Wednesday, September 28, 2022

AAA

 Somehow I blinked and a new school year has begun, it’s fall and life is moving along faster than I can keep up with. I’ve had many thoughts which never made it down on paper. 

And here we are - post Rosh Hashana - the Jewish new year. A time to reflect and reassess.

As I reflected on the idea of forgiveness - it dawned on me that I have recently had an epiphany about the best way I’ve learned to deal with issues. I wish I could say I’ve put the idea into practice well in my own life but let’s just say it’s a work in progress. 

There are three As when it comes to resolving issues or arguments for me.

Acknowledge

Apologies 

Advance 

Step 1- Acknowledge: own up to whatever it is you’ve done. It can be embarrassing to do this. Sometimes your mistake seems obvious so you wonder why there’s a need to discuss it. I believe owning it is the most crucial step towards a resolution.

Step 2 - Apologize: it doesn’t need to be grand or a huge deal. Two small words usually do the trick. If you can manage to get a thought in about either where you went wrong or how you hope to avoid it in the future - bonus!

Step 3 - Advance: move on! Rehashing, restating, repeating - it all gets you nowhere but to the land of regret which is an unpleasant place to dwell. The sooner you can put the past in the past - the sooner you’ll be on your way to a better day.

Parenting with this mindset will give your kids such a healthy way to deal with both your mistakes and their own.  

Wishing everyone a new year filled with fresh beginnings and constant recleaned slates. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Vacation-Family Trip Time

 I hope everyone is enjoying the summer schedule. I’ve been loving having my younger kids around without intense carpool or too much schedule. We are planning a family trip (notice I don’t refer to it as a vacation) and it has me thinking about approaches to family trips. I really thought this was a topic we covered but I looked back and couldn’t find it so sorry if it’s a repeat. 



Last week I had the privilege of spending the week at the beach with my mom and sister, a niece and two of my kids. It was a very different type of beach trip than past years because we were a small group. Everything felt so easy and relaxing it was incredible. One thing I noticed as we were on the beach surrounded by many different families of various sizes and ages was the level of stress I felt from so many of the parents. I remember those years of going away with small children and I know it can be stressful so I’m putting that as a disclaimer here . Kids can definitely be challenging on trips even when you have the best of attitudes.

 One thing that did occur to me which I’ve thought about in the past is how our expectations of vacation really affect the outcomes of our enjoyment. So many people have this notion that we are all going together and we need to spend every minute together and every kid has to like every activity.  Step back, adjust your expectations, and realize that as much as everyone wants a vacation they are also going to be people on the vacation. Their personalities do not change just because they are away from home. 

It is OK to do some activities separate. It is OK if someone is not feeling it. It’s Ok if someone is in a negative mood to let them be separate or stay back. If they are too young to be alone then as much as you might not want to, it is OK to have one parent stay back without feeling like it’s a punishment (for parent or child). Maybe that kid just needs downtime. Maybe they need some one on one time and don’t do so great with constant group activity. 

I know in an ideal world everybody goes on a trip and everyone feels so grateful for the opportunity that they can see past the little things. Try to remember we do not live in an ideal world. We can only make the best of whatever each day gives us.

One strategy I find works very well for a good number of family vacations/trips is to have a list of possible things to do without having a set itinerary for each day. That way you can gauge what feels right. If voting on it doesn’t work for your family, then just choose yourself each day depending on the mood of the group. If your family has a large span of ages, like mine, take certain days where you can break into two groups and let each group have an age-appropriate activity. 

Other strategies include having on days and off days. If you’re taking the type of vacation that includes a lot of hiking or movement then planning for a lower impact type day in the middle can give everyone a chance to reset. If you’re at the teen stage, you can have a lazy morning and take some time to yourself to exercise or relax while everyone sleeps in and plan an afternoon activity. If you have small children, who still nap, maybe two shorter activities that allow for some rest time in the middle. The key is to stay flexible because rigidity with expectations is usually what leads to disappointment and frustration.

Bear in mind that even if you’re a strict disciplinarian- everyone can slip up and there is such a thing as vacation mode for discipline. That doesn’t mean tolerating bad behavior- it means letting the small things slide for those days. You will definitely have other opportunities to address those behaviors.

