Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Parenting Teens Back to School

    The excitement I had for going back to school changed dramatically after elementary. The joys of a new lunch box, meeting my teacher, discovering how much recess time was allotted and hoping friends noticed that I had lost a baby tooth were soon replaced by thoughts in the mind of a blossoming teenager. I looked forward to the status of being in an older grade, the fun of electives, seeing friends every day, and showing the world how much I had matured through the summer. But I also had other no-so-exciting emotions. I wondered if my clothes would be cool enough, what classes to take for college preparation, how to manage the endless social dramas, and if I was going to make the JV or Varsity basketball team. Back to school had certainly changed.

     Certainly, if you are in the midst of raising a teen, then you know students aren't the only ones feeling the change. What used to be a fun trip hand-in-hand to Wal-Mart for a pack of d├ęcor pencils has turned into a Mall trip with much discussion of what is or isn’t allowed. It’s a time of change for the parents as much as the student. So what are some insights into making the best of school preparation with your teenage child?
1. Keep It Fun! Teens are still tender at heart! While they long to be grown, there are parts that are still enjoying childhood joys.  So, create a celebration of the back to school days! Make a countdown chart in the kitchen, take them for a fresh haircut, leave a note of funny things you remember from being their age and/or hopes you have them this year. Some more ideas are to visit the school before it starts just to say hello to staff for a pre-school connection, make shopping day fun by planning out what is needed and the best places to look then enjoy stopping for a treat as you chat about how your child feels about the year, or have some close friends over for a back to school hang out time or dinner out. Their tender teen hearts may or may not express how much all this means but they will enjoy, appreciate, and remember all you have done.

2. Keep It Simple! With all the changes during those teen years, simplicity is a gift that some teens aren’t sure how to acquire. Everywhere they go, there are options and decisions for them to be involved in something. Whether it’s more classes, afterschool clubs, sports, church activities, community events, friendships, homework, home jobs or even a workplace job, there is much to be done! If you can help them narrow down their choices and responsibilities with logical reasoning it will help them not be overwhelmed. Think through their natural abilities, personal interest (not just because someone else wants them to do it), weekly schedule, daily schedule, cost, responsibilities and necessity to do what is offered. As you move through a time of investigation and discussion, you will both learn what will be the best for all involved. This will keep things simple which helps the teen and the whole family.  

3. Keep It Close! While these years are a time to offer more freedom and growth, this is also a critical time to stay close to their heart. They may or may not seem interested or may not be home as much but they do still need you! It will take some planning and patience on your part but keeping them close is a must. As you go into the school year, have a conversation about your love for them and desire to stay connected. Then go into the fall with plans for meals as a family, set weeknight or weekend outings, leave notes of encouragement as well as be willing to stay up for those late-night chat times, attend their activities, create time to know their friends, and do whatever it takes to get into their world. In return, having a close relationship that makes an effort to be together gives more opportunity to discuss the realities of teen pressures, friend issues, personal struggles, and deeper emotions. Going into the school year with the support of a parent that works to stay close gives incredible stability for the developing teen and endless rewards for you as the parent!

  These days may be different than years before but it can be a meaningful and enjoyable time in the journey of parenting as your teen goes back to school!

 *Article used as published in Paradise Valley Lifestyle Magazine August 2014  by Casey Gibbons

Friday, July 31, 2015

The First Five Minutes

     I admit...I am a recovering grumpy morning mom. By the grace of God I have changed over the years. And the changes I have made tremendously influenced how happy I am as well as how happy my children are in the morning. 

     The first thing I do for myself as soon as I wake up is to immediately pray "I love you God! I give you this day. Help me Lord. Strengthen me. This day is Yours..." This is in the first Nano-second or else I automatically wake up on the wrong side every single day. This prayer has been a game-changer for me and only takes about five minutes of my waking time to overcome my evil sin nature that appears every morning.

