Family Car Games For Summer Road-Tripping

We’re going on a road trip, a road trip, a road trip.
We’re going on a road trip to see what we can see!

During this pandemic, we have embraced the glory of road trips. We’ve driven to interesting places near and far – farther than we ever imagined driving versus flying in order to discover beautiful sights and differing vistas. Today we are packing and preparing for our next family adventure on the road with our 13-year-old. And yes, he’ll have plenty of time on his device. However on a day-long (in our case, several days long) journey, we create fun breaks from social media or gaming to give his weary eyes a break and his brain and heart a chance to focus on live, in-person connection and interacting as a family. We’ll use some of the following that seem more teen-appropriate while others may suit your needs with younger children.

You may typically venture out on a number of small road trips during the summer months taking advantage of the freedom and warm weather. Or like us, your family vacation has involved more driving and less flying. It’s tempting to hand a child an iPad and allow the video games and programs to fill the idle time. Then I think back to my own road trips as a child, sometimes thirteen hours in a non-air-conditioned car, and of course, with no handy portable device to fill my time. I recall being happily consumed with my crayons and a sketch pad. I filled every single page with drawings of sand castles, mermaids and sea creatures anticipating our vacation at the beach. But now, my son, who is so used to easily accessible entertainment and high level of stimulation, seems to require more than just that trusty old sketch pad. But engage him with a family game, and he is delighted to play. If packing and getting out of the house is a stressful time, these silly, playful games help reconnect you as a family and set the tone that you are leaving the stress behind and on your way to more good times together.

The following car games can offer ways to connect as a family and build cooperative skills all the while enjoying your time together. It can set a collaborative tone preparing all family members for a positive adventure together.

Cooperative Storytelling

One person begins a story with a main character and a setting. Start with a few juicy details – “One day a giant sea turtle named Freddy sauntered down the isle of a grocery store looking for his favorite potato chips…” and then pass off the story to the next person to fill in what comes next. Offer a few sentences and then continue to pass the story along with each family member contributing key details to move your adventure forward. In my experience, the stories that emerge from these games are a joy and delight with surprises around every corner! Our family loves this game!

Where in the World Guessing Game

“Where in the world is E?” we ask and E begins to describe his surroundings. He picks any city, community or habitat in the world and offers details about the attributes of his environment without naming it and we have to guess the place.

Creature Guessing Game

Similarly, one person thinks of a creature. All of the guessers ask questions of the individual with a creature in mind. “Is it small, medium or large? Does it live in the forest? Does it eat plants or animals?” When you have enough details, guess the creature. Go around and give each person the chance to think of an animal.

Name the Face

See if you can express an emotion with only your facial expression. (This could be tricky for drivers!) Think of the emotion and perform the facial expression of that emotion. See if others can guess what you are feeling.

More, More!

Select a category such as ice cream flavors, popular songs or amusement park rides. Call out as many different kinds as you can until you’ve exhausted your list of ideas. This offers practice in brainstorming, a valuable skill used in coming up with solutions to a problem.

Cell Phone

Do you remember the old game Telephone? Think of a sentence. Start simple and make them more challenging as you go. Whisper it into the ear of another family member. Each person whispers to the next person exactly what they heard whispered in their ear. Have the last person say what they heard aloud. It’s ideal if you can go quickly and try it a couple of times. Then you are able to see if listening and communication improves with practice and focus.

You Write the Songs

Pick out a family favorite song – one that everyone knows. Now select a favorite animal (your pet?), place (your school?) or person (your best friend?). Change the words of the song to describe or tell the story of that creature or place. Make sure all family members have the chance to contribute. Practice and sing it with gusto!

Radio Story

Turn on the radio. Listen to the first station that plays. Is it a song or a commercial. Now cooperatively tell the background story of the song or commercial. How was the song written? Why was the product developed (if a commercial)? What story does it really tell? Make it imaginative, the crazier, the better. None of it should be based on real facts. Each family member can add details to your radio backstory.

Social Dilemmas

Tweens and teens are often fascinated with social dilemmas since they are dealing with more complex social issues regularly. This may interest that age group. One person offers a social problem such as a friend wants to get on the highway with her friends and drive out of town without telling anyone. What do you do? Or an animal is about to get run over by a car in the road at the same time your toddler brother is running down the street. What do you do? These can offer interesting ethical considerations and turn into involving conversations. The trick for parents is to remain in open-minded dialogue mode, offering ideas and not criticizing.

Try out these road trip games or create your own and watch the time fly past as you laugh and creatively, cooperatively play with your family. Happy adventures!

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Resource:

Our Grandma Linda sent us a gift this Spring that we’ve started to use at our Sunday night family dinners entitled And Then, Story Starters, 20 Imaginative Beginnings. It’s a book-size deck of cards, each with its own riveting story starter. These prompts offer rich details from which to build and could be of great use if you want to try the cooperative storytelling and would like help in getting started.

We also like to use Story Cubes to help us initiate storytelling.

This is a CPCK favorite article originally published in May, 2017.

Coming Soon! Mindful Parenting Summit

Support Children’s Growing Minds, Hearts and Spirits with Strategies Backed by Research

Want to build your mindfulness knowledge and skill? Attend our FREE Mindful Parenting Summit on July 26-29, 2021, where parenting experts of different age groups share their insights into mindfulness and its benefits for children. It’s FREE!


Interviews start at 8am EST each day and will be posted for 24 hours. So grateful to Helen Maffini for organizing this event at a time when we could all use a mindfulness boost! I will discuss with her how this moment of transition and change can be an ideal time in which to reexamine your core family values, how your priorities may have shifted, and how you can align your deepest values and priorities with the decisions you are making and how you engage or reengage with family, friends and your community.

