Health and well-being
I have been playing Words With Friends scrabble game with my mom who lives in Oklahoma. I play for free on my IPAD and she plays on her Kindle. The ability to “chat” as a part of the game is what keeps us playing (though our competitive spirit shows up occasionally too!) Since we have been playing, I feel much more confident that I know how she and my dad are doing between phone calls.
I find it a simple and fun way to way to stay in touch. She likes it too! Here is the link, http://www.wordswithfriends.com.
Keep checkin’ in. Byron
After returning from a backpacking trip recently I sent out an email to my emergency contact list to let them know we were back safe and sound. There were eight names on my list. How very fortunate I am to have that many people who I can count on to help me when things get tough.
Everyone should have someone they can turn to in a crisis. Families are more resilient when they do. I recommend showing your list to your children and talking about when you use it. Also, consider offering to be an emergency contact for a neighbor or acquaintance. This is a way you can model good citizenship for your children.
If you do not have someone to go to in an emergency, make it a priority to find someone. It may be uncomfortable to start up the conversation with a colleague or friend but it is worth it. It will be an example for your children about how much you really care about them.
Keep checkin’ in! Byron
While backpacking in the Olympic National Forest this past weekend we ran into a family of mountain goats on the trail. Both the goats and the hikers were equally startled. While they seemed happy to share the trail with us we fun-lovingly shooed them off because they should not be so comfortable around humans. Maybe the same is true for the doe and her two fawns that playfully paced themselves on the trail ahead of us for nearly a mile.
We also ran into a family of the human kind. The boys looked to be nine and thirteen and along with their parents they were feeling weary from the challenge of the climb but happy to be there.
I hope your family has enjoyed the outdoors together and chosen to exercise your bodies while doing so. I highly recommend it. The Chuckanut Mountain Trail system can be accessed just south of the corner of Old Samish and Chuckanut Drive. http://www.co.whatcom.wa.us/parks/chuckanut/images/map_trails_chuckanut.jpg
Here are some tips for first time hikers:
- Talk to your kids about doing an afternoon hike followed by going out for a treat that evening. Be enthusiastic about it and ask them to give it a try.
- It is better to plan multiple short hikes than one big one in the beginning.
- It will be hard at first so when your thighs are burning and you are out of breath stop and rest.
- Take water and an energy bar or cookie and some trail mix in a small backpack.
- Have each adult and child carry a bottle of water.
- Plan to stop and rest and eat a snack about 45 minutes to an hour after you start hiking (instead of waiting until you have reached your destination which is always further than you think it will be!)
- Wear loose clothes and a cross training type of shoe.
- Always have a reward that all of you look forward to getting after a hardy hike (Mine is beer and nachos but a more family oriented alternative is ice cream or your favorite take-out.)
- A two or three-mile round trip might be a good first hike. It might take two or three hours based on the age of your child and your fitness level.
- Don’t worry about making it to the end. If you stop having fun, head on back to the car and congratulate yourselves. Plan to go out again the next weekend to see if you can go a little farther.
Keep checkin’ in! Byron
It is an unavoidable part of life to be turned aside by a peer group or employer. To be disassociated from or rejected by a group you aspire to be a part of. We can all remember an experience like not making the team, being teased by a group you felt were your friends, maybe even losing a job because you did not fit in.
Whether you are a fifteen year old who walks into a classroom thinking his best chance to survive is to stay low and out of the way, or a thirteen year old with an absent parent, or a nine year old whose big brother never says a kind word to him, these type of experiences illicit our instinct to protect ourselves and be resilient.
What does it mean for a teenager to have a healthy resiliency, to adapt well in response to rejection, loss or other difficult situation? Resiliency is a learned skill. Follow this link to the American Psychological Association’s 10 Tips for Building Resilience http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/bounce.aspx to learn what skills you can begin building with your children.
I also suggest thinking about the reactions you have yourself to experiences of loss or rejection and the skills you use to bounce back from them. Consider how well they are working for you and how they have changed over time. Then start pointing out to your children the common reactions people have in difficult times like being shocked or outraged, like feeling hopeless or embarrassed or by detaching. Teach your children that everyone reacts differently to hard knocks and everyone has their own method or self-talk that they use for bouncing back. Also teach them to look for life lessons and opportunities to pursue that may come with the experience. Discuss this with your kids over a series of brief conversations during normal everyday activities.
Keep checking in.
Are you having trouble communicating with your teen about issues with their behavior? Maybe you are asking too many questions. Getting some teens to answer a question is impossible. Questions from a parent can be an instant conversation stopper. So how do you find out what your teen is thinking, who they are hanging out with, why they did something, or what may be troubling them?
