In my job as a university professor, I hang out with a lot of smart people.
Experts in their fields.
PhDs can be fascinating to work even while they might be intimidating to some.
The thing is they are really, really good in their areas of study whether than be science, math, music, or biology. It doesn’t mean they know much about other disciplines. However, there is one profession that requires a person to be an expert in pretty much everything.
Think about it. What knowledge and aptitude does it take to be a parent? The profession of parenting requires a comprehensive list of skills. You need a degree in…well…everything! As you think about each degree listed below, consider how it plays into the role of parenting and family life:
Child (and Human) Development
Fashion/Clothing and Textiles
Landscape and Horticulture
Nutrition and Culinary Arts
E.M.T. with a bit of Nursing on the side
Did you think of any other areas a parent needs to learn about and teach to their children? If we stop to think about it, we are really amazing!
When was the last time you heard someone respond to the question, “What do you do for a living?” with “I am a parent!” just like they would proudly say, “I am a Marine Biologist!” or “I am a Mechanical Engineer!”?
Unfortunately, I usually see the respondent look down and say apologetically, “I am just a mom.”
Stop with the “just” already! We are professionals! We know so much about everything and are enrolled in the most comprehensive “PhD” program in the world.
Parents should be earning their own PhD and “walk” with cap and gown on the day their kids graduate form high school. A PhD should stand for “Parents Have Dominion.”
Because we really do rule the world. You don’t need to be the smartest person in the room to figure that out.
I’ve seen the following article shared and reposted on facebook and blogs. Like the “telephone” game, somewhere down the line the wrong author is cited. In most re-posts, it’s attributed to Dr. Ovid, but is in reality, it’s written by a Canadian occupational therapists named Victoria Prooday and called, “A silent tragedy affecting today’s children.” She stated:
For the past 16 years, I have been working with ‘misbehaved’ children. While most parents believe that their kids’ misbehaviour is intentional, I haven’t yet met a child who WANTS to misbehave. A child’s misbehaviour is just a manifestation of a deeper need. It is a desperate call for help. As a society, we address very differently physical and emotional challenges. If a child has physical challenges, we help our child strengthen the weak muscles. However, if a child has emotional challenges, we put them in time-out! Why? Children with emotional challenges need our help too! They need our help strengthening their emotional muscle – self regulation!
There is a silent tragedy unfolding today in our homes, and concerns our most beautiful jewelry: our children. Our children are in an emotionally devastating state! Over the past 15 years, researchers have given us more and more alarming statistics on an acute and constant increase in childhood mental illness that is now reaching epidemic proportions: Stats don’t lie:
• 1 in 5 children have mental health issues
• A 43% increase was observed in ADHD
• An increase of 37% in teenage depression has been observed
• A 200% increase in the suicide rate among children aged 10 to 14 has been observed.
What’s going on and what’s wrong with us? Kids these days are over-Stimulated and over-given material objects, but they are deprived of the foundations of a healthy childhood, such as:
• Emotionally available parents
• clearly defined boundaries
• Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
• Movement in general but especially outdoors
• Creative gaming, social interaction, informal gaming opportunities and spaces for boredom. Instead, the last few years have been filled with the children of:
• Digital Distracted Parents
• Pampering and permissive parents who let children “rule the world” and be the ones who make the rules
• A sense of law, to earn everything without earning it or being responsible for getting it
• Inappropriate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
• A sedentary lifestyle
• Endless stimulation, technological teddy bears, instant gratification and absence of boring moments. What to do ?If we want our children to be happy and healthy individuals, we need to wake up and get back to the basics. It is still possible! Many families are seeing immediate improvements after weeks of implementing the following recommendations:
• Set boundaries and remember that you are the captain of the ship. Your children will feel safer knowing you have the government in control.
• Offer children a balanced lifestyle filled with what children need, not just what they want. Don’t be afraid to say “no” to your children if what they want isn’t what they need.
• Provide nutritious food and limit junk food.
• Spend at least one hour a day outdoors doing activities such as: Cycling, hiking, fishing, bird / insect watching
• Enjoy a daily family dinner without smartphones or technology distracting them.
• Play table games with the family or if the kids are too small for board games, let your interests be carried away and let them be the ones sending in the game
• Involve your children in a task or housework according to their age (folding clothes, ordering toys, hanging clothes, unwrapping food, setting the table, feeding the dog etc.
