Parenting

Insights and inspirations about parenting.

The cost of parental addictions on children

It’s tragic when a parent suffers from the chokehold of an addiction. It’s usually the case that an addiction is an unhealthy coping mechanism, or tool, a person uses to deal with painful emotions or thoughts. Parents were once children who might have experienced trauma of one sort or the other. If they don’t learn to overcome these challenges, or deal with them in a healthy way, the drugs, alcohol, or some other addiction can become their escape valve. Substances dull the senses. How tragic not only for parents, but for the children who lose their own sense of safety and connection to the adult who should be their protector.

Children in these homes often have inverted relationships: they become the parent too early and lose their innocence and childhood. The parent is the “child” and needing to be protected and taken care of.

In a class I teach, adult students reflect on any addiction they witnessed as a child. Thankfully, many do not have anything to report; their parents were mature, caring, and responsive. Those that report addictions have sorrowful stories. Every semester I hear them. There are the ones you expect of alcohol and drugs, but it’s amazing what other addictions these grown up children are still affected by and feel the burden of the painful past. Social science has shown that intergenerational transmission of addiction and abuse is the tragic legacy addicts are at a greater risk to leave to their children. It’s inspiring to read my students’ reports and how they have chosen to be the transitional character and break the chain of family addictions.

The following is a sample in their own words.* Are there any smaller patterns of addictions you might be indulging that you need to discard to have a fuller, healthier relationship? What are your children watching, learning, and carrying with them to adulthood? Consider these as cautionary tales of what your own children might report one day.

“I grew up with a father who was there… but not really there. He spent a lot of time playing computer games and didn’t really know how to connect to his daughters. He spent a lot of time on his computer with my brothers and had a pretty good relationship with them. My dad’s “addiction” to his computer games caused a lot of problems in my parents’ marriage and divorce has been discussed at least 3 times in my lifetime between my parents. To me, this is addiction. My dad gives so much of his time and energy to his video games that now that I am in therapy as an adult; I have come to realize that a lot of my tendencies from my teenage years to adulthood come from me being needy of male attention because I never got it as a child from my dad. I became pregnant as a teenager due to the unmet need of wanting a male to show attention to me and to love me.”

“My parents both have the same addictions. I hold the same addiction as them. They are both addicted to eating food and drinking soda.”

“I’d argue that the worst addiction my family has is tension. My dad, sister, and I all show an unhealthy addiction to creating and living with tension. That is to say, none of us grew up in environments where emotional relaxation was a luxury. When things seem to have been good for too long, we all poke at our life to find any negativity there. If we don’t find it, we create it. My sister and I have especially learned about this addiction in the past year with our own significant others and have sought out to find out why and how to fix it.”

“My parents both adamantly say they are not addicted to anything. But I have always noticed they are addicted to working. My dad has worked two full time jobs his whole life. He could retire and live comfortably but he always says he loses his mind on his days off and must be doing something. My mother is the same, goes to work, comes home, and works on the house until she goes to bed. They both never stop.”

“Within my immediate family my mom was addicted to caffeine. Her breaking point happened one day when she realized that she was happier to wake up in the morning, looking forward to having her bottles of Dr. Pepper instead of seeing her own four kids. She knew she had to stop. Once she gave up this drinking, she became more present with us. She was not as grumpy or moody when things didn’t go right. Her headaches stopped. She saw within herself that she was happier instead of depending on that addiction to bring her happiness. I learned second hand what having an addiction can do to a person as well as a family through my family being a foster home for children. It was heart breaking to see the state of these children who were ripped away from their parents because they were not being properly cared for. My parents taught me that if I do not want to be addicted to something it is better never to start. But if you were to get addicted, there is always a way to stop if you desire it enough.”

“I know that my parents can’t save money to save their lives. When I was in high school, my father got fired from a job where he made a six figure salary. My parents spent their money extravagantly, always having nice cars, a nice house, and the newest technology, not to mention making impulse purchases everywhere. Within two months of my father being fired, my family had to declare bankruptcy.”

“I inherited a negative body image from my parents. They are both fit and look nice, work out compulsively, but make critical comments about their bodies. I have had an eating disorder because of my inability to view my body as beautiful for what it is. I’ve recovered, but it can still be hard to feed my brain and body positivity when I am surrounded by comments that can be triggering. I am most definitely a perfectionist and I workout consistently.”

“My mom told us stories about her awful childhood to justify why she was always drinking. Since I can remember, my mom always had a beer in her hand, or alcohol in her cup. I knew it was alcohol when she would tell us not to drink out of her cup because it was only for adults. Drinking seemed to calm her down, her temper was not as bad when she drank. When she was drunk, she was funny and would make us laugh, we had a good time with her. After I grew up, I also found out my dad smoked weed and religiously around me and my sister.”

