parenting

Real Parents-Real Advice

In a university parenting class I teach, students interview their parents and ask them a variety of questions about what it was like to raise their children.

If we could have brought in these parents to class and lined them up in front, they would represent decades of experience and a rich “lessons learned” dialogue. I wish we could, but in place of that, I took some of what advice they shared and will anonymously excerpt what they said below. There’s so much outstanding advice they shared that we can all absorb, and if we do, we’d be better people and parents. They summed up all they learned in a few sentences and they are GOLD. Take note of how many times the word “love” was used and and the context spoken. Look for other repeated themes that indicate it’s important to a lot of parents looking back on their lives. 

“Everybody’s different and every parent will do it a little differently. But if you decide to have kids, recognize the responsibility that it is. A good parent only punishes out of love. Make sure you do all you do with your kids from a place of love.”

“We all just keep learning. We learn first to be parents to little kids, then teenagers, then adults… you’re never a pro at it when you start a new stage.” My mom added, “and we’ve made mistakes at every stage.” My dad’s advice was “don’t sweat the small stuff.”

“Everyone has bad days and good days. Sometimes you’ll feel really patient and others you won’t have any patience left. Don’t be too hard on yourself.” My mom said, “If you say it, do it. If you have an expectation, expect it.”

“It’s a hundred million times worth every single effort that I put into being a mom, and it is so joyful. I would not trade it for anything.” There have always been ups and downs, but there are things he has learned as a parent that would not have been possible any other way. My mom said, “ Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you’re perfect now. Give yourself grace and make sure you yourself are taken care of.”

“Have fun and enjoy your children.” It’s important to enjoy the time you have with them because one day they will grow up and you’ll wonder where the time went.

“Love. Show love to your kids and they will be ok. Love verbally by saying it, physically with hugs and kisses, and love in action. Show them by loving their mom. I believe in and love you very much. You will be a great parent. “

“Show them all the love you can muster and more. The world is a scary place, but knowing you love them and that there is always a place for them at home is the best thing you can do for them.”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself and don’t be too hard on your kids. You aren’t going to do it right, the most important thing is that you do it.”

“You are never going to be ready or prepared. If you wait to be ready to be a parent you’ll wait forever. It stretches you more than anything you ever experience, but also will bring you more joy than anything you’ll ever experience.”

“I would encourage you to enjoy every single second of every age and never wish a stage away. I enjoyed every stage of every one of my children and I would encourage you to do that same thing.”

“Start a journal during the pregnancy of each  child, and to continue that journal throughout their life.  Write everything down because you think that you will remember it, but you won’t.” 

“Never yell at them and show them unconditional love. He said yelling does not get you anywhere, and is a lot more hurtful than helpful for both the parent and child. He also said to let your kids know that mistakes happen and mistakes are okay. My mom said her best advice would be to show them love at all times.”

Make sure that you and your spouse are in agreement on how certain things should be, you don’t want to have somebody that’s “Well we’ll just let it go this time. Well, no, we need to do this.” Be consistent, work together with your spouse.

She also talked about how as a parent, mistakes are going to be made and it’s important to forgive yourself and learn from the experiences and be conscious of what is happening. It is okay to tell a child that you made a mistake and are wrong and from that, kids will be able to recognize and learn to apologize and that it is okay to be wrong. With admitting wrong, children will learn they can be vulnerable and how not to be stubborn and proud.

“DO IT!” My mom said, “You aren’t going to know the best days until you are out of them, so enjoy every moment and just know that everything is going to be O.K.”  My dad said, “Always remember that they are each their own individual person.  It is so easy to make them feel small and insignificant, so don’t be too blunt or hard on them.  Your job is to support, provide guidance, and protect them.  Always make sure they know they are loved.  Just breathe and relax and know it will work out.  What is significant now won’t be significant later.”

“Each child is an individual with individual wants, needs, abilities and goals.. Although families are a group dynamic, each child needs and deserves specific care and nurturing. As the child grows into a teen and then a young adult and then an adult, the parent’s role changes to allow the child to make more and then all of life’s determinations.  A parent becomes more of an advisory than an instructor. 

