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Author Archive for Gail

Are You Thinking About Changing Jobs?

Changing careers can be scary. Especially when you’re the only breadwinner in your home. What if you don’t like the new position? What are your options? Should you play it safe and stay in the same job? Can you learn the new position quickly? Do you have the hours to put into the job in the first three years to prove yourself?

John was moving out of one home with his family and off to a new neighborhood. He had been with the same company for six years, but his new home was almost double the distance from his job as the old home.

He was torn between starting with a new company closer to the new house, or toughing out the new 40 minute, one-way commute twice a day. Eventually he decided to stay with the old company as he and the family were learning the new neighborhood and home.

His reasoning was that each company he had worked for before looked hard at your performance in the first three years. After three years, as long as he did the job well and didn’t goof off, he was golden.

With the new home and move, he didn’t have the extra hours to put into work to prove himself.

Do you have the time in your life now to change careers, learn new skills and prove yourself to a new boss? Or maybe you feel it’s time to make a career change in your life. Maybe it’s time to spread your wings and try something new.

If you:

  • Feel God is leading you make a change in your life
  • Are chronically tired and exhausted when you get home from work
  • Don’t feel motivated and charged by tackling projects at work
  • Think you can handle greater responsibilities or bigger projects
  • Feel your salary doesn’t make up for the frustration and boredom on the job
  • Believe your talents should be used in another – or more creative – way

Then, maybe it’s time for a change, whether you THINK you have the time to put into developing a new job or not. If you’ve been exhausted and frustrated by the work you’re doing, then a new job may leave you recharged and motivated to work beyond what you’re doing now, and still leave you feeling ready for more.

Whether changing your job or making a shift in your career, you will need a bit of focus, research and fortitude. You won’t get immediate “yes’s” to your applications, not all interviews will go well and you may find after hours of research, that you are exactly where you want to be for the time being.

Step One:

Take an assessment of your likes and dislikes. There are several tests you can take online that will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses and match those with potential jobs or careers. You can’t know where you’re going without first doing some introspection to determine not only where you WANT to go, but also where you will FIT best.

Step Two:

Research! Once you have focused on a path you may want to explore, spend time talking to people who are doing the job, find out how much you may have to learn and more about the nitty gritty of the job and not what you imagine it may entail. For instance, you may romanticize the idea of being in law enforcement, but a future of filling out forms, getting involved in domestic disputes and riding for countless hours in a squad car may not be the reality you envisioned.

Step Three:

Training and education needed. Determine any training, education or certification needed to get and keep this new job. Does this fit in your budget? Can you do it while keeping your old job? Will the new job pay for it, or reimburse you?

Step Four:

Network, network and the network. Do this both online and offline. Linked In, Facebook, and even Instagram can be used to network with people who hold the jobs you want and who may be able to help or point you in the right direction.

Step Five:

Would experience look good on your resume? If you don’t have experience in this new job move, you can always volunteer to acquire the skills and time with the professionals. You may cringe at working for nothing, but in fact you would be the one gaining everything. Your volunteer position is an excellent way to get a quick, free education, network with people in the field, get feedback on your skills and get a good recommendation for your job applications.

Step Six:

Determine to be flexible. From your salary to your location, you may have to make compromises to get the job you want, doing the thing you want. Determine what is negotiable and what isn’t before you start putting your resume out and taking interviews. New employers are more impressed with people who already know what they will and won’t negotiate and may even make significant changes to get you on their team.

If you are willing to learn and have a great rapport with the people doing the interviewing you very well may get the job. Your new boss is building a team of people who do their job well and develop the company into the best it can be.

Can you be that person?

Balance a Romantic Relationship with Children @Home

Dating as a single mom presents so many challenges, the first of which is whether you want to deal with the challenges in the first place!  After I was divorced, my sister told me about some of her friends who decided against dating and relationships until after their children were raised and out of the house. In theory this sounds great, in practice it makes for some long, lonely nights.

BUT . . .

What I learned from my marriage – and you may have learned from yours – is that I would rather be alone and lonely than to be in a relationship that just doesn’t WORK. So jumping into any relationship isn’t the answer either.

Being a single mom, it may feel as if you’re at a disadvantage, but most men (and women) understand that when you reach a certain age, there are likely children involved. In fact, some psychologists warn if a man or woman hasn’t married by their mid-30s it may signal commitment issues, or other baggage that is best left alone.

There are some authors who advise you to put yourself and your future relationships first, before your children, but I would beg to differ on this point. While I do believe it is important to put your own health – mental, physical and emotional – before your children, it should also not be at the expense of your time and energy with your children.

The argument is that a happy well-adjusted marriage leads to happy, well-adjusted children. However, the second time around comes with more challenges than being married to the children’s father, so this is the time to take it slow and encourage your children to verbalize their own fears and desires.

There is a balance you must strike where you are healthy enough to care for your children – and care for yourself – against putting your own needs first all the time. The fact of the matter is that you’ll likely feel a little guilty caring for your own needs, but it’s important you do it anyway, while ensuring your children are healthy and well cared for.

It’s the age old problem women have had for centuries. It has been the lot in life of women who bent toward care giving to think first of the people for whom they are giving care and second for themselves. This often leads to burnout, anxiety, frustration and sometimes anger at the people under their care.

There is a mental transition you must undergo between being a parent and being your own person; but with some creative organization you can achieve exactly that. Be honest with yourself and your future partner about how much time and energy you have to devote to dating. This isn’t a first date conversation, but it should be something you’ve ironed out for yourself before saying yes to the first date.

In essence you’ve moved from dating between two people to dating in a crowd – your children, his children and maybe even more extended family. Suddenly you’re trying to work out whether you and he should stay together while under pressure from all sides. It may feel almost impossible – but it IS possible when you create boundaries for yourself and your partner that you both respect AND you insist that others respect as well.

Step Out in Self-Confidence

You might have thought you were “doomed” to singledom until your children have left the nest, but that would be your choice and not something that is expected, unless you believe that it is where God would have you. That said, it’s time to recognize you are a valuable and very lovable individual who comes with a package of children. In point of fact, there are men who are looking for a ready-made, already-started family, stepping past the up-all-night, diaper-changing years.

What are YOU Looking for?

Know whether you are looking for a partner for yourself or a father for your children. AND recognize that once the children have left the house, you are left with a man you may not have chosen as partner material. You may want to consider other strong male figures in your life to help support your parenthood, while looking for a partner you can stick with as the children leave home.

Make Rules

Before you go on one more date, set about making a few rules for yourself. You ARE valuable, lovable and have quite a bit to offer another person. Be sure you believe that yourself before parading through a list of men. Set rules for yourself and your future dates that include how you expect to be treated, how much time you want to spend with someone, your expectations of the relationship and when/how you want your children or his children involved.

Don’t Jump Too Soon

Don’t get the new guy involved in a parenting role too soon – even if it’s more convenient for him to pick up your son on his way over for dinner. This only blurs the lines for your children and your new guy. Wait until both your son and your new guy think it’s silly that he ISN’T involved.

Children Do What They See, Not What You Tell Them

Behave in the same way you want your teens to act. In other words, if you believe premarital sex is fine, then expect your teen will as well. You can’t hide what you’re doing no matter how hard you try. Those little darlings have radar that works as well as yours. So, while you might think they don’t know what you’re doing – they do. And if you don’t want them doing the same thing, then it’s time to think that maybe you might want to wait as well.

When It’s Time, Leave

We have a tendency to think of the children first, and that includes breaking off a relationship that isn’t working because you don’t want to hurt the children. Change and loss is a part of life for everyone. It’s better that your children see you respecting yourself, experiencing loss while you can support them and love them, than to watch you stay in a relationship where the guy doesn’t honor or respect you, or that may not be going in the direction that is best for your family.

Don’t Force Your Children

Before you start dating and during the relationship, start a few “what if” conversations to elicit their feelings and ideas. “What if I start dating?” “What if Roger’s kids come over on Saturday?” Give your children time to work out how they feel and express it to you – each of us needs time to process information, and sometimes that process happens well when you’re talking it out with them. It’s wise not to force your children to have a relationship with this new man. They may resent him for taking their father’s place, or just be wary of the role this guy may play in your life and theirs. Instead, offer invitations without expectations – “We’re going to the zoo on Saturday, want to come along?”

Stay Balanced

Falling in love is such a delicious feeling – and totally intoxicating. You may be tempted to spend all your free time with your new love, but don’t. This only taps into spoken or unspoken fears your children have that they are losing you – and may make it appear that you are totally available to him. Neither of these scenarios end well. Maintain balance with your children and your new guy and revel in the fact that there are so many people who love you and want to spend time with YOU.

 

 

Protect Yourself Against ID Theft

My sister has experienced this a couple of times – not to the point where her whole identity was stolen, but definitely some of her credit information. She literally spent hours on the phone to straighten everything out, from just one or two credit card charges. You might think it’s just a matter of simply canceling one credit card and having the company reissue another, but that’s the simple picture.

What I learned from my sister – and her hours (I mean HOURS) of phone calls – is that it is better to prevent the problem than to deal with it later. Unfortunately, the problem can sneak up on you rather quickly, even with strategies in place to prevent it.

Of course, there are services you may consider using that monitor your credit information and notify you when something weird shows up. However, in this environment you’ll likely need this and a few more tactics to reduce the potential someone takes your bank account for a roller coaster ride.

Identity theft continues to rise over the years as black hat hackers and abusers get technologically smarter. This is theft without the home break-in and destroyed furniture. Instead, your credit and future may be destroyed.

Here are 13 different strategies you might consider:

Monitoring company

Before jumping on the first company that offers to monitor your credit report and identity, compare and contrast their services and price. Check with your bank too – some offer discounted services for their clients that are automatically deducted from your checking account.

