5 Tips for Parents of Graduating Seniors

Here’s a story I wrote a few months before I officially became an “empty nester.” Many of my friends are going through the transition from full-time parents with their kids graduating high school and starting the next phase of their lives. This story is for anyone facing the empty nest or having their oldest child graduating high school. Trust me, it gets better and you’ll learn to love some “me” time.

I’ve written about the top 10 things kids need to know before leaving for college. But, what about us? When our kids leave, it’s a drastic change in our lives.

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When we took our son, our oldest child, to University of California Santa Barbara, I was strong. I was emotional about moving him into the dorms, but I was excited for him, too. I loved college. They were some of the best years. I was excited for him to love it, too.

But, then we said our good-byes. It hit. Like a punch in the stomach. Then, the tears. Oh, my! I wasn’t expecting that. The drive home, my younger child, age 15, looked at me in horror. I was falling apart. Thank goodness for her riding in the car with me. I probably would have wailed like a complete idiot without her staring at me.

 

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My son on our friend’s sailboat during orientation weekend.

Now, I have a few months left before I face a totally empty nest. What did I learn the first time around to prepare me for this time?  I wish I knew some secret to make it easier.

During orientation, UCSB gave parents a few tips on how to parent your college kid. This is what I remember:

1. Give them space. Don’t hover, don’t call too often, never call before 10 a.m.

2. Set up a time to make calls on a weekly basis — and not more often than that.

3. Expect them to get homesick. It’s natural they will miss home-cooked meals, their own room, their friends, pets, and you!  Reassure them that this is normal. They tend to get homesick around six to eight weeks. It will get better. They’ll adjust. But, will you?

4. Be sure to send a few care packages. Their favorite cookies, toiletries, something to make them smile. Mid-terms and finals weeks are ideal times to mail care packages.

5. Take time for yourself! Write, paint, sew, take a yoga class. Do something every week for just you. Make a list of things you used to love doing, but through the child-raising and working years, haven’t found time to do. Make another list of things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t. You’ll find your way.

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The quilt I made my son out of his swim tee shirts.

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My kids not wanting me to take their pic on the UCSB campus.

 

 

 

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The Four Agreements

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The view of Mt. San Jacinto during my morning walk.

I was listening to a webinar on my morning walk and when I got home, I had to jot down a few notes. The talk was from one of my favorite sports parenting experts, David Benzel, from Growing Champions for Life. The topic was “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It had great information to help your kids manage negative self talk and to get them on the right path when they beat themselves up. Benzel said he got most of the information for this webinar from a book called Managing Thought by Mary Lore.

It also had a lot of great stuff for adults, too. Adults and children alike can get bogged down with negative thoughts about themselves. How often have you told yourself, “I’m not good enough,” or something else similar? If we can recognize that our brain is creating 55,000 thoughts per day and we can separate ourselves from them, they will lose their power. When a negative thought pops up, we can say “Where did that come from?” or “Is that useful for me to accomplish my goal?”

Benzel also said that negative thoughts spread like a disease and once you have one, more and more will pop up. Also, our thoughts are a choice. We can choose instead to rephrase a negative thought into a a positive one. If our child says “I don’t want to fail the math test,” instead they can say, “I will finish my homework and ask for help.”  Benzel made the point when we focus on what we don’t want, the more we focus on it, the more likely it will happen.

Now to the part where I was so impressed that I had to write it down: “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. If you do these four things, you’ll be happier, more positive and your relationships with others will improve.

ONE

Be impeccable with your word.

TWO

Don’t take anything personally.

THREE

Make no assumptions.

FOUR

Always do your best.

Those seem so simple, but aren’t they valuable? For example, if someone says something you feel is hurtful, don’t take it personally. It’s not you. It’s more of a reflection of what that person is going through. We shouldn’t make assumptions about people’s motives or intent. Instead we should investigate and ask questions. Try to learn where the person is coming from. As far as always doing your best, your best may change from day to day. Do the best you can on that particular day.

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Views from my morning walk.

What do you think of the “Four Agreements?”

 

How does screen time change our kids’ brains?

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Outdoor time seems so much healthier for kids than screen time.

Does screen time affect our kids’ brains? According to an article by Lisa Lee for Bloomberg called “Screen Time Changes Structure of Kids’ Brains, ’60 Minutes’ Says,” there is a decade-long study underway to answer that question. There will be a major release of information from the study in early 2019. Until then, if I had young children, I’d use caution with too much screen time.

