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Friendship

What Would Jeannie Do?

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What Would Jeannie Do?

Growing up I never imagined myself with children. I saw myself living in a high rise penthouse apartment in New York City using my expert arguing skills working as a lawyer and making tons of money while I waltzed through life with no responsibilities other than myself and whatever whim I had at the moment.  That dream changed when I fell in love for the first time.  I no longer saw my future as alone and independent, but with a companion to keep me company on my journey towards whatever dreams I’d conjure up next.  But still, no children in my future. I didn’t think I had it in me. No mothering instincts to speak of, no draw towards children, no inkling to take on any additional responsibility I didn’t know how to manage.

I remember the ride home from my mother in law’s house the day I invited in the idea of having a baby. I had just met a beautiful premie and held her in my arms gently and wondered what it would be like to hold my own. But I was terrified. I was clueless.  I had no idea how to be a mother.  I didn’t even feel comfortable around babies.  But being who I am, I made up my mind and was pregnant with my baby girl very shortly after that day. I spent my pregnancy listening to advice, reading books and then putting them down when it became overwhelming. I studied the mothers around me and watched what they did as though they carried the secrets of the universe in their interaction with their children. I prayed I’d figure it out. I did not want to screw it up.

I looked for models of what I wanted to be everywhere I went. I took memory shots of experiences I wanted to have and listened for words I wanted to use with my own child. I studied the behaviors of children I worked with and kept a mental journal of characteristics I hoped for in my own child and what I hoped I could steer them from.  I grieved the absence of my own mother and felt the void of experience I’d never learned from her. But I knew, somewhere, I’d find a match for me of who I wanted to learn from.

In retrospect, I couldn’t have been any luckier to have met my teacher.  Not only did she parent exactly the way I thought I’d want to, but she was beautiful, incredibly smart, insanely funny and had a heart like I had never seen. In so many ways, I wanted to be her. I loved the way she talked about her kids, the way she challenged herself regularly and her views on life nearly matched mine perfectly.  Being in her presence was calming, rejuvenating and inspiring. There was never a doubt that she was The One.

I feel so fortunate that her kids are a few years older and I have been able to watch her navigate through the trials of parenting at every stage up through high school graduation so far.  I have seen her dip into doubt and frustration and bounce back with an understanding that she is doing the best she can at every stage and that no “mistake” can ever overshadow the good that is consistent and true for their family.  I have seen her humanness and struggle in deciding what’s “right” and then make decisions she never thought she would. I have seen her build a suit of armor to protect her children and then take away the shield when she thought they could use the reality check of a quick jab, just enough to hurt, but not enough to harm.  And in case I ever needed proof to see if her “tactics” were effective, I have had the luxury of watching her children grow into amazing human beings I feel proud to know and simply like to be around.

I can not count how many times in the past 10 years of my parenting life that I have asked myself “What would Jeannie do?”  And each time, my inner Jeannie gives brilliant advice whether she knows it or not.

It will never stop amazing me how many incredible teachers we have in our lives when we ask for them.  When we step back and look at who influences us, who inspires and helps us develop into who we’ve always wanted to be, there is such a sense of gratitude and awe that accompanies that knowledge.  I can think of nothing better.

I hope to be half the teacher for others that Jeannie has been for me. In this month of thankfulness and gratitude, I give thanks to all my teachers that have helped guide me along the way, with special appreciation for my parenting guru and her parents who influenced her the way she influenced me.

Who is your parenting model who influences you the most…and when is the last time you thanked them?

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Taking Our Life Back

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Taking Our Life Back

It’s time to take back your life.  Yes, I’m talking to you.  You know the life you always talk about? The one with the free time? The one where you see your friends, read a book, take a bath, journal, go for a walk, drink coffee in quiet.  It’s your life I’m talking about…and mine.

We are in this together, this life of ours.  We cry at the same movies, watch the same news reports, empathize with those in pain and laugh at the same jokes.  Maybe our level of acceptable is different, but humor is humor and pain is pain, no matter the degree.