Secure your passwords

Create secure passwords that are not easily guessed, and don’t include any identifying information. For instance, your password should not be the name of one of your children or your dog – unless it’s followed or preceeded by many numbers and symbols. Change your passwords consistently and record the ones linked to your financial information on paper. While several browser add-ons help prefill usernames and passwords on sites that require a login, never store your username and password to sites that have or store your financial information using apps or your browser.

Secure WIFI network

Use only a secured WIFI network, including at home. Secure it with another unique and hard to guess password so people trolling outside your home network cannot login and access your computer. If you are away from your home network, don’t sign in to any site that carries your financial information using WIFI as others can easily access that information. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) while you’re away from home to add another layer of security to your information.

Check your credit reports consistently

You can get regular and free credit reports from the three credit agencies free. MyBankRate and CreditKarma are two places that offer this service. Check at least one of big three companies at least every four months, and sooner if you think something is a little “hinky.” Trans-Union, Experian and Equifax monitor your credit in order to report a numerical representation of your risk to people who may want to do business with you. Identity theft can trash these numbers, disabling your ability to get a loan, rent a car or raise your credit card limit.

Antivirus and antimalware

Using reliable antivirus and antimalware programs on your computer will add a layer of protection against hackers whose aim it is to enter your online domain.

Steer clear of the phish

You may think you wouldn’t fall prey to a phishing email, but they are getting more and more sophisticated with every passing year. I now receive emails that are well thought out, with the proper logos and grammatically correct English. DO NOT click links in emails from any company you do business with – they will send an email asking you to go to their website, login to your account and click a specific button; they will NOT send you a link to click.

Don’t overshare on social media

Going away for the weekend? Have a birthday coming up? Working with a bank for a loan on your new car?  Don’t post this on social media. It doesn’t require too much information for someone to sabotage your efforts and you’ll be driving your old car for years to come.

Shred, shred, shred!

Do NOT leave a paper trail. Shred it all, including but not limited to: credit card receipts, junk mail with identifying information, credit card solicitation and old bills.

Monitor your bank and credit card statements

Keep an eye on how much money you’re spending, because the money leaving your accounts may not be money YOU have spent. Make it a habit to check the statement on the credit card you use the most every day and your other credit cards and statements at least every two weeks.

Verify your mailing address occasionally

Think you aren’t getting as much mail as you used to? Identity thieves may have turned in a change of address to the post office so you don’t get overdue notices.

Set up a fraud alert or freeze

A fraud alert with the three major credit bureaus will essentially force anyone who is trying to access your credit information (like a bank extending a line of credit) to ask more questions. This is definitely not fool-proof, but just another layer of protection.  A credit freeze with these agencies is more effective, preventing any access with any new company doing business with you. However, while it is effective, it also puts up a few speed bumps for you if you’re trying to get any form of credit. It may take up to three days to lift the freeze and continue on your way.

Safeguard your social security number

There are several pieces of information an ID thief may use to access your information and your social security number is a big one. If someone wants to use it to identify you, ask if you can provide another form of ID.

Opt-Out

Get your name and number off as many marketing hit lists as possible. When you get an automated call, wait until the end and ask to be taken off the list. Call the national Do-Not-Call Registry (1-888-382-1222) or go to their website (https://www.donotcall.gov/)  to register your home and cell numbers. Consider cutting back on your junk mail and opt out of credit card solicitations. You can opt out for five years by calling 1-888-5-opt-out or visiting http://www.optoutprescreen.com

 

 

 

Even Kids Can Make Money

When my youngest son, Nick, was 10 years old he began complaining about money – and a lack thereof. His older brother was 15 and working for several neighbors, mowing lawns and doing yard work. At 10, Nick felt he could too.

On some of his jobs, the older brother took the younger, but not often and not often enough for Nick. So, Nick and I sat down one day and talked about how he could make money, and why he might want it.

According to CBN Finance, teaching your children how to make and spend money may make for responsible and financially healthier adults. And, this (my point) may mean your adult children don’t come home to roost for years.

Years ago children had summer jobs, every summer. They saved for college and for their own spending money. Today, the social norm has changed just a bit. More parents are sending their children on summer excursions to enjoy different experiences and provide them with the spending money they need.

Sometimes that’s still possible for single moms, and at other times it isn’t. But, whether it’s financially feasible for you to offer your children this freedom or not, the real question is . . .  should you?

Learning how to make money, save it and spend it is a function of being a financially responsible adult that may be learned at an early age. While it’s important to watch the number of hours your child spends building his own micro-business (so it doesn’t interfere with his school work), it is also important to help him through the process of building it and making it successful.

And you may get a few ideas of what you can do to make some extra money too!

If your child has a desire to attend college, it’s important to note that while many colleges value volunteer work, they also value work experience. Producing a well-rounded college application may be a challenge for a busy high school student. However, even adding a part-time job in the summer may help make your student more attractive to the college of their choice than the next applicant.

Research has also demonstrated that teens who take on a summer job, or part-time job during their school year, go on to careers that are better-suited to their interests as these part-time jobs show them what they like and what they don’t like. These jobs also help them hone their interpersonal and work skills that are transferable from job to job. They learn how to interact with their co-workers, bosses and customers. And they’re able to interact with adults who can provide letters of recommendation to the college of their choice.

Although research demonstrates teens who work up to 30 hours each week have better career prospects after college, it’s important for you to help them balance their work/school and social schedules.

But, what if your child is younger than 15 and not able to work at a structured job? Do younger children have options?

The short answer is YES!

Even at a young age, children who start their own business learn about public speaking, sales, customer service, inventory management, financial management and marketing. Each of these are skills they may use in other jobs and in college.

Children who start their own business also quickly learn the value of research and understanding everything about their product. When any sales person truly understands everything about their product, it increases their confidence and credibility – leading to more sales and better customer service.

Self-esteem anyone?

It started in the 1980s when psychologists began warning of the danger to children who failed – at sports, on school papers, in social situations, or on stage. And thus began an all out war against failure. Many children didn’t experience rejection until they reached high school – and then it came as a big surprise.

Suddenly, without prior experience, children were expected to intrinsically know how to handle being cut from the team – any team.

I am not advocating going in the opposite direction – as I’m afraid may have happened with the growth of social media – but, it is important to understand that we all must face, and learn how to deal with, rejection.

The way in which some children (and adults) have started using social media to bully and bash others in the relative safety of anonymity is not about rejection because your efforts weren’t enough to make the grade – but rather about making someone feel powerful by making someone else feel small.

This is what running your own business teaches you – how to handle rejection from clients, potential clients and customers. In a real world situation your child learns real world skills.

And that alone is worth the price of admission.

Nail Your Next Interview

It can sometimes be overwhelming . . . . most everything falls on your shoulders, including keeping the family financially stable. So, heading into an interview for a new job, or consideration for a promotion, may carry with it more stress than you’d like.

It’s stressful enough to place your ideas and YOURSELF on the line for a new job in front of a stranger – but worse when your success or failure affects more than your career goals – but also your ability to put a roof over your family’s head.

And THAT is one of the biggest mistakes you can make when you walk into an interview.

When I was married, I think the most fun I had was going on interviews. My ex-husband was the primary breadwinner, so it felt more like I was interviewing the company to determine if they fit MY needs than the other way around. This fact alone was probably the biggest reason for my relative success during interviews.

It just didn’t matter as much to me as it COULD have.

Today, interviewing for a freelance writing position causes me more stress than when I sat directly across from a CEO or medical director. My current “interviews” are nothing more than filling out applications, sending samples and answering a few questions. I’ve never spoken to the majority of my clients – but the stress is greater because the risk is greater.

No job, no money, no food, no roof.

Over the years of interviewing in front of single people, groups of people and over a computer screen, I’ve picked up a few tips. I also spent a couple of hours researching other tips from Forbes Magazine, Monster.com, Huffington Post and others to gather as many in one place to help YOU nail that next interview.

Use Your Ears First, Mouth Second

My mother used to say that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason. Of course, my mom wasn’t the first to say this – but it’s the first place I heard it. Interviewing is nerve wracking, and you may be focused on giving a good answer – but your best strategy is to focus on the question the interviewer is asking before forming an answer in your head.

Take a few minutes to notice how your conversations go with your friends in the next weeks. You might notice that you, like almost everyone else, starts forming your answer before your friend even stops talking!  Start listening and then take a minute to form a considered response to the entire question.

Do Your Homework

When you interview with a company you are competing against a number of other candidates that are likely as competent as you are. It’s your job to stand out from the crowd. One way to do this is by learning as much about the company before the interview as possible. In this way your questions for the interview are intelligently formed and your answers pertain to the company culture.

You’ll probably be asked the age old question, “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”  While this pair of questions has been played to death, it will get asked on a regular basis. Forget the answer that turns your weakness into a strength – I’m a perfectionist, I’m too much of an achiever, I work late too often. Instead, answer the question honestly choosing your mildest weakness and a moderate strength.

Ask the Right Questions at the Right Time

The interviewer is interested if you are a good fit for the company and if you’ll excel in their corporate culture – but you are also interested in whether the company is good fit for your particular strengths.

During the interview is a good time to ask questions about the company – not about vacation time, lunch hours or schedules, but rather about the goals this department has for the next year and how your potential position fits into the plan.

Showcase Your Abilities Using the Right Adjectives

Every job position has a “perfect” employee list of adjectives. My son is interviewing for a position and was asked to write a statement about his goals and strengths. So we did a quick online search for the characteristics most sought after in this position. We picked the character traits he actually had from the list and highlighted those in his statement.

Know what the company may be looking for – independent worker, team player, compassionate, conflict resolution, negotiator – and then in short and focused responses to their questions, use the adjectives that define your real skill set in your answers.

