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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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    7 Ways to Support Teens During a Divorce

    I was 18 when my father announced he was divorcing my mother. My sister and brother were 13 and 20 respectively.

    While some might think that the three of us were old enough to grasp what was going on, our lives were honestly in an absolute tailspin. Sure, we had heard our parents fight, but it never seemed like it was anything major.

    Never in a million years would I have suspected they were headed down the road to divorce. If you had asked anyone in our community about the likelihood of my parents splitting, they probably would have laughed in your face. The whole thing was a very big shocker.

    “What some people don’t take into consideration is the younger you are when your parents divorce, the more childhood you have left to travel between two parents whose lives become more different with each passing year,” says Elizabeth Marquardt, author of Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce and director of the Center for Marriage and Family at the Institute for American Values.

    “The older you are when your parents divorce, the more you have to lose. You have a long experience with your ‘whole’ family. You have (for yourself, the teen) a lifetime of memories, experiences, photographs and stories of YOUR FAMILY. All of that comes apart.”

    A World Turned Upside Down

    Going through the divorce process was an awkward time, not just for my family, but for friends, youth leaders, teachers, and neighbors. People knew what was happening, but seemed to keep their distance as if they weren’t quite sure what to say.

    Just recently I was talking with a childhood friend about my parents’ divorce. She said the divorce shocked her so much that she didn’t know what to say - so she never said anything at all.

    As a teenager, I had all these thoughts and feelings rumbling around inside my head and no idea where to turn to sort things out. Furious with my parents and the situation in which I found myself, I wondered how I had missed the severity of the situation and if there was any way I could have helped to prevent the divorce.

    I had questions:  

    • “Would we have to move?”
    • “How would I afford college?”
    • “Would we see our father and did I even want to see him?”
    • “What will my friends think of me?”
    • “Why me?”

    I would lie awake at night praying that this was just a bad dream and that I would eventually wake up and everything would be just fine.

    “Divorce is tremendously painful at any age (even if you are grown and have left home when your parents divorce), but especially so in the vulnerable teen years when you are just looking at the world and imagining taking it on, on your own,” Marquardt says. “You are standing on the rock of your family, about to jump off, but needing to know that the rock is there so you can jump back at any time. But before your eyes the rock fractures in two.

    “Teens can be more likely than younger children to get drawn into their parents’ needs and to worry about their parents’ vulnerabilities. And this is occurring at precisely the time when, developmentally, they are supposed to be identifying more with peers than parents. It’s not developmentally appropriate for a teen to spend the weekend ‘visiting’ his father or ‘visiting’ his mother. His parents are supposed to just BE THERE, steady, in the background, while the teen is focusing on other things.”

    Teens Need a Strong Support System

    In many instances, teens don’t feel like they can talk with their parents about the divorce. I suspect there were many people who wanted to be supportive of me as I went through this tough time, but just didn’t know what to say or how to approach me. Honestly, I think just letting me know they were aware and available if I needed to talk would have been helpful.

    “Parents can do their teen a great favor by personally speaking with people who are close to their teen such as grandparents, a beloved aunt or uncle, coach, youth leader or close adult friend letting them know they want their teen to feel free to speak openly about how they’re feeling, even if it means sometimes saying something bad or unflattering about their parents,” Marquardt says.

    “Clearly, this is not about family members and the teen joining together in badmouthing the parents, but they do want to give 'permission' to the teen and family member to speak openly as the TEEN wishes. Parents need to understand that if this person is not someone the teen already has a close relationship with, the teen is likely just to see them as another adult and unlikely to form a trusting bond during that time, unless the person is especially skilled and empathetic.”

    Family members, friends or others who have their own feelings they need to process about the divorce should turn to someone besides the teen, cautions Marquardt.

