Staying Positive for Your Older Kids When You Don’t Feel Positive at All

Posted by on Jan 12, 2017 in Parenting on a Daily Basis, The World We Parent In | 1 comment

reassurance

This would be easier if my kids were younger.

Yes, little kids are perceptive, but it’s possible to paste a smile on your face for them when necessary. You can watch animated movies with them, read picture books and keep your conversation G-rated. You don’t talk about the state of the country or the world because they’re too young to understand that kind of thing, anyway. They know Elsa wants to set her powers free and superheroes go after bad guys. If they do stumble onto anything real in the news, you comfort them, maybe give them cookies as a distraction. Paint the world with illusory bright colors and assure the children the good guys will prevail.

Simplify, reassure, protect. That’s a parent’s job when it comes to the very young.

Adolescents offer a more complex challenge. They are caught in the space between child and adult, and as any parent of an adolescent knows, you can encounter both the small child and the mature adult in the same kid inside of sixty seconds. Anytime you think you’ve figured out which version of your kid will appear in response to any given stimuli, that same kid will prove you wrong. The only constant is that you’ve got to be prepared for anything at any moment. The world is confusing to us adults and we’ve been living in it for decades. It can be exponentially more befuddling to our adolescent kids.

So for those of us presently deeply distressed about the state of our nation and our world: how much of that do we let our older kids see, and how do we balance what we show them with parental reassurance aimed at reassuring the more childish aspects of who they are?

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Happy Holidays

Posted by on Dec 23, 2016 in Holidays, Tips, Recommendations & Warnings | 0 comments

This is a time of warmth and cheer for many people, hot cocoa and fireplaces, friends, family, candelabras, Christmas trees and latkes. It brings happiness to many, sadness to others, probably a mix of the two to more than we realize. But we do our best, especially if we have children, to create an atmosphere of joy.

It’s the end of a year, too, and not just any year. 2016, don’t let the door hit you in the derrière on the way out. On second thought, do. You deserve it.

There will be plenty of time and opportunity in the year to come to experience and express sentiments we wish we could live without. So let’s set that aside for the last week-and-a-half of 2016, and lift ourselves up a bit. Let’s look for comfort for our kids, who, despite seeming evidence to the contrary, might need some help processing the world at this troubling time. Let’s read a few stories to warm our hearts—stories to help us remember what’s good again. We all know we love our kids, but sometimes an outside perspective can help us see that in a new light. And what are all of this season’s holidays about if not lights in the darkness?

First, from the Washington Post, Karen MacPherson offers a great list of 19 books to help children find hope and strength in stressful times for children ages 3 to 12.

Author and co-owner of the soon-to-open Belmont Books in Belmont, Massachusetts, Chris Abouzeid, suggested these three titles for tweens and teens:

Next, this piece on Babble.com by Lori Garcia, 46 Things No One Tells You About Parenting a Teenage Boy, literally made me laugh out loud. Number 38. And number 12. Also number 15. Oh, just about all of them.

You may want to get a tissue ready for The Child I Love, by Jon Ralston, about his relationship with his transgender son.

Finally, don’t miss this lovely essay by my colleague, John Herman, about—well, I’ll let you discover what it’s really about. It features Santa Claus, a sled, a bag and a fence.

Happy holidays, no matter which or how many of this season’s holidays you celebrate. See you in 2017!

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How to Find Reliable News

Posted by on Dec 6, 2016 in Education & Learning, The World We Parent In | 0 comments

imagesRemember the old days—you know, October—when you didn’t need to care about the news if you didn’t want to? Those days are over. Even if you preferred to stay away from current events before, we all need to stay informed about what’s happening in our country right now.

But what if you’re not a news geek by nature? In this age of fake news sources, biased media outlets and “everyone’s an expert so long as they’ve got a Facebook account,” how do you know what to believe? I’ve fielded a few inquiries about reliable news sources over the past few weeks. In response, I’ve cobbled together something of a New User’s Guide to Reliable News Sources in an Unreliable Atmosphere here.

Please note what the list below is NOT. It’s not comprehensive. It’s not foolproof. It’s not assembled by an inhuman, bias-free robot.

I’ve selected a few resources to serve as starting points for people who haven’t previously been regular consumers of news and who want to begin to equip themselves with actual facts[1] on a regular basis. With that goal in mind, here we go.