• Implement a consistent sleep routine to ensure your child sleeps long enough. Times will be even more important for school-age children.
• Teach responsibility and independence. Don’t overprotect them from frustration or error. Being wrong will help them develop resilience and learn to overcome life’s challenges,
• Don’t load your children’s backpack, don’t carry your backpacks, don’t take them the task they forgot, don’t peel their bananas or peel their oranges if they can do it themselves (4-5 years old). Instead of giving them the fish, show them how to fish.
• Teach them to wait and delay gratification.
• Provide opportunities for “boredom”, because boredom is the moment when creativity awakens. Don’t feel responsible for always keeping kids entertained.
• Do not use technology as a cure for boredom, nor offer it at the first second of inactivity.
• Avoid using technology during meals, in cars, restaurants, shopping malls. Use these moments as opportunities to socialize by training the brains to know how to function when they are in “bored” mode
• Help them create a “Boredom Bottle” with activity ideas for when they’re bored.
• Be emotionally available to connect with children and teach them self-regulation and social skills:
• Turn off the phones at night when kids have to go to bed to avoid digital distraction.
• Become an emotional regulator or coach of your children. Teach them to recognize and handle their own frustrations and anger.
• Show them to greet, to take turns, to share without being left without anything, to say thank you and please, to recognize the mistake and apologize (don’t force them), be a model for all these values that it instills.
• Connect emotionally – smile, kiss, kiss, tickle, read, dance, jump, play or spoil with them.
Humans aren’t the only ones to have little ones, or really bad days, or feel the delight and burden of caring for dependents. Whether they are fur babies or human babies, moms have the most rewarding, best, and toughest job in the world.
Do animals-particularly moms-feel and express emotion? You be the judge by the following parent-child photos.
What single word emotion would you use to caption each situation?
Do you and your children smile while doing chores?
Do you whistle while you work?
Is everyone happy and helpful in maintaining the home?
Stock photos on Google Images can be so staged and fake, right?
Reality may be more like your kids’ bedrooms look like a bomb went off and your emotional fuse exploding.
This is SUCH a common problem. It can’t be addressed in one article, or be applied to every situation. However, I’ll offer some general principles that work well and can be helpful in informing your approach.
Here are the basics of setting up family rules. I’ll model this by suggesting only 3 rules.
- The fewer the rules, the better.
- Rules should be adapted and evolve as children grow. For example, here’s how a rule about cleaning their room would change over the years and a child’s maturation grows.
- Preschooler: pick up their toys each day and make bed (with your help), and put dirty clothes in laundry basket.
- School Aged Child: pick up their toys, vacuum carpet (or sweep floor), make bed and change out sheets every week, and put dirty cloths in laundry and put clean clothes away.
- Adolescent: pick up floor, sweep or vacuum, make bed and do their own laundry.
May I speak up from experience as well? On the “clean your bedroom and do laundry” issue, I have raised a few teenagers (five, to be exact) and some kids were less sparkling clean than others. They weren’t bothered by wearing wrinkly, stained clothes or living in a bedroom mess. Their bedroom became a battleground and I wasn’t ready to die on that hill.
There were other issues and rules that were much more important to me, and essential to their safety (such as curfew and electronic use). I had to decide that if I needed to stand my ground, it had to be what really counted. If I have too many rules and go Dolores Umbridge on everything, it makes every rule something for my teen to resist and our relationship to break apart. During rough times when I needed to back off and focus on our relationship, I just said, “Just keep your door closed so we don’t have to see it. So long as cockroaches and rodents are not roaming your room to eat leftover crumbs, you can live as you wish.” I figured that natural consequences (set by the world) rather than logical (set by me) would be a better teacher, navigator, and motivator. If their friends gave them negative feedback so much the better!
3. Children should also become more involved in creating the rules, rewards, and consequences as they grow. When there is “buy in” and more power given to kids, it is so much easier for everyone to feel validated and part of a team. It’s also surprising how kids can come up with brilliant ideas and solutions to problems that might not have occurred to a parent.
There are several categories of rules and I can’t cover them all (each family can decide what they want to prioritize). Categories can be:
- Electronic use
- School and homework
- Household chores, bedroom clean up and laundry, etc.
- Curfew and time home for dinner and bedtime
- Personal hygiene and dress, grooming, etc.