    Local clinical psychologist, Susan Hickman encourages caring adults who find themselves in a position to reach out to teens who are experiencing divorce to consider the following:

    • Be immovable. Provide unlimited, unyielding support at a time when everything seems chaotic.
    • Be patient with their behavior. Remember that teens often express their pain through their behavior versus words. Respond to this with positive regard and consistent support for the child providing gentle limits and correction if needed.
    • Listen, listen, listen. Do more listening than talking. Teens experiencing divorce are in pain and confusion. Someone needs to hear them.
    • Validate their feelings even if you do not agree. Emotions aren’t reasonable. They are expressions of exuberance or distress. Acknowledge their emotions and tell them you understand why they might feel that way.
    • Save judgment or criticism for later. This is a time of repair – being there for them in the midst of distress speaks volumes. Teens need to know you care and that they are worth caring about.
    • Find a teen support group. Support groups for teens experiencing divorce allows them to connect with people their own age in similar circumstances.
    • Time is the key. Giving teens the time they need can sometimes be challenging. Just like there are times when we think people ought to be in a certain place in their grieving process after a death, people often assume that after a certain amount of time kids should just be over the divorce. Sometimes it takes a long time for teens to process what they have been through and for healing to take place.

    “Teens going through this very hard time should get the help they need. They should also be encouraged that there are so many great ways to learn about having a good and happy marriage,” Marquardt says. “The pain they are going through is something they can use to inspire them to be a great husband/wife and father/mother some day. There are many children of divorce in happy, lasting marriages and that can be them, too.”

    They say time heals all wounds, and I suppose to some degree that is true.

    I remember talking to one of my college professors before heading home for Christmas break my freshman year. I did not want to go home. After listening to me for a while, he said, “I know you don’t want to do home. I understand that what you are experiencing is miserable, but you have told me that you plan to be a counselor. And while this is not something I would wish on anybody, what you are experiencing now will be helpful to you later on when you are working with people who are dealing with divorce.”

    He was right. I am painfully aware that my parents’ divorce left scars on my life. If there is a positive side to the divorce, it would have to be the tenacious passion I have for having a healthy marriage and for helping teens that are experiencing divorce. They need to know somebody out there cares and is willing to walk the road with them. 

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    Aging Parents and Broken Families

    “In 2010, the first Baby Boomers turned 65. By 2030, 20 percent of America’s population will be over 65. As the Baby Boom generation moves into later life, the proportion of American elders who are divorced is skyrocketing," says researcher and author Elizabeth Marquardt. "The McKinsey Global Institute predicts that by 2015, 46 percent of boomers will live in divorced or unmarried households. These trends raise concerns for Baby Boomers as they age - and challenges for their grown children - as they become caregivers for their aging parents.”

    Marquardt and Amy Ziettlow are co-researchers in a 3-year project funded by the Lilly Endowment to investigate aging, death and dying in an era of high family fragmentation.

    Marquardt and Ziettlow are asking Gen Xers about things like:

    • How does your generation care for parents who may live far apart?

    • Is there an obligation to care for stepparents?

    • How do you grieve the loss of a parent when you have grieved the loss at the time of the divorce?

    • How do you honor your father and mother when a parent abandons their child?

    During an interview, one man said, "My parent’s cold war lasted until my dad died. Then my mom wanted me to mourn the loss of my dad with her. I had already mourned the loss of my father."

    “Married parents will do their best to protect their kids from the worst of a dying parents’ illness,” Marquardt says. “Fragmented families don’t have that luxury. In fact, many of the people interviewed talked about stepparents who don’t communicate anymore once the biological parent has passed away. Family change is not the only stressor. Longer life span, smaller family size and rapid economic changes have a ripple effect on family breakdown.

    “We have never thought forward to the impact of divorce on an aging nation,” Marquardt says. “Marriage used to be ‘until death do us part.’ Now it is ‘until it doesn’t feel good anymore.’ There are people who will die a lonely death due to family fragmentation. Leaders are asking who will be taking care of the old people.”

    Marquardt and Ziettlow have found there is a lot of hope with Generation X.

    “There is something about telling your story,” Marquardt says. “Out of sharing tears, raw memories and family craziness there is a hope that seems to emerge. They take a deep breath and at the end seem to feel a sense of relief.”

    Many of those interviewed said they agreed to do it because they wanted to honor their parent.

    “The golden rule doesn’t say, 'Do unto others as they have done to you,'” Marquardt says. “Of the Gen Xers we have interviewed, many say their only hope is to rise above what has happened to them and to 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.'”

