People Pleasing

four teen girls smilingAs parents, we see a lot of messages about the dangers of peer pressure as it relates to drug use, teen pregnancy and other deviant behaviors. We often act as if we need to arm our children with the ability to say the word “no” in a loud voice and walk away from situations that make them uncomfortable and, why that might be an admirable thing to do in some situations, sometimes all this training doesn’t really address the causes of peer pressure or give our adolescents ways to apply the skills used in standing up for themselves in the real world. Often all our best intentions are seen by the kids as silly and they often don’t really believe that their friends would ever put them in uncomfortable circumstances such as pressuring them to drink, try drugs or have sex in the first place. We try to protect our kids from their peers, which may not be the best way to prevent this behavior after all.

A lot of times teens and preteens are really focused on social acceptance, whether that is amongst their peers or even inside the family unit itself. Some children learn from an early age that agreement with others usually results in less conflict and, therefore, fewer consequences. While this might generally be the truth, sometimes young adults can take this to extremes to avoid disharmony or not fitting in, tailoring their responses and behaviors to how others expect them to be rather than how they really feel or want to act. When children and even adults modify their behaviors to please others over prolonged periods of time, it can result in a disconnection [...]


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Five Tips for a Successful School Year

Students on a bench back to schoolAs a parent, there are several things you can do with your children that will help them to succeed in school. Athough we are often focused on tasks like homework, the really important things they need to learn are behaviors that will serve them both during their school years and beyond, enabling them to be not only productive adults, but also well-rounded people who can lead their own individual lives with courage and strength. Here are five key things you can help your child with to set them up for success this school year.

1. Focus on developing good study skills, not just on homework.  Make sure that your child knows techniques to use to study and help them in the process. Don’t just focus on completing the homework task as fast as possible, focus on the act of learning. Make sure your child studies and completes their homework at a regularly scheduled time each day in a quiet area free from distractions so they can focus on what they are trying to learn instead of in the main living area or just as your schedule permits. Be consistent and help them make time to learn every day, whether they have homework to complete or not.

2. Encourage and teach critical thinking skills. Regularly ask your child questions about what they learn to check for understanding and to encourage them to think more deeply about the subjects they are learning and how they relate to their everyday lives. Move beyond the what is?, where?, when? and how would you describe questions that [...]


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Time for Mom

a woman relaxing in a bathtub surrounded by lit candlesEvery year at this time I suddenly seem to have a bit more time on my hands. Summer is over and, with my daughter back to school, there are so many more moments to spend by myself. At first I really enjoy the silence and peace, but after a few days or weeks it can become a bit lonesome during those hours she’s away at school, if I am not working (which unfortunately is rare). What a great blessing to have extra time to do with entirely as I please.

Maybe as a parent you find you have this extra time too. I encourage you to not spend all of it working, doing stuff around the house or looking for things to for others to fill in the spaces and the quiet, but to also spend part of that time pursuing some of your own dreams. Go after those things you always wanted to do but never had the time to accomplish. Take a class at your local college or learn a new language. Explore your city or town with day trips to places you have never been. Join an exercise group at your local rec center or yoga studio to get in better shape and meet some new people. Or just start that novel you’ve been meaning to read (or write). It’s never too late.

I’ve found that, as adults, we need to remember to make time for projects and things that are just for us and not for other members of the family, our friends or communities. We are often such givers and nurturers [...]


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Back to School – Growing up Too Fast!

teenagers heading back to schoolAs summer vacation comes to a close and my daughter and I begin to go clothes shopping and round up school supplies, I’m struck by how much she has grown from just a little baby to a vibrant young teen. It seems as if it was just yesterday that there were sleepless nights, colicky days and endless diaper changes, but now she is mostly able to care for herself, capable of everything from making her own breakfast to making choices and decisions that will impact her life.

As I send her back to school this fall, starting at a new school for the first time in 8 years, I hope I have given her the right foundation and the right tools to make those important decisions regarding sex and drugs and the new relationships she’ll have. I trust that I did because she is a bright, capable young woman and now it’s time I give her a little bit more freedom to risk, to win and to fail so that she might continue to learn and grow. There’s still so much more to teach her. I just hope time will be on our side and that the foundation we've created in our relationship remains strong so that I can be there to help her through her first broken heart, coach her through any bullying she may experience, teach her how to handle and alleviate the increased pressure and stress of high school, and, eventually, see her start her own life out in the world.

For now I cherish every day because I know the time left until she is an adult [...]


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Teaching Compassion to Children

hands together big and smallTeaching your kids to be compassionate to others often starts at a very young age. From encouraging them not to hit or bite other people to thinking about how they would feel if a toy was taken from them all set the stage to grow into young adults with an eye for the well-being of others as well as a healthy respect for their bodies and themselves.

We teach our kids to be respectful of and compassionate towards others by encouraging them to see the world through different perspectives and notice that the world does not revolve solely around them and their interests. Here are some activities you can d with your children and teens to encourage them to grow to be kind and loving adults.

1. Lead by example. Show through your own deeds and attitudes that it is important to consider the feelings of others when making decisions.

2. Volunteer with your children. Allowing them to see that there are others less fortunate then them will help build not only compassion but a sense of gratitude for the things they do have in life.

3. Encourage your children to give of their money as well as their time. Setting aside a portion of their allowance or gifts received to buy food for a food pantry or donate to a special cause important to them can teach kids the important role of money in helping others.

