Monday, May 23, 2022

Tips for a Happy Summer

 Tips for a Happy Summer

We all want our kids to be happy, but as you enter into the summer months and have more contact with your children, I want to encourage you to help them learn and grow this summer by letting them be just a little unhappy.  


Sometimes we need a happiness reset. 


We have a tendency (called hedonic adaptation) to return to a happy-midpoint emotionally. This means that if we experience the same awesome event repeatedly, after a while it doesn't seem as awesome. We experience less pleasure from that same event. We then seek even greater pleasure to just feel the same level of happiness we felt before. A period of boredom, although generally not pleasant, will help your kids to more fully appreciate the fun parts of their day or week.  


Boredom has two components: low arousal and dissatisfaction. You can help your children to be more tolerant of boredom by building into your day times of low simulation (no screens, family prayer time, alone time), and by occasionally saying no to their requests.  Letting your children be bored is not the same thing as simply checking out and disengaging from them all day long. 


I am a huge supporter of planning and intentionality in family life. Each summer has looked dramatically different based on the kids' ages and our travel plans, but one thing that has helped is having some loose schedules posted in a central place. This can be a weekly or a daily schedule or both and I have examples in previous blogs (here and here). But I want to get you to think about providing structure when you create your schedule rather than over programming the children. Structure means having quiet time each day vs having a set time that they must read a specific book. Or building in some crafty creative time vs you planning and teaching a specific craft. When you schedule, you give them an idea for the flow of the day, you don't necessarily entertain them all day long. 


One area that is fairly structured in our home is meals. We typically have one wake up time and in previous years I make a decent breakfast for them. I do this because it will keep them from parading through the kitchen all morning and it gives them a good start. The key is consistency. Either make breakfast, or leave it up to them. But be consistent about it and provide some time frame for their meals. Breakfast 9ish,  lunch 12ish, snack 3ish and dinner 6ish works well for us. Getting everyone eating and sleeping in sync helps me escape the summer title of short-order-cook.


By providing a loose schedule, regular meal times, giving them a chance to be bored and saying no to their every demand, you all can have a happier healthier home this summer. If you have enjoyed these tips for a happy summer please share it with others!


Thanks for stopping by!




Saturday, May 7, 2022

Dealing with Discipline: Why good cop/bad cop works and what to do when it doesn't

My oldest, had a curious way of never alienating himself from both his father and me at the same time. As a scientist it fascinated me and as a mother it made me laugh.  I used to say he always wanted to make sure someone would be there to feed him. As conflict cropped up in the family, I found this to be the same in my other children as well. Almost naturally, my husband and I would divide and conquer when it came to discipline - one of us would take the lead, and the other would follow up more gently. 

Until one night this week when everything fell apart. 

The details of the situation are less important than the lesson I learned. We both found ourselves frustrated with one of our children and decided that the drive home was the best-time to address the situation with the child. After carefully discussing that we wanted be careful not to "crush her spirit", yes those were my exact words, we inadvertently proceeded to do just that. 

The good cop bad cop way of dealing with discipline we had carefully crafted over 19 years of parenting went out the car window. Rather than letting her hear from one parent, we took turns piling it all on. Our good cop bad cop routine fell apart.

This conversation will go down as one of our greatest parenting fails. 

Good cop bad cop work because one parent is able to give the child the clear message for improvement, while the other gives the message of unconditional love. We love you irrespective of the problem, we care for you.  It lets the parents be aligned with a shared goal of helping the child fix the discipline issue at hand, without teaming up on the child. As I said recently in my podcast episode on Motherhood, you and your spouse don't need to be clones of one another, you need to compliment one another. 

So what do we do when we have one of these parenting fails? You apologize. Ask for forgiveness for being unkind, or impatient, or for your lack of prudence. Show humility and love. Begin to build back that relationship stronger. And next time you have to deal with discipline discuss who gets to be the good cop or bad cop before you head into the discussion. 

God Bless you in your endeavors!

Saturday, April 30, 2022

How to Help Your Teen Find A Good College Fit

As I watched friends and acquaintances work through the college selection process, I admit it was fairly overwhelming. My husband attended Duke undergraduate, I attended Scripps Women's College, and we both did our various graduate work at Arizona State University. That gave us accidental experience on the small, midsize, and large campuses. Furthermore, I have done a very little teaching at JrCo and more at ASU. So we came to the college search with a bit of experience, although it was not recent. As we reorient ourselves to the college search process as parents, rather than as students or instructors, we are learning as we go and want to pass on what we have taken-in thus far. 

Let me start by saying it is possible that college may be not in the cards for all teens. That said, if you and your teen have decided that college is the path for them, this post is for you!

1) Identify your goal and your child's goal. This will differ by family. For all of our children, we want them to have a 4 year college residential college experience that will help prepare them for a more independent life - both practically independent (living away), financially independent, and independence of thought. All of our children currently aspire to be a college graduate so this is a shared goal.

2) Explore options. For each of our children, our hope is that we can find a college that will be a good fit for them personally. This may mean a large school for one and a tiny school for another. But in the first few years of highschool, we take every opportunity to give them a chance to see college campuses.  This means when we travel to see family, we look at a college. When we travel for soccer, we look at a college. When we visit a new city, we talk about what it may like for them to live in a place like this. Our middle school and highschool are very small so the older two have both been drawn to smaller campuses which still seem to feel very large. In one long weekend we were able to walk 4 very different campuses in one region and do a great comparison. He was not particularly interested in any of the schools prior, but taking the time to walk the campus gave him a chance to personally compare and contrast. 

