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That means you aren’t alone!
Whether you’re “feeling it” because your child is off to preschool or kindergarten … or college… others have gone before you (and yes, survived!).
A mom came to me in tears after a Boys Alive! talk and asked, “Does it ever go away? No one told me it would be like this. Am I the only one that feels this way?”
The traditional EMPTY NEST had long since passed for her. Her daughter was in her mid-20’s and had been away for years in the next state, by all measures successful in her chosen career… This is what we’ve raised them for, right?
And still. This mom longs for, yearns for, her daughter.
You wouldn’t want them back on your couch! Indeed, this mom confessed that after 3 days they aren’t getting along all that well.
But yet. The longing.
How do we reconcile these moments?
It is definitely a time of AMBIVALENCE. We are so happy that they are capable and able to leave us. We are so sad that they are leaving us!
Start by recognizing:
Most important…deal with your own feelings of separation, loss, and grief and do not overshare with your leaving-child. This is your part of the journey. Instead, celebrate that you’ve grown this child up to leave — and celebrate their capabilities as they make this next step!
They will come home and it will be different. They’ve changed, you’ve changed.
Even now, with my girls in their early 30’s, I can truthfully say that you never get over missing them. But you do fill in and create your new “after-kids” life. You never get over it but you do move on.
You move into enjoying everything they are doing as young, independent adults. And sometimes, even though you’re glad to have them home for the holidays, there is that little place where you’re just as glad to see them leave again, so you can return to your “new normal.”
You’re invited to join us in the Boys Alive! Private Facebook Group – ask a question, offer support, enjoy an article, laugh and cry with us. We are stronger together!
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL 101: What do you do when they say, “I hate school.”
Public, private, or homeschooled – it’s important to us that our kids LOVE school – that they go off happily every day to where they will spend about 1,000 hours this year, according to Datalab.
Love it or hate it, school is not only where they learn academics but they’re also learning about:
But what if they say, “I hate school?”
For boys, this may show up in behavior more than words. They may have consistent stomachaches or headaches, they may just not want to get out of bed. Be particularly aware if there’s been a sudden change in his behavior.
Acknowledging his frustrations, fears, and uncertainties along the way. You can also share your positive and negative school experiences, if it helps him feel like he isn’t the only one.
Above all – be sure you tell him that you believe in him, that together you’ll create strategies to help him be successful, and guide him to be an advocate for himself – eventually he may LOVE school!
For more on boys and “I hate school,” see this blog post.
Shelter: take refuge, take pause.
Talking with Rebecca and Steve on KXL 101 about yet another horrific tragedy as “Orlando” now takes on new meaning alongside of “San Bernardino,” “Sandy Hook,” and so many other tragedies that do not diminish in importance because they aren’t specifically named here.
WE MUST SHELTER…our children.
WE MUST SHELTER ourselves.
That isn’t to say that we shouldn’t be shouting to the rooftops (or better, to our officials in Washington DC) that this kind of access to weapons-of-mass-destruction MUST STOP. No matter your political views, your rights-to-bear-arms views, there is no reason to allow purchase of assault rifles in this country. NO REASON.
So, we must first and foremost, shelter our children.
Turn off the radio. Turn off the TV.
Children under the age of 9 should have ZERO exposure to this type of tragedy. They’ll learn about the world soon enough. Meanwhile, they do not have the ability to understand:
Young children must be sheltered from these events as they do not have the brain power or emotional capacity to digest and process it. (Hardly, do we…)
Older children may have limited exposure to the event. Ideally, YOU make them aware of it. “Something really bad happened in Orlando and you may be hearing about it from your friends. Do you want to know more?” Some kids will choose not to. Honor that.
Some kids, like Rebecca’s 12 yo son, will be outraged, “Why do they do that…it is so mean! It’s awful!” Yes, it is awful and it is mean. Acknowledge their feelings…and be sensitive to just how much more they want to know and discuss…and resist feeling like you “should” explain further.
Now might be a good time to begin to sort out some bigger life questions, depending on the interest and sensitivity of your child:
However your conversation goes with your younger or older child, it is imperative that FIRST you reassure them that you are doing all that you can to make sure that they are safe.
SECOND, in the words of Mr. Rogers, “Look for the helpers.” There are always people helping.
There are always 1,000 kind deeds happening for every “mean and awful” event. Tell your kids about those. SHELTER them from the other.
And do yourself a favor, too… SHELTER yourself. Take refuge in some music, a good book, or a beautiful painting. You don’t have to hear the story 1,000 times, it doesn’t mean you aren’t honoring the victims any less.
And do we dare hope that maybe THIS will be the event that spurs action to eliminate these guns – forever.
