The Pressure of Mother’s Day

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It may seem strange but Mother’s Day has been one of my least favorite holidays since my kids were born. Don’t get me wrong. I love being a Mom and I wouldn’t trade my kids for anything.

Before I had kids of my own it was great to bring my Mom flowers and have lunch with her. However, when I listen to her talk about Mother’s day as I was growing up I think she had the same opinion of Mother’s Day as I do.  She recounts tales of endless Mother’s Day outings to McDonald’s, her least favorite restaurant.  She ate the burgers that she detested for her children. Really? It was MOTHER’S Day! Right?

Fast forward 25 years and there’s a older version of me. Exhausted after having 3 children in 2 years and wanting some peace on Mother’s Day.  My husband tried to get everyone to cooperate but it ended with him trying too hard and everything exploding in chaos.

I decided to go shopping for the day. And every Mother’s Day after that for the next 10 years. From that day forward I decided that Mother’s Day was for me as I desperately needed that day to recharge.

Alone.

As I shopped I noticed families seeming to enjoy themselves, but meltdown after meltdown seemed to land square on Mom’s shoulders and I could tell that she needed a break too.

It seems that Mother’s Day puts so much pressure on one day. Shouldn’t mothers be appreciated every day.

This is what I want my kids to learn about appreciating mom’s everywhere.

  • Appreciate those around you every day.

  • Make mom feel celebrated each day by your actions and your generosity.

  • Stopping to open the door for a woman juggling two kids and a bag of groceries may just make their day.

  • Giving a smile of reassurance and a kind word to the mom whose child is having a meltdown.

  • Talking to the child in the cart in line at the store may just help that mom get five more minutes peace.

  • Respect when mom says she needs time to herself.

  • Hold Mom’s hand when she’s on the phone to let her know you need her attention instead of saying “Mom, Mom, Mom”

8 Ways to Keep the Family Connected During the Holiday Season

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We pull them here. We take them there. We ask them to shake hands, make conversation and be on their best behavior.

For many kids, the holiday season is very stressful. Their routine is upset and it can turn a kid’s world upside down.  While we are taking them out and asking them to do their best they may be somersaulting internally.

So how can parents enjoy the holiday hoopla while keeping the kids content?

  1. Open a Book – Wrap a holiday or favorite book (old or new) for every day from December 1 – December 31. Each day a child chooses a book for the family to read together at a designated time. Traveling… bring the books with and keep the routine going.
  2. Let them wear comfortable clothes. Yes, the frilly dresses and ties look cute but it’s hard to feel at ease when you are in stiff clothes.
  3. Bring along some of their favorite snacks. Not every kid likes lutefisk and lefse and when you are hungry it is hard to be on your best behavior.
  4. Try to maintain a consistent bedtime. If you know it’s going to be a late night it might be a good time to call a babysitter.
  5. Keep it simple. Many kids are overwhelmed by all of the gifts and expectations of the holiday season.
  6.  Bake cookies together. Baking can be a great learning experience and a fun way to connect.
  7. Have a family movie night. For ideas of fun family movies check out this list.
  8. Try to remember the things you enjoyed as a kid about the holiday season and share them with your kids.

 

Staying Involved

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One of our jobs as parents is to raise independent, productive members of society.

When they are small they are totally dependent on you. As they get older, slowly, that dependency decreases. Does that mean our job is over?

No Way!

Another part of parenting is making sure our children have an appropriate education and attending Parent-Teacher conferences is a great way to make sure that is happening.

Parent-Teacher conferences can be such a joy to attend when kids are young.

You walk in to the welcoming classroom adorned by bright and creative artwork. You are approached by the teacher who comes with a smile on their face and an outstretched hand. They show you a folder of your child’s accomplishments and you leave with a feeling of pride. Even if they say your child moves around too much or talks too much, they can still find positive things to say.