    Who will be there to take care of you when you can’t take care of yourself?

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    Can Your Kids Ask You About Sex?

    Research says that young people who "sext" are more likely to have sex, and that dating violence is on the rise. 

    So, picture this scenario: Your child sits down at the dinner table and asks, “What is sexting? What is sex?” or “How do babies get inside their mommy’s tummy?” 

    In response, would you:

    A. Laugh and change the subject?

    B. Get irritated and tell your child that those questions are not appropriate at the dinner table?

    C. Thank your child for asking such a great question and either seek to answer it or tell them that you will talk with them about it after dinner?

    Just thinking about answering these questions has and will cause anxiety for many parents. When asked about talking with her children about sex, one mother replied, “My parents didn’t talk with me about it. I think I would just die if I had to talk with my son about it. He’ll figure it out.”

    Let's consider that statement for a moment.

    When young people are left to figure things out for themselves, the results can disastrous. Parents can help their children/teens understand that relationships based on sex aren't healthy or cool by talking openly with them about topics such as sex, love, lust and romance. It's also an opportunity to help your child think about how certain actions now can impact their goals for the future.

    If you are on the fence about talking to your children about sex, sexting and the like, consider the benefits.

    • Children develop an accurate understanding about their bodies, and about sexuality, instead of getting inaccurate information from friends or the media.
    • They learn that talking to you about sex doesn't have to be embarrassing.
    • You equip your child with information they need to make wise choices for the rest of their life.
    • You are teaching them life skills like self-discipline, problem-solving and planning for the future… skills that will help them move toward productive living.

    So, here are some helpful tips for taking the plunge and starting that conversation with your kids:

    • Be an askable parent. Encourage open communication. Tell them it is okay to talk with you. If you don’t know the answer, find the answer together.
    • Don't overreact. The number one complaint from teens is that parents jump to conclusions when they do ask questions. The goal is to keep the dialogue going.
    • Take advantage of teachable moments. The latest sexting research, the pregnancy of a friend and television sitcoms are teachable moments.
    • Listen. Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen as your child shares. It is a great way to learn what they are thinking. Hint: If you want to know what is really going on, do carpool duty and keep your mouth shut.
    • Less is more. State the facts, be honest and keep it simple and age appropriate.
    • Share your expectations and values, too. Whether it is sex, drugs, alcohol or something else, tell your children what you expect. Be clear about your family values.

    The best way to protect young people is to educate them. Are you an askable parent?


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    What Starts Here Changes the World

    Admiral William McRaven, bestselling author of Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe the World, delivered the 2014 commencement address at his alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin. He shared that after he graduated, he went straight to be commissioned in the Navy and on to SEAL training.

    Although McRaven retired as a Navy SEAL after 37 years of service, his accomplishments were not easy. He recounted six months of grueling exercise, sleepless nights and harassment by professionally-trained warriors seeking to weed out those incapable of leading in an environment of constant stress, chaos and hardships.

    McRaven challenged the graduates, reminding them of their school slogan: What starts here changes the world.

    “According to Ask.com, the average person meets 10,000 people throughout their lifetime,” said McRaven. “If the 8,000 plus graduates here tonight changed the lives of 10 people, and those people changed the lives of 10 people and another 10, in five generations, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of 800,000,000 people in 125 years. If that kept going for another generation, you could change the entire population of the world.”

    Additionally, McRaven highlighted 10 lessons from SEAL training he believes are relevant to changing the world:

    • Start off by making your bed. By doing this, you have accomplished the first task of the day.

    • Find someone to help you paddle. You can’t change the world alone. Getting to your destination takes friends, colleagues, the good will of strangers and a strong coxswain to guide you.

    • Measure a person by the size of their heart, not the size of their flippers. SEAL training is the great equalizer. Nothing mattered but your will to succeed.

    • Get over being a sugar cookie and keep moving forward. Sometimes no matter how well you prepare or perform, you will still end up as a sugar cookie.

    • Don’t be afraid of the circuses. The circus was a form of SEAL punishment which consisted of two extra hours of calisthenics for those who failed to meet physical standards. Life is filled with circuses. You will fail. You will likely fail often. It will be painful and discouraging. At times, it will test you to the very core.

