Saturday, December 15, 2012

Parenting promises

Yesterday marked a very sad day for America.  A troubled  young man entered a school and shot 20 six and seven year olds and 7 adults before turning the weapon on himself. 

Many of us take our kids to school every day. We trust that they are safe there.  The children trust that they are safe there.  So, how do we possibly wrap our brains around what happened in Newtown, CT?  The parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School thought their kids were safe, too, yesterday.

Where do we go with all of this?  The grief is profound.  Everybody - parent or not - feels a pit in their stomach and a pain of unknown location that just hurts and hurts and hurts.  I almost feel as though I can't sit still, I can't find the right place for myself, I want to crawl out of my own body.  I don't know what to do with all of this pain.  I know I'm not alone.

As parents, we have to file this experience somewhere in our minds.  Perhaps we could become activists for something we believe in strongly...gun control, mental illness education, media exposure, etc...  In the meantime, how do we send our kids to school next week?

This is where parenting gets hard. (As if it weren't hard already)  We have to talk to our kids about these types of tragedies (if they have heard about it).  We have to speak to them in a way that is age-appropriate and not scary.  We have to tell them that they are safe and we have to believe it ourselves.  Shootings are happening more.  The media would like you to think that they are happening daily in your town and every town.  That just isn't the case.  These are tragic and isolated events.  We are fearful, of course.  It is essential that we also be trusting, confident and filled with faith that all will be well. 

Our kids need to grow up with a sense that they are safe and secure and that Mom and Dad have everything taken care of.  This is the foundation on which childhood SHOULD be built.  Terrible things do happen and when they do, we deal with it by teaching our kids the coping skills to move forward.  These tragedies are far enough removed that we should not allow them to traumatize our kids and to destroy what I call their "veil of security".  They need to feel safe so they can explore, grow and develop without the burden of worry, too.  They need to trust that the world is a place they can trust and predict.

My professional recommendation to parents is this.  Sit with the discomfort of this horrible tragedy.  We can't make it go away and we don't want to suppress it so much that it takes root in our bodies.  Feel the pain, share your thoughts with other adults, and be okay with the fact that life is filled with discomfort.  This is an appropriate reason to feel it.  Stay with it, accept it and let it pass naturally in time.  Don't let it interfere with your life, nor with your parenting and allow joy to peek through at times, too.  That's when the healing begins.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Some observations on parenting...

I have just returned from vacation. A much needed vacation, I might add. For the first time in a long time, I took a break from parenting; parent coaching, writing about parenting, speaking about parenting and even parenting my own kids. Of course, I didn’t stop thinking about parenting, but I guess that’s just how I’m wired. The break allowed me some distance and a little perspective as I traveled through Alaska and British Columbia.
I watched other parents – not judging or measuring in any way – just watching. Here are a few of my observations.
  • We talk too much to our kids: We don’t just talk TO them, we talk AT them and we repeat ourselves over and over and over. Perhaps if we’re more succinct, we’ll hold their attention longer.
Read more here on the LifeBound website.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Ch…ch…ch…changes: Transitioning Kids to Summer Vacation

Change is in the air. School is ending, summer is beginning; saying goodbye to this school year and hello to something new and different for the summer.
Schedules are off. Swim lessons have begun. Siblings are at home who are usually at school. Some days we stay in pajamas all day. The routines have made way for willy-nilly “what-should-we-do?” days.

For some kids, the changes are a welcome respite. Taking a break from grueling schedules, alarm clocks and high-pressured school and homework feels great after a long school year. For others, the changes are stressful and upsetting. The structure of their normal routine is comforting and makes life predictable. Even in the same family, there may be two kids who differ in their reactions to these changes.
Our goal is always to teach flexibility and adaptability, but some kids come preprogrammed with challenges in this area or even an absolute inability to tolerate it.
The best tools for kids who struggle with the changes are:

Click here to read more!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Happy Cinco de Mayo - Celebrate your Victories!

Happy Cinco de Mayo: A day of celebration in parts of the U.S. and in sections of Mexico, especially the State of Puebla. From strife comes joy as Cinco de Mayo celebrates the victory of the Mexican militia over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862.
Perhaps many of us didn’t know what Cinco de Mayo represented before now, but we celebrate together with our brothers and sisters from Mexico.
I love any reason to celebrate and especially love to teach my kids about different traditions and celebrations from around the world and the history behind them. Celebrations bring families and friends together with laughter and festivities – erasing all of the worries of life, for now.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Raising Optimistic Kids!

“Optimism: a disposition or tendency to look on the more favorable side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.”

Few people naturally default to optimism and many people are actually annoyed by it. Those who believe everything is “meant to be” or “happens for the best” can certainly drive those crazy who believe only what they can see, hear, touch, taste or smell. Frankly, most people I talk to don’t ever give optimism a thought.

