9 Going on 19

9 Going on 19

Makeup, crop tops, skincare routines. My daughter is only nine years old, but she’s growing up faster than I did.

Navigating Tween Years

I was a tomboy growing up. I loved sports, ponytails and nothing pink or frilly. My daughter, however, is completely the opposite.

If it seems as if your tween knows far more at nine than you did, that’s probably because she does. Kids today grow up faster than ever before. Perhaps the greatest irony is that while my kids seem more mature earlier, I’m trying to stay young. 40 is the new 30 and 50 is the new 40. At the rate my tweens are growing up and I’m trying not to, I’ll seem the same age as them in no time.

Self-Image at the In-Between Age

My daughter is at an age when she’s not a kid anymore, but she’s also not a teen yet either. Caring a lot about hair and makeup and how she looks is normal at her age.

In today’s culture when kids—even young kids—are bombarded with images in the media about what’s considered beautiful and cool, it’s hard for them not to be concerned with how they look. Unfortunately, these images in the media are often suggestive and provocative.

Marketing & Media’s Influence on Tween Fashion

Today’s tweens often dress as if they are older. This is due in great part to marketers and manufacturers. Walk into any store targeted at tweens and you may be shocked by the clothing selection. The apparel often mimics adult selections in miniature sizes.

My children also have far more access to the media. As a result, they’re more exposed to celebrity fashion, and they covet what they see. Marketers argue that they’re simply providing what the public wants. But with little else available, are my tweens really being given much choice? During the tween years, my kids are so focused on what others think that they will quickly grab onto the newest trend.

A Mismatch Between Appearance & Maturity

Tweens who dress older and act older sometimes send the message that they can think older. This, however, is far from true. The tween brain lacks the capacity to truly understand the potential consequences of acting older.

I know that by focusing on her appearance and her style, she’s trying to figure out who she is. I try to remind myself that this is normal for her age. It’s a way for her to “try on” different identities or personalities to figure out which feels just right to her. That doesn’t mean that everything she chooses to wear is age appropriate, so I set limits.

How I Empower My Tween to Make Age-Appropriate Choices

Because technology has opened the world wider for my child, it’s up to me to set reasonable expectations about who she is and how much she really knows.

I started voicing my concerns about her outfits and expressed to her that she is beautiful without makeup. I tell her that it’s normal to try on different styles to figure out what feels right, and I want her to express herself within reason.

But I have rules. She’s not allowed to leave the house wearing crop tops and body shorts to school. Instead, I suggested she “play dress up” within the comfort and privacy of our own home but not wear those articles of clothing in public. I explain to her that it’s important to wear clothes that aren’t too revealing because it shows that she respects her body and that others should, too.

I also try to compromise when I can. I took her back-to-school shopping to find new clothes that she thought were cool and I thought were appropriate for her to wear. I am the parent, so I get to decide what clothes I will buy her.

Ultimately, I want to empower her. She might disagree with what I am saying, and that’s okay. I learn a lot when I seek her opinion and listen to everything she’s heard and seen about the topic. Collyns is strong-minded, but she looks to me for support and guidance. I respond with structure, predictability and the guidelines that she needs to navigate the world.

When I treat my children like children, they are more likely to act that way. By allowing my tweens to dress and act their real age, I can ensure that their short childhoods stay sweet.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

How I Embraced Being Present This Summer

It’s that time of year again—back to school. This summer felt like it lasted a second. I blinked and it’s gone. I feel like we just had an end of the school year party and now here we go again.

Cherishing Summer Moments With My Kids

I don’t know who enjoys summer vacation more—me or my kids. I cherished these last three months. I took time to be present in my kids’ lives. Yes, I still worked my full-time job outside the home, but having my son home most days gave me reason to leave for lunch or clock out early.

How to Prioritize Presence Over Everything

As much as I love my career, being 100% present with my kids takes center stage. I’m still on a journey to fully understand what being present means and how it can make a difference in my interactions and relationships.

I realized it all comes down to the choices I decide to make. I must select my daily priorities and give them the most attention. So, this summer I focused on three things.

1. Cut Back on Technology

As much as I love technology, and I use it as a part of my job, I still limit my technology intake. Here are my strict guidelines:

  • After 5 PM, I don’t check email and turn off notifications because those pings are distracting.
  • I put my phone away when I am with my family, so that I won’t look at anything when they are speaking with me.

