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By Amy McCready

Summer’s almost here! But before you start to worry about childcare arrangements, lazy teenagers or the endless rounds of video games, take heart. With a little preparation, there’s no need to be caught off guard as you navigate schedules and ward off the “I’m bored’s!” Start here, and settle in for a fun, relaxing—and only slightly crazy—summer.

Pencil it in. Don’t wait until the bus has quit coming to finalize your plans. Grab your calendar now, and mark off vacations, camps, swim lessons and more—not to mention Grandma’s Alaskan cruise or the babysitter’s knee surgery. If you can, keep whole days open to give kids plenty of free time. You can even schedule things like backyard campouts, beach days (with a sandbox and kiddie pool if you’re inland) and lemonade stands—taking time off of work if need be—so your kids will have lots of fun to remember when it’s time for school again in the fall.

Keep up the good work. Sure, every kid needs to rest his brain for a bit. But if a child’s newly developed skills don’t get used regularly, they could be lost before the new school year begins. Enroll in a library reading program, pick up some fun workbooks or head out on a few educational outings to museums, zoos or historic sites to expand your child’s world while helping them learn. If your child struggles with academics, now might also be a great time to look into summer programs or hire a tutor to help him catch up.

Think outside the sandbox. Let’s face it: a kid can only build so many Lego models or sandcastles before she’s ready for a change. But there’s no need to listen to a chorus of, “I’m bored!” more than once. Brainstorm a list of indoor and outdoor activities—look to the Internet, friends and your kids’ own ideas for inspiration—and turn to it instead of the TV. Or put together a, “rainy day box” filled with things like craft supplies, puzzles, puppets and games that can only come out in wet weather. Keep in mind that it’s not your job (or the TV’s) to entertain your children all day long and that when given the chance, your kids will develop resourcefulness and creativity as they overcome their boredom.

Set it in stone. With your kids at home all day, there’s one thing you can count on: more messes! And you should also be able to count on a little more help. Create a Summer Contract with your child, and ensure that some things—like household responsibilities, bedtimes and media time—are non-negotiable. With your child’s input, write down a list of family contributions she can make every day or week: for instance, making her bed, emptying the dishwasher, walking the dog and weeding the garden. Make sure it’s clear she won’t be able to access her privileges, like her one hour of media time, until her jobs are completed. (Of course, if she goes over her media limit, she’ll lose her media privileges the next day.) And while later bedtimes are okay, keep them constant so you’re not negotiating every night, and they get the sleep they need. Sign the contract along with your child, and stick to it.

With these strategies, you can get ready for an unforgettable summer—one that everyone will love!

The post Get Set for Summer! Your guide to the season’s best survival strategies for parents appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Jamee Tenzer

After a few years of child rearing slumber it is easy to wake up, sleepily look around and wonder “What the %!@ happened to me?

I think I had some talent right?  I could dance.  Wait, no. I could sing.  How come I can’t remember one song besides The Wheels on the Bus?  Or maybe I was the studious one – straight A’s and Pre-Law?  Wait a minute – I started that novel. Where is that again?

Where am I again?”

Motherhood can be like being immersed in a temporary land of joy-filled, diaper-laden, hugs and kisses, 24-7, marshmallow dreamy, never enough sleepy, where did my brain go haze where you are required to be of service to tiny people for whom you are the center of their universe.  (So you’ve got that going for you.)

And at some point we all awake from the haze.  In fact, we wake up many times as our children grow.  We discover new levels of consciousness as our children are able to sleep through the night, spend an entire day at school, stay home alone and eventually leave for summer camp or college.

With each milestone in their lives, we experience a new level of opportunity to recreate or reclaim ourselves.

And yes, sometimes there is regret.  How did we let that important part of ourselves go?  Why did we let go of our commitment to our health or physical fitness?  What were we thinking when we stopped going to school or quit our job?  Why didn’t we pursue our passions?

But beyond that regret is opportunity.

Real opportunity to reclaim yourself in the now.  You have a world of experiences to draw upon now that your pre-motherhood self never imagined.  And that pre-mommy you still exists.  She is just waiting for an invitation to join your party.  Imagine the possibilities when you put all that new experience to work on recreating you in the now.  Endless.

Coach Me Quick tips for Inviting Your Pre-Mommy YOU to the Party:

1. Take a look inside your own memory.

If someone were to meet the pre-mommy you – how would they describe you? Which of those attributes would you like to invite to your current party?  Were you a little more “woo-woo?”  Did you stay up late?  Did you practice yoga, run in marathons or sky dive?  You won’t want to invite all of your pre-mommy self to this party and you don’t have to.  After all, it’s your guest list and you get to be the bouncer too.

2. Take a look around at the people who are in your life right now.

Were any of them there to witness the pre-mommy you?  If so, interview them.  What do they remember that doesn’t seem to be present now?  Maybe you were more flexible?  Maybe you were quicker to anger?  Maybe you made good choices or were there more bad choices?  Again, pick and choose.  Is there anything that you would like to invite to the party?

3. What were your talents? (Hint: they are still your talents even if you are not utilizing them.)

If you played an instrument or loved to dance, how can you bring some of that to your party?

4. Share your pre-mommy self with your children.

Children love to hear about who their parents were before they had children.They will be suitably awed by your backpacking trip to Europe and the time you stayed up all night preparing for that important job interview.  You may not want to share your drunken walks home from the local bar in college or the stories of the frogs you kissed before finding your prince, but there is still plenty to share without “over-sharing.”