Lucky for you, I think about this stuff all the time! To self-disclose, I was a mildly depressed young adult who didn’t even realize that I was depressed because I never remembered feeling anything different. I entered therapy because it was required in my graduate program and the healthier I got the more I was able to see the contrast. When I would feel depressed again, I had little tolerance for it because now I’d had a taste of feeling good! Being depressed was no longer an option. But I didn’t know how NOT to default to it.

Click here to read some great tips to growing your kids' and your own optimism muscles!

Friday, March 30, 2012

The Importance of Honoring Your Child’s Defiance (within Reason!)

On March 25, 1965, Martin Luther King, Jr. led 25,000 marchers to the state capitol in Alabama to protest the denial of voting rights for black people. For many of those marching, that day may have been the first time they stood up for themselves and used their voices and the first time anyone said to them, “You’re worthy of better”. There was great strength, confidence and hope that day.
I get a lot of calls from parents asking me:

“Why is my child so defiant?”

“Why does he fight me on everything?”

As parents, it is our job to teach kids where the limits are, but not to squash their ability to test those limits. That’s their spark, the fire in their belly and the life force of who they are. Strong-willed kids are harder to raise, but aren’t they better equipped for some aspects of adulthood? They already possess an inner strength that many people only wish they had!

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire

How do we honor our children’s protests?

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Raising Heroes!

A couple of weeks ago I read a very sad article about a shooting at a school outside of Cleveland, Ohio. What happened at that school and in other school shootings is inconceivable. When we send our kids off to school we want to know and believe that our children are safe. In the midst of the sadness of this article which included the deaths of 3 students as well as other injuries, came an incredibly uplifting aspect to this story. A story of a man – a reluctant hero – who saved countless lives that day by confronting the shooter and, literally, chasing him out of the school. The brave man’s name is Frank Hall. He’s the assistant football coach at the school, a husband and father of four adopted sons.

Frank Hall’s actions were heroic.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Beauty and Ugliness of Spring

The beginning of spring is upon us! **Aaaaachooooo** (Excuse me)

The signs of new life appear everywhere. It’s actually a very exciting time to see the trees come back to life, the daffodils in bloom, the wisteria making its brief appearance on gates and walls… and there’s new hope in the air! Excuse me if I’m completely clueless about what spring is about considering that I live in Southern California, but there are some signs even in this typically warm climate that the beautiful season of spring is here. **Aaaachoooo** (Excuse me)
Read on here.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Lesson of the Oscars

I love the Oscars!!!  I make it a point to see all of the “Best Picture” nominated movies and even try to see some of the nominated performances in other movies.  My mom and I do this together which makes it even more fun!  We have a ritual.  Around November, we start making our list of “must-see” movies.  During awards season, we call each other and we plan each coming weekend.  If we both have a free afternoon or evening during the weekend (or even a decadent weeknight) we plan where we’ll see it and what time we’ll meet.  We buy our popcorn (sometimes) and our ridiculously overpriced water bottles and we head into the theater with great anticipation. 

After the movie, we often go out for a bowl of soup and debrief.  The movies often spark conversations about relationships, life, philosophy, and even turn us into amateur movie critics.  It is so much fun! 
Of course, we repeat this routine as many times as necessary until we have seen all of the movies on our list.  It is so much fun and we wait with great anticipation for the Oscars Ceremony.  It is truly our reward for all of our hard work and dedication.  Ok, really, it’s tons of fun and gives me a great excuse to spend time together with my fabulous mom!
Last night was the big night! We got together to watch at my house on the big screen TV.  I made us a big salad and put out appetizers for us to nosh on throughout the evening.  Literally, we made a mini party.  Just the two of us!  My kids came in and out during the evening, but their commitment level is clearly not the same as Mom’s and mine.  My husband timed a visit to his Dad’s perfectly, so he didn’t have to witness the silliness and our overly loud exuberance as our favorites won or lost. 
We loved the show from start to finish! We enjoyed every minute of the red carpet – commenting on the dresses and the hilariousness of the question, “Who are you wearing?”  We waited with baited breath to hear the end of the sentence, “And the Oscar goes to…”  over and over again.  It was truly a labor of love shared by a mother and daughter who typically don’t allow themselves the luxuries of indulgence.  We both work hard and clearly have our priorities in order most of the year.  This is our one “cheesy” indulgence and we cherish the time together more than any other ingredient of this whole scenario. 

Here’s the irony: Today, the day after the Oscars, the television stations are crazy with reports about last night’s ceremony.  “Billy Crystal was wonderful!” “Billy Crystal was terrible!” “Everyone looked beautiful!” “Everyone looked so old!”  The reports are flying and the critics are working overtime being overly critical, to say the least.  I can hardly stand to listen to them.