Blessings on you and yours.
Is your house filled with TEEN STRESS?
The kind of STRESS that spills over into everything and everyone — leaving chaos, frustration, and dirty clothes in it’s wake?
Spring can be a stressful time of year for many teens — finishing up end-of-year projects, waiting for college admittance letters, and what about a DATE FOR THE PROM?
Stress comes in all shapes and sizes – some of it is actually good for us.
It gets us up and motivated to DO STUFF.
Some kids handle stress easily but others can be overcome with anxiety…
Indeed, Howard Hiton, a family therapist, recently commented that he’s seen an uptick in the number of teens and young men in their early 20’s coming in for help with issues around anxiety.
Signs of stress in teens:
anxiety, panic attacks, procrastination, neglecting responsibilities, overwhelm, negative thoughts, and changes in sleep.
Being a teen is stressful!
Being the PARENT of a teen is stressful, too!
You can alleviate some of your stress by understanding what is going on for your teen developmentally. I particularly like “Brainstorm, the power and purpose of the teenage brain” by Dr. Dan Siegel. Understanding leads to interest and curiosity, rather than just anxiety and stress.
Be Here Now
There is a lot in the popular press now about MINDFULNESS and the increased health benefits we can all experience when we learn to be in the present and thereby reducing our stress levels.
Teens have access to yoga, meditation, and on-line resources such as headspace.com – which has been called a “gym membership for the mind.”
Keeping stress in check is imperative for your teen – and you – and it can begin with parents monitoring what may be causing stress and trying to minimize it WITH THEM as much as possible.
Eating right, sleeping well, and getting exercise are also great stress relievers for all of us!
Join our Boys Alive! conversation on Facebook, click on the image below:
Talking with Steve and Rebecca at KXL 101 about Teen Drivers:
Spring is in the air and many 15 year olds are just itching to get behind the wheel! While they may act like they know what they’re doing (after all – many of them have been ‘driving cars’ in video games for years!)…it is time for reality to meet the road.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recently posted a study saying that teens really do listen to what you say – which can offer you some encouragement…
BUT more importantly, realize that they’ve been watching you drive for YEARS and learning from your driving style and habits. So if you’ve got young kids its time to assess what you’re teaching them through osmosis every time you climb into your mini-van.
Talking about safety and rules from a young age is imperative before they are ready to get behind the wheel. Make sure your teen is clear on your rules and the consequences for breaking them.
Teaching your teen to drive may not be the most relaxing thing you’ve ever done. If you aren’t comfortable practicing with your teen find someone who is. Start slow – 10 mph in a parking lot is just fine. Most important lesson going in? Be sure they know that when you say, “Brake!” that they know just what to do!
Driver’s Ed courses are held at Portland Public Schools but registration is through Portland Community College and tuition is $295 plus $5 in fees. Cost reduction is offered for students on SNAP with an official letter from the school.
www.pcc.edu/drive to register
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL101…
Should music be a part of your child’s education?
Six percent of kids want to be president but 13% want to be musicians.
Music is a big part of our lives but unfortunately, it seems to be the first go in school budget cuts.
YET it is increasingly more clear with each new study that is released that Music Education boosts IQ and changes behaviors – from depression to joy, anger to calm, hate to love. In one study, students who learned to read music and play the piano scored significantly higher on math and science assessments. Another study showed 75% of Silicon Valley CEO’s had instrumental music education as a child!
What about the dreaded MUSIC LESSONS?
Should kids be allowed to quit when they start complaining?
One piano teacher put it like this:
Assess whether they have talent and whether they like to play:
IF talent = no and fun = yes: Keep Playing!
IF talent = yes and fun = no: Find more fun, switch teachers, back off the difficulty level for a while.
IF talent = yes and fun = yes: Add another instrument or add some singing.
If YOU find yourself humming along and wishing YOU had music in your life – consider joining a non-audition choir. In Portland, give SING PORTLAND! a try – a relaxed, open, fun singing environment with a director who believes “If you can speak, you can sing!”
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL 101. Steve says, “It’s almost impossible to keep your child away from sugar during the holidays.”
What’s a parent to do when there are sweet treats everywhere you go? Sure, we want our kids to be happy BUT we know eating sugar is bad for you and highly addictive.
Did you know that we’re actually programmed to crave high sugar and high fat foods? Its part of our survival mechanism and is particularly strong in children and adolescents. Check out Live Simply Natural for more about breaking your child’s sugar addiction.
4 Quick Tips for taming the holiday sweets overload
1. Treat sweets neutrally. Try not to make them “good” or “bad” – instead, talk about the frequency that we eat sweets vs. other foods.