2. Limit Social Media Time

I use social media for business, and I’ve almost completely cut back on social media personally. I realized I was seeing my life from my phone and was missing the in-person moments.

Social media is designed to make you engage more, to be curious about what friends are doing and saying and to check who is liking and praising you. Suddenly my minutes, hours and soon days were filled with seeing what everyone else was doing. My fear of missing out was real.

But guess what? When I fed into FOMO, I started missing out on real-life moments with the people who matter the most. So now, I take quick pictures here and there so I have them, but I want to be present in my life.

3. Start to Be Mindful

Being “mindful” and “mindfulness” have become big buzz words in my house. When you’re mindful, you’re present and aware of what’s around you. As a result, you’re able to recognize someone else’s feelings.

I’ve started meditating. Now I use all my senses when someone is talking with me. I can tell when someone close to me says one thing but their body and tone of voice say something else. This is very beneficial to my children and spouse. I am more aware of their feelings and the underlying meaning of their words.

Embracing the Back-to-School Transition

So, I am sad the summer is ending, and my days are becoming consumed with work, chores, schoolwork and kids’ activities. But, I am going to try and live in the moment.

A Note to New Mothers

However, I know this advice seems impossible for new moms. You’re probably exhausted and feeling defeated. I feel you. I know that you want some of these moments to end and that you don’t want to live in this moment forever. And you will get through it. But now that my kids are older and they sleep through the night, I truly understand why I need time to slow down.

Hold your children close and breathe them in. Today becomes tomorrow at an alarming rate. Cherish the small, insignificant moments because one day they will act as breadcrumbs, leading you back to a time, a place and a life once lived. It’s easy to get caught up in our never-ending laundry list that we overlook what truly matters. For now, I am present in my life and for my family.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

We recently returned from a family vacation. There were eight of us crammed into one car to see Mount Rushmore. It was on that trip when I realized that my kids were cool and fun to hangout with. They’re at a great age where we can sit and enjoy their company. It made me ask myself, “Why can’t my kids be my friends?”

Balancing Parenthood & Friendship

Many parents, myself included, are concerned about being their child’s friend. But my mom is my best friend. However, she wasn’t my best friend until I became an adult. She was a parent first.

With my preteen son, he’s at the age where he needs me to be a parent first, too. I want him to feel comfortable talking to me, but I know if I were to put our friendship first, establishing myself as an authority figure would be difficult. I don’t want him questioning my rules and boundaries. That’s why, for now, I’m his friendly parent. Besides, I know he has friends his own age to listen to him if he’s not comfortable talking with me.

Setting Boundaries for Healthy Parent-Child Relationships

That isn’t to say that we can’t have fun together. We love playing board games and mini golf. I’ve just always believed that the goal of parenting is to create independent adults. If I do this well, I think I’ll also create the kind of adults I enjoy spending time with and would select to be my friends.

I will always be friendly and enjoy hanging out with my son regardless of his age. I’ll show him love, guidance and leadership. I simply want to behave as a parent and lay a solid foundation for a healthy friendship with him when he is an adult.

Though I may live in denial about it, the day will come when my children move out and make their own homes, growing into lives of their own. I know as he gets older that his parenting needs will change, likely requiring less rule-setting. That’s when I can start acting more like a friend.

Embracing My Role as the Uncool Mom

I’m no expert, just a mom lucky enough to have children she likes and wants to be around. For the moment, they want to be around me as well. I can’t imagine a closer bond and a greater gift! So, I will assume my role as strictly a mom throughout their teen years. As that role often involves, I’ll set limits my children probably aren’t going to like. But that’s okay because I’ve never wanted to be a cool parent. I just want my kids to grow into good, responsible people.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How to Politely Ghost a Friend

How to Politely Ghost a Friend

I previously shared that I don’t like one of my son’s friends very much. This friend was not very nice to my daughter, and his attitude towards me was mildly irritating. I found this friend annoying because he’s loud, destructive and obviously had never been taught to say please or thank you. It also made me worry that this friend may be a bad influence on Cohen.

Choosing Quality Over Quantity

Less than a year later, Cohen has realized that he doesn’t want to be friends with this boy anymore. When it comes to friends, I believe in the cliché that quality is better than quantity. While it’s cool to have an entourage of people you can share special moments and have crazy adventures with, the truth is that not all friendships are meant to last through thick and thin—especially if one of them is harmful.