    • Slide down the obstacle head first. One SEAL went head first during an exercise. It was risky, dangerous and seemed foolish, but he finished in record time.

    • Don’t back down from the sharks. There are sharks in the world. If you want to complete your swim, you will have to deal with them.

    • You must be your very best in the darkest moment. Every SEAL knows that the darkest moment of the mission is the time to be calm and composed, and when all your tactical skills, your physical power and all your inner strength must be brought to bear.

    • Start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud. During Hell Week, SEALS spent 15 hours up to their neck in bone-chilling, cold mud. One student started singing and they all joined in, which helped them survive. The power of one person can change the world by giving people hope.

    • Don’t ever, ever ring the bell. In other words, never ever give up.

    These are powerful words for us all. Are you up to the challenge?

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    8 Back to School Parenting Tips

    Wait, what? It’s already time for school to start? How did this happen when it seems like just yesterday kids were doing the happy dance as they got off the bus and headed home for summer break?

    While most parents love the more relaxed schedule during the summer months, plenty of parents will be doing their own happy dance as their children head off to school and everybody settles into a routine. 

    In an effort to kick off the school year with less stress and as little drama as possible, there are some things parents can do ahead of time to set the stage.

    • Straight out of the gates, decide what your family can handle when it comes to extracurricular activities. Many child experts warn parents about the stress children experience when they are involved in too many activities, which ultimately leads to meltdowns while trying to finish homework and handle later bedtimes.
    • Know what you as a parent can handle. On top of children being stressed, parents really have to consider their own bandwidth when it comes to school, work and additional commitments. A stressed-out, tired parent who is always at the end of their rope typically leads to lots of drama. Can we agree that parental meltdowns just aren’t pretty? Knowing what you can handle sets the stage for what can actually be on the table at this time and what is just not an option.
    • Establish routines that provide consistency and structure at home: It’s best for children and parents alike. Having a consistent bedtime, wake up time, morning and nighttime routine actually decreases stress for children (and adults) because they know what to expect. Just because the kids complain about things doesn’t mean it isn’t good for them.
    • Include prep for the next day into your evening routine. Things like choosing an outfit, packing lunches, getting backpacks ready with completed homework inside and signing papers before going to bed can make the morning better. Anything you can do the night before to make the morning less hectic is a serious plus! 
    • Let your children do what they are capable of doing for themselves. If this is new for you, one way to get the ball rolling is to tell your children that the beginning of each school year is significant. They are capable of handling more responsibility as they get older, so give each child a short list of things they are responsible for making sure gets done as their contribution to the family. You may be tempted to jump in and do things yourself because it is faster or easier, but unless you want your child dependent on you later in life, it’s really good to develop the habit of delegating things you know they can handle. 
    • Establish a homework station that is an organized study space with all of the materials needed to do homework.
    • Think about technology and how you want your family to use it during the school year. You can find helpful information as you seek to make decisions about this at Families Managing Media.
    • Schedule a 15 to 30-minute opportunity once a week for everyone to come together and compare calendars. A great time to pull everything together is during a family meeting on Sunday evening. Talk about what’s on deck in the coming week for everyone, see if anybody is responsible for taking food or materials to school, plan meal prep for the week, or discuss anything important for everybody to know. 

    Most people don’t do well with surprises that throw them off their game. Making time for your family to connect and communicate is one of the most effective ways to decrease stress and drama. Here’s to a stress-free start to the school year for your family!

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    Dealing With Anxiety After Tragedy

    Whether you were actually in Dallas, Baton Rouge, Falcon Ridge or another city when shootings took place, constantly watching the media coverage can cause you to experience the very real phenomenon of vicarious traumatization.

    “What people often don’t realize is you don’t have to be present at a traumatic event to be traumatized,” says licensed clinical social worker, Pam Johnson. “Just hearing something can create a traumatic event in your mind. Add the visual of repeatedly watching the news segments and you can create some real anxiety. The deeper mind does not differentiate what is happening in real time and what happened in Texas to someone else.”