I know it’s time for you to take back your life because it’s time for me to take back mine.  And of course, we’re all connected, so I know you are feeling the strains and aches and pains and heartache and joy and peace.  Maybe we feel them at different times, but we still feel them. All of us…every single one.

But today, you take our life back.  Today you will make a list of what its’ going to take. On that list will include making a date with a friend.  On that list will be drawing up your vision of your dream vacation. On that list will be exactly when you plan the time and day you will sit alone for 10 minutes and drink that coffee, tea, or chocolate milk by yourself in silence and breathe this week.

On that list, you will come up with the ideal job where someone pays you to do what you love.  On that list, you will write the names of all the people you want to thank for making your life special and filled with joy. On that list you will add one dream you can’t let go of and why. And on that list you will tell your significant other just what that dream is…and if your significant other is currently you, tell yourself.

If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me. But today is the day. Its Go time.

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

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12 Simple Lessons Every Pre Teen Girl Needs To Know

Remember high school girl drama?  You know, “I heard you were talking about me.”  “No I wasn’t.” “Then why did Betsy say you called me a slut?” “Maybe because Betsy told me you were talking about ME and YOU called ME a slut.”

Okay, there aren’t many Betsy’s in high school anymore, but for real, they still talk like that. It’s BEYOND painful. Be-yond. And they mean it…and Betsy really did tell her she called her a slut, to both parties, I’m sure of it.

Girl drama drives me nuts and yet a I have a bizarre love for teenagers. I find great joy in working with them because they are just hitting the cusp of adulthood. They are still listening even when they are pretending they are not. They want your opinions and approval even though they won’t ask for it, and the best part…I am not their mother, which means I can say whatever I want without fear of them not loving me and causing long term damage to both of us. But honestly, they are just simply kids, trying to figure it out and needing a little bit of help…or A LOT of help along the way.  As they sort out how they feel, what they think they should feel and what they think they shouldn’t, they get sidetracked on where they stand. As parents and adults who care about them, our role is to redirect and help them navigate which way feels best for them. This can be a challenge, because lets be honest, they can be stereotypically stubborn and extremely annoying. Extremely. But work we must, to assist them to the finish line of adulthood, without tearing out every last one of our pre gray hairs.

Listening to teenage girls hash out their differences can be exhausting. Often, I find myself walking away with a tension headache and a realization of the intense fear I have of my own pre teen daughter growing into adolescence.  I may have even said a few silent prayers to the Universe asking that my daughter be spared of raging hormones, latent insecurity and a need to be liked by anyone other than herself.

And like an Irish prayer (because my daughter is Irish and I think I am–even though its only true on St. Patrick’s Day) I pass on my wishes and lessons to the pre teen girl, as she works her way into blooming adolescence…

At the dawn of transition, may you find the truth in these lessons:

May you notice that for every one person you think doesn’t like you, there are 25 more who are so thankful to have you in their life.

May you learn that when your heart feels broken, that feeling of sadness will only be two blinks worth of time in your life span.

May you recognize that everyone has an ounce of pain in their life, if not more. When you think you understand them, ask again, they may only show you what they want you to see.

May you have an understanding that you are NEVER in control of what other people say and do. You can manipulate those who will buy into it, but they still call the shots as to how they will respond.

May you taste the words that are sweet and the words that are bitter as they come out of your mouth, so you know which ones feel better to use.

May you realize that your brain is by far the most attractive thing about you, because when you use it openly, suitors will follow you around and recognize you as the Goddess you are.

May you always know the difference between the story to share and the story to keep to yourself.  In the world of friendship, it is the sacred keeper of the stories that holds the key to real trust.

May you see that relationships are more about how you see yourself than how others see you.  When you see the beauty in yourself, truly see it, it won’t matter who sees it as clearly as you.

May you remember that the love you give out will always be the love you get back, but the way you define love may fluctuate.