Use examples and remember not to drone on – keep the answers short and to the point.

Positive, Positive, Positive

NEVER, NEVER badmouth a former supervisor, employer, company or co-worker – or anyone else for that matter. Your interviewer is looking for someone who fits in their company and can play with a team, even if you’ll need to be an independent worker. Negativity always loses.

Gaps in Your Employment History

Most of us have these, and your interviewer will notice them on your resume. They aren’t the red flag they used to be, but they may be relevant. How you answer depends upon your situation. Were laid off with scores of others? Did you have trouble getting a new job and so took several temporary jobs to tide you over? Be forthright, since being caught in a lie later could spell large amounts of trouble (not to mention that lying is never the answer!), but don’t dwell on the negative of the situation. Instead highlight what you learned from the situation.

Where Do You Want to be in Five Years?

Where DO you want to be in five years? Do you know? While most of America believes everyone is scrambling up the corporate ladder, this may not be your goal. First know where you want to go – or what you want to be in five years. Determine if this is part of the company you’re applying to and work it into your answer.

If it isn’t part of the current company – you’re applying for a CPA position but taking art classes at night and hope to become a sculptor – you might want to mention your love of the arts, how creative you are and how this can be an asset to the company.

After the Interview

Before you leave the interview have an understanding of the company’s timetable and what the next steps will be. If you don’t hear back within that time period, consider following up with the company. Remember to be persistent, polite and patient.

After leaving, send a personal, hand written thank you note to everyone who interviewed you. Get business cards from everyone you speak with and use them to write a short note about the person on the back. When you sit down to write your note you can include a personal comment from the interview. Send them the SAME DAY of the interview, which demonstrates your enthusiasm and organizational skills.

These notes may also be emailed – and depending upon the company may be better if emailed. A tech company will be impressed if you send them from your phone in the parking lot, while a traditional law firm may be more impressed with a hand written note.

Navigating a Relationship at Work

Once you graduate from high school or college, your immediate access to meeting people and forming intimate relationships rapidly diminishes. I remember when I left college and began working in a job heavily weighted with women; I was a nurse on a pediatric unit that was staffed with ALL women.

The only men I saw during the day were medical students, interns and doctors. This was before Internet dating – when personal ads in the paper were all the rage. It felt downright WEIRD to post a 150 character ad about myself, or even to answer one.

But I did it anyway. Being weird hasn’t seemed to stop me from trying something that didn’t put me into too much danger. I couldn’t stomach answering any of the letters that came though – so I didn’t meet anyone.

It was two years after graduation and I wasn’t meeting anyone. I had broken an engagement with a man who had hid his alcoholism (and later grew into a successful motivational speaker) and was meeting absolutely no one.

I didn’t go to bars because I didn’t want to meet someone who enjoyed going to bars. I never had time to talk with any of the male doctors who visited our unit and meeting guys anywhere else just didn’t seem to be happening.

In the interim I got a dog to keep me company at night. And then my neighbor introduced me to a guy she worked with and within 9 months I was married. To say it was fast is an understatement – engaged at three months. And, definitely something I would never do again – or recommend that you do either.

No matter how much you think you love someone – there are things you learn over time and you want to learn them BEFORE you get married.

So now you’re left with meeting guys through your friends (who likely work in the same place you do!), online or in other groups you may belong to.

My sister and brother-in-law met at work. I have two other friends who met their spouses at work. But I also know several who dated guys at work and when it ended the work environment was poisoned by their dislike of each other. It wasn’t long before the boss was asking one or the other to transfer or quit – or just act like they didn’t know each other.

My ex-sister-in-law and brother-in-law made a decision early in their relationship that was incredibly mature – and required one of them to make a compromise. Once they started dating and realized it could be serious, one of them transferred out of the department.

Have you ever watched the tv series “The Office”? In the sit-com, there are several relationships that come and go, and one that culminates in a marriage. But, at almost no time does this small office deteriorate after one women is found to be engaged to one man and sleeping with another. Nor does the atmosphere become toxic when one woman has an on-again off-again relationship with a guy in the office.

But this is NOT reality.

When relationships dissolve there is usually one party who feels they’ve been wronged – and that person will likely have a difficult time accommodating to working in the same place as the person who – cheated, left them for someone else or decided they were not looking for a serious relationship.

So how can you navigate having a relationship and still keeping your job?

Here are 5 tips to get your started . . .

Check your HR policy:

Some workplace policies forbid dating co-workers. In some companies you have to notify HR and sign an agreement. But, most companies DO have an HR policy about dating people who work in the same department – and sometimes in the same company.

Stay away from flirting in the office:

You might have a relationship with someone outside the office, but everyone in the office isn’t interested in watching your romance blossom. Flirting, touching, and other public displays of affection are in bad taste and bad manners. They also make it more difficult to go back to working together if the romance fizzles.

Avoid conflicts of interest:

Dating your direct superior – or the person ABOVE your direct superior can make it difficult for the people in your office. When I worked at a hospital in Indianapolis one of the people in my office was dating a manager three levels above me. It didn’t bother me, but it irritated my boss no end. She kept thinking Sue’s boyfriend and then husband would get upset with her if Sue felt slighted in the least.

People react differently so it’s best to avoid any conflict of interest and to remember that, for the most part, relationships are very important in life. If this relationship feels like it might be serious, it could be worth discussing a transfer or a different job with your amour.

Prioritize your schedule:

Working all day with someone, and then seeing them in the evening can quickly become overwhelming. Plan your time and schedule so you each have time to be apart from each other, which will help your relationship to grow.

Avoid gossip:

This is good advice no matter what. If you and your guy do break up, steer clear of talking about him at work, gossiping about what he’s done or is doing. This is a two pronged problem – if people hear you gossiping they will assume you also will gossip about them. And it’s likely the gossip will get back to your guy.

Of course you need to talk it out – so choose a good friend, talk with them and then let it go. The advice is easy – the execution may be more difficult.

The Power in Vitamin D

 

I remember when information about vitamin D began hitting the media. The “Big Idea” was that although vitamin C was important to your immune system and preventing colds and the flu, vitamin D may be even more important.

Over the following years, and reading past research, it turns out vitamin D has more power than you may have learned in the popular media – and there are forms of the vitamin you can purchase on the store shelves that may be dangerous to your health.

It occurred to me that while health and wellness information is incredibly important to us as single mothers, this topic was one that should be addressed more sooner than later. After all, we are the teachers, drivers, cooks, housekeepers, chief breadwinners and a myriad of other roles – none of which you can afford to take a day off from.

In the past years I’ve ghostwritten quite a bit about vitamin D for different physicians. It’s time I shared some of this information with my own readers, whose families may ultimately benefit from the knowledge.  Because there is so much, I’m going to list out the more important points first. In the coming months we might cover more to help you keep your health tip-top.

Despite the name, vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that your body naturally manufactures with exposure to the sun, or from some of the foods you eat. Many of the abilities of this steroid hormone is due to the ability it has to influence your genetic expression.

To break that down . . . you have genes and DNA that determine specific ways your body acts and reacts. Your genes can be turned on or off by environmental factors and nutrients – including the bacteria living in your gut and vitamin D.

When your gut bacteria contains too many unfriendly bacteria it can adversely affect your health through genetic expression. The same is true of vitamin D. When your levels are not optimized, your genes are turned on or off depending upon the availability of the hormone.

Vitamin D is also involved in the biochemistry of all cells and tissues in your body – so when your body doesn’t have enough, your entire system struggles to function optimally. As a general rule, it’s best to optimize your vitamin D levels naturally – through exposure to the sun. However, working inside, living in the northern hemisphere and winter weather prevents most people from achieving this goal.

The BEST way to get vitamin D is from the sun.

Although traditional medicine would like you to believe damage from the sun leads to melanoma (one of the most aggressive forms of skin cancer with a high fatality rate), the truth of the matter is that it’s much more complicated than that.

Safe sun exposure will actually reduce your risk of developing melanoma. The real damage happens with sunburns, which you should avoid at all costs. Instead, getting sun exposure during the warmest times of the day for short periods helps your body produce vitamin D and several other biochemical reactions that keep you healthy.

Not all sunscreen is created equally

In fact, most sunscreen contains nanoparticles of chemicals designed to sink into your skin and prevent sunburn. Unfortunately, your body absorbs those particles, increasing your risk for disease over time. Instead, check out the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep Cosmetics Database for a sunscreen that meets your needs to prevent a burn, but doesn’t increase your risk of exposure to toxic chemicals and disease.

Some sunscreens are actually linked to higher risk of skin cancer, especially those containing retinyl palmitate, synthetic fragrances and oxybenzone. The substances that are safest for the environment and for your skin contain zinc oxide or titanium dioxide – but not with nanoparticles!

If you supplement, it’s important to choose the right one

Research has demonstrated those who use vitamin D2 supplements (which are sold over the counter), have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and heart attack than those who use no supplement or those who take vitamin D3.

The safest form of supplement to take is vitamin D3, which is more bioavailable to your body and more bioactive once absorbed. The only way to know that you are taking the right amount of vitamin D3 is to have a serum (blood) test done. Your blood levels should be between 50-70 ng/ml.

Include vitamin K2 MK-7 with vitamin D3 supplement to protect your arteries.

Normally, your body manufactures vitamin D from the sun in a form that doesn’t create problems in your blood vessels. However, the supplement form needs vitamin K2 in the MK-7 form to prevent hardening of the arteries. Be sure that it’s the MK-7 form. The usual combination is 100 mcg of K2 for every 1000 IU of vitamin D3.

Cancer, Multiple Sclerosis, Macular Degeneration and more affected by vitamin D

The importance of normalizing your vitamin D levels can’t be overstated. Research in the past decade have pointed to less than optimal levels of vitamin D levels associated with specific forms of cancer, in the active growth of many different cancers, macular degeneration, multiple sclerosis and more.