- Safety with drugs, alcohol, dating, social media, and healthy sexuality. Of course these would be ongoing subjects, introduced early in a very general way, and becoming more specific and relevant as the child becomes a preteen and teen.
- Respect for others and property, honesty, individual value, etc.
Rules can part of a weekly family meeting. If discussed weekly, these can be addressed in smaller segments so as to not overwhelm the family. Just talk about one topic or issue at a time. Celebrate successes and problem solve together. Calendaring weekly in a family meeting is essential so everyone is on the same page, the family can coordinate activities, and kids can know what is expected for the week.
Here’s a pdf of how to establish general family rules.
This a more detailed list from a Christian-oriented family. I wouldn’t post this one but discuss it since it’s too much. If you have family rules posted, they should be a short list. This one example:
A posted chore chart is easy to rotate responsibilities each week. Kids can be paired up to do household chores if they work better with a sibling. If it takes longer and they just end up arguing, working alone or with a parent is just fine. I like to have daily chores done by dinnertime and weekly chores get done whenever the child chooses, just so it’s done before the weekend and before they go out on the weekend to hangout with friends.
Here’s another nice worksheet that may be helpful for your family.
I’m not a fan of paying kids for their chores, such as an allowance, but there are several ways to give kids money to help them learn financial literacy and responsibly. One way is to offer extra jobs (more involved than regular chores) for money:
You may also reframe the negative perception of chores by re-naming them. The word “job” or “chore” feels heavy, like a chore or hardship. How about “Family Contribution, “Helping Time,” or “Home Improvement Time”? I once asked my brother in law how he enjoyed his job. He said, “It’s called ‘work’ for a reason. It isn’t called ‘play.’ It’s really hard.” So your own attitude and the words you use make all the difference. Rather than saying, “Go do that job” why not say, “Come help me get this done.” I highly suggest watching this video https://www.byutv.org/player/7657cf0a-c3bb-4e1d-852a-4be61c6398f8/real-families-real-answers-effective-parenting
Finally, keep the big picture in mind. The long view is to remember we are guiding and teaching our children to become responsible citizens, to be wise stewards of our communities, earth, and natural resources. And to be good workers to keep our economy strong. The home setting is a microcosm for where to learn the small, essential skills in daily living. We are the world in a nutshell, where we grow and nurture our kids. And that’s no small chore.
I have a friend who I greatly admire. She’s bright, funny, intelligent, articulate, and (dang it all), beautiful and refined on top of it all. She has it all together with a husband and four amazing children. They are the picture-perfect family. Until everything fell apart.
The pandemic hit her family hard. Like wrecking-ball hard. Her youngest son took a nose dive and she recently wrote about him and what they’ve gone through this past year. As I read it, I thought, “We are two mothers with the same story. We live in parallel universes.” It certainly makes me realize how her words will resound with other mothers.
She writes, “Done with the quarantine almost before it started, my son was desperate to reclaim a sense of agency he felt had been ripped away from him. Confined in an environment he already viewed as restrictive, dubious about claims of what the virus would do to him, he pushed back…What I saw all around me were kids suffering from lethargy and restlessness by turns, limping through school under the constant shadow of overwhelm, while services and infrastructure faltered.”
When you read her story (link below), you may want to cry out #MeToo. Welcome! Join the Covid Club. We are living as a village of parents scratching our heads and pulling our hair out, trying to raise the village idiots. But…she also offers level-headed, brilliant advice for how to handle Covid Kids. Something true to hold onto in this time of uncertainty.
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)
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book by Michael Rosen (for ages 6-pre-teens)
The Princess and the Fog by Lloyd Jones (depression) (for ages 5-7)
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.
…or in any relationship. Between two business partners, a parent and child, siblings, or best friends. This topic is for everyone. Even between a pet owner and his furry little animal.
Think about it. When do you NOT have expectations on a daily basis? Nearly every thing we do is laden with an expectation whether we are aware of it or not. Managing finances, raising children, doing chores around the house, maintaining a car and home, communication styles, and on and on. Every interaction involves two people who expect the outcome to be one way or another and for each person to act in a certain way.
In any disagreement on any topic, I assert that is has everything to do with unmet expectations. If you are angry, frustrated, disappointed, or just plain ticked off, just fill in the blank: “I expected that you would…”
Because expectations are part of everything we do and the source of unhappiness, I chose this topic when I was asked to be interviewed for The Growth Marriage.