The most important part of being a parent to small children is having the motivation to do a good job. Fortunately, nature takes care of a big portion of that by making small children very cute and endowing us with a strong desire to care for them. So, when children are small, the question of how to be a good parent is largely about finding the energy to keep up with that adorable, mess-generating, little bundle of trouble. Manage to get through those years and we run into the temptation of feeling like we’re done because your teens are now brushing their teeth, pouring bowls of cereal, and the like.
But a parent to teens has to be more strategic, more psychologically astute, and much more attentive than the parent of a small child. So, we’re going to cover seven key strategies, not just for managing your teens, but to raise them to be the magnificent young adults that they have it in them to be.
Love Them Like Their Lives Depend On It
When they were small, you established that you loved them unconditionally. This is important so that they understand that when you say ‘no,’ when you admonish, and sanction, that you do it from a place of love and not from a place of rejection. Now, that they are teens, they need you to love them just to overcome the background noise of confusion and angst. So love them and never let up.
Listen Actively and Be Attentive
Being a teenager requires massive amounts of trial and error. You can explain the meaning of life to them fully and accurately, but they still have no way of knowing anything without finding out for themselves. Therefore, they have to think independently and to explore, despite your guidance. Listen to them. You might just learn something.
Use “No” Strategically
Remember the flood of temptations that plagued you as a teen, and even now. Understand that humans have a limited capacity to resist temptation. Let them indulge themselves enough to have sufficient self-control in reserve to tend to what’s important. In time, they will expand on the small disciplines you reinforce consistently.
Embrace the Power of “No”
In a world full of evils, temptations, and folly- the power of ‘no’ is your sacred weapon against the forces of dissolution. When your teens hear you use that word, it should have authority. Don’t overuse it. Use it at the right time, and no more. Don’t beat them over the head with it, or their heads may become hard.
Pour Food Down Their Necks Liberally
Teenagers are engaged in the most grueling Olympic sport on Earth- growing in size, strength, intellectual, emotional, and sexual maturity. The energy required for that and earning a High School degree at the same time is huge. If someone put that kind of strain on us, we would vaporize. So feed them lots and LOTS of GOOD food.
When in Doubt, Cool Your Jets
Children are the way they are because biology has made them that way. The process of maturing is a process of trimming all the excess neural links that make children such a grab bag of potential. Understand that they are far more full of potential than we can even understand. As a rule of thumb, if it’s something that you’ll forget about in a week, don’t sweat it.
Observe, and Admire
Like most people, your teens are doing the best they can with what they have… probably. Keep that in mind, and remember how stressful and confusing that time of life is. When you can, take a moment to admire them for enduring and overcoming all that weird, wild stuff that teen life throws at them.
When the Lesson Is Kindness
As parents, we always worry about how well we are preparing our children for the world. Sometimes we are overly strict because we worry that if we’re not, our children won’t be able to deal with disappointment and responsibility as adults. As parents, we worry a lot about whether we are doing the right thing and making the right decisions for our children.
Brea Schmidt was at the carnival with her children one night. She already had her hands full, with her children being aged 5, 3 and 1, and she also works as a writer and photographer.
That night her daughter was trying desperately to win a doll. She tried and tried, asking sweetly and politely for another dollar every time she lost. Finally, Brea said that they had to stop. She wasn’t trying to hurt her daughter’s feelings, but it was an exercise in frustration. She knew that you don’t always get what you want, and she was planning on discussing that with her poor child.
The Kindness of a Stranger
The 5-year-old girl was not being a gracious loser. Instead, she was sobbing, Probably already tired from her day having fun at the carnival, she couldn’t hide how sad she was that she hadn’t been able to win the cute little pink Princess Poppy doll.
A stranger intervened at that point, wanting to help. Even though she couldn’t control the game of chance, she offered to make one more try to help the little girl win her prize. The lady told the little girl that she had a dollar and she was going to try to win for her.
She paid her dollar for the three tickets and sure enough opened a winning ticket. Immediately, she gave the child the prize. Even though she was exhausted, the child was elated from being able to have the doll she so treasured.
We Are A Community
Many people would object to having someone come up and interfere with a private moment, especially one so fraught with emotion. Brea Schmidt knew that some people might feel that way, but she looked at the lady’s gesture as an even better kind of lesson.
The lesson was simple kindness, and Brea’s daughter learned that night that she and her family weren’t alone in the world. When she was having a bad time, a total stranger came up and tried to make things better for her. She gave her own money just to make a stranger happy. And she was obviously glad to do it.
When children are very young, they have trouble learning to share. Even those with brothers and sisters often feel threatened by the others, wanting their parents and playthings to themselves. Babies try to get all the attention and become more able to be generous as they get older.
Teaching our children to be so open and generous with their hearts is one of the hardest lessons. Brea’s little girl will never forget the kind stranger who gave her a lesson in kindness that night.
Turkey & Dressing With A Side of Hope and Happiness
Do You Smell Pumpkin Pie?
If you live in Massachusetts or Rhode Island and happen to catch a whiff of holiday cheer while passing a slightly weathered station wagon, you’ve just encountered Ty and Vicky Shen.
This father and daughter team have become local heroes, especially around the holidays, since they began delivering hot, healthy meals across the state in 2001. They love the open road, but the real joy is in the reaction they receive from those they serve.