Join our FREE summit and learn: 

• Mindfulness activities that children will enjoy and benefit from

• What science says about mindfulness

• Why research supports mindfulness practice for teachers, parents, and children

• How mindfulness can be introduced to children from preschool up to their teenage years

• Tips and strategies to create a calm, caring classroom or home

• How to increase your own mindfulness

• And more

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Weeding, Seeding, Reading and Healing

A Mother and Son’s Summertime Book Experience

This summer season represents many themes for different people depending on who you are and what you need. Yours may be the summer of freedom, the summer of connection, or the summer of belonging. For me, it’s the summer of healing and renewal. Many of us experienced trauma throughout the last year and a half. Many of us were experiencing trauma before the pandemic hit. And for many of us, those traumatic experiences welled up old traumas from years ago feeling like a double-whammy to our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. As we moved from the frenetic pace of the school year in which there was no time to stop and think more-less feel, summer arrived and as my calendar grew more spacious, I noticed how numb I felt. That led to concern and a focus on allowing feelings to enter gently, slowly back into my life, they were so pushed away as I gritted through these challenging times.

Among a reformation of the foods and drinks I put into my body knowing that could contribute (or take away from) my steps toward well-being, I had a strong desire to conduct a major book purge. I am, as you may suspect, an avid reader. I come by it honestly hailing from parents who consume books faster than a bowl of popcorn during a good movie. I love all kinds of books – fiction, nonfiction, children’s literature, biographies. And as I reflected on my craving to weed through them all, I realized how much my book collection reflects my current reality, ideologies and even identity. “If it’s true that I have been fundamentally changed in the last few years,” I said to myself, “then surely my books will reflect those seismic shifts and help me become more self-aware.”

It absolutely proved true. As I went shelf by shelf – not simply dusting and organizing — but actually, reading the jacket and asking the question, “is this me? Will I invest my time in this?”, I discovered the truth of my prediction. Other questions I asked were, “what are new or critical values I want to reinforce, better understand, expand or deepen?” and “what values do not serve me anymore?” This book self-identifying process is incredibly personal. There’s no right or wrong so when you review my choices, they may not be where you are. For example, the books that strongly emphasized individualism or competition and scarcity or those that told the American story from a white privilege perspective found their place in the “give away” pile. Bye, bye Ayan Rand’s “The Fountainhead” and Emerson’s Essays on Self-Reliance. There were other books that I couldn’t even bring myself to give away to others, and they headed for the trash bin.

Can you believe every book on this countertop I am passing along to some other reader? Oh, don’t worry! There’s plenty more at home. This was the buy-back counter at Half Price Books.

The seeds of racism can be found in children’s stories and buried in the back of the shelves were two that are now marked “trash.” They had been saved because they were childhood favorites of my parents signed to me lovingly by them. I know that my Dad relished as a bullied child in the story of a boy who outsmarted tigers in “Little Brave Sambo” or in some versions, “Little Black Sambo.” Instead of quickly ridding my house of these, I researched why these contain racist themes and educated my son on how they can insidiously infect even seemingly innocent stories such as childhood picture books. Through my reading, we learned that, among many important hidden themes, Sambo was portrayed as an African-American boy even though he lived in India with an Indian family. He accepted abuse from the tigers in a kind way smiling while being striped of all of his possessions and clothing and ended up eating the abusers or taking into his very being their oppression. My understanding of this tale grew deeper as I read and expanded my understanding of the destructive nature of this and other childhood tales. I’m replacing these childhood tales with new ones that are more life-giving to me and my family.

Though I’ve spent much of my summer quiet and not on social media, I thought about you and how you are on the same journey of healing. I’m sharing my weeding, seeding, reading and healing process in case it can support you as well. In addition, my son, thirteen-years-old, joined me in getting rid of outgrown stories and growing and expanding his own book selection with the purpose of expanding his empathy and social awareness. Here’s what I’m learning from currently. And there’s a series of my son’s books below as well.

The Dance of Anger; A Woman’s Guide to Changing the Patterns of Intimate Relationships by Harriet Lerner, PhD. – I find anger to be a confusing emotion and generally, one I’m uncomfortable with allowing. This book is an excellent guide to understanding how to validate your angry feelings and use them to create change in your life.

The Body Keeps the Score; Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD – I thought I knew a bit about trauma but wow. If you only read one book about trauma whether for yourself or the many around you, this is an important read.

The Endless Practice; Becoming Who You Were Born to Be by Mark Nepo – My endless practice is reading a passage from a Mark Nepo book (there are many!) every morning, every day since I became a parent. His wisdom nourishes me and always give me something important to consider in my life.

The Transformation; Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma by James Gordon – This was sent to me by the author and I sadly ignored it until this summer and what a treasure! I love how it offers simple, practical strategies for healing.

The Naturalist’s Notebook for Tracking Changes in the Natural World Around You by Nathaniel T. Wheelwright and Bernd Heinrich – This beautifully illustrated journal guides you to pay close attention to each aspect of your natural surroundings. Mindfulness is an important strategy for healing along with connection with nature. If you haven’t yet watched the award-winning documentary “The Octopus Teacher,” it shows a man who engaged in healing by being deeply mindful of and creating a relationship with nature.

The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook; A Proven Way to Accept Yourself, Build Inner Strength and Thrive by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer – I have loved and learned from Kristin Neff’s research on self-compassion. This is a great way to take yourself through writing exercises to help transform the ways in which you treat yourself by thinking about how you might treat a treasured friend who is struggling.

Noise; A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein – Since the pandemic arose, I’ve been fascinated with the ways in which people make responsible decisions for themselves and their families. This book discusses the “noise” and bias involved with every judgment that’s made and how we need to overcome both in order to make responsible decisions. Noise can involve a myriad of dissenting external views on the same topic, impulse and personal desires, trivial preferences, power struggles and more. As we live through complicated times, understanding how responsible decisions can be made by reducing noise and bias both individually and collectively is extremely important.