Health conditions rooted in chronic inflammation are affected by your vitamin D levels. Rheumatic diseases, bowel diseases and pregnancy are also included in the list of conditions affected by your level of vitamin D. In fact, one study demonstrated that pregnant women who had low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have children with developmental language difficulties.

Low levels of vitamin D linked to premature death and dementia

Researchers found those with lower levels of the vitamin doubled their risk of premature death from all-cause mortality than those with optimal levels of the vitamin. Vitamin D also plays an important role in your brain health. People with low levels have an increased risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Vitamin D is essential for mineral balance in your body

Minerals are essential for your body to function and prevent disease. In order to keep your minerals balanced, you need optimal levels of vitamin D.

 

At this point it may have become obvious that most of your bodily systems are interrelated.

This means that addressing problems in one area of your body, without considering how it may affect the rest of your functioning is a poor choice. Unfortunately, it’s exactly how modern medicine has evolved over time. It is only recently that some physicians are beginning to recognize that creating an imbalance in one area may negatively affect the rest of your body.

This becomes very obvious when you consider side-effects from many of the medications being sold by pharmaceutical companies. In order to reduce your blood pressure, the medication may cause a whole host of side-effects and problems – most of which your doctor wants to treat with more medicine that have more side-effects.
The ultimate answer is to address the health of your whole body and not see your body as a conglomeration of  individual systems.

The Four Hour Parent

If you think about it – on most days, you spend about four hours a day with your children. This means you must pack each of those hours with as much wisdom, love and teaching as possible – without your children THINKING you are packing the time with lessons and ‘work.’

Unfortunately, your time is limited and you likely don’t spend even those four hours each day with your children. In fact, while it might seem difficult to believe, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics study, parents spend less than 5 minutes a DAY in deliberate conversation with their children.

Ask them how their day went after school and you’ve used up your five minutes for the day. Forget about dinner together or interacting after dinner. Forget about breakfast in the morning or sending them off to school – according to these statistics the AVERAGE parent spends less than five minutes a day in deliberate conversation with their children.

Now think about the fact that the statistic is about the AVERAGE parent. There are parents who spend more and those who spend even less time talking with their children each day.

It’s mind boggling.

The Office of National Statistics tells us we spend between two and two and a half hours a day with our spouses (when we had them). This means we spent 24 times more time with our ex’s than we did or do with our children – on average.

That doesn’t mean these statistics reflect your behavior – but they do reflect the average behavior of parents in the U.S.

As parents of the next generation of adults who will eventually run this country (now THAT’S a scary thought!) – it is our responsibility to give them the tools they need to become productive, moral and ethical adults.

How can you do that in less than five minutes a day?

I’m proposing that you can’t – that it takes more time than five minutes to communicate and share your ideas about morals, work, ethics, sex, femininity, masculinity, relationships, education, music, appreciation, athletics, art, fun and all the other ideas and information you have floating around in your head.

I’m proposing that as parents we have to take back our children from the digital world into which they have immersed themselves if we want to have a hope that the next generation and the one to come after that will know how to conduct themselves as reasonable and educated human beings.

I’m sitting at the orthodontist office now, while my daughter is getting her braces worked on. As a dental assistant has her hands deep in her mouth, attaching bands and stringing wire, I’m trying to string three thoughts together.

Have laptop, need Wifi, will travel.

It’s one of the ways I use as much of my time each day so that I HAVE more than five minutes to eat dinner with her and learn what’s going on in her pretty little head.

I’ve had an interesting advantage of watching four children grow over the past years. In those years my oldest didn’t get their first cell phones until they were 16 – and they were flip phones 🙂 My middle boy got his when he was 11 so I could find him as he was running the neighborhood playing football, basketball and swimming with his five friends.

Each of them used their phones for functional reasons – to call me or text their friends.

My youngest got her first phone when she was 10 also – it just didn’t have any service. She spent hours on free text aps that worked over Wifi, Snapchat, Instagram and any other imaging social network.

It was just a couple months ago she got cell service – but nothing changed. She doesn’t use her phone for calls. She texts, messages, uses Snapchat or Instagram – and she has her face buried in that thing as long as I let her. Netflix, Youtube and Amazon are her other three favorite aps/sites to visit.

Having a relationship, including meaningful conversation, with her means her phone is in her lap and NOT in use. Last week I walked out of my son’s room twice when he started texting a friend while talking with me. He doesn’t do it anymore. Of course, he’s 25 and learns more quickly than my 13 year old!

We were talking about our vacation this past week and I let her know that while we’re away she could have her phone for 20 minutes in the morning in the hotel and about an hour before bed – otherwise, our vacation would be digital free.

Although she wasn’t happy, there was also a glimmer of something else when she understood I meant what I said. I’m not sure what it was, but it looked good to me.

Your child might be home and awake an average of four hours each day (the rest of the time closeted in their room or at school), but realistically, you have four hours a WEEK to parent your child, not four hours a day.

And in those four hours, it falls to you to teach your sons and daughters how to make responsible decisions, how to integrate their sexuality with how they think about themselves, how to look to the future while learning lessons from their past (and your past), and to build character in them that will withstand the ravages of school, jobs, relationships and their own self-doubt.

Sort of a monumental task?

That’s why it DOES take a village to raise a child. No one person can do everything for their children – even if there are two parents in the house.

Over the years I’ve learned to rely on other people in my children’s lives. Mr. L. taught at my children’s extension program when he developed cancer. Unable to care for his immense yard, he called on my oldest son to help. Zachary, and then Nicholas, worked for him for years – painting, mowing lawns, building a barn, putting up Christmas trees and even hanging out laundry.

They watched him deal with his wife’s sharp tongue with love and grace – and learned how to do that themselves.

Megan was a mother’s helper and then consistent babysitter for a family up the street for five years before moving to college. She got a front row seat in a relatively functional marital relationship.

Nicholas has become an adopted son in his best friend’s family. They’ve been friends since they were in fourth grade – and now they’re both in college. They take him on vacation, he sleeps over and he worked with his friend in his sound business.
Unfortunately, there were as many bad experiences for each of them with other adults as there were good ones – but the good ones certainly outweighed the bad.

I suppose that is the point – you CAN be a good parent in the short amount of time you have between work, school and after school activities WHEN you choose your words, are intentional with your communication and choose other people who will interact with your children.

I didn’t always know how to do that well, and since other people are important to the life lessons your children learn, it’s also important you choose these people intentionally.

Coaches, bosses, teachers, friend’s parents, and anyone else who spends time with your children are fair game for imparting knowledge and wisdom. The question is whether it’s the wisdom you would have shared.

Watch these people. Talk with your children about how they’re being treated by them. Keep the lines of communication open between you. I didn’t learn about a coach that was verbally abusing my son in the locker room until he had graduated from high school.

He thought he could handle the situation. He did – but it was years before his self-esteem recovered. We could have avoided years of rebuilding if I had been more observant or if he had been more forthcoming.

So, yes, you can parent your children in four hours a day. And, in this day, it’s almost a necessity to be as focused and productive as possible. Watch their behavior, be aware of the adults they interact with, watch their grades and be intentional in your interactions with them.

Every minute is precious.

Every moment is worth it.

Dealing with Harassment at Work

Working in corporate America is never easy. It’s almost like being a parent actually. You have to balance your workload, learning new software or strategies, keep up with changes in your department, be friendly with your co-workers, and sometimes, you have to deal with people who aren’t acting their age.

Harassment comes in many forms in the workplace. You may encounter someone who wants your job and will stop at nothing to get you out of the way. Or maybe you have a coworker who just doesn’t like you and makes sure you and everyone else in the office knows how they feel. Or you may have someone who has set their sights on getting you into bed.

Sexual harassment has received the most press over the years, but there are other types that are just as unlawful as off-color jokes, inappropriate touching or the use of indecent gestures or suggestions. The U.S. Department of Labor also considers an exchange of favors to be unlawful – such as being fired for not sleeping with the boss, or demoted if you don’t participate in a religious activity.

However, while these instances are unlawful, you may also be faced with non-sexual or non-religious harassment that makes the workplace almost unbearable. Short of filing a lawsuit or quitting to rectify the situation, there are other options you may pursue that aren’t nearly as drastic.

Several years ago  − ok, more than several years − I was working as a liaison between a hospital and an outside agency, while heading up a treatment team that reported to a manager who didn’t understand any of what the position was responsible for. It was an interesting position to find myself in, and not a fun one.

I was in the position for a little over two years before the situation got so bad I felt forced to quit. One of the people on the team, who didn’t report directly to me, enjoyed talking about me to her new best friend – my boss. We ended up in mediation at the hospital, as mandated by my boss. The mediator told my boss I was not to blame, but my boss still made me apologize to the woman in front of the medical director.

It was a nasty situation and one I was blessed to be able to leave rather quickly once I made up my mind to go.

Interestingly, the woman my boss chose to take my place left her previous place of employment after embezzling from the organization and was subsequently fired “for cause” within six months.

During my tenure at the treatment center, and after I left, I researched some of the strategies I could use in order to address the issues − or at least reduce the problems it was causing in my life. Although I followed many of these suggestions, it didn’t work out for me. Hopefully, if you’re experiencing some type of harassment these suggestions will help you.

 

  1. Your first tactic is to become familiar with the harassment policy in effect at your place of work. When you know what and who at work can help you resolve the situation it can reduce your initial anxiety.
  1. You must consider how to protect yourself – both your job and your personal safety. If you even think the harassment MIGHT involve your personal safety, it’s important you pay attention.