(Bloomberg) — Smartphones, tablets and video games are physically changing the brains of adolescents, early results from an ongoing $300 million study funded by the National Institute of Health have shown, according to a report by “60 Minutes.”

Scientists will follow more than 11,000 nine- to 10-year-olds for a decade to see how childhood experiences impact the brain and affect emotional development and mental health. The first bits of data suggest that the onslaught of tech screens has been transformative for young people — and maybe not for the better.

In brain scans of 4,500 children, daily screen usage of more than seven hours showed premature thinning of the brain cortex, the outermost layer that processes information from the physical world. Though the difference was significant from participants who spent less screen time, NIH study director Gaya Dowling cautioned against drawing a conclusion.

“We don’t know if it’s being caused by the screen time. We don’t know if it’s a bad thing,” Dowling said, according to an advance transcript provided by CBS network. “It won’t be until we follow them over time that we will see if there are outcomes that are associated with the differences that we’re seeing in this single snapshot.”

Early results from the study, called Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development (ABCD), have determined that children who spend more than two hours of daily screen time score lower on thinking and language tests. A major data release is scheduled for early 2019.

My son used our desktop computer from about age two. At that time, around 1995, we didn’t have much of an internet. I bought educational disks that he’d pop into the computer and he learned by playing games. There was one disk by Fisher Price that taught him the names of all the planets and their moons. I was amazed at how much he was learning by using the early childhood disks that I didn’t see any downside to allowing him screen time.

Fast forward to 2018, and the way kids use screens has changed. They are using them as their major means of communications and instead of sitting at a desktop, kids have iPhones and iPads and take them everywhere they go. They are hardly ever free or away from their screens.

I’m curious to learn the results of this study. It’s pretty scary that the structure of the brain is changed by looking at screens. I wonder if it will change how parents view screen time and if it will affect their parenting? I also think I may put my phone down and not be reading it in bed! I read that parents who work in Silicon Valley for the tech companies don’t allow their own children to use screens, but prefer they play in the park or with board games instead. Do they know something we don’t know?

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About the age my son started on the computer.

How do you set boundaries on how much time your kids spend on their electronics? Do you make them go outside to play?

When is enough parenting enough?

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My daughter was going on job interviews and sifting through prospective roommates, when she returned from an appointment to find her home had been ransacked. Frankly, there’s enough change going on in her life these days that she didn’t need her drawers pilfered through and closets emptied onto the floor. She said it was all topsy turvy in each room, including the garage and small storage room.

She found Waffles, her pug, locked in the garage. As the concerned mother I am and wanting to solve all my kids’ problems, I immediately headed to her house — where I still am several days later. By the time I arrived, she had straightened up the house, and together we shopped for a doggie door and security system. A day later, her handyman came and she got dowels in the windows, more security cameras and alarms installed, and she’s no longer leaving the patio door open for Waffles. He has his own door. Now, he just has to learn to use it. (This is proving harder than expected. He scratches at the screens and barks, instead of bolting bravely through.)

I found on this visit to help my daughter out, there wasn’t much for me to do, except to be with her. She needed company and someone in her home so she didn’t feel scared or all alone. She has a dear friend who came over immediately after the burglary and spent the first night until I got here.

Now, my question for myself is — how long do I stay? Do I wait for her to find a new job? A roommate? Feel more settled? Be completely over her fright? Or, is my parenting job over for this moment? I’m planning on heading home soon to pick up the pieces of my life and continue with the work I need to do.

I’m glad to be able to help. But, at some point, Mom can’t be there for them and I need to live my own life. I am kind of torn on this. I enjoy hanging out with both my kids. I worry when things go wrong for them.

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When do you think enough parenting is enough?

Do as I say, not as I do

kiddosTalk about hypocrites. I read the strangest story about parents who live in the Silicon Valley and refuse to let their kids see or touch iPhones or any screens of any nature. These are parents who work in the high tech world and themselves use the devices. While they are at work, they hire nannies to shield their kids from the heinous devices they work to create.

Then to even go further, they make nannies sign contracts that they will keep them away from screens. They also hire spies to snoop on their nannies at parks to make sure they don’t cheat and check their phones. When these parents get home, they are locked onto their phones. Maybe it’s because they understand how miserable the phones are making their lives, that they want to keep their kids’ lives free from tech.