May you experience that every ending is simply the beginning of something else to learn.

May you discover that the only limitations in life are the ones you create.

And may you always know that the earth will continue to rotate, the stars will continue to twinkle and the sun will continue to rise each day, whether we choose to see it or not. But when we choose to see it, life is so much more fun.

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We are Never Alone: Teaching Kids How to Connect

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We are Never Alone: Teaching Kids How to Connect

When I was in high school I was asked to participate in a few therapeutic groups.  My answer was always the same…”Not a chance.” In my mind I was not like “those” kids and I didn’t need it. Now as a counselor who runs groups, I realize just how valuable they are, in school, out of school and in life.

To see how one common concern or feeling can connect others so quickly, so intensely and so easily is rewarding to know that for those moments of the day, connections are made, comfort is felt and learning different ways to respond are being taught, not by me, but by the real life experiences and views of others.

I would estimate that one of the feelings that bring us down the most at times of distress is the sense of being alone.  Feeling like no one understands us and what we are going through and like we are walking in the dark with no knowledge of what’s in front of us, struggling to find faith that we will figure it out…on our own.

When we discover people who have similar views, relationships and an understanding of our experiences, we are drawn to them and often times, friendships are born.  To have others to relate to and listen to the thoughts we didn’t think anyone could understand is comforting and empowering and essential for many of us.  To be connected and feel connected is a gift.  As is the knowledge and understanding that at the end of the day, we are all walking this road of life together.

Group therapy is not new and it’s typically not that formal.  Women form their groups undercover by names like Book Club, Jewelry Parties and Girls Night Out.  Men watch sporting events, climb mountains, work on motors together (I am shamelessly gender stereotyping right now, but you get the point) and find through their focus on interests they can share in their commonalities.  We learn so much about each other as we watch how others interact, listen to their viewpoints and figure out where we fit in.

In whatever groups we become a part of, the premise remains the same, the more we share, the more we trust each other, the more we learn and the less we feel alone.  But more importantly, the more we allow ourselves to get to know others, to experience how similar we are, the less likely we are to judge and more likely to acknowledge acceptance of others- flaws and all.

When it comes to our children, we can create the same group dynamic for them.  Whether we are coaching a team, driving them in a car pool, or have a group of kids over to hang out, we can encourage the sharing and understanding of each other and help them focus on the many commonalities they have. We can easily become the group facilitator by asking a few thought provoking questions, and even some not so thought provoking questions.

Here’s how:

  • Talk about something they all know, a T.V. show, a game they like, or tell them a funny story to get them laughing and comfortable.  The key is to help them let their guard down while talking about things that are safe and easy.
  • Once you sense that they are comfortable, ask them questions about their relationships with their siblings (a typical commonality amongst kids), or what their favorite vacation is, what subject they like in school the most or which one they find the hardest.  Ask them what games they like to play or who their first crush was.  The key is to get them talking about things they can relate to with each other, so they can focus on their similarities, but also to learn from each other that they have differences that are okay and make them unique.
  • The more comfortable they become, ask more opinionated questions so they can safely express themselves, while being open to listening to the thoughts of their peers.
  • Share your own thoughts and stories with them, with a focus on your own interests and life lessons you’ve learned by making mistakes and fixing them, or by the rewards you earned of doing things well the first time.  The more you share, they more comfortable they will feel talking to you and trusting you and in turn, the group (aka- their friends)

The goal is a quick lesson in teaching our children that we are all fundamentally the same on many levels if we are willing to take the time to peel the layers and allow ourselves to be who we are.  The more we feel connected to others, the more we are willing to trust, the less alone we feel in our times of discouragement and the more content we will feel overall when we focus on the acceptance of our differences.

Pretty cool lesson, huh?