They’re not in this alone. The Shens are only one of the teams regularly volunteering with Community Servings, a Massachusetts non-profit food program which specializes in modified meals for families and individuals with specific medical restrictions or other needs, often due to severe or chronic illnesses. That means the Shens and other volunteers reach households often unserved by similar programs because their needs are so specific.
Of course, neither the Shens nor Community Services forget about the families and caregivers involved. Every spouse, in-law, nurse, and child receives their own hot holiday meal.
The extra time and effort is more than worth it, they assure us.
“Those who can help, should,” says Ty. “Regardless if it’s time or other resources, helping our fellow man is our responsibility.” Vicky seems to agree.
“Volunteering with my dad is one of my favorite things to do,” she says. “I get to spend time with him, and the people at Community Servings are so wonderful. Most importantly, it feels great to do something on a daily basis helps people’s lives be a little bit better.”
Bringing It Together
Food is more than an essential requirement for life. It often means security, and comfort. Sometimes it represents plenty, but even in humble circumstances it can facilitate a sense unity and thanks.
“One of the most important elements of the holidays this time of year is togetherness,” says a representative from Community Services. “Sharing a meal has been a demonstration of trust, intimacy, and togetherness over the centuries and across cultures.”
That togetherness doesn’t just start when meals are delivered; it’s part of the process from the very beginning. Community Services volunteers prepare each dish on site, paying careful attention to the different restrictions and dietary needs they’ll be serving that day. Teams like the Shens spend most of their time delivering, but they’re no strangers to peeling potatoes or chopping cabbage or even – in a pinch – stuffing a bird or two.
It’s an enormous undertaking each and every time, but what determines whether or not it’s enjoyable work is the people involved, and the mindset they bring to the task. And most of the time, that makes Community Services as much of a family as those they serve during the holidays and throughout the year.
“Each year, our volunteers give more than 55,000 hours of service, which is the equivalent to almost 30 full time employees,” says David Waters, CEO of Community Servings. “There’s no way we could do any of this without their passion and their commitment.”
That passion and commitment are quickly driving Community Services towards their eight millionth meal. That’s right – eight with six zeroes after it! But the Shens, like most of those involved, don’t think of it in terms of the millions, or even the thousands of meals prepared and delivered each day.
To them, it’s always about the next door opened. The next family served. The next face smiling in recognition and appreciation. It’s always about the one at a time.
And as long as it’s up to the Shens, it always will be.
From Foster Failure to Family
Not everyone is lucky enough to get to choose their family. With adoption, people who feel as though there is a missing piece in their lives can fill that empty space with a loving relationship, building a family that will last forever. This is the true story of a foster family that got to make wishes come true by making their own forever family.
Struggles to Make a Family
Brandie and her husband John were foster parents, helping to fill the gap for children who needed a home at least on a temporary basis. They didn’t have children of their own, and in fact, had struggled with infertility issues in the past. Brandie had a miscarriage in 2005, which wasn’t as surprising because she was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) when she was still in high school. After the miscarriage, she went through the traumatic experience of experiencing cervical cancer.
Fertility treatments not only didn’t work, but they also caused additional health problems for Brandie. She and John looked into adoption, both international and domestic, but found that they simply couldn’t afford it. Knowing they had too much love to keep to themselves, Brandie and John decided to become foster families. They knew that even if the situation was only temporary, they could help children who needed homes and be grateful for the time they got to spend together.
Brandie called the DCS hotline and asked what she needed to do to become a foster parent. That was in 2014, and five years later, she is still waiting for a return call.
However, in December of 2014, John’s aunt called and she was hysterical. Her grandson had been removed from his home and she needed to find a place for him to stay. Brandie and John had bought a house that year, and they were ready to take in a child.
Foster Care Fast Track
Of course, Brandie and John said yes to John’s aunt, making it easy for them to be approved to become foster parents. They started out as kinship foster parents and were able to pick up the little boy on January 2, 2015. They knew that once he went home, they would already be set up as foster parents, ready to help someone else in need.
Brandie and John still had to jump through the regular hoops to become foster parents. They took classes and passed a criminal background check and went through a home study approval process. What made it even harder was that Child Protective Services was investigating them while they had a 6-month-old in the home for the first time, so they felt like they were constantly cleaning, caring for the baby, and going to important appointments.
Failure to Reunify
Brandie and John loved their foster child very much, but they were also fully aware that the goal of the child protection agency was to send him back home with his parents. Sadly, his parents never took the steps they needed to take in order to get him back. Their first foster placement ended up staying with Brandie and John.
Brandie says she respects the loss the parents had to go through in losing their child and wishes that their loss wasn’t a necessary part of her being his momma. After two years, the parents’ rights were terminated. There was an appeal, but once it was finalized, Brandie and John adopted their son in just six days.
Even though he ended up being in the foster care system for two-and-a-half years, it seemed fast at the end. Their families are supportive and they are getting ready to adopt their second foster child. Because they have always been honest and upfront, they are able to explain what is happening so their children can feel safe during the process. When asked how she feels about everything, Brandie says she loves being a momma and that anyone who wants to adopt needs to be patient — and thorough!
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