Having trouble connecting to your kids?

Have you ever experienced a disconnect with your kids? Are you experiencing one right now? Do you feel distant from your children, like they are pulling away from you, don’t want to talk, and don’t seem to want a relationship with you?

If so, you have a normal relationship with your kids. Painful, but normal. Hang in there, because this too shall pass. With a few exceptions that involve major red flags such as signs of depression or drastic personality changes, most of the distance kids put between themselves and their parents is a harmless result of a quest for independence. It is the natural order of things, the stage of life you have spent their childhood preparing them for, but it is still emotional and a little disconcerting when they turn their apathy and frustration in your direction.

Part of me has always believed that people prepare themselves for oncoming physical distance from their loved ones by preemptively creating an emotional distance. It’s the subconscious decision to pretend that someone doesn’t mean too much to you so that leaving them will be less difficult. I think your kids are doing it without even realizing it. They can see their independence peeking from the horizon and they emotionally prep themselves for it by convincing themselves that they don’t need you anymore.

So what can you do?

Knowing that their behavior is actually, in part, a defense mechanism might help you take less offense. Consider that they are trying to discover who they are without you, they have an overwhelming need to be accepted by their peers, and they struggle with inherent immaturity and an inability to truly process the consequences of their actions. In other words, it’s NOT you. It’s them. As hard as it is, you have to decide not to take it all personally.

Instead, help them discover who they are. Guide them toward relatable peers with similar interests and personalities. Help them reason through their choices and the outcomes those choices might bring. Facilitate their journey to maturity, rather than controlling the process and halting it completely. Allow your kids to falter and fail and know that each time they do, they are growing toward adulthood.

It’s yet another test of our love for our kids that we encourage them to have a life outside of us. When your kids seem distant, don’t assume there’s a reason to be alarmed. Just ask yourself if they are putting their toes in the water and testing the temperature. Better to let them take those small steps toward independence than to watch them attempt a cannonball without knowing how to swim.


Summer learning gains ARE possible

Study after study, summer after summer, reminds us that kids in America lose a good month or two of learning during summer break. Teachers spend weeks – sometimes the entire first month of school – reteaching and reviewing last year’s content to make up for the lost time. Advocates of year-round school rightly use these statistics to push their agenda, but after years of teaching, I have to say that I’m all for continuing our 10-month tradition.

Currently, the school session begins as early as the beginning of August and as late as the day after Labor Day. Most schools conclude around Memorial Day, some as late as a week or two after. Summer, therefore, has been reduced to about two months, which leaves a short amount of time to pack in a lot of family plans.

I happen to believe in the necessity of that time for five reasons:

1. Kids are stressed during the school year. They need time to decompress and recharge for the new school. And they need more time than adults because they’re also growing, changing, and maturing at a much faster rate. Just growing is tiring, and a week’s vacation won’t cut it when it comes to getting a true break.

2.  Everyone needs closure. The end of the school year provides this, a chance for students to reflect on their work habits, the consequences of their decisions, their successes and their failures. But it also provides a fresh start, a clean slate, where they can put behind their mistakes and forge ahead. Sure, they could do this at any time of the year, but it’s much easier to visualize when a fresh start is provided for them.

3.  As family time becomes less and less available with our increasingly busy schedules, summer slows the pace. Most adults relax a little more during these months and work a little less. They take family vacations, visit faraway relatives, and spend time at the pool and park. This fosters valuable family time that makes memories and bonds the family unit together.

4.  Kids need time to work their brains in entirely different ways. What we see as simple playing is actually quite nuanced and multi-layered. Playing with friends or at a favorite activity can improve creative thinking, fine and gross motor skills, cooperation techniques and relationship skills, physical exercise, and problem-solving methods.

5. Kids need time to pursue their interests, unfettered by school schedules and demands. I wonder how many kids have discovered a beloved hobby or a career during these treasured summer months? They attend a camp or workshop, travel to a foreign destination, participate in programs that expose them to different kinds of people, or attend a venue such as a museum or aquarium that opens a new world to them. Real life experiences are crucial in helping kids determine their interests and goals.

I’ll admit summer can be a waste of time if kids do nothing but watch TV and sleep. But that’s where good parenting comes in. Make sure that your kids are spending time on the above activities, that they are exploring and thinking and enriching their lives during these weeks. They may need a brush-up on grammar rules or math formulas come September, but what they discover about themselves and their world during June and July can make all the difference to their futures.



5 Tips for a peaceful home this summer break

The kids are home. The school year has ended, it is WAY too early to think about the next school year, and summer spreads before us like a buffet of delectable treats. But did I mention that the kids are home?

