What I Want My Kids to Know About Friendship

I’ve posted a lot on my social media about the importance of friendship. In the last few years, I’ve had to learn a lot about its true meaning. I think I am a lot better off but I hope that my kids never have to go through losing friends the way I did, or at all. It’s not a good experience.

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Tyson, Ashley and I at Tyson’s bday dinner, 2019

The Things That Really Matter

  • Who is there when things get really bad. Ashley and Stephanie were at my house as soon as they could be after my calls about Jake. My mom recently fell and broke her shoulder in three places. She’s fine, but Tyson told her to get better because he needed someone to punch people for him. (My mom has a wild sense of humor and he knows this.) Scott almost dragged me out of my house for months. Everyone supported me through therapy. Friends are there for you, even when you’re sobbing your way through a bottle of Fireball, can’t talk after thyroid surgery or when you get diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. I want them to find friends that are there through the good and bad times.
  • You can make friends in the weirdest places. Sara wins this award. Neither of us imagined making a new best friend in a funeral home, of all places. I just wanted to make sure Jordan was in decent shape (he wasn’t) and say goodbye to Jake, and POOF! there’s Sara. I imagine Jake is somewhere laughing about this. His brothers were absolutely correct in thinking we would make great friends. Our daughters are best friends. Lily is two years older than Bella, but neither of them cares. I want my kids to be open to meeting people wherever they go, because you never know what might happen.
  • What’s special needs? Thanks to Julian, Cameron, and Lily probably have a great insight into how to treat someone with special needs. They have been taught to care for those that are different and not leave them out. Ironically, Julian’s bestie also has ADHD. Kids with special needs need friends too, and they can teach our kids a lot.
  • Find good friends and hang onto them. I have known Ashley since middle school, Stephanie since junior year of high school, but I have known Tyson the longest. We met as first graders. We got separated due to his moving around afterward but after we met back up in high school, it’s been laughs. Stephanie and I have five kids between us. We were pregnant at the same time- Cameron is two months older than her younger daughter, Angelina. (Bonus- her middle name is Wrae, after me.)
  • Know when to let go. Sometimes friendships can be toxic. Some people can start out great for you but when you grow and change, they can’t handle that. It can be hard to let go, especially if it’s been a long time friend, but it’s better than hanging onto a toxic one. If a friend is spreading rumors, not standing up for you or doing worse things, they aren’t a real friend.
  • It’s okay if you don’t have everything in common. There are some things that I love that my friends don’t. I love true crime podcasts and most of my friends think I’m a bit weird. This is okay. It’s what makes everyone different. The main thread is what you do have in common- for example, Ashley and I love “South Park”, really bad 80s music and Mexican food, just for starters.
  • Real friends want to see you happy. No further explanation needed.
  • A small circle is good. This doesn’t mean you’re not popular or that something is wrong with you. I have a small circle of friends and I am okay with that. It’s easier to trust a few people. Julian is not a fan of people and this is okay. As long as he has a couple of people that he likes to hang out with, things are good.

Friendships are important in every part of life. What lessons about friendship do you want your kids to learn?

Tips for Parenting from Baby to Middle School

Opinions are everywhere.

So are your kid’s toys, the cat’s litter and the contents of your purse.

Or is that just me?

Maybe. Maybe not.

It’s a weird world that we live in- everyone has something to say. Some of us feel the need to live up to expectations that aren’t exactly healthy.

I am not one of those parents.

I was many moons ago, and there’s a post to tell that story.

The Baby and Toddler Stage.. Take A Deep Breath

Babies are adorable. They’re all soft, cuddly and you just want to hold them forever.

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Avery, my little buddy.

Until that first blowout diaper. I’m here to tell you, it’s one of the many gross things you will witness as a parent. Once you see that diaper, you will want to cry and throw the whole day away. As in hit the restart button and pause right before your baby created that horrible mess.

They sleep about as much as cats, at least for a while. Once they sleep all night, life becomes somewhat decent again. Then comes the solid food stage, in which they insist on smearing everywhere. It makes for great pictures but horrible cleanup. Babies also become mobile, and that’s when the real fun begins. It’s when we stop being able to have nice things.