During the holidays, though, if grandma wants to share cookies with the kids, be okay with that – its more about the relationship than the food right now.
2. To avoid the sugar meltdowns – make sure kids eat protein (meat, cheese, yogurt) and / or fiber (veggies, fruit, whole grains) along with the sugary treat.
3. No seconds on sweets. Ever.
This is longer-term strategy to combat the sugar gremlins at your house:
4. Serve dessert with dinner. Yep. Put sweets and dinner at the same level. Kids will sometimes ‘hold out’ for dessert. When it’s a small portion served with the meal, they will get their sweet-fix but also be more likely to eat their dinner, too.
More advice from Maryann at Raise Healthy Eaters: Serve dessert with dinner: “The most helpful advice I’ve found is often the hardest for families, and that is to serve a child-sized portion of dessert WITH the meal, but no seconds on dessert. ” says feeding expert Dr. Katja Rowell from Family Feeding Dynamics. “It really does neutralize it, and also puts all the food on a level playing field.”
Rowell explains that kids are likely to eat dessert first for awhile but they eventually learn to enjoy and tune in to the entire meal without obsessing or fretting about what they have to eat, or how many bites will earn dessert. “There is data to suggest that bribing kids with dessert makes them less likely to enjoy new foods, and that’s certainly what I’ve seen.”
One of our readers wrote in with her success with this strategy: “I have noticed that if I go ahead and add a small sweet to their dinner plates, both of my girls will eat a more balanced meal instead of ‘holding out’ for dessert,” says Ramona, a mom of two young girls.
And don’t forget: Plenty of exercise and outdoor time helps, too! (yes, even in the rain!)
With Steve and Rebecca on KXL 101.
Of course, it is something we never imagined we’d have to do!
Yet, the same strategies can apply to all the scary things that happen in life.
Mr. Fred Rogers said it best – and this is a great place to start with any aged child:
“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
1. Emphasize the GOOD. Help children recognize who the helpers and the heroes are.
2. REDUCE their exposure to the bad. Do not allow young children to see images of mass shootings or disasters. Young children under the age of 9 years, can not make the distinction between what is real and what isn’t in media images. They also do not recognize the repeat-loop of those media images.
They may hear about it at school but reducing exposure at home means reducing fear and anxiety.
With older children, sit together and watch a limited amount of news coverage and then be ready to answer questions. If your child is sensitive, then skip watching anything visual!
3. Save adult discussions about these events for when children are not with you.
4. Answer any questions that may come up – only with as little information as needed.
Again, emphasize the good – emphasize the helpers, as Mr. Rogers would say.
With the gift-giving season fast-approaching, Rebecca Marshall, KXL101, asks how to help parents manage gift-getting expectations.
Asking moms on social media is a great way to figure out what’s going on “out there.” Here are some great suggestions:
However you choose to celebrate and negotiate and navigate this holiday season – may it bring you great joy and may you treasure all the moments.
Talking with Steve and Rebecca on KXL101’s Morning Show:
Who didn’t grow up with Dr Seuss?
Hop on Pop, Green Eggs and Ham, One Fish Two Fish…are all entwined in learning to read and teaching others to read. Dr Seuss was brilliantly funny, clever, and his use of vocabulary made us beloved fans.
Two siblings get the okay from dad to get a pet and arrive at the pet shop only to see how many pets there are to choose from. The book comes with a warning – your children may be asking you for a pet, too!
(And, just to be “politically correct” the publisher advocates that you adopt a pet from a shelter or rescue organization instead of a pet store, which was the popular way to acquire a pet when Dr Seuss wrote this book.)
Dr Seuss books are perfect for young readers… and if you’ve got a child that you’re trying to encourage and inspire to read check out this blog post: “He Isn’t Reading Yet.”
Talking with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101:
Rebecca: Every family is different—-some will smoke pot —some won’t——but when it comes to TALKING about it—GENERALLY—how should we handle this?
Talking to your Kids
The conversation about pot becomes part of the same larger conversation you are having with your children about alcohol and cigarettes – and living a healthy lifestyle with good food and exercise. You are having those conversations, aren’t you?
Young children, up to about age 10 or 11, see things like this in mostly black and white terms. “You don’t drink, you don’t smoke.”
Things get a little cloudier in the teen years as they start to question their own values and look around to see adults using (and perhaps abusing) these substances. There becomes much gray area that you will need to help your child navigate.
First and foremost, even in pot-legal states, it is still illegal for anyone under 21 with all of the legal consequences.
Pot can negatively effect the rapidly developing brains of youth and young adults.
Research has shown that if parents are users there is a greater chance that their kids will give it a try, too.