    Think about the last time you watched a scary movie and you realized your heart rate increased and you became jumpy and tense. Your body reacts physically because your mind does not know you are not actually part of the scene you are watching.

    “People have to be careful how much they expose themselves to because it can become toxic,” Johnson says. “The human mind cannot be in a creative problem-solving mode and a fight-or-flight mode at the same time. It is like trying to put a car in drive and reverse at the same time.

    "If we want a productive response to what has happened, individuals have to calm themselves down and get their emotions under control. Then we can have effective dialogue and begin asking questions such as, ‘How have we gotten here? What can we do to get ourselves out of this place?’”

    While emotions are understandable, they are often not helpful. If you feel them, be mindful of them, but don’t let them direct your behavior. If people run around angry and frightened, the problems will only get worse.

    Johnson offers a few tactics to help you constructively deal with your anxiety:

    • Limit the amount of time immersed in media. If you just cannot pull yourself away, take a pulse check – literally. If your pulse is high, stop watching. Be mindful of your feelings. Are you angry? Anxious? Tense?

    • Take action to reverse the anxiety. Go for a walk. Meditate. Get involved in constructive conversation with others. Pray.

    • Focus on things over which you have control. Get adequate rest. Eat healthy. Watch sitcoms or movies that don’t aggravate stress. Do things that are calming and soothing to you. Create an emergency plan with your family. Discuss what you would do if you heard gunfire in a public place.

    “Most importantly, I would tell people to learn to talk so people will listen and listen so people will talk,” Johnson says. “This is a crucial need in our society. We need to learn how to listen for the need and the heart of another person.

    "It is a trait of human beings to look at differences in other human beings and attach a negative meaning to the differences. This has been a protective measure in humans since the dawn of time. Hundreds of years ago humans needed this defense mechanism. Today it is not helpful. We have to remember, it is not us against them. It is all of us against violence.

    “The only way we can move beyond this problem is when people are willing to listen. It is through listening that the deeper mind has the time to discern that the person might think differently, but that does not necessarily make them dangerous.”

    While no one can predict future incidents, everyone can do something to help make a significant positive difference. What will you do?

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    Helping People Finish Life Well

    Several years ago Carol Courtney found herself in an interesting position. Her mother called to say that her father was in the hospital due to breathing problems. As a healthcare professional, all kinds of things were running through Courtney’s mind.

    “I knew he had been having episodes where he would black out, but not pass out. This made me think he was having respiratory issues,” says Courtney. “As time went by and I kept asking my mother for information, I realized she did not know the names of my father’s doctors nor did she have any idea what was happening other than he had breathing issues.”

    As a nurse, Courtney knew that this lack of information was not uncommon for people who are unfamiliar with healthcare.

    “Most people are intimidated by doctors, are often afraid to ask questions or don’t know the right questions to ask,” Courtney says. “My goal was to get my father out of the hospital. In spite of trying to coach my mom from a distance on the kinds of questions she should ask, what to say and how to get to know the physicians, when my father was discharged she did not know his diagnosis or the care that would be required to keep him at home.”

    At this point, Courtney decided to take action. She wrote down every question she had before calling the physician. She knew from experience that if you ask the right questions you will get the answers.

    The key is knowing what to ask.

    "From my conversation with the physician I learned my dad had terminal pulmonary fibrosis and he was expected to live approximately three months,” Courtney says. “I was the one who told my parents about pulmonary fibrosis, what the coming days would probably look like and what we needed to do to make this time as pleasant as possible.”

    This is when things tend to get tough for families, explains Courtney. The stress can fracture a family’s ‘fault lines’ and lead to a falling out - right at the time when the dying person needs their support.

    “I knew we had a very short amount of time to do what I considered important business,” Courtney says. “My mom emailed all of Dad’s relatives and friends and explained that he was terminally ill. She invited all of them to come for a visit as soon as possible. My dad died 11 weeks after being discharged from the hospital. But, in those 11 weeks, 32 people came to see my father. We laughed, cried, shared stories and truly enjoyed each other’s company.”

    Courtney's sons brought their grandfather tons of chocolate when they came to visit him. He loved chocolate, but hadn’t been allowed to have it because of high cholesterol. They had a serious party!

