Tag Archives: transitions

Sunday Morning Shout Out

We are at that point. The school supply list has been fulfilled and a week or two of school is done.  If not, it will be done shortly.  It got me thinking about the other ways in which I would like to be prepared for the school.  I am thinking of this as a different type of school supply list.  It is really one about emotional reserves and the essence of parenting and supporting a school aged child.

May the kids have sharpened pencils, instead of sharp words in the morning or in the evening, at homework and dinner time.  With their folders, may we enfold them in enough hugs on a daily basis.  With their lunch boxes, may they be nourished by the time we have as a family and the time they have with their extended family and friends.  Along with their books for school, may they have a great book that they picked and love reading.

May Math be fun and not dreaded.  May someone explain it to them well so it is so.  In their new school shoes, may they know they never walk alone and know that there aren’t any mountains too steep to climb.  On their long bus ride or walk to school, may they know they are fortunate to have the privilege of going to school, and that not all children in the world have the same privileges.  Alongside their notes from class, may there be affirming notes from us.

May each requirement that they are facing under Common Core, be met with equal parts courage, resiliency, and understanding.  May they know when these supplies feel or truly are in short supply, there are some other loving and caring adults in their lives that are also there for them, they are called teachers and school administrators.

May their dreams never be in short supply.  If assignments are missing or certain requirements are not met, may we make sure it is not something missing on our part or behalf.  When they are scared, feeling down, or overwhelmed, may it met be with a large supply of love and a healthy dose of laughter.  This school year, may both of their school supply lists not be in short supply….

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

While “Auld Lang Sang” may be more associated with New Year Eve’s, back to school has it own “Auld Lang Sang” feeling too.  We start the new school year with many resolutions for our children, family, and home life.  Do you swear that this year everyone will be more organized, less rushed, more calm, more together regularly, etc?  Like a gym come February, many of our school resolutions get lost once the school year gets into full swing.  At the website Great schools.org,  in the article “Start the School Year Right: Tips From Our Expert,” there are some fantastic tips to launch a good school year.

There are tips aimed at better communication and improved understanding within our home.  The article discusses striving to really listen to our children (especially when they are being really open-bedtime, during a television show, after a shower, a car ride, etc) and focusing in on what our children are saying.  We should strive for understanding and give short, concise advice or guidance, when needed.  One way to do this is to get into a regular practice of talking or listening a few minutes each day, and take our conversations with our children as the little pearls that they are, for everyone’s benefit.

There are also tips for improving what I will call family sanity. -The top tip-not to get too overextended in extra activities, especially with young children.  It just over taxes and stresses everyone out!  Along these same lines, the article discusses scheduling time as a family to relax, be it through a movie night, game night, or commitment not to schedule anything extra , night.  There are the miscellaneous tips aimed at improving academic success and surviving the wilderness of adolescence, for both parents and teens alike. When you have to be in the car for games, rehearsals, practices, etc, there are tips to make the best use of downtime to increase academic success.

Through fun games and educational games, vocabulary, math, geography, and you name it academically can be improved. The article looks at the special dynamics of the middle school and high school years.  Typically, it is a time when parents become less engaged at school.  The article heavily suggests finding ways to engage, be it through the PTA , education forums, or parent support groups.  It discusses the careful dance of “negotiated freedom” for teens, via chances to prove themselves and committing to doing their part to uphold their responsibilities and place in family life.

There are some other great ideas here, too.  What do you do to launch a successful school year?  What helps you keep it going?


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

What a mixed backpack middle school is for parents!  On the one hand, it is so very exciting and joyful to see our children grow into the larger people they are.  But on the other, the bitter sweet feelings of “babies” growing up, collide with the larger issues tweens and teens face, and override the excitement and joy we are more comfortable feeling.  As early childhood issues fade, the new ones that pop up can be more complex and grave.

It’s time for my family to go down the gravely, winding path of puberty, intense peer pressure, exposure to drugs and alcohol, risk taking, and many other unnamed things that makes up the tween and teen experience.  Our oldest will start sixth grade in a month or so.  Can’t she just be adorable and six years old?  Or is there a middle ground where I can comfortably walk with her?

A recent “The Washington Post” article “Want To Keep Your Middle-Schooler Out of Trouble? Then Let Them Take Risks” by Michelle Icard , re ran in perfect timing and dosage, to soothe and tame the uncomfortable feelings that have been surfacing for me.  Icard acknowledged the real issues and concerns that arise during these years, and the accompanying terror they often inflict upon parents.

Icard discusses the neurological reasons for these events, explaining how the brain’s amygdala takes center stage.  It is the emotional center of the brain, that usurps the prefrontal cortex during the tween and teen years.  In its “coup,” we can begin to understand why tween and teens become dramatic, impulsive, and such risk takers at times.  It serves as a strong and important developmental purpose, as courage and risk taking are needed to start to become the separate, fully grown adults, are children are trying to become.

