Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

This week we are on vacation in Arizona. It has been a fun time for our family of five to explore the area between Phoenix up to the Grand Canyon. However, if your holidays are anything like ours, it’s a whole lot of family time in tight spaces out of our normal routine which has me thinking “Are our boys always this annoying?” “Why can’t they sleep past 6 AM?” and “Why can’t our kids just sit together nicely in the back seat of the rental car? I travelled all the way across Canada with four siblings and didn’t feel the need to pester them the whole way”. Overall it has been great but it has been equally exhausting parenting-wise. So, now that I have that out of my system, I’m ready to go!

This week I am thankful for:

Friday, March 16, 2018

Preparing to Parent Teens in Today's Culture

Suddenly I find myself approaching the next stage in parenting: the teen years. I enjoy teenagers and spent five years getting a degree so that I could teach them science (biology in particular). However, there is fear which comes from the fact that I remember myself during those years. I was a hard-working student, had a part time job throughout high school and was quite responsible overall but I still had an "experimental" side to me and I didn't have to deal with the whole social media aspect that kids nowadays do.

Preteens hanging out by the river

In order to help fill my parenting "toolbox" with skills and resources I read Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child's Teen Years. It is written by Mark Gregston who is the founder of Heartlight which is a residential counseling center for teens. Here are some tidbits that I gleaned from the book:

Consider what your priorities in parenting are. 

What are the things that you want out of your relationship? What is your greatest hope for you children? These are some of mine:
  • openness between us (connection/respect).
  • empathy, compassion, willingness to learn, hard-working, appreciation.
  • a desire to figure out their faith for themselves; I don't want them to just take what we've said. 

Recognize that today's culture has shifted.
  • parents are well-meaning but often try to protect their kids rather than spend time preparing them. Have you talked to them about pornography and the dangers of social media
  • teens are bombarded by images and appearance has become an even greater priority. I am glad I was not raised in this time; I can't imagine the pressure with posting photos and getting likes and not equating it with how pretty you may or may not be. 
  • hours with screen time are less hours of face-to-face connection and developing social skills. Some teens spend ten hours a day in front of screens (including computer for school). I know I was allowed one hour per day of TV and I didn't have the Internet until I was 18 – times have really changed.

You can't force authority.

You can't force your teenager to do anything but can teach respect for authority through relationship. A big one for me is to watch out for judgment. It's relationship, relationship, relationship.

"Truth with judgment pushes kids away; truth with relationship draws them to you." – Mark Gregston. 

I am full of "teachable moments" which can definitely come across as critical. My sisters may have called me "bossy" a time or two. Our kids have two teachers as parents which is a double whammy of wanting to impart our wisdom at all times. Be sure to share your own shortcomings and struggles so they know that everyone has them. Listen rather than teach. I often go for a walk with my oldest who is almost 12 years old and he opens up a lot at those times. I am so tempted to bring in my point of view when I hear how he struggles with group projects (don't be so bossy, Buddy) or how he's the leading scorer in hockey (hey Bud, no one loves a bragger) and just try to listen and empathize.

Conflict happens but it will deepen relationships. I think of when Gary and I go through a difficult marital conversation, we end up with more depth in the end when we are willing to work through it. Your love is unconditional and not just there when they are behaving as you would like. Grace.

Another quote Gregston shares is:

"...consequences teach lessons; relationships change the heart." 

When I did something that disappointed my parents because I broke their trust was a big enough punishment for me. Being grounded and having to write an apology letter were secondary.

Let go of some of the control.

Kids want to feel like they have some control, can make their own decisions and can prove their maturity. I did not like Kai's long hair but he did. I let it go. And finally, he said "cut it". Phew. This is often the hardest with the oldest. Let them go to the park with the neighbour boy, finish their homework without checking, make their own snacks, do their chores without correcting and pick their own clothes. Trust that you've done your job, and if coming from a faith perspective, trust that God is involved, too. Give them more responsibilities. When I was sixteen, my parents said no to camping off the logging road with friends so I went and lied about where we were (sorry, Dad!). Had something happened, they would have no idea where I really was.

Have clear boundaries & pick your battles.

I have a wild child. This does not mean that I am not a good parent as I can only do so much. Hopefully as his brain continues to develop he will make wiser decisions. Clear boundaries and their consequences are helpful and he recommends having ten rules. I have done this before with younger kids as you can see here.

Some of our rules now:
  • Use kinds words or none at all.
  • Respect parents and siblings 
  • Tell the truth
  • Exhibit appropriate Internet activity (only on approved sites)
What are their consequences? Usually each small infraction (because believe me they are far from perfect) is ten minutes off their 45 minutes of iPad time. You will have to utilize what is important to your own kids. We don't have big rules right now but the consequences will be much larger once they are driving and able to go out with friends.

In high school my mom said that I could only have piercings in my ear so I stuck to it and went wild – I think I had a total of ten. She said no to tattoos and I'm glad because I would have chosen something I later regretted. Those were the battles she was willing to pick and looking back I'm glad that she did.

Determine privileges and expectations.

From driving to cell phones to curfew and church attendance – what are your expectations? Gregston recommends that if there is something you plan to give your kids, do it a bit earlier.  One experience with this recently is that we had said only G or PG movies. Kai (almost 12) was invited to a movie that was PG-13. My "go to" was that I was not allowed PG-13 until I was in grade nine. When I thought back to how I felt about it, it was so frustrating. We gave him the go ahead after looking up the particular movie and what gave it that rating.

Where does your child sit in your list of priorities based on where you put your time and energy?

I'm assuming that if you're like me, they are towards the very top in regards to priority but not always where we invest the most time and energy. At this point I'm really looking forward to parenting teenagers and just hoping that my kids continue to enjoy spending time with me.

In conclusion, the book offers great conversation starters if you are looking for ideas.

Sample questions to ask:

What are some of your greatest fears for school next year?
How do you think life will change when you are older?
If you could change something about yourself what would it be?
What should be the expectations in our home?

To all those who are parenting teenagers already, fill me in on the reality of it all! 


How can we prepare ourselves and our children for the upcoming teenage stage? What is most important as we move forward?

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Thankful Thursday

On Monday I went from the high of having a beautiful sunny day and just one baby at home to the low of Gary calling me to say that Koen got sick in the van on the way home from school. After almost 12 years of this parenting thing, I am so tired of illness and being quarantined etc. We leave on holidays soon and we want to be healthy for that. I have done the puking on the plane thing way too many times (not me, my kids and Gary–on the way home from Thailand AND Disney World AND on the Carribean cruise). My spring allergies are out of this world right now even with nasal rinses and Reactine. So, now that my complaining out of this way, here we go...

This week I am thankful for:

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Thankful Thursday

Thankful Thursday

Last week I felt like I was stressed about life. We still don't know what to do with the "big question" (how long do we continue being a foster family) but will just take it day by day and continue to love on our Baby Girl until she leaves our home. In regards to work, I will keep subbing one day a week (hopefully more next year!). We have a trip to look forward to so that is always uplifting. The weather hasn't been terrible so that helps too. As usual I'm about to practice some gratitude, are you ready?

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

The Problem With Ranking Our Pain and Struggles

Empathy is the ability to understand the feelings of someone else by sharing in it – actually putting yourself in their shoes. It is very different from sympathy which is feeling sorry for someone and therefore creating disconnection. A newborn has the capacity to be empathetic but it needs to develop it through experience and being taught. Have you considered how empathetic you are?

Have you ever thought about your lack of empathy in certain situations? 

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Thankful Thursday

If you are new here, every week I reflect on ten things that I am thankful for. These are personal posts and I do appreciate everyone who takes the time to read. I hope it allows YOU some time to think on what you are thankful for. Gratitude really needs to be practiced and my parents were gifted in this area and passed it on to me.

This week I am thankful for:

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

When Someone Calls Your Child a Hurtful Name

Have you ever had someone say something mean to you? What about to your child? I used to think I would give that person a piece of my mind but my thoughts have changed on this – I approach it a little more gently and try to see both sides. I am not saying verbal attacks are okay, because they are not, and if an adult ever said something harmful to a child I would be all over it with that power imbalance. Harsh words need to be recognized and dealt with, however, there are several reasons why it occurs and knowing them could help us when we approach that situation. Here are four examples that I am familiar with...

Monday, February 26, 2018

How Parenting a Child From Hard Places Looks Different

I hardly feel like I'm qualified to speak about this but as a foster parent who has cared for five different children from hard places I have some insight to pass along. I also have a minor in psychology if that increases my credibility in your eyes at all (insert winky face emoji).  How will this information on attachment help you? Well, knowing what some people go through allows you to understand the world a little better and develop more empathy. Also, who knows what your future will look like – maybe you will have a connection with someone who had a difficult childhood.

What might it look like to help support and nurture a child who has suffered neglect and trauma?

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Three Simple Meals Using One Rotisserie Chicken

Several weeks ago I was overwhelmed with the number of kids we had and the schedule we currently juggle. I knew I had to meal plan better and push aside the notion that everything had to be from scratch. We had purchased 1/4 of a cow this fall and were a little beefed out – we needed some variety of the chicken nature. Here are three super simple meals which are healthy-ish, made in under twenty minutes and nice on the wallet too. How do I do it? It all starts with one rottiserie chicken that can be used to make two to three meals depending on the number of people in the family. Great savings, right?!

Three simple and affordable chicken recipes

Thankful Thursday

The key to experiencing joy is practicing gratitude. In Brene Brown's book Braving the Wilderness she says, "When you are grateful for what you have, I know you understand the magnitude of what I have lost". You appreciate your mom? That makes me feel good because I don't have that. I am thankful for a great childhood because I know so many don't get to experience that. Eugene Cho says in Overrated that contentment comes from generosity and gratitude. What are you thankful for today?