Your party is going to be the shindig of a lifetime, let’s get started!

The post Who Are You Again? No Need to Lose Yourself Just Because You Are a Mom! appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Emma Seppala 

A British author friend, Ruth Whipmann, author of America the Anxious, was shocked by something when she moved the US: everyone was so busy going to their mindfulness class and yoga class that they didn’t have time to spend with her — nor with their kids or their family.

The benefits of mindfulness — touted as a panacea for a myriad of problems from anxiety to chronic pain, has come under some debate. A few years back, a mindfulness research conference attended by the Dalai Lama and other scientists and celebrities came to a close with more of a loud bang than a quiet gong. A lot of questions and concerns were being raised about its benefits.

Thanks to a growing body of research supporting its benefits, mindfulness-based programs are cropping up in corporate workplaces, in schools and hospitals. Celebrities like Arianna Huffington are proclaiming its benefits, football teams like the Seattle Seahawks are sitting for daily meditation practice, highly successful CEOs and leaders like Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, author of Mindful Nation, are publicly supporting its benefits and magazines entirely devoted to mindfulness like Mindful are gracing shelves. Mindfulness has become a billion-dollar industry with books, life-coach programs and consumer goods to help you become a mindful eater, a mindful parent and even a mindful consumer! As the New York Times described, meditation “dry bars” are becoming the hot new go-to places to get your peace on and network.

Does Mindfulness Work?

After years of hype about mindfulness’ benefits, however, new questions are arising: Do the mindfulness scientists have a religious bias and agenda? Though researchers and mindfulness instructors vouch for its secularism, the presence of the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks at these conferences does not raise any doubt as to one of the origins of mindfulness practice: Buddhism (there are others too). Many mindfulness researchers ostensibly practice Buddhist meditation. After all, research is me-search.

Can mindfulness be dangerous for our health? Researchers like Willoughby Britton of Brown University are claiming that, in some cases, mindfulness can be harmful. Are those reasons to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Not necessarily.

The more important question may be whether mindfulness really works. While thousands of studies have come out, reviews of these studies claim that, when examining the entire literature on mindfulness as a whole, it does not always stand out above and beyond other treatments. While some claim that these reviews refute mindfulness’ benefits, that claim is up for debate. If meditation’s benefits are equivalent to that of other treatments, then it’s a great option: some people would prefer to sit in meditation every day than use medication or attend therapy sessions.

Why is Mindfulness so Popular?

Rather than asking whether mindfulness is good, bad, or worthy of all the hype, perhaps the more interesting question is why it has become so popular. Why does everyone want to meditate all of a sudden?

Sure maybe it’s the marketing. But that can’t explain it’s all-pervasive nature. It can’t explain why it’s creeping its way into your workplace, healthcare facility, and onto your local military base. Perhaps it is answering an unmet need for more quiet, contemplation and calm in a world that is more and more fast-paced, whose technology is increasingly demanding our time and attention at all times of the day, and whose work loads and financial pressures are on the rise. Whether we’re CEOs or stay-at-home mothers, most of us are constantly running, overworked and exhausted. It doesn’t take research to realize that this pace of life is unsustainable and in many ways counterproductive and destructive. Is it a surprise that the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication is at an all-time high? We are not equipped to meet the demands of this age and are looking for ways to calm our minds. As a consequence, we seek to balance the frenzy of our current pace of life with the complete opposite: sitting still. We need to fulfill an unmet need for more calmness, quietude, and peace of mind.

Is Mindfulness the Answer?

Is Mindfulness the only answer? It is for some people. But not for all. Remember that mindfulness has received a lot of attention because researchers have studied it. And it’s no surprise that it appeals to scientists — after all, it involves observing and labeling thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Observing and labeling objectively is what scientists and academics do. In many ways, it’s a cognitive exercise and is therefore something academics find attractive — it’s no surprise that they favor such a practice. But that doesn’t mean you have to.

If you’ve tried mindfulness and felt it is not for you, it’s important to remember that there are many ways of calming your mind and feeling at ease — mindfulness is just one of them. Breathing is another. We conducted research on yoga-based breathing practices — sudarshan kriya yoga — for veterans with PTSD and the veterans trauma was significantly reduced after one week and its benefits sustained one year later. Research shows that other methods such as practicing gratitudespending time in nature, exercising, yoga, and leading a life that involves meaning and service all will benefit mental (and physical) health and bring greater stillness into your otherwise hectic life. You just need to find the shoe that fits. But do keep looking until you find it!

For more on the science of happiness & mindfulness, see my book The Happiness Track

The post IS MINDFULNESS A RACKET? appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Elizabeth Kang

A guide to exploring Kauai’s South Shore with children-in-tow.

Traveling with children requires research, stamina, and the ability to leave your expectations and Type-A tendencies at the door. So when I began planning for my family’s trip to the majestic island of Kauai, you can be sure I spent many late nights googling, months before the trip. 

Doing my research paid off, because I discovered plenty of kid-friendly excursions, breathtaking points of interest, and charming restaurants, as well as a fabulous family friendly hotel to make our home base for the trip. While I mapped out much of our trip, I also left room for downtime and spontaneity, which is also essential for making the most out of a family vacay. Read on to help plan your ultimate family friendly vacation on the breathtaking Garden Island.