Ms. Icard advocates for healthy risk taking, in terms of new school activities, jobs, sports, etc that “feed the need,” to be a risk taker at this point in life.  While stating the need for obvious limits, she also advises that a total crackdown on freedom and the chance to try new things (a reactive and maladaptive parenting approach) will backfire in the end.  At best, it stymies our children’s chances to experience news things and potentially find their niche, separate from us.  At worst, it can be that very thing that a risk deprived tween or teen needs to propel her into drugs or early sexual activity.

So while multicolored hair, wearing shorts in the coldest of weather, listening to terrible music, and going Goth may not sit well for us, she states that it is a fairly harmless way for our kids to try on different identities and develop.  In fact, it is incredibly healthy and normal.  Here’s to the great middle school years ahead and thank you for the balm of your words, Michelle Icard!  For additional insights into the brains workings you might also watch Disney’s Inside Out.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Peaceful Sunsets on Buffalo's Waterfront. © Lauer, 2014

Peaceful Sunsets on Buffalo’s Waterfront. © Lauer, 2014

This time of year, I vacillate between enjoying all the end of the school year activities and just wanting the year to be done.  Our children’s performances and end of year fairs have been truly heartwarming and inspiring.  The baseball games have been great weekly slices of Americana.  There are numerous special days ahead of us.  There are pending field trips to enjoy.  The school’s field days will be upon us shortly.  So will the end of year assemblies.

There are thoughts of what closely lies ahead.  Our oldest will leave the elementary school (and the tears will form even before I can finish typing this sentence).  Our youngest daughter will enter third grade and little boy wonder will start preschool- a little white lie about the tears.  There’s a distinct pleasure in being retrospective and looking back on the year that has been.  The growth, the maturing, the learning, have been remarkable for the three of them.  I am retrospective and proud.

Yet, I also long for the summer schedule- the less hectic pace, fewer mornings scurrying around, and the chance to let things unfold more spontaneously and carefree. — These summer days that are in front of us, such a needed counterpoint to Common Core and the hectic pace of the school year- living too measured of days for little beings.  Their main direction for right now should be stretching for the patch of sun they see, and gazing upon the blue sky , to wander under.  Little beings are not meant to be overly scheduled for games, recitals, and weighed down by a glut of homework; they are not meant to be pushed, and prodded too hard, by the pace of the day.

Summer is a sweet time for gentle grazing.  We are really to dig in and walk slow!  Yes , please, this for awhile! —This sweet innocence, these young years, this right before me, in the dazzling warm, sun…

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Sometimes we are granted the gift of great clarity.  And there it was for me within the dazzling sunlight, as I drove back from dropping the girls off at school on a fine, summerlike May morning.  I was choked up watching them walk into the school.  They were so alike in their resolve and confident stride, and yet are so wonderfully, at times almost magically different from one another. –Our oldest, so serious, focused, thoughtful and ready for her day, our youngest girl -calm, kind, bubbly sunshine energized for her day.   Like small flowers blooming, they grow in childhood.

There was our youngest, our son.  Like dew drops touching little buds and little plants, our boy sat eager faced and excited about next year’s prospect of preschool, as we sat outside the school doors.  Later that day, his preschool registration would occur.  As I sat overwhelmed by my feelings, it abundantly hit me that here I am in the prime of life.

On this clear morning, I realized that yes it’s true.  There would be a day when I longed for this-this, that was right before me.  I would long for the days where state projects, Girl Scout meetings, homework, baseball nights, and entry into preschool occupied my days and thoughts with them.  I would miss the bedtime struggles of reluctant sleepers, who want millions of cuddles and reassurances before they go to bed at night, while all mama wants is some stillness and quiet.  I would even miss the bickering and meltdowns- okay maybe not.  All too soon, this phase would be done-this phase of young boyhood/girlhood and lovely innocence.  Right now, they seem content for the most part in the now, and in doing, being where they are at in life.  In this beautiful becoming, they are like Eric Carles’ caterpillars, turning into butterflies.

All too often, my vision is foggy.  I am dazed by the dizzying activities, antics, and energy of young children in middle life.   We are rushed as a society. As parents, we are collectively pushed, prodded, and left feeling almost bullied by the demands of everyday.  Yet, every now and then (and man do I wish it was more) we can see all we have in front of us.  We are graced by its touching beauty, as we realize life’s fragility and rapid passage of time.  This is a place I would like to linger and a feeling I will remind myself of more often. Children are a gift; the gift is now….

Happy Mother’s Day…Everyday!


