Today, a bird slowly died in front of my children. The impact against our sliding glass doors was deafening. Housebound by a winter storm, the kids and I quickly abandoned our hot chocolate in our rush to discover that a bright crimson cardinal had struck the glass. It now lay helpless in the snow.
Be honest and don’t construct a cover-up. What’s been seen can’t be unseen: I watched, helpless to intervene or make my kids unsee this tragedy. The suffering we were witnessing elicited, “Mom, let’s help it!” “Should we bring it inside and nurse it?” “What do we do?” “Poor bird.” Our 12-year-old’s large eyes were brimming with tears. Her younger brother couldn’t look away. I wanted as badly as my kids to watch this bird miraculously fly away. But the cardinal grew still and we, silent, mourning the loss of an innocent bird.
Show sensitivity and respect for their particular attachments: Unlike adults, children fall in love fearlessly, without baggage. Maybe it’s toys as much or more than the people surrounding them they cherish. In the case of my children, it was their stuffed animals—each complete with name and personality.
As enjoyable as it was for me to witness the creative powers at work in my children’s play, I knew that the depth of attachment would create a storm of trouble if any of these animal kingdom favourites were lost. After all, these were real as flesh and blood friends in my children’s world. On many occasions, we did come close to losing a stuffed friend. At the grocery store, in the airplane, on the sidewalk, silently fallen out of the stroller.
In every instance, the look of shock and pain in the affected child’s eyes was a small step into the brutal world, where fierce affection is often accompanied by sorrow, a pain equal to the love.
Read in full on City Parent Toronto Magazine.
Holidays guarantee entertaining, in one form or another. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the chaos of hosting, cutting dramatically into family time during a season which should be above all, family-centric.
I countered this once by asking our son and daughter to be servers at a small dinner party we hosted. To my surprise, they took on the task with creative fanfare, devising a plan to emerge dressed “alike.” Our petite daughter stuffed herself into her younger brother’s khakis and plaid shirt, and with a mustache drawn on her face, appeared side-by-side with her khaki, plaid-shirted and mustached brother to greet guests, take drink orders, hand out water glasses and clear appetizer plates as needed. They called themselves “Bob and Bob” and ended up stealing the show. They enjoyed their popularity, and my husband and I appreciated their helpfulness, since we were stretched with finishing the meal and welcoming our guests.
This positive experience reinforced my commitment to invite the kids into the process of planning and executing a dinner party so they participate in a meaningful way.
Read in full at Washington FAMILY.
“Whoever first penned the phrase, “the lazy days of summer” surely never had kids. Parents with young children are especially apt to be scratching their heads or on the couch in a fetal position, wondering how to manage the open, unconstructed stretch of time called summer. Even if you’ve successfully penciled in camps and a trip to visit grandparents, there will still be slow days, hot days, blah days, when boredom rules the house like a tyrant and brings out the worst in the kids—and you.
Nat King Cole’s song “Those Lazy, Crazy, Hazy Days of Summer” ends with, “You’ll wish that summer could always be here.” If that phrase rings ridiculous, here are 5 freshly-hatched ideas to think about implementing this summer to create enriching, memorable moments.”
Read in full on Houston Family Magazine.
‘There have been times when I’ve been frustrated and, I’ll admit it, a bit hurt over my inability to connect with my teens. I’m guessing my frustrations are shared by other parents who are trying so hard but going about this relationship in all the wrong ways. I’ve worked hard to figure out when and where I was getting off-track in relating to my teens. Along the way, I confronted several pitfalls worth passing along.
Do you speak to your teens as if they are still little kids? Parenting must change if you wish to keep your relationships strong. This includes not only the content but also the tone of conversation. “You need to treat them more like adults than children. Truly listen and heed their point of view, even if you disagree vehemently,” says John Duffy, clinical psychologist and author of the “The Available Parent: Radical Optimism for Raising Teens and Tweens.” “We all want our point of view respected, and your teen is no different.”’
Read in full on The Washington Post.
Parents of young children sometimes live under the illusion that if they parent well, they’ll be spared the challenges common to the teen years. It’s what I personally hoped for when my little ones were young. But as my kids grew and changed, I realized I needed to, too. Here’s what I learned along the way.
I learned to approach beloved family traditions with flexibility.