As for my thirteen-year-old son, his first recommendation would not be surprising if you knew that today he was at magic camp, a proud great grandson of a known Cincinnati magician. His top pick would be the entire “Harry Potter” series devoured several times over. Interestingly though, other than this next first recommendation, that’s where the white male lead characters stop for his list of book picks. Check out the rest of his summer recommended reading for middle school age teens.

Pax by Sara Pennypacker – This story alternates each chapter from the highly believable perspective of a fox to the perspective of the boy who loves him. The boy is forced to give up the fox and spends the book on an adventure to find him. This book offers unique insights into the power of unexpected relationships and friendships. One character deals with post traumatic stress disorder and heals through art. The book deals with the costs of war and opens up the definition of family to simply those we love. We loved reading this one together.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan – This historical fiction story is told about the author’s grandmother, born to a wealthy family in Mexico who was forced to leave amidst family tragedy and abuse. She moves with family members to America to find a safer life where they become migrant farm workers. The conditions in which she must work and live are horrible and some start striking and fighting back and lose their livelihood and homes in the process. Though we studied Cesar Chavez and his critical work, this book brings the experience of immigrants trying to find safety and a better life in the United States to life in powerful ways to build empathy and awareness. He loved this book!

Anne Frank; The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank – How can this not leave a lasting impression? Anne Frank writes her personal daily account of her confinement with hers and another family hiding from the Nazi regime in the back rooms of her father’s office. Anne’s storytelling sounds just like a friend or classmate of my son’s. She finds optimism and hope in each of her days. My son was fascinated with World War II as so many are. This brings to life the authentic experience of a girl around the same age living through the fear, uncertainty, hurt and confusion of being hated and hunted for one’s race and religion. Despite it all, it’s clear she discovers ways to learn and thrive.

Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell – This is the fictional story of a real woman (O’Dell named her Karana) who lived alone on San Nicolas island off the coast of California in the early 1800s for twenty years after her tribe was removed from the island. It is an incredible story of survival as she finds ways in which to create a home, find food, domesticate animals as companions and more. The richness of detail feels deeply authentic though the author only had scraps of information to use. In a year where survival was at issue, this tale is heartwarming and shows how the spirit can thrive despite harsh circumstances.

Poetry Speaks Who I Am Edited by Elise Paschen – This book of poetry contains well-known as well as unknown poets’ work that sings out the identities of many and varied unique persons in a variety of environments. This rich collection was one that inspired my son to write his own poetry.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson – The author takes us step by step through her childhood born in our hometown Columbus, Ohio in 1963. Each brief chapter is written as free verse. Winner of the National Book Award and Newberry Honor Award, my son has this lined up as next on his list!

I wrote about weeding, reading and healing. I also did some seeding. There were two old books that I trashed in my weeding process. I added a number of new ones to my collection seeding new childhood stories like the young adult book, “Stamped” by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi. And the picture books “A Boy Like You” by Frank Murphy, “We Are Grateful Ostaliheliga” by Traci Sorrell, “What If Soldiers Fought with Pillows; True Stories of Imagination and Courage” by Heather Camlot and “Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt De La Peña (thank you, Tauck Family Foundation for introducing me to several of these!).

What are you reading this summer that is lifting you up, healing you and offering you empathy and hope? I hope that your summertime reading dreams are fulfilled!

Understanding the Social and Emotional Development of Tween-Agers

“I had a dream that I told the girl I have a crush on that I liked her and seconds later, I watched as the whole world exploded,” my ten-almost-eleven-year-old told me as he was getting ready for bed last night. This morning, I noticed him spending time fixing his hair in the mirror, an act that, in the past, may have only occurred once a year for a big occasion like a wedding or major holiday. “I feel scared but I can’t tell you exactly why,” was another reflection he offered. Yes, for fifth graders and indeed, all the way from ages nine through fourteen as puberty begins, children are feeling a newfound sense of vulnerability and sensitivity. 

Younger children are busy with the work of figuring out who they are, what they believe, and how they can explore their environments. Their greatest learning comes from play. And their belief system – how they make sense of the world around them – is magical. Fairies are just as likely to show up at their breakfast table as their baby brother. 

As puberty begins around nine or ten, a child’s body begins the long (or short – depending upon your perspective) process of transforming into an adolescent on its way to adulthood. But the body is not the only aspect that is changing. A child’s ways of thinking, feeling, and perceiving the world is changing too. And though a tween’s brain is beginning a major reconstruction moving from magical thinking to the more logical thinking required of their adult years, that shift will not fully occur until their mid-twenties. So we witness phases – or stages – of those shifts in thinking.

Research provides helpful insight. Studies have found a direct correlation between a raised social awareness and social anxiety. As one increases, so too does the other.1 Why? The answer lies in the magic and the mishaps of middle childhood.

The Magic of Social Awareness

As our tween-aged sons and daughters grow in their social awareness, they can gain:

Empathy, or working to understand the thoughts and feelings of others, a learned skill. This is an ideal time to help cultivate empathetic thoughts in your child. Notice when others are hurting and question why together. Your child is capable of engaging in more in-depth conversations now about others than ever before. This “magic” is the very foundation of their social capital, leadership abilities, and healthy relationship skills for today and for their future. Try engaging in conversations about social issues that affect your family or friends. Ask questions to prompt thinking, such as, “What do you think that homeless person on the corner is thinking and feeling?” Marvel at their growing ability to deeply consider others and widen their circle of concern.