Toddlers are known to be tiny terrors. They can destroy your home in about 15 seconds or less if given the opportunity. They also have the capacity to be the cutest little people you will ever lay eyes on. “Oh, wait, I have a voice and it gets loud? Wait, hold my sippy cup while I scream because Mom changed the channel.”

My friend Melanie had a hashtag #ReasonsWhyMyToddlerIsCrying while her son Elliott was a toddler and it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. My kids threw wild tantrums and I am glad I lived through this phase.. barely. I went through three toddlers in a short amount of time.

How can you survive this phase?

  • Sleep. Try to sleep when the baby sleeps, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Sleep the best you can at night. Try for some sort of schedule if you can, you will thank yourself later. My kids still have a sleep schedule and they’re much older.
  • Breathe. Take lots of deep breaths. Meditate if you need to. It helps keep you calm.
  • Humor. You will need this when your two-year-old has discovered what a Sharpie is.
  • Backup. Backup needs to be a thing from day one. You will need it until your child moves out, or so it seems.
  • Learn about your child. Every child is different and they change over time. This will help greatly when people start giving advice you really don’t need.
  • Self-care. This should be a priority. Forever.

The Preschool Life

This stage is kind of fun. Kids at this age want to learn about everything. They ask a million and two questions before lunch, and they’re learning to express themselves. This might be about the time they learn to dress. That can be a lot of fun- I had a blast with Lily’s outfits. They’re also learning to interact with others outside their family.

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Lily and the snowball

I didn’t think about how expensive preschool was until both boys were in it together. YIKES. It’s not getting any cheaper, so if that’s your thing, you might want to start looking into it when your child is an infant if they aren’t already in daycare.

My kids never went to daycare. Their grandmothers watched them while I worked and finished school then went straight to preschool. Julian had a rough time in preschool, but Cameron and Lily did great. Lily’s road to preschool was not an easy one thanks to her delays. We almost didn’t get her potty trained in time.

Speaking of potty training…

How do you get through this phase?

  • Lots of patience. Potty training does not happen in one day. I do not care what book you read. If you have potty trained a child in one day, please email me. I’d love to know what you did. Julian broke his foot while he was being potty trained and had a cast almost up to his knee. I cannot express how much fun that was. He had a boot on, but it still impeded his speed in getting to the potty. We started late with Lily due to the therapies for her delays and she continued to have accidents well after her fourth birthday. It was not easy. Patience is required in all aspects of parenting but potty training will wear a parent out!
  • Humor. Preschoolers do a lot of funny things. They also say even funnier things.
  • Have a camera. Thanks to smartphones, this is super easy. You will want to take a million pics during this time. They’re always into something. It’s just the question of what.
  • What’s a clean house? If everyone living in it is clean, then the rest is a bonus.
  • Routine is good. Bonus if it actually gets followed daily. We try very hard.
  • Grow an extra set of eyes in the back of your head. Preschoolers are into everything. They want to learn about the world around them and sometimes that means a little bit of adventure. It can also mean doing things they know they probably shouldn’t. Since we can’t really grow eyes in the back of our heads, backup is a good idea.
  • Self- care. These little people take a lot out of us and we need to recharge.

Time for School!

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Thanksgiving 2015

I may joke about it now, but I was sad about sending my kids to school. I cried a little when Lily went to her first day of kindergarten because she’s my youngest and I realized my 5 lb, 12 oz baby wasn’t really a baby anymore. It was a little crushing. She’s now months away from middle school. I may or may not cry at her 5th-grade graduation.

Some kids do not do well with the kindergarten adjustment. Julian was one of those kids. He was diagnosed later that year and that helped somewhat. Kindergarten is a big change- the building, more adults, kids, the routine, and more. Julian is not a fan of big changes, so this was not on his list of fun things to do. He did better in the other years.

Kids in this stage grow so quickly! I sent Cameron to elementary school in 2010 and he finished in 2015 almost as tall as me! They learn a lot, make friends and lots of things in the middle.

How do you get through your baby not being a baby anymore?