Never publicize where you’ll be or where you are online or social media. Change your locks, let the police know your concerns and file a report, let your neighbors know, screen your calls and put a recording app on your phone. Since recording phone calls without the person’s knowledge is illegal, be sure you let people know if you record the conversation. Don’t answer the phone when you don’t recognize the phone number – if they really want to get in touch they’ll leave a message.

  1. Confide in someone about what’s happening at work. This gives you an objective eye to the situation and the support you’ll need moving forward. Talking is always the answer.
  1. Make it clear to the person who’s giving you trouble that you consider the behavior harassment. Be sure to have the conversation when there is another person present who can attest to what was said. You may not be comfortable with direct confrontation, so you may want to practice what to say and how beforehand.
  1. Don’t apologize for saying you’re uncomfortable with the other person’s behavior. You have nothing to apologize for – and if you do apologize, the other person may see it as a sign of weakness, increasing the harassment. If you HAVE something you should apologize – then do it. Otherwise, stick with the facts.
  1. Talk about the behavior you don’t like and not the person. Ask them to stop any contact with you and any conversations they are having about you behind your back.
  1. If you must communicate with this person at work, be sure your direct boss knows exactly what’s happening. Document all conversations. Save all emails and write down all phone or personal conversations with dates, times and subject.
  1. If a simple conversation with the individual isn’t enough to stop the behavior, then request mediation from your workplace. If a mediator isn’t part of the staff, your employer can bring one to your workplace resolve the situation.
  1. If the harassment doesn’t stop or is unlawful, you’ll want to report it to your manager (or your manager’s manager if it’s your boss doing the harassing) and to human resources. If the situation doesn’t resolve, seek the advice of an attorney well-versed in the subject. Your employer may be liable for any harassment perpetrated by a supervisor if they are notified and take no action.

Going through a situation in which you feel you’re being harassed or treated unfairly at work is disconcerting and difficult. Although you may not want to, leaving may be the only choice you have. If your workplace continues to allow this type of behavior to continue, then it’s ingrained in the culture of the community and no matter how much you fight the current situation, it’s likely not to change. In this case, leaving may be the only option that will give you relief from the harassment.

10 Secrets Fitness Trainers Use to Reduce Belly Fat (Part 2)

Last week I shared the first four proven strategies to reduce belly fat or visceral fat. Remember, this type of fat is different from other types on your body – and definitely more dangerous.

Here are the last six strategies. Remember, you aren’t seeking common strategies for weight loss as these will not remove the fat twisted around your internal organs. Instead, it’s important to support your body function, reduce cortisol secretion and protect your body from producing visceral fat.

  1. VITAMIN C

Vitamin C is easy to buy, inexpensive and has multiple benefits.  It’s a water soluble vitamin that is found naturally in some foods and added to others. Supplements in the store can be in pill or chewable form and it is an essential vitamin because we are not able to manufacture it in the body.

Vitamin C is necessary in the production of collagen (gives your skin that youthful appearance), in boosting your immune system, as an antioxidant to help reduce oxidative stress that leads to cancer and cardiovascular disease, improves the absorption of iron from foods and most recently has been linked to reducing physical and psychological stress.

People who have high levels of vitamin C in their bodies do not have the expected mental and physical signs of stress when subjected to challenges.  And, vitamin C plays a role in stabilizing blood sugar levels, which also plays a role in the release of cortisol. [See #6 Glycemic Index below]

The amount of supplementation used in the studies was 1000 mg which is a far cry from the 60 mg recommended by the RDA. However, the RDA recommendations are to prevent scurvy while the 1000 mg dose is for preventive care. Before adding supplementation to your diet check with your physician and pharmacist to be sure that Vitamin C will not interfere with any other underlying medical condition or medication that you may be currently taking.

Vitamin C is found in fresh uncooked fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and red and green peppers. Vitamin C cannot be found in animal food and is destroyed by heat and exposure to light. Fruits such as papaya, strawberries, broccoli and tomatoes are also high in vitamin C.

 

  1. GLYCEMIC INDEX

Carbohydrates are also necessary to fuel your body, but like all other things, you can get too much of a good thing. Foods that are high in carbohydrates will increase your blood sugar and spike your insulin production. This increases the release of cortisol as well. So, while you may be interested in foods that are low in carbs for dieting, it is actually the reduced production of cortisol that gives you the best bang for your buck when it comes to belly fat.

The glycemic index is actually a numerical value placed on food to indicate the degree to which it will increase your blood sugar and cause insulin production. The lower the glycemic index the lower the blood sugar value to the food.

 

  1. ALCOHOL & CAFFEINE

There is a relationship between the release of cortisol in the body and alcohol and caffeine consumption. Alcohol stresses your liver, makes you sleepy and robs you of your motivation. It reduces your desire to eat the right foods and you are more tempted to eat and snack on foods that you otherwise wouldn’t.

There is also a relationship between larger amounts of alcohol consumption and activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) which can result in the excretion of cortisol.  Researchers found that large amounts of alcohol consumption were associated with activation of the HPA axis in the days following the consumption and not on the day.

Caffeine will have similar results in the body. Repeated dosing of caffeine in a single day will markedly increase cortisol levels, regardless of the stress or sex of the individual.  However, research has found that a tolerance develops to the amount of caffeine and reduces the amount of cortisol that is produced.  However, they did not account for increasing amounts of caffeine to get the same stimulatory effect and whether that also increased the amount of cortisol secretion.

The take away here is to reduce or eliminate your intake of both alcohol and caffeine to reduce your body’s production of cortisol and reduce your belly fat.

 

  1. THE FOUR FATS

There are four basic types of fats in the foods we eat . . . trans fat, saturated fat, polyunsaturated fat and monounsaturated fat. And, each of the different types of fat has a different metabolic reaction in the body.

In a study published in Diabetes, researchers found that subjects who ate saturated fats [cheese, pizza, grain based desserts, dairy based dessert, burgers] built more fat and less muscle than those who ate polyunsaturated fats [plant based foods and oils]. The fat composition of the foods we eat influences where and how the fat is stored in the body.

Monounsaturated fats are the healthiest type of fat that you can eat. Your body and brain need fats to function, but you must eat the right kinds of fats.  In research published in Diabetes Care, scientists found that people who ate 25% of their fats from monounsaturated fats gained no visceral fat over the course of the study.

Examples of monounsaturated fats include avocadoes, most nuts and seeds, olive oil, canola oil and peanut butter.

 

  1. LONELINESS

Feelings of loneliness and depression can elevate your stress hormones, both long term and short term. Loneliness and depression are symptoms of other parts of your life that are not in balance.

In a study released from Northwestern University, researchers found that adults who went to bed lonely woke up with a boost of cortisol, the stress hormone. In the short term these researchers theorize that the extra release of hormone may give these adults the boost they need to meet the demands of the day.

Unfortunately, this is true only on a short term basis. When we go to bed lonely and depressed more nights than not, it only chronically elevates our cortisol levels and then triggers the deposits of visceral fat.

If you are experiencing loneliness in your life it’s time to take action!

Join an exercise group.
Join a reading club.
Meet up with friends at a coffee house.
Join a gym and take classes.
Join the YMCA and take crafting classes.
Do volunteer work.
Join church group.
Volunteer at your church.

The more you get out and experience life outside of yourself, the faster you’ll meet people and reduce your loneliness.  If you have feelings of sadness or depression that won’t go away with a good night sleep or visit with friends, strongly consider exploring the reasons why with a good psychotherapist. It could be just what your belly fat needs!

 

  1. HERBS

Herbal supplements have been used for centuries to do everything from cure the common cold to lowering blood pressure. Reducing stress levels and cortisol levels is not different.

Specific herbs have been used to help you balance and protect your body responses to many different kinds of stressors. But, although herbs are natural, they are not inert or inactive. This means that there can be interactions with any other drugs, medications or supplements you are taking. So before adding anything to your regimen you must talk with both your doctor about any underlying medical conditions and your pharmacist about any drug interactions.

Ginseng is the best known herb to help improve mental performance and reduce stress.  Ashwaganda is also known as Indian ginseng and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over 2500 years. It also helps to reduce your cortisol levels and deal with stress in your life.

Other herbs that help to buffer stress are Astragalus, Holy Basil, Rhodiola, Valerian and chamomile and lemon balm tea. Each of these herbal supplements have advocates and detractors. The important thing for you to do is your homework!

Take the advice of friends, relatives, homeopathic physicians and chiropractors – BUT do your own research into the effectiveness and side effects of the herbs before starting anything.

The only person responsible for your health is you.

You have to make the decisions about what you take and what you do in order to make changes in your lifestyle.

 

NOW WHAT?

Now, it’s time to review the 10 different strategies you should use to reduce your belly fat, your blood sugar spikes and your health risks to achieve a new, leaner and more energetic you.

Make a list of things you need to do every day and then do them!  These are small things that make big differences.

  1. Stress reducing practices
  2. Lots of water.
  3. 30 minutes of exercise a day.
  4. 8 hours of sleep.
  5. Vitamin C supplement
  6. Foods low in glycemic index.
  7. Reduce alcohol and caffeine.
  8. Monounsaturated fats in your diet.
  9. Get out and make friends.
  10. Consider herbal supplements.

 

 

 

 

 

10 Secrets Fitness Trainers Use To Reduce Belly Fat (Part 1)

Health and wellness is incredibly important to me. In fact, the older I get, the more important it is!

Belly fat is something I thought I struggled with, until I learned I had a uterus the size of a six month pregnancy filled with a benign tumor. Once the tumor (and uterus) was removed, I was a bit more productive about losing belly fat.

In the process, I did a LOT of research into what it was and how to get rid of it. In the past weeks we talked about what belly fat is – and today I want to share the secrets fitness trainers are using to help their clients lose belly fat.

