness month. There has been a great deal of information shared this month around what a safe sleep crib looks like. And although it can sound a bit boring, ensuring cribs are free of objects which could lead to suffocation is worth the mental shift from “cute” to “safe”. Talking with all the family and friends who come in contact with baby about safe sleep practices is important to ensure even good-willed intentions do not lead to tragedy.

    Adding Substance Use to the Mix

    Imagine the last time you were beyond tired. Maybe you found yourself dozing off driving to or from work. Maybe you fell asleep watching a movie you actually wanted to see. Or maybe that last zoom call was just too long to handle. Sometimes our bodies take over even when we have every intention to stay awake.

    Now take a moment and imagine adding substances that can lead to additional depression of the body’s ability to function, like alcohol, marijuana, some over the counter and prescription medications, and illicit substances. When contemplating the use of substances with a newborn in the home (separate from breastfeeding risks and substance use) it is important to be extra vigilant in ensuring your baby has a safe place to sleep.

    49091376951_01ff807bbd_c.jpg

    Caregiving of an infant is exhausting. Falling asleep when feeding a baby on a couch or in bed is not uncommon for a tired caregiver. The impacts and side effects of many common substances increases the risk of positional overlay, which is when a caregiver accidentally rolls over on a baby in bed or on a couch or large chair, suffocating the infant. If you are thinking right now you would totally wake up if you rolled over on a baby, remember the times noted above. You didn’t mean to fall asleep, but you did. And if a caregiver is exhausted, and impacted by substance use, whether they were feeding the baby, or in bed with a baby and an additional caregiver, the risk of positional overlay or entrapment increases. And sleeping on a couch with a baby increases the risk even more, especially when substances are involved.

    Increasing Safety in Sleeping Environments

    According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there are several ways to increase safety in sleeping environments, including:

    • Until their first birthday, babies should sleep on their backs for all sleep times—for naps and at night. 
    • Use a firm sleep surface. 
    • Room share—keep baby’s sleep area in the same room where you sleep for the first 6 months or, ideally, for the first year. 
    • Only bring your baby into your bed to feed or comfort.
    • Never place your baby to sleep on a couch, sofa, or armchair.
    • Bed-sharing is not recommended for any babies. However, certain situations make bed-sharing even more dangerous. Therefore, you should not bed share with your baby if:
      • Your baby is younger than 4 months old.
      • Your baby was born prematurely or with low birth weight.
      • You or any other person in the bed is a smoker (even if you do not smoke in bed).
      • The mother of the baby smoked during pregnancy.
      • You have taken any medicines or drugs that might make it harder for you to wake up.
      • You drank any alcohol.
      • You are not the baby’s parent.
      • The surface is soft, such as a waterbed, old mattress, sofa, couch, or armchair.
      • There is soft bedding like pillows or blankets on the bed.
    • Keep soft objects, loose bedding, or any objects that could increase the risk of entrapment, suffocation, or strangulation out of the baby’s sleep area. 
    • It is fine to swaddle your baby. 
    • Try giving a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. 

    For more detailed descriptions of the above information, visit A Parent’s Guide to Safe Sleep.

    You Are Not Alone

    Being a caregiver for a newborn is exhausting. If you are a parent or caregiver reading this, know you are not alone and that feeling exhausted is normal. It will pass. You will find a new pattern and chances to catch up on sleep over the next few years. Following safe sleep practices now, including limiting substance use, and creating and using safe sleep environments, can reduce the risk of SUIDS and the risks of positional overlay. Reach out to parent groups, family or your community for support. Raising children is beyond hard!

    For more information on resources to help provide safe sleep environments, call 1-800-CHILDREN, 2-1-1, or your local health department. For more information on finding support from other parents, visit CircleOfParentsCO.org.

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