    “When my father died, his funeral was truly a celebration of his life,” Courtney says. “This whole experience changed my focus in life. I realized I was passionate about helping people finish life well. My goal is for people to have reconciliation and celebration before they die.”

    Most people don’t want to think about dying or planning what they want that process to look like. That includes arranging their funeral.

    “Talking about the end of life and what you want it to look like with your spouse and children is revolutionary,” Courtney says. “I encourage people to plan and communicate about what they want and how their family and friends can help. They can take a methodical and thorough approach, and end life well.”

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    5 Ways to Tell If You're a Technology-Distracted Parent

    The little girl was playing in the playground area of a fast food restaurant, yelling at her mom, “Watch me, Mama! Watch me!” Consumed by her cell phone, her mom did not hear her daughter calling to her. The child came down the slide, went over to her mom and started tugging on her arm, saying, “Mommy, Mommy, watch me.” At this point the mother looked at her daughter, seemingly irritated at the interruption, and said, “What?”

    Perhaps you’ve been that mom at one point or another, and chances are good you’ve witnessed that mom. For some, that moment when a child is occupied on the safe playground is the opportunity to take a little break. For others, constant distractions keep parents from engaging with their kids.

    Dr. Jenny Radesky is a fellow in developmental behavioral pediatrics at Boston Medical Center. She and a team of researchers observed 55 caregivers, usually a parent, eating and interacting with one or more children, from infants to 10-year-olds, in fast-food restaurants. 

    Out of 55 caregivers, 40 were involved with their phones during the meal. Sixteen of these adults used the mobile device throughout the meal. The researchers referred to this as “absorption with the mobile device.”

    Three adults gave a device to a child to keep them occupied. One adult with a little girl picked up her phone as soon as she sat down, and she used it throughout the entire meal.

    “The girl keeps eating, then gets up to cross the room to get more ketchup. Caregiver is not watching her do this; she is looking down at the phone…,” the notes showed. “Still no conversation… Now girl’s head appears to be looking right at caregiver, and caregiver looks up but not at girl…”

    How much screen time is too much screen time when it comes to being an engaged parent? Perhaps the better question is, are you frequently distracted by your phone or some other device when your child is trying to get your attention? If you aren’t sure, The Gottman Institute encourages you to consider these questions:

    • When was the last time you played with your child or teenager?
    • What was the last conversation you shared as a family?
    • Ask your kids if they feel you are distracted. Honesty can go a long way in opening up communication. Just avoid responding defensively and ask more about what they need from you.
    • Think about the last conversation you had with an adult. Were they on their phone? Did you make eye contact? Did you feel heard?
    • What makes you feel heard? The same things that make you feel heard probably apply to the children and teens in your life. Have an open conversation about what listening looks like in different settings.

    Many young people complain that their parents nag at them for always being on their phone, yet they believe their parents are as consumed by technology as they are. Perhaps one of the most important things for parents to remember is that children are very good at copying the behavior that parents model for them. 

    Technology isn’t going away. When parents decide to put down the cell phone, turn off the game, and walk away from the emails on the computer to focus on their children, it sends a significant message: You matter. You are more important than the screen. I value you. 

    Face-to-face relationships beat technology any day of the week.

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    Preparing Kids for Responsibility

    Kay Wyma, mother of five, had a revelation one day while taking her kids to school that prompted some dramatic changes at home and ultimately led her to write Cleaning House: A Mom’s 12-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement.

    “My teenage son asked me what kind of car I thought he would look best in, a Porsche, Lexus or Maserati,” says Wyma. “Deciding on the Porsche, he said he planned to get one when he turned 16. Fighting back nausea, I’m thinking, ‘What planet are you on and how do you plan to pay for it?’ All the talks about ‘materialism and how things don’t make you happy’ clearly hadn’t penetrated his brain.”

    On the way home, Wyma called her friend to vent and get reassurance that the self-centered teenage stage doesn’t last forever. Wyma realized mid-discussion that maybe she was contributing to her kids' self-centeredness.

    “My kids are great. But I wondered if what we were doing was helping prepare them for the real world,” Wyma says.