Here are a few excerpts from the article I read in sfgate called Silicon Valley Nannies are Phone Police for Kids:

SAN FRANCISCO — Silicon Valley parents are increasingly obsessed with keeping their children away from screens. Even a little screen time can be so deeply addictive, some parents believe, that it’s best if a child neither touches nor sees any of these glittering rectangles. These particular parents, after all, deeply understand their allure.

But it’s very hard for a working adult in the 21st century to live at home without looking at a phone. And so, as with many aspirations and ideals, it’s easier to hire someone to do this.

Enter the Silicon Valley nanny, who each day returns to the time before screens.

“Usually a day consists of me being allowed to take them to the park, introduce them to card games,” Jordin Altmann, 24, a nanny in San Jose, said of her charges. “Board games are huge.”

“Almost every parent I work for is very strong about the child not having any technical experience at all,” Altmann said. “In the last two years, it’s become a very big deal.”

From Cupertino to San Francisco, a growing consensus has emerged that screen time is bad for kids. It follows that these parents are now asking nannies to keep phones, tablets, computers and TVs off and hidden at all times. Some are even producing no-phone contracts, which guarantee zero unauthorized screen exposure, for their nannies to sign.

The fear of screens has reached the level of panic in Silicon Valley. Vigilantes now post photos to parenting message boards of possible nannies using cellphones near children. Which is to say, the very people building these glowing hyper-stimulating portals have become increasingly terrified of them. And it has put their nannies in a strange position.

“In the last year everything has changed,” said Shannon Zimmerman, a nanny in San Jose who works for families that ban screen time. “Parents are now much more aware of the tech they’re giving their kids. Now it’s like, ‘Oh no, reel it back, reel it back.’ Now the parents will say ‘No screen time at all.’”

The bright side is these parents do care about their kids. They want what is best for them. In my humble opinion, why are they hiring someone else to raise them? I worked when my son was born and soon discovered I was jealous of the nanny. I wanted to raise my own child, not be an observer in the process.

rkcowboysDo the parents realize that their kids will model their behavior and learn most from what they do, not what they say?

What your star sign says about your parenting style

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With my kiddos.

Do you think horoscopes have any effect on how you act as a parent? According to “What your star sign says about your parenting style” by By Robyn Darbyshire in the Mirror, she said they do. I thought, I’m game. I want to see what my horoscope says about me. Also, what my husband’s sign says about him as a parent. I found both of them to be pretty true to our personalities. You can click on the links in her story to a website called Babycentre and read how your star sign interacts with your children’s signs, too.

Whether you think horoscopes are real or not – our personalities have a profound impact on our parenting styles. Whether you take horoscopes seriously or with a pinch of salt, they can be a lot of fun and get us thinking about the character traits we possess.

The fact is, our personalities have a huge impact on our approach to parenting – and the more we understand about ourselves, the more self-aware we are in our relationships and as mums and dads.

Babycentre has put together a guide that reveals what your star sign says about your personality as a parent – with some helpful tips on parenting styles

I’m a Pisces, and I think I fit the character traits pretty well. I like to with the flow, I like pursuing creative interests and I avoid confrontations. Here’s what the article says about being a Pisces parent:

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Pisces parents are incredibly nurturing, compassionate and in tune with their children’s needs.

They will teach your children the importance of dreams, of letting their minds wander, of tapping into their intuition, of trusting their perceptions.

Advice for this star sign? Keep their feet on the ground to help kids with more practical problems.

 

My husband is your basic A-type male.  Ambitious, determined, and practical are said to be traits of Capricorn males. They’re also hard-working and honest, which pretty much describes my husband, too. Here’s what the Mirror article said about his parenting style:

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The Capricorn personality is typically associated with hard-work and graft – which makes them dutiful providers and sets a great example.

There are a lot of practical skills Capricorn parents can give to their kids, such as educating them about money, reliability and promise keeping.

Babycentre advises this star sign to try “lighten up” and be more spontaneous with the little ones, as they’ll really appreciate it.

I found this fascinating and fun, although I fall into the category of not relying or believing that much about Horoscopes. When I was a teenager, I was fascinated by Horoscopes and read mine daily in the newspaper.

robkatrockWhat are your thoughts about Horoscopes and your parenting style? If you looked your up, did you find it fits your personality?

When does posting our kids’ pics online cross the line?

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The day we dropped my son off at his college. Yes, I posted this on Facebook.