Compassion, or taking action from empathetic thoughts and feelings to provide help or support to another, or simply put: acting on empathy. When your child expresses genuine concern for that homeless person on the corner, what will you do about it? And more importantly, how can you brainstorm with them what they can do about it? Perhaps begin by taking a look at other youth who are serving their communities, raising their voices as advocates, or simply helping out where help is needed. Use your screen time together to look for inspirational models! I love this example at Pitt River Middle School. Check it out! 

Deeper connections with you, with friends, with teachers, with extended family. If you thought that no deeper intimacy was possible than that of your newborn baby snuggling up to your side, try discussing the meaning of life with a ten-year-old. Tens, elevens, and beyond are capable of far deeper insights into the human condition. They are curious about the world yet have not fully erected their emotional security walls from being rejected time and again (as later adolescents and adults have). They are open to thinking big and your exploration with them will open your own eyes to new ways of seeing and perceiving the possibilities. Middle school children, though they are weighed down frequently by the anxiety of their newfound social awareness, are also purveyors of hope if we only create the safe space for questioning and dialogue. If we can show we are receptive to their big ideas and big questions, our intimacy will deepen. And similarly, children can create stronger friendships and relationships with grandparents, with caregivers, and teachers through their ability to understand how others think and feel.

Deeper learning at home and at school with the asset of social awareness. Research confirms the conditions necessary for deep learning to occur. Positive relationships in which students collaborate with teachers and with one another is essential.2 And the emotions that are generated from a commitment to caring relationships – like love, belonging, curiosity, awe, and concern – are necessary for learning to take place.3 Children, though they are attempting to think more rationally, don’t lose their ability to believe in magic and think creatively. In fact, this ability to innovate paired with social awareness can be a powerful force for making a difference in others’ lives. Check out the video Ten Kids Who Changed the World and be inspired by our children’s awesome potential! 

Mishaps with Social Anxiety

As our tween’s social awareness increases, their social anxiety increases which can create:

Clumsiness in the spotlight. This could be a phenomenon you’ve experienced with your ten, eleven, twelve, or thirteen-year-old. To understand what they are going through, picture yourself going out on a theater stage with a spotlight lighting up just you as you look out on hundreds of people you know, people whose opinions really matter to you. Yes – your parents, your boss, your boss’ boss, your in-laws – the gang is all there watching every move you make. Does just the thought of it make you shrink a bit? Are you visualizing running off the stage, driving home, and burying yourself under your bed covers? If so, then you are experiencing empathy for your middle school child. Their new ability to experiment with and try to make predictions about other’s thought and feelings (note: those words are chosen because it takes a whole lot of practice to become skilled at accurately predicting others’ thoughts and feelings. We are not born mind readers!) make them feel self-conscious. And when you have a heightened sense that others are scrutinizing you, you make mistakes. You blunder. Go ahead and add a giant growth spurt and a surge of male and female hormones to the mix. Your child might be clumsy and painfully aware that he’s clumsy. 

What can you do? Oh, how they need Moms, Dads, teachers, mentors, grandparents, and others to reassure them that these changes are normal…that they are truly brave, strong, kind, creative, smart, and resilient! They are old enough to learn about their own development so learn together what changes they are undergoing.

Snap-back measuring tape phenomenon. While tweens are feeling increasingly sensitive to the perceived or real judgments of their peers, they are simultaneously attempting to mimic their peers and exert their independence from you. They want to pledge allegiance to the cool kids but when rejection strikes in any form, they snap back to you as quickly as a measuring tape falls back into its original state curled up inside its case. If we are caught unaware, this extending out and pushing away can hurt us. “Mom, no more hugging me when I come out of school and can you just wait in the car?” might be the kind of message we hear after a decade of hugging and eagerly waiting for their sweet face. And the snapping back can hurt us. Tweens can become highly emotional, need us desperately, and resort to behaviors that seem much younger than their actual age. Yet, this is a normal, healthy aspect of their development.

What can you do? You can adopt the mantra, “it’s not personal, it’s development.” Being aware and being ready helps extend your patience. You can remind yourself that it really isn’t about your connection to one another but about your tween’s growth and learning. Remind yourself of those times when you pulled away or ran back home when you were a similar age. Find empathy and offer compassion for all that they are managing.

Awkward attraction. This may be an understatement when describing what it feels like to see your friends and peers in a whole new light. These people are not just playmates, they are teachers. They possess all of the social capital and cultural wisdom of the young person community. Connection and belonging to peers is not just a nice-to-have, it’s necessary to survive in school. Yet, peers can smell desperation. So middle schoolers know they must hide if they can, their vulnerabilities, including crushes. They may just feel like their world is blowing up if they confess their attraction. So they feel the heat of the magnetizing pull to their peers while they push away and attempt to appear cool! 

What can you do? Normalize it. Otherwise, it’s easy for your child to feel like the only one who’s experiencing all of the social awkwardness. Share your best embarrassing stories. Share your social blunders. Laugh but also, share your empathy for what they are going through acknowledging that it’s an important step in figuring out how to have healthy relationships. Also, be sure and share what healthy relationships look like and feel like so they have a model from which to work.

Tribal survival. This may describe our children’s need and also, account for the sensitivities of our tweens. At times, we may wonder, “why did my daughter lose sleep over a simple disagreement with a friend? They’ll surely make up tomorrow.” Though we realize the sky is not really falling, the emotions felt by our middle schoolers are real and not over-dramatized. As our children gain an awareness of the larger world beyond our home and their school, they also begin to realize that they will continue to reach for independence. And as they push you away to become more self-sufficient, they know they are going to need their friends more and more as a necessary support. This is their tribe. And figuring out the rules of the tribe and how they can fit in is a critical job of middle childhood.