We raised our kids with the expectation that every Saturday morning started at the local coffee shop. It was a tradition we all enjoyed and looked forward to until my kids suddenly sprouted into teenagers and wanted to sleep until noon.
Instead of taking a hardline approach, KidsHealth professionals recommend flexibility when it comes to family activities. “Think back: You probably felt the same way about your mom and dad,” they advise frustrated parents.
Demanding rigid adherence to family activities will likely backfire, creating a tense situation — exactly the opposite outcome desired. So instead of an unyielding “always” tone, try the posture of “sometimes.” Then identify those family activities on the calendar that rise to the “mandatory” level and let the rest go.
I learned to accept a fluid dinner hour.
It’s long been my ambition to eat dinner around the table together, but things grew to a new level of helter-skelter with high schoolers coming and going amidst sporting events, invitations from friends and other commitments.
As life bulges to unprecedented levels of busyness, stick with family dinners whenever and however possible says clinical psychologist Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting. If one teen must be absent, carry on with the rest of the family. If a partner is out of town, make the effort to gather the teens on your own.
The humble dinner hour provides a level of connectivity with teens that’s been tied to better grades, lower levels of depression and suicide attempts and less experimentation with drugs, alcohol and sex, says Markham. Furthermore, teens who eat dinner with their families show a healthier approach to food, writes Cody C. Delistraty in The Atlantic. Wherever your family dinner comes from or however awkward your conversation may seem, Markham insists it’s worth being intentional about eating together around the table.
Read in full on ParentMap.
“I’ll only pay attention to your argument and how effectively you state your case. I don’t care about spelling, grammar or punctuation,” I said. My son’s shoulders relaxed. I could sense him exhaling the tension. Friction between us over writing assignments abruptly came to a halt and I could breathe more easily, too.
My son’s weekly assignment quickly became a hit because it released him to write freely without fear of messing up. Spelling in particular had paralyzed him but now he wrote, unrestrained. I also let my son choose the topics that interested him, so long as he defended his position on the subject.
Since I gave him control over the topic, he owned his work in a new way. He felt energized and motivated. It was still an assignment, but it felt less like ‘school’ for him. In fact, it went so well that I gradually nudged him towards two, sometimes three, posts per week.
Read in full, Review, Texas Home School Coalition, pg 19.
Because sometimes, parents are too close to the situation and lack perspective.
“Schools have a lot on their hands, and surely, one of the greatest challenges for teachers and principals is dealing with stressed, over-reaching parents who, like me, can’t see the bigger picture. What ostensibly counts as supportive parenting can sometimes inadvertently disadvantage a child. That mother who volunteers in their daughter’s classroom every single day for years will smart when a teacher finally says: no more. That father of a kindergartner who arrives unfailingly at lunchtime to cut food into bite-sized pieces would do well to listen when a wise official suggests they let their son figure it out like his classmates. Those parents who fight to have their gifted child skip a grade may find themselves being told something similar to what I heard: ‘Bad idea. She is where she needs to be.'”
Read in full on The Week.
“He’s 16 now, but he still remembers that day. When my kid hurts, I hurt myself, too. My absence at the end of the school day didn’t match my words at the beginning when I said I’d be waiting for him when school let out and summer began. This experience crystalized for me that punctuality is essentially making good on a promise. I was accountable to my 7-year-old, and it crushed him when another mom instead of his own showed up. My actions had inadvertently communicated that he was less important than my work, when in fact, my noblest work is wrapped up in being his mother.”
Read in full on The Week.
Published by The Washington Post, On Parenting. If you want your children to have good relationships with each other, make sure you’re modeling the same with your own siblings. Kids are learning from our actions!
‘My teenage son and I left the house to walk the dog just as my phone started buzzing. “It’s Aunt Bren — I’ll call her back later,” I said, letting it go to voicemail. My son wondered how long it had been since I last spoke with my younger sister, and encouraged me to return her call that afternoon.
“Have you always been close?” he asked. I opened up and told him about our stormy relationship as kids. His fun-loving, attractive aunt was the one who got blamed for everything that went wrong. Guilty or not, she bore the brunt, and was probably punished numerous times for things I’d slyly pinned on her.’
Read in full here.
So very honored to be published on Grown & Flown today, a top-tier magazine focused on parenting kids in the 15-25-year-old range.
She was as messy as she was amazing and this combination challenged my categories. It was hard for me to see past the messes to what mattered most: my daughter…
Read my essay in full here.