  • Let them be who they are. My kids have tried different things to see if they liked them or not, and this is fine. Lily tried playing the trumpet but didn’t like having to play in front of others. Julian ran cross country in 5th grade because he’s always been a fast runner. Cameron loves basketball and plays whenever he can. He won’t try out for a team, (I think) because he’s afraid to mess with his heart (he has SVT and is cleared to play by his cardiologist).
  • Watch them form their own thoughts, ideas, and beliefs. You may be surprised at what they have learned from you. Be proud of yourself for teaching them well.
  • Let them make their own friends. Of course, step in if there’s something dangerous going on. Kids like to hang out with who they like, not who Mom picks.
  • Let them solve their own problems as they get older. This isn’t meant for a kindergartner, but fifth graders can figure out some things.
  • Take all the pictures they will allow. Pretty soon, you will hear “Mom. Stop taking pictures. It’s annoying.”
  • Humor. Humor is a parenting requirement.

The Parenting Struggle…The Middle School Edition

If you’ve seen my Instagram page, this is one of my often-used hashtags. Middle school is a struggle, for parents and kids. Kids are trying to figure out who they are, what their bodies are doing, and as parents, we’re just trying to make sure they’re okay and keeping them fed.

If you have boys, the last one can be a challenge. I have two- I don’t know where the food goes but the wrappers are everywhere.

Kids are smarter than we realize. They, for the most part, are more accepting than many adults are. I think it is a combination of not caring and how they are taught. I’ve done my best to teach my kids to accept others for who they are and not what they look like or what their racial makeup is. I’ve been the kid left out because I was biracial and that is damaging. I would never let my kids do that to someone else.

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Julian and the Gorilla

The struggles? There are many- smelly feet, testosterone, explaining racism and other injustices, discussing drugs and alcohol (especially when you are 2 years sober), homework, grades in general and lots more.

This is the age in which kids start learning from their friends and not asking Mom or Dad about everything- Cameron learned about bisexuality from a friend of his. I guess when you’re 14, this is on the list of things you don’t ask Mom about.

How does this phase work?

  • Talk to your child. I cannot stress this enough. I don’t mean sit them down and interrogate them but just casual talk is good. They need to know you are there for them and that you care.
  • Boundaries. Let them know what you will and will not tolerate. We’re parents, not their besties.
  • Let them come to you if they have a problem. No judgment allowed. If you judge, they won’t confide in you.
  • Remind them of the importance of good grades, enforce homework rules, etc.
  • Give them space. They need it.
  • Knock before entering. You will regret this the one time you don’t.
  • Humor. Teens are funny and humor helps in almost all situations.
  • Let them be who they are. They are figuring out who they are. This takes a while.

Parenting is an adventure. It is not meant to be easy. We are, however, meant to have the children that we were given. I didn’t realize this until Julian was diagnosed.

I thought I had completely messed up as a mom and maybe even as a person, but no, I was given Julian to become a stronger person and much better mom. Enjoy the ride- our kids only get one childhood!

Do you have any tips to get through these stages of childhood? Leave a comment!

A Lesson in Respect for Today’s Kids

Kids have to learn a lot while growing up. One of the biggest lessons is respect- for themselves, us as their parents, and others. This can get a bit difficult, as some feel entitled to everything they lay their eyes on.

I’m not really sure where this begins, but it happens quite often. Sometimes it begins with getting everything you want as a small child and it continues, sometimes it is out of guilt, maybe both. It’s a combination of factors that differ with each family and situation.

Disrespect is not cute, it’s also not funny. It can be a sign of worse things to come. I’m not talking outbursts during arguments with a preteen, because those things happen often (in fact, this happened last night with one of my boys) but if it isn’t handled, laughed off or otherwise ignored, it grows. Kids pick up things very quickly and easily, and when they realize they can get away with being rude and disrespectful to their parents, it can snowball.

While I am on the topic of what kids pick up…

Manners

They’re Watching Us

Kids watch us from day one, even when we don’t think they are. They pick up on how we feel about them and the rest of the world. They can develop their worldview from ours- they also learn how the world sees them.