What can you do? Accept his/her feelings. Don’t roll eyes, minimize, or otherwise show that your tweens feelings aren’t real. The saying “name it to tame it” really works! Use more feelings words to build your emerging teen’s feelings’ vocabulary. At times, it’s a wild mash-up of emotions. “Seems like you are frustrated, hurt, and worried. Is that right?” Build your child’s emotional intelligence and they’ll feel more competent to ride the waves of their new insights with style and grace!

How do you support your tween-ager?

References:

Benson, P. L. (2006). All kids are our kids: What communities must do to raise caring and responsible children and adolescents (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA, US: Jossey-Bass.

Durlak, J.A., Dymnicki, A.B, Taylor, R.D., Weissberg, R.P., & Schellinger, K.B. (2011). The Impact of Enhancing Students’ Social and Emotional Learning: A Meta-Analysis of School-Based Universal Interventions. Child Development, Jan/Feb 2011, 82(1), 405–432.

Elias, M. J., Zins, J. E., Weissberg, R. P., Frey, K. S., Greenberg, M. T., Haynes, N. M., et al. (1997). Promoting social and emotional learning: Guidelines for educators. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

Originally published September 6, 2018.

First Aid with Emotional Intelligence

How Can We Deal with Summertime Hurts – Big and Small – in Ways that Support Ourselves and Our Child?

“Are you okay?” I asked as E made a beeline from the outdoors in straight to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door. “No,” he uttered angrily coming out and showing me bloody elbows and knees and scraps up and down the side of his body. It was his first day out of school. And I truly cannot recall one first day out of school when the weather was beautiful and he was free to run outside that he didn’t wind up with at least one scraped knee. Yes, tis the season for “boo-boos”. And for some children, they’ll deal with more serious injuries this summer like concussions, sprains, or fractures.

So how do you manage your own big feelings when your child is in pain? These circumstances test our emotional intelligence because of the mounting emotions we’ll have to confront. After all, we are reacting to our child’s upset which may be expressed in inconsolable crying, yelling and anger (that could be directed at us), or running away and hiding. We have to cope with our empathy as they endure pain which can be no small feat as we desire their suffering to go away as quickly as possible. We may get squeamish at the sight of blood or have a sense of disgust or revulsion as we view their injury. We may also fear greater internal injuries that we cannot detect on our own so that we have to deal with anxiety and feelings of incompetence when we don’t know what to do.

This seemed an important day for me to consider how we can respond in ways that support our children, acknowledge their big feelings, and deal with our own in constructive ways. Here are a few well-considered tips.

Prepare.

Before your child comes to you with her first scraped knee, make it a start of summer ritual to stock up on first aid supplies. I carry band-aids in my purse everywhere I go. And I’ve helped out other parents in the grocery store, in the park. When a child needs a band-aid, they really need one. Don’t mess with feeling helpless and unprepared. My favorite supplies to keep on hand are: band-aids of all sizes, foaming anti-bacterial solution (it goes on fast and easy), cut strips of clean, soft t-shirts (thank you for this, Mema) to use to clean wounds or as flexible wraps, surgical tape so that it doesn’t hurt badly when you remove it (drug stores have this), ice packs, and popsicles. It’s nice to have a ritual that if you get injured, a cold popsicle always helps a child feel better. 

Why does this all help with your emotional intelligence, you ask? Because you have no control over when and where injuries take place, this will help you feel more competent and ready so that you can take action and not feel helpless.

Clear your schedule.

Injuries, even if just a scraped knee, take your time and attention. A work conference call, a haircut appointment, or a lunch date cannot compare – in the big scheme of things – to taking care of your hurting child when they need you. Time pressures wear away at our patience and add a layer of anxiety to an already charged moment. So remove the time commitment so that you can focus your attention on your child.

Remember to breathe.

There’s typically a time when a parent is sitting and waiting. Whether a child is crying hysterically or shut inside her room or turned away and refusing treatment, there’s waiting time involved with children’s hurts. Use those times to deep breathe. This will prepare your mind and body to respond in the way you most want to respond — with empathy and compassion.

Acknowledge and accept feelings.

It can be tempting – particularly in a sports’ setting – to utter words like, “you’re fine,” “power through,” or “stay in the game,” when you are not sure the degree to which your child is genuinely hurt though you see him crying or wincing in pain. After all, it’s likely this is how you were coached or parented as a kid so it can become a reflexive response. In addition, you may have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) fear that acknowledging a child’s feelings might encourage the child to seek sympathy or over-emphasize their hurts. In fact, that is a fallacy. The opposite is true. When we ignore or downplay our children’s feelings, they come back stronger in order to get your attention. Their upset wasn’t good enough the first time so in order to prove it to you, they have to up the emotional ante. 

Use your own inner coach in these situations. Breathe first and think “what’s my best response?” Then, acknowledge and accept what they are expressing or what you are observing they are feeling. “It looks like you are really hurt. I’m here to help.” This simple comforting statement will offer your child acceptance. You understand. And you are there for them.

Manage your own reactions. 

If you are indeed feeling disgusted or appalled or terrified by a child’s injury, there’s no way to bury those big feelings nor should you be expected to. But become aware of your big feelings and do something about them. Put your hand on your heart and attempt to slow it down. Stepping aside and taking a few deep breaths or intentionally relaxing your tense body before addressing a crying child can help you respond in a more effective, calming manner which, in turn, will better support your child through the pain.

Wait for consent to treat.

Your child may just refuse to have a wound cleaned for fear it will cause additional pain, as mine did. After you’ve let your child know that it’s necessary to clean it first or it can get infected, you may need to give him time. No need to nag, insist, or force the issue. Being compassionately clear that you cannot move on until you treat the wound is enough. Eventually, your child will consent. Bravery takes time. Be sure and allow your child the time he needs to agree to treat his wound. Of course, in an emergency, you would indeed rush to treat and not offer a choice. But with everyday cuts and scrapes, it gives a child a chance to practice self-management skills, caring for and giving permission with their own body, and handling their emotions with courage if we allow for it.