“Don’t beat yourself up if children don’t always choose what you would want them to choose. Enjoy each stage, because it will pass quicker than you think. Diversify yourself outside of being a parent. Don’t lose yourself in becoming a parent. Keep your own identity.”

Mom’s advice is to not worry about control and work on fixing the power struggle between herself and her kids. Validate the child’s opinions. Their feelings are valid even if they are different from what I may think they should be. She would also focus on less fear-based parenting, but rather parent her children with hope. Let them experience life, and let them feel how they are feeling.

Take it one minute at a time
– Make sure you are super united with your husband, teenagers will destroy your marriage if you let them. Be united!
– Pray with kids, don’t lose your temper
– Hug them several times a day, tell them you love them every day
– Do activities with your kids, no phones, just quality time with siblings.
– Don’t entertain them to death, then they can’t interact with each other. Go boating, hiking, camping
– Religion is so important! Believe in something bigger than yourself, have hope!!
– Don’t over indulge kids, don’t buy their love, don’t just be their buddy, be their parent
– Eat dinner together with your family (or at least a meal)
– Your spouse is #1, their needs come before the kids. Prioritize your relationship with
them cause they will be there for you after the kids are gone.

“I would tell people the thing I learned is don’t be afraid to ask for help from other adults or professionals, read books about it. I also think that families are really important and that extended families are really important and to be involved with them.”

In Every Moment a Seed

The Night Before My Daughter’s 13th Birthday
by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer
If I could do it all again,
I would—every blooming bit of it.
Every bout of pink eye,
every snotty nose, every
late night waking, every
single reading of Good Night Moon,
every fairy house, every
drive to every ballet class,
every singalong to the entire
soundtrack of Hamilton,
every wobble and stumble
and blunder and lapse
to arrive at this very moment
when we lie on her bed
in the dark and talk about
this miracle, this astonishing
life, and watch dumb videos
and curl into each other.
In every moment, a seed.
It surprises me now,
how beautiful the field.

Is this photo realistic in your home?

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.

Read this instead of cleaning your room. | Messy bedroom, Cleaning my room, Messy  room

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.

  1. The fewer the rules, the better.
  2. 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:

15 Best Chore chart template ideas | chore chart, chores, chores for kids

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:

Family Chore Chart Center | All Things Target

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.

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!

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

What you water grows: Part 1

You can find plenty of parents out there on social media who gripe about being parents. Sure, being a mom or dad is hard. If you’re a stay-at-home parent who has these little critters 27/4, the messy days, lack of sleep, and wearing down of nerves is a real thing. I’ve been there. I get it.

However, as a social scientist and family studies expert, I also believe in the power of “what you water grows.” It’s a scientifically proven principal, and as a lover of gardening, it’s a law of nature I can count on as well. What this means is:

  • Every interaction or relationship has an 80/20 ratio.
  • About 80% of that person is what you love and, in the case of your spouse, the reason why you married them. Then there’s the 20% of what you don’t love so much, perhaps is even a bit annoying, and is a reminder that no none’s perfect (including the 20% in ourselves, mind you!).
  • What you focus on gets more of your attention. I can see the roses or the thorns…it’s my choice.
  • What gets more of your attention is reinforced in your mind, as well as in the other person or thing.
  • If I see the rose, I find beauty and am filled with gratitude, love, and appreciation.
  • If I look for and find the best in the other person, I will find it. If I look for and find the weaker parts, or thorns, in the other person, I will find that too.
  • If I continue to look for and reinforce the weaknesses in another person, the 20% in them inflates to eventually becoming the 80% and I feel completely justified in hating them, being dissatisfied, disgusted, or feeling justified in my removal of love (water) and acceptance of them.

Children and their parents have about an 80/20 relationship principle as well.  I can tell you from raising five babies to teenagers, that they stink, are moody, or contrary at least 20% of the time. But if you can look beyond the crazy hairstyles, acne, and sullenness, you’l find pretty remarkable, talented, loving, funny, smart, social, delightful human beings. I’ve enjoyed every stage of life with them. Each is my favorite.