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Q&A My Perspective: When To Get Involved in Our Children’s Friendships

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Q&A My Perspective: When To Get Involved in Our Children’s Friendships

QUESTION

When is it appropriate to get involved in the happenings of our child’s friendships?  Particularly in the case of unhealthy behaviors, such as bullying? I want to protect my child from being a victim, but also don’t want to destroy her trust in me by “butting in” and controlling the situation or the outcome of the friendship.

MY PERSPECTIVE

It is my belief that it is a parent’s job to keep their children safe, to help them stay healthy, and to love them to the best of their ability.  This encompasses a lot of different areas of their lives and helping them understand and strengthen friendship is an essential part of maintaining mental and emotional health.  But an excellent question to ask is when and how much do we get involved.

I feel we should let our children choose their friendships of who they are drawn to and who they want to be around.  By definition alone, friendship is meant to enhance our lives and offer us experiences of unity, compassion, and shared joy.   Friendships teach us the importance of balance in give and take and there will always be times, like in any relationship, that the balance is thrown off.

A healthy friendship should be able to obtain that balance once again with relative ease and a moderate amount of effort.  It is when the friendship/relationship stays unbalanced and takes from us more than it gives, that a more significant change needs to take place.  As adults, we have learned this over the years by experiencing it with many different relationships, both good and bad, with each having equal weight of importance. I feel it’s valuable to allow our children to feel these ups and downs so they can experience what works for them and what doesn’t. Yet, it’s equally important to teach our children the definition of friendship and give and take, so they begin to understand the normal highs and lows of friendship, and how it takes both people to make the relationship work well.  However, when the imbalance becomes too great, there are critical times when we should intervene.

One of those times is when we see a significant negative impact on our child’s well being, as in the case of being bullied. If we see or hear of our child being put down repeatedly or harmed in any way, we tend to personally feel the anxious energy it creates and it often infuriates us as we become the Supreme Protector of our child. Naturally, we want to guard our child from the hurt of emotional and physical predators. The instinct is to remove them from the situation or not allow them to be exposed to it any more. In reality, we don’t have as much power as we’d like. So the question begs, what should we do that we have control over?

*First and foremost, keep the communication open with your child.  Sometimes they will tell you, sometimes they won’t. Sometimes they will tell you through their actions more so than their words , so be aware of any changes in lost interest in places and people they enjoyed before.

*If they are able and willing to verbalize, get as much information as you can so you can help walk them through it. Ask lots of questions on the situations they are in when the negative treatment occurs, who they are with, and why their friend may be responding this way.

*Teach them how to respond.  Literally, feed them the words to use to make the situation better. Help them determine the options of what to do when the behavior starts.  The more they know what to expect and how to handle it, the more likely they are to have the confidence to respond and defend themselves—which will only increase their self- esteem and ability to handle these situations as they arise again.

*If they are using the words and actions and nothing is changing, contact someone to intervene.  If it’s happening in school or on the bus, call the administrator or counselor. If it’s happening at an extra- curricular activity, let the advisor or coach know.   It is important that someone is speaking to the other child, because they too need to be taught which behaviors are acceptable and which aren’t.  Often times, the person hurting someone else is hurting themselves in some way and is trying to balance out their own internal power struggles, so need to be guided on how to deal with that and make better decisions on how to respond in social situations.  It is also suggested that if possible and appropriate, allow and encourage your child to be part of that conversation informing the adult so they are learning how to use their voice in an environment where they feel safe and protected.

As far as the concern of losing your child’s trust if they don’t want you to be involved, you can always tell them it’s your responsibility to ensure that they are safe and healthy and this is the way you show them you love them. (Right now, it’s my excuse for everything for my children and they roll their eyes every time)  But as they get older and express that they don’t “want” your support, it’s even more important to give it in ways that are less intrusive and subtle, but still gives them the security of knowing  that you are available and ready to help when duty calls.

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Thank Goodness I Have You

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Thank Goodness I Have You

Thank goodness I have you,

To make me feel sane.

To listen without judgment,

Always easing my pain.