    “I made their beds, picked up their rooms, taxied them here and there, fixed their meals, and showered them with accolades but rarely gave them the chance to confirm the substance of that praise. My words said one thing, but my actions said, ‘I’ll do it for you because I can do it better or faster than you can.’ I realized this was a major disservice to our children. Instead of preparing them to launch, we are creating a sense of dependence on us as parents.”

    After seeking wisdom from women with adult children, Wyma came up with 12 skills for her children to learn before they fly the coop. Here is a sample of what’s on the list:

    • Make a bed and maintain an orderly room;

    • Cook and clean a kitchen;

    • Do yard work;

    • Clean a bathroom;

    • Do laundry;

    • Run errands; and

    • Act mannerly.

    “After deciding on the 12 skills, we called a family meeting and we told the kids that things were going to be different,” Wyma says. “We started with their rooms. They had to make their beds before they went to school and pick stuff up from the floor. We got the usual whining and complaining, but I was actually surprised at how quickly they started doing what we asked.”

    To help get the ball rolling, Wyma decided to add an incentive: She put 31 dollar bills in a jar for each child. They could get an additional dollar each day they did what they were supposed to or have one taken away. Most of the kids chose to have one taken away if they didn’t follow through on their tasks. Interestingly, she rarely had to take bills out of the jar. But the child who chose to have money put in the jar could have cared less.

    “I think people forget how exciting it is to equip your kids to tap into the opportunities that come to them,” Wyma says. “If I am always doing everything, they don’t own anything nor do they have the opportunity to be challenged and build confidence. Our children are in a very different place than they were two years ago when we started this experiment. I think we would all agree things have changed for the better.”

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    The Key to Your Child's Heart

    Most parents believe they're pretty good at communicating love toward their children. But did you know that saying “I love you” only begins the process of communicating your love for your child?

    There are some important communication practices to consider. For example, has your child ever said they were hungry and you told them they weren't because they just ate? When kids say things like this and parents discount or correct the feeling, children think they can’t trust their own feelings and judgment. They also believe they need to rely on someone else to tell them what they think and feel. This can be very dangerous.

    Validating a child’s feelings helps them feel important and loved.

    When parents want to raise capable children who think, solve problems and care for others, it's important for them to trust their feelings. Instead of discounting a child’s expression of anger or feeling tired, ask questions that will lead them to talk about their feelings, such as, “Tell me what you are angry about.” Or, “You just woke up from your nap, do you think you need to sleep a little longer or do you think you just aren’t quite awake yet?”

    In an effort to show love, parents often give their child what fills their own emotional fuel tank. For instance, if a parent loves receiving gifts and that really replenishes their tank, they may show love to their child by giving them gifts. But, gifts may not mean as much to that child as a big bear hug, which is the language of physical touch. In turn, the parent may become frustrated because the child does not respond to the gifts like the parent expected.

    Several books have been written about the languages of love. Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages of Children, lists the love languages as:

    • Acts of service,

    • Quality time,

    • Words of affirmation,

    • Gifts, and

    • Physical touch.

    Chapman asserts that speaking a child’s primary love language can fill the child’s emotional fuel tank much more effectively.

    Although parents need to speak all five love languages to their child, one language usually speaks louder than any other. Once a parent knows the child’s primary love language, this language can more effectively motivate, discipline and teach their child.

    In a world where many children seem confused and are looking for love in all the wrong places, parents have the opportunity to give a wonderful gift. Learning their child’s love language and speaking it often will truly say, “I love you.”

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    How to Teach Your Kids About Voting

    When precincts open on Election Day, U.S. citizens over 18 will have the right and responsibility to vote.

    When our country was founded however, only white men with real property or wealth were allowed to vote. But now, no matter your gender or race, citizens of this country have a say in who gets elected. Despite this amazing opportunity that many in other countries are not afforded, plenty of Americans don’t vote.

    According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 61.4 percent of Americans eligible to vote actually did so in the 2016 presidential election.

    What are our young people learning about our country when we don’t take the responsibility of voting seriously? Do your children understand the meaning of democracy? Have you discussed the election and the importance of voting with your children so they will understand that it is everyone’s responsibility to vote when they are old enough?