Some basic facts about marijuana from Children’s Hospital Colorado:
Second-hand smoke has been proven to be harmful with cigarettes and so it also something to be concerned about if you choose to smoke in your home. Remember that DHS will view pot-smoking the same as alcohol – if it affects your parenting you could be at risk of losing your kids.
At the End of the Day…
It is essential that you know how you feel about pot. That you and your parenting partner have agreed on what you will tell your kids. And that your family values uphold your stance.
*Photo credit: www.picturespider.com
Talking about Letting Kids Quit with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:
Kids have been out of school a couple of weeks now and perhaps you’re already hearing they don’t want to do the things they committed to this summer. They want to quit that weekly sport camp….or those piano lessons they promised to do.
Rebecca asks, “If your kid really hates the activity, should you make him or her stick to it?”
Knowing your child and the reasons why you (or they) chose the activity is the place to start. Is doing a physical activity a value in your family? Is pursuing intellectual interests a priority?
Michelle Obama’s list of parenting rules for her daughters include having them play two sports each, one they picked and one she chose for them, precisely because she wanted them to learn how to work harder at things they found difficult.
What about the risk of your child HATING the activity forever because he was forced to do it?
As adults, many of us can recall an activity that we hate because we were forced to do it as kids. Likewise, many adults can recall an activity their parent let them quit that they now regret. My daughter quit piano in 6th grade (her age of rebellion) and at age 30 still regrets that choice.
Childhood is a time of exploration and experimentation. Letting them try a variety of activities is great but you also want to hold them steady to something. Completing a series of lessons, a season of sport is important (my opinion) than allow for making a different decision next year.
How can we tell if it’s the activity or the people who are teaching it? Or if it is the other kids on the team that are really the problem?
Again, knowing your child is essential here. Looking beneath the complaints and desire to quit and see if there are some underlying issues. Then begin to help them develop the skills to navigate and negotiate with that teacher or coach.
Rebecca concludes: she told a friend that her son can’t quit because “We made a commitment.” Her friend astutely questioned, “Did YOU make the commitment or did HE?” touché’
How will you help your child navigate his desire to quit?
Talking about Kids and Staying Home Alone with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:
School ends soon. That means kids will be home, families will be traveling… How do you know if your child is old enough to stay home alone or travel alone this summer?
Is it okay to leave your child home alone?
Oregon is one of only 3 states that have laws about children staying home alone. No younger than 10 years old in my state.
Most importantly, however, is that you know what your child is capable of. How would he respond in an emergency? Does he know the steps to take? Do you have neighbors that live close by? Most importantly, is he comfortable being at home alone?
How old is old enough to babysit?
Great preparation for babysitting is to begin as a mother’s helper. Take a babysitting class. Ages 12 to 14 are good years to begin babysitting. Boys need older boys as babysitters. Again, this depends on your child’s interest level and maturity.
How old is old enough to travel by bus and plane alone?
Southwest Airlines says children 5 to 11 years old can travel nationwide (but not internationally) as unaccompanied minors. However, many limitations apply. Check the airline you’ll be traveling.
Greyhound Bus Lines allow unaccompanied minors age 8-14 years old to travel alone. Again, many limitations apply. Be sure to check with the carrier.
At what age is it okay to take public transportation by oneself?
A controversial topic! It is important to determine whether your child is capable of handling changes in schedules and routes and be comfortable with unexpected passenger interactions. My personal opinion: 12 years old.
You are the one who knows your child best. If you are feeling uncertain (or over-protective), check in with someone else who knows your child well. Your child will also lead you – insisting on babysitting or staying home alone. Listen and then use your best judgement. Start with short routes, one hour stays, and build from there.
Talking with Steve and Rebecca at KXL101 about picky eaters.
Did you have one meal today and your child had another? Did you fix two (or more) meals for your family? Are you catering to your child’s eating whims (and hating yourself for it)?
Taste sensitivities or “picky eaters” are most prevalent in the young child – 2 to 5 year olds. Most outgrow this phase but some don’t. According to Weed ‘Em & Reap “Because food involves all of our senses – see the food, touch the food, smell the food, taste the food, and even hearing the food as we chew it – eating can be very difficult for kids with sensory processing disorders.”
Remember, you are modeling proper ethics around food – eating healthy food, portion control, and you are “the boss” when it comes to what they can eat. (No ice cream until you’ve eaten ‘strong’ food).
Weed ’em and Reap author suggests these “Don’ts”:
Don’t make dinner a battle of wills.
Don’t become a short order cook.
Don’t reduce what your family eats based on what your “sensitive eater” will eat
Don’t let mealtime become about rewards/bribes
Don’t allow excessive snacking. Hunger is a big motivator.
