All Posts By:

Brittany Doyle

  • 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy Boys

    “Don’t cry. Stop crying. Big boys don’t cry.”

    I overheard these commands in a recent exchange between a young boy and caregiver. The child was having a hard time and for his caregiver, this was unacceptable. He wiped his eyes and became stoic, clearly repressing his emotions.

    While I don’t know what caused this child to feel upset, I know that in that moment he was coached to conceal his emotions and silence himself. He was taught that his feelings were invalid and needed to be quelled. He learned that showing emotion is weakness.

    “Real men are strong. Real men are apathetic. Real men are tough. Real men are aggressive and show dominance via violence.”

    We know all of these things to be untrue. So why do we perpetuate these ideas for our boys?

    This is toxic masculinity. These are the dangerous conclusions boys are drawing about themselves and the way they should interact with others.

    Picture of two brothers for emotionally healthy boys post rock it mama

    “Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health.”

    In the age of the all important MeToo movement and focus on female empowerment, it’s easy to overlook our boys, and how important it is to nurture their emotional needs in order to create a place for them to thrive in our ever-changing society.

    Denying boys the opportunity to express themselves and experience their full range of emotion can have everlasting effects on their emotional and mental health. By teaching them that emotion is weakness, we stifle their emotional intelligence and impact the success of their personal relationships and happiness. They begin to adopt the belief that emotional beings are lesser or inferior, which in turn, distorts the way they view their female counterparts.

    I am a mother of boys. I recognize the challenges they face. I’m doing this work for them. And my hope is that in sharing 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy boys, I can impact the young men who will grow up alongside them. Let’s create a safe space for our children to share, to feel, and to be open with one another.

    Be Mindful of the Ways You May be Contributing to Toxic Masculinity

    Let’s first define toxic masculinity as traditional cultural masculine norms that can be harmful to men, women, and society. Overall, this concept of toxic masculinity is not intended to demonize men or male attributes, but rather to emphasize the harmful effects of conformity to certain traditional masculine ideal behaviors such as dominance, self-reliance, and competition.

    Being mindful of the ways we contribute to toxic masculinity can be uncomfortable, but reflecting on our upbringing and the old-fashioned ideals we carry around can help curb tendencies to perpetuate it. Some examples of this are:

    • Feminizing males as a means of insulting them
    • Shaming males for displaying affection
    • Asserting the notion that men are superior to women

    Toxic masculinity can also be evident in the way we communicate with one another.

    Common phrases (and those similar to these) that discourage emotional health:

      • “Man up.”
      • “Boys don’t cry.”
      • “Thats a female trait.”

    Parents, let him cry. Teach him that crying is human and a healthy way to express sadness, frustration, and anger. Firmly establish the idea that showing emotion is not feminine or weak, but rather a normal form of emotional expression.

    Create a Safe Environment for Emotional Expression

    Subsequent to the point above, cultivating an emotionally friendly environment in which sharing feelings is not only normal but encouraged, is essential to raising emotionally healthy boys. Never shutdown an emotionally charged conversation. Rather, calmly discuss anger and frustrations and allow kids to express themselves safely.

    Teach him to identify his feelings and validate them. The practice of “taking an emotional temperature” is a great one to implement with your child. Describe each feeling (sad, angry, surprised, embarrassed, etc) and have him choose the one that best describes his current “emotional temperature.” Then contemplate what could be triggering these feelings and devise healthy practices for working through them.

    Monitor the Media Your Child Consumes

    Violence is a major theme in most of the media young boys consume including television, movies, and video games. Try to lead  them towards nonviolent shows and games. Teach them that conflict does not have to be resolved with aggression or violence.

    Additionally, exposure to movies or books with female leads or heroes is a good way to bridge the gender gap.

    Model Emotionally Healthy Behaviors

    The American Psychological Association warns that “traditional masculinity ideology” is associated with negative effects on mental and physical health. Men who adhere to traditionally masculine cultural norms, experience increased risk of psychological problems such as depression, stress, body image issues, substance abuse, and poor social functioning.

    To eliminate the negative effects toxic masculinity plays on mental and physical health, model emotional responsibility and lead by example.