3) Talk about careers and majors early, but be flexible. Our sons have been interested in engineering. They may or may not pursue that. Apply to colleges without engineering programs is a waste of time and will limit their options. This doesn't mean they can't look at other majors, it simply means they have the most opportunity. Our eldest entered as an engineering major because that is the major that required the most credits. He can easily transfer out of engineering later, but he can't transfer into engineering without adding semesters. 

4) Money matters. Let's not pretend that it doesn't. We have found the best merit based scholarships go to the prospective students whom the colleges want the most. This likely means that if you have an SAT of 1400, and you apply to a school with a median SAT of 1450, you are not likely to get a lot of merit money. If however you apply to a school where you 1400 puts you in the top 5-10% of students, money will likely follow. Not all schools have merit money. Some prefer to give on a need basis only. Also, some schools offer a few full tuition scholarships, others offer quite a few full-tuition scholarships. Look at what you need to qualify for those full tuition awards and see if it is realistic for you.

5) Talk about the money openly with your teen from the beginning. Who is paying for this and how will it be possible? Do you have a 529 plan? Will you take out loans? Will your child be footing the bill for tuition and room and board? Will he or she need to work while in school? There is no sense in looking at colleges that are outside the realm of possibility financially. We have crossed great schools off the list because they are just not financially realistic, and our sons do not want to have great amounts of school debt.

6) Keep a spreadsheet. I know not everyone is into this, but a spreadsheet is an easy way to remember which schools were small/med/large, which region it was in, urban or rural, tuition/room & board, what were the median SAT, and if there is anything that stood out about the school. Our sons had/have soccer to consider as well so we include team/coach information as well. This is shareable so we can each update it or add comments ourselves. 

7) Pray about it. This is a big step for you and your young adult. Don't forget to pray every step of this journey. When my son was trying to decide between his top two schools I simply surrendered the situation to the Lord and asked Him to make it clear to my son.  The Lord know where you child should be. 


Once you take into consideration your child's preferences for things like size, region, prestige, majors, study abroad possibilities, extracurricular opportunities, price tag, and residential situation, you may find that that overwhelming list of schools has narrowed itself down naturally. With only one in college now and a few more to go we will be sure to update as we learn more in this process. Until then good luck with your own searches!


Tuesday, March 1, 2022

How to talk to your kids about the war

As some of you know I spent a very little time in Russia in 1994 and hosted a few Russian exchange students in my high school days prior to that trip. I also studied Russian language and culture for about 6 years during the 1990s and my heart is breaking for those in the Ukraine and Russia both. In talking to our children about war, and specifically the situation we see unfolding this past week, I have a few suggestions simplified into four points.

1) Don’t downplay events but don’t exaggerate the threat to them personally. Your kids are safe. 

2) Use a globe or map to show them where conflict is happening. This helps them to see they aren't immediately in danger of the Russians showing up on their doorstep.

3) Give them a short history lesson. It helps for them to understand why Ukraine is being targeted by Russia. The news loves to say it was unpredicted and shocking but really Putin has been saying he wanted to do this for years. He started in Georgia and then moved to Crimea. It is evil, but not random. 

4) Pray together for the people of Russia and Ukraine both, and for world leaders.

I covered these in a not so brief (sorry!) video on my instagram page, so if you want more check that out. The Instagram video also includes a brief history lesson of the region in case you haven't been taking notes during the evening news. Lastly, take some breaks from the coverage if it seems like you or your child are getting anxious.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

What NOT to say to a teen

Teens can be volatile at time, and as parents there are things we say that make thing better, and things we say that have the opposite effect. 

At risk of leaving some of you with the thought "what CAN I say then?", I thought it may be helpful to write a short post on what NOT to say to a teen. Now there are plenty of other phrases that are bound to send the average teenager into a rage, but if you avoid the obvious ones, and then also maybe these less obvious phrases, you may find life with your teens to be pretty delightful. 



Although there will be vast differences in specific phrases that cause a rise, here are some general lines I have heard parents use (and have used myself), without the realization that they would immediately invoke a negative response. 


What NOT to say to a Teen: 


“I know you don’t think we don’t know anything but…” 

Problem - you put them on the defensive. 

Instead try "In my experience..."


“We never had this issue with your sibling”

Problem - You need to judge your child on his or her own merits, it isn't a competition. 

Try instead "I haven't had to deal with this as a parent before. Let's try to work this out together..."


“You probably think you know better but…”

Problem- It is belittling. 

Try Instead - "We bring different experiences to this problem so let's talk this through together"


“How many times do I have to tell you to do X…”

Problem - It is a snarky rhetorical question and likely to get a snarky answer.

Try Instead - "Hey - Do X now please ."


“I realize you don’t want to talk right now but…” 

Problem - They are turned off and you know it. 

Try instead - Talk to them later, or simply interrupt them nicely and let them know you need to talk asap. 


Teen can be tough, but living with anyone is hard. As adults we learn to pick your battles.We can not fight about everything. Recognize your teens need independence and space to make little or big mistakes while still under your gaze. Let them get the detention for the longish hair, or wrinkled uniform, or missing homework. And then follow through with your expected consequences rather than being on their case micromanaging every moment of their life.


Lastly, timing is everything. Trying to talk to have a hard conversation with teens when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired is really just provoking your teen into a fight. Feed them first. Connect and recognize their anger/emotion. Give them a place to lay their head and just rest for a moment. 


Teens are big kids in adult like bodies. Their brains are still growing and they need us to be understanding of their imperfections. So file away in that fully formed brain of your, these key phrases NOT to say to a teen, and maybe things will run a little more smoothly in your home.


Thanks for stopping by!


For more on teens check on this post on teen tantrums (here).  


 

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