A grown-up friend, who was a picky eater, recalls that her favorite part of meals was gathering together and table conversation. The worst part was being “left behind” when she couldn’t eat what was on her plate – and then she really couldn’t eat along with being emotionally distressed. Be sure to recognize what may be going on around meal times for your child.
Most of all, keep trying. Don’t give up. This, too, shall pass.
Talking about Parenting with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:
Shared Parenting is best according to blogger mom-of-4-boys Jennifer Fink in this recent post, “Is Shared Parenting Best for Boys after Divorce?
Divorcing often means entering a lot of “uncharted waters.” Jennifer recalls that she didn’t know state-mandated shared-parenting would ultimately be the best solution for her sons. Now that they are entering puberty she sees how crucial it is that they have lots of dad-time and she recognizes the wisdom behind this state of Wisconsin legislation.
She summarizes, “The truth is that divorcing parents don’t always make decisions according to their kids’ best interest. Anger and jealousy and fear often cloud their thinking and color their decisions. In my case, it was the court’s insistence on shared parenting that led to the co-parenting arrangement we have today, and I am so, so glad.”
Twenty states are now considering some form of shared-parenting laws.
According to National Review, “Federal statistics show that kids with two parents are more likely to do well in school, stay out of jail, stay away from drugs and alcohol, avoid teen pregnancy, avoid depression, and, as adults, be gainfully employed than are their peers with a single parent.”
It is crucial to recognize that mom and dad parent differently – and boys and girls need both.
And because we’re all about boys here, below you’ll find some tips for parenting boys.
Keys to a positive mother-son relationship:
Keys to a positive father-son relationship:
Equal parenting after divorce may seem impossible. Striving to choose what is ultimately best for the children is important – and that means equal parenting access to BOTH parents.
Talking about Kids and Nature with Rebecca and Steve on KXL101 Morning News:
“How can NATURE help our younger kids with learning?”
Being in nature provides learning and opportunities for:
Parks are even getting into the act of creating experiences more closely reflecting that of wild places. Portland has created several “natural” playgrounds with more in the works. Read about the All-Natural Playground here.
For anyone who has spent time in nature, at any age, you’ve likely experienced a sense of inner quiet, strength, and capability. These feelings can’t blossom fully on the couch.
Steve asks, “Do a lot of schools take part in this concept of outdoor learning—even in urban settings?”
There is a growing trend toward “forest schools” – children are outside all day, every day. This movement comes out of Europe and is catching hold here. Children are naturals at being outside, given the chance.
Portland is home to more than a few outdoor schooling options:
Mother Earth School
“What about when they get older–what value does it have for them?”— Many kids fondly remember their Outdoor School experience – if they were lucky enough to have it as a part of their curriculum.
Stepping out of the normal routine and regular friendships can open up new vistas – both inner and outer. Being outside is a great way to unplug and simplify.
Looking for a rich experience for your kids this summer? Inner Guide Expeditions is highly recommended. They say, “Something astounding happens when electronics are left behind and an “analog” rhythm of life emerges center stage – wilderness becomes adventure, challenge becomes insight, campfires become council, strangers become family.”
“Is there any DOWNSIDE to this?”
There is NO downside to connecting with nature at any time – for any of us!
There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
Pull on your rain gear and head outside with or without the kids!
From the news desk at KXL 101, Rebecca and Steve chat with me ~ aka “parenting expert”:
“Is it okay to admit parenting is HARD sometimes?”
I say, YES!
Saying YES takes the pressure off and makes parenting more realistic.
We may never be so challenged or changed as we are the moment we know we are becoming parents or the moment we actually gaze into our child’s eyes for the first time. There is overwhelm and fear along with the overwhelming love.
It is also the most satisfying, beautiful, amazing adventure we will have in life.
“What do you tell moms who are being hard on themselves when trying to balance work, parenting, school, sports and activities?”
There is so much going on and that is hard, too!
FIND OTHERS. Don’t go this alone.
When you start talking to others – and you’re really honest – you’ll find they think it is hard, too. We all may feel like we’re failing most of the time. When we share how hard it is, we soon recognize how much we’re doing well – even without sleep, without privacy, without time!
“Is there a formula or a check list?”
But someone told me long ago: “There is no way to be a perfect parent – but a million ways to be a good one.” Even when it feels so hard.
And as Rebecca was told by a friend, “Take off the cape!”
And ENJOY this parenting adventure!
P.S. Others are on this band-wagon, too. See the Plum Organics Parents Unfiltered ad campaign for some great shots of diaper-sniffing, bathroom-hiding, fish-flushing parenting!