“My parents’ marriage ended because of lies and secrets due to a prescription drug addiction that my dad picked up when I was around 12 or 13. My mom found out about it and did everything in her power to help him for close to five years but the stress of raising a family and running a house by herself finally caused her to file for divorce.”

“My father had an alcohol addiction. Shortly after his second divorce he started to drink. It started with just a wine here and there, but it shortly led to an addiction. As a teen I would go to his business and his lips would be stained purple from his wine he drank the night before. On some weekends, he would have my friends and me drive him to Reno and drop him off to a bar. He would give us money to go to a movie or dinner so I loved taking him, but after we were done, we would sit around and wait for him for hours. Finally, we would go looking for him across town. He would end up at a different bar and he would always be so far gone. I had to drive him home and take care of him, even when I was an unlicensed, underaged driver. My dad spent all his extra money on his addiction.”

“Because of my dad’s job, we were very well off. No debt, no money issues, no problems. But because of that, we traveled whenever we wanted, we shopped whenever, ate out all the time because nobody had the energy to cook or make any food. A habit formed called retail therapy. Happy? Treat yourself to a new outfit. Sad? Treat yourself to a spa day, shopping, and whatever else you need to make yourself feel better. Mad? Angry? Annoyed? Hurt? Excited? Treat yourself. No limit. Because of that mindset, never having to cook a meal, and not having to worry about money- I have caused some financial issues in my marriage. I am learning that not every occasion needs a new outfit, not every emotion needs something to comfort and validate my actions, and grocery shopping is cheaper than eating out every day.”

“Just as any stressful situation leads most people to vices, my dad loved to gamble, drink, and I recently found out he also liked to look for relationships outside his marriage. Our family vacations were restricted to Las Vegas.”

“Addiction has plagued both sides of my family for generations. Our family’s drug of choice is alcohol. Alcoholism is extremely prevalent on my mother’s side – it has affected her, her father, his father, and for a period of time me. Through personal experiences, I have watched addictions of all shapes and sizes destroy families, including my own. They grow like weeds uprooting the foundations of marriage such as trust, loyalty, dedication and replace them with betrayal, dishonesty, and apathy.”

“The older I got the worse her addiction got. She would drink usually from 12:00 in the afternoon to midnight. I rarely saw her without a drink in her hand. When I was five years old, she had an accident and hurt her back. She did need surgery and after that is when the prescription pain and benzo medication addiction started.”

“Addiction is very prevalent throughout my lineage. In my immediate family alone, we’ve dealt with substance abuse, pornography, and sex addictions. My family has a genetic predisposition to anxiety and depression, which is directly correlated with addiction. With extensive rehabilitation and therapy, my family has worked to overcome dependency on alcohol, pornography, and sex. Having been exposed to addiction from a very young age, I’ve come to recognize it as more of a disease. So often people view addiction as a result of choice. To that I ask, who would choose to have a disease? In most cases, addiction stems from trauma. To cope with the tragedies of life, people rely on different vices to escape their reality. Having experienced it in my own home, I recognize addiction as a result of circumstance. Just as you would never blame anyone for having cancer, I don’t blame those in my family for their addictions. Rather, I’ve learned to support my loved ones to encourage healing.”

*Some specifics have been changed to protect the identity of the students.

How to talk to your child about mental health

I’ve got one of those good news-bad news scenarios to share.

The good news: there is hope that the pandemic will end soon with a vaccine now available.

The bad news: the pandemic has produced a second wave casualty–the silent and invisible plague of mental health issues.

There isn’t a quick and easy vaccine for this kind of illness. People around the world have suffered jobs loss, loss of friendship and celebrations, lost opportunities, uncertainty about the most basics of everyday living, anxiety about the future, and feelings of frustration vented onto family members crowded together in chaotic living arrangements.

The cumulative effect of stress suppressed in the body can turn into feelings of chronic depression or anxiety.

Wearing masks have shielded us from the virus. But what about the other masks we wear? The ones that lie and tell everyone that we are “doing fine” and “hanging in there” but hide the real emotion. We mask what is going on behind closed doors. According to the CDC, the social effects of the coronavirus has been associated with increased mental health challenges and anxiety and depression reports have risen during the past year. Forbes magazine also reports increased stress due to Covid-19 and a reluctance for adults to talk about how that stress affects their mental state.

So this leads me to the important question. What does a parent do when he or she is battling mental illness brought on by this pandemic, or from any other reason? How do you talk to your child if you are experiencing depression? Kids have it tough enough without having to worry about their parent.

Now’s the time to open up, take off the mask of shame, fear, guilt, doubt, and denial. Let’s replace it with safety, connection, vulnerability (which is an act of courage), honesty, and hope. Now’s the time to talk openly about mental illness.