Here’s my take on the whole thing.  Just like everything in life, you get out what you put in.  My mom and I put our hearts into the whole experience and made it wonderful for ourselves all along the way and it paid off.  It was wonderful – for us!  The bottom line is that if you don’t make a big investment, you don’t get a big payoff.  The critics are paid to be critical and I don’t care what anyone says, Mom and I loved every minute!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Teaching Kids About Government and Civics

Happy Presidents' Day!  Read my article posted to LifeBound's website about teaching our kids the importance of having a voice in our government, community and our world. 

Happy President’s Day! In addition to celebrating the birthdays of two very influential presidents, we are also in an election year. Unfortunately, in recent years the election process has become a bit of a media frenzy rather than an interesting process and lesson in government. That’s why it’s more important than ever to keep things in a healthy perspective.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor said:

“Knowledge of our system of government is not handed down through the gene pool. The habits of citizenship must be learned…”

Click here to read the whole article.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Valentine's Day

I love Valentine’s Day! I know that many call it a Hallmark holiday, but who wouldn’t love a day designated to tell those you love just how much you love them? Ok, go ahead and ask me, “What about those who get so sad on Valentine’s Day?” I say, that’s their choice! You don’t have to have a lover or a partner to enjoy the day. You also don’t have to be showered with flowers and chocolates and be taken for an expensive dinner in order for it to be magical. You simply have to MAKE it a great day.

As connected as we are these days, digitally, to everyone at all times, we are really so disconnected. We speak in “text” saying LOL and TTYL, but do we really CONNECT with each other? Valentine’s Day is the perfect opportunity, don’t you think?

Here are a few suggestions for making a real connection this Valentine’s Day:

Click here to read more on the website!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Parents as filters for all that is coming at our kids!

Here was today's parenting tip on my Balanced Parenting  Facebook page:

"Parenting tip of the day: Be a haven of shelter! There are so many images (especially on television) that put our senses on overload. Everything is more - more dramatic, more graphic, more frightening, more, more, more seems to be what America is demanding. More of a good thing isn't always a good thing! Keep an eye on what your kids are exposed to, limit the extremes when possible and talk openly when you see something that is over the top. We have to be filters for them to protect them and educate them on what is "normal" now more than ever!"

I just felt like I need to elaborate on this, so I'm turning back to my long-neglected blog.  This is too important of a subject to stop there!  I must share my thoughts.

Last night I was watching Grey's Anatomy.  I've watched the show for years and love it!  I haven't watched it in a while as my television watching habits have changed.  TV has taken a back seat to many other activities such as working, writing and raising my kids, however, I confess that when I do watch TV, I'm addicted to The Food Network.  I digress.

**WARNING** The following may be a bit graphic!!!  **WARNING**

During last night's episode of Grey's Anatomy, there had obviously been a horrible accident.  Remember, I'm coming in without any idea of what has happened in previous weeks. There were dead and injured bodies all over the road, a traumatized teenage girl was asked to hold an injured baby and pump air into the baby's lungs. Meredith Grey had to stop a truck from running over the bodies in the road by using her own body as a shield, narrowly cheating death herself. 

Later, back at the hospital, that same traumatized teen had to watch both of her parents die, one after the other - with even more trauma in between and after.  Honestly, I'm too nauseous to even continue with the details. 

I know that drama is good and makes for great television.  I'll even admit that it was a good episode.  I just couldn't help but feel a little bit like the writers were taking cheap shots at getting me to cry by using the most extreme measures imaginable.  I was also very busy keeping my 11-year-old out of the room so as not to traumatize her sensitive, little nervous system or over-expose her to images that might have kept us both up all night. 

This show is only one example of many that are on television (thousands of channels, mind you) on any given day.  Has our society become so desensitized that we need extreme images to get a reaction out of us?  I think so.

This is the part I'm concerned about for our kids.  Will they become so desensitized that nothing will rattle them? Will they understand how precious life and safety are after seeing so much violence and so many injuries and deaths before their eyes on television?

That's where we parents come in!  It is our job to filter, buffer and limit the dangers our kids are exposed to.  Not only in life, but in their line of vision, as well.  Violent video games and graphic movies and television can take a toll on a growing nervous system.  Don't be afraid to say 'NO' to programming that is not age-appropriate for your kids.  As they get older and you can't filter as much of what they see, sit down with your kids and watch with them.  Don't be annoying, but talk to them about what you're seeing, share your thoughts and remind them of your values about life, relationships, etc...

My kids sometimes think I'm a real bummer - always reminding them that what they're seeing on TV isn't real.  I'm ok with that!

Wishing you balance,

Bette Alkazian, LMFT
Balanced Parenting