4. Turn a birthday into a donation drive. Instead of [...]


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Being a Mom

mother with her infantWhen my daughter was born, my whole life changed. Suddenly, the world wasn’t just about me or what I wanted. Here was this little bundle of joy who relied on me for absolutely everything and whose well-being and upbringing I was suddenly responsible for. My whole world view shifted into trying to take care of this tiny blessing that had been bestowed on me.

Every year, at every phase, while I am responsible for teaching my daughter the important lessons of life, there is much she teaches me through watching her grow and helping her with various life lessons. She has taught me patience, how to be understanding and compassionate even when I don’t feel like it, how to be grateful for what I have and to always strive for something more.

My daughter’s incredible strength is also a great blessing for me. Through her I am constantly reminded that tomorrow is another day full of opportunity and wonder. With her I can find the joy of small things, like a rainbow or a drop of dew the sun hits just right. She always seems to notice these little things that our busy adult lives tend to rush us through and we often overlook them.

As my daughter nears the age where she may someday take on the role of wife and mother, my role shifts from being her caretaker to her mentor or adviser (and hopefully down the road, her friend). In the teenage years, I have discovered, we get to be a little of both, balancing the two roles wit [...]


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Managing Emotions Creating Change

Colorado flag ribbon with batman silhouetteSometimes the world around us is full of despair: death, destruction, people acting senselessly and violently toward one another and people willfully destroying the planet. It can be very easy to get caught up in a cycle of negativity or fear as you watch all this unfold around you, particularly as a parent when your chief concern is keeping your children healthy and safe. It’s easy to feel as if you are powerless to stop these things and that life is something that happens to you rather than something you have some control over. As parents, it’s important we show our children not only that these sorts of things are inexcusable behaviors to engage in themselves, but also how to avoid getting emotionally stuck and how they can help work towards peace and change.

One of the best tools we have to facilitate positive change is our emotions. Look at the make up of the word: e / motion. Some say it means energy in motion (e=energy as in Einstein’s equations) and our emotions can definitely serve as a catalyst to movement and change especially when acknowledged. Make sure you regularly talk to your children (and your partner or spouse) about how they feel about things they hear on the evening news or that happen at school or work. Allow them to feel anger in the face of injustice or fear in the face of terrifying situations, and teach them how to positively channel those feelings into making a difference rather than squelching or stuffing their feelings. Anger and outrage can be positive things as long as we use them to drive us towards a [...]


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Wants & Needs: Basic Economics

coins and dollar billsWhen you grow into an adult, it is important to begin to distinguish between what are needs and what are wants. Your budget will likely be very limited as you are starting out, and spending all your money on wants, while it might seem fun at the time, can leave you in a position where you do not have enough resources or money left over to meet your everyday needs. So how do you tell the difference? Here are a few questions you can ask yourself about your purchases to decide if they are truly a need or something you just want.

Is it food, clothing or shelter? These are the three biggies, along with water, that you need to remain healthy and able to be an active member of society. All three of these along with electricity or gas for heat in a cold climate are usually needs, however, you don’t need a ton of clothing to get by. Just a few choice pieces will get you through most situations. Think basics for needs. Anything else becomes a want.

Will it help you earn more money to support yourself? If you are thinking of something like transportation (a car, bike, or skateboard) and having it is necessary for you to get to work to earn money, then it is a need. If it is just for fun or going out with friends and isn’t going to put food on the table, it’s probably a want.

Do you need to have the top of the line [...]


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Eating Disorders

girl with the words, "I won't eat" taped over her mouthLucy’s friend Shelby is unfortunately a commonality among young people these days. In fact, 1 or 2 out of every 100 youth will suffer from an eating disorder or body image issue. Most of these will be girls, but eating disorders even strike boys. As parents, It is important we do everything we can to combat these illnesses by helping our children develop a healthy sense of self-esteem and a healthy body image, as well as know the warning signs and symptoms of these disorders in case we need to help our child get help for the problem.

There is a lot of pressure for young people, especially in their preteen and teen years, to look a certain way. Mainstream media shows images of people with cookie-cutter beautiful features rather than models or characters that are muscular or slightly overweight or even out of shape. Kids compare themselves to each other and even learn from watching the adults in their lives that thin is in and we need to work to keep a specific body shape. Youth learn from watching TV and from watching parents diet and talk negatively about their looks that the healthiest, prettiest, most popular and most successful people have to look a certain way. Sometimes striving to achieve this ideal can become an obsession for adults and youth alike.

The two most common eating disorders, anorexia and bulimia, have some similarities and many differences in how sufferers will act. Both result from a person having a distorted view of their body and an often unrealistic idea that [...]


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Commonality: Moving Beyond Polarization

hands joined together showing unityAs teens grow into adults one of the important lessons they need to master in order to live happy, productive lives is how to avoid polarization in conflicts and relationships with others. Teens need to learn that all people have feelings and hearts, and each of us is in turn entitled to hold whatever opinions we choose. However, since all things are interrelated and interdependent, it is important to consider what affects our attitudes about others who are different from ourselves have on the web of life around us.

Seeing the world as two sides, the “us” and the “them”, the “have” and “have not”, only serves to place emphasis on the differences between various people or groups and in fact helps drive the divisional relationships in our society. A more healthy or productive way to approach others with whom we may disagree is to search for similarities between us rather than becoming fixated on our differences.

This is an especially important skill to learn during the teen years as teens are choosing how they view themselves as individuals and how they define the very nature of who they are. By choosing to focus on the similarities rather than the differences among people, they naturally will feel more included with others and seek out others with interests common to their own. Their community will grow larger and more inclusive and they will be amongst folks who can provide a healthy arena for debate on the remaining differences if the central idea is always that what they have in common with one another is most [...]


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