Balancing Honesty & Sensitivity in Unhealthy Friendships

Cohen finally started to experience the negative attitude of this person that others warned him about. He wanted to stop hanging out with this person, but I don’t know how to kindly explain to his mother why Cohen is distancing himself from their child.

Over the last couple of weeks, his friend’s mom kept asking if Cohen was available to hang out. I kept making up excuses about why he was busy. I didn’t want to have a conversation or a confrontation, but do I continue to make up excuses until she hopefully realizes that Cohen’s not interested? Or do Cohen and I choose to ghost him and his mother?

In a perfect world, my son would be able to confront anyone, at any time, to tell them how they offended him. In a perfect would, I’d chat with his mother without her getting offended.

In the real world, his parents might be upset and Cohen truly feels that talking to this person wouldn’t improve the situation. He recognizes that their friendship isn’t worth saving. So why waste the time and energy?

Relationships of all kinds can be messy, weird and complicated, so I’m not here to judge what you decide is best if you’re in a similar situation.

How to Kindly Break Up With Friends

During the school year, Cohen has a different friend group and soccer friends. But during the summer, the boy he wants to distance himself from lives in the neighborhood. It’s convenient for them to hang out. Considering all this, here’s how I kindly removed ourselves from the friendship by acting like Casper and ghosting away.

First, Cohen and I had a long conversation about this friend. I told him to remember that he’s never required to be anybody’s friend but that he still needs to be kind to everyone. If a friend is being too demanding without showing up for him when he needs it, he needs to set boundaries. He should never sacrifice his comfort or get stressed out to “prove himself” as a real friend. The trick is finding balance by having a healthy, trusting friendship.

Then, after my conversation with Cohen, we stopped replying to texts, calls and comments. Getting rid of an unhealthy influence will help him to identify similar people in the future. Unfortunately, he’ll most likely have to go through a friendship dump multiple times in his life, but at least he’ll know how to deal with it better the second time around.

Embracing Selective Friendships as Self Care

While we both feel guilty after ghosting him and his mom, the truth is that my son needs friendships, just not all of them. Some friends are there for a certain time, while others will stick around forever. I told him that he can appreciate the good things about the person while freeing himself from the bad things at the same time.

Again, I reminded him to send love and light to the person and let them go. I want Cohen to surround himself with good people who will lift him up and support him. Ghosting can be an act of self-care.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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How Strict Is Too Strict?

How Strict Is Too Strict?

You’re either strict or you’re not, with very little consideration for the large grey area in between. If you could place these two descriptions on a parenting scale, you might see “strict” at the same end as authoritarian and “non-strict” at the same end as permissive.

Transitioning From a Strict Parenting Style

I am a strict parent, but there are several reasons why I decided to re-evaluate my parenting style. Every parent wants the best for their child, and it’s this desire to keep kids safe and healthy that fuels my rule-setting and need for control. But changing the parenting style that my family was already adjusted to was not an easy task. It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting for both parents and children as we navigate the transition.

Why My Parenting Style Needed to Change

I realized that I needed to lighten up my parenting style when “the good child,” Cohen asked for something and I immediately said no. He has never done anything to make me question his intent or actions. But I work in the media and think the worst of every possible situation. So, when he asked me if he could walk to Scheels after school with his friends, there was no discussion. It was a flat, hard no. Later, I started wondering if I was being unreasonable, too strict. He is 12 years old, and my gut said, “No, that’s way too young to walk.” There are a lot of reasons why I shouldn’t have let him go, but at what age do I give a little and stop being the strict parent?

Our Conversation with the “Good Cop”

Before my immediate no, I should have asked questions and allowed him to justify why he should go, but he asked me over the phone while I was at work, so I was short with him. I ended the conversation with, “We will discuss this at home with dad.” It wasn’t his favorite response, but usually dad is more lenient and open to his ideas.

When we arrived home, we talked. Dad was, of course, okay with the idea, but I still had some reservations. I hated the idea of him walking across a busy street to get to the store. I had never met these friends from school he was going with, and none of this sounded like a good idea. But dad thought we needed to trust him.

