At the end of summer, children are facing many transitions in the making. 

Kindergartners are attending school for the first time. Last year’s fifth-graders will go on to middle school. Eighth-graders who were at the top of the pecking order are entering high school and essentially are now the little fish in the big pond. Then there are the seniors – some of whom cannot wait for graduation, while others want to take their sweet time getting there.

Some parents can’t wait for the transitions to occur. Others, however, secretly grieve as they see time flying by, wishing it would stand still for just a bit longer.

No matter where you fall on the transition continuum, the air is typically charged with emotions from excitement, fear and anxiety to anticipation and perhaps feeling overwhelmed. Those with middle and high school-age teens get the added hysteria of hormones in the mix.

As a family, it is possible to have multiple transitions happening simultaneously, each with its own set of expectations and unpredictable challenges which can make any sane parent want to disappear.

There’s good news, though! You can intentionally bring calm to the forefront and help your kids thrive during times of transition.

  • Deal with your own emotions. Sometimes parents can be full of anxiety about an upcoming transition while the child is full of excitement. Be careful not to place your emotions on your child. Find an appropriate outlet to talk about how you’re feeling.
  • Acknowledge that change is afoot. Talk about what will be different. Discuss what is exciting and what might be scary about the change.
  • Celebrate the milestone. While preparing for a transition can provoke anxiety, there is reason to celebrate the end of one season and the beginning of another. Share the ways in which you have seen your child/teen grow and mature. They need to know you believe in them and that you have confidence in their ability to navigate this new adventure.
  • Determine a plan of action. The unknown can be really scary. Helping your child develop an action plan for handling their transition will help build confidence and remove feelings of helplessness.
  • Identify your support team. Coaches, teachers, guidance counselors, pastors, youth leaders, mentors, grandparents, other extended family members and close friends can all be part of this team. Don’t assume your child/teen knows who is on this team. Discuss it together and make sure they can identify at least three people other than their parents who are on their team.
  • Talk to other parents and children who have already made this transition. Conversations with others who have successfully navigated the journey can be both encouraging and enlightening, saving you a lot of heartache and stress while giving you pointers on how to avoid land mines. For children/teens, talking with others their own age who have walked the road can be comforting and empowering.

All of these transitions are a sign of growth for children and their parents. These are great times to teach the life skills that will help your children be resilient. Instead of trying to avoid the changes, embrace them and make the most of them.

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Is created a will important? Most people live as if tomorrow will come for sure. But what if something tragic happened and you were no longer here? Who would inherit your house, your collectibles from one generation to the next, or your pictures?

“Most people assume that if they are married and don’t have a will, all of their assets will automatically go to their spouse,” says attorney Harry Cash. “This is not necessarily the case. If you don’t have a will or don’t hold all of your assets jointly, the state determines where your assets go. If one spouse dies and there are children, the surviving spouse gets at least one third of the deceased spouse’s assets, but the deceased spouse may have intended for everything to go to his or her spouse at death.”

A RocketLawyer.com survey found that a stunning 50 percent of American parents do not have a will. Of those age 55-64 (the baby boomers), 41 percent do not have a will.

The top reasons for not having a will were:

  • Just haven’t gotten around to making one;
  • No sense of urgency;
  • Didn’t think they needed a will; and
  • They don’t have a will because they don’t want to think about death.

“This is not something you want to leave to chance and hope for the best,” Cash asserts. “A will allows you to specifically state what you want to happen to your assets when you pass away. If you have children, you have the opportunity to say who will care for them until they are 18. You also can state specifically that if you pass away and your spouse is still living, all of your assets go to your spouse. Even though people don’t like to think about death, this document could save your loved ones from a lot of angst.”

What you need to create a will:

  • A list of significant assets.
  • Documentation of employment benefits statements, insurance policies, deeds to real property, partnership and business agreements.
  • Determine who will inherit your property.
  • Choose an executor for your estate. Every will must name someone to serve as executor, to carry out the terms of the will. Let that person know you are naming them to perform this task.
  • Identify a guardian for your children. If your children are under 18, decide who you want to raise them in the event that you and their other parent can’t. You should also pick someone who can manage your children’s property.
  • Identify other decision-makers to carry out your health and money choices for you if you cannot.

“The last thing a grieving family member needs is to deal with uncertainty when it comes to dealing with the estate of a deceased family member,” says Cash. “Preparing a will doesn’t take long and could be the single most important thing you do for your family.”

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Time for parenting 101! When David and Victoria Beckham were criticized by parenting experts for allowing their 4-year-old daughter to have a pacifier, David fought back. He took to social media to set the record straight.