First, a couple of guidelines

  • Is it true? Before accepting something as fact, look to see if you can find a second reliable source for it. This is not as hard as it sounds. Google the “fact” you’ve just read that made your jaw drop. If it’s something that just happened five minutes ago, this might be difficult. But other reliable sources should have it within an hour at the most. Usually it takes only minutes for other outlets to pick up something real.
  • Look for media outlets with a solid reputation for investigative journalism. Sometimes that means they will run negative stories about people you like. Sometimes they will mess up. Always, the questions you want to ask are, how often does a media outlet do the hard work of digging deep and getting the story right? Do they seek out and report the facts?

Reliable media outlets

Print and/or digital editions of print publications

  • It’s 2016, but the old standby print journalists are still, for the most part, doing the best job of getting the story and getting it right. This includes, of course, their digital editions. So a great way to get real, factual news is to subscribe to the print and/or digital editions of one of the major city newspapers, e.g, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The L.A. Times, etc.[2] The digital editions of these papers update throughout the day, so you can stay informed as things happen if you choose. (A note about the “bias” that some people will warn you about in these newspapers: most newspapers with sizeable circulation separate their reporting pages from their opinion pages. There are usually different editors for these sections, and the above listed papers follow this practice. The opinion pages may in fact lean in one direction or another politically. The reporting pages focus on investigation and reporting of the facts.)
  • Your local newspaper. Subscribe to your paper, either in print or online, and read it. Know what’s going on in your community. The quality of these newspapers runs the gamut, so again, it’s always good to check what you read with a search to confirm something that catches your interest. Did your representative really say that? Find out for sure before you get angry.
  • Are you really obsessed with what’s going on in Washington? Subscribe to Roll Call and/or The Hill.
  • Online editions of some foreign media outlets can be reliable. Try The Guardian or com, both from the U.K.

Internet-only outlets

  • Wire services, like AP or Reuters. You can download their news apps onto your phone and customize to your interests. Reuters also has a user-friendly site and an RSS option if that’s how you prefer to get your news. (You will also see wire services’ articles in newspapers.)
  • Snopes.com. You heard something and you don’t know if you should believe it? Go to Snopes. They may not always have the fastest check on the latest political appointment, but they may, and it will be accurate. Did the President-elect really say those words during that interview in 2014? Is that urban legend about the call coming from inside the house really true? Ask Snopes. (Note: I taught my kids to use Snopes for rumors and urban legends years ago. Don’t ask me if Bigfoot was spotted downtown. Ask Snopes.)
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This President-elect is Different

Posted by on Nov 22, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

united_states_constitution

The beginning of the United States Constitution, the foundation of our republic.

I’ve been absent for a while for health reasons. After Nov. 8, there was also the electoral shock into numbness. Finally, I wrote this. I hope to be back on a regular basis now.

In my inbox, I have a newsletter from a writer I respect, whom I won’t name here. It includes the following:

Maybe your candidate won, maybe yours lost. It’s a system. One side has been in for eight years. Another is going in now. If everyone moved to Canada because they didn’t get their way in this country where everyone has a voice, we’d have very few people left.

… Wake up still happy. Continue your days proud to be American. Take the stance that you will continue thinking positive and pursuing your dreams regardless who is President [sic] or who throws an obstacle in your path. You choose how you think. You choose how happy you’ll be. Nobody else affects that if you don’t let it.

No.

If you believe that what happened on November 8 was simply that one side lost and the other side won, you don’t understand what happened. I’ve supported the losing side in elections before; this is different. Much more was at stake, and what we lost may be so great, I’m not sure it will be regained in my lifetime.

Upon graduating from college a few decades ago, I moved to Washington, D.C. to begin a career in public service. I never doubted that I wanted to work on behalf of my country, because I had studied history and different political systems of both this country and others, and I believed strongly in the virtues of the United States, even with all of its many flaws. I wanted to dedicate myself to be part of the centuries-long process of making our system and our world better. I worked my proverbial butt off for months and landed a job in the U.S. Senate. This was back in the days before “compromise” became a dirty word.

I am an institutionalist. I believe in Congress, the presidency, the judiciary. I’ve seen them work beautifully (okay, I’ve seen them work), and I’ve seen them muck things up. Later in my career, I worked as a civil rights and civil liberties advocate, and my job was to persuade Congress and sometimes the executive branch to see things the way that I and the people for whom I worked did. Sometimes I succeeded. Sometimes I didn’t. Often I was frustrated. But this is our system, and I continued to believe in it and its sometimes ragged march toward greater justice.