One of the best ways to talk about difficult subjects with kids is through children’s literature…”bibliotherapy” so to speak. You learn about how other people are suffering and experiencing a wide range of emotions through fictional or nonfictional stories. It’s an indirect way to broach the topic which for many, makes it easier. Reading these books aloud with your kids will make it “safe” to talk about since it’s in a storybook format with captivating pictures.

Then, as you read each page, you can open up and talk about how you feel similar to the character in the book. Ask your child if they notice when you are in a depressed state and how it affects them. It also sparks questions such as, “Is depression contagious,” “What are my triggers?” and that it is a normal thing we are going through. The books also give ways the main character gets help from others and learns to cope, which you can discuss with your child. What a relief that will feel! No one is powerless; there is always help. Talk to them about how you are getting help (or plan to) and learning how to manage. These books can be read again and again to help your kids process their situation. Each time, you can ask different questions that are sparked from the story.

The following list are for the topic of depression. There is an equally wonderful selection of books on other topics related to mental health.

Can I Catch It Like a Cold? Coping With a Parent’s Depression
Written by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, illustrated by Joe Weissmann

Synopsis: Alex’s dad doesn’t work anymore and just wants to sleep all the time. When Alex finds out why — that he’s suffering from depression — he confides in his friend Anna. She tells him that her mom has depression too, and she sees a therapist to help her feel better. “I like that it promotes the benefits of therapy for the entire family,” says an expert at the Child Mind Institute. Ages 7-12. Published by Tundra Books.

Although this next story is about PTSD, a parent suffering from depression may identify that their depression is triggered by past experiences, smells, sights, etc. like the girl in this story. They could read it and talk about how he/she feels similarly anxious and depressed by life’s challenges.

The War That Saved My Life
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Synopsis: During World War II, 10-year-old Ava escapes her traumatic life with her mom and goes to the countryside, where she learns to ride a pony and read. But in the country she is still struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder; for instance, going into a bomb shelter reminds her of being locked in a kitchen cabinet in her mom’s apartment. Because of some mature language and themes, it’s better read with your child. Ages 9-12. Published by Puffin Books.

Here are four more books that are sensitively illustrated and written. Choose what targets your child’s age and appropriate developmental understanding.

Meh by Deborah Malcolm (depression) (for children ages 6-10)
(https://www.amazon.com/Meh-Story-Depression-Deborah-Malcolm/dp/163411003X)

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen (for ages 6-pre-teens)
(https://www.amazon.com/Michael-Rosens-Boston-Globe-Horn-Honors/dp/0763625973)

The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones (depression) (for ages 5-7)
(https://www.amazon.com/Princess-Fog-Story-Children-Depression/dp/1849056552

Why Are You So Sad: A Child’s Book about Parental Depression (Kindergarten to Grade 3)
by Andrews, Beth, and Wong, Nicole

Now, another good resource to open up discussion with your children is short videos. This one has great animation, information, and very helpful for children. I’d suggest watching it first, then viewing it with your kids and talking about the message. It’s terrific!

Finally, this video talks about signs of depression that would be great for older kids and teens. Not only to talk about how they see your signs, but also to become aware of their own mental health as well as their friends.

Let’s mask up for the virus but unmask when talking about mental health. It’s one less thing that doesn’t have to become a casualty of our current health crisis.

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Answering a parent’s question

Dear Julie,

My child has all the signs of ADHD and is driving us crazy. He is like a tornado, can’t finish any project, has trouble with his peers, and is failing in school. What are your ideas for us, his parent?

Dear Parents,

ADHD has been around for a long time. Many decades ago, it was look at disapprovingly, like some mental defect. The children adapted by being the class clowns or dropping out. They felt dumb and were treated as having a disability. In the early 60′ drugs became available on the market, mainly Ritalin, but the side effects could be severe.

“My child has turned into a zombie,” was the most frequent complaint.

Parents often opted out of medical interventions with no other recourse. Nowadays, there are at least 10 drugs that are effective to one degree or another, Adderall, being the one I’m most familiar with. They have less side effects depending on how they are dosed and monitored.

The good news is that medicine isn’t the end of the story, or even the main character. Just like your child is not just his brain, his “disorder” is interconnected to other parts of his body that can be helping or hurting his condition. Treating the other parts can pull all his body organs together into a well-functioning organism.

Body Systems

I can get you started on a journey to find resources to approach ADHD (or ADD) from many angles. Depending on the severity and origins, it may require your child’s lifestyle be examined and altered. Similar to having a child diagnosed with asthma, parents look holistically at diet, air quality, dyes and perfumes, pets and inhalers.

The same holistic approach should be taken with a child with ADHD. I believe a medical examination (or two) by trained professionals is the first step. Start with pediatrician and then consider an integrative medicine doctor, nutritionist, and other specialists as necessary. In that process, parents should always be in charge and weigh all the information they get to try what they feel is best. If something isn’t working, they keep trying.