“Why do people feel they have the right to criticize a parent about their own children without having any facts?? Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier so those who criticize think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent,” said Beckham.

His response garnered over 600,000 likes on Instagram and more than 23,000 comments. Most of the comments encouraged him in his efforts to be a great dad.

Isn’t it interesting how people can take a snapshot in time and make assumptions that may or may not be correct?

The Irreducible Needs of Children: What Every Child Must Have to Grow, Learn, and Flourish,a parenting book by pediatrician Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and child psychiatrist Dr. Stanley I. Greenspan, lists seven basic needs of children. They are:

  • Nurturing relationships;
  • Physical safety and security;
  • Opportunities based on individual personality;
  • Developmentally appropriate experiences;
  • Rules and expectations;
  • A supportive community and cultural continuity; and
  • Future protection.

Anyone with siblings or children knows that, even when children have the same biological parents, their personalities can be as different as night and day, and their needs are not the same. A parent may not be able to turn their back on one child for a split-second without something happening, where another child entertains himself for lengthy periods of time. One child may be more outgoing than the others. Some struggle with what seems like non-stop ear infections while the others are the picture of health.

Engaged parents know things about their children that other people usually do not.

Have you ever been “that parent” in the mall, watching your child have a meltdown while feeling helpless and beating yourself up inside because you know people are watching and probably judging your parenting skills?

Parenting is complicated. It is easy to sit on the sidelines and judge, but when you are in the throes of it, it just isn’t that simple. There is no one cookie-cutter approach for every single child. Most parents are doing the best they know how to do. Being critical without being privy to the big picture is not helpful unless there is legitimate concern of abuse.

Every human being needs to know they are loved, capable, valued and safe. Children look to their parents and want to know if they love them and believe in them and if they measure up.

How parents express answers to these questions probably will look different depending on the child’s needs. Some may need a pacifier when they don’t feel good, even when they are 4 years old. Others may cross a clear boundary and receive a very loving, firm and needed consequence. From an outsider’s vantage point, it may even seem harsh.

Some parents really do need help with their parenting skills. However, it doesn’t seem like judging them publicly without knowing more details is the answer. Remembering that healthy parenting choices vary depending on the situation, the child and the environment can help foster empathy while avoiding a rush to unfair judgment.

Hal Runkel and his family went to the Waffle House for breakfast one Saturday morning. Upon arrival they received coloring books and paper hats just like the cook wears.

“Shortly after ordering, Brandon, our 2-year-old, became restless,” says Runkel, marriage and family therapist and author of ScreamFree Parenting. “Nothing made him happy. The waitress brought him a waffle which ended up on the guy’s leg who was sitting at the next table. At that point I picked Brandon up to go outside and in the process hit the same guy in the head with Brandon’s leg. By this time everybody in the restaurant was watching. As I went out the door, it slammed behind me, shaking the glass.

“I stood outside shaking my fist and yelling at my son. When we came back inside I sat down and looked across the table at my wife who was trying to contain the smirk on her face. At that moment I realized I still had the Waffle House hat on my head. Clearly, I looked pretty silly, but the truth is I didn’t need that hat to make me look foolish.”

Runkel contends that in many instances it isn’t the children acting foolish; it’s the parents.

Becoming a ScreamFree parent isn’t about becoming a perfect parent with the perfect techniques to raising perfect kids.

You don’t have to have all the right answers at all the right times in order to be the parent you want to be. Instead, you just have to learn to calm down.

“I am convinced that good parenting is about parents learning how to take back their own emotional remote control,” Runkel says. “Parents have to make sure they are being the grown up in every situation… no matter what the children do.

“When a parent is screaming what they are really saying is, ‘Calm me down, I can’t handle what you are doing right now.’ At that moment the parent has lost control and handed the emotional remote control to the least mature person in the household.”

According to Runkel, when parents focus on calming their own emotional reactivity, they begin to make parenting decisions out of their highest principles instead of reacting out of their deepest fears.

There are six keys to being a ScreamFree parent:

  • Give your child physical and emotional space. See children as individuals in their own right, with their own lives, decisions and futures.
  • Don’t preach or threaten. Let the consequences of a child’s choice do the screaming.
  • Be an advocate for your child’s development.
  • Change your vocabulary. Don’t label children or pigeonhole how they see themselves. Labels can be very destructive and should be avoided at all costs.
  • See yourself as being responsible to your children – not for them. For example, when your child throws a temper tantrum in WalMart, you’re not responsible for it, but you are responsible for how you handle it.
  • Know that the greatest thing you as a parent can do for your kids is learn to focus on yourself.