 

For laughing at my mistakes,

For telling me all will be okay,

For opening up the door,

When I’m tired that day.

 

Thank goodness I have you,

To share my life’s woes,

And for giving me new shoes,

When I keep stubbing my toes.

 

For pushing me forward,

When I’m on the right path,

And for standing in my way,

When I’m a victim of my own wrath,

 

Thank goodness I have you,

To remind me of my success,

And for leading me back,

When my motivations digress.

 

For keeping me flexible,

When I’m sure I can’t bend.

Who would I be without,

My amazing friend?

 

Thank goodness I have you,

For without You, there’d be no Me.

And a world without Us,

Would be an empty place indeed.

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My Sibling, My Friend…sometimes

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My Sibling, My Friend…sometimes

Prior to having our first child, my husband wanted a basketball team size family.  Lots of kids. Lots.  I don’t know if it was the moody pregnant wife or the sleepless nights and loads of extra responsibility that came with the first child, but his tune changed quickly after we had our daughter.  He was okay with having one.  She was beautiful, healthy, funny, smart, every parent’s dream child…and again, a lot of responsibility.  Why risk it?

A little over two years later, that question was answered when we announced I was pregnant.  My daughter was thrilled with the idea of having a sibling. She told us he would be a boy well before we had the confirming ultrasound and she was the one who broke the ongoing debate of his name.  She after all, ruled our house with her charm, and she was the big sister.  Once he was born, she fell instantly in love with him.  She wanted to always be around him and take care of him. We were so proud of her and so happy that we had decided to give our family this beautiful gift.  He was an angel baby and an amazing lesson of responsibility and love for his sister.

My son’s love for his sister was also unrivaled.  He used to stare at her in adoration, her name was even his first word.  He constantly wanted her attention and approval.  She was his idol.

Fast forward to now.  My children argue or make snide comments to each other at least 325 times a day. At least.  They both have strong personalities, loud and opinionated and the competition to express them is fierce.  They are competitive, argumentative and at times aggressive when it comes to their siblingship.  (Sometimes made up words fit best) They can be mean, hurtful, sarcastic, demeaning and rude towards each other and most of the time, I turn into the angry referee who is constantly questioning, “is it ok to talk to your brother/sister like that?” To which they reply “no” and then go at it five seconds later as if I just hopped in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet.  Actually, that would be nice, wouldn’t it? I usually send them to their room to work it out. Did I mention they share a bedroom?!! They then quickly come to a formal agreement so they don’t have to spend another minute together to prolong the torture.

But here’s the other reality.  When they are separated for an afternoon out and are given a balloon or sticker or something fun from somewhere, they almost always ask for another one for their sibling.  When my daughter plays soccer, my son is her biggest fan, or at least the loudest.  My daughter reads my son bedtime stories and they snuggle on his bed until he knocks out. When they play games together, they giggle like crazy, enjoying each others’ company, right up until the point that someone is accused of cheating and it ends abruptly.

Siblings may not be immediate friends or the closest friends, but they have a unique relationship that can’t be matched. Sometimes it’s hard for them to see it, but the more we are able to show them the importance of preserving this relationship and what they have to gain from it, the better off we all are.  They are each others first experience of learning how to share time, attention, responsibility, and space. When they are confronted with disagreements, they must learn how to work it through in order to keep peace in the home.  They learn how to argue and discover what works and doesn’t work. It’s not always easy, but its reality. The more they learn in the safety of their home, the more they can practice and be prepared when confronted with those they don’t have as many chances with.

Although they drive each other nuts and at times their greatest personal accomplishments are getting the other one in trouble, I have no doubt that if the big, bad bully showed up on the bus, both my kids would defend the other in a heartbeat. They share genes, parents, life experiences, memories, values and a genuine respect for each other that they will never share with anyone else.  And at a level they may not recognize, I believe they know and acknowledge this.