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

As a writer and parent, I am sure this thought isn’t anything brand new.  Parenting seems a lot like a banking system.  Some of our actions, our children’s actions– some days, some moments, seem to fill our accounts and our children’s.  Other days, its total withdrawals and a depleted account for everyone.  While still other days, we are asking the bank manager (ourselves, our partners, our best friends, our buddies) what things mean for both our children and ourselves.

Let me look back on the week.  Last weekend, I returned home from an all day Girl Scout event with our girls.  I walked into an incredibly funny sight.  Boy wonder and chief mischief maker had a painted camouflage face, from an event at the awesome Iroquois Wildlife Refuge.  He looked like a Lilliputian turkey hunter!  Add major deposits in the chuckle, LOL category.  There he was, my husband’s mini me, eating a plate full of cauliflower, with a green “camo” face. ­-Interest earned for walking into this funny scene!

Two tired girls and the parenting equivalent of a root canal- a large bedtime meltdown, ensued.  This was a major downer and debit.  Withdraw some big reserves, as evening becomes night.

More meltdowns and fatigue among the weekend warriors on Sunday morning, debit, debit, debit. Exacting consequences (lessons) so we thought, some substantial deposits.  The mister and I losing some couple time for two children on lockdown, withdraw, withdraw. -Taking one for the sake of the team (saying and doing what we mean), deposit.

So the week goes on.  As two young ladies do their best to look like “law abiding citizens” before the parole board (calm and appropriate behavior on the home front), we add some more deposits.  There seem to be great signs of recidivism.  I find two reminders that the girls created for themselves, outlining rules to live by.  Caching! I am planning what the segment for our family will look like on “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”  But, take some big hits to the account with toddler meltdown of the extreme kind, school morning fashion drama, and a certain amount of “bad attitude” that seeped in midweek.   My account ledger is looking unbalanced and a little hard to figure out. But then I hand it over to my parents to see if theirs looks the same.  They report that theirs has evened out for the most part.  It only took the better part of their children’s thirties.

This parenting stuff is messy accounting!  We all strive for moments and days of deposits and interest earned, compared to withdraws and “tacked on charges.”  While some debits and withdraws are out of our control and are a result of children’s choices and actions, we are often allowed to choose the type of banker we wish to be. –Wishing you, my fellow parent, if you wish for me in return, the discernment and wisdom to be a great “financier!”  If our homes are our banks, what kind of bank is yours? With some hard effort and perhaps a little luck, may ours all be strong and may our ledgers balance…

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

“This is really the first peer-leader program that has shown impact on school-side coping norms and the influence of youth connectedness.” Peter Wyman, a psychiatry professor at the University of Rochester, NY and one of the authors of a three year study in the “American Journal of Public Health” that looked at the effectiveness of “Sources of Strength

Depression and despair are terrible things.  Besides stating the obvious and making the understatement of the year, let me also add another given, they are perhaps worse in the teen years.  Do you remember then?  You’re young, hormonal, vulnerable, inexperienced, grasping to assert your identity and autonomy from your parents, but so completely unprepared for the world and all its demands.  Throw depression and perhaps mental illness into the mix and you have a ripe mix for potential tragedy.  Suicide and suicidal tendencies are no joke for today’s teens.  It is the third leading cause of death among 15-to 19 year-olds.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance, 17% of American high school students report having seriously considered suicide

This is where the program “Sources of Strength” is incredible!  Featured in a recent article at the NPR website, entitled “Preventing Suicide With a Contagion of Strength”Sources of Strength is a 15 year old, research backed suicide prevention program that focuses on developing strengths in teen lives.  Researchers and advocates state that it is one of the few programs that has research behind it showing it can work.

Skilled national trainers come into schools and teach the principles of the program to student leaders, who then meet with their peers.  The idea is that students will listen better to other students “preach it,” as opposed to adults.  Teachers, administrators, and parents are part of the picture, but in the background as adult advisers.  It is rooted in developing and promoting eight strengths: family support, positive friends, spirituality, healthy activities, medical access, mentors, mental health, and generosity.  Similar to the premises of the Search Institute’s Developmental Assets, the idea is the more of these strengths that are in place, the greater a teen is protected from suicidal behavior.  Peer mentors have these principles as a framework when they sit down with classmates.  The students meet and discussion problems and stressors in their lives. In sharing personal stories about overcoming adversity and difficulties, each person in the dialogue is helping the other do the same.  Connection and demonstrating understanding is everything!

Currently, the program is now in more than 250 and community centers in 20 states.  It has a price tag of about $5,000 per school.  While not cheap, certainly the suicides rates in this country among our young and the suicidal tendencies that exist among teens, should make it a priority in every district.  One life lost is one too many…..

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