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Parenting Tips

We are pleased to offer this opportunity for parents as we continue to look for ways to come along side each of you in your parenting journey. Mrs. Stephanie Dickinson, an RCS parent, is working with us to provide weekly tips for parents. We trust you will find these tips helpful to you and to your student(s).

May 19, 2019

Why You Want Your Kids To Be Bored This Summer
By Michelle Myers 20 Comments

Growing up, I spent my summer days at camp. The camps of the 80’s.

My dad pulled up to the neighborhood park about 8 o’clock every morning. My sister and I jumped out of the cool comfort of his air conditioned car into the already sweltering Florida heat. We knew we’d be hanging there until 5:30 when my mom picked us up.

With lunches in hand that we had packed ourselves, most likely with PB and J sandwiches and Hi-C juice boxes, we raced excitedly toward the playground to hang with the other kids.

The park. That was our camp. There were rarely arts and crafts or really any kind of organized activity. The occasional water days involved a few sprinklers and a hose.

Our one weekly “field trip” involved a group walk to the neighborhood pool or movie theater with 2 adults responsible for about 50 kids.

My parents actually paid for this care that could best be described as benign neglect. So did most other working parents.

It was full Every. Single. Year.

And we were bored….. So bored that we spent the majority of our days in the blazing Florida sun, creating our own entertainment. We spent entire mornings hanging upside down on the monkey bars and then spent entire afternoons seeing if we could spin each other so fast on the metal merry go round that someone threw up their lunch. We chanted for hours on end for “red rover, red rover” to come on over. When that got old, we invented our own crazy games with complex rules and secret team handshakes.

We escaped the heat, buy building giant houses with elaborate floor plans among the trees and eventually built markets, taco stands, and schools with our own currency made from acorns and rocks. We were sweaty and dirty and bored. Every. Single. Day. And we LOVED it!

That is why you want your kids to be bored this Summer. I actually look forward to hearing my kids tell me “I’m bored.”

And you should too…As moms, we don’t need feel bad or overcome with guilt when we hear these words. They should be part of every childhood.

I don’t think my parents knew it when my sister and I were kids, but they were giving us something precious. Something too many kids today never get to experience.

Boredom is a gift

By not scheduling our days with structured activities supervised by hyper vigilant adults, we were forced to think, to use our imaginations and to creatively discover solutions.

We argued about the rules for those games we made up and somehow figured it out. We passed books around and would read in the shade for hours.

We were happy redoing the same puzzles time after time or playing with a basic set of legos. We found simple pleasure in just being together at a picnic table in the sun with a box of markers or deck of cards. We kept ourselves busy and we were happy.

In a world consumed with busyness, with doing something every moment of every day, giving our kids large blocks of unstructured time is to their benefit.

Study after study tells us that boredom actually enhances creativity. It helps our children’s critical thinking skills flourish.

By not offering entertainment, we’re forcing our children to figure things out for themselves.

They tap into their own imaginations and develop the ability to engage their own minds. This shows them how to become more self reliant, which builds their confidence.

I’ve seen the benefits of boredom

Kids who are content with simple distractions like books and board games. Kids who are good conversationalists and play well with others. Kids who are creative problem solvers. Kids who are actually fun to be around because they’re not seeking attention or inspiration from adults every 5 minutes. So, yes, I really hope my kids are bored this Summer. I hope they soak up every moment of it and remember their Summers with as much fondness as I do my own.

I told you why I really hope my kids are bored this summer?
Now how about you, how will you make sure your kids are bored this summer?

May 11, 2019

Want To Get Your Teen To Talk To You? Ask These Surprising Questions.
By Whitney Fleming

In my perfect world, my two teens would come home from school, sit at the counter top and tell me about their day. I would hear who is dating whom, how each test went, when the upcoming school play is, and every other little detail. I would chime in here or there with sage words of advice or stories about “when I was their age…..”

It would be delightful.

Now, if you actually are the parent of a teenager, you know how far off from reality I am.

What actually happens in my home?
My daughters come through the door, grab a snack and head off to their rooms to either change for a practice or do their homework. If I happen to be in the kitchen, I spit out a few questions like “How was your day?” or “Was that science test as hard as you thought?” or maybe “What time do I need you to pick up again?” From that I usually get a series of one-word answers, such as “fine” or “good” or “six.” And then they’re gone.

I even tried one of those “50 questions to get your teen talking” lists. All it got me was a series of eye rolls.

It’s hard not to take the brush off personally and wonder where you went wrong. It’s difficult not to wax nostalgic about that kid who used to talk for hours telling you every detail about Minecraft or a new friend at school.

But science and hundreds of parenting experts can explain it.

According to Newton’s third law, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. That means, the harder we push our kids to talk, they equally, if not more so, will shut down.

Why does this happen?
Because parents are hard-wired to support our offspring, and that means we want to know what is going on in our kids’ lives so we can help them. Teenagers, on the other hand, want nothing more than to be independent. Two opposing actions creating enough friction for a nuclear meltdown.

Why is it so hard for teens to answer a few simple questions though?
Despite our best claims to be non-judgmental when our teens tell us something, we’re not and they know it. If they have behaved badly, we’re disappointed. If they put themselves in dangerous situations, we worry. And they hate when we worry.

Additionally, teens have a sixth sense when parents ask questions that are too specific. Most shut down when a parent starts poking around about friendships or things that happen at school. Many teens like to keep their home life separate from their school/peer one.

So, what’s a parent to do?
Recently a friend shared a trick that is so simple, but so brilliant. She explained how her 14-year old son was experiencing a difficult transition into high school. His friends were in different classes and activities, and he felt isolated – or so she thought because he refused to discuss it despite repeated attempts. Her concern grew as her son spent more and more time alone in his room.