Parents are a strange lot. In a recent survey, a majority of parents worry that their children may be victims of pedophilia, stalking, kidnapping and cyberbullying—yet they post their kids’ pictures online at least once a day. According to an article in Michigan’s Morning Sun called “Survey: Parents ignore concerns of sharing images of children online,” more than 58 percent of parents don’t consider if their children want their images posted online in the first place.

Since I joined Facebook at least 10 years ago, I’ve posted plenty of pictures of my kids. Like their first days of school, graduation, proms, swim meets, vacations, etc. I never once was concerned with what my kids thought of my FB posts. Isn’t that funny considering how I HATE IT when a friend posts a picture of me? So, why on earth did I think it was okay to post pics of my kids willy-nilly?

I spent the weekend with my daughter and told her about my idea for her first day of work. I wrote about that here. She laughed but said absolutely “NO” on posting a picture of her leaving on her first day of work. However, she was more open to a photo of her pupper Waffles on her first day of adulting. At that moment, a flash went through my brain. My kids are now adults. They are autonomous, no longer under my control, or mine to post pics of them whenever I fancy. Shouldn’t they have had some say so all along? My son and daughter have never been shy about telling me to take down a photo or complaining about my posts. I just never listened carefully before.

From the article I mentioned, McAfee surveyed parents about their kid pic posting habits:

Nearly half of parents are concerned about pedophilia, and yet almost a third of parents surveyed said in a recent poll that they post a video or picture of their child at least once a day on social media.

Cybersecurity company McAfee recently announced results of its latest survey, The Age of Consent, and found 30 percent of parents post a photo or video of their child at least once a day on their social media accounts with 12 percent posting four or more times per day — showing the extent of child exposure on the web.

Most parents identified the following concerns associated with sharing images online including pedophilia (49 percent), stalking (48 percent), kidnapping (45 percent) and cyberbullying (31 percent). But 58 percent don’t consider whether their child would consent to their image being posted online. In fact, 22 percent of parents think their child is too young to decide, and another 19 percent think it should always be left up to the parent to decide.

However, these concerns doesn’t translate into action, as many admit to still including children’s personal information and private details in online images.

For example, half of the parents surveyed admit that they have or would share a photo of their child in their school uniform despite the risk of giving away personal information. Yet, it’s comforting to see the majority (70 percent) of parents are only sharing photos of children on private social media accounts. This is certainly a good first step, but there is much more needed to be done to ensure parents are protecting their children’s identity.

“Posting photos and videos on social media is a great way for parents to share what’s going on in their lives with loved ones,” said Gary Davis, chief consumer security evangelist at McAfee. “However, the survey reveals parents are not giving enough consideration to what they post online and how it could harm their children. If shared images get into the wrong hands, they can be used to gather information like birth dates, home address, school, or even the child’s full name which could lead to cyberbullying or even identity theft.”

I think the survey has some good ideas for us parents to think about—before we post. Also, take into consideration what our kids would like us to do with THEIR images. I remember my daughter’s freshman year of college. Her so-called friends stalked my FB page and downloaded embarrassing pictures of my daughter—Snap Chatting and Instagramming them. I feel bad about how I unknowingly contributed to online bullying. It was all in good fun and I’m sure and not meant to be bullying—but what would you call it when friends post pre-pubescent “ugly” photos of you—without your permission?

Here are four tips for parents sharing children’s photos online from the Morning Sun article:

Parental Tips for Safe Sharing

Watch out for geo-tagging. Many social networks will tag a user’s location when a photo is uploaded. Parents should ensure this feature is turned off to avoid disclosing their location. This is especially important when posting photos away from home.

Lock down privacy settings. Parents should only share photos and other social media posts with their intended audience. Services like Facebook and Instagram have features that allow posts to be shared only with confirmed connections, but everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public.

Set ground rules with friends, family and children. Be clear with friends and family about guidelines when posting images. These rules can help avoid unwanted situations where a family member has shared photos without explicit permission. Don’t forget that these ground rules should also apply to parents to protect the children in the images from embarrassment, anxiety or even cyberbullying.

Take control of your personal information. As the number of reported data breaches continue to rise, so too does the possibility of identity theft. For children who are too young for a credit card, parents should freeze their credit to avoid any unauthorized use. An identity theft protection solution like McAfee Identity Theft Protection can help consumers proactively protect their identity and keep their personal information secured from misuse.

 

Maybe I’ll stick to posting pictures of Waffles and Olive from now on. I don’t think the dog and cat will mind too much.

What do you think about your children’s safety or their opinions when you post their pictures online?