Where to Stay

Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa

Stay in style and comfort on Kauai’s sun-drenched South Shore at the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa, a stunning beachfront resort that the whole family will enjoy. In fact, it might be difficult to explore the island while staying at the Grand Hyatt, because the kids won’t want to leave the property’s exciting 150-foot waterslide and massive saltwater swimming lagoon. There’s also a lazy river for floating, and an adult pool area, along with tucked away jacuzzi’s surrounded by waterfalls and lush foliage. And in those rare moments when the kids aren’t enjoying the pools, there are plenty of fun activities and events to keep them entertained and occupied. 

To that end, both children and adults might enjoy learning a traditional hula dance at the resort’s daily hula lesson, or there’s the option to enjoy a professional hula performance, which takes place nightly at the lounge. A professional hula dancer performs various stories told through hula, accompanied by live Hawaiian music. My 5-year-old daughter was thrilled at the opportunity to get onstage and perform what she had learned at the resort. 

Adults will find much to do at and around the property as well, from a soothing treatment at the serene Anara Spa, to a game of tennis on the property’s tennis courts. Grownup-time could also include a leisurely swim at the adults-only pool, or perhaps a round of golf at the outstanding Poipu Bay golf course (conveniently located adjacent to the Grand Hyatt.)

Besides a bevy of fun activities, the Grand Hyatt Kauai offers a wide array of dining options, ranging from ultra-romantic and upscale, to casual poolside fare. On our first night at the hotel, we had no issues finding a cozy outdoor spot on the Seaview Terrace, which has stunning views of the beach and ocean — the perfect spot to enjoy a Mia Tai at sunset. The menu offers casual modern American favorites with a Hawaiian twist, and I enjoyed the perfectly cooked Ahi Sandwich.

There is also a sushi restaurant onsite, as well as an Italian-themed spot, along with casual cafes and bars. For a romantic or more upscale meal, be sure to reserve a table at Tidepools, which overlooks a Coi-filled lagoon and manmade waterfall. Kieki’s are welcome, of course, and will be able to find a children’s menu at Tidepools, as well as at every eating option in the resort. 

Kid-Friendly Excursions

While I found numerous excursions available for adults and teens (whale-watching boat tours, snorkeling, helicopter tours,) it took a little more digging to find some excursions appropriate for young ones. The two I did find, however, were unbelievably scenic and tons of fun.

Kilohana Plantation Railway

Winding through a 105-acre plantation estate, the Kilohana Plantation train tour is a must-ride, especially if you have a train-obsessed child in tow. My girls could not care less about trains, and they had a fantastic time, non-the-less. The 40-minute ride takes through a guided tour of the working plantation and its rich history as a sugar plantation. See fruit orchards, stop and feed wild native boars, and learn about local history, flora and fauna. 

Allerton Botanical Garden

Another great excursion option for a family with small children is the breathtaking Allerton Botanical Garden tour, which takes place on the opulent 80-acre garden founded and created by Robert and John Allerton. Choose either a self-guided tour, or a special tour like the sunset tour, which includes dinner, and be astounded by your surroundings of waterfalls, flowers, native trees, gorgeous water features, sculptures and even movie sets (some scenes from Jurassic Park were filmed in the gardens.)

Where to Eat

Keoki’s

This fun Hawaiian-themed restaurant has just the right amount of old-school-Hawaiian kitsch, and I loved every moment at it. From the tropical oasis outdoor seating to the live Hawaiian music and mile-high Hula Pie, Keoki’s is a family friendly “must-eat” while on Kauai’s South Shore. It’s located in a great little shopping area, too, so you can work off your meal with a little retail cardio.

Eating House 1849

Upscale but still kid-friendly, famed local chef Roy Yamaguchi’s Eating House 1849 is a beautiful, modern plantation-style restaurant with sweeping views overlooking lush land and ocean. The restaurant is located upstairs in a shopping area with nothing behind it but land and ocean, so the views are incredible, especially at Sunset. The food is just as good as the scenery, especially the Butterfish and Fried Chicken.

Must-See Sites

Sprouting Horn

Just a 10-minute drive from the Grand Hyatt, Sprouting Horn is an impressive blowhole set at the ocean’s edge. Kids will love the anticipation of the blowhole’s hissing release of ocean water spraying high up into the air, forced through an ancient lava tube. This is a quick, easy and free point of interest, and a wonderful photo opportunity.

Wailua Falls 

It’s just an easy drive (and no walking or hiking required) to view the top of the spectacular Wailua Falls, a 173-foot double waterfall located in Wailua River State Park. Fans of the TV show Fantasy Island might recognize this gorgeous waterfall from the opening credits. Although it is possible to hike down to the bottom of the waterfall, it may not be worth the hassle (or slippery danger) with young ones.

Kid-Safe Beaches 

Baby Beach

The aptly named Baby Beach is the perfect spot to bring the keiki to build sand castles and test out arm floaties. The swim area is protected from waves by a wall of rocks, and there are trees to provide shade when the sun becomes overwhelming. There are restrooms at the nearby park, and an eatery across the street that sells shave ice for an afternoon treat.

Poipu Beach Park

Poipu Beach Park is a family friendly public beach area for snorkeling, sunbathing, and splashing around, and there’s usually a lifeguard on duty (score!) There’s also a children’s playground, grassy picnic area and small protected swim lagoon for children and babies.

So pack up your sunscreen and swimsuits, and book the family vacation you’ve been daydreaming about! Kauai’s South Shore is breathtakingly beautiful, and the perfect area for families.