“What every child wants are parents who can keep their cool, even when things get heated,” Runkel says. “Children want parents who are less anxious and prone to knee-jerk reactions and far more level-headed. Your children want you to remain unflappable, even when they flip out. Most parents’ biggest struggle is dealing with their own emotional reactivity. That is why the greatest thing we can do for our children is learn to focus on us, not them.”

Looking for more? Check out this JulieB TV episode on this topic!

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College prep may not be exactly what you think. Over the last several years, attorney Courtney Bullard has advised on or participated in more than 150 sexual assault investigations on college campuses across the country.

“I specialize in working with colleges in matters involving sexual misconduct,” says Bullard. “I conduct external investigations, oversee investigations and provide legal advice on how to ensure colleges are complying with laws that dictate how they respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. What keeps me awake at night is the fact that we are not educating our kids about these issues before they set foot on a college campus. The hook-up culture is rampant. Teens don’t know the definition of consent. Nor do they understand the realities of what they might face in college if they find themselves accusing someone of rape, or being accused of rape.”

The media has certainly brought to light some of these cases, including the Vanderbilt University case where a guy on the top bunk witnessed the rape but pretended to be asleep because he was afraid. He was found guilty, along with those who participated in the actual sexual assault.

“What people see on television is a very narrow picture of what is going on on college campuses across the country,” Bullard says. “What I typically see are two students getting wasted and having sex. One believes they were raped; one believes everything was completely consensual. Neither fully remembers the entire encounter. Both of them are forever impacted.”

Before you stop reading because you think this would never happen to your child or to your grandchild, Bullard strongly urges you to think again. Most of the cases Bullard sees involve freshmen. And, it doesn’t matter if they: are going to a small faith-based institution, planning to live at home, are strong-willed and would probably never put themselves in that situation or understand consent. It could happen to your family member, even if you think these things only happen to other people. 

“I have sat across from so many parents sitting next to their child in tears saying all of these things,” Bullard says, “I have sat across from young women who can no longer finish school because they are unable to recover from what happened. I’ve sat across from young men whose dream of going to medical school, law school, graduate school, etc. is over because they have been found responsible for sexual misconduct and their transcript is forever marked. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard ‘I did [fill in the blank – smacked her butt for example] because on TV that’s what girls like.’ These are not criminal cases/investigations, they are investigations and findings conducted by college campuses.”

“For all the parents out there saying, ‘I lived large at college and I turned out okay,’ I would strongly encourage them to recognize that this is a different time with many variables that were not in play back in the day, including social media.”

Bullard also believes teens could benefit from taking bystander intervention training so they know what to do if they see someone in a potentially dangerous situation.

“This is one of the most powerful tools we have to make a difference when it comes to dealing with sexual assault,” Bullard asserts. “Make sure your teen has a strategy ahead of time for dealing with potential risks. Teach them how to be good citizens and do not downplay the seriousness of this issue.”

Although Bullard is not a counselor, she is absolutely passionate about making sure teens have the necessary information to help them make wise decisions when they get out on their own. You can email Bullard at [email protected] to learn more about getting this information into your teen’s hands.

“So much of the pain I deal with on these campuses is preventable,” Bullard shares. “We really owe it our kids to give them the information they need in order to have a successful college experience and future.”

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Steps to Help Your Kids Handle Conflict

You need these tips in your parenting toolbox!

ConflictJust saying the word makes some people break out in a sweat while others want to run for the hills. Surprisingly, some people enjoy engaging in conflict, although most people prefer to avoid it at all costs. While many think that conflict is bad, it’s actually neither good nor bad; it’s what you do with it that can create either a negative or positive experience. The reality is, conflict is part of life. And your kids need to know how to handle conflict, too. The good news is, engaging conflict properly can lead to some really powerful outcomes.

Life can be stressful for sure. We often face complicated situations that require navigating differences of opinion, problem-solving and sometimes, agreeing to disagree. One of the greatest things parents can teach their children is the art of managing and/or resolving conflict at home, at school, in the community or on the job.

If you are a parent, consider how you and your kids currently handle conflict.

You’ve probably heard that it’s always best if your kids don’t witness an argument, but taking your disagreements behind closed doors all the time isn’t necessarily helpful. It’s a learning experience when young people see their parents disagree, work it through and make up. That’s the first step in helping children prepare for dealing with conflict in their own life, especially in those moments when you aren’t around.

It’s also helpful if you don’t step in every time your child disagrees with someone.