Working with your son’s classroom educators is critical. If the teacher does not appreciate or understand ADHD or know how to structure the learning environment, it can become a frustrating, demoralizing place for that child. He/she may become ridiculed and felt to be stupid. Get an IEP if necessary and follow through that accommodations are appropriate and successful.

If your child’s educator needs a little coaching, start with structuring your son’s desk or table with “nesting.” Nesting means to set up your child’s workstation so it surrounds them. Sometimes children will struggle if they can’t find something that helps them to stay on task. For an example, having all the writing implements they need at their grasp is important. If they get up to find something, they may not sit down and refocus for a very long time. Having everything surround them, helps them to remain in place.

Depending on the severity, many young children can be trained with biofeedback and CBT/DBT, or other behavioral modifications from a trained coach.

Here are a few some websites.

https://www.adhdcoaches.org/find-your-coach

https://psychcentral.com/blog/when-you-cant-afford-adhd-coaching/

In the city where I live we have a well-respected business called Brain Balance that is found nation wide: https://www.brainbalancecenters.com/

There are also plenty of books and podcasts to listen to on this subject. Get educated as parents! Talk to others with children with similar needs and find out what they recommend. Get on Facebooks groups. However, be cautioned that one miracle cure for one child does not necessarily do the same in others.

Central to behavioral therapy involves learning organization tricks, establishing routines and schedules, taking frequent breaks with grounding (sensory grounding, not the punishment kind) and vigorous exercise, mindfulness, as well as examining the diet. If tested, many find that certain processed food, most sugars, dyes, and food common to allergies will spike the ADHD.

No Sugar Challenge - Posts | Facebook

Video gaming and device use must also be examined. I find that children, particularly those with mental/cognitive deficits, can help their brains to rewire by working closely in nature and with animals daily.

New Study Shows Having A Dog As A Child Makes You Less Likely To Suffer  From Anxiety

Sleep also needs to be examined because the brain needs to go into REM to restore and regenerative cells each night. So if the child is not getting deep and adequate sleep, that is another angle to address.

3 Tips to Help Your Tween Get to Sleep Before 10 p.m. | Parents

If the child is older and responsive to medicine, it takes time, practice, and patience to see what works. One medicine may do loopy things to the child so that means you just need to give that feedback to the doctor and try again. There are many safe and effective medicines, but everybody responds differently so it’s a trial and error to find the right one at the right dose.

Most importantly, it’s important to learn that the best perspective you can have as parents is that your son isn’t weak-minded, stupid, wrong, broken, or doing this to make everyone’s lives miserable. To be sure, the child knows that he is missing something and like having dyslexia, needs adaptive and coping mechanisms. These children are some of the brightest, most creative, and compassionate. People with ADHD can be extremely focused when they find something they are passionate about and worth diving into.

To that end, when raising a child with any “disorder” it should be framed or stated a positive way so there are no negative perceptions with which to burden a child and distort their self-concept. They have a special way of thinking, processing, and doing things that make them super. I believe fictional geniuses like Tony Stark as Iron Man

Iron Man Mark 3 - Armor Suit Up Scene | Iron Man (2008) Movie CLIP HD -  YouTube

and real people like Robin Williams

The Death Of Robin Williams: Two Psychiatrists' Perspectives | MGH Clay  Center for Young Healthy Minds

embraced their creative ADD minds to become marvelous inventors and entertainers. Kids needs to see that they are super like that, too.

Empty Nesters Now

I said goodbye to my 5th, and last, child this fall. He left for college. Some parents find this a heart-wrenching time and cry for days with the covers pulled over their head.

I get it.

My mom said when my last sibling left home, she closed the door on the house and the “click” sounded like an echo chamber in a tomb—

hollow, claustrophobic, and terrifying.

It’s a huge life transition to change from a parent fulltime to a parent… hardly ever. I mean, of course I’m still a parent forever, but not hands-on, blood, sweat, and tears rolling down my face anymore. I won’t know if he’s eating or sleeping enough, washing behind his ears, turning in his homework, and being kind to people or not.

It’s funny that you’ve only become successful at the job of parenting when you’ve been fired from it. You want to eventually get “out” of the job, the same one you’ve immersed yourself in 24/7 for decades, to see that your young adult is adulting now. Even though we’d like them to be under our protective wings forever, that isn’t the way it’s supposed to be. They’re meant to grow up and make their own decisions; they’re meant to distance themselves from us to become capable, independent people who don’t need to call home to ask if Skippy or Jiff is the better peanut butter.

So here was my little boy, around 2 years old. He was my world.
And here he is on the day he headed off to college in his red car.

I felt a weight lifted off my shoulders when I shut the door. An invisible weight I hadn’t known was there for the past 33+ years. I’m not done parenting yet, but launching my last was a huge relief.

