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Articles for Parents

Check out these articles that cover a variety of parenting topics. From newborns to teens, we're here to give you guidance when you need it.

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    6 Keys to Being a ScreamFree Parent

    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.”

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    College Prep: It's Not 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 have 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.”

    Bullard believes parents and teens can do a better job of preparing for college life by educating themselves on these issues. Students should familiarize themselves with their college’s sexual misconduct policy and definition of consent. Parents need to talk with their teens about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships.

    “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. She will be teaching an informational session on June 24th for rising high school seniors and college freshmen (3:00 p.m. for girls/5:00 p.m. for boys) and an informational session for parents on June 25th at 6:30 p.m. The location is still to be determined. If you are interested in your teen attending one of these sessions, you can email Bullard at [email protected] for more information.

    “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

    Conflict. Just 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. 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 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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    Next Steps After Graduation

    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: 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 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 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.

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    Moms' Night Out

    Most mothers, whether they work inside or outside the home, feel like their job is never done.

    “It’s true,” says Sara Emanuel, wife and mother of five children. “I constantly feel like I run myself into the ground trying to get everything done. I have to guard against living in a constant state of guilt over all of the things left on the ‘to do’ list. I know that’s not healthy, but it’s hard to turn my brain off or to think about doing something just for me because I am exhausted.”

    In addition to constantly feeling like the job is never-ending, moms compare themselves while looking at Facebook or Pinterest. And, in an informal survey, an entire group of women admitted comparing what they do for their children with what other moms are doing. 

    “I try not to compare myself to other women, but honestly it’s hard not to,” Emanuel says. “I catch myself comparing how I handle discipline to how another mom handled a similar situation, thinking, ‘I wish I had been that creative.’ I think if most moms were honest, we all spend a lot of time beating ourselves up for what we aren’t.”

    Emanuel says she believes that women in general want to look like they have it all together.

    “It makes me laugh when someone comes up to me and says, ‘You’re always so put together. How do you do it?’” Emanuel says. “I’m thinking to myself, 'You only see me once a week. Sometimes I don’t even get to shower.'”

    In reality, there are a lot of moms out there who feel alone, inadequate and like a failure.

    Andrea Gyertson Nasfell can totally relate to what Emanuel is describing. So, she joined forces with director Jon Erwin to write the script for a movie. 

    Moms' Night Out is the story of a frazzled mom, Allyson (played by Sarah Drew) and her friends. They long for a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a much-needed moms' night out. But in order to enjoy high heels and food not served in a paper bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours. What could possibly go wrong?

    “This movie was so encouraging to me,” Emanuel said. “My husband and I laughed out loud at so many of the scenes. We felt like they must have been stalking our family because those very things happen in our home. It felt good to know it isn’t just us.

    “The craziness we experience happens in every home in America. It really made me know it’s okay if things get a little crazy. I need to give myself a break. I have continuously beat myself up over my own definition of being a ‘good mom.’ I am a good mom and what I do is important.”

    If you need some reassurance as a mom, a good laugh and a moment to appreciate the beautiful mess we call “family,” Moms' Night Out is one movie you’ll definitely want to see. 

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    14 and Pregnant

    Latisha Simmons was 14 and pregnant. She actually kept her pregnancy a secret until the morning she went into labor when she told her mother her stomach hurt and she needed to go to the hospital.

    “I was 15 when my daughter was born,” says Simmons. "My world was turned upside down. I was going to be a freshman at Howard High School. It was difficult going to school pregnant. Nobody knew what was going on. At that time it was not cool to be 14 and pregnant.”

    Simmons knows the odds were stacked against her. People talked about girls getting pregnant, dropping out of high school and living in poverty.

    “Teen pregnancy went back generations in my family,” Simmons says. “I was determined that I would graduate from high school and find a way to raise my child. I woke up every morning and got myself and my daughter ready. There were many days I went to school having had very little sleep.”

    Simmons says she doesn’t know anything that has been harder in her life than being pregnant as a teen and raising a child.

    “I was a child having a child,” Simmons asserts. “I was clueless about what it meant to be a mother. My world was turned upside down when my daughter arrived. My mom was very supportive of me, but she told me it was my responsibility to raise my child. She would not babysit so that I could go to a party or basketball game.”

    Simmons started working at 16 and hasn’t quit. She graduated from high school and worked at Wheland Foundry.

    “My main goal was to take care of my daughter,” Simmons says. “The foundry work was backbreaking. I knew I needed to find something different. Eventually I started going to college part-time.”

    Today, Simmons has a Master’s degree in social work and her daughter is a college graduate. 

    “My goal was for my daughter not to walk the same road as me,” Simmons says. “She would probably tell you I talked with her too much about sex. Today I can tell you, she broke the cycle.”

    Simmons is thankful that her mom made her take responsibility for her child. The sleepless nights and endless work to raise a child taught her that she did not want to parent another child alone.

    While the nation's teen pregnancy and birth rates are at historic lows, progress has been uneven. According the the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it is still the case that nearly 1 in 4 girls in the U.S. get pregnant by age 20. Interestingly, four in 10 teens (39%) say they have never thought about what their life would be like if they were to get pregnant or cause a pregnancy.

    While Hamilton County has experienced a significant decrease in teen pregnancies since 1997, there were still 94 teen pregnancies (age 10-17) in 2013. Believe it or not, parents play a huge role in preventing teen pregnancy. The best way to prevent teen pregnancy is for parents to talk with and educate their children. Share your values and expectations when it comes to relationships, dating and sex. Your teens are listening. 

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    Making the Empty-Nest Transition

    It’s coming and you know it’s coming, and you're doing everything in your power NOT to think about it. But when your youngest child leaves and you're alone with a deafeningly silent house, you'll want to be ready for the transition.

    Thousands of young people head off to college each year, leaving their parents with a lot of time on their hands. Although they understand their role has changed, they are not quite sure what that means. Everything is different. No more school sports. No need to buy so many groceries. The mess throughout the house? Gone.

    Some parents are excited about this newfound freedom while others find this time rather depressing.

    “Making this transition can be tough,” says Pam Johnson, licensed clinical social worker and mother of two adults who have flown the nest. “You have to stay focused on the idea that your child is becoming his own person and pursuing dreams, which was the goal all along. Instead of lamenting the fact they don’t need you anymore, think about what they do need and the opportunity you have before you. As parents, we often put off our own interests to focus our attention on the needs of our children. This is a new season filled with opportunities.”

    Johnson recalls that when her daughter went off to college, she and her husband dealt with the transition differently. Her world was turned upside down, but her husband seemed to take everything in stride. When she asked him about it, he explained that their daughter was happy. And he felt confident they had given her a great foundation to stand on her own two feet.

    Johnson offers these strategies for making the transition to the empty nest:

    • Plan ahead. Don’t wait until your child leaves to think about how you will deal with your extra time. Plan some projects to occupy your time. Be intentional about scheduling weekend activities you can do as a couple.

    • Set limits for yourself. As your child settles into a new routine, there will be lots of demands on their time. Let your child make the first phone call and try to limit yourself to checking in once a week. E-mailing or texting are great ways to check in and be supportive without being intrusive.

    • Be there when your child needs you. The first few months may be hard for your child. Encourage perseverance. Send care packages and cards. Make your home a refuge to which they will want to return.

    • Consider the next thing. You have been given the gift of being a parent for a season of life. As that role changes, you will want to consider what’s next. Keep your eyes and heart open to where you need to go in life and what you want your life to be about.

    “Letting go is hard,” Johnson says. “You want to let go of them gracefully.

    “Here’s a little secret. When they come home, you will be happy to see them come home AND you will be happy to see them go because you will have transitioned into new routines and rituals that aren’t all about them.”


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    Let's Talk About the Royal Wedding

    More than 29 million Americans tuned in on May 19 to watch the royal wedding of Prince Harry and his American bride, Meghan Markle. People attended watch parties, complete with tea and scones, and took in every wedding detail. Viewers blew up social media with comments about everything from Camilla’s hat and the twin boys who carried Meghan’s train to the rendition of Stand by Me and the response to Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry’s sermon - all of which were fairly harmless. 

    Then something else happened. People started sharing their opinions about Meghan’s dress (“I think I would have done one more fitting”), makeup (“She could have used a little help with her wedding day makeup”) and other wedding day choices. It’s interesting that now more than ever, our culture encourages young girls to be their best selves, and yet judgment prevails. So the directive is, “Be you, but prepare to be judged.” 

    Really? It sounds like young girls are getting mixed messages.

    The bishop’s message was about love - love God and love others as you would love yourself; yet it seems many are bent on cutting each other down. It’s almost like it’s become a favorite pastime or sport.

    Markle comes across as a very strong and confident woman, but that does not mean she doesn’t fight insecurities of her own. On one of the most meaningful days of her life that really was about what she and her husband-to-be wanted, people felt compelled to give their approval or disapproval. Hopefully, Markle doesn’t care what anybody else thought. What about young girls (or women, for that matter) whose self-confidence is much more fragile? Some brides would be devastated. It’s just plain hurtful.

    There must be a lesson for all of us in this. Do we really want girls to be themselves, unafraid to express their individuality? If the answer is yes, we may need to consider a few things. 

    Perhaps it would be helpful to teach girls how to have a thick skin and remind them that just because somebody says something doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Also, they need to know who the truth-tellers are in their life. That way, they can discern if what is being said is accurate and deserves their attention or if it is something they need to let roll off their shoulders. 

    Most women know how it feels to be cut down, and it doesn’t feel good. Women are often experts at being hypercritical of themselves anyway, and when others pile on the judgment, it complicates life even more. Perhaps the most important lesson we can teach our girls is to be careful about judging others. Everybody has a story, and it is uniquely their own to write.

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    Tips for First-Time Parents

    “Jacob was 10 months old when I went with my mom and a friend to high tea,” says Joy Groblebe. “My mom barely dipped her finger in pistachio ice cream and put her finger in Jacob’s mouth. I went ballistic because kids can’t have dairy until they are a year old. When baby No. 2 came along, she was eating strawberry popsicles at six months.”

    Talk with just about any mom or dad about being a first-time parent. Many of them will actually laugh out loud as they think back to those early years.

    As a first-time parent, you are probably highly motivated to raise your child well. Since your child does not come with an “owner’s manual,” you rely on friends, family, books, the internet and your own ideas about what is appropriate and what to expect from your child.

    While resources are helpful, there is no cookie-cutter approach that works magic with every child. It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to be the perfect parent and being uptight all the time. Not only does the baby pick up on this, it is exhausting for both mom and dad.

    Cut yourself some slack and cut your child some slack. Instead of trying to be perfect, most experienced parents will encourage you to do your best and be good with that. You will make mistakes; everybody does.

    Here are some additional words of wisdom from parents who have “been there, and done that”:

    • Relax. Babies do best with calm, confident parents. It gives them a sense of security, serenity and peace.

    • Sleep when the baby sleeps. No child will remember whether the house was clean or whether the laundry was in drawers or a pile on the couch, but they will remember that you played with them and spent time with them.

    • There is no "perfect" or even a "right" way. Don't beat yourself up for what you (or others) assume to be a mistake. In general, just lighten up and have fun with it. It's a marathon, not a sprint. Enjoy the journey!

    • Avoid judging others’ parenting or saying "I will never do that." Each child is uniquely created and responds differently to parenting ... what works on one of your children may not work with the next.

    • Love, hold and snuggle them as often as you can because they will be toddlers, preschoolers and then teenagers in a blink!

    • Respect your children and they will respect you.

    • Pray for and with them.

    • Recognize that as little humans, they'll have bad days just like you do.

    • As tempting as it is to want to buy stuff for your child, they quickly forget all the things you buy them. They'll remember the time and experiences they have with you for much longer.

    • Keep your marriage first and your child second.

    • Surround yourself with people who will encourage you, give you a break when you need it and listen when challenges arise.

    The birth of your first child can be exhilarating and intimidating all at the same time. Taking these wise words to heart will help you avoid unnecessary meltdowns and encourage you to enjoy your child.

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    How Taking a Break Benefits Moms and Kids

    Some moms think leaving their children with someone else, even for a short time, is not an option.

    “I know moms who feel guilty if they are not with their children 24/7,” says Leslie Parrott, therapist and co-author of The Parent You Want to Be. “It is almost as if leaving the kids with someone else would be a sign of weakness. Yet, I know many moms are tired and stressed and long for a break.”

    Dr. Parrott knows exactly what it is like to long for a break. She gave birth prematurely to her oldest son, and he required round the clock extended care.

    “Even though I felt some guilt about leaving John in the care of someone else, I knew I needed some time away to relax and re-energize. Taking care of a medically fragile baby is quite stressful. Scheduling 1 ½ hours away for quiet time, twice a week, helped me to be a better mom. I realized I could not pass on what I did not possess. If I was exhausted, my son picked up on that and was fussy as well.”

    Children need to understand that attachment can remain firm even when there are brief parental absences. When they have the opportunity to rehearse this, they learn that there are other people in their lives who love them and can take good care of them.

    “If parents never give their children the opportunity to experience these absences, when it is time to enter kindergarten or they are separated for some other reason they often experience extreme anxiety,” Parrott says. “I remember my father telling me about his first day in kindergarten. He had never been away from home before so he was very nervous. His class went outside for recess and when the bell rang, he panicked. He could not remember where to meet the teacher, so he just walked home.”

    Being away from your children can refresh you. It may also give you fresh perspectives about them, Parrott advises, even though some parents may feel anxiety about leaving their children.

    “There have been times when I have gone away and come home and received a report on my children from their caregiver, allowing me to see them through her eyes,” Parrott says. “Things I don’t see because I am around them all the time are the very things our babysitter points out to me. I get the benefit of her wisdom. One time, upon returning from a trip, my friend asked me if I had noticed how much John had matured. ‘He is implementing his politeness skills with everyone,’ she said.

    “I think that moms who deny themselves the luxury of time away and time for their marriage truly believe they are doing something heroic. What I have experienced with many of them is they are tired, stressed and frustrated. And, their heroic acts don’t create the results they imagine.”

    When considering the parent-child relationship, the parent’s call is to always be the healthiest person in the relationship.

    If you have never been away from your kids, Parrott encourages moms to do something different. Here are some suggestions:

    • Schedule brief absences. Even short periods of time away from your children can be refreshing for your family.

    • Don’t worry about making sure everything stays the same. In reality, a short change in routine won't damage the children.

    • Find friends you trust, with children the same age as yours. This was a blessing for the Parrotts. The children became such great friends that they begged to get together again. The next visit became a play date for the kids and the parents!

    “I truly believe the best gift I can give my kids is the gift of love from other people besides their mother and father,” Parrott says. “I walked in the door on Saturday night from an out of town speaking engagement. The children were all ready to get out the keyboard because our babysitter had taught them a duet. They don’t know how to play the piano. I could tell she had spent time coaching them and doing something different than I would have given them even if I had been home. I smiled as I watched them play and thought to myself, ‘This is good.’”

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    Jimmy Wayne's Walk to Beautiful for Foster Care

    Imagine being 13 years old and riding through Florida with your mom and stepfather. Your stepfather pulls into a bus station in Pensacola and tells you to get out of the car. While you get out of the car, you see your mom crying as she digs through the trunk. Your stepfather tells you to get your clothes out of the trunk. Then, they both drive away, leaving you alone - with nothing.

    That is exactly what happened to Jimmy Wayne, country music singer/songwriter and author.

    “I thought they would come back for me, but they did not,” says Wayne. “From that point forward for three years, my life was a living hell. Couch surfing, moving from one foster family to the next, going up to complete strangers asking for food.”

    When Wayne was 16, he was going down the road on a ‘borrowed’ bike looking for work so he could get something to eat. He rode past a wood shop and saw a man working. He asked the man if he had any work, and the man replied, “You’ll have to ask the boss,” nodding toward his wife, Bea.

    “She looked at me and said, ‘If you cut grass, come back at five and you can cut our grass.’ I was back at five,” Wayne says. “I was their lawn boy for the rest of the summer. Toward the end of summer I was getting scared because the lawn would not need to be mowed anymore. That’s when Bea asked me where I lived. Not wanting to tell her I was homeless, I told her I lived up the road. I didn’t want her to know anything about me because who would want to be around someone like me?”

    Russell and Bea ended up asking Wayne to move in with them. For six years he lived with them, graduated from high school, completed college, and pursued his dream of being a musician.

    Finally, Wayne made it big as a country artist – think I Love You This Much and Paper Angels. He recalls playing Madison Square Garden on his birthday. When he finished performing, he walked off stage to a birthday cake made by The Cake Boss. Times certainly had changed. He remembers checking into a detention center on his 15th birthday with no cake, just a guard saying hurtful things to him.

    “While living in a group home, I promised myself I would not forget where I came from,” Wayne says. “Right after playing Madison Square Garden, I was reminded of that promise. I made the decision to use my fame to bring awareness to children in foster care by walking halfway across America.”

    Wayne spent seven months walking, meeting people and sharing his story about foster care and the number of children who age out of foster care and become homeless. In 2012, he helped pass a bill to extend the age of foster care to 21 in California and Tennessee. Wayne continues to raise awareness for kids by writing, singing and speaking. His book, Walk to Beautiful, is a story worth reading. It's a beautiful reminder of how every person can make a difference in a child's life.


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    Outdoor Family Adventures

    When temperatures are extremely hot, it's hard to think about going outside and doing anything except jumping in a pool—and even that feels like jumping into a big bathtub! 

    It’s a shame - because there are so many fun things to take advantage of in the region. When the temperatures cool off a bit and there are only a few weeks before school starts, it's the perfect time to plan some end-of-summer adventures.

    According to the National Wildlife Federation, childhood has moved "indoors” over the past two decades. The average American boy or girl spends just four to seven minutes in unstructured outdoor play each day, and more than seven hours each day in front of an electronic screen.

    Children are out of shape, tuned out and stressed out because they’re missing something essential to their health and development: connection to the natural world.

    An ongoing research project called Child of Our Time follows the growth of 25 children from the time they are born until they become adults. They have documented some interesting findings about children who play outside.

    • One of the benefits of playing outside is that children laugh more. This is good because laughter is a stress reliever and it helps stimulate the immune system.

    • Another benefit of outside play is better health. Researchers found that children who engage in outside play have the potential to have stronger bones and muscles from activities like running and jumping. They also get vitamin D just from being in the sun. When children are active, they are less likely to battle obesity and more likely to do well in school.

    • Additional studies show that children who play outside are more likely to be adventurous and open to new experiences. They tend to be better at making friends and have longer attention spans. Outdoor play fuels the imagination and teaches children how to be resourceful by creating their own entertainment.

    What are you waiting for? Put the iPhone down, pull your kids away from their gaming devices and head outside for some adventure and experience the benefits an active lifestyle can bring while making some great memories!

    If you are short on ideas, here are a few to get your list started:

    • Ride bikes through the Chickamauga Battlefield.

    • Visit the Chattanooga Zoo.

    • Drive up to Raccoon Mountain and hike around the mountaintop.

    • If you are brave and your children are old enough, check out the Zipline at Ruby Falls.

    • Grab some cardboard boxes and go sledding down the hill at Renaissance Park.

    • Teach your children how to play kick the can, hopscotch and freeze tag.

    • Experience the climbing wall, kayaks or paddle boards down on the Tennessee River.

    • Create your own Summer Olympics and get all the neighborhood kids and parents involved. Sack races, egg toss, three-legged race and the wheel-barrow race are excellent backyard Olympic events.

    • Take your teens whitewater rafting.

    • Walk the Walnut Street Bridge.

    Playing outside with your children is not only great exercise, it is a fantastic opportunity to bond as a family. If this is new for your family, your kids may balk at first but once they experience the fun, they won’t want to stop. Are you up for the challenge?

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