One thought is to make sure you do not ask them a question when what you really want is for your teen to learn a lesson. For instance, asking a question like, “How would you feel if someone painted graffiti on your car like you did on that building?” Your intent might be to teach them that they should feel remorse about what they did. I suggest you just be direct and say something like, “It is illegal and it is wrong for you to vandalize property. I totally disapprove and am disappointed in your behavior. Your consequence is that you need to be home before dark every night for the next seven days. The police say you have to do community service. I expect you to get that done before your Labor Day soccer tournament.”
If you want to know how your teen thinks and feels about what they did, or details about what happened, you can use a variety of statements that might illicit the information you want. In the above example, you might use a statement of over exaggeration. For instance, “There was so much paint on the building you must have used three cans of paint.” After saying that, your teen may be inclined to correct you and tell you they only used half a can.
Another type of statement you could use is to describe how you think the incident happened based on what you know. You might say something like, “I am trying to figure out how you did it without getting caught that night. You must have had your two best friends being a lookout for you. I wonder if the police have contacted their parents like they did me. I think I will call their parents to find out what they know about what happened.” This gives your teen the opportunity to tell you more about the incident. It also lets them know that you have the ability and responsibility to try and find out what really happened whether they want to tell you or not.
Don’t expect your teen to reply immediately to what you say. It may take a couple of hours or a couple of days for them to figure out how they are going to respond.
This is all easier said than done. Your teen might try to make you think you are out of touch or protest that you want to control them. But keep trying and keep loving them unconditionally!
And keep checking in!
Some families with teenagers dread the summer especially when it follows a school year full of truancy, failing grades, mood swings, and increased experimentation with drugs and alcohol.
Many of us want our teens to remain productive throughout the summer, engaged in activities and passions that will enrich their life now and in the future. But when their trajectory turns to hanging out, smoking, late nights, and being argumentative most of us are at a loss as to what to do. Nothing from reasoning with them, yelling at them, or locking the doors seems to work.
For parents with means, many have read books, sought counselors, met with teachers, set up a full schedule of summer activities, attended court and probation meetings, or sent their children to therapeutic boarding schools. But still they can’t change the trajectory of their children. This is a scary reality for parents who can feel hopeless and responsible.
On piece of advice I have for parents dealing with teens who are skipping school and breaking the law comes from teens themselves. If they have not already told you this, they will. Teens will tell you to get a life and stop spending so much time trying to help them or worrying about them.
Experts would agree, you can’t change a teenager, you can only change yourself. And while you can never thwart the emotional worry you have for a self-destructing teen you can do some things that will have a long term impact.
Take the guess work out discipline. I recommend choosing two or three specific things that are your bottom line and to not sweat the small stuff. Choose unacceptable behaviors that can be easily verified, like being picked up by the police, or, parent connect showing that they were not in school, or, they got a speeding ticket. Choose enforceable age appropriate consequences that are easy to apply and always follow through as calmly as possible. For instance, write down age appropriate curfew times that you are comfortable with and a single consequence for breaking it. Something like they can’t use the car until they have meet curfew for 7 days straight. Tell your teen what you have decided, and post it on the refrigerator. The next morning after they miss curfew simply remind them of the rule and the consequence. Be prepared to ignore their tantrums and protests and go enjoy an activity on your own.
When your job regarding discipline becomes clearer the bulk of your time can be spent getting to know your son or daughter as a teenager and loving them unconditionally for who they are and what they accomplish. And you can actually spend time renewing an old hobbies and pursuing a new interest.
You will know you are on the right track when your teen complains that you are spending more time on your hobby than you are on them!
Keep checking in!
Last week I overheard someone talking who was upset because a same-sex couple was being allowed to adopt a child. Over the years I have met several lesbian couples who have been foster and adoptive parents. In spite of all the social and economic disparities that they face, they are exceptional in their love and commitment and skill.
Personally, I prefer to consider a person’s ability to be caring and loving and responsible as a foster or adoptive parent rather than their sexual orientation. The research tends to support this as well. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics*, “Extensive data available from more than 30 years of research reveal that children raised by gay and lesbian parents have demonstrated resilience with regard to social, psychological, and sexual health despite economic and legal disparities and social stigma.”
The AAP report* also states that, “Current estimates suggest that almost 2 million children younger than 18 years are being raised by at least 1 gay or lesbian parent in the United States.” That is good news for the over 8,000 children in Washington State needing foster care. Those who choose to love these children as their own are an example of citizenship and compassion that is exemplary regardless of who they chose to love and marry.
