Friday, August 29, 2014

Using Our Language Filter, Even When It's Hard

School has (or will be) starting.  Your child will simply not be happy every single moment of every single day at school.   Mrs. Smith will have treated him unfairly.  Mr. Jones will have singled her (and ONLY her) out for absolutely NO reason at all.  Michael will have pushed him down on the playground and no one did anything about it, even when he told a grown-up.  And, one of the worst...all of the girls sat together at lunch and excluded your daughter.  She sat alone.  I am not being sarcastic, exclusion is one of the worst feelings a child can experience.  As the year goes on, I'll try and tackle some of these issues individually, but for today I'd like to discuss your immediate reaction, as a parent, to the statements (or those similar) made above.

1.  You know your child.  He/she's looking for some empathy.  Go ahead and give it.  Listen.  Just listen, with out a reaction.  I often tell people to 'keep your face'.  Be mindful of your facial expression.  Don't lose it, even if you want to.  Show empathy, but try real hard not to let the anger flow through or deep sadness for the situation they are describing.

2.  Then question.  You really are only getting 1 version of the truth. What would have motivated your child's offender to do what he/she did?   Most people are generally good people.  I'd like to say that again.  Most people are generally good.  We have to work on believing that.  We use a court system that prescribes to innocent until proven guilty.  Wouldn't it be great if we believed that most people are here for good, rather than here to harm?

3. Please do not react negatively.  Use a language filter.  Once your child sees that you've lost control and are in an negative emotional reaction, they've 'got you'.  It's possible you are done being reasonable.  It will be difficult for you to listen to the teacher's version of what happened.  Keep your mind open, and you thoughts inside.

4.  Wait 24 hours.  As the evening progresses at home and your child sees your non-reaction, maybe more of the truth will come out.  Maybe not.  In the morning, when all are calm, make an appointment with the appropriate school personnel to discuss what is happening with an open mind.  I always recommend having your child present at these conferences (especially if they are age 8+).  They can be accountable and can hold others accountable for their actions.

So, go ahead and have a flurry of thoughts in your head!  Just keep them from coming out in front of your child.  Children are so smart.  You made them that way!

Keep it simple...calm, and cool!  ♥D

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Finding Your Goulash

My two older children begin college this Monday.  My son is actually leaving.  It's his second year, and he will be living 4 hours away from home.  I remember last year struggling with his departure and loving his return trips home.  I couldn't wait for him to come home to visit.  I fussed over the house, and wanted it clean and in great shape.  Then came the moment when I was preparing his 'favorite meal'.  His whole life I've been a full-time working mom (a school administrator), and mother of three...taking the kids to their many, many after school activities.  We often ate on the run, and not always together.  So I'm thinking about that special meal to prepare for his return.  I have no idea what to make him.  I call him and ask what he wants.  "I don't care, ma...whatever you feel like making is good for me.  Just do goulash".  Then I realize, I don't cook.  I make about 3 things...weekly (and probably weakly!).  He has no 'favorite meal' that I can make for him to return home to eat.  I failed!  I'm devastated.  I love my mother's southern fried chicken and okra, and her biscuits and gravy.  I need him to love something of mine.  Right?  Or do I?

It took the year for me to realize that no, I don't.  He needs me to be me.  His mom that he knows is here always, loving him the way that I have for 19 years.  With Stouffers French Bread pizzas always on hand in that freezer waiting for him. He needs his home that is conveniently located right around the corner from Tim Hortons and McDonalds and Taco Bell for all of the meals required. And he will enjoy that sometimes I will pull off an amazing (yes, somewhat amazing) meal out of my oven once in a blue moon with the help of  I can cook, if I have the time. But loving my kids had me getting them where they needed to be for 18 years and attending those events at dinner time.  Our cars looked and smelled like a dinner table.   What do we all enjoy?  My goulash.  It's simple, but yummy.  Everyone has their own version of goulash.  Find your family's...and make it special.  Eat that at the table every now and then.  They'll come home from college wanting that and it will be great!  ;)

Keep it your kids, and be proud of the way you love them!  ♥D

Monday, August 11, 2014

Discussing Death

As a parent, I know that I would do anything to protect my children from hurt.  I can't.  We all get hurt.  My own children have experienced loss (way too much for their young ages), but with each loved one lost, I have learned more about the questions they have.  Guess what?  I don't have all of the answers.  If I wasn't feeling bad enough about the inability to protect them from it, at least I should be able to provide the answers to their questions.  Right? Today I give all parents permission to relieve yourself from this pressure.  You are probably grieving, too.  Just do your best.  I'm going to share a few things I have learned over time, and then offer some books to assist with this challenging topic.

Below are some questions that I've had to attempt to answer.  My hope is to forewarn you so you can feel successful with some answers.

1.  On cremation..."How did grandpa get so small?  When I die won't I still be big?" - I honestly googled to "how to explain cremation to young children".  Think about your words/language you choose prior to responding.  You do not want to make this scarier than it already is.