The days of constant adoration may be over, but the lifetime of learning from each other’s experiences, respecting each other’s differences, and supporting each other in the ups and downs of life, is just beginning.  I am comforted by the fact that I know, no matter what, they have each other. They may not always agree or even want to be in each others presence for more than five minutes, but when it counts, they will be there.  For this, I am very thankful, even when I am riding in Wonder Woman’s invisible jet. Man, she was lucky…

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Cheers!

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Cheers!

I wanted to write something today. I don’t know if it’s because it’s my birthday and I was feeling so inspired this morning when I purposefully got up before the household and spent some time on quiet reflection.  I always do this on my birthday–reflect. When I look at my path of where I’ve been, where I’m going and where I’m at today, I am amazed and pleased and proud.  Life can be hard, full of change and unknowns, but it is good.

I was feeling good, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about. I pondered throughout the morning on what inspires me and what makes me see clearly. What do I value? What creates meaning?  And then it came.  A summary of all that is good and true.  I received the best birthday card ever….

 

Fantastic, huh? I know.

As if the cover wasn’t enough, the card sings Halleluiah when you open it. Really loud, with a full chorus.  Seriously, awesome.

Who knows us better and what we value more than our friends? No one. Who could offer us meaning and understanding in the simplest form of expression more than our friends? No one.

My friends are amazing. Amazing! They are my inspiration and sounding board when I feel like the worst mother in the world.  When I can’t stand my own reflection in the mirror, they point out that the mirror is cracked and doesn’t reflect what is real.   When I can’t see where I’m going, they hand me a flashlight with extra batteries.  They are the ones who make fun of me when the lettuce is stuck in my teeth…again, and give me the courtesy laugh when my jokes aren’t as good as they could be.  And they know, more than anyone, that I love beer.

So upon reflection of where I am, was and will be, I realize I would not be where I am and where I’m going without them…and maybe beer.

Cheers to friends (especially my super awesome friend Jeannie who gave me the best card ever) for being so inspirational, supportive and understanding.  And cheers to God and beer. You rock.

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Q&A My Perspective- It Takes a Village

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Q&A My Perspective- It Takes a Village

QUESTION

“Ok, so, one of your child’s church friends, neighbor and school bus seat buddy shares one night before bed her “secrets” with your daughter of 13 yo. Choice topics are shared such as her having the desire to watch porn and have sweet feelings toward others of the same sex.  Previously, she has admitted to “cutting” and enjoys dressing in fish net stockings, immulating “EMO” for the sake of looking goth and often struggles with aggression, such as physical contact with your daughter and others. At one point, the cutting was brought to the school counselors attention but denied that it was a cat scratch, making your daughter look non-credible.  This young lady strives to appear wholesome and innocent in public. She does carry a history of school and church disruption but “appeared” to look like she has redeemed herself.
So, would you suggest to approach the parent, school counselor and or pastor? if so, with what approach and with whom first?  Would driving her to school to avoid the bus encounters help or changing time services at church to avoid the contact? Not sure if abandoning this kid is the answer and with this sort of behavior sounds like a scream for help??” – Mom Who Wants to Help

MY PERSPECTIVE

Such a great question! It is in my opinion that it takes a village to raise a child, but it is also important to be respectful of the villagers and not every villager cares to have their child raised by someone else.

Our first priority in our village is our own child. In this situation, open communication between parent and child is imperative.  We want our children to feel safe to talk openly with us about any concerns they have for their friends.  At age 13, especially girls, teenagers tend to be very protective of their friends, so any inkling of perceived judgment from us can quickly make them retreat and clam up.  Once we have our child’s trust and are engaged in a good dialogue, we can begin to share our own concerns about behaviors that make us feel uncomfortable and why.  If the friend is choosing behaviors we know can lead to a negative consequence, we can explain this to our child so they can start to understand the cause and effect of our concerns.  Under our guidance, walking beside a friend in need can be a great learning experience for our child.  With that said, if your child starts to exhibit the same behaviors and you feel their friends influence is stronger than your own, its time to pull the plug on time spent with the child under your control, such as time spent at your house or events with the other child.