Last trick that works well is the age old take a deep breath strategy . Most things are way less upsetting after you breathe for about five minutes max. Even one breath usually can help you change your mind about how to respond. Kids remember a lot about family trips. Try to keep the memories positive

Monday, June 20, 2022

Summertime … reset

 Summer is here again. This past year has been an interesting one. The world is struggling with how to transition back to “normal” post pandemic. Some people can’t leave it behind while others are ready to erase it completely. I’m assuming that for some of your kids, this was a productive and growth oriented year while for others school was a struggle, social dynamics made their lives difficult. I’ve watched different dynamics in my kids lives this year and figured this would be a good time to discuss how to recover from a challenging school year. I know this will only apply to some parents but my guess is that at some point it’ll apply to all. 

So here you are in the beginning of summer break. Your child struggled in school this year. Maybe it was academic, maybe social - but by the time the door closed behind them last week the sigh of relief was audible.  How can you help them recover and reset to have both a rejuvenating summer and face school next year with a positive attitude?

Arthur Brooks, a social scientist and Harvard professor who often discusses how to build happiness, said “You can’t alter history. You can, however, change your perception of it.” The way we frame our past experiences changes how we treat them.  If you allow your past to be baggage, it will weigh you down. Retelling the story in a way that allows you to grow, learn and not repeat the same mistakes or experiences will change your future.

Once your child has calmed and relaxed some after the stresses of the year - do a deeper dive into what happened.

 If it was academic issues - did they learn to self advocate? Did they learn something about how they learn or need to structure their learning to make it better work for them? Start finding the positive twist and use it to fuel their future learning. 

Social stress? Did they feel left out of a popular group? Get too invested in the class drama? Help them figure out where the issues stemmed from and what they can take away from it. Friendships may have shifted. People may have changed. The kid who was always their go-to best friend might have turned into the popular kid who no longer cares for them or shares similar interests.  Helping them find what they learned about themselves and how they changed can help them navigate the next steps.

“Let it go” - once you have hashed and dissected the year - help them move on.  When a topic is rehashed it doesn’t get better. Steer the conversations forward. Help them focus on the here and now. Encourage some space and distance from the experience.  

Recharge - Spend time outdoors. Rediscover the things they enjoy without the pressures of school and homework and myriad other things that get in the way. Try your best not to over-program them so they have no downtime.  Going from a bad year to a treadmill summer isn’t always the answer. 

TBH, as they say, it’s not just the kids that need this after they have a challenging year - you probably need it too.  You listened and navigated and dealt with the daily stresses of having an unhappy child this past year. Find what you need to reshape, reset and recharge.

Happy summer break!

Friday, May 6, 2022

Embrace the Struggle

 I looked back through old posts before starting this because I don’t like to be repetitive and I found a related topic but it didn’t quite get to the idea I’ve been tossing around lately so I decided to have a go at it. 

I’ve been noticing a lot lately that many parents want to solve things for their kids. Or prevent their kids from having to deal with stress or adversity. And while there are definitely many  approaches to parenting - ranging from  hands on and possibly micro-managing (aka helicopter parenting) all the way to free range - I wanted to talk about the idea behind some of this. Mostly the why (since we discussed how to help kids become more resilient in a prior post).

This morning I posed a question to a few friends - if we know that challenges and struggles make us stronger and help us become who we can potentially be - why do we try to avoid them? Shield our children from them?

I’m a big believer in the idea that when we take an idea apart, figure out the pieces - we can rebuild and put it together with a better solution. 

My friends posed several possible causes for this behavior.  Mostly it came down to fear. Fear of the unknown. Fear of suffering. Fear of (fill in the blank). 

Think back in your own life to situations that you have gotten through. Some might have been by your own errors - making poor choices possibly - others were circumstances you found yourself in that were beyond your control. In both situations - you likely not only learned many things about how to proceed and about yourself - but also grew and developed into the person you have now become. 

Would you choose to redo them? Almost irrelevant. No one asks for a challenge. No one wants a struggle when it can be avoided. But when these situations arise - we tend to rise to the challenges. Grow from them. 