The post Kid-Friendly Kauai (South Shore) appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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May is Water Safety Awareness Month, and while drowning is 100% preventable, nearly 300 children under the age of five drown in pools and spas every year. According to Eric Lupton, President of Life Saver Pool Fence, the number one way to prevent drownings is through proactive parent supervision, but most drownings occur when a child was thought to be in the house but slipped outside without anyone knowing.

In 77% of accidental drownings, the child had been seen 5-minutes or less before being missed. Here are 10 tips for keeping their kiddos safe.

1. Install high locks

Put locks on doors and windows that are high and out of reach. Some drownings happen because a parent didn’t know their toddler figured out the door knob. Don’t forget sliding glass doors as well.

2. Get door and window alarms 

Families should install simple contact alarms for doors and windows that lead to the pool. The ring-type alarm sounds every time a door opens, alerting an adult.

3. No doggy doors

Pet doors should be permanently sealed off. Toddlers are known to mimic their pets and may follow them right out the doggy door and into the pool area, putting both child and pet at risk.

4. Pool safety fence

One of the most reassuring steps is installing a pool fence. Fences should be at least 4′ tall and have a self-closing, self-latching gate. Mesh pool safety fences, like Life Saver Pool Fence, flaunt an effective layer of protection with a transparent and aesthetically pleasing look.

5. Pool alarms

Surface pool alarms will trigger a sound inside the home when the water’s surface is broken. However, a small child could quietly walk down the pool steps and slip under water without setting off the alarm, so they cannot be used alone.

6. Child immersion alarms

When you first move into a home, consider using a wearable immersion alarm, like the Safety Turtle, which triggers an alarm inside the house if the sensor gets wet. This is especially important when you are unfamiliar with the area.

7. Assign water watchers

When children are in the pool, assign one person as a designated Water Watcher. Active supervision means sitting close to the pool with your full attention on the child/children. Do a regular headcount never leave young kids unattended.

8. Clear out pool area after swimming

Always remove pool floats after swimming, especially toys that attract children to the water. Also, make sure to move any tables or chairs away from the pool fence so they cannot be used to climb over.

9. Swimming lessons

All children should receive swimming lessons. Some organizations even offer training for infants to roll over and float, and to swim to the edge of the pool in case they fall in. 

10. CPR

Every adult should be trained in CPR. Check out community centers for classes. This training can make the difference between life, permanent disability, and death. 

For more information, click here.

The post 10 WAYS TO PREVENT DROWNING appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Elizabeth Kang

Some of the fondest childhood memories are made at summer camp. Being immersed in the outdoors, swimming, hiking, putting on silly skits and shows, creating cherished keepsakes in art & crafts, making lasting new friends, and singing those songs that stay with you throughout your entire life — these are the activities that make a child’s summer so memorable. 

Adventure Day Camp provides all of those fun, nostalgic camp experiences without the “overnight” aspect of traditional sleep away camp. Because Adventure Day Camp operates during the day, your child is able to experience all of the excitement and independence of summer camp with the ability to sleep in the comfort and security of their own bed.

Operating in both Walnut Creek and San Ramon, this family-owned business is celebrating their 20th-year anniversary, and we wanted to give special recognition to this beloved long-standing, local business.

We talked with owner Kevin Welch, who, along with his wife Sunshine, own and operate Adventure Day Camp and together, bring decades of camp experience and a wealth of skilled training into their business. 

Active Family Magazine “How and why did you start Adventure Day Camp?”

Kevin “I started Adventure Day Camp 20 years ago, while Sunshine came on full time six years after that. I grew up at camp, literally, starting when I was 9 months old, when my family ran a sleep away camp in Maine. I have been involved with summer camps each of the 47 years of my life after that. That’s right! I have never spent a summer of my life not involved in summer camp.

Sunshine graduated from Chico State with a B.S. degree in Recreation Administration, so it made perfect sense that we would team up to run and operate Adventure Day Camp. We are both strong advocates for the importance of recreation to foster social, physical and emotional positive chance.”

Active Family Magazine “What sets Adventure Day Camp apart from other Summer Camps?”

Kevin “Two things set our camp apart. One, the diversity and amount of really awesome activities, and two, the quality of our staff and the overall dedication they show to enriching the lives of campers. 

Ok, and one more thing. I do feel that being a family run and operated camp is really important. Sunshine and I are really hands-on and involved with all aspects of the program. That includes hiring staff, safety training, driving certification, and overseeing the program while it is running. We are parents to 8 and 6-yr-old boys, and I feel that helps us to understand what our camp families are experiencing, as they trust us with the care of their children.

Active Family Magazine “What is a typical camper’s day like at Adventure Day Camp?

Kevin “All campers arrive by 9:15 and at that time we blast some awesome, upbeat and positive music. This is the signal for all campers to head to their group meeting spots. This is a time for counselors to apply sunscreen, make sure everyone has a water bottle, and basically get their kids pumped up for the day. 

We then hold our ‘Morning Show’ from 9:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., where we sing songs, perform skits, and of course hold our daily ‘Dance Party.’ From 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., our groups are off participating in their daily scheduled activities. (Including lunch at noon, and different daily activities which can include horseback riding, swimming, arts & crafts, archery, tennis, woodworking, boating, rock climbing, skateboarding, and offsite field trips.) 

At 3:30 p.m. we once again get together as a whole camp for our ‘Closing Day,’ which includes a few camp songs, announcements, or just letting our campers come up and let us know what their favorite part of their day was. From 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. we are either driving campers home on the bus, or they are being picked up from our extended care.”