One day, my normally type-A friend asked her son a simple question: “Do you want to go to the arcade?” She knew he loved to play video games and she just wanted to see him smile again.

At first he hemmed and hawed, but eventually relented.

During that time that afternoon, she did not inquire about school or his feelings. She did ask, “Hey, show me how to shift in this race car game,” and she did say, “I’m going to kick your butt in Ms. Pac Man,” but nothing about his friendships or behavior.

Over a burger and fries later that day, her son said, “Thanks for this Mom. It’s the most fun I’ve had in awhile.”

She said, “Me too. I’m here if you ever want to talk.”

Over the next few weeks, she continued to avoid the topic she wanted to know most about and instead the only questions she asked were if he wanted to do something with her.

“Hey, do you want to go grab a coffee?”
“Can you come to the store with me?”
“Do you want to go pick out your new soccer cleats?”

And on each of those interactions, she received a little bit more information. She found out her son was lonely and a bit intimidated by the difficulty of his new classes. He was a little hurt that his friends from middle school didn’t include him in a few group outings, and he mentioned a girl several times in passing.

Instead of pressing on any of those issues, she only nodded her head or said things like, “I can see why that would bother you.” She recognized that her son was not looking for her to fix anything. He just needed someone to share his pain. The hope is that by her making herself available without judgment, when he may be in serious trouble, he will know she is there for him.

Could it really be so simple to get your teen to talk?
Impressed with the depth of knowledge my friend acquired, I felt compelled to try it myself with my own teens. I had some concerns with one of my daughters on a few things happening within her friend-set, but she shut down anytime I brought it up. One time she even yelled, “I don’t want to talk about it with you!”

It was time to try a different tact. For one week, I didn’t ask a single question about the situation with their friends.

Instead, I asked:

“Do you want to go to Starbucks”
“Can you help me pick out an outfit for this dinner I have to go to?”
“I have to go get some new make up, do you want to come with?”

And slowly, but surely, she opened up. I didn’t ask any questions. I became comfortable with awkward silences. I tried not to offer advice unless prompted. I painstakingly withheld my opinions, even when it about killed me.

But here and there I received a few nuggets of information – enough to make me feel better about the situation with her friends and more comfortable with our lines of communication.

Recognizing that my teens wanted control and privacy over their lives was difficult.

The harder I tried, the worse our relationship became. However, I came to realize that controlling the information they provided to me, even controlling their attention at me, was about the only power they felt they had in our relationship.

When I diffused the power struggle, my daughter had the ability to determine if, when and where she would discuss these issues.

It was up to me to come to terms with the fact that it doesn’t matter when they talk to me; what matters is they keep talking to me.

I still miss the time that they wanted to share every detail about their day, when they talked so much I wanted to hit “mute,” but relinquishing some control and getting my teens to spend some quality time with me, well, that’s pretty great too.

May 4, 2019

Talking with Teenagers: Substance Abuse
Sissy Goff April 11, 2019

Just heard for the I’m not sure how many’th time in my 25 years counseling kids, “I don’t know why my parents got mad at me. It wasn’t my weed.” You can substitute alcohol, or Juuls, or any other substance that’s trending these days. And, honestly, in all of those years, that statement has almost never

been true. If you find a substance in your child’s room, or in their car, chances are it really is theirs. Or, at least 99% of the time it belongs to your child, not the friend they’re trying to “keep out of trouble.” They are not keeping it for someone else and wouldn’t risk getting in trouble themselves, no matter how “good of a friend they are”, or how “worried they are about them,” or even “how awful their parents are.” (Can you tell I’ve heard LOTS of the excuses over the years?) So, what do you do? This monthly article is meant to spark conversation, to create meaningful dialog with the kids you love. But, how do you have meaningful dialog when they’re making destructive choices…or is there even a chance that they might?

It is tough. And, it’s tough in general to parent in light of all that the kids we love are being exposed to on a daily basis. But, conversation continues to be profoundly important. Before they even get to the age where kids are experimenting with substance use, you want to start the conversations. Tell me what you know about being a teenager? What is there to look forward to? What do you think’s tough about it? What do you want to be like when you’re a teenager? Have you heard of peer pressure? What do you think that means? And then, based on what they know, fill in the gaps. But, be mindful of lecturing. Lectures really don’t help. Talk with them. Help them understand how hard it really can be to make good choices, but how proud you will be of them when—not if—they do.

As they get older, continue the conversation. But, beforehand, make sure that you know you’re there to listen and not to judge. (And not to panic is important, too.) What’s the culture like in your school these days? Are you hearing much about alcohol or drugs? Are kids vaping? Why do you feel like it’s happening? What do you think would help? How can I support you? And talk with them gently about your expectations and hopes for them. If, at some point, your child does experiment with substances of any kind, first, they need consequences. It’s always helpful to know your child’s currency…a car, friends, technology, whatever you think will have the most impact. Consequences that are shorter-term and intense are most helpful. If they’re grounded for 6 months, teenagers live so much in the present, that

they can’t remember why they were grounded in the first place by the time the grounding is over. And then, talk with them. They need to hear truth from you, but they also need to talk with you. What was going on? What do you think got you to this place (a more helpful and non-threatening way to ask “why”)? What was it like for you? What do you want to do differently next time? How can I help?

Your teenager needs to know your values, your expectations, and needs to hear regularly who you believe God made them to be…even when they mess up. And, they also need to learn to connect the dots on their own. Conversations help …and your belief in who they are and who they can be does, too.