And pivot that to becoming good at something. The first time you try something it may be exceedingly difficult. You might want to quit before you’ve even put in the effort. But once you put in the time and build up some resilience, you might find that thing to be your most rewarding. 

How many people learned an instrument, took on a sport or a skill - all of these things take time and effort and work. Usually many tears are shed before it becomes your passion. But it changes your life to find that THING that just speaks to you. Helps relieve your stress. Helps you get into the zone. 

Now think practically - have you ever dealt with someone where you felt you had to be on top of them to make something happen? It can be intensely frustrating.

 Most of these people suffer from having had someone take care of too much for them. Shield them. Since they never had to face their own problems and come up with their own solutions, there’s just an expectation that someone else will take care of it or resolve it. Even when they have their own responsibilities, you still need to almost babysit them in order to get some thing done.

So bringing this full circle - what I’m not saying is to let our kids hang out to dry. I’m not trying to tell you don’t problem solve with them. But what I do want to impart is to let go of the fear - let them experience life. Make mistakes. Learn from them. Help them problem solve through their difficulties but don’t try to solve it for them - solve it with them. Understand that it’s ok for them to have hard things to overcome. They will grow. And they will thank you for it one day. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Near Misses

 I rarely write more than once in a week (or month these days) but something happened yesterday and I wanted to share in case any child or parent could benefit. 

I was driving with my mom to the gym yesterday and I was on one of the busiest streets in town - at least 3 lanes per side. I had a green light and total right of way. I noticed two women and two kids (elementary age) standing on the median as I approached one stretch of the street and suddenly, with no warning, one of the kids started to run across the street. She jumped directly in front of my car. The speed limit in that area is probably 35-40. Thank G-D I was able to stop in time. One crazy part of this was that there was a crosswalk but it had its own light and it wasn’t her turn. She just ran forward anticipating that it would turn. 

Why am I sharing this story? 

First - it was a huge reminder to me as a driver about attentiveness. Had I glanced away even for a minute - this story would have had a tragic ending. Looking down at a phone or even gazing out the window…these days distracted driving is a reality and sometimes we need a reminder to stay vigilant. 

Second - it gave me the chance to review street crossing safety with my kids. Especially teens - I find they are lax and often looking for shortcuts. I reminded them that the key in all these things is awareness of your surroundings. A crosswalk is the right place to cross but even there you have to check and make sure you have a clear path. I reminded them not to try a crossing when cars are coming but they think they have enough time. Pedestrian safety is crucial. 

It also got me thinking about  how even when you do everything right - awful things are possible and fault seriously wouldn’t matter when it comes to the life and safety of a child. But that is a different topic for a different day. 

As we enjoy the spring and our kids get out and play more - please review safety with them so everyone can have a happy and safe season. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Expectations

The holiday of Pesach/Passover is drawing near and it’s gotten me thinking about expectations. There are so many ways to go with this topic - expectations of what the different members of the family will do for the holiday - with its many layers of prep from cleaning the entire house to the vast amounts of cooking. Expectations about how educated kids will be coming to the Seder - what and how much they learned, whether they’ll “perform” - everyone to the small children reciting the four questions to the bigger children sharing what they were taught. Expectations of the fun everyone will have getting together. All of these are very worthy topics but not what I had on my mind this time. I wanted to talk about setting the expectations for what kids will get - and I’m not just talking about the great and grand Afikomen. I’m thinking how really setting expectations can completely change the tone of how kids approach things.

To start with something completely not Pesach related…My son recently became bar mitzva. Amidst the celebrations and hoopla, he also had the expectation that he would finally graduate to the front seat. It’s commonly accepted that once you hit 13 you can ride shotgun. I, however, had other plans. After some discussions with my pediatrician, I understood that while it’s common practice for 13 to be the cutoff - it actually has more to do with bone development than age and weight. A child whose bones have not yet fused is more likely to be injured or killed in the front seat than an adult in the same position. Since I had no shortage of spaces in the car at this stage in my life, I opted to make him wait. The difference in his expectations and mine were a bit disappointing to him. But he adjusted and we’ve come to the understanding that he is going to wait until it’s more necessary and he’s gotten more of his growth underway. Had I set this expectation long before the milestone arrived, he would have had an even easier time with the end result, despite seeing his friends and even kids younger than him sitting in the front seat (I’ll have to keep my opinions on that to myself - just do the research, friends…look at the statistics they speak for themselves). 