(Side note, I was beginning to become self-conscious of my need to "kill my flesh" every morning especially after being a Christian for 27 yrs. But my husband comforted me by saying he has to do the same thing every day. So either it's normal for all people or we are just both so sinful we need it just to get out of bed.)

     The other thing that has changed as I have grown as a mother is how I greet my children in the first five minutes. In the past when they woke up I would say after a brief hug, "Hello baby! I need you to get dressed" or "Goodmorning! Oh wow, your hair is crazy" or "Um...its not time to get up yet!" or "Yuck, your diaper is stinky" while not even look at them or truly connecting. But I have learned that this is a prime time to start their day off right. I was missing an influential opportunity.

     So, as each one wakes up or enters the room, I stop to make a heart connection. It could be by hugging them, wrapping them in a blanket, rubbing their back, speaking enouraging words about the day, making eye contact, listening to their dreams from the night, or offering help. Even if we are in a hurry, these few moments have the power to set the day straight.

     These "First Five" minutes are powerful either for the good or for the bad. It is up to you and to me how we start the day and how we lead our children to their start off their day. As a recovering grumpy morning mom, I can honestly say these two changes have transformed me into one happy mama with five happy children.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Parenting With Apologies

     Shortly after one of my girls woke up, she was already verbalizing a negative attitude for the day. So I responded back to her with an attitude. Brilliant, right? I put the mama power on and firmly responded with, "I don't know what your problem is with today, but if you don't cut it out I can start your day with of some form of discipline to help you snap out of it." So she answered back that she didn't have an attitude. Then I answered back that she did and re-enacted it all so she could see it. Then I added, "You have one more chance to start this day off better." Then I went to the kitchen for another few minutes to finish reading my Bible. All it took was for me to see my Bible and I was immediately convicted.

     Calmly, I called for my daughter and expressed my apologies. "I am sorry. I was too firm and had a negative attitude myself this morning." Kindly she answered, "It's okay, mom." But I knew we needed to reunite in heart. "No, its not okay. I am sorry. Will you forgive me?" "Yes, I will." As we hugged she let out a sigh of relief. And so did I.

          So, after my daughter and I reconnected, I asked, "So what was up this morning that had you so tense..." and we chatted about it. Afterwards, we looked up Bible verses that would help with what she was struggling with for the day.  This was MUCH more effective than my first response.

     Parenting with apologies keeps my heart close to the girls and allows them to see my imperfections because they think I am totally perfe...wait, well, it allows them to see how I handle my imperfections. :-)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Goals for Ages 3-5 yrs old.

          When we had the first four children in four years, my mind was always racing to remember which child needed to learn what thing. It was mindboggling to keep track only to realize one had not learned something they should have by a certain point. With all the training and teaching going on, I was just happy they were fed and clean by the end of most days. But there is more that needs to be learned in those first five years.

      So as some of you have asked, we are sharing the list of important things we wanted our girls to know and do between the ages of 3-5. This list allowed me to keep track of where each girl was and who needed to learn other things. 

     They are divided into 5 Categories that we implement every day for some through guided life learning and other days when we do "school time" which is approximately 3-4 days a week. 

 All these goals can be taught through basic simple teaching, games, books, dvds, car rides, Cds, and lots of talking. Plus, depending on when you start kindergarten, you have two to three years to teach it all so that takes the stress off of cramming it in their little heads in a year.

      On that noteconsider starting kindergarten as close to age 6 as possible. I say this for a couple of crucial reasons. First, when they enter kindergarten closer to age 6 they have had more time to develop emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

     When they are on the "older side" of kids in the class they can have the experience of leadership to the classmates because they are ahead. Just think of the joy of being one of the first kindergarten kids to lose a tooth, or to be a fifth grader with cool braces, a junior high sports boy with a year ahead in height and strength, a mature freshman girl that is out of the awkward stage, or being one of the first friends to drive and have a job. In addition, their hearts have had time to grow in the Lord and they are able to make solid decisions with wisdom and knowledge that time gives.