One way to teach respect is to give it to your children. Listening to them, actively listening, is the best thing you can do. This makes them feel important, valued and loved. They might be telling you something that is huge to them, and not-so-huge to you, but still, want you to know. This means looking into their eyes and asking questions- they can read your interest by these actions. Try not to interrupt unless you need to.

Try not to brush off their feelings and emotions. This can make your child feel a lot worse than they already do- if they can’t find the words, help them figure it out. This encourages honesty and open communication.

This one is huge at my house- respect boundaries. If your child asks you to knock before coming into their bedroom, do so. If you have a kid who hates hugs or other forms of physical affection, find other ways to show affection. Julian doesn’t do hugs, but he will give a high-five or fist bump.

Of course, I’d rather have the hug, but it makes him terribly uncomfortable, so I’ll take the high-five. If you respect the smaller boundaries, chances are, your child will learn to respect you and the rules you set.

Let them be who they are. We may not always like what our kids choose to like- I can’t stand half the things my sons watch but they like them and they’re not harmful. One kid may be extremely artistic, but the other can barely draw a stick figure. This is okay. Each child is different, with their own personality and talents. Don’t try to mold your child into who you want them to be- this usually backfires.

Let them see you being respectful. This can be a small act, as thanking a waitress or someone in a store. It does matter, because, again, your child is watching. The more they see you doing things like that, the more they will want to do it. Some kids will need a bit of prompting, and this is okay.

Own your mistakes. Parents make mistakes- lots of them. If you mess up, apologize and move forward. Kids need to learn to accept responsibility for their actions and apologizing. This can be hard but is a necessary lesson.

Find the cause. If there is a pattern of disrespect, find the cause. Is your child angry about something? School? Something at home? Friends? Talk to your child and see what is going on. The need can be addressed minus disrespect.

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Teens can be a challenge when it comes to disrespect- what are your tips/ideas for this topic? Leave a comment!

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Information courtesy of Parenting For Brain

A Fine Parent

The Giving Season: Teaching Your Child Empathy

Our children learn a lot from us- how to treat others is one of those lessons. During this time of the year, we remind our children to give back and care about others.

Most kids are pretty good at showing empathy- the ability to understand what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. Some kids need a little extra help in this department, and that’s okay.

Kids on the autism spectrum and those that have other special needs may need help with this. For example, Julian has had serious issues learning empathy and we work on it almost daily.

Empathy is important for a child’s well-being because it helps build happy and healthy relationships. It can also help prevent bullying and other destructive behaviors/relationships.

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Working Towards Empathetic Kids

How can we teach our kids to be more empathetic?

  • By being more empathetic ourselves. This means tuning in to what each of our kids needs, physically and emotionally. It also means cherishing their individual personalities and loving your kids as they are, not what you may want them to be. This also means being showing empathy to others, because our kids watch what we do. They watch how we interact with others in public, our friends and other family members.
  • Make caring for others a priority. This can vary among families, but many families value taking care of family whenever needed however possible. For example, my kids know that my mom has mobility issues because of her knee replacements, so they help her walk down our very steep driveway. They have watched Matthew help his mom’s family numerous time because he’s great with cars and home projects. I try to help my friends as much as possible and the kids have also seen this.
  • Provide opportunities for kids to show empathy. We have done role-playing games with Julian as part of therapy. Over time, those have sunk in a bit, and so has discussing real-life issues in sessions. If you have a kid on the spectrum, you can imagine how difficult this lesson can be to teach. It is starting to get slightly easier. We discuss school and news issues because we are a pretty diverse family and this has created some very interesting discussions. When we took in Miss Purr and Tiger, those were two great times to display empathy, because rescue pets require that. My kids fell in love with both animals instantly. When Tiger’s tumor ruptured, Julian may have been the saddest person in the house. He insisted on sleeping with him the last night before he was put to sleep. When I woke him up for school, he was holding Tiger’s paw. The kids were genuinely worried about Tiger and devastated when he was gone.
  • Teach your child to identify their feelings and how to cope with negative feelings. Kids need to know how to identify how they feel so that they can deal with it. They need to be able to express themselves- it can be confusing to not know how to describe how you feel. It can feel worse to not know how to cope with negative feelings. Let your child know what ways are and are not acceptable to deal with those feelings so that when they are angry, sad or feeling other ways, they don’t have to wonder how they can cope.
  • Ask “How would you feel?” This may sound simple, but it can be effective. I have done this often and it will make a child think a bit deeper than you may think. Let the child pause and reflect for a few minutes (if needed). They may not know how they would feel at first and need the extra time. Maybe they haven’t thought about it before.