When in doubt, check it out.

Perhaps you’ve treated the scraps but you see bruising emerging which could indicate an internal injury. When in doubt, check it out. Call your pediatrician triage line and talk with the nurse on call. If you don’t, you risk greater problems down the line so why not take care of it on the day of the injury? If you have questions you might want to research first, check out the site, Kids Health: https://kidshealth.org.

Distract! And offer comfort.

Throw a bag together before leaving for the doctor with some favorite books or card games. Joke books, Seek and Finds, “Would You Rather,” and other puzzle books can be helpful. For young children, pack favorite comfort items like a beloved stuffed friend, blanket and book. And yes, for school age and up, this is the ideal time to use handheld media to help your child through a tough time. Waiting while a child is in pain can be challenging so have some distractions on hand to help get through those time periods.

Children learn to self-soothe by first, watching how we help them feel better. So after the wounds have been cleaned and bandaids carefully placed, how can you offer a quiet, soothing activity in which they can return to feeling better? Can they snuggle up with a bear, pillow, or blanket? Can you read a comforting storybook together? This will help both you and your child transition back to feeling better.

Tell the story.

Reflect together with loved ones on the surrounding events and recount how the injury happened including the feelings’ journey you’re child took. “I felt so hurt, then scared, then relieved.” This offers your child invaluable practice with discussing the difficult pains in life to help learn the lessons involved, process the feelings experienced, and also solidify the memory that he endured pain and survived.

Fortunately, my son was back up and running outside the very next day and though he had moments of pain, he was healing quickly. Summer injuries can test our patience and ability to show compassion at a time when our child most needs it. But with a little forethought, you’ll get through feeling competent, modeling ways to react to the pain that maximize your ability to support your child and help all feel better.

* This article was authentically researched by the author as she endured a basketball bouncing full force into her nose mere days before publication experiencing her own injury and offering greater empathy for her son — challenging her once again to react with emotional intelligence. Ouch! 

Originally published June, 2020.

Lightweight Rules and Routines for a Renewing, Cooperative Family Summer

“Mom, what do you really want to do this summer?” my son asked me during our bedtime pillow talk last night. I had to think. I wanted my summer sunshine dreams of lemonade stands, library visits, and creeking at local parks to roll off my tongue but instead, my mind was a-jumble.

In our race to the finish line of school, my head is swimming with work agendas and classroom parent tasks to complete. It wasn’t easy to get my mind quickly focused on summertime fun though that’s precisely the hope of my ten-year-old boy. And as I attempt to, waves of anxiety tend to rush through my veins as I figure out the windows of time in which I can accomplish work during those sunny summer days in the midst of playtime.

I know, though, that if I take some time over the coming weeks to do some collective summer dreaming while establishing some “lite” routines, our summer will be filled with cooperation, shared responsibility, and opportunities for those precious moments of spontaneity — the ones that I truly want to define our summer.

So with that in mind, here are the ways in which we’ll establish a foundation for fun. Perhaps some of these tips will help your household enjoy the summer as well.

Take Time for Sunny Summer Dreaming.

Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time. I’ve done this every summer with great success. This summer, my son took the initiative himself without prompting and wrote out thirty-five ideas for summer fun! 

Talk about Your Routine “Lite.”

Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Perhaps, you’l agree that getting dressed should happen by a certain time in the morning? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Set Up a Regular Quiet Reading Time.

Sure, you may be out of the house some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch could work, late afternoon or right before dinner. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.

Create a Simple Camp or Pool Checklist

Is there a place you tend to go daily in the summertime whether it’s day camp or a pool? Make sure you’ve set up your children for success in getting ready and out of the door with ease. Create a simple checklist together of what’s consistently needed. Bug spray? Check. Sun tan lotion? Check. Water bottle? Check. Use a dry erase board and kids can actually check off items each day. It will help them take responsibility for their own preparation and you won’t have to become the summertime nag! 

Discuss Responsibilities and Consider Adding a Job List

Hopefully, your children understand their household responsibilities throughout the year. But anytime there is a transition, it’s a good moment to revisit. And you may consider one added responsibility to contribute to the household that’s age-appropriate since there tends to be more time in the summer. In addition, if you’re child is eager to earn money but too young to go out and get a job, you may consider putting together a list of jobs beyond their typical responsibilities such as, sweeping the first floor carpet for a $1.00. This will add to their practice of taking responsibility for jobs and offer a chance for your child to earn money this summer while helping you out! Consider a time when you do chores and offer that time for all family members to work together. 

For more on establishing household responsibilities with children, check out this article.  And for an age-appropriate household responsibility list, check out this printable!

Talk about Screen Time Limits and Expectations.

Avoid a daily battle or the chance your child might become addicted to screens and not flourish through multiple activities this summer beyond screens. Learn as a family the reasons why it’s important to limit screen time. Focus on the positive benefits of using time in other ways. Then, be clear together about what limits you’ll agree upon. 

For more on facts about why it’s important to limit screen time as well as, a family media meeting agenda and a family screen time agreement, check out this article.

The warmer weather brings about so many opportunities for laughter and exploration together. May your summer be filled with those kinds of magical moments with your children!

Originally published in June, 2018.

Reader Responses – How Do We Heal?

A number of readers wrote in and commented on the question I posted about how we can become intentional about healing emotional and social wounds this summer that may have been a result of the pandemic including racial injustices, job or income losses, loss of in-person education, mental and physical well-being and social divides. Here’s what you said.