HOWEVER, while I thought this would be one article, it turned out to be so long I’m splitting it into two. So – strategies one through four are today and five through 10 are next week.

**********************

One fairly common misconception is that belly fat will disappear when you have rock hard abs. In case of fact, the opposite can be true. You can have rock hard abs and still have belly fat. And, how much fat you carry around your midsection, no matter how hard those muscles are, is an indication of your risk for illness and disease.

One of the primary triggers to put on belly fat or visceral fat is stress. When your cortisol levels spike you tend to gain weight in your midsection and stress is one of the primary reasons your body releases cortisol.

In the fast paced world in which we must all function, some of us have become stress addicts.  It’s not that we choose to live a life of stress and anxiety . . . but we might be addicted to the REASON for the stress.

Here are 7 signs that cortisol just might be your drug of choice:

  1. You aren’t sleeping well and wake up tired.
  2. You are gaining weight around your middle; you might be in the normal weight range but you still have this extra tire, despite the fact that you eat well and exercise.
  3. Your back hurts, your head hurts and you just feel blue.
  4. Your immune system can’t defend against colds and other infections.
  5. You crave sugar, sugar, sugar
  6. You don’t even think about sex anymore
  7. Between your stomach and your anxiety you don’t know which is worse

However, some of the ways you can both relieve stress reactions in the body and reduce visceral fat just might surprise you.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal gland that sits at the top of the kidneys. This hormone is necessary to maintain your blood pressure, your immune function and is important in the body’s anti-inflammatory process. However, cortisol is also primarily responsible for activating our ‘fight or flight’ response. Under chronic stress these levels remain high and make you more susceptible to disease and visceral weight gain.

So, let’s get started reducing your chronically high cortisol levels, belly fat and improving your overall health.

But. . . . . before we start . . . .

Remember, it took more than one week to put on visceral fat and it will take more than one week to remove it. The strategies that personal trainers use are meant to be life-long lifestyle changes that will not only remove the fat but maintain your new weight, body and health for years to come.

As you go through this list, don’t look for a miracle pill or process you can do 2 times a day for 20 days to get rid of your belly fat. Instead, do each of these 10 steps. Incorporate them one at a time if you have to . . . . but, do them, keep doing them, and you’ll start seeing the results.

Don’t give up! The only one who loses if you give up, is you.

If you mess up one day, you haven’t messed up the whole process. You’ve just messed up one day.  There are 365 days in a year. You haven’t failed until you’ve messed up and then refuse to get back to the process you know will work.

Each individual is different. In your case, you may see results in days or it might be weeks. The important thing to remember is that if you don’t give up you WILL SEE RESULTS.

  1. STRESS

Stress increases your cortisol levels because it triggers a chronic fight or flight response in the body.  Many of the following strategies are aimed at reducing both your stress levels and your cortisol levels to reduce the amount of belly fat that you have.

There are several ways different techniques you can use to reduce your perception of stress.  Slowing your breathing during the middle of stressful situations will help to reduce the tension in your body. Focus on exhaling your breath slow and steady. Tell yourself to ‘slow down’ and relax. Over time you’ll find that you are expert at releasing stress and moving forward. You’ll also be more productive and creative in finding solutions to the stress if your body isn’t flooded with cortisol.

Close your eyes for a few minutes and imagine the stressful situation being trapped in a balloon and floating away. The idea is not to eliminate the situation but to reduce your perceived stress over the situation so you are better able to find creative solutions.

Play soothing music during the times of the day when you are most stressed.  This may not be your favorite type of music, but it should be music that helps your mind and body to relax. Use an mp3 player if playing music out loud is not acceptable.

Consider seeing a psychotherapist to learn more ways of reducing your perception of stress during stressful situations.

  1. WATER

Believe it or not, water is one of the easiest ways to reduce your stress and reduce the physical stress on your body.  More than 50% of your body is made up of fluids.  Your kidneys need water to flush toxins out of your body. All of your organs, including your brain, need water to function.

Researchers have found that when the body is dehydrated it will release cortisol. (5)  The cortisol will reduce your ability to deal with everyday stress, which in turn triggers the release of more cortisol.  It’s a vicious cycle.

The normal water requirement for your body is 8 8-oz glasses or 8- 240 cc glasses of water per day. That requirement goes up if you drink any fluids that are naturally dehydrating, such as alcohol or caffeinated drinks, if you exercise intensely or if you live in a very warm climate.

Get in the habit of drinking about 12 ounces or 360 cc of water every couple of hours.  You might measure out the amount of water you want to drink in a day and place it in a pitcher on the counter or in the refrigerator if you enjoy cold water. Be sure to drink the entire pitcher by the end of the day.

If you like flavored water, add a slice of lemon or lime to the pitcher. Drink cold water if you like it because it burns more calories than room temperature water. But, it’s more important to drink the water than to drink it cold. Make drinking a glass of water as soon as you get up a morning ritual. Most of us are dehydrated by the time we get out of bed in the morning.

It is an easy method of reducing the amount of cortisol your body excretes, reducing the toxic load on your kidneys and keeping your skin cells plump and youthful looking.  However, all of your stress related factors won’t automatically disappear, but your body will be better able to handle the stress of dealing with them.

  1. EXERCISE

Exercise has more than just one benefit. And there is more than just one type of exercise you can do to reduce your cortisol levels and burn off your belly fat.

In the first place, exercise will help you to reduce your overall stress level and therefore reduce the amount of cortisol released each day.  However, new research has found that cardio exercises greater than 20 or 30 minutes will have the opposite effect on your body!

Long steady-state cardio exercising – running, rowing, biking, jogging, treadmill and elliptical trainers to name a few – will actually help your body to store more belly fat because it raises your level of cortisol!

The amount of time you should spend doing cardio activities will vary depending upon who you listen to – but the best person to listen to is your own body.  If you haven’t been able to peel off the pounds after pounding away at cardio activities for 30 minutes or more every day then it’s probably time to change it up.

Your body will become accustomed to doing the same thing over and over each day – and therefore adapt to the calorie burn. This means, to get the calorie burn you are looking for you have to change out your routine.

Add resistance training to your weekly program. Never work the same muscle groups two days in a row, but put at least 48 hours between workouts. Don’t do resistance training for more than 40 minutes at a time or you will also raise  your cortisol levels.

Add interval training or a more relaxed form of exercise.

In the case of interval training you can use the Pace program, during which you exercise for 20 minutes doing whatever exercise you enjoy. The goal is to do 3 minutes of warm up and 3 minutes of cool down. Between those two you’ll do 30 seconds as fast and as hard as you can and then 90 seconds of cool down. Do eight of those segments, end with 3 minutes of cool down and you are done!

Your body will burn calories for hours after a pace program and you probably won’t secrete any cortisol.

If a more relaxed form of exercise is your style, then aim for Tai Chi or Yoga.   One study showed that yoga helped cortisol levels to become more normalized in people who suffered from fibromyalgia. (6)  Another study found that although salivary cortisol was raised during Tai Chi the subjects experienced less tension, depression, anger, fatigue and anxiety. They felt more vigorous and had less total mood disturbance. (7)

Stay moving at work too. If you have a desk job it will help to get up every hour and walk around the office for 5 minutes. Getting your blood moving will increase your productivity, reduce your appetite, reduce your fatigue and keep your metabolism running.  If you can manage to set a timer on the computer or your watch and get up every 20 or 30 minutes that’s even better.

Another exercise that gives you both cardiovascular exercise, increases the bond between you and your significant other and reduces your stress level is sex.  Initial cortisol levels will increase, but they are short-term surges that increase neurogenesis in the brain.

  1. SLEEP

One very simple method of controlling stress is to get enough sleep each night, at least 7-8 hours. Losing sleep can alter the production of hormones and affect your cortisol levels, as well as leave you less capable of dealing with your daily stress.  In the overnight hours your cortisol levels should drop which allows your body a time to repair and recharge.  Lack of sleep also leads to other debilitating diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers have found sleep deprivation to increase cortisol levels by 45 percent. This increase is significant and has implications for immune compromise, cognitive impairment and the disruption of your metabolism. (8)

There are several methods you might use to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep.

  • Avoid using the computer or watching television at least 30 minutes before going to bed. Instead, pick up a good book or magazine and get caught up on your reading. The rapidly moving images on the screen (including flashing pixels on the computer) will increase the activity of your brain and make it more difficult to fall asleep.
  • Light will disrupt the quality of your sleep. While you might BE asleep the quality will not be the same. Use window blinds or draperies that darken the room and consider using a sleep mask, especially if you work nights and must sleep during the day.
  • Do NOT exercise within an hour of going to bed. Exercise will increase your energy levels and cortisol levels making it difficult to fall asleep.
  • Keep the temperature in your bedroom below 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If your room is too warm or too cold it can prevent your body temperature from reaching the ideal temperature for sleep. Piling on the blankets in a cold room can help, but if the room is too warm it can significantly reduce the quality and quantity of your rest.
  • Take a warm bath or shower about 30 minutes before bed. This will help to relax your body and your mind from the stresses of daily life. Consider eating a light, high protein snack within 30 minutes of going to bed.
  • Use the bed for sleep only. Don’t watch television or work in bed. This is a place of rest and sleep. You might consider reading something light and non-technical within 15 to 30 minutes in bed and before sleep.

More next week . . .

 

These Tips May Boost Your Productivity

Let’s face it . . . as a single mom, you need all the time in the day you can get. I know I do! It’s not easy being mom, dad, chief cook, housekeeper, chauffeur and financial provider. There are innumerable other roles that you play each day – but you already know that.

So, how do you squeeze more time out of day that’s already packed and has the same 24 hours that everyone else gets?

In fact, how is that some moms can do just that?

It’s likely they use a few productivity tips and tricks that help them get more done in less time. However, finding more time in the day then creates another problem. . . what do you do with that time?