Fast forward to the secondary years. You move from teacher to teacher in a crowded gymnasium (or hallway) to see how your child is doing. Are they missing assignments, can they handle the course load? You leave feeling overwhelmed but optimistic that things will improve now that you have been given the tools needed for your child to succeed.

Many parents decide that conferences are not as important once kids reach the secondary years. However, what that student needs to see is that they have a support system. They need to see that they have parents and teachers who care about their education.

As they get older they may not want to attend conferences with you. So why should you bring the sullen grumpy teen that would rather be with their friends or watching Netflix?

  • It’s so valuable to see how your child speaks to an adult on their own behalf.
  • A teacher gains a different perspective by watching the parent / student dynamic.

But most of all…

You are empowering them by standing by their side and letting them lead the conversation. You are creating an advocate in your child by letting them make decisions in their education.

Thank you for being an involved parent and making the extra time to attend conferences with you child. They may not thank you today but it will leave a lasting impact on them.

More than just an IEP

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We made the transition to a new school this year.  The IEP from the old school followed, but that is just a document. It may tell you about educational goals and checkpoints for him but that is where much of it stops.

It doesn’t tell you that he worked so hard and learned to read in 5th grade.

It doesn’t tell you that he didn’t have a friend that came over to our house until he was 13. 

It doesn’t tell you that his battle with depression has been greatly affected by his workload at school. 

It doesn’t tell you that he lost his best friend, his Grandpa, last year.

It doesn’t tell you how hard he wants to fit in but is too nervous to approach his peers.

It doesn’t tell you how important my child is.

So please ask me questions. Ask his former teachers about more than just his learning obstacles but about him as a person.

And most of all… Take the time to really get to know my child. He’s more than just a document and numbers that are reported. He’s wonderful and I know you will think he’s as great as the rest of us do.

When the first day is the Worst Day

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The first day of school brings many things. Hope, excitement and the opportunity to experience new things.

However, if your child is anxious, it can bring a family to a halt. The fears that come with the start of something new may seem unfounded to those outside of the family who have not experienced a child with anxiety.

“The bus number is different on the way to and from school!”

“What if I don’t remember my lunch number?”

“What if I don’t have any friends in my class?”

“Where will I sit at lunch?”

Many kids can muddle through worries like these and wouldn’t know that for others it is breaking their day, breaking their spirit and turning them away from school.

As a parent we want our kids to feel happy and safe at school.

Let your child know that their worries are common. It is crucial that you do not let them stay home from school due to these worries as that can only reinforce their fears in the the long run.

What can you do to help?

Role-play and come up with plans with them. 

Draw their attention to the positives.

Encourage them to share their fears with you.

Listen to them and let them know you care.

And most importantly… be there for them.

If you would like to read more about anxiety in children visit Worrywisekids

Sports Parenting in 10 Sentences

With the warm weather comes summer sports. With over 70% of kids quitting sports before age 13 how can we encourage, but not put too much pressure on them.

JAG GYM Blog

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1 word: Hi.  Greet your child when they get in the car with “Hi” before you ask about practice, the score of the game or homework.  

2 words: Have fun.  In all likelihood you’ve heard this statistic: 70% of kids quit sports before they turn 13 for the primary reason that they are not having fun.    Encourage and remind your kids to have fun.

3 words: Tell me more.  Before forming an opinion or dispensing advice, ask for more information from your child.  This will force them to tell more of the story and give you more information as to what is actually happening.  

4 words: Good job. Keep working.  Doc Rivers, head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers and parent of a NBA player suggests these four words.  Rivers notes that as parents we are often tempted to say…

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Unwinding the Cord

DOGI have such clear memories of stretching the cord on the family telephone and trying to go as far as it would take me to get some privacy while talking to friends when I was growing up.

Is there an equivalent of this today?

How about the teen who goes in their room, closes the door and texts their friends.

Most of the conversations I’m sure are very similar to the ones I had as a teen.

However, that’s where the similarities end.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Sarcasm and other emotions are not recognized by the words in a text. Emoticons can’t convey everything.