I always enjoyed summertime with my kids, but the togetherness, the ability to see all that your kids are doing – or not doing – all day, can certainly dim the bright promise of summer. So below you will find 5 Tips for keeping your sanity and enjoying your kids all summer long.

1. Have a plan. Talk to your kids upfront about how they plan to spend their days so that you can coordinate schedules and approve their agenda. If you don’t do this, you’ll be shocked when they sleep in until 1:00 pm and then settle down in front of the TV for a Kardashian marathon.

2. Make sure they do something productive. Teenagers should have summer jobs of some sort, even if they are young teens. They can always babysit, do yard work, or bag groceries. Summer is an excellent time to teach kids about the real world, educate them about handling finances, and expose them to all different kinds of people they won’t meet at school. A job gets them out of the house and gives them a sense of responsibility.

3. But allow them to have a vacation. This is important. Kids really do work hard at school and oftentimes have a number of commitments that add stress. Just like us, they need a break. Giving them one helps them to rejuvenate and recharge so they’ll be ready to go when the new school year starts.

4. Don’t nag. Everyone hates nagging and it is quite counterproductive. A more effective way to talk to kids is to give them a heads up about your expectations. You might say, “Now that you’re home for the summer, I’ll need you to do some additional chores around the house. You have a choice of (insert where you need help here). What would you like to do?” Providing choice makes the expectation less of a chore and more of a contribution.

5. Enjoy your kids. They will be much more relaxed during these months and likely more open to family time. When they’re not with their friends, catching up on their sleep, or working, be sure to seize the opportunity to spend time with them. Going out for ice cream, having a cookout, seeing a movie, or hanging at the pool are all low-key activities that will add to wonderful memories.


Yes, you can and should control your teenagers

“That kid doesn’t have the sense God gave him!” How many times have you made a comment like this one about your child or someone else’s? Either way, your statement is 100 percent correct. Kids don’t have sense a whole lot of the time.

The problem is that they DO have sense some of the time. This confuses us. We watch our children act responsibly, puzzle through a difficult problem, and surprise us with their wisdom and maturity. Then, in the next breath, they ruin it all. They do something really, really stupid. They act like complete imbeciles. They ignore everything we ever taught them, and we stand there, mouth gaping, wondering how we’ll make it through another day of senseless acts committed by our children.

I remind you of this not to make you feel helpless and frustrated, but to point out the obvious – children, even teenagers, are still learning. And this means that sometimes, you still need to tell them what to do. My kids are in their early 20’s and there are times when all of the reasoning and explaining in the world won’t get them to see the other person’s side, so I resort to laying down the law and insisting that they do whatever it is, whether they like it or not. It’s called parenting, and yes, you still have to do it well past your kids’ 18 birthday.

Many parents feel that in the teen years, their kids’ rebellion, disrespect, and defiance are “normal.” And one-third of that thought is correct – it is indeed normal for 13 to 25-year-olds to rebel. It is a natural extension of growing up to assert one’s independence, to question what has always been taught, to expose oneself to people outside of one’s family, to think independently, and to desire a life separate from one’s parents. BUT, it is not excusable for teens and young adults to be disrespectful and defiant toward their parents. Those are chosen behaviors that you, as parents, either accept or refuse to accept. If you allow disrespect to happen, you are tacitly approving it. You can and should demand respect from your kids, and when they don’t give it, or blatantly defy you, they should face negative consequences for that decision.

Of course, the best way to get respect is to give it. Speaking to your children as intelligent, thoughtful young people; monitoring your tone and avoiding raising your voice; refusing to engage in long-winded arguments that beat the dead horse; maintaining a healthy balance of love and discipline; and always, always being consistent and persistent with your rules and expectations will earn your children’s respect. If you’ve fallen short in this area and have some work to do yourself, start today to do better. Regardless of where you are on that journey, do not allow your kids to call you names, turn their backs on you while you’re talking or otherwise “dismiss” you, scream at or threaten you. These behaviors are never productive and set a precedent for disrespectful behavior down the road, not just with you, but with future spouses, bosses, and children of their own. That’s one cycle you don’t want to see continued.

And when they attempt to defy you – and they will – don’t let them wear you down. Teach them that your word means something. “No” is not the beginning of an argument. No means no, every single time. Now, they still might defy you, but when they do, consequences must result. Usually taking away a coveted item (their cell phone, rights to the car, or an event with friends) will send a loud, clear message that there are consequences to our actions. Kids don’t often think that far ahead, and that’s exactly why they still need you to think for them when their heads are swimming with everything else.

So don’t write off your teenagers and assume that you no longer have the control. The control is there for the taking. If you don’t pick it up, they will, and they’ll run right into trouble with it. And don’t assume that as teenagers, your kids have a good head on their shoulders. They probably do sometimes, and other times, not so much. You’re still the mom and dad. Let them know that.