    Scenario:

    When a car cuts you off in traffic, try to refrain from aggressive reactions such as tailgating, inappropriate gestures, name-calling, etc. Take a deep breath and assess why this action is affecting you in a such a way. Is it something going on at work? An underlying anger? By practicing emotional responsibility in front of our children, it becomes a natural way of reaction for them as well.

    Encourage Them to Set Healthy Boundaries

    Emotional health requires boundaries and does not include powerless or pushover behavior. Teach assertiveness, strength, and confidence. Remember – we want kids to condemn disrespectful behavior and to stick up for others. We need them to show courage in the face of injustice.

    Encourage him to identify reasonable, safe and permissible ways for other people to behave towards him, and how to respond when someone passes those limits.

    To teach healthy boundaries, ask your kids to play what-if scenarios. Ask them what they would say in certain situations and listen to their responses. Then, offer them several phrases they can use to self-advocate, and remind them to use their words and that violence is never the answer.

    We hope you found our 5 Tips for Raising Emotionally Healthy Boys insightful. For more on building the values that connect us, be sure to read our Simple Methods for Teaching Kids Kindness and Empathy

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  • How to Plan a Halloween Wine Tasting

    I’m going to be real with y’all. I love wine. I have a deep affinity for my evening glass while winding down after a long day with the kiddos. The tannins. Mouthfeel. Aromas. I love it all. I decided recently that I didn’t know enough about this beverage for how intensely I feel about it, so I started doing a ton of research and informing myself about all things wine.

    Image of spooky wine trivia game free printable

    Thats when I came up with the idea of a Halloween Wine Tasting. One: to flex my newfound wine knowledge. Two: to spend time with friends. And Three: to celebrate this macabre time of year. I was delighted in how perfectly the event unfolded and how much fun we all had!

    All of that being said, I want to share with you guys everything I did to plan and host a spooky Halloween wine tasting in the hopes that you will plan your own, revel in some adult time and de-stress in the company of great friends. We deserve it, Mamas!

    ALSO: We’ve made our Halloween Wine Tasting Trivia Printable available for FREE. Simply scroll to the bottom. You’re welcome!

    Find a Sitter

    I was up in the air at first on whether or not to keep the kids at home or send them to the grandparents and now I am so glad I went with the latter. The luxury of uninterrupted conversation is one I don’t take for granted when my kids are gone. Plus, I’m not sure I would have been able to get through a detailed tasting with my two year old calling my name every 5 seconds.

    My advice: find a sitter. Enjoy adult time and encourage your mom friends to leave their babies behind so they can do the same. There is nothing better than spending time with mom friends emancipated from their children for a few hours. As the saying goes, in vino veritas.

    Wine and Food Selection

    I decided to offer a variety of wines at the tasting to keep everyone happy. Reds, whites and even a good Rose. I sought out a few local wineries and some international bottles. Total Wine is my go-to but any grocery store with a decent wine selection will do. I chose wines under $15 that rated highly on the reviews.  That way, I kept costs fairly low and my friends who enjoyed a certain bottle could easily pick it up next time they’re out shopping.

    To add a creepy touch, I found some spooky wines in the seasonal aisle (one was labeled Witching Hour). We served Halloween themed finger foods to match the vibe and decor. I was thrilled with how the mummy jalapeno poppers turned out (recipe here) and I will say, Pinterest was a huge help. For the tasting portion of the event, I typed up small blurbs about each wine and gave a few tips on what to pair it with.

    image of party mummy Halloween jalapeno poppers

    We served Halloween themed finger foods to match the vibe and decor

    Image of Halloween themed party decorations and food display

    Games

    What’s a Halloween wine tasting without a little trivia? Games are a great ice breaker and a fantastic way to get the whole gang involved in the action. Our Spooky Wine Trivia game was a big hit with all of our guests and I could tell they enjoyed learning fun wine facts to take with them.

    I found a cute pumpkin charmed wine stopper as the game prize and stuck it in a Halloween bag with a card which both congratulated and thanked them for coming. Easy Peazy! And in case you didn’t see, our Halloween Wine Tasting Trivia printable is available for download below!