As for the other village child, it is equally important to address our concerns for other children, as we are all in this big, crazy and wonderful world together.  Sexual feelings and curiosity is par for the course for adolescent development, as is experimentation…even if it is terrifying to think about and certainly presents some significant risks of its own.  Not to mention that today’s children seem to be far more advanced in their forms of self expression than generations prior. But “cutting” and any other form of self injury is not.

In this situation, the child’s parent is always the best place to start, depending on your relationship with the other parent. They are responsible for their child and their well being and should be notified of the concerns, especially in a situation where the child is harming themselves.  If you are not in a position where you feel comfortable talking to the other parent, use the school counselor or pastor as a vehicle for communicating with the parent and helping the child.  They can also assist the family with resources to further aid the child. If you feel the counselor is not responsive to the concern, feel free to call someone else at the school and ask that the parent be contacted.  This is normal protocol with self injurious behavior, so it’s not like you are asking for something unusual. It sounds like this particular child is in need of attention and will continue these behaviors until they have a reason not to or have found another behavior to replace it, which could go either way.  And it sounds like you have a child who is open to help, as are you.  Which to me means, this child is very fortunate to be living in your village.

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The Art Of Choosing Friendships

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The Art Of Choosing Friendships

“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together.”

~Woodrow Wilson

It can be so exciting when our children begin to form friendships. Their first ones typically are created with the children of our own friends who we have carefully chosen for ourselves. When they start preschool programs or activities we sign them up for they may start to explore new relationships of their own. And suddenly our antennas are up and we are on alert of who is influencing our child. We tend to not want them to be friends with kids whose parents have parenting styles that do not match up with our own or who display behaviors we are not comfortable with. We may even try to control their experiences and censor what they observe, but really this is the perfect environment to learn. What better way to know the difference between what works and what doesn’t than to experience it head on? When we see a behavior that we don’t approve of, this is the time to explore with them why this behavior can hinder them and what the uncomfortable consequences can be. When we see a behavior we feel good about, we can emphasize how well that behavior can benefit them (and us!).

When was the last time you made a new friend? You probably hit it off with them making small talk about something you both were interested in or maybe you liked their sense of humor or how kind they were, and then one of you put yourselves out there, took the risk and set up plans to spend even more time getting to know each other. Do you remember the slight hesitation you may have felt exposing yourself or setting yourself up for rejection? Or the satisfaction of realizing you had someone else who could relate with you and you could share with? This reaction was learned through experience, through knowing the difference between friendships that work and friendships that didn’t. If you had not had the opportunity to explore those relationships, you would have never known the difference. Your child needs to learn this lesson too and the longer you block them from learning, the longer it will take. We often concern ourselves with the idea that if they spend time with friends whose behaviors don’t match up with our values, their friends’ influence will be stronger than what we have hoped to instill. Who they choose to follow is not within our control, but creating opportunities to form open and consistent communication to discuss these relationships can be.

Let them choose based on what they are drawn to. We all learn about ourselves and the world through relationships and friendships. We grow through direct experience and interactions with how we treat others and how they treat us in return. We learn to trust our choices and decisions when they work and learn to alter our direction when they don’t, sometimes after repeated tries! We owe it to our children to let them make their own choices, but keep the lines of communication open so we can help them see what is a good relationship that works for them versus one that doesn’t. It is also important to note that if a relationship is causing them harm in any way, you will be compelled to discourage its continuation and appropriately so! You may not have the ability to stop them from spending time together in school, but you do control over who is allowed to spend time in your home.

So consider letting your child mix their own cement and learn how to create lasting bonds that will work for them, but be prepared to add a little more water if it starts to dry up too quickly before its ready to set.  When these bonds finally do solidify into a friendship that helps support and inspire your child, experience gratitude.  Nothing beats a trusted and wonderful friend.

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