He’s a good person. He works hard. He serves others. He is responsible, just like his older siblings. There is no dossier about a parent who does the magnificent and improbable task: to raise an infant to adulthood in this wild, wild world. There needs to be more bands and parades. There needs to be confetti (or money) showering from the sky. There needs to be an Olympics Gold Medal for every parent who makes it this far.

Since he’s been gone, it’s been quiet around the house, for sure. The house stays clean. I can wake up and do whatever I want. My husband and I feel like we are back in the honeymoon years with just ourselves again (but with more money).

I highly recommend this stage to everyone.

My hat goes off to any parent who raises a responsible adult. I know just how hard it is and there are no guarantees that after all the good parenting, the child will grow up to be a good person. I guess the more accurate thing to say is my hat goes off to any parent who loves their child, and loves some more, who knows when to say “no,” and who never gives up.

Now…if you want to find me, I’ve gone to Disneyland.

Freedom!

What is a “good mom”?

I saw an intriguing and thought-provoking question the other day: “What is your definition of a ‘good mom'”?

Think about that for a minute.

Take a moment to jot down what you think are the essential qualities.

At the same time, please acknowledge that parents confuse this question with the daily self critique of “not being good enough.” Why is that? I believe that we are trying to measure up to an unrealistic ideal in parenting. Not being “good enough” in this sense really means “less-than-perfect” when perfection is the way this person feels worthy as a parent.

That is where we confuse and defeat ourselves. We shortchange our kids with what they really need: us. Flawed. Imperfect. Us.

If we are so busy tearing down our best efforts because they aren’t up to some imaginary measuring stick, that is wasted energy. How is it we accept flawed, imperfect attempts by our kids (and find them adorable, by the way), but we don’t afford ourselves the same appreciation.

Stop and review the list you wrote of the things that nourish and flourish little people into healthy adults. I doubt you had on your list, “Cook a homemade healthy meal every day.” “Never raise my voice.” “Have all laundry folded neatly and put away (with socks that found their mates) all the time.” No? Well why do we get discouraged when we don’t do these?

Here are some insightful “good mom” responses from real moms who answered this questions honestly and thoughtfully. There are 20 responses and you’ll see quite a few repeated ideas. I will bold repeats to scream, “Pay attention!” It’s surprising, really, how being good enough is quite simple.

As you read, please consider if you can do these things and how to do them as often as possible. If you concentrate on these, let go of the rest and just do your best.

  1. Love your kids, apologize when you’re wrong, and do your best.
  2. A mom who never gives up on being better.
  3. Unconditional love, says sorry when necessary, teaches basic life skills like respect and kindness, the importance of good education but allowing natural consequences. And love some more.
  4. The best mom for my kids is me, not because I am anything great, but because I love them and will continue trying to do better. Today my house is a mess, my kids haven’t bathed in days, we ate pancakes for dinner, and didn’t bother doing any school work. But we did cuddle under the duvet, laughed at movies, talked about the things we love, took care of our animals and generally enjoyed each other. Tomorrow I will clean the house and they will do some work. But tonight I will have a bubble bath and restart our journey together.
  5. For me, I feel like I am being a good mom because I pack their lunches (mostly) as a tangible thing I do purely because I love them. But honestly, my kids are the ones teaching me how to be a good mom every day. Nobody has ever taught me to be a good mom other than my own children.
  6. When your kids have a nightmare, do they come to you for comfort? Do they know they know they can come to you for anything without fear or judgement? If they can, then you are a good mom.
  7. For me, I am a perfectionist. I tried so hard to be the perfect mom. I know the “gifts of imperfection” (Brene Brown) and I believe a good mom is actually imperfect, relatable, and tries to connect with an imperfect kid. I no longer even want to be perfect.
  8. Some days I want to strive to be loving, compassionate, Donna Reed, Pinterest Mom. Other days, I strive to not be a Netflix, Documentary binge-watching Mom. It’s all about balance.
  9. A mom who knows this job is crazy hard and keeps trying anyway. A mom that’s dependable, that shows kids love unconditionally, that gives them safety (emotionally, spiritually, and physically). A mom that motivates them, who is honest with them, and apologizes for her mistakes. One that is trying to prepare her kids for life all while growing with them herself. A mom that strives to teach them of their worth and of God’s love for them personally.
  10. A mom whose kids know they are loved.
  11. A mom who keeps trying. A mom who says she is sorry when she needs to. A mom who is not a doormat to her kids or anyone else. A mom who is teaching her kids how to operate in the world and she doesn’t want them being treated or treating other badly. She works to teach them to be decent by insisting they be decent to each other and to her. A mom who gives herself credit for what she’s doing right and knows where she needs to improve and is working on it.
  12. Someone doing the best they can in the circumstances they’re in–knowing full well they are not perfect but they try, they love their children and do what’s best for them. Every bit of good we do for our family is good.
  13. Do my kids know I love them? Yes they do. So I am a good mom.
  14. Who loves her kids and tries.
  15. Loves her children unconditionally, teaches them to be independent and have good self esteem, is a good example, teaches them that she is human and mistakes and owns up to them and apologizes.
  16. Being present.
  17. One who gives time. One who teaches. One who cries with her kids and doesn’t always give into all their demands but teaches instead of consequences. One who is true to herself and doesn’t try to be someone else. At the end of the day, giving and loving is what kids want most.
  18. Someone who love her child and keeps trying even when she fails.
  19. A mom who loves her children and herself (so important!) as Christ would. A mom who welcomes imperfection and never gives up.
  20. Anyone who has had three or more hours of sleep.