     Secondly, when you start later, the child is home longer on the back end of high school before leaving for work, college, or marriage. A year can make a difference when entering the adult world. And by those years we want every second we can get with our kids before they are grown and gone!

     Although a child may be ready for kindergarten schoolwork that doesn't mean you have to send them. Go ahead and have them do some older work at home but consider waiting to place them in kindergarten at church class or school class until closer to age 6. This is a precious time to bond and enjoy a stage with your child as much as possible. Honestly, I would rather have my toddlers go to preschool a few times a week than my 5-6 year olds leave. They are easier and so much fun to do everyday life with by the time they are out of the "I walk around and get into stuff in dangerous ways" stage!

     And if you have already started your little one and this info is too late, perhaps the Lord will lead you to make the courageous decision to hold your child back a year to repeat or to just take a year off. My mom had to make this choice with my brother when he was in the second grade. He turned 7 in September and started second grade but she felt it was best to hold him back. He thrived socially and academically far better than the year before which kept on through his high school years.

     For us, our Allison turned 6 in June and we started her in Kindergarten then. She will be 7 in June and starting first grade more mature than those younger students entering that are perhaps just turning 6.

     Just something to think about but God will lead you for what your child needs and it may be different.

     So, back to some ideas to follow as you guide your 3-5 year olds. Here is what we have researched and used in our children: 

1. God -
His love for us, He does good, and He is good. You can learn these through Bible stories (read from Story Bible book, Dan and Louie Cds), prayer (for anything, anytime, anywhere) and scripture memory. (Steve Green's Hide 'Em in My Heart Cds or otherwise)

2. Others - Receiving love, showing love, manners such as personal hygeine, phone skills, doorbell responses, key phrases (thank you, bless you, you're welcome, please), how to behave in quiet settings (such as weddings, meetings, church). 

3. Play -
Lots of open imagination time, some directed time, playing with others

4. Work -
Why we work (to carry out God's purposes on earth) and how we work (with excellence unto the Lord)

5. Education - Safety Skills (calling 911, what to do when lost, water safety, strangers), 7 Keys to Health (Water, Rest, Exercise, Vitamins, Healthy food, Massage, and Clean Hands away from the face), Personal Information (names of family members, phone numbers, address), Colors, Shapes, Letters  Counting to 100, Parts of the Body, Handwriting (letter formation, name, upper and lower case, keeping it in a straight line, and spacing), Calendars (days, months, seasons), Workbook Pages (fun books from local store with some cognitive work pages).

          This is a list to plan for and give guidance but don't stress when its not all done perfectly. If you do a bit by bit over the 3,4,5 years it will all come together! I hope that this list is a help to you as you lead your little ones in the way and timing the Lord tells you is best for your family!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Teaching People Skills

     Candice and I watched as two of my girls got out of the van and walked into the church. While holding the door, one of the pastors greeted them enthusiastically, "Hey Girls!" Much to my dismay, they didn't stop, make eye contact, speak up, or thank him for holding the door. They simply mumbled, "Hi" and kept moving. AHHHHH! That is when Candice expressed my exact thought, "People skills, people!" So when we were home, we went over how to interact with people once again.

     Your children may do the same thing...actually, I know they do the same thing because it is typical of most all children at some point. Even those that are well-trained have to be reminded from time to time. My biggest comfort was that at least one of my children noticed the lack of skills which proves they do know better. So how do we go about teaching interaction with people? For this first entry on this topic, lets start with the basics.

     1. Show them the value in others. If your children understand that each person is created by God then they will have respect to treat others as such. Have them think of every person as a handcrafted gift from God so that no matter what the person looks like or acts like or seems like, they are valued. Remind them of Ps. 139: 13-14 "For God created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Or as Judy The Manners Lady states, "Pretend each person is wearing a star that says 'Make me feel special!' " It is not about how we feel but about how the other person needs to feel.