If you are like most type-A driven women, you’ll fill the time with more, more, more. There will be more work, more meetings, more jobs, or the potential of starting your own home business, so you fill the hours with more things that help you ‘feel’ productive.

But, the intention “I” have in sharing these productivity tips is that you spend the extra time relaxing and enjoying your life. Relaxing and de-stressing are important to your health and your life with your children. Keep up the stress and you may just significantly reduce the number of years you have left.

 

Stress is linked to:

Headaches
Bad dreams
Acne
Itchy skin
Allergies
Gastrointestinal distress
Chest pain
Fatigue
Sleep disorders
Reduced sex drive
Anxiety
Lack of motivation
Anger
Depression
Common cold
Weight gain
Slow healing
Heart disease
Depression
Ulcers
Neck and shoulder pain
Diabetes
Alzheimer’s disease

And, that’s just the short list. Each of those conditions, triggered by stress, is related to other health conditions as well.  Making changes to habits can be difficult, so pick a few and get started – by the end of the year you may surprise yourself with how much time you have each day!

So, how can you find more hours in your day so you can use it to relax, destress and spend more time with your children?

  1. Shower at night

Showering in the morning takes an extra 20 minutes of your time, while showering at night can be done after your children go to bed. Showering in the evening is also relaxing, helping you to fall asleep faster and enjoy more restful sleep.

You might use the time in the morning to write in a journal, watch the sunrise, drink a cup of coffee while reading a devotional or even sleeping another 20 minutes.

  1. Engage your children in housework

It doesn’t matter how old they are – children are capable of picking up, cleaning up and helping out. Ask them how they may want to help so you have more time to spend with them – you might be surprised by what they come up with.

However, your home isn’t a democracy – so while it’s nice to give them the chance to offer input, your decision is final. If they can reach the sink they can stack the dishwasher, put the dishes away, vacuum the floors, fix their beds, clean their rooms and a myriad of other things.

  1. Take temptations out of reach

We got rid of our television and cable service a year ago, or more. Yes, we have Netflix and watch TV on the computer, but removing the television has reduced the amount of time I and my children sit blankly in front of a screen.

Do you have something in your home that eats up a lot of your time, but isn’t productive?  Think about it and determine if it’s something you could get rid of, or at least put it out of daily reach.

  1. Keep a “To Do” list

I keep mine on Wunderlist.com. I can access it from any computer or my phone. There is an incredibly satisfying sound when I check off something I’ve done and I can make my list recurring. In other words, if there is something I do daily or weekly, I can set the list to make the item recur each day or week.

  1. Do one thing every day

Some productivity experts tell you to chunk your housekeeping duties into one day and get it all done. However, I’ve found if I do one thing every day, the house stays clean and I don’t “feel” like I’ve spent the day cleaning.

One day I dust, (ok, once every three weeks I dust), I vacuum twice a week, mop the floors on another day and clean bathrooms on yet another. Each task doesn’t take more than 15 minutes and I don’t put it off because I dread spending hours doing work I really don’t enjoy.

  1. Remember to say “No”

You enjoy helping others, but remember to prioritize your home and children. The more you say yes to other people, the less you can say yes to outings with your children.

  1. Schedule in breaks

Research has determined that even if you exercise for 30 minutes every morning, if you sit all day, you’ve negated the benefits and are at the same risk for heart attack as people who don’t workout at all. Another benefit of getting up every 15 to 25 minutes is that you’ll recharge your batteries and be more productive. Your brain works better when you give it a break.

Don’t multi-task. Work on one thing from break to break and keep your mind on the project. Staying focused in the moment and working on one task at a time increases how much you can do in a short amount of time.

  1. SCHEDULE free time

You already keep a calendar and schedule your day. You’re running for your work, to keep up with your home and to take your children to activities. It’s time you also schedule time for free time for yourself – even if it’s 15 minutes each day, the idea is to DO IT.

  1. Life a healthy lifestyle

Exercise, balanced diet and sleep are foundational pillars to your health. It’s important that you keep each of them intact and functioning well. At least 30 minutes of exercise a day, 8 hours of sleep and a diet low in carbohydrates, high in healthy fats and plenty of clean water are key. The better you function, the more productive you’ll be.

  1. Practice gratitude

When you are grateful for what you have, it opens your eyes to everything in your life for which you could be grateful. And, being grateful actually makes you more productive. Spend time with people you love and be grateful for the time.  Recognize your small successes each day and be grateful for them.

 

I use most of these tricks – unfortunately, instead of using my extra time for relaxation, I’ve piled on more work. This year, 2017, it’s my goal to make more time for ME. Why don’t you join me?

Why Is Belly Fat Dangerous?

I don’t know about you, but ever since I had my first babies (twins) I’ve struggled with my stomach muscles. I’ve never had six pack abs but things got completely out of control after my second pregnancy.

It wasn’t until my youngest boy was 2 that I finally started feeling like maybe there was a chance I might get into a bathing suit again. Of course, it would take months more of work, but I think – MANY years later! – I’m finally arriving.

My problems related more to eating habits and an intense dislike of core work, than it was an aversion to exercise. I actually enjoy exercising each day. If I don’t get in a workout in the morning the kids can tell. It’s a bit like a cup of coffee for me – if momma doesn’t exercise then she ain’t happy.

But doing core work was a different story. So while my legs, arms and heart were strong, my core and balance left much to be desired. And it showed. About 10 years ago I had a large benign tumor removed from my abdomen, which apparently had a bit to do with the SIZE of my belly – but not my dislike of core work. That continued even after the surgery.

This has since changed. It took doing a bit of work for a couple of weeks and enjoying the benefits of stronger abs that helped motivate me to continue – albeit slowly. But slow forward is better than going in reverse, right?

My ex-husband has a different problem. While he has lost a bit of weight lately, he carries the majority of his weight in his mid-section. Unfortunately, this extra weight – in this particular area of the body – is dangerous.

Here’s why . . .

Did you know that there are 4 different types of fat?  Yup! Brown, white, subcutaneous and visceral (belly) fat.

Briefly, brown fat is the most recently discovered type of fat and found to burn more calories than the other three. We have more white fat than brown and the job of this type is to store energy and produce hormones. Subcutaneous fat is found directly under the skin and is usually measured using skin-fold calipers to estimate your total body fat percentage.

Visceral fat is found deep within your abdominal cavity and wraps around your organs. Doctors warn their patients that this visceral fat will increase your risk of heart disease and diabetes. That danger received more press after research was presented at the European Society of Cardiology in 2012 where their results showed that people with concentrated visceral fat were 50% more likely to die from all causes compared to those who were obese.

The problems with visceral fat can be complicated and numerous. This is because this type of fat is different from other types of fat in the body. Doctors believe that it promotes insulin resistance and leads to diabetes. In fact, in a study published in the Endocrine Press, data suggests that fat stored in the legs and buttocks is healthier than that stored in the stomach.

Interestingly, people who are within normal limits for their weight on the scale can also have higher risk when they are also carrying high amounts of visceral fat. You may feel less desire to make lifestyle changes when your weight is within normal limits, but making those changes can improve your risk profile for diseases and illnesses.

Records from a study of 6,500 people in Northern California found that those who had a high level of visceral fat also had a higher risk of dementia, even for people who were within normal limits for overall weight but were carrying extra visceral fat and larger bellies. The scientists theorize that this is because the belly fat impacts hormones, such as leptin, that may have some adverse effect on the brain. Although leptin plays a role in appetite it is also important to learning and memory.

Paying attention to both your overall weight and where you are carrying that weight are important factors in your overall health. While this visceral fat is more dangerous to your health, there are things you can do to reduce the amount of belly fat you carry and improve your risk factors.

What Causes Visceral Fat?

What causes fat to build up in your belly and around your organs?

What used to be accepted as middle aged spread we now understand is a significant health risk and not an inevitable change as we age.

Doctors have identified several ways of reducing this visceral fat which point to some of the causes. Interestingly, you can also have a normal weight but still carry visceral fat that increases your risk for heart disease, diabetes and other inflammatory based illnesses.

Hereditary tendencies are one indicator of where the fat in your body will be deposited. If your mother carried greater weight in her hips, thighs or abdomen, you will also more likely carry fat in the same areas.

After menopause, because of the reduction in estrogen production, more women will experience fat deposits in their abdomen. This reduction in estrogen may also be linked to an increase in cortisol levels.

Cortisol is a hormone that is produced in the adrenal glands, located near the kidneys. This hormone is released during specific activities such as fear, stress, exercising, fasting and eating. Cortisol regulates your energy levels by selecting the type of foods your body will use for energy. It will mobilize the fat stores and under stress it can provide the body with protein for energy.

The body secretes more cortisol during stressful periods of time and during those times cortisol will encourage the deposits of fat in the abdomen, also known as belly fat.

At a cellular level, fat tissue has a particular enzyme that is responsible for converting inactive cortisone to active cortisol. The gene for this enzyme is expressed differently in people and is responsible for the increased deposits of belly fat in people who are chronically stressed.

Signs that your cortisol level may be too high include higher amounts of belly fat, insomnia, increased number of colds, low sex drive, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, insulin resistance, cravings for carbohydrates, fat deposits around the face and neck, bone loss and bowel symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome and ulcers.

High levels of insulin may also be responsible for further deposits of fat in the abdomen. Diets that are high in carbohydrates create a spike in blood sugar and therefore a spike in the release of insulin. Insulin resistance in diabetes can be attributed to a lack of exercise, moderate to high alcohol consumption, sugary drinks, fructose, inadequate healthy fat intake, and excess fat around the abdomen.

 

Armed with the knowledge of what causes belly fat, you can reduce the potential that you’ll suffer from this condition or help to treat the deposits you already have.