I encourage you to add the bolded words to the list you made. When we boil all down this messy work of parenting, it comes down to these few things. “Welcomes imperfection” is one of my favorite phrases. What a GOOD thing to strive for each day.

Helping Children Achieve Their Goals

It’s a good time to visualize a better future. Having so many restrictions in our lives during the coronavirus stay-at-home quarantine helps us appreciate what we can do when we’re able to again.

For one, I can’t WAIT to go back to the fitness center and swim again. It’s a small wish, but oh, how I’ve missed doing it.

We were going to take our son our our traditional family “senior trip,” the one where we let our high school senior child dream, plan, and do with us. We’d been dreaming and planning on a trip to Iceland for the past year. We were supposed to be there this week. It would be our last senior trip with our last child.

Ya. That isn’t happening. Rather than seeing waterfalls and Blue Lagoon geothermal mineral spa, we’re visiting the family room, bathroom and, for some new scenery, the kitchen sink.

We’re not letting that get us down (not too much). As my friend said, our dreams right now are not cancelled, just postponed.

You might have heard of Dream Boards. Some call them “Vision Boards” because they help us envision, or tangibly see what we want. They can help us visualize goals. It would be a great activity to do as a family while stuck at home. Help our children see what are the possibilities of a post-coronavirus life. A dream depends on hope; a hope is a lifeline to a brighter tomorrow. What do you miss and want to see yourself doing again in the near future?

Here are some pictures I could post on my board:

Swimming.

Hugging people, shaking hands, and being close again.

Dressing up to go to a nice event (I’ve forgotten how to put on mascara).

Travel. Anywhere.

Eating at a restaurant.

Going to a sporting event and cheering loudly with thousands of others, all crammed together with reckless abandon.

Going back to a classroom with a real, live teacher who is being paid a billion dollars.

Attending church.

Buying food and supplies and finding them well stocked on shelves.

But what do we do beyond just staring at those pictures of the physically fit person we want to be or the vacation we want to take?

Here’s a interview I did on the Matt Townsend show on BYU radio. After the first interview (about 1 hour) I follow on the topic of on Doing Not Dreaming. Matt and I talk about helping our children achieve their goals.

Listen now. http://www.byuradio.org/episode/73c676d7-0f84-4985-a6cf-ff863abc763a/the-matt-townsend-show-doing-not-dreaming

19 Favorite Covid-19 Memes

In honor of the novel coronavirus that is named “Covid-19”, I have collected 19 of my favorite memes that lighten things up at this serious time.

  1. I once babysat some kids when their parents left on an oversees trip for 2 weeks. One of their instructions was to count off a certain number of squares of toilet paper for the kids (#1 and #2 had different amounts as I recall) when they used the toilet. My parents had never thought of such a thing in our house and I was quite dumbstruck by the practice of T.P. rationing. I’m not anymore. IMG_2350 (002)

2.  This next one is all-too-true. I went to Costco one day and got there before it opened at 10:00 a.m. The store had opened early and I could see a line of shoppers with carts that wrapped around the side to the back of the building. Call me crazy, but I got in that line. It felt like the “Indiana Jones” ride at Disneyland without the ride at the end. People were a bit frantic and pushing their way in the store. I couldn’t believe it. All that, and there was no toilet paper or baby wipes! I then went to Winco and there wasn’t a line, but EVERY SINGLE shopping cart and red basket was being used inside the store. I couldn’t put my groceries in anything. There were 2 lines to the checkout stands, each wrapping around the sides of the store and ending in the back, by the dairy or fish counter. I stood in line for 45 minute with my little handful of items before I could pay for them.

 

IMG_2349I made some nice friends, standing in the line for so long. One guy offered to put my groceries in his cart so I didn’t have to hold them. He said he was looking for ways to be extra nice to people during this stressful time. He reminded me we all have a choice and hardship can bring out the best or the worst in us. I choose best. My neighbors have been texting each of us to see who needs anything from the store if they are going out. It’s so heart-warming to see how we take care of each other (with or without the WW II gas mask outfit)

IMG_2347 (002) 3. Who’s with me on this? I can’t believe how often I touch my face. If I hear the words, “Don’t touch your face,” my nose immediately starts to itch.