Active Family Magazine “What do you love about owning and operating Adventure Day Camp?”

Kevin After 20 years, we have developed so many amazing relationships with campers and their families. We have Camp Directors on our staff who have been coming to our camp since they were 6-years-old. We have seen so many amazing campers grow up to be amazing adults and we feel that camp has had at least a small something to do with that.”

Active Family Magazine “You are celebrating 20 years in business! How has your camp evolved over that time?”

Kevin “Although I certainly feel our camp has evolved over 20 years, mostly I believe many aspects of our camp have remained the same. Quality staff, a diverse and fun program, and creating meaningful relationships with campers and their families has always been extremely important to us. 

I think we have continued to always improve our program each and every year. We feel it’s extremely important to never get complacent and always work to be better each and every year.

As we look to celebrate 20 years of running summer camps in the Bay Area, we feel extremely grateful to be entrusted by our camp families to be a significant part of their children’s lives. It’s absolutely an honor and something we promise to never take for granted. Here’s to another amazing 20 years!”

For more information on Adventure Day Camp, including tuition and sample schedules, please contact Kevin or Sunshine at (925) 937-6500 or

The post Celebrating 20 Years of Business at Adventure Day Camp appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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by Emma Seppala 

A British author friend, Ruth Whipmann, author of America the Anxious, was shocked by something when she moved the US: everyone was so busy going to their mindfulness class and yoga class that they didn’t have time to spend with her — nor with their kids or their family.

The benefits of mindfulness — touted as a panacea for a myriad of problems from anxiety to chronic pain, has come under some debate. A few years back, a mindfulness research conference attended by the Dalai Lama and other scientists and celebrities came to a close with more of a loud bang than a quiet gong. A lot of questions and concerns were being raised about its benefits.

Thanks to a growing body of research supporting its benefits, mindfulness-based programs are cropping up in corporate workplaces, in schools and hospitals. Celebrities like Arianna Huffington are proclaiming its benefits, football teams like the Seattle Seahawks are sitting for daily meditation practice, highly successful CEOs and leaders like Congressman Tim Ryan of Ohio, author of Mindful Nation, are publicly supporting its benefits and magazines entirely devoted to mindfulness like Mindful are gracing shelves. Mindfulness has become a billion-dollar industry with books, life-coach programs and consumer goods to help you become a mindful eater, a mindful parent and even a mindful consumer! As the New York Times described, meditation “dry bars” are becoming the hot new go-to places to get your peace on and network.

Does Mindfulness Work?

After years of hype about mindfulness’ benefits, however, new questions are arising: Do the mindfulness scientists have a religious bias and agenda? Though researchers and mindfulness instructors vouch for its secularism, the presence of the Dalai Lama and Buddhist monks at these conferences does not raise any doubt as to one of the origins of mindfulness practice: Buddhism (there are others too). Many mindfulness researchers ostensibly practice Buddhist meditation. After all, research is me-search.

Can mindfulness be dangerous for our health? Researchers like Willoughby Britton of Brown University are claiming that, in some cases, mindfulness can be harmful. Are those reasons to throw the baby out with the bathwater? Not necessarily.

The more important question may be whether mindfulness really works. While thousands of studies have come out, reviews of these studies claim that, when examining the entire literature on mindfulness as a whole, it does not always stand out above and beyond other treatments. While some claim that these reviews refute mindfulness’ benefits, that claim is up for debate. If meditation’s benefits are equivalent to that of other treatments, then it’s a great option: some people would prefer to sit in meditation every day than use medication or attend therapy sessions.

Why is Mindfulness so Popular?

Rather than asking whether mindfulness is good, bad, or worthy of all the hype, perhaps the more interesting question is why it has become so popular. Why does everyone want to meditate all of a sudden?

Sure maybe it’s the marketing. But that can’t explain it’s all-pervasive nature. It can’t explain why it’s creeping its way into your workplace, healthcare facility, and onto your local military base. Perhaps it is answering an unmet need for more quiet, contemplation and calm in a world that is more and more fast-paced, whose technology is increasingly demanding our time and attention at all times of the day, and whose work loads and financial pressures are on the rise. Whether we’re CEOs or stay-at-home mothers, most of us are constantly running, overworked and exhausted. It doesn’t take research to realize that this pace of life is unsustainable and in many ways counterproductive and destructive. Is it a surprise that the use of anti-anxiety and anti-depression medication is at an all-time high? We are not equipped to meet the demands of this age and are looking for ways to calm our minds. As a consequence, we seek to balance the frenzy of our current pace of life with the complete opposite: sitting still. We need to fulfill an unmet need for more calmness, quietude, and peace of mind.

Is Mindfulness the Answer?

Is Mindfulness the only answer? It is for some people. But not for all. Remember that mindfulness has received a lot of attention because researchers have studied it. And it’s no surprise that it appeals to scientists — after all, it involves observing and labeling thoughts, feelings, sensations in the body in an objective manner. Observing and labeling objectively is what scientists and academics do. In many ways, it’s a cognitive exercise and is therefore something academics find attractive — it’s no surprise that they favor such a practice. But that doesn’t mean you have to.

If you’ve tried mindfulness and felt it is not for you, it’s important to remember that there are many ways of calming your mind and feeling at ease — mindfulness is just one of them. Breathing is another. We conducted research on yoga-based breathing practices — sudarshan kriya yoga — for veterans with PTSD and the veterans trauma was significantly reduced after one week and its benefits sustained one year later. Research shows that other methods such as practicing gratitudespending time in nature, exercising, yoga, and leading a life that involves meaning and service all will benefit mental (and physical) health and bring greater stillness into your otherwise hectic life. You just need to find the shoe that fits. But do keep looking until you find it!