    Dalet Qualls became a U.S. citizen in April of 2018, and she’s looking forward to the privilege of casting her vote. 

    “I have been working on becoming a citizen of the United States for at least seven years,” says Qualls. “I had to be a resident for five years before I could even begin the process. I’ve watched many elections take place that I have not been allowed to take part in. The fact that I can actually vote in the next election almost doesn’t seem real.” 

    When asked what she thought about the low voter turnout, Qualls said she felt like it was a waste of privilege. 

    “We are really good about speaking our mind and complaining, but when it comes time to letting your voice count, the low turnout at the polls speaks volumes,” Qualls says. “I feel like all of us are responsible for exercising our right to vote. I’m not just speaking for myself, I’m planning for my children’s future.” 

    It is important to teach our children that voting is not just a right; it is a responsibility. Clearly, children younger than 8 might find choosing a leader to be confusing and even a little scary. However, older children could benefit from this teachable moment in time. 

    Here are a few tips for talking with your children about upcoming elections.

    • Talk about your values, what you believe and why you hold those beliefs.

    • Ask them what they have heard about the election, the candidates and the process.

    • If your children are older, get them to research each of the candidates running for a particular office, then discuss what they learned about them. This is a great way to teach young people how to be critical thinkers instead of taking what they hear in commercials at face value.

    • Hold an election in your home. Give your kids the chance to share what made them decide to cast their vote for a specific candidate.

    • If possible, take them with you when you go to vote.

    “I hope people never take for granted the privilege we have to vote,” Qualls shares. “There are many countries where people don’t have this opportunity. Many men and women have fought for this right, and paid the ultimate price for it. May we never take it for granted.”

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    Things Your Teen Won't Tell You

    Ellen Pober Rittberg is the mother of three. She had three children in three years and she spent 13 years representing young people as an attorney. Both of these experiences have given her insight into the lives of young people which led to writing 35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will.

    “I wrote this book as a message to parents that you can do this,” says Rittberg. “I think that it is probably the hardest time to be raising a teen. There are threats to their safety, head-spinning technological advances, they are encouraged to dress provocatively by celebrities who they see dressing provocatively, and peers are more important to them than family. The book is really a form of cheerleading in an informed, honest and positive way.”

    Rittberg believes the biggest mistake parents can make is to trust their teen all the time.

    She cautions parents that in spite of the fact that their young person seems really smart, their judgment is defective and they will make poor decisions because they are adults in the making.

    35 Things Your Teen Won’t Tell You, So I Will is the manual I wish I had had when I was raising my teens,” Rittberg says. “I didn’t want to be preached to and I didn’t want to read clinical pieces written by educators, psychologists or medical doctors. I wanted to know the practical do’s and don’ts, the big mistakes to avoid, what to do when you are at the end of your rope and ways to enjoy the challenge of raising teens.”

    Rittberg encourages parents to be open to the fact that they can learn to be a better parent.

    “When I was pregnant with my first child, I read a ton of books because I didn’t know how to parent,” Rittberg recalls. “We need to continue exposing ourselves to information that will help us be better parents. Parents also need to consider the values they want to impart to their children and how they will be intentional about doing it.”

    Here are a few of the 35 things Rittberg wants you to know:

    • You shouldn’t be your child’s best friend. We have a role as parents to be responsible and reliable. If you act like a teenager, your teen won’t respect you.
    • Your child needs meaningful work. Anything that encourages a healthy work ethic and sense of family duty is a good thing.
    • To know your teen’s friends is to know your teen. If you want to know what your teen is up to, get to know their friends. Make your house a welcoming place. You have to be there when they are there.
    • A parent should not buy a child a car. There are large consequences to buying your child a car, the largest is that the child who doesn't earn a significant portion of the car will likely total it soon after getting it. When they have worked for it they will take better care of it.
    • Know your child’s school. School officials should know your face, what you do and that you want to help.
    • Curfews are good. As the old saying goes, nothing good happens after midnight!

    “Parenting teens is challenging, but you can do it and be good at it,” Rittberg says.


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