    Costumes

    I have a proclivity for dressing up on Halloween. It is the only time of year I can transform into a mermaid or a Dr. Seuss character without fear of judgment. However, we permitted our guests to make the call on costumes so no-one felt forced to come up with something.

    The different ideas were great conversation pieces and allowed for hilarious photo opportunities. My husband and I decided to do a play on snapchat and personify filter vs. no filter, which meant he was in a skirt all night and that in and of itself was worthing dressing up for. My advice: let your guests make the call! Costumes can be a real hit but you don’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable. Some great ideas for easy DIY costumes here.

    Decor

    Decor for our Spooky Wine Tasting was easy and simple. I used generic Halloween gear that I had collected over the years, some faux cob web on our railings and mirrors and purple lights on the stairwell. The black cauldron was a perfect place to store the wines. I use my felt board for every event that we host at our house so that was a must. Emoji wine markers added a fun touch to each glass you can purchase them here.

    I used generic Halloween gear I have collected over the years, some faux cob web on mirrors and railings and purple lights in the stairwell

    And there you have it! The Spooky Wine Tasting. A unique and entertaining experience for everyone to enjoy. There are so many different things you can do with this event to make it your own. The most important takeaway: set aside time to be kid free with people you care about. You’ll never regret it!

     



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  • 40 Fall Activities to Bring Your Family Closer Together

    You could say I’m a Fall enthusiast, but that would probably be the understatement of the year. I’ve had my Fall decorations up since the beginning of September. Pumpkins, leaves and harvest signs are taking up most of the space in our humble abode, and I’m not one bit sorry about it!

    The Fall traditions run thick in this household, and I can’t think of a better time for family activities than during this festive, gratitude-rich season.

    In order to galvanize your family members and get the Fall flare going, we’ve compiled a list of our 40 favorite Fall activities that will bring your family closer together. All of these ideas are family friendly for kids of varying ages, and can easily become traditions for the harvest season. Eventually, they become activities to look forward to year after year!

    So why are family activities and traditions important?

    A review in the December issues of American Psychological Association’s (APA) Journal of Family Psychology states that “family routines and rituals are alive and well and are associated with marital satisfaction, adolescents’ sense of personal identity, children’s health, academic achievement and stronger family relationships.” We couldn’t agree more!

    Additionally, studies show family traditions are the basis in creating family culture. Some of the many benefits include nurtured bonds between siblings and parents, a further developed sense of belonging, and the making of a memorable childhood. Can’t help but love those perks!

    A few of the Fall activities require prior planning and others can be done on a whim. That’s why we love this list and encourage you to add some family fun in your busy Fall schedule.

    One of our Fall must-dos is a family hike during the weeks of foliage. It’s wonderful to behold the colorful leaves and to appreciate nature’s beauty that only comes around once a year together as a family. Again, the activity doesn’t have to be extravagant. Something as simple as backyard football can bring your family closer together.

    To make planning even more simple here are a few quick links to find Fall activities near you!

    • To find Fall festivals (broken down by state) check out Funtober.com
    • To Find an upcoming 5K near you here is Active.com
    • A list of super scary films for movie night ranked by rotten tomatoes
    • Some family Halloween costume ideas
    • To donate blood and give the gift of life as a family, find a blood drive near you

    Enjoy the season and don’t forget to check out our Grateful Tree Activity!

    What are some of your favorite fall activities? Comment below!

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  • Help Kids Cool Down with this FREE Printable Workbook

    As part of our passion for social/emotional learning, we’re always looking for healthy cool down strategies for kids. The idea for this printable cool down workbook came to me when my son was having a big, emotional week and I wanted to offer him a solution that would not only deescalate, but help him identify his feelings and cope in a positive way.

    Now, having created 6 different worksheets to be combined into a book, I truly believe this tool will be great for parents and teachers alike!

    This workbook is a process of working through big feelings with multiple worksheets. First, it includes an emotion identifier, with easy to understand emoji graphics. Children experience meltdowns, tantrums and extreme emotions for a variety of reasons. By identifying the correct emotion, it is possible to get to the root of the cause.