For more on the science of happiness & mindfulness, see my book The Happiness Track

The post IS MINDFULNESS A RACKET? appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Elizabeth Kang

When you start planning the perfect Southwestern desert getaway, your first instinct may be to book a trip to warm up during the Fall or Winter months, but late Spring and Summer are also great times to visit picturesque Scottsdale, Arizona. There are some fantastic bargains to be had in the off season, even at five-star, high-end resorts such as the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. 

The Four Seasons Scottsdale is as luxurious and picturesque as ever in the warmer months, making it the perfect quick getaway for a pampering girls’ weekend, or much-needed romantic respite. And it’s only a two-hour plane ride from the Bay Area, so it’s an ideal option for families who wish to avoid the hassle of long plane flights. 

Whether you’re visiting with friends or you have the whole brood in tow, you can expect nothing less than the welcoming, polished, and flawless service that the Four Seasons Resorts are known for. Every need will be attended to, and every wish granted. Read on to discover the highlights of this stunning desert hideaway.

Bountiful Natural Beauty

Nestled in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak Park, the Five-Diamond Four Seasons Scottsdale pays high homage to its natural setting and heritage with traditional, yet modern adobe architecture set among iconic Saguaro Cacti and other remarkable desert flora and fauna. With the dramatic, jagged Pinnacle Peak summit as a backdrop, desert romance is elevated to a whole new level at this breathtaking oasis. 

The freestanding 210 adobe-style casitas blend seamlessly into their natural surroundings, in warm, vibrant desert-bloom-inspired colors of terra-cotta, beige, rust and sand. Inside each spacious guest room you’ll find your own cozy fireplace and private patio or balcony overlooking the extraordinary Sonoran Desert. A vibrant desert sunset is unmatched, and this resort’s blissful location makes for prime viewing. 

Amazing Onsite Amenities

That natural desert beauty provides a stunning backdrop while cooling off in the Four Season Scottsdale’s Saguaro Blossom Pool, a sparkling bi-level heated pool with shade cabanas and full poolside service. 

Break up your pool time with a soothing treatment at the onsite, award-winning Sonoran Spa. Couples and friends will enjoy the side-by-side couple’s massage, or perhaps the guest favorite, the Pinnacle Facial, a decadent face and body treatment using gold-infused sugar scrub and shimmer oil. Guests can also create their own body butter or essential oil polish at the Aroma Design Bar. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary steam room and sauna while visiting.

After reenergizing at the pool and spa, take advantage of the property’s well-equipped 24-hour fitness center, numerous fitness classes, and two pro-level tennis courts. 

Prime Outdoor Play

Four Seasons Scottsdale offers guided hikes, desert tours, and stargazing experiences, so there’s plenty of fun to be had outside of the resort, as well. 

Borrow a complimentary Mercedes-Benz house car (first-come, first-served) and take a day trip in style to check out breathtaking Sedona and other nearby points-of-interest.

Golf lovers will be giddy with the two legendary nearby courses, The Monument, and The Pinnacle. Both courses provide stunning scenery, with sweeping desert-vista views and jagged mountain peaks.

Like golf, mountain biking is also a popular activity in the region, and even first-timers can get in on the scenic fun with an experienced guide leading the trail. There are a few local companies that provide rentals, equipment and guided expertise, such as Arizona Outback Adventures. 

Delicious Culinary Delights 

Dining at the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale is a memorable treat, with options ranging from traditional Southwest and American comfort classics to contemporary high-end Spanish cuisine. 

Talavera is the go-to option for upscale cuisine, featuring a Latin-influenced steakhouse menu in a stunningly regal setting. The sophisticated restaurant boasts a large, elegant outdoor patio perched high above the ground — with breathtaking views. Enjoy a perfectly cooked steak, or the signature dish, De Mariscos — a rice dishmade with clams, mussels, lobster, Carabinero prawns.

Proof is the perfect spot to enjoy breakfast, lunch or dinner, or to simply sip on a single-barrel bourbon or glass of wine, while taking in the sunset from the outdoor patio. Its casual, yet contemporary ambiance is welcoming and lively. Enjoy a comforting plate of chicken & waffles or a refreshing Maine lobster roll.

Saguaro Blossom offers poolside dining with everyone’s favorites, with healthy fresh salads and ceviche, hearty juicy burgers & fries, and cooling ice cream sandwiches for dessert. Order a poolside cocktail or beer to enjoy on a lounge chair or shade cabana.

Onyx Bar & Lounge’s outdoor terrace is an ideal spot to watch the sunset or catch a soaring bird-of-prey, with handcrafted cocktail in-hand. The small plates are innovative and delicious, and the oysters are fresh. 

So Kid-Friendly! 

Four Seasons Scottsdale is extremely family friendly, with a kids’ pool, plenty of kid-friendly dining options, and many other perks for the pint-sized. Children ages four and under also eat free at any of the onsite restaurants. Take advantage of incredible Summer rates with the Very Important Kid Summer Special, which includes the complimentary Kids for All Seasons (a year-round kids’ camp program for children ages 5-12,) resort credits, complimentary in-room movie, snacks, and more! The package is valid June 1st through August 28, and starts at just $239 per night.