I loved reading your post this morning. Was inspired. I have a 6 yr old son (will be 7 in August) and a husband (together 17 years, married 8 years). Going along with your bucket idea, I thought of the phrase we commonly use with each other of ‘you filled my bucket’ or ‘my bucket is empty’ (from the children’s book of similar title). Anywho, we have small, silver buckets from an Oriental Trading purchase long ago for a teaching endeavor and I thought to give each of us 2 buckets to assign affirming or positive words that for us mean joy, health and/or healing. Mine as a Type A Mom are PEACE and RELAX; Husband’s are PHYSICAL (for activity and love language) and MAKE (he’s an artist and creative). I will introduce this idea to my son after school and see what he comes up with. Thank you for putting a positive spin on the season to come and perspective around the pandemic that’s uplifting vs. exhausting.

– Melanie Wiley

Journaling daily my feelings has helped me tune into how I want to feel and align my behavior to feel that way. It’s a great way start my morning with purpose and intention. I have an EQ program teaching kids social emotional learning and I use the “Mission Me Journal” by Renee Jain, Founder of GoZen for Kids to teach EQ.

– Tabatha Marden

I surround myself with positive people that I know have my best interest at heart. They help me see things clearly. EQUAL to that though, if not even of greater importance, I distance myself from toxic situations.

  – @AshleeArcX

When I’m angry with my family members, I stop and spend time listing out in my head all of the things I love about them and it helps me return to our argument in a more loving way.

-Parent, Robeson County, NC

I am still thinking about this right now too. I am falling in love with the idea of creating our own “interventions” to support our own goals. Why hasn’t this crossed my mind pre-COVID? Here’s to joy, healing, and health for all of us this summer!!!

– Shannon Wanless

Right now, healing is coming from Investing in intimate connections with family and friends. It helps grow my trust and faith in humanity. Even when there are disagreements and it’s difficult, hanging in there and working on it together restores our connection and sense of safety.

– Jennifer Miller

Thanks to all who contributed! Hoping it’s a summer of fun, renewal, and healing for you and your family!

Interview Today on Families Fighting – How Can we Argue with Social and Emotional Intelligence?

Check out my interview today with Mary Kay Garrett in the Raising Remarkable Kids Expert Series. We are talking about the fact that fighting in family life is normal and may arise even more frequently these days after a year of high stress with altered schedules, social pressures and fears, and conflict in the air. In order to argue without fear of hurting others or being hurt or worrying about ending the day with feelings of regret, we can think through how those arguments take place and plan for our reactions to grow our trust and intimacy and ultimately, work through even our toughest issues together.

Sign in to access my interview —  REGISTER FREE HERE!

Raising Remarkable Kids Online Event – Coming Soon!

Looking forward to the Raising Remarkable Kids Expert Series!

I’m excited to be speaking in the Raising Remarkable Kids Expert Series, hosted by Mary Kay Garrett, where 21 experts have teamed up to talk about relevant and timely issues like:

  • Improving communication with your kids
  • Creating family rules that set healthy boundaries
  • When to back off when kids are struggling and when to lean in
  • How to use mindfulness practices to help kids move through emotions
  • And much more! 

I’ll be speaking with Mary Kay on Tuesday, June 8th about arguing with family members and how we can build healthy conflict management skills in our children and ourselves, strengthen our intimacy and trust even in the midst of disagreements and prevent unhealthy patterns of fighting that cause hurt and regret.

Learn more about this FREE EXPERT series from June 1st – June 15th and  REGISTER FREE HERE!

Reflecting on an Exceptional Year of Learning


Creating Reflective Opportunities to Support the Transition Ending This Unique School Year

This was indeed a big year for learning – learning not only subject matter but also how to transition from various learning settings from home to school and school to home and also, how to deal with the anxiety and other big feelings of living, schooling and parenting through a global pandemic amidst racial injustice and a divided nation. We have learned flexibility, emotional courage and resilience during these uncertain times. Home and family life may have played more of a role in education than ever before with remote learning taking place. In our household, we took full responsibility for our son’s seventh grade education through homeschooling and it was meaningful, rewarding, intimacy-building and also, downright all-consuming and challenging.

Because of the monumental growth that we have witnessed in our children and ourselves as we came together and supported one another in unprecedented times for us, it’s important that we pause and take a moment to reflect on what we’ve been through. If your children or teens have achieved academically, if they’ve made new friendships, if they’ve demonstrated care for their teachers or their neighbors or their siblings, this is the time to call it out and recognize it. At times, many of us struggled to get through the day and we may have lost relatives or friends along the way, so progress this year of any sort is cause for celebration.  

“We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience.” 

– John Dewey, Renowned Educational Reformer and Psychologist

Your child will never experience this grade level again during a global pandemic. Children may be sad to leave their teacher, their connection to class friends and the predictability of the school-home routine. Despite the stress of hybrid learning (or however they have experienced school this year), they may worry about the loss of the stability and consistency that the school schedule and connection provides over the summer. They may also fear the uncertainty to come including reentering public places with the danger of the COVID still present and the unknowns of how summer might be fundamentally different from years past because of the many public restrictions and virus risks.

There are some small, simple steps you can take to ease the transition and also deepen the lessons of their year through reflection. Here are a few suggestions.

Offer Grace First…

to your children, to their teachers and most especially to yourself. If you try and reflect on this school year with other school years as your standard bar for performance, it’s simply not accurate. We may all fail if that’s your measure. This was an exceptional school year. Standards for our contributions might be more accurately measured by questions about your level of emotional support of all family members, your ability to deal with a high level of complex emotions, and your ability to get through the day maintaining safety, health and the trust of family members. Further, if you were able to get through this year with your sense of integrity and morality intact, give yourself a giant gold star (or your equivalent). We have to recognize what we’ve been through, accept our limitations during these times and celebrate the times we survived and the times we demonstrated we could thrive.