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4. I love Tom Hanks and the movies he makes. Some have compared him to a modern-day Jimmy Stewart. A class act and an every-day man. I find it not a coincidence that this ordinary man who played “Mr. Rogers” could get the Covid-19 virus. He is just like us: he bleeds like us and gets sick like us. I am truly sorry he and his wife are under quarantine. I wish them a full recovery.

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5. Funny how his movies all tend to be about catastrophes while traveling.

 

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6. Speaking of travel. Just don’t. This is a floating cesspool of germs. I don’t know how the cruiseline industry (or airline/hotel/restaurant/rental car, for that matter), will survive. This virus will have such long-reaching, economically devastating effects. I had to cancel a family trip to Iceland for spring break and my son, who was going to China this summer to teach English, will miss out on that opportunity too. This has changed everything. Which brings me to how I feel about everything with the next meme:

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7. Earth is closed today. And every day for who-knows-how-long.

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8. I’m not whining though. That meme reminds us how others have been through terrible times. We are not anywhere near that category. So what if I can’t find milk or T.P. on the store shelves? We are not starving. We are not in a war. Life is good.

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9. Yes, this.

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10. This one cracks me up. So do the next ones. IMG_2338

11. Bring Your Own Toilet Paper.

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12. I totally watched “Scooby Doo” as a kid. It was the ultimate reveal at the end when it was discovered that “Old Man Withers” or some other nefarious person had masterminded the appearance of a ghost. Now we know the culprit is the T.P. industry. They are making a mint off this.

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13. Or maybe it’s Dolores Umbridge who’s behind this. I wouldn’t put it past her. She was creepy mean in that movie.

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14. Since I love “Harry Potter” so much I had to put this in here too.

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15.  And I also like “Jumanji” so this one made the list. It did feel a little like a cosmic trick being played on us. To add insult to injury, those of us living in Utah had an 5.7 earthquake during the quarantine. I’m just waiting for the rhinos to come stampeding through.

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16. Such weirdness…it’s like all these random acts all spawned from an ADHD child’s imagination.

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17. Speaking of kids, we are acting like them these days. We are having to learn the basics again of how to wash our hands? C’mon, people, this is what we should have been doing all along.

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18. As a Utahan, this one was classic.

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19. Hope you got a good laugh today. We all need it to help clear our minds and put things in perspective.

Here’s a bonus one just because it’s too good not to share.

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Stay safe. Stay well.

Re-connect with those you love…

In groups smaller than 10

And at a social distance of 6 feet or more

And after you’ve washed your hands for 20 seconds…

Covid-19 Parenting 101

Looks like we’re all going to be home with our kids for a while.

Steady.

Let’s all sit down and take a deep breath.

This news may be more intimidating and stressful for parents who are used to sending their kids to school for others to teach, keep from fighting, and chase boredom away.

“Social distancing” is another catch phrase for “You can’t play with friends so you’re stuck with me.”

Now it’s our turn. It’s 24/7 Covid19 Parenting Time. Desperate times call for desperate measures. We’ve got to be as creative as an elementary school teacher, as entertaining as Nickelodeon, and enticing as a vending machine.

My cousin is a fabulous parent of four. She uses the outdoors to teach her kids a healthy respect for nature and books and other materials to teach them how to use their minds. She came up with this chart to schedule learning and keep everyone on track while they are out of public school. Notice how they helped.

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Do you remember the daily schedule your 5th grade teacher had on the board? Rather than falling into boredom and brain atrophy, why not keep the daily schedule going at home? Kids may resist at first, but you never know. If you let them come up with a reasonable schedule and goals, it may just catch fire.

Plus, did you see the win-win? She has them up and doing chores first thing. Yay for this clever mom sneaking that in.

P.S. Her name is “Sara” and “Rob” is her husband. I want to give her props for including him on house duties so the kids see their dad pitching in as well.

Here’s another generic chart that you could start with. But personalize it to your family so they are all creating their own learning plan. Home school kids do this every day.

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This schedule was also posted by a parent who took a more realistic approach to her “home school schedule”

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Does that resemble yours? Or maybe, by default, your day will look more like this:

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Being real is my thing (see book I wrote on home page). However, life shouldn’t unravel to the point that we give completely up. The little terrorist shouldn’t win. We are, after all, still in charge. Check your driver’s license and remind yourself who is the adult.

This time of quarantine may just be a wake-up call that we needed to have more structure to begin with. It’s hard to go from zero to hero in a matter of weeks.

Baby steps, people.

Start somewhere. Anywhere.

I suggest having a 1:1 ratio of media to learning if you need for younger kids. For every hour of school or subject study at home, children can to do either 1 hour of earned outdoor/physical play or 1 hour of “free” time (translate: media) or anything they want to do for fun like crafting, playing a board game or with toys. They have to alternate the physical play with media play.

I know, it’s going to be hard. T.P. may run out and you’ll have to start being creative.