     2. Show them the value in themselves. When children know the above about themselves then they will also see the value in using their gift of life in response to others. For those children that claim its because they are shy, its actually more about having manners than about becoming a type-A person. It only takes a moment to smile, speak up, look at someone, and show respect. I have two girls that aren't outgoing, but we do build in them the confidence from the Lord to move beyond their hinderences. They can respond to others because they are strong in themselves.  

     3. Show them how to do it. Practice!Practice! Practice! It will take years of consistent work. But you will see progress! We start the practice by talking through scenarios with the girls, then we see how they do in public. When they are younger than age 7, we may train them in front of people if they haven't had good manners in the moment. However, as they get older, we don't address them on the spot (unless we know the person extremely well) so as not to humiliate them, but we do address it first chance we are able for a better response next time.
     One of the ways we practice with the girls is by training at home in role-play. For instance, I may say, "Let's pretend you are about to meet an adult for the first time. Smile. Look at them. Extend a hand if necessary. Answer questions so people can hear you."
Another time we train, is in the car by going over what is expected before they go somewhere. "Alright, girls, what are some things to remember before you go into the store (or the church, school, bday party etc)?" Last, we train as watch others and evaluate the good and the bad. "Did anyone notice how the family you met today had a child that was rude by not answering when greeted? How did that look to you? How do you think the other person felt?"

     So if you have ever watched in dismay as your children don't respond respectfully with others, just start with some basics and practice! Before you know it, your child will see others and say, "PEOPLE SKILLS, PEOPLE!"

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Leading Girls in Summer Ministry

I can still feel the excitement of the arrival of summer when I was a teenager. The school load was lifting, the sun was shining and I was ready for whatever may come my way! I knew I had 12 weeks to use my time and energy for friends, sleeping, vacation and perhaps some place to make money. But most of all, I would look for a place to be involved that was beyond myself. I was ready to be a part of a mission’s trip, small group volunteering opportunity and church-wide outreach. Summer was a perfect time to do ministry!
The teens in your life most likely feel the same way. They are thrilled to enjoy the freedom of summer and yet are searching for a place to use their lives to help others through outreach. While this is a time for routines to be relaxed, it is also prime time for your students to get involved in ministry. Here are some ways to encourage your girls to be a part of all God has for them this summer:

  1.  Communicate with them Never assume the students know what is going on. Take time to let the girls know what is available with your girls group, youth group or church. A text, phone call, conversation in the hallway, email invite, or message on social media can be just what is needed for the girls to know what is happening and that they are invited to be a part of the ministry event. Sometimes teens need many reminders! As a teen, I could sit through a whole announcement and somehow my mind would be somewhere else and I missed what was going on. That extra communication from you will assure that the girls know the upcoming outreaches.
  2. Cheer them on Just because it’s on the calendar doesn’t mean the girls will want to go. That’s where we come in as leaders to cheer them on! I can fondly remember my youth leader telling me, “I am counting on you being there, Casey! It won’t be the same without you.” It took my decision to go to a whole new level as I chose to be a part. Let girls know their participation is important for the ministry to be effective. Show them how their gift set can be used and why it’s beneficial for their growth in the Lord. They may also need some assistance in making the outreach a priority with their schedule. Cheering them on encourages them to see it as a valuable way to invest their time.
  3. Connect with them After the girls know what they can be involved in and are encouraged to help, having you there with them is the best part! There is something special about working together for a ministry project. The time, prayers, and hard work together-moments are things teens will never forget. My favorite memories are not only the tasks of ministry but the people who were a part of it with me. It deeply impacted my life to see my leaders not only lead up front but to also serve alongside of me in the details. And if you are unable to join them at all the events, connect with them afterwards to hear all about their experience. Just showing you care about what they did and how it went can be of value.

         The next several weeks can be memorable for you and your girls to make an impact. Help teens embrace the opportunities to live beyond themselves in excitement and fun with some summer ministry!