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Teaching empathy may take some time, the earlier you start, the better. Have a great holiday season with your family!

How do you encourage your children to care about others? Do you have a favorite story about your child being empathetic to another child? Share if you do!

Information courtesy of Very Well Family

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Mental Health and Genetics: The Main Connections

Genetics can lead to interesting things: red hair, extra fingers (it’s called polydactyly, and I was born with it- 6 fingers on each hand), certain health conditions, blue eyes, and other things. Can it contribute to mental illness?

The research and debate continue, even as this post is being written. There has been so much research and movement forward in this field- it’s pretty fascinating. To learn more about this, please read Moving Forward: The Last Fifty Years of Psychiatry

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My Thoughts

I don’t think genetics is the only thing that causes mental illness- if other events happen, say, any kind of abuse, neglect or other ACEs (Adverse Childhood Events) occur, then it increases the chances of a mental illness or at least signs of one, occurring. Any other theory just doesn’t make sense to me.

I also agree with the theory that if you have a parent with a mental illness, there’s a pretty good chance that you may have some traits of said illness. You also may not. I think there’s also something said for personality traits. That’s also a factor.

For example, my oldest niece and nephew’s father has SMI (Severe Mental Illness). He wasn’t able to raise them because of this (and other issues), and my niece struggles with depression. She has also had some very negative events happen in her life and had difficulties dealing with them.

My family has a history of mental illness on both sides, and my dad is a suicide attempt survivor. I lost an uncle to suicide when I was nine years old. I deal with anxiety and depression daily. I’m hoping that none of my kids ever have to deal with this issue. I’ve seen this happen in other families, with tragic results.

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What Do The Really Smart People Say?

According to some very intelligent people at The Scientist, there are 10 mental illnesses that have genetic variants that contribute to their development. If these scientists can figure out the variants, they can discover what causes these illnesses, leading to better treatment. This would be an amazing discovery. Millions would benefit.

Some of those listed include:

  • bipolar disorder
  • schizophrenia
  • ADHD
  • autism
  • OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)

This doesn’t necessarily mean a cure, but this means more of an idea on how to help diagnose and treat. These same studies are studying neurological issues like epilepsy, migraines and Alzheimer’s. It was intriguing to read about this research. It’s almost like the researchers are connecting the dots to learn about what is going on inside our brains.

Putting It All Together

According to a study found on NAMI there has been a gene on Chromosome 6 found to be associated with the cause of schizophrenia. This can be a source of relief, I think, to know that it truly isn’t your fault that you have a mental illness.

Those who don’t understand tend to think that you can just “get over it” or that “it’s all in your head”, not stopping to think that it’s out of your control, something that you would never wish for.

As someone with anxiety and depression- I’d never wish this on someone I didn’t like. I know a lot of people with mental illness, and none of us enjoy it. To put it plainly, it sucks.

We take meds, go to therapy, are sometimes hospitalized. We have lost those we love to suicide, have attempted, hate ourselves for the smallest things. It’s a struggle we wish we didn’t have. If there’s research out there that can help us out, I am all for it.

Sticking together

In the cases of autism, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, there has been a finding of brain cell communication changes in all three conditions. This isn’t saying there are similarities between the three, but that there are bases to the three in the brain.

There is a lot of work being done to find out more about the roots of autism. I’m pretty sure this started some time ago, thanks to the fraudulent study done that stated vaccines cause autism. People want to learn more about autism, mainly about what causes it.

If you want to know my thoughts on that topic, please see The Autism/Vaccine Debate 

The future looks interesting. It looks potentially brighter for millions. I couldn’t begin to know how to do this kind of research, but cheers to these people for dedicating their lives to doing it.

What do you think about this sort of research? Would you benefit from genetic research? 

Pictures courtesy of Pixabay