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Just remember that school and public events and gatherings are cancelled (what, no Disneyland?) but kindness is not cancelled. Family fun is not cancelled. Laughter and jokes are not cancelled.  This may be a wake-up call and opportunity to give your child the one on one time with you that they’ve been missing.

 

 

“Childhood is Short; Maturity is Forever”

I’ve been studying research about children’s inability or difficulty in expressing their feelings. Part of this is developmental, the other part is experience and learning. In many cases, when a child is out of control (for no apparent reason), the best thing to do is to say, “I see you. This must be hard,” and wrap them up in your protective arms. They feel frightened, out of control, and need to feel safe again. They need emotional connection.

Just this week I was reminiscing about a daughter who had frequent melt downs as a toddler. I tried my best, but sometimes, I just let her be. I have a vivid memory of her sitting at the top of the stairs, bawling uncontrollably. What I wouldn’t do to go back in time, scoop her up in my arms, and rock her until she calmed down. I have this regret, and I will never get that moment back.

Childhood is short.

Being a parent ends quickly.

Eat Halloween candy together.

Take a son or daughter out of school to go on your own “field trip” to the park, a museum, or to a foreign country.

Run through summer sprinklers.

Wrap them up in your arms because too soon you’ll be letting go.

 

What is your mom superpower?

Being a mom or dad automatically endows you with superpowers. It’s like the hospital you enter and come out with a baby has turned into the X-Men School for Gifted People and you come out with extra powers as well.

I call it your Sixth Sense.

You need it to survive as a parent. Time is shredded into ribbons and nano seconds when you’re a parent and you need to get things done fast or more efficiently.  You need to feed 4 people dinner on a dollar and grow eyes on the back of your head.

To substantiate this theory, I turn to real parents who spill the truth about their extrasensory perceptions. These are actual “superpowers” that moms all over the nation have claimed as their own:

Keeping kids clothes clean, which is a killer power especially with baby bibs and clothes with that get stained with puke and poop every day.

Always knowing exactly why a baby is crying: hungry/tired/gassy/poopy, and not just her own baby, but ANY baby!

Knowing something is about to grow mold in the refrigerator. Smelling it before it goes bad.

Impeccable timing at restaurants where she arrives to orders at the counter just before the crowd comes in.

Keeping a baby happy on a 10-hour flight. Now THAT’S a superpower we can all appreciate!

Knowing someone is pregnant before it’s announced, and being able to predict the due date within a week.

Always finding the best bargain. Like, it doesn’t exist unless it’s within budget.

Putting a fussy baby to sleep. Not just her own baby, but ANY baby. Best superpower ever!

Knowing it’s about the rain. “Kids come inside, it’s about to rain.” And then it does.

While breastfeeding, she can: go to the bathroom, successfully make and eat a turkey wrap, do the dishes, drive the car (don’t tell anyone that!), or sleep.

Never burns food but never sets a kitchen timer. She can always smell when something is ready to take out of the oven. Wow. I’m speechless on that one.

Picking ripe produce.

Going to the bathroom in 15 seconds flat.

Extracting a foreign object deeply embedded in a child’s nasal cavity.

Folding fitted sheets nice and flat like the flat sheets. That’s almost Wizard superpowers.

Reaching anything in the backseat from the front seat like Elastagirl.

Knowing direction after only having been there once before. Being able to navigate big cities and new places easily.

Push a double stroller through revolving doors, down narrow grocery isles, etc.

Being a bloodhound. If there’s an off smell in the house, she can find it. Anywhere!

Not feeling like retching when watching a child throw up.

Knowing the sex of kids before the ultrasound.

Having the supersonic hearing of Bat Girl or a Vampire. The most important is the picking up on sound of silence. Knowing the minute all is quiet, something is wrong in the house and the kids are up to mischief.

Getting the close parking spot.

Really good at eating any chocolate in the house.

Being able to make anything from just tasting it once.

Directing/supervising a toddler in the house while taking a shower.

Picking the exact size container for leftovers.

Can smell when people have cavities.

Can wake up at an exact time without an alarm, even when at different times.

Super good reflexes. Like catching a baby the minute they squirrel out of a grocery cart or high chair, or an egg that rolls off the counter, catching in midair. Pretty much elevated to Jedi powers, this one.

Making a full, nutritious meal out of nothing, just a few random items in the frig and pantry.

Staying sane when the house is falling apart all around her.

Really good at building IKEA furniture…and liking it! Just try this once and you’ll see that this is definitely a superpower.

Never being out of clean underwear for children.

Being a single mom. Every day that is a superpower.

Knowing the temperature of a child just by kissing their forehead.

Really good at sleeping. Amen, to that one.

Superhero Woman Supermom Cartoon character Vector illustration

Superhero Woman Supermom Cartoon character Vector illustration T-shirt design