 

Starting a New Business in the New Year

It was this time last year when I had an idea for another stream of income in my home business. I hate the term ‘home business,’ but it’s what I do – I work out of my home doing a variety of different things.

Of course, my variety may have something to do with my undiagnosed ADD for which I self-medicate with dark chocolate and consistent change. I must be the only person I know who actually ENJOYS change.

I like changing jobs, learning new things, and having unexpected days. Of course, too much of anything can get overwhelming – but for me, my tolerance level is pretty low for consistent work.

Hence, new line of income and all the planning that comes with it.

Sometimes, the planning is even more fun for me than the execution, which is why my work friends call me the Idea Generator. I have a notebook of ideas, things to consider in the future and plans that I might incorporate into my business as time goes by.

That’s the first hole you can easily sink into as you plan a new business. Once the idea floodgate opens, it’s hard to stop it. You can get caught up in purchasing software you “might” need in a couple months if everything went according to plan. The problem is that it never does go according to plan.

Instead, months down the road you’re in a different place than you thought you’d be, based on changes you had to make because of your customers, market or marketing.

The idea you have must be tested. Are there other people doing something similar? If you have an idea for a book, a product or service . . . has it been done before? If it has, and it’s successful, then there is likely a place in the market for you as well – as long as you can fine tune your marketing and attract the right customers.

If there isn’t a similar product or service, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try – but it does mean you’ll be the trailblazer – and trailblazers don’t always make the most money from the business idea. The trailblazer establishes the market and convinces the customers they need the product or service and the next people who come along utilize the work you did.

That’s the position I’m in now.

I’m going to be doing something I haven’t seen done before. But, because it’s a market with money and the product/service is one that makes sense for the customer, I’m willing to take that chance. The entry cost for the customer is minor and the ROI for me is more than adequate, so the projections look promising.

When you’re thinking about starting to offer a product or service, it’s important you also do some projections to determine how long and how much effort it will take before you’re in the black. This isn’t always easy if you’re going to be doing something you’ve not done before.

For instance, you’ll likely need to sell your product or service. If you’ve never done sales or aren’t comfortable learning, you may have to hire someone to do the work – which must be included in your projections.

If you aren’t sure how to determine if you could be profitable, fill in this simple table before moving further forward in your plans. While it is simple, it will help you determine if you could be profitable and where you might want to trim costs to get there.

Item Cost Income
Product development
Market Research
Marketing
Outsource (graphic design, virtual assistant, accountant, web development)
Time
Anticipated profits
TOTAL

In the Time column enter the amount of money you’ll be losing by working on this project and not something that’s already making money – unless you are working in your free time, then enter zero.

Under anticipated profits enter the amount of money you project making in the first three months and then multiply it by 0.66. It’s likely you’ll make ⅓ less than you anticipate.

Total the amount of money you anticipate spending and multiply it by 1.3 because unless you are spot on, you’ll likely spend ⅓ more than you think.

If the numbers are close it’s time to make more detailed projections to see how long you’ll need to be in business before you make a profit.  Be realistic about your idea and how much you want to invest before seeing your business in the black.

I’ve worked with business people who were so enamored of their idea that they couldn’t get it off the ground. It became a baby to them and it was too difficult to ‘put it out there’ to their customer base. Others were so in love with their idea they didn’t realize it wasn’t a good one, and they lost too much money before stopping.

Starting a new business, or a new arm to an old business . . .

. . . can be exciting and fun for you and the people you work with. It is a little like birthing a baby. It takes months for incubation and preparation and then a LOT of hard work in a short time to get it moving in a forward direction.

There are resources in your area to help you get off the ground – and one of the easiest to access is the Small Business Association. They have retired business men and women who enjoy helping new businesses and want to act as a mentor so you don’t make some of the simple mistakes many new business owners make.

Mistakes like. . . hiring people before you need them, buying software and hardware you don’t need immediately, poor planning, not considering investors and not understanding how to find good investors. . . these are the potholes mentors can help you avoid.

Your own business offers you the opportunity to make good money – your money, based on your efforts. When you go to the office, you’re paid whether you make money for the company that day or not. But, you don’t get 20% raises in one year and don’t have the potential for losing all your clients in one month.

 

Because working for yourself is often frightening, exciting and overwhelming, it’s important you do it part-time first until you have enough savings built up that you don’t panic when your clients disappear or your product or service isn’t as successful as you’d hoped.

Teaching Your Children About Money

 

If you don’t teach your children about money, someone else in their life will. Whether they learn these lessons from friends, relatives or their favorite television shows, the lessons they learn will likely not be the ones you would have taught them.

Unfortunately, with as much effort as you may have put into teaching your children about money, the Wall Street Journal reports that many grow into adults without an accurate understanding of how to create and follow a budget, pay their bills, develop a savings or invest their money.

For some children the lessons will come easier than others. My oldest daughter grew up to be the saver that I was when I was younger and my middle boy is even more frugal than I ever was. However, my daughter’s twin brother has an entirely different viewpoint about money and struggles to save anything. They received the same lessons, in the same environment and have slightly different ideas about how to spend and save.

The lessons are important, but so is taking into account the difference in your child’s individual personality, desire and ability to generalize information. One startling fact about learning finance in the classroom is that the information doesn’t often translate into results in the real world. The question you might be asking is – if most high school students have mandatory financial education, why do so many people struggle with foundational concepts?

Studies have demonstrated the subject that has a significant impact on your child’s ability to understand budgets, saving and investments – math.  Almost all decisions about budgeting and saving involve understanding the implications of numbers. Without using strong math skills, your children may rely on emotion to make to their decisions – and emotions are not reliable.

This means it’s important your children receive a strong math education at school, AND that you spend time talking with them at home about money. It’s easy to do this in a relaxed setting around the dinner table each night. Don’t make it into a “lesson,” but rather talk about the financial decisions you made that day.

Spending money on lunch out every day at work, checking account fees, investing, saving, grocery shopping, window shopping and refurbishing your home are all excellent examples of talking about money without creating a lesson.

Children learn more about who you are and what you believe by watching what you DO with your life and not listening to the lectures you give. This same concept holds true about how you value cleanliness, health and wellness, sleep, nutrition and your family. What you DO is more powerful than what you SAY.

Talking about subjects also removes the stigma that’s often attached by society to specific subjects. Topics like money, death and sex often become taboo, which then increases the risk your child will develop ideas in private that don’t revolve around truth.

The Truth is . . .

The truth is money, sex and death are a part of all our lives – and the more we talk about them, the less uncomfortable it becomes to learn more and understand how they integrate into our own life.

Children of wealthy parents may assume their parents don’t talk about money because they are poor, when in fact parents didn’t want their children to brag. However, making your financial situation a common conversation encourages your children to accept it as common and not something to brag about or be ashamed of – as long as you feel it isn’t.

Money has symbolic value to you and your family – and unless you identify what it symbolizes and address it head on, then your children are destined to continue to carry those emotions forward. When you speak frankly, associations with money don’t pile up and children are less likely to act selfishly in the short term.

Researchers have found children who focus on money, act more selfishly toward their friends. Avoiding discussions about money increases the psychological weight children associate with the topic. And, by sharing your fears about being broke, you may also increase your child’s fear.

My Mistake

I made that mistake when my youngest boy was growing up. I thought I was being matter of fact about my lack of funds, but he interpreted the information as fearful, even though the bills got paid, we stayed in the house and there was food in the cabinets.

We didn’t go out to lunch, there were no extras, but we were stable. For my youngest boy, it wasn’t enough. He watched his father remarry, move his step children into a brand new home and didn’t know how to handle the emotions that went with feeling his father had financially abandoned us.

Those emotions were channeled into fear about losing everything – even though we never were. He became extremely frugal, saving every dime and spending nothing. He and his father bonded over basketball and sports, but he continues to struggle with an imbalanced financial blueprint as he goes through college.

No matter how rational, matter-of-fact or open you are – HOW your children interpret the information is also based on their own personality traits.

More Ideas

Summer financial camps are a good start if you think your child would enjoy the camp experience, and financial classes are good adjuncts – but neither of these options takes the place of mom talking to her children.

This is because the effects of these classes, camps and one time lectures wear off over time. You might be able to correlate this to your doctor recommending specific lifestyle changes. At first, you’re motivated and interested but it isn’t long before you go back to old habits. Your children are the same.

Encourage your children to save their money. Young children may use a clear glass jar so they can watch their savings grow. Piggy banks are traditional, but don’t offer young children any visual feedback about how much they’ve put away. You and your child can decorate their savings jar, making it more personal and a lot more fun.

Children as young as 12 can learn about banking, savings and checking accounts by starting an account. This is a good way to teach them about earning interest – and how the more money you have in the account, the more interest it earns.

Think about giving your children a commission and not an allowance. This means the money they earn is based on the work they do – just like when they grow up and get a job or become an adult. Keeping their room clean, taking out the garbage, mowing the lawn, cleaning bathrooms, vacuum, dusting and dishes are all fair game.

Before your children leave home, be sure you talk about the dangers of credit and credit cards. This is easily a conversation you can incorporate into dinner time conversations or when you’re out shopping.

This means it’s better to wait to purchase something you want until you can truly afford it. Otherwise, the interest paid on the money will mean the cost of the item is many times more than it was in the store.

Just after my divorce, I had to use credit cards to stay afloat. It has taken years to pay off the debt – most of which was spent on food that was long ago eaten and gone. That was a lesson I shared with the children. While I didn’t have a choice at the time, it was something they’ll remember and hopefully never fall into that trap.

 

Teaching your children about money, saving, budgeting and investing starts when they are young and – like many parenting functions – doesn’t end until you have died. You might be surprised at the number of times and ways children come back for advice, with questions and needing your support as they grow.