2. With the depersonalization of texting it is much more likely that teens would share highly personal information (many times too personal) than if they had to speak on the phone.

3. Teens are not learning the art of conversation by texting. They choose to text instead of talk. However, the real world will catch up and those conversational skills will be needed for the rest of their lives.

The important point to remember is that successful relationships need to build intimacy, moving through texting and other less-direct forms of communication to more direct connections. Many of us use technology to distance ourselves from each other, so that the more connectivity we have, the less connected we actually are. It’s a double edge sword. Challenge your teen to pick up the phone and call a friend. Give Grandma a call and ask her how her bridge game was.

The sooner teens develop active communication skills with their peers, family and community the more likely they are to flourish in the social world around them. It’s not that they need to drop texting but build a balance to have their technology and use it wisely.

As parents we need to be there to guide them and to model those skills for them.

Though the phones are now cordless the message is still the same.

Communication is essential.

The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up – by Rachel Macy Stafford

Such great perspective on slowing down and enjoying your children.

Kindness Blog

The Day I Stopped Saying Hurry Up - by Rachel Macy Stafford When you’re living a distracted life, every minute must be accounted for. You feel like you must be checking something off the list, staring at a screen, or rushing off to the next destination. And no matter how many ways you divide your time and attention, no matter how many duties you try and multi-task, there’s never enough time in a day to ever catch up.

That was my life for two frantic years. My thoughts and actions were controlled by electronic notifications, ring tones, and jam-packed agendas. And although every fiber of my inner drill sergeant wanted to be on time to every activity on my overcommitted schedule, I wasn’t.

You see, six years ago I was blessed with a laid-back, carefree, stop-and-smell-the roses type of child.

When I needed to be out the door, she was taking her sweet time picking out a purse and a glittery crown.

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Just Average

Just Average

When I was in high school I remember a lot of kids who were “A” honor roll students. I also remember many who got B’s. But a large majority of the kids were pretty average and got a lot of C’s.

These kids weren’t in danger of failing out.

They were the majority of the kids in the school.

They were your average high school student – “C” students.

Fast forward to now. When a student is getting C’s people start to worry about them.

“Surely they can do better.”

But maybe not.

When I was a senior in high school in 1991 I took Algebra 2. Now, there are 8th graders taking these classes. The 8th graders in 1991 were content working on their pre-algebra. Pre-algebra has now shifted to elementary schools. Those same 8th graders are now taking Pre-ACT tests. That was not even on my radar at that age.

So what has changed?

I’d like to think that kids now are much smarter than I was. However, I don’t think that’s the case.

Should a “C” student feel shamed when they are doing their best work. Students are like babies. Some are more advanced and do things earlier while others make their way along slower.

Will we go back to how it was? I doubt it. I just hope that as kids are encouraged to succeed at a younger and younger age that there are people out there who remember that not everyone can be that “A” student and even “C” students can end up doing fabulous things and being successful people.

As parents it our jobs to advocate for our kids when they can’t and teach them to advocate for themselves. Regardless of their achievement level they all need someone in their corner.

 

Rolling on down the road (or not)

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I never thought that I would be the parent of a teen driver. Not that I didn’t expect my kids to get older, but I really hadn’t thought that far in advance. It seems that yesterday they were in grade school.

After passing the drivers test many parents have a set of keys ready to give their new driver.

I had the keys.

I had a lanyard like the kids at the high school hang their keys on.

I gave them to him.

I feel like a new parent. Where’s the manual for parenting a teenage driver?

Fast forward almost one month and he slides on the ice and hits a tree.

Airbags deploy on the rusty minivan. The van is totaled but all I can think is how bad it could have been. This privilege that he was given could have killed him. He was ok; Not hurt at all.

So now it feels like there’s second chance to get it right.  Start slow with a bit of fear (on both of our parts).  More practice.

Remind him that he is 16 and he doesn’t know it all. Remind myself that even though I am an adult that I also have so much more to learn.

The manual has yet to be written.