My point here is not to lecture on safety - it’s about setting expectations. I’m noticing more and more that parents are bending to the whims of their kids because everyone else seems to be doing X (fill this blank however…some easy examples - getting their kids phones at a young age, sending their kids to sleep away camp…) but there’s no reason to become that parent. You are in control and you get to decide. Setting reasonable expectations for your kids doesn’t mean you are depriving them or giving them less. Sometimes less is truly more. If they know that in your family, kids get phones when they learn to drive - their expectation would not be to get a phone when all their friends may be. 

Back to pesach - In our house we don’t bargain for afikomen (I know, I hear some people shouting that takes away the fun) - we simply buy each child a gift before and they each get it at the Seder. I never liked the bargaining, wheedling or other upset over this - it has become a highlight for the kids that they know they’ll get a fun surprise. Yes, it’s different than the way most houses traditionally do it but no, they’re not getting any less or experiencing less. 

In terms of expectations for your Seder - this could be a post unto itself but just remember it’s about enjoying, having fun, imparting things to your children. If they feel pressured, forced to perform, stressed - you both may miss the point of the whole experience. 

And now back to that pesach prep I’m supposed to actually be doing…

Thursday, March 3, 2022

Pearls

Sometimes too many pearls of wisdom go unnoticed. Today I’m taking the time to stop and notice them. 

Each of these is a lesson we can apply to our lives and certainly share with our children. 

As usual, most of my deep thoughts come from my runs and the incredible people I talk to during them. Here is a sampling of some of the recent wisdom I’ve gleaned:

- Negativity has no place if you don’t allow it in. This one came from two places in the same week and I felt that meant it had to be concretized. My good friend and running/life mentor actually won the Atlanta marathon this past Sunday. When describing part of his race, he told me it was cold and raining and for several miles he battled negative thoughts and considered quitting. It is so hard to be cold and tired and know you can just stop if you want - but his determination won and he consciously decided that negativity had no space in his head. Amazingly, he won the race and honestly, imagine he’d never know what he was capable of had he given it the space to grow. 

-  You are how you see yourself  - just this morning I went running with some friends - I was very achey and tired when we started out. I had done a race on Sunday and was still Charlie horse and also had tried some new workout style which left me with aching muscles I didn’t know existed. I commented to my friend how I felt like an old lady running. He surprised me by saying he doesn’t often hear me talk about myself that way. It was a good reminder - once he told me I consciously told myself You are only as old as you feel and you really shouldn’t talk about yourself like that because you’ll start believing it. Not only did I make it through the run, but I actually finished a Half Marathon without even planning it. 

Drop the agenda and take the time to hear what’s being said - we’ve discussed before how to be a good listener (In this blog post). All too often we are only hearing what is being said around us but not actually listening to it. In a recent online discussion forum, I was amazed how it seemed two parallel conversations were occurring. There were people who came to the conversation mostly to have a monologue. They were literally not reading what people were writing and responding with rhetoric and their preconceived notions. If they’d take a step back, drop their agenda and possibly take a step down from their high horse, they might have come away from the conversation with a very different perspective. The entire episode reminded me of the game broken telephone we played as kids. 

-Appreciate what you have - and acknowledge it. A friend mentioned to me that after having an enlightening conversation with a colleague - he was pleasantly surprised that the older, more experienced colleague thanked him for his fresh perspective on things. All too often, we take for granted the big and small kindnesses that come into our lives. Take the time to notice them and be grateful.  

-Energy is infectious - spread it at every opportunity-  I am part of an amazing running community. The people in it have become my friends and role models. One thing that always amazes me is how infectious their energy is. I can try something alone and struggle to get through it but somehow when we are together we accomplish insane feats. Despite everyone having busy lives and schedules, everyone makes the time to get out early (and I mean super early) and work on our running as a group. And it comes with energy - the cheering, electric, whooping type of energy that literally energizes you. Despite it being one of our hardest workouts during the week, everyone walks away feeling uplifted. 

There are so many more things I could touch on but those are today’s highlights. I figured a good thing shared is twice as good 😊