Then came 9/11. If you were an adult then, you remember the fear, the horror. And I hope you remember also perhaps the only good thing to come out of that living nightmare, which was the very brief sense that we were one nation in the face of an attack against us. Trying to tear us apart Would. Not. Stand.

We are on the other side of that now.

I am a Democrat, but I have seen and worked with many Republicans I respected. I’ve also seen and tried to work with those I didn’t respect. Throughout the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency, I disagreed

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September 11, Fifteen Years Later

Posted by on Sep 11, 2016 in The World We Parent In | 0 comments

(The Pentagon following the dedication of the Memorial on September 11, 2008)

(The Pentagon following the dedication of the Memorial on September 11, 2008)

Fifteen years later, and this day still brings tears to my eyes.

I’ll never forget the terror of that day. I’ll never forget the fear of something beginning, something unknown and awful, and the feeling of being powerless to stop it. I’ll never forget the sound an airplane makes when it explodes as it rams into a building, the hope that a plane wouldn’t be shot down over my house and kill my unborn child before he’d ever had a chance to live in the world, the surreal quality of trying to drive as close to a closed-off city as possible to meet my husband, his foot not yet fully healed from a recent surgery, as he walked ten miles to escape a city under siege. I’ll never forget so many people dead, so many loved ones whose lives were ripped open. I’ll never forget learning that that last plane was headed for the Capitol, where, if it had hit its mark, it would have killed dozens or even hundreds of people I knew. Where, but for the particulars of day and time, it might have killed me.

I’ll never forget what that day did to a city I love.

But I—none of us—can afford to stay in that place of anger and fear. It is appropriate for a while, but then we must move on. We learn. We strengthen. We warn and we build and we say, “No more.” And we say also, “We are not you. We don’t kill because we can, we don’t hate because it’s easier. We will defend ourselves, but we will also continue to live true to our values: love, freedom, kindness. Diversity. Tolerance of others. When we fail—because of course we do sometimes—we will learn from our failure and become better. And so if you try to change us with your hate and your evil acts, you may shed our blood, but you will not change who we are.”

Never forget that day. Never forget what the terrorists tried to do. Never forget that we must never let them achieve their goal.

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Report on Screen-Free Week 2016

Posted by on Sep 7, 2016 in Kids & Technology, Parents are People, Too | 0 comments

(Image courtesy Micah Purnell via Flickr.com)

(Image courtesy Micah Purnell via Flickr.com)

We did it. We survived a week without screens—more or less. The week before school began, our household—consisting of two adults, one fourteen-year-old male, one eleven-year-old female and a small assortment of pets—gave up screens for the week. We followed the rules as set forth in the previous blog post. Two exceptions were granted toward the end of the week for a little all-family TV-viewing time. (It was hot, we were tired.) The kids did great.

The adults, not so much.

It’s amazing how much screen time one can squeeze out of a “work” exception. Also, what if an important email comes in? Also, what if Trump finds a way to start a war with some country before the election even happens and I don’t know about it because it’s screen-free week? Also, the fact that I’m carrying my phone around the house means nothing; I’m not looking at it or anything. See? It’s just a prop.

Pathetic. And I mean me.

I wasn’t a complete failure the whole week.

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Screen-Free Week Is Upon Us

Posted by on Aug 24, 2016 in Kids & Technology | 0 comments

No screensEvery summer, we pick one week to go screen-free. For one week, I get to see my children’s faces as opposed to the tops of their heads. I speak to them and they reply with words, not grunts or silence. Their moods improve; they become more pleasant people. My kids always greet the week with lots of grumbling and groaning, but I secretly—and then not so secretly—look forward to becoming reacquainted with the kids I know are buried behind those devices the other fifty-one weeks of the year.

Each year, we spell out the rules in advance for Screen-Free Week. There are a few reasons for this. First, everyone knows that given the motivation, the vast majority of kids transform into brilliant lawyers. Absent explicit rules accompanying a prohibition, kids will find every loophole imaginable to get around that prohibition. Second, we establish valid exceptions that change from year-to-year, and we try to anticipate as many of those as we can to avoid constant choruses of, “What about…? What about…? What about…?” Third, following all of that forethought, we accept that although the kid-lawyers are smarter than we are and will find ways around us no matter what we do, we’re nevertheless going to try our best and anticipate that the week will end well.

In case you’d find an example informative in the course of trying your own screen-free week (with exceptions, natch), here are the rules governing ours for 2016. Keep in mind that our kids are 14 and 11; age and personality obviously influence the rules. And yes, parents: my husband and I have to adhere to these rules, too

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