The post Hotel Spotlight: Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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By Katie Hurley, LCSW

Adapted from The Happy Kid Handbook

All kids experience anger and frustration, but learning how to channel these highly charged emotions can take time.

It’s natural for parents to want to quiet feelings of anger at first, as it tends to present as loud and imposing. It’s also difficult to watch kids endure these complicated emotions. For the most part, parents want to help restore happiness. 

Emotional regulation develops over time, and young children do take their cues from their caregivers. This can feel like a pressure cooker for parents. We don’t always have the best reactions in the heat of the moment. The good news is that when we go back and process what we did, and what we might have done instead, we teach our kids that learning to cope with big feelings takes time and practice, and it’s okay to make a mistake as long as we apologize, take responsibility, and figure out a new way to handle a similar problem in the future.

That said, there are a few strategies you can use at home to help your kids learn to work through anger. Anger can actually be a useful emotion at times; it’s what we do with that emotion that matters. 

The Anger Thermometer

This simple tool, when used daily, helps kids keep tabs on their emotional thermometer. When kids learn to take their feelings temperature regularly throughout the day, they begin to recognize when they’re feeling anger and frustration. When they feel their temperatures rising, they can evaluate whether they can cope independently or need assistance.

You can draw or download an image of a thermometer and write varying degrees of warming up and cooling down along the side. Ask your child to color where they “feel” on the thermometer throughout the day. 

Frequent check-ins gets your child in the habit of getting in touch with emotions and seeking help when necessary. It’s a good idea to write your child’s top three favorite calming strategies along the other side for easy-to-use strategies in the moment.

Pro Tip: This thermometer can be adapted for worry/anxiety, sadness, and various other emotions.

Color Your Day

There’s a reason those relaxing coloring books continue to pop up everywhere: coloring works! The combination of tension relief from the act of coloring and using colors to express emotions is a great strategy for coping with anger.

Here’s how this works: 

First, ask your child to assign emotions to a variety of colors. Many kids choose red for anger and yellow for happiness, but it’s important to give your child the opportunity to match colors to feelings.

Next, ask your child to color on a blank piece of paper how much of each emotion he felt that day. If your child had a great day, for example, it might be primarily yellow (happy) or green (calm.) If your child had a hard day, you might see a lot of red (angry) or blue (sad.)

Finally, comment on the colors on the page. Resist the urge to ask a ton of questions. Instead, try empathic phrases like, “I see a lot of red. It looks like it might have been a hard day,” or, “There’s a lot of blue on that page. I know what that feels like.” Empathic responses invite further exploration while providing much-needed comfort. 

Create a “Mad List”

Sometimes kids are so frustrated that they struggle to find the words to even verbalize what they’re thinking. This is where a “mad list” comes in handy…especially for frustrated preschoolers.

First, respond with empathy. It might be hard to stay calm when your child is feeling out of control, but the best thing you can do for child in the heat of the moment is meet her anger with your calm. Be the sunshine to your child’s stormy weather.

Next, meet your child at eye level and comment on what you see. “It looks like you feel really mad right now. You must feel so frustrated!” Keep repeating some version of this until your child sees that you understand. Follow this up with, “I wonder why you’re feeling so frustrated?” 

Give it time. Yelling and crying are natural reactions to feel angry. Your child needs to relieve the tension inside of her before she can work through it.

Finally, say, “Let’s make a list of all the things that make us mad and tear it right up?” Make one for you and one for your child. Start writing down things that make you frustrated (traffic, losing your keys, etc.) and ask your child to start thinking of things that make her mad. Write them all down and tear them up together! This helps your child verbalize her emotions and triggers and relieve pent up tension by tearing the paper. 

Balloon Breathing

This exercise helps with anger, anxiety, worry, and just about any other uncomfortable emotion. I tell kids and parents every day that if you can learn to regulate your emotional responses through deep breathing, you can find healthy ways to cope with the ups and downs on any given day.

It’s super easy and, with daily practice, it really works:

Ask your child to think about what color/design balloon he wants to blow up. It can be any shape and design he wants. Tell him that to blow up a balloon (even an imaginary one) you have to bring the balloon to your lips, take a really slow deep breath in to get enough air in your lungs, and exhale very slowly into the balloon. You can demonstrate the first time, and then count in for four, hold for four, and out for four when he tries.

To make your balloon so big that it floats off into balloon land, it helps to use three really deep breaths before you tie it off and send it on an adventure. 

Pro Tip: Practice when calm to be able to use this strategy during a moment of anger.

Create a Calming Kit

Calming sensory activities come in handy, and it helps to have a dedicated calming box at the ready to use when you sense that frustration is rising. You know your child best, so you know what calms your child. 

Some ideas include finger paints, a stress ball, a coloring book, Play Doh, a favorite book, and something soft and cuddly. 

Learning to cope with anger is a process, and it’s natural for kids to have explosive reactions to feeling upset. Empathize in the moment and practice strategies to release tension and anger when they’re calm to help build this skill. 

For more information on helping kids learn to cope with anger and frustration, get your copy of The Happy Kid Handbook.

The post 5 Ways to Teach Your Kid to Work Through Anger appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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Honua Kai Resort & Spa is a lovely, newly renovated beachside resort located in the coveted West side of Maui. It’s upscale, but it won’t break the budget, and is ultra kid-friendly, safe and welcoming.  We love that it’s a mid-size to smaller resort, and feels intimate and less crowded, but still offers plenty of fun and excitement. Read on to find out the top ten reasons why Honua Kai should be your next resort pick for a fun-filled Maui family vacation.