Instead, ask your child about the issue at hand so they learn to identify what they are irritated or angry about. Then ask what they think their next best step might be. This will help them learn how to think critically and brainstorm potential next steps. It may be tempting to just point things out to them, especially if you are in a hurry, but it’s far more helpful in the long run to teach them how to do this for themselves.

Ask your child about their role in the conflict.

It’s easy to assume it is totally the other person’s fault when both parties may have contributed to the situation at hand. Helping your young person understand how they may have contributed to the issue could give them some insight into their own behavior and how they might want to handle things differently in the future.

Before deciding what happens next, it is wise to address the feelings connected to the offense.

Stuffing those feelings doesn’t help, but neither is physically attacking someone or doing something else to get back at them. Teaching children how to constructively handle their emotions will serve them well for the rest of their lives. Sometimes the best lesson is experiencing how it feels to be treated a certain way. As a result, they will know how not to treat people in the future.

Finally, it’s time for your young person to decide their best next move and take action. 

They might want to rehearse a conversation with you before facing the other party. Writing out their plan might be beneficial. If you’re hoping for a constructive outcome, perhaps both parties could respectfully share their perspective of the situation. Even if nothing gets resolved at this point, they are making progress. 

Throughout this process, your child learns how to handle conflict themselves, which is a major confidence-builder. They will also learn how to slow down long enough to identify their feelings, brainstorm the possibilities when it comes to managing or resolving the conflict, and come up with a constructive way to move forward. These tools can’t be purchased at the hardware store, but they are certainly valuable ones to have in their toolbox.

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Parents of graduating seniors have probably heard more than once, “I can’t wait until I don’t have to listen to your rules and I can do whatever I want.”

Most seniors are giddy over the idea of heading off to college. They are eager to choose their own bedtime, where they keep their things and how late they stay out. As launching time approaches, many of these seniors who were super-confident at graduation start questioning themselves and their next steps after graduation: What if I chose the wrong college? What if I don’t make any friends? What if I am choosing the wrong career track?

Many parents are also experiencing a mixed bag of emotions. They are excited about their teen taking the next step, yet somewhat fearful about their future. Parents realize a big transition is coming and there are still nuggets of wisdom they wish to pass on, yet they don’t have much time to do it. They become clingy at a time when their teen is trying to be more independent. This can make for a very interesting and long summer.

Fortunately, all of this is a natural reaction to graduation.

What can you do to help your graduate successfully leave the nest with confidence?

Here are some tips on next steps after graduation—just for you.

  • Just listen. Let them talk about all of the things running through their mind. Try to do this without minimizing their feelings.

  • Remind them that they can choose to water seeds of doubt and let the lies grow or they can pluck them out quickly before the roots get too strong.

  • A little stress isn’t necessarily a bad thing! Any new journey will by definition produce anxiety. You can’t help but wonder about this, that and the other. The little bit of anxiety goes a long way to help us perform at our best.

  • Remind them that the applicant pools have never been larger than they are now. If they received an acceptance letter, they can rest assured that the institution believes they can handle the work. The letter speaks volumes about the preparedness they bring to the college campus.

  • Don’t believe that nobody on the college campus will care. There are many people on campus who want to see their students succeed.

  • As a parent, you may be struggling over your child’s next steps after graduation, too. Instead of trying to talk through this with your graduate, seek the wisdom and support of other parents who are already on this journey.

  • If you have always done your teen’s laundry, cooked their meals, managed their money and helped them get to school/job on time, STOP. Summer is a great time to learn how to do these things for themselves, since you won’t be accompanying them to college.

A dad’s presence is important. Here are 20 reasons your child needs you:

1.  Lets your child know that you love him/her.

2.  Provides your child with greater financial resources.

3.  Gives your child a positive role model.

4.  Provides your child with emotional support.

5.  Enhances your child’s self-esteem.

6.  Provides your child with guidance and discipline.

7.  Enhances your child’s intellectual development.

8.  Gives your child someone to rough and tumble play with.

9.  Provides your child with someone to talk to when he/she has questions.

10. Increases your child’s chances for academic success.

11. Provides your child with an alternative perspective on life.

12. Lowers your child’s chances for early sexual activity.

13. Lowers your child’s chances for school failure.

14. Lowers your child’s chances for youth suicide.

15. Lowers your child’s chances for juvenile delinquency.

16. Lowers your child’s chances for adult criminality.

17. Provides your child with a sense of physical and emotional security.

18. Facilitates your child’s moral development.

19. Promotes a healthy gender identity in your child.

20. Helps your child learn important skills.

From Reasons Why Your Child Needs You to be an Active Father by Stephen D. Green, Ph.D., Child Development Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic.