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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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    5 Reasons You Should Celebrate Milestones

    When our daughter graduated from high school a few years ago, I asked a number of people in her life to write her a letter to congratulate her on this accomplishment. I asked them to include words of wisdom as she moved into her next phase of life.

    I made a scrapbook with the letters and gave it to her as she headed off to college. In my mind, the purpose of the scrapbook was two-fold. In those moments when she struggled during this next phase, we wanted her to remember what she had already accomplished. We also wanted her to remember she was not walking the road alone; that she has lot of people in her court who believe in her.

    Unquestionably, every day is a gift. However, certain days mark significant moments in our lives. Whether it’s a fifth grade, high school or college graduation, celebrate each milestone. Each of these moments in life marks a time of accomplishment and of moving forward to the next thing.

    Author and speaker John Stahl-Wert says it is important to celebrate milestones for five reasons:

    • As humans we are called to grow. “Becoming more” is essential. We suffer when we don’t grow. Every milestone deserves notice. It is affirmation of an accomplishment.

    • Growth is nourished by encouragement. Celebrate even the small steps because “small is where big comes from.” We guide others toward bigness through encouragement.

    • Acknowledging milestones gives us the opportunity to reflect on where we have been, where we are now and what we can learn from this part of the journey. Our growing and achieving is for the greater purpose of our service to the world. Achievement, in and of itself, doesn’t fulfill, and without reflection, we are trapped by an insatiable avarice to fill a bottomless hole.

    • Nothing locks in learning like a party. It signifies that the accomplishment really matters.

    • Celebrating milestones reminds us to give thanks for everyday moments. When we pause to celebrate something that is noteworthy, the act of slowing down invites us to notice everything else.

    It's been several years since our daughter graduated from high school. Little did we know how impactful that scrapbook would be. It sits on her coffee table and when the going gets tough, it reminds her that people believe in her and that she has what it takes to keep on keeping on.

    In a world where it seems like it’s all about the “big wins,” it might be helpful to remember that there is no such thing as a small victory or a wasted loss. Each experience helps prepare us for what lies ahead, so celebrate!

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    Kids and Sports: What Really Matters

    Jim and Susan* were very purposeful in their decision to let their 6-year-old son play baseball. Jonathan seemed to enjoy the game and actually played well enough to make the All-Star team.

    “The regular season ended on a Saturday and All-Star practice began on Mother’s Day,” says Jim. “They practiced every day that week with their first game on Friday. Between Friday and Tuesday, the team played nine games. The general atmosphere was ‘win at all costs.’ The coach spent a lot of time yelling at the kids if they missed a play. There was very little positive encouragement when players did something right.”

    After witnessing this, Jim and Susan began questioning their decision to let their son play.

    “I knew things were not good when we showed up to a game and our son said his stomach hurt,” Jim says. “I figured it was probably nerves. When we got home, Jonathan went outside and played baseball for a couple of hours. That was when we really knew we had a decision to make.”

    Ultimately, Jim and Susan made the joint decision to pull their son off the team. When they told him about their decision, he actually seemed relieved.

    Forty million kids play youth sports. Yet according a National Alliance for Youth Sports poll, more than 70 percent of kids who begin a sport before age 8 will not play that sport in middle school.

    Michigan State University asked 30,000 kids why they play sports, and they said because it’s fun. And while they value winning, it isn’t why they show up to play.

    John O’Sullivan, founder and CEO of the Changing the Game project, says that kids are not becoming better at sports. They are becoming bitter instead. He notes that kids say they quit playing sports because they're tired of being yelled at and there’s too much emphasis on winning. They're also afraid to make mistakes. When winning matters to parents or coaches more than anything else, it can totally take the joy out of playing.

    “The single most fundamental thing we teach is something I learned from Coach Bruce Brown,” says O’Sullivan. “You can do your part by starting with five simple words: I love watching you play.

    Heath Eslinger, University of Tennessee Chattanooga wrestling coach, encourages parents to focus on what is important in the big picture, not just what is important now.

    “Improvement in sports happens through repetition,” says Eslinger. “If I play a baseball game, I may never touch a baseball. If that is the case, there is no way I can improve. Repetition comes from play, and that is so much more beneficial.”

    Eslinger believes parents need to let their children walk through organic struggles versus placing them in supplemental struggles, which are all the extracurricular opportunities. Organic struggle centers around two things: relationships and responsibility. How you treat people and how you take care of responsibilities will always be around.

    Many positives and life lessons can come from playing sports. Before you involve yourself too much though, it’s probably a good idea to examine exactly what you want kids to learn from playing the game. Whether you are a coach or a parent, you get to decide what is more important - winning and performance, or making better people of character.

    *Not their real names.

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    How to Help Teens Have Healthy Relationships

    What do young people think about relationships these days? That’s what Dr. Richard Weissbourd, director of the Making Caring Common Project at Harvard and his team wanted to know. They set out to identify young people’s challenges and hopes, and who influences the way they think about relationships. Much of what they found surprised them.

    “Based on the responses from our research with more than 3000 young adults and high school students, it is clear that we as a society are failing to prepare young people for perhaps the most important thing they will do in life - learn how to love and develop deep caring, healthy romantic relationships,” says Weissbourd. 

    Additionally, they found that most adults appear to do shockingly little to prevent or effectively address prejudice against women and sexual harassment among young people. These problems can infect both romantic relationships and many other areas of life.

    Weissbourd was troubled that at least one-third of respondents in their most recent survey said:

    • It is rare to see a woman treated in an inappropriately sexualized manner on television;

    • Society has reached a point that there is no more double standard against women; and

    • Too much attention is being given to the issue of sexual assault.

    “Another finding I think parents will find most interesting - while parents are uptight about having the sex talk with their teen, 70 percent of 18 to 25-year-olds told us they wished they had received more information from their parents about how to have healthy relationships, including how to have a more mature relationship, how to deal with breakups, how to begin a relationship and how to avoid getting hurt in a relationship.”

    On the positive side, it appears that teens and adults tend to greatly overestimate the size of the “hook-up culture.” 

    Weissbourd believes one of the biggest takeaways from this research is that a high percentage of young people want guidance about developing healthy relationships.

    “I want parents to begin conversations with their teens about love,”Weissbourd says. “The media promotes so many misconceptions about what love looks like. We need to be teaching young people the difference between attraction, infatuation and love.”

    Weissbourd believes we should help young people find answers to the following questions: Why can we be attracted to people who are unhealthy for us? How do you know when you are in love? Why and how can romantic relationships become deeply meaningful and gratifying? How can the nature of a romantic relationship and the nature of love itself change over a lifetime?

    If you’re a parent, the report also encourages you to:

    • Teach your kids what it means to be respectful in a romantic relationship. Specifically identify what harassment looks like and what it means to be caring, and discuss the characteristics of a vibrant romantic relationship.

    • Step in and proactively address the qualities of a healthy relationship versus an unhealthy one. Intervene when you see inappropriate words or behavior, because silence can be misunderstood as permission to continue an unacceptable behavior.

    • Talk about what it means to be an ethical person. Teach young people the skills to maintain caring romantic relationships and how to treat each gender with dignity and respect. This also helps strengthen their ability to develop caring, responsible relationships at every stage of their lives and to grow into ethical adults, community members and citizens.

    “For adults to hand over responsibility for educating young people about romantic love and sex to popular culture is a dumbfounding abdication of responsibility,” Weissbourd contends. “Lots of middle and high-schoolers experience trauma at their first and failed attempts at relationships. We need to make sure that kids know that breakups are not the end of the world.

    “The huge question for all of us is this: Given the troubling downsides of our neglect of these issues and the large health, educational and ethical benefits of taking them on, how can we not push down this path?”

    The results of this study encourage me personally, because this is what we have been promoting for two decades. It’s gratifying to see research repeatedly validate something we have taught teens in the schools and adults in this community for many years: Healthy relationships are key to success, in more ways than one.

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    How You Can Pass Down Your Family History

    If someone asked you about your family history, would you know how your great grandparents met or what life was like for them growing up?

    Chris Cummings’ mom was diagnosed with early-onset dementia when she was 48. He saw firsthand how a family member’s memories can slip away and impact families.

    “My mom struggled with multiple sclerosis for many years before the dementia started,” says Cummings. “I took on the role of caregiver to her at a very early age. When she passed away in 2012, even though I spent endless hours with her, I realized there was so much I didn’t know but wanted to know about my mom, yet it was too late.”

    While visiting his grandmother, Shirley, Cummings asked how her parents had fallen in love. She had no idea, which seemed odd since she knew all the family history.

    “That question caused her to call her sister to see if she knew the answer,” Cummings says. “She did not. Grandmother went on to ask her brother, who did know. Apparently, my great grandfather, Sidney, was on a trip in Texas headed home to Louisiana when his car broke down in Jasper. He didn’t have enough money to get his car fixed so he got a job at the local five-and-dime. A few days later, my great grandmother Minnie walked in the store. They met, fell in love and got married.”

    By asking a simple question, Cummings discovered an important piece of family history. This sent Cummings, who actually has a law degree, down a path that ultimately led him to launch greetingStory. He had already created Pass it Down, a digital storytelling platform. He shared his latest idea with genealogy experts about reinventing the greeting card to help families preserve treasured memories the old-fashioned way.

    “Experts in the field were intrigued because there is this huge technology gap in families,” Cummings shares. “While people have videos, they often don’t have the written stories that make up their family history. Our concept was to help people capture family memories one greeting card at a time. We also know that loneliness and isolation are huge issues for the aging population. We believed we could use the greetings cards to bring families together and reduce the loneliness and isolation.”

    Cummings and his wife married in November 2015. The next month, they moved to Chattanooga because they heard it was a great place to start a business. They raised money to build the company and went through the GIGTANK 365 accelerator for startups. They actually entered Miller Lite’s Tap The Future contest to find the most innovative company in the country, and they finished in the top six applicants out of more than 15,000 companies. The couple first presented Pass It Down in front of FUBU CEO and Shark Tank investor Daymond John at the semifinals in Atlanta and won. Although they did not ultimately win the contest, they walked away with $22,000 and used it to create greetingStory.

    “We hope the cards will be the easiest way to sit down with a loved one or friend and spark a conversation about their life stories and help them record their stories,” Cummings says. “I have had so many people tell me how emotional it is to see their grandfather’s signature or that seeing their grandmother’s handwriting brings back so many memories. There is something very special about handwriting a story that is different from recording a video.”

    The creatively-designed cards encourage loved ones to share important information. These sample questions offer a glimpse of what you can expect from them:

    • What do you want to be remembered for?

    • When is a time in your life when you had to make a stand?

    • What is a great lesson your parents taught you?

    If you’re interested in preserving your family history, you can purchase a box of the cards and return envelopes to mail personally. You can also purchase a subscription and send one, two or four greeting cards per month. When your family member answers the questions and mails the cards back to you, you will be actively preserving your family history one card at a time. In the process, you can spread joy and connectedness as you invite your loved ones to share their unique stories. Future generations will benefit from it as well.

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    Overcoming the Loss of a Child

    Christi and Matt Broom married in 2005, got pregnant on their honeymoon and welcomed their son Bryan into the world in 2006. 

    “Bryan was perfect,” says Christi. “I had a great maternity leave over Thanksgiving and Christmas. I planned to return to work in January. It was Sunday morning. I remember waking up at 4 a.m. to feed Bryan and then I went back to sleep until 6 a.m. When I woke up at 6, something was clearly wrong. Bryan looked like he was struggling to breathe, so we called 911. When the ambulance arrived, they checked his vital signs and said everything appeared to be normal. We asked to be taken to the hospital anyway.”

    What followed were days of many questions with few answers. Everything the doctors thought it might be, it wasn’t. But one thing was for certain, Bryan was a very sick baby.

    “On Monday a CT scan  showed that his brain was swelling which took them in a totally different direction trying to figure out what was wrong with our son,” Christi says. “Although he seemed so sick and fragile, the medical personnel reassured us that babies are resilient. I think everyone thought they would figure this out and we would be taking our baby home soon.”

    Another CT scan showed Bryan’s brain continuing to swell, but no one could figure out why.

    “They encouraged me to go home and get a good night of rest,” Christi says. “We got home at midnight and at 3 a.m. they called us back to the hospital. When we got there, they told us Bryan’s brain had swollen to the point of death. We both sat in the room totally confused. What had just happened? We honestly believed we would be taking our son home in a matter of days. Nobody had any answers. Everything was a blur.

    “Somewhere along the way, we spoke with the organ donation people because every organ in Bryan’s body except his brain was perfect. We decided to donate his organs.”

    Christi describes this moment in time as if it were an out-of-body experience. They were just going through the motions. As they walked to their car when leaving the hospital, she realized her husband was carrying a car seat.

    “Those next days and weeks were complicated,” Christi remembers. “It was like walking into the unknown and having no idea how you are going to make it through the next minute because life as you knew it has been stolen from you. It was a fearful and confusing time. A handful of people shared that this had happened to them and wanted to offer support. I didn’t even know how to truly appreciate that at the time, but I remember seeing a lady at church who had lost a teenage son years ago. I went up to her, hugged her and said, ‘I remember praying for you, but I had no idea it hurt this bad.’ I felt like I was in a club nobody wants to be in.”

    If you are experiencing this pain, Christi hopes what she learned from her journey can help you.

    “If you are ever going to get to the other side you have to feel the pain - and that’s the worst part because nobody wants to hurt that bad. The emotional pain is so very real. You want to push it away, but the only way to heal is to allow yourself to feel your way through the pain. It is super scary because you have no idea how long it will take for it to go away. You think you will never be happy again. You can be happy, but you have to be willing to experience the raw emotion versus trying to stuff it and avoid it.

    “Sometimes you just have to let yourself cry,” Christi says. “Things would catch me off guard and the tears would flow. I learned that was really okay and part of the healing process.”

    Working with a bereavement counselor from Hospice of Chattanooga and someone from the organ donation agency helped the Brooms as well. 

    Christi also encourages accepting help from others. Let them clean your house, help you pick out what to wear or cook meals for you. Anything you don’t have to make a decision about can make it easier.

    Through all of this, Matt and Christi grew closer.

    “My husband lost his father at a very early age and his first wife died when their daughter was two,” Christi shares. “Experiencing this helped me understand the pain he had been living with for many years. We leaned on each other a lot. Sometimes we still struggle, but our bond is strong.”

    Eleven years later, the Brooms have three beautiful daughters - ages 18, 9 and 5. While the pain never completely goes away, they do experience happiness.

    “I remember someone putting a book right in front of my face, so close that I couldn’t see anything else. They said that in the beginning, you only see what is right in front of you. As you slowly move the book further away, you begin to see more. The pain is always there and you see it, but you experience other things too. Our life is rich. We enjoy our children and try to take it all in knowing that every day is a gift.” 


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


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    10 Ways to Help Your Teen Succeed in School

    When children first start school, parents usually have a pretty clear understanding of how to help their child have a successful year. But when those kids become teenagers, parents sometimes struggle with their role.

    Parents usually play a much more active role with younger kids in making sure homework is completed, volunteering in the classroom, dealing with friendships, interacting with teachers and making sure their child gets enough rest. Too often, though, parents believe they can be less involved when a child moves from elementary to middle school.

    While parents may want to change how they engage their tween when it comes to school success, research indicates this is not the time for parents to back off. The tween/teen years bring their own unique challenges, and teens aren’t sure how to talk with their parents or any other adult about many of them.

    If you want to actively engage your teens and help them have a successful school year, these ideas can help you out.

    • Have a back-to-school discussion about expectations. Ask them what they want to accomplish this year and discuss ways you can help them reach their goals.

    • Establish healthy sleep patterns. When it comes to rest, plenty of research indicates that tweens/teens do not get enough sleep. On average, teens need 9.25 hours of sleep each night to function at their best. For various reasons though, many of them get significantly less than that. You can help with this by teaching them organizational skills. Have them look at their overall schedule of school and extracurricular activities, then develop a plan.

    • If you are still waking your teen for school, purchase an alarm clock - their phone doesn’t count. Make them responsible for getting themselves up in the morning.

    • Set a budget. Instead of constantly forking out money for this and that, allot a certain amount for school supplies, clothing, extracurricular activities, etc. and teach them how to manage this money. If they want to purchase things that aren’t included in the plan, resist the urge to figure it out for them. Instead, guide them in finding ways they can earn the extra cash.

    • Give them added responsibilities such as doing their own laundry, assisting with meal preparation and packing lunches.

    • Talk with them about the qualities of healthy relationships - friendships, dating relationships, relationships with teachers and school administrators. Discuss how to treat people with respect even if they aren’t respectful in return.

    • Avoid handling their problems for your teen. Talk with them about the issue, then help them problem-solve and determine a course of action. Facing a challenge head-on and making it to the other side is a huge confidence-builder.

    • Be clear about your expectations when it comes to bullying behavior. Research indicates parents are often the last to know when this is going on - whether your teen is the bully or the victim.

    • Talk about addiction. Discuss the opioid crisis and the impact of drugs and alcohol. This conversation makes it more likely for your teen to talk with you when they do encounter challenges.

    • Be very clear about your expectations and consequences for lack of follow-through, and avoid putting anything out there that you will not enforce. A great rule of thumb is this: less is more. Remind them that nothing they can do would make you love them any more or any less. Your teen needs to know you believe in them.

    The teen years are incredibly challenging because everything in their world is changing. Their brain is growing, their body is changing, relationships are different, and they are establishing their independence while still being dependent in many ways. While they may be taller than their parents and seem smarter, especially when it comes to technology, it’s good to remember that 12 is just 12 and 15 is only 15.

    Be present. Keep your eyes wide open. Let them make mistakes. Be there - not to lecture them - but to help them figure out what they could do differently in the future. Stay focused on your goal of launching someone who is capable of caring for themselves and being a productive person.

    Even though they may begin to push you away, adolescents need their parents. Don’t be lulled into believing they needed you more when they were younger. The truth is, they need you now more than ever as they navigate the potentially-turbulent teen years.

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    8 Ways to Celebrate the Empty Nest

    The house is SO quiet and your heart feels a bit heavy. You have definitely shed some tears. You have also stayed awake wondering if you prepared them well to be successful out on their own. Now you consider what you will do with so much extra time on your hands.

    While grieving what is no more is certainly appropriate, there is also cause for celebration. Although you may not feel like it, your first move should be to celebrate your accomplishment. You have spent years of your life focused on preparing your children to launch. Now you actually have time to breathe and celebrate!

    Parents who have successfully made the leap to the empty nest don’t deny that the first few weeks and sometimes months are a bit tricky. But over time, they eventually found their groove and embraced a new normal. About six months into the empty nest, one parent stated, “If people knew how amazing the empty nest is, they would never divorce.”

    In spite of the emptiness you may feel at the moment, here are some reasons to celebrate the empty nest:

    • You can purchase groceries and open the refrigerator door two days later to find you still have food. Or, you can decide you aren’t cooking another meal because you don’t have to.

    • Instead of having to search for your shoes, scissors or tools, they will be where you put them the last time you used them.

    • Walking around the house naked is perfectly acceptable. An empty-nester said one of their favorite things about this season was being able to get their morning coffee in the buff with no worries about who would see them.

    • If you decide you want to go to bed at 8:30, there is nothing stopping you. Seriously, many parents talk about feeling exhausted after so many years of being on the go. Allow yourself some extra shuteye. How much better you feel after a few good nights of solid rest might surprise you.

    • You clean your house and it actually stays clean for more than a few hours.

    • Vacations in the off-season are now a possibility.

    • After years of feeling like you are ships passing in the night, you can reconnect with your spouse. If you are single, you have time to pamper yourself without feeling guilty about it.

    • Instead of always focusing on everybody else’s needs, you can consider your own needs and how you would like to spend your time. Perhaps you want to head back to school, change jobs or volunteer with a group you have had no time to work with until now.

    While there are many reasons to celebrate the empty nest, don’t let it shock you if embracing them early on is a challenge. When your identity has been wrapped up in parenting for at least 18 years, it can be difficult to regain your footing. Don’t be embarrassed about talking with those who are further along or asking for their support.

    And, if you are thinking, “But I actually enjoyed cooking for everybody and I kind of miss searching for things. It feels odd not to be needed,” that’s okay. Your kids still need you, but in a different way. Plus, you’ll still have plenty of opportunities to cook and clean whenever they come home to visit, or down the road when grandchildren arrive. You can invite your family over whenever you want. On the other hand, you might decide to visit them instead - if your new schedule will allow it.


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


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    How to Talk to Your Children When Bad Things Happen

    One of the biggest challenges of parenthood is explaining to your children about bad things that happen in our world. How do you talk with children about violence, death and other issues that are often difficult for even adults to handle?

    Examine your own feelings first. It is difficult to talk with your children if you have not evaluated your feelings about what has happened.

    For example, talking about death makes many people uncomfortable. Our first inclination is just not to talk about it. Somehow we believe that not talking about it will protect our children. The truth is, instead of protecting, we may cause more concern. It is our responsibility as parents to teach our children constructive ways to deal with tough situations.

    Bad things happen and parents need to be armed with appropriate ways to deal with the bad things that happen as well as the feelings that accompany the situation. Children need information, comfort and understanding to help them process different experiences. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers.

    Is Silence Really the Answer?

    While your first inclination may be not to talk about what has happened, often the best thing you can do for your child is to engage them in conversation. You don’t have to say everything at once about a topic. It is best if you don’t because children are easily overwhelmed.

    When trying to talk with children about bad things:

    • First, listen carefully to your child.

    • Try to clarify exactly what your child wants to know – sometimes we make assumptions and give far more information than the child needed.

    • Keep your answers simple and brief.

    • Be honest.

    • Be sensitive to their need to talk about the issue - not talking about it can make children more anxious.

    What if I blow it?

    Sometimes parents choose not to talk about a subject because they think they are going to blow it and saying the wrong thing will harm their child for life. The truth is, sometimes we do blow it as parents and that is okay. It is rare that one conversation will cause irreparable harm.

    Tell the truth

    Honesty is the best policy. This does not mean that you tell a child everything about a situation. There are some things that a child does not need to know. You should share enough information to help them understand what is happening and to help them deal with their feelings. Whatever you do, do not be dishonest.

    Teaching children about feelings

    One of the most important aspects of helping children understand bad things is helping them identify and deal with their feelings. Feelings are not good or bad, they just are, but how we choose to deal with those feelings is significant. Children can often sense when something isn’t right. This can produce anxious feelings for a child.

    Children seem to intuitively know when something is not right. Children want their world to be neat and ordered. When something seems out of kilter, children tend to react out of fear and anxiety. Parents can help ease some of these feelings by talking about the situation and helping children identify their feelings. This exercise gives children valuable information they can use for the rest of their life. Children need a strong vocabulary of feeling words (afraid, anxious, scared, sad, mad, happy, excited) to attach to what is happening inside. To say, "This is a sad thing," or "This is scary," helps children to understand that feelings are natural and normal. This is all part of life.

    In this process, the message you'll want to send your child is, "We can find ways to deal with this." 

    To quote Mister Rogers, "Whatever is mentionable is manageable." Asking questions such as, "When you are scared, what makes you feel better?" helps children begin to process and feel like they have some control over the situation at hand.

    There are no cookie-cutter approaches

    Finally, experts caution that each child will respond differently to bad situations. Some children will become very quiet while others will become very active and loud. Don’t be afraid to trust your intuition. You know your child better than anybody else. As a parent, your job will be to stand by your child and guide them as they deal with their grief, anger, pain, feelings of uncertainty and sadness in their own way. Our world is a changing place. We can help our children feel safe and more in control by helping them to talk about these issues. Through this process, your child will learn one of the basic rules of life that with time healing can take place and things often get better.

    Experts suggest that you:

    • Listen carefully to what your child says.

    • Try to clarify exactly what your child wants to know – sometimes we make assumptions and give far more information than the child needs.

    • Keep your answers simple and brief.

    • Be honest.

    • Be sensitive to their need to talk about the issue - not talking about it can make children more anxious.

    Needs of a Grieving Child (taken from Hospice.net)

    • Information that is clear and understandable at their development level.

    • Reassurance that their basic needs will be met.

    • Involvement in planning for the funeral and anniversary.

    • Reassurance when grieving by adults is intense.

    • Help with exploring fantasies about death, afterlife and related issues.

    • Ability to have and express their own thoughts and behaviors, especially when different from significant adults.

    • To maintain age appropriate activities and interests.

    • Getting help with “magical thinking.”

    • Being able to say goodbye to the deceased.

    • To memorialize the deceased.

    Help Your Child Build a Strong Feelings Vocabulary

    Happy

    Proud

    Strong

    Important

    Cared for

    Appreciate

    Respected

    Honored

    Cheerful

    Liked

    Courageous

    Hopeful

    Pleased

    Excited

    Smart

    Gloomy

    Impatient

    Unhappy

    Disappointed

    Helpless

    Uncomfortable

    Resentful

    Bitter

    Sad

    Hopeless

    Guilty

    Unloved

    Hurt

    Angry

    Abandoned

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    How Friends Influence Behavior

    You only live once! Life is short, make the most of it! Sow your wild oats while you can!

    You have likely heard these messages or perhaps said them to your teen or a friend. However, those who take the message to heart without any boundaries often experience ongoing ripple effects from their actions or the choices of those around them. For example, consider Olympian Ryan Lochte’s fellow swimmers that night in Brazil or the young man who took the up-skirt pictures at school and sent them to friends.

    In his series, “Guardrails,” Andy Stanley reminds us that friends influence the direction and quality of our lives. Guardrails are things that can protect us from danger, such as going over a cliff.

    “The thing that makes friendship so great is the very thing that makes friendship so dangerous,” says Stanley.

    He contends that people drop their guard when they are around those who accept them. And, when they feel completely accepted, they are much more open to the influence of the people around them.

    Nicholas Christakis, in his TED talk, “The Hidden Influence of Social Networks,” also addresses being open to the influence of other people. Christakis’ research shows that non-drinkers who spend time with people who drink significantly increase their chances of becoming drinkers themselves. This also holds true with risk of divorce, obesity, violence, immoral activity and other issues.

    An ancient proverb even says, “Walk with the wise and become wise. For the companion of fools suffers harm.”

    “Wisdom is contagious,” Stanley asserts. “If you surround yourself with wise people, it is contagious. You will become wiser by just being in their company. A wise person understands that all of life is connected. What you do today, think about today will influence who you are tomorrow. There are no isolated events, thought patterns or relationships.

    “When you are with people who live as if life is connected, who make decisions as if life is connected, it will impact how you make decisions, view the world, your morality, your reputation, your family, everything.”

    Regardless of age and life circumstance, Stanley offers five “red-flag” scenarios that indicate a need for guiding or protective guardrails.

    • You realize that your core group isn’t moving in the direction you want your life go. Having opposite value systems is a cause for concern.

    • You catch yourself trying to being somebody you are not. If you ignore your values in a certain group, you are moving away from who you really are.  People who know you well may say things like, “When you are around them, you are different.”

    • You feel pressure to compromise your values. If something has never been a temptation before and you begin to actually consider it as an option, ask yourself why.

    • You say to yourself, “I’ll go, but I won’t participate.” Although you may not actually do the behavior, you are there when others do it. A companion of fools suffers harm.

    • You hope the ones you love don’t find out where or with whom you have been. It may not be that you have to defend yourself, but something on the inside tenses up when you think about telling them.

    It's true: You only live once. But, it is also true that your actions and the actions of others can powerfully impact you for the rest of your life. Teaching your teen how to put guardrails in place could be one of the most powerful and long-lasting gifts you give them.

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    Teen Sex and the Brain

    There is an ongoing debate about whether teen sex is really harmful over time.

    Drs. Joe McIlhaney and Freda McKissic Bush, authors of Hooked: New Science on How Casual Sex is Affecting Our Children, contend that casual sex during the teen and young adult years affects the ability to bond later in life.

    Imagine you adhere a strip of clear shipping tape to your sweater to remove lint. The first time you pull it off, it grabs fuzz and some hair. It still has some stickiness so you continue to use it, but eventually, the tape loses its stickiness.

    Similarly, research indicates that sexual activity and having multiple partners hinders the ability to develop healthy, mature and long-lasting relationships. 

    What does teen sex have to do with brain development? Probably more than you realize.

    • The prefrontal cortex is still developing until the mid-twenties. This part of the brain is responsible for setting priorities, organizing plans and ideas, forming strategies and controlling impulses. It also initiates appropriate and moral behavior.

    • During the teen years, sexual activity triggers chemical reactions within the brain that help shape it.

    • This brain transformation has a huge physical and psychological impact on all things sexual. A person’s decision-making ability, coming from the highest centers of the brain, can lead to the most rewarding sexual behavior. That is, unless premature and unwise sexual behavior during adolescence damages the brain's formation for healthy decision-making.

    Additionally, the authors sound the alarm concerning an apparent relationship between teen sexual activity and depression. Studies indicate that sexually-active teens are three times are more likely to experience depression than their abstinent peers. 

    Sexually-active girls were three times more likely to have attempted suicide, and sexually-active boys were seven times more likely to have attempted suicide than their virgin friends.

    If you want to help your teen's brain develop in a healthy way, McIlhaney and Bush suggest that you recognize the critical role parents play.

    • Surveys consistently show that teens primarily look to their parents' advice about sex. Structure, guidance, and discipline from caring adults can positively mold the adolescent brain.

    • Teens need parental support as they take healthy risks, like learning to drive, trying out for sports or going off to college. Activities like these help young people separate from their parents and grow as individuals.

    • If parents or other caring adults don't guide their teens, their poor choices can negatively impact for their future.

    Although it may be complicated and uncomfortable, you can prepare your child for some very real threats to their well-being. These threats include sexually transmitted diseases, teen pregnancy and the emotional baggage of seeking to bond with multiple sex partners. Taking these issues seriously and keeping the lines of communication open are essential to healthy relationships in the future.

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    Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours

    Your child reaches for a candy bar at the checkout counter and you say, “No.” He proceeds to throw a tantrum. Do you:

    A.  Plead with him to stop?

    B. Step over him and walk away?

    C. Buy him the candy bar so he will stop embarrassing you in public?

    Your child looks at you with disgust, rolls her eyes and says, “You can’t tell me what to do.” Then she turns on the television to tune you out. Do you:

    A. Send her to her room?

    B. Leave the room for a minute to get yourself together in preparation for dealing with the situation?

    C. Ignore the behavior?

    It is 7:00 a.m. You go in to wake your son for the third time. He growls at you and refuses to get up. Do you:

    A. Go in and physically get him out of the bed?

    B. Turn up the radio so loud he can’t possibly sleep through it?

    C. Remove yourself from the situation and let him sleep?

    If you're a parent, you've probably encountered at least one of these situations and have been confused about the best way to discipline your child.

    According to Dr. Kevin Leman, author and parenting expert, we have arrived at a place in history where American families have become child-centered. American parents have become permissive and democratic, and American children have become spoiled, sassy and out of control. In response to each of the situations above, Leman would say that all of these children need a healthy dose of “reality discipline.”

    Many of today’s popular sitcoms and commercials portray children in adult roles with little respect for their parents. The parents (on the other hand) are shown as ignorant, out of touch with the culture, dumb and not smart enough to raise a child. Innocent and comical as it may appear, this role reversal seems to encourage children to be disrespectful to their parents and other adults, discounting their authority and understanding about life issues.

    If a child wants to do something and their parents say no, they just sneak around their backs and do it anyway. Instead of earning money to buy new shoes, many teens believe their parents should foot the bill. The idea of doing chores around the house without being paid is often referred to by many young people as unfair and beyond the call of duty.

    Leman believes that allowing young people to operate in this manner is not preparing them for the real world.

    “There are certain realities by which children are going to have to live their adult lives,” said Leman. “The sooner we, as parents, start teaching what I refer to as the rules of the game, the better.”

    Six Rules to Raise Your Children By

    1.  You’re never going to be the center of everyone’s attention—not for long at least. This means that children should not be the center of attention in their families. Parents should be the center of attention.

    2.  Everyone must obey a higher authority. Therefore, parents should expect children to obey, not hope that they will obey.

    3.  Everyone is expected to be a contributing member of society. Too many children constantly take from their families without ever giving back. Leman suggests parents ask themselves if their children are ever expected to perform routine chores around the home for which they are not paid. The only acceptable answer is yes, according to Leman.

    4.  Everyone is responsible for his or her own behavior. A child who does something bad ought to feel bad about it. Too often parents feel bad when a child does something wrong. Why should a child accept responsibility for his own behavior if someone else does it for him?

    5.  You can’t always get what you want. And what you do get, you get by working and waiting. Children should receive the things they need and a conservative amount of the things they want. More children need to hear the word no.

    6.  You experience happiness, which is the elixir of success, in direct proportion to how sensitive to and considerate you are of others. Self-centeredness and unhappiness go hand in hand.

    Applying the Six Rules Using Reality Discipline

    Although most parents can see value in raising their children by these rules, the real challenge comes in trying to put them into action. In his book, Making Children Mind Without Losing Yours, Leman gives parents specific ways to use their authority correctly as they bring up obedient children with loving discipline. It is called reality discipline.

    The key to reality discipline lies in the answers to these three questions.

    How do I:

    • Love my children?

    • Respect my children?

    • Hold my children accountable?

    “In order for reality discipline to work the first thing that must happen is the child must feel loved,” Leman said. “Reality discipline uses guidance and action-oriented techniques. Action-oriented discipline is based on the reality that there are times when you have to pull the rug out and let the little buzzards tumble. I mean disciplining your children in such a way that he/she accepts responsibility and learns accountability for his actions. Children expect adults to discipline them. If the discipline is loving, it will be geared toward instruction, teaching and guiding.”

    Finding Middle Ground

    It takes time to raise a child to be a responsible citizen. Leman believes there are far too many households in America where children do not feel loved. Many parents have either chosen to parent from an authoritarian or permissive stance.

    The authoritarian parent: makes all decisions for the child, uses reward and punishment to control their child’s behavior, sees himself as better than the child and runs the home with an iron hand, granting little freedom to the child.

    The permissive parent on the other hand, is a slave to the child; places priority on the child, not on his/her spouse; robs the child of self-respect and self-confidence by doing things for him that the child can do for himself; provides the child with the “Disneyland” experience; and/or makes things as easy as possible with inconsistent parenting.

    Both of these parenting styles set the stage for anger and rebellion in the child.

    “I believe there is middle ground between authoritarian and permissive,” Leman said. “It is being authoritative. Authoritative parents do not dominate their children and make all decisions for them. They use the principles of reality discipline, which are tailor-made to give children the loving correction and training they need.”

    Parents who use the authoritative approach:

    • give the child choices and formulate guidelines with him/her;

    • provide the child with decision-making opportunities;

    • develop consistent loving discipline;

    • hold the child accountable;

    • let reality be the teacher and convey respect, self-worth and love to the child and therefore enhance the child’s self-esteem.

    Authoritative Discipline Involves at Least Three Things:

    • Discipline by way of action – the discipline should be swift, direct, effective and as closely tied to the violations as possible. For example, you have told your child it is time to get in bed. Your child is blocking with all kinds of stalling tactics. Reality discipline says that you don’t argue or negotiate. You simply state – “If you don’t go to bed on time your bedtime will be even earlier for the next three nights,” or “Don’t go to bed on time and give up your favorite TV show for a week.” Be pleasant, but do not waver or hesitate and make sure you follow through on exactly what you said you would do.

    • Parents must listen to their children - There is great power in listening, but few of us tap that source of power. Really listening to your children helps you understand where they are coming from and what they are thinking. It allows you to make better decisions when it comes to discipline.

    • Parents should give themselves to their children – Giving of yourself (not things) to your children is an essential ingredient for effective discipline. The simple truth is children want their parents. They want our time.

    Understanding Your Child's Reality

    According to Leman, reality discipline has an “eye of the beholder” element. One of your major goals in using this type of discipline is to help your child think and learn. In order to be successful, you have to understand what reality is for your child. It is what your child thinks that counts. Your child’s reality includes extracurricular activities, favorite television shows, privileges like staying up late, etc. Your child’s perception of what is happening is the reality you must deal with.

    For example, if you find your child throwing a temper tantrum in the checkout line, understand that their goal is to get your attention and ultimately for you to break down and buy the candy bar. Leman would suggest that you calmly step OVER the child and walk away - not out of viewing range, but far enough away that you are no longer an audience for the show. When there is no audience, the show stops.

    What Sets Reality Discipline Apart?

    Reality discipline has distinctive characteristics that need to be practiced in every home where children live, claims Leman.

    “Parents should never seek to punish, but to discipline, train and teach,” Leman said. “If ‘punishment,’ pain or some kind of consequence is involved, the parent is not doing it or causing it – reality is. This directly connects to the six rules and learning how the real world works. If your child is refusing to get up and go to school, stop being the human alarm clock and let them face the consequences of being late to school. Reality discipline helps parents avoid inconsistent wandering between authoritarianism and permissiveness. It is the best system for teaching accountability and responsibility in a way that it will stick and it is your best bet for avoiding what I call the 'Super Parent Syndrome.'”

    Avoid the Super Parent Syndrome

    Even when parents are using the reality discipline concept, it is possible to fall into the trap of being a “super-parent.”

    Dr. Leman believes there are four kinds of faulty reasoning that parents need to avoid:

    • I own my children - Reality discipline reminds parents that the goal is not to own or keep children, it is to help them learn to be responsible and accountable persons in their own right.

    • I am judge and jury – Although we have authority over our children, we should always use it with tender, loving fairness.

    • My children can’t fail – Children should fail on occasion because failure is good for them. Home should be a place where children can learn more about themselves. It should be a place where children can make mistakes as they try out things they have decided on their own. Parents should not interpret their child’s failures as a direct reflection on them.

    • I am the boss - what I say goes. There are many situations where a parent knows what a child should do because the parent has been down that road before. Reality discipline, however, helps you guide your child without dominating him and making decisions for him.

    What Reality Disciplinarians Do

    Your mission, should you choose to accept it as reality disciplinarian, includes:

    • Being consistent, decisive and respectful of your children as persons.

    • Using guidance rather than force, but being action-oriented and not satisfied to just use words.

    • Holding your children accountable for their actions, whatever those actions are, and to help your children learn from experience.

    • Realizing that you, as parents, are the most important teachers your children can ever have.

    There are no 100 percent guarantees when it comes to any single style of parenting. Every child has his/her unique personality and needs. The foundations for reality discipline are based on really knowing and understanding your child. Will the strategies work all the time? No. Will there be times when you are ready to throw up your hands in total frustration and resign from your job as parent? Probably. But, if your goal is to raise healthy, responsible children, the best strategy is to keep working your discipline plan.

    Nine Ways to be Your Child's Best Friend

    1.  The discipline should always fit the infraction.

    2. Never beat or bully your child into submission.

    3.  Use action-oriented methods whenever possible.

    4.  Always try to be consistent.

    5.  Emphasize the need for order.

    6.  Always require your child to be accountable and responsible for his or her own actions.

    7.  Always communicate love to your child even though their behavior may have been irresponsible.

    8.  Always give your child choices that reinforce cooperation but not competition.

    9.  If spanking is necessary, it should be done when you are in control of your emotions.


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


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    Setting Boundaries With Adult Children

    You might be the parent of a young adult if you:

    • Still pay their car insurance because your name is on the car title.

    • Have paid for a new tire because they don’t have any money to pay for it. Besides, it's their only way to get back and forth to work.

    • Have argued with them about how much they eat out and they do not understand your concern.

    • Still pay their cell phone bill because they are part of the “family plan.”

    • Saw them really struggling with something and, although you wanted to step in and help, you didn’t.

    Parents who tell their young adults once they have a job, “Congratulations, you are officially off the payroll! Good luck!” are probably in the minority. The majority of today’s parents seem to struggle with letting their kids experience the ups and downs of self-sufficiency.

    Are parents too quick to come to the rescue? Are we too accessible today?

    Allison Bottke’s challenges with her own adult son led her to write Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children. After years of being her son’s failsafe, she realized she was not helping him.

    “I looked at what was happening around me and came to the conclusion this really isn’t about my son, it’s about me,” says Bottke. “Instead of focusing on what I thought he needed to do, I really needed to focus on changes I needed to make. The steps I came up with led to the acronym – SANITY, which I had a lot more of when I implemented the steps.”

    Here’s what SANITY means:

    • Stop: We need to change how we respond to our kids. Don't try to change them. Stop the money flow. End our own negative behavior. “For so long we were in the midst of drama, chaos and crisis,” Bottke says. "I had to stop letting my son push my buttons and I needed to stop accepting the consequences for his behavior.”

    • Assemble supportive people: Find other people who are experiencing this or who have already been down this road and enlist their support. It is powerful to know you are not the only one.

    • Nip excuses in the bud: It is easy to let excuses coax you into doing things you would not typically do.

    • Implement rules and boundaries: Make a plan, implement it and stick to it. Meet with your young adult and share the plan. Explain to them that, as of this date, you are no longer going to support them financially. Clearly, if you have been participating in this behavior for a while, giving them a timeline with specific dates to work off of is helpful and is an excellent teaching tool.

    • Trust your instincts: If your gut or your intuition is telling you something isn’t right or you shouldn’t be doing this - trust your gut. “For me this meant getting in touch with my own life and fixing the messy person in my life – me,” Bottke says.

    • Yield everything: There is a plan for your child’s life and you do not control it. Swooping in and trying to fix it hinders their ability to learn and grow. Love them and support them, but don’t enable them.

    According to Bottke, this is easier said than done. While it did take time, Bottke says that letting go was very freeing and the right thing to do. Her son has had to face some difficult circumstances, and she is the first to admit it is sometimes hard to sit on the sidelines. But since she has gotten out of the way her son is doing better. Their relationship has improved and she feels better about who she is as a person - and as a parent.


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


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