If your child was suddenly found alone with no one to care for them, would you be OK with a gay or lesbian couple adopting them?
Check out this report in the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. * http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/e1374.full
Keep checking in! Byron
Here is information worth reviewing about an emergency preparedness …
PUGET SOUND RESIDENTS: PLAN FOR 7-10 DAYS TO SURVIVE A CATASTROPHE
Susan McLaughlin remembers September 4, 2010, like it was yesterday. That’s when the first of four devastating earthquakes hit Christchurch, the New Zealand city where she lived at the time. Susan, who now lives in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle and works downtown, was seven months into her pregnancy when the first earthquake hit and the mother of an infant during the series of significant earthquakes that followed.
Today, Susan thinks about disaster preparedness here in the Puget Sound region, and she’s inspired to encourage others as well. “Having a child and feeling unprepared is an awful place to be,” she remembers. Making a plan, building a kit and helping each other, on the other hand, gives families the tools to survive and offers peace of mind. Susan adds, “Doing simple things – like making a kit for my husband, son and me – makes me feel much more prepared for an earthquake or other disaster now.”
So, what does that mean? JoAnn Jordan, public education coordinator at the Seattle Office of Emergency Management, offers some guidance: “It’s really important to plan for seven to 10 days. Given the magnitude of earthquake that’s likely to occur in the Pacific Northwest, experience has shown it could take from several days to more than a week before essential services are restored, such as running water, electricity and phones.” Jordan’s office publishes a variety of resources to make planning easy in 19 languages.
First and foremost, Jordan recommends building a kit with enough of these items to last for seven to 10 days:
- Storage container: a plastic bin, or even an old suitcase or backpacks, which you’ll store near an exit
- Water: one gallon of water per person per day, for drinking and sanitation
- Food: seven to 10 days of non-perishable foods per person and pet
- Cash: small bills are best (ATMs won’t work without electricity)
- Battery-powered radio and extra batteries
- Flashlight and extra batteries (no candles!)
- First aid kit
- Whistle to signal for help
- Filter mask or cotton t-shirt to help filter the air
- Moist towelettes for sanitation
- Wrench or pliers to turn off utilities, if needed
- Manual can opener for food
- Shelter items like tents, tarps and rope
- Garbage bags and plastic ties for sanitation
- Unique family needs: supplies for infants, pets and elderly; prescriptions; important family documents
As Susan puts it, “We can’t stop the next disaster from coming, but we can help our families and neighbors make it through. Plan to be a survivor!”
Local agencies across Puget Sound are teaming up to educate and encourage citizens to prepare for catastrophic events with a regional campaign called “What to do to Make it Through.” The program serves to educate the public that catastrophes can happen at any time and encourage residents to prepare for the right duration—at least 7 to 10 days. To learn the three most important things you can do to survive a catastrophe and start planning, visit: www.makeitthrough.org.
Keep checking in! Byron
On Saturday Vista and Horizon Middle School students from the Whatcom Prevention Coalition Natural High Club spent the morning handing out flyers and reminding people of the importance of prompt and proper disposal of expired prescription medications as well as illegal narcotics.
The event was supported by the Whatcom County Health Department, Whatcom Family and Community Network, Ferndale School District, Haggen and the Ferndale Police Department.
This is a health and safety issue for our children and youth. Please dispose of your expired medications today to reduce the likelihood of them falling into the hands of teenagers or accidently being ingested by a young child.
To find the nearest location to you for dropping off your expired prescriptions and controlled substances visit www.TakeBackYourMeds.org.
Thanks Natural High Club students for taking such good care of our community and your fellow students!
Keep Checking in! Byron
Have you ever thought that you should notify authorities about a child that you suspect is being abused but hesitated to cause trouble for the family if you are wrong? That is a common reaction so it is important for you to learn more in order to help keep children safe in our community.
First, you can learn how to protect your child and other children from abuse by attending a Stewards of Children training (call 360-734-4616 for information) or other certified child abuse prevention training.
Second, you can learn more about what happens after you call 911 or Child Protective Servces at 1-800-562-5624 about your concerns. The Children’s Administration (Child Protective Services) has announced a new way of helping families when responding to calls from the public about possible child abuse. It is called the Family Assessment Response or FAR. Family Assessment Response is an innovative, alternative way of responding to certain reports of child abuse and neglect. You can hear from parents, caseworkers and others on how the program keeps kids safe in their own home. Follow this link to the FAR video and the FAR Newsletter at http://www.dshs.wa.gov/pdf/ca/FARNewsletterSpring2013.pdf
Keep checking in. Byron