Click on this image and say aloud what is the first thing you see.

Because of the darker images, usually our eyes are drawn to the bats or demons, as the artist Escher wanted. But look at it again, and stare for a while at the white spaces. Coming into focus, when we really concentrate, are angels.

In every person, there is both, good and bad, light and dark. It’s our choice to look past the things that are of no lasting consequence in our children and spouses and quiet down that voice that wants to criticize. Instead, sit still. Be calm. Focus on the light and the white spaces between. See what angels are brilliantly waiting to emerge and for us to embrace them.

And then water, water, water.

 

 

 

Keep ‘Em Safe Out There!

 

A few years ago, I wrote for WalletHub magazine when they came calling for experts to comment on an issue. I am no expert in finance by any stretch of the imagination, so why in the world did a money management business magazine request something from me? I’ll never know. Maybe it had to do with the fact that the topic was about Halloween and kids and well…that’s something I know a little about.

I guess they kept my name on file because they emailed me for another contribution to their upcoming Halloween issue. Here is the final product with my mug in it. If you want to skip reading the article, here is what I wrote plus a little more (no extra charge!)

  • What measures should parents take to ensure their kids are safe when trick-or-treating?

If children Trick or Treat in groups, there should be at least one responsible adult or older sibling who knows how to keep young children safe when crossing streets, approaching doorways, and knowing a familiar walking route. One of the primary dangers of Halloween is being hit by a car. Kids should never run ahead of the group or their parent, but instead, stay together. Use designated sidewalks and cross walks, obey pedestrian lights, and be sure the driver makes eye contact with you before crossing in front of a car.

Attach a piece of reflective tape somewhere on their costume or bag. Children also love to wear glow sticks and this doubles for being seen better at night. The leader of the group should also carry a flashlight. It’s always a safe practice when your child is out in public to write your phone number on their palm or inner arm with a permanent marker, or pin it to their costume.

Although many costumes include masks, it’s much more safe to paint on your child’s face so their eyesight is not limited by two tiny eye holes. Many schools prohibit masks anyway, so avoid buying or making masks and opt in for decorative non-toxic face painting instead. Speaking of costumes, check the fabric to see if it’s flame resistant and that accessories (like a knife or sword) have a soft or blunt end.

Go through your child’s candy (not to eat the good stuff!) to make sure all pieces are individually wrapped. No hard candy should be given to a child who might choke and be sure to check for food allergies.

Check out where registered sex offenders live before sending older kids out to Trick or Treat on their own so they do not go near those houses. Older children should each carry a cell phone and discuss a plan for “what ifs” and a reasonable time to be off the streets.

  • What are some healthy treats or nontraditional goodies that kids might actually enjoy?

It’s hard to compete with good, old fashioned candy as a Trick or Treat reward. Kids don’t usually drool over apples and carrots and this healthy switcheroo will definitely not get you nominated for Best Parent in the Neighborhood. But surprisingly, here are eight sure-fire rewards that kids won’t throw immediately into the trash when they get home. They may even enjoy them long after the candy is devoured (and stomachache ensues).

“Super” or Bouncy balls. Who doesn’t love them? They are popular at any age and they even come in “glow in the dark” which is cool for Halloween.

Natural Fruit Leather. A healthy, naturally sweet alternative to candy.

Stickers, especially if they are high quality. Have a variety so the kids can choose their favorites.

Mini flashlights. They can be ordered in bulk to bring the cost down and they are a bonus for keeping kids safe while they Trick or Treat at night.

Fake Mustaches. What a fun and silly way to celebrate dressing up.

Glow Sticks. Here’s another “treat” that doubles for a wearable item to keep kids more visible and safe while they safely Trick of Treat.

Individual-Sized Popcorn or Pretzel Bags.

Mini Playdough. I’ve never seen a child turn this down. You’ll get “oohs” and “aahs” for sure with this one. Maybe ever Parent of the Year.