    Next, the child will choose a healthy coping mechanism. Then, there is a list of calming affirmations. As we know, studies show affirmations strengthen personal foundations for happy and meaningful lives.

    The final sheets are a grounding exercise for mindfulness, and an emotion thermometer to help kids register emotional zones. Through the emotion thermometer, kids will learn how to assess themselves emotionally and recognize the importance of healthy cool down strategies.

    Our hope is that children will be able to adopt this process and continue to utilize healthy cool down methods as they grow into adulthood.

    Above is the calm down area, and worksheets filed into clear sheet protectors and placed in a binder. The binder is designed to grab & go and can be used repeatedly.

    Use expo markers on the sheet protectors and wipe them off easily to be used next time. Kids should circle their current emotion on the first sheet and circle the chosen cool down method on the next. The affirmations should be voiced out loud.

    For the grounding exercise, have the child start on the “breathe in” cloud and inhale until they reach the “breathe out” cloud. Afterwards, they can color in the rainbow as desired.

    For the final emotion thermometer worksheet, kids should color in the emotional zone they were feeling prior to the cool down exercise in the “before” column. Then, color in the emotional zone for post cool down in the “after” column.

    Easy to grab-and-go printable cool down workbook! Free download below!

    Insert a pencil bag for the expo markers and a few calming items like magnets or a fidget spinner to complete the workbook.

    The goal of teaching social and emotional skills is to build a child’s mental health and resilience—so that as they grow, they can adapt and handle what comes at them. Using this printable cool down workbook can help develop those important skills. It can also aid in self regulation and emotional control.

    For more on the importance of social/emotional learning click here!

    And for tips on fostering your child’s mental health check this out!



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  • DIY Personalized Teething Pacifier Clips

    My one year old is going through an extreme teething phase right now and I’m willing to try about anything to soothe him and the fuss. As I was searching for teething toys, I came across these super cute DIY personalized teething pacifier clips and I decided to give it a whirl. The final product was so cute, I simply had to share.

    These easy to make clips are the perfect gift or quick craft for the mama looking for a teething solution. Below I’ve included the supplies needed and step by step directions for creating these super simple and sweet DIY personalized teething pacifier clips!

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    You will need:

    Directions

    1. Cut a 25″ piece of white polyester cord.
    2. One at a time, place silicone teething beads on the cord. You may need to use the bobby pin to push the cord through the bead or tape to control a frayed cord.
    3. Find the center of the entire piece of cord and tie a knot to create a 2.5″ loop. Slide the beads down to the knot. Then thread the needle back through the beads.
    4. When you get to the end, loop the cord around the base of a pacifier clip. Hold it taught, and wrap the end of the cord tightly around the base of the clip and knot. Thread the end of the cord back through a few beads (to hide the excess) and trim the end.

    And there it is! A pacifier clip that doubles as a teething toy. Be sure that the beads are secure on the cord and that the knots are tied tight. These beads are perfect for teething but post a choking threat if detached.

    Sweet teether!

    Enjoying the DIY posts? Check out these awesome Kid Friendly Bath Bombs with a Hidden Surprise!

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  • How to Create Your Own Cake Smash Photo Shoot at Home

    How is it that the second child’s first year flies by even faster than the first? I’m over here scratching my head trying to figure out where the time went. It feels as though we were just in the hospital introducing him to big brother and yet here we are, only a few weeks away from his first birthday, setting up a cake smash photo shoot. (Don’t mind me, I’ll just be over here in my feelings)

    With time having left us little to work with, I decided to set up an in-home cake smash photoshoot for his first birthday so I could have the photos in time for his party. I feared that most professional photographers would be be booked by this point and I wanted to flex some creative muscles as photography is definitely a hobby of mine.

    This post may contain affiliate links, which means that we may receive a commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase using these links.

    I can only describe the in-home cake smash as a huge success! The photos are priceless. The experience was incredibly fun and it became a family ordeal, as big brother helped draw big smiles (as only a big brother can) and Dad assisted with props.