Reflect on Defining Moments.

Retell the defining moments. Be sure to discuss in what ways your family was resilient and strong during stressful times. In your ________ grade year…

  • What was the most surprising thing that happened?
  • Did you make any new friends?
  • When did you feel embarrassed?
  • What made you belly laugh?
  • What were you most proud of learning?
  • How was it challenging? And what helped you get through all of the changes?

Reflect on Learning from Home.

During remote or hybrid learning…

  • Do you recall the first day or week of learning at home? What were you thinking? What were you feeling?
  • How is our family different from life before COVID-19?
  • What have you found that has been joyful or connecting during COVID?
  • How have we helped one another?
  • How has connecting with friends changed? Are there any new ways of connecting that you enjoy?
  • What school projects or assignments were you most proud of accomplishing?
  • What unexpected benefits came from remote learning?
  • How did you deal with your fears and stresses?
  • What bigger life lessons did you learn during this time of sustained crisis?

Reflect on Big Feelings and the Opportunity of Now: Practicing Resilience.

If we tried (in the pre-COVID world) to hide the fact that we have all-consuming, intense emotions at times, then we cannot hide anymore. The seismic shifts globally and the uncertainty of a threat that lurks right outside of our door has been enough to rattle our sensibilities, every one of us. If the not-so-hidden opportunity of this moment of a global pandemic might be practicing and promoting resilience in times of trial, how can you take time out to seal in and ensure that learning by reflecting on it? 

No, none of us managed our big feelings throughout this process perfectly. In fact, for most of us, there was a lot of mess. But if we talk about our big feelings, accept that there’s been fear, sadness and stress, and consider how we reacted and how we might react better, we just might learn important lessons that will assist us as we move into an uncertain summer. Some specific questions to guide you in this discussion might be:

  • What have been our fears throughout COVID-19 and remote learning?
  • What have we done to acknowledge or manage them?
  • When did our fears get the best of us (or we reacted in ways we didn’t like)?
  • When were we proud of how we handled ourselves and/or worked together as a family?
  • How can we learn more about managing our fears?
  • What can we do in the future when one or more of us is feeling fearful or stressed?

Tell your “Triumph Over COVID” Story

We all know this will be the story our children will share with their grandchildren. “Let me tell you how I survived a global pandemic.” In fact, I attempted to have my son write his own triumphant story and he struggled. It’s difficult to recall all that we’ve been through and articulate what strengths we’ve used or needed to build in order to deal with the many changes and uncertainties. Yet, he wrote a beautiful paper about another person’s struggle and ability to survive, one who we read about in the award-winning book “Island of the Blue Dolphins.” When his paper was finished, we substituted his name for the main character’s, Karana, and nearly every word applied with some notable additions like collaborative spirit and skill versus utter independence. How can you tell your family’s COVID story? Perhaps a slideshow of your pictures, a poster all contribute words and phrases to, or your own written story?

Share Your Gratitude for Your Teachers.

Yes, teachers also experienced a wide range of big feelings as they had to change their mode of teaching and learning in the blink of an eye. Though parents were in the midst of scrambling ourselves to figure out how to manage our household, our work responsibilities, the dangers of COVID19, and how to support distance learning, we may have not seen the challenges teachers faced. Yet, we know they indeed endured their own set of struggles. No matter how they managed the situation, they put their time, effort and considerable worry into reaching you and educating your children. So now more than ever, it’s critical we offer our thanks. Consider creating a simple family video of your thanks to show your appreciation. Your sincere words will mean much more than a potted plant or a gift card this year.  

Talk about it a bit before getting your video rolling. You might ask your child: “What were some of your favorite activities you remember from this year? Why is your teacher so special? Do you remember a time when your teacher was especially kind?”

Go on a Digital Parade Walk or Create a Temporary Museum of Learning.

You likely have a pile, a bin or a busting-at-the-seams binder (as we do!) of school work from the past year. Before recycling or filing away, why not use the accumulated papers as evidence of learning and growth and a tangible way to reflect on that progress? Use your home as a museum. Place the school work in the order of the school year starting in the fall. Line them up across chairs, the couch and on end tables for display. I line the dining room with rope and post papers and artwork with clothespins.

Walk around as a family and talk about what you notice particularly when you note positive developments. With a little support from you, your kids may be excited to put together the museum themselves. With multiple children, use different rooms of the house and you may have a full academic museum for an evening.

Is your child’s work all online from the past months? Then do a digital parade of work and gather around the computer. Go through her assignments, comment, laugh, reflect and bask in the glow of your collective hard work as a family getting through distance learning together! 

Do the big book line-up.

It’s likely that most of the books your child read this school year are hanging around your bookshelves. Why not create a temporary display? What a sense of accomplishment to see a book sculpture with all of the stories you’ve read, learned from and enjoyed since the school year start. It may even spur conversations and reflections on your favorite characters and stories! It may also encourage further reading this summer and inspire a new stack for the coming months.

Create a time capsule.

A terrific early summer activity might be to generate a time capsule in memory of this past school year. There will likely never be another school year quite like this one! Use this free printable time capsule to help guide you. Or work with your child to find and decorate a shoe box or other container and mark with the name of the child and dates of the school year. Now ask your child to consider their older self. What if he came across this time capsule hidden in the attic years later? What items would help him remember the unique attributes of this past school year?

Celebrate learning.

Show how much your family truly values the process of learning. Celebrate together the accomplishment of a school year filled with hard work. Make a picnic in your backyard. Bake a special treat. Decorate as if it’s a holiday. Take a moment to recognize this major change.

“Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy School Year’s End to You and Your Family and May You Have a Summer of Renewal Ahead!

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