10. Activities and Extras Galore. 

Honua Kai Resort offers plenty of fun activities to keep the whole family entertained — many for no additional charge. Guests can enjoy a complimentary one-hour photography course, take advantage of the boogie boards and snorkel gear available to take to the beach, or grill a locally caught fish on the available outdoor BBQs. Spend some time working off last night’s dinner at the complimentary resort gym, or sign up for one of the amazing excursions available through the concierge (zip-lines, helicopter tours, snorkeling, biking, hiking, surfing, and more.)

9. The Views! 

Oversized, private Lanais furnished with comfortable lounge chairs and tables make for some of the best sunset and whale watching we’ve experienced. Mountain views and ocean views are both incredibly breathtaking from the resort. Watching the sun set with a tropical drink from the bar is what Hawaiian vacation memories are made of. You won’t want to take your eyes off the thirty-eight gorgeous acres of tropical foliage and beachfront scenery. 

8. Incredible Service. 

The warmth and hospitality we experienced at Honua Kai Resort was beyond reproach. The friendly and genuine staff we encountered everywhere from the concierge and spa, to the pool and beach area, made us feel welcomed and relaxed. Honua Kai feels much less congested and crowded than larger, “mega” resorts in the area, allowing guests to experience a more personalized and intimate customer service. 

7. Unbeatable Value. 

While many comparable resorts in the area charge a nightly rate of $500 or more, we found the price tag at Honua Kai extremely reasonable, especially considering the size of the rooms. Spacious studio suites that sleep up to four people start at just around $230. With such an amazing aquatic/pool area and full-sized kitchens to cook meals in, the resort is an exciting, fun and extremely affordable option for families. 

6. Ahhh-Mazing Spa. 

The Ho’ola Spa at Honua Kai Resort is a special experience you won’t want to miss. The spa uses products from Hawaii’s luxury beauty brand Malie Organics, and focuses on the balance of earth and sea, blending local, indigenous ingredients from each to create a memorable and blissful spa treatment like no other. Among the many treatments available are  “warm stone rituals,”  and various massages and facials, and also a “Himalayan Salt Room,” which was designed with panels of crystal salt to release “negative ions.”

5. Delicious Dining Options. Honua Kai’s onsite restaurant Duke’s Beach House offers something for everyone. The restaurant serves local, sustainably sourced seafood, fresh in-season produce, and juicy mouthwatering steaks, among other delicious options. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Duke offers special “keiki” kid’s menus, and hosts an amazing Sunday Brunch. The extensive wine & cocktail menu offers plenty of great options to sip on while enjoying live music, which plays frequently at the popular restaurant. Other dining options at the resort include the Aina Gourmet Market, where guests can order from a full coffee bar, made-to-order deli, and pick up grab-n-go meals. Whaler’s General Store is also a great place to grab snacks for the beach and food and drinks to take to your room, among other things.

4. The Pool Area! A definite highlight of Honua Kai Resort is the expansive and exciting pool area, which spans three acres. Five hot tubs, various pools, a waterslide, waterfall, kids shallow pool, sandy play area and children’s play area with fountains are all included. The main pool area features hidden grottos and serene waterfalls where guests can easily laze around for hours. Rent a tube float for the big kids (or adults) and some water toys for little ones, and everyone will be entertained for hours. Babies and small children will love splashing around the shallow children’s pool and playing in the sandy play area, as well as the cute and safe kiddie fountain area.

3. Room to Spread Out. Among the best reasons to love this resort is the ample space it gives families in its apartment-style rooms. Whether you book a Studio, One-Bedroom, Two-Bedroom, or Three-Bedroom Suite, you’ll find plenty of room in the open floor plans to sleep comfortably, spread out, and relax. Each room is equipped with a full gourmet kitchen (with a blender, toaster, coffee maker etc,) living area with sofa bed, washer & dryer, and much more. The decor is tastefully done in rich, warm wood and contemporary Hawaiian-themed decor. 

2. Location, Location, Location! You can’t pick a better location in Maui than the stunning Kaanapali district on the West side, and Honua Kai is nestled right by Kahekili Beach Park (a gorgeous public beach) and plenty of shopping and restaurants. The ever-popular make-your-own-pancake eatery Slappy Cakes is just a short jaunt from Honua Kai, as well as Times Supermarket, where you can pick up all the supplies you need to create gourmet meals in your full-sized chef’s kitchen back at the resort. Black Rock Beach is also a short distance away, where visitors love to snorkel, cliff dive, and marvel at the lava promontory. The renowned historic town of Lahaini is only a few minutes drive away, with plenty of shopping and eateries to occupy an entire day.

1. Ultra Kid-Friendly. From the shallow children’s pool and sandy play area to the generously sized suites, Honua Kai Resort is among the most family friendly resorts in Maui. Two kids stay free using existing bedding, and guests can request a crib to rent for only $8 a day. Full-sized kitchens make it easy to cook meals your children are familiar with, and every room is equipped with a washer and dryer, so messy, sandy clothes are not an issue during your stay. Self-serve parking makes it easy for families to get in and out of the resort efficiently, and the convenient location makes walking to the beach, shopping or restaurants a breeze on little legs. The whole family will be begging to return to Honua Kai Resort & Spa!

The post 10 Reasons Why We Love Honua Kai Resort & Spa! appeared first on Active Family Magazine.

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