    The birthday boy normally doesn’t stop moving and can be difficult to capture. However, the cake kept him anchored in place long enough to snap some great photos. Once all was said and done, we had a few bites of what was left of the decimated treat.

    I want to empower other moms to have some fun with their own cake smash photo-shoots because it truly is so easy! Save time and money and capture some memories without having to leave the house. Flex full control over the shots you want to frame and print at your leisure without acquiring extra cost.

    Here is a step-by-step guide explaining how to create your own cake smash photo-shoot at home!

    Step 1.) Find a Location

    The lighting and background of your photo-shoot will play a huge role in the quality of your photos. Select a spot in your home with plenty of natural light. Use the space in front of a big window or sliding glass door. Turn off any overhead lights to prevent orange and brackish coloring in the photos.

    If there isn’t an ideal location inside, outside will work too. Be sure to choose a time of day where the shadows won’t be overpowering your subject.

    The background should be plain and simple. Use a white wall or purchase a backdrop on amazon that can be hung or used as a faux white wood floor. These elements ensure that baby will be the central focus of each capture. I’ve linked one below. A white sheet will work just as well!

    Step 2.) Cake, Props & Clothing

    The cake, props and clothing you choose will help develop the theme of the shoot. For example: because the theme of my son’s first birthday is barnyard animal, I used a simple cake on a rustic wood platter with a few sunflowers, and added suspenders to his shorts for a farm feel. I also used a sign for the pre-cake photos simply to indicate the occasion.

    Tip: Balloons are a cheap and easy prop. Scatter them around and snap photos of baby chasing after them.

    To continue to keep costs low, find a toy or piece of decor around the house to boost the theme of the photos. Bake a cake or grab a cheap one from the supermarket. I purchased the cake featured in my son’s photos at Target for $10. The “One” prop used in the photos below I picked up from a craft store for $5.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Step 3.) Camera

    For this step, the good old iPhone (especially in portrait mode) will do just fine. But for full disclosure purposes, I wanted to note that when capturing these photos I used my Nikon DSLR D3400, linked below.

    Now, I know what you’re thinking: we were supposed to be saving money here and that camera sets me back almost $400. Hear me out: since purchasing that camera when my first child was born, I’ve used it on many occasions that I probably would’ve paid a photographer to capture. Birthdays, holidays, vacations, and everyday moments in between, the Nikon has taken some incredible photos and in the long run has definitely saved us money.

    This my advice: Hire the professional for monumental family moments when mama, you need to be in there too. Invest in the camera for the smaller occasions. Or, if you’re totally cool with the iPhone quality then use the iPhone. I’ve snapped some awesome photos with my iPhone camera as well.

    Step 4.) Take as Many Photos as Possible

    When the shoot is all set up, the props are handy, and baby is happy and ready, start snapping and DON’T STOP! Snag as many shots from as many different angles as possible.

    Focus in on the details of the cake, the messy hands and the cake covered faces. The more photos you have the more likely you are to be happy with the outcome. It’ll also be easier to select the best photos for editing!

     

     

     

     

     

     

    We even let big brother get in on the action!

    The Aftermath…

    Step 5.) Culling and Editing

    Now that you have an amazing crop of photos, it’s time to decide which ones to edit. Pick your favorites and make sure there is a solid variety with good resolution and quality lighting. Those will withstand the editing process the best.

    For editing I use the Lightroom app on my phone. It’s free and will provide the best quality photos without having to pay for an expensive editing program.

    Feel free to edit the photos to your liking OR you can do what I do, and use a Lightroom mobile preset to enhance your photos. Below you can see the before preset and after preset photos.

     

    I’ve linked my favorite lightroom presets here but you can always browse Pinterest or Etsy for presets that provide the desired feel. Some are free and others may charge a small fee.

    LET THERE BE CAKE (smash photo shoots!) We hope you enjoyed our step-by-step guide on how to create your own cake smash photo-shoot at home and feel inspired to get creative! Please share photos of your DIY shoots!

    Craving more DIY treats? Check out our Homemade Air Fryer Poptarts!

     

    DIY Cake Smash photos

     

     

     

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