2.  On disease and/or chronic illness..."Will I get that too?" or you may see worries from children that this will happen to one of their parents.  Depending on the age of the child, you can explain a little about genetics.  But most importantly, take the opportunity to focus on a healthy lifestyle, regular check-ups, and caring for a loved one.  Hopefully they have experienced the power of empathy.  During illness families come together and help their loved one.  I don't think you need to 'hide' this from children...let them participate in caring for a loved one.  Our children need to be empathetic.

3.  On suicide..."Why?  What happened? Didn't he/she love me?" - This will be almost impossible to answer.  After a suicide, it is important to discuss with children mental health and ways they can seek support during any of life's bumps.  This conversation may need to be revisited so that you can ensure that your children know who to go to when they feel down.  The reassurance that 'yes, you were loved' by that person will also be needed.

4.  On experiencing grief and it's feelings..."Did he cry?  Did she cry?  Why or why not?" -  If the death is close to home, as an adult you can explain and understand the variety of responses to it.  Help your children remain empathetic to all, and explain to them varied grief responses.  It's ok to be sad and cry for days.  It's ok to be angry.  It's ok to laugh, and share funny memories.  This is another challenge as kids are focused on their own feelings, and possibly believe all should respond in kind.  All grief responses are ok, as long as no one is getting further harmed by one's response.

The following are some children's books on death.  Sometimes, letting a book do the talking for you is the best solution for all.  

  • Someone I Loved Died - by Christine Harder Tangvald
  • The Invisible String - by Patrice Karst
  • Samantha Jane's Missing Smile - by Julie Kaplow & Donna Pincus
  • The Next Place - by Warren Hanson
  • Pancakes With Papa - coming soon!  by Dena Albergo Jayson
  • Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss - by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen

Keep it simple...and be there for your kids.  ♥D

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Keeping The Back-to-School Storm Calm

Wow.  Where did our summer go?  Working at a school, I've seen many teachers coming in and preparing their classrooms for Michigan's after Labor Day start.  Whenever your start date (some of you may have already started), how is the stress management for you and your kids?  As I type today, the sun is shining, and it's looking to be a beautiful day today.  What are your plans with the children?  I hope they are to keep enjoying summer!  It's not over yet!

Every store where school supplies are sold will lead you to believe you are starting back tomorrow.  You probably don't.  How can you best manage the days leading to the first day of school?  Here's what I'd do...

1.  Take advantage of beautiful weather.  Go do something outside and allow the kids to play.

2.  Take advantage of the rainy/poor weather...that's a perfect day to go school shopping.

3.  Reduce stress with some financial planning.  Yes, your children will want to go back to school with some new clothes and spectacular supplies, but I'd venture to guess you do not need an entire new wardrobe. You may even have some of last year's supplies.  Keep it simple, and check out what they already have and can continue to wear/use.  Overindulgence is not a good thing.

4.  Have them use these days to assist the family, and 'earn' some of those extra items on their back to school list.

5.  When shopping for supplies, do not panic if you can't find an item.  You can wait until the first school day and communicate with your child's teacher a difficulty.  Believe it or not, they will not use all of the supplies on the very first day.

6.  Continue to read (that should be everyone's summer homework), and just enjoy the last few days.

I have added one of my favorite back to school commercials here...wouldn't it be fun to shop with your kids like he does?  Try it.

Keep it simple...and have summer fun!  ~D

Friday, August 1, 2014

We Simply Cannot Protect Them From Everything

The 'job' of a parent is to prepare children for the adult world, and to make sure they can manage on their own.  I'm sure we'd like to hold that off as long as we possibly can.  As life happens we find that we simply cannot protect them from some of the harsh realities that come their way.  Many times a tragedy will strike, a chronic illness with affect a family, or a sudden change in their lifestyle occurs and the world gets turned upside down. What can a parent do to help?  Here is what I suggest:

1.  Allow each child to express themselves as they need.  There should be no judgement.  Anger is ok.  Laughter is ok.  Sadness is ok.  No emotion is ok.  Everything is ok.

2.  Do things together as a family.  Even if  it is simply staying home.  Play games.  Watch TV.  Eat meals.  Be sure that you are together.  Do they need time with their friends?  Let them have that time...but be sure they return home after a short visit.

3.  Be truthful about your circumstances.  Be mindful of their age, and what they can handle when sharing information, but kids will listen, be concerned, and will overhear conversations.  They will know something is wrong.  Let them in, and then reassure them that all will be alright.  Knowing that as a family, you will get through, will help them cope. They need to be able to trust you, so I do not recommend lying to them.

4.  Absolutely seek the guidance of a professional (a psychologist/medical professional who works with children and young adults) promptly.  For the kids, and for yourself.  This can be short or a long term solution.  You can work with this professional to decide, but this will be critical.

If this post is one that is necessary for your family, I wish you peace.  I trust you will get it soon.

Keep it simple...and have faith.  ♥D