The Importance of Unified Parenting

It’s not uncommon for mothers and fathers to be on opposite sides of the “firmness fence,” each convinced that the other is doing it wrong or one person needs to give in. This leads to inconsistencies, mixed messages about rules and the undermining of each other’s authority. This can breed dishonesty, deceit and manipulation within children. Therefore, it is particularly important that we as parents are united in our approach to these issues and compromise.

So, with stipulations, we agreed to let him go. He needed to put his phone away while walking. He had to pay attention to cars and traffic. He had to FaceTime me when he arrived at Scheels. And lastly, he needed to be respectful to the employees and other customers in the store. I was still a nervous wreck the entire time I knew he was not at home or with an adult, but we agreed to allow him this independence.

Striving for Best Parenting Practices

The discussion and compromise showed follow-through and consistency, which are vital for heathy parenting. I was proud of the way Mitch and I handled the situation. We didn’t undermine each other. We listened and came together on a united front. This allowed me to be a little less strict. Until Cohen violates our trust, we will continue being negotiable with certain things. I feel like these are some of the elements of best parenting practices.

It’s important to remember that just because you are the stricter parent, it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad one. Strict parents create rules and boundaries to protect their children in a way that they believe will help guide them to success. If you’re looking to make changes to your parenting style or parent-child relationship, adopting some elements of easygoing parenting can be helpful. Creating an environment that balances both love and support and boundaries is very beneficial to our entire family.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

Every child deserves to go to school in a safe, warm and loving environment that fosters learning. Every staff member deserves to go to work and not fear for their lives. The images are heart-wrenching, the loss of life incomprehensible. Talking to your children about what they’ve seen or heard may not be easy, but it’s necessary.

Safety Plans for Emergencies at School

Most schools have lockdown drills and lockout drills. Children are practicing for this very reason. Guns in schools should never happen, but it’s becoming more and more of a reality. I have two kids, a 9-year-old and almost 12-year-old. These shootings hit home even in Nebraska. I can’t leave them to figure this out alone. I want to be right there with them having tough conversations about complicated feelings and possible questions.

How to Ask Children About Current Events

It’s common for parents to be nervous for conversations about tragedy. I started by asking an open-ended question, like “How do you feel about this?” or “What questions do you have about that event?”

My son just asked, “Why would anyone kill a child?” I used simple words to explain that some people are cruel but most of the time those people are confused or having mental health issues. Then I sat back and just listened to my children.

I noticed what they were not saying, too. I read their nonverbal body language. My daughter was fidgety and tearful. I just wanted to snuggle her up, love both of them and never let go. My goal was to provide comfort and reassurance by being there.

Ways to Comfort Without White Lies

My husband told me that it’s important not to lie to them. I wanted to tell them that something like this will never happen in Lincoln or in their school, but I couldn’t. It could happen here, so all I could do was validate their feelings of being afraid and reassure them that the drills they are doing are to protect them if something does happen. I emphasized that schools are safe and to take safety practices seriously.

I also told them that if they see something out of the ordinary happening in school to say something. I wanted to make sure they were comfortable reporting potential problems or behaviors that make them feel uncomfortable or unsafe in their school. This could be about gun violence, bullying, or any other at-risk behavior.

Emotional Control & Empowerment Strategies

We worked together on strategies that I hope will help them feel safe and empowered while they process their emotions. Teaching them coping techniques like breathing deeply, taking a timeout, exercising or engaging in creative activities like art and music can be helpful tools to draw upon when they experience triggers related to school shootings. My husband is better at this than I am, but I also tried to model empathy and self-care by practicing what I preached. The goal was to help them gain personal strength so they can face the difficult reality in ways that promote healing rather than cause further harm.

Even with these conversations, I reminded myself that I needed to be patient. Even if they weren’t in that school or that community, they may still be having a significant response to it. I was. There needs to be a change, but for now, I encourage you all to have those difficult conversations and hug your kiddos tight.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Summer Planning for Tweens & Teens: How to Keep Them Busy

Summer Planning for Tweens & Teens: How to Keep Them Busy

Summer break can’t come soon enough. We’re all desperate to decompress from the wild pace of the school year and enjoy a little downtime. But for parents of preteen or teenage kids who are past the age for camp and too young to find summer jobs, there’s a slight problem. What do we do with them all summer long?

Summer Activity Ideas From My Tween

When I mentioned summer plans to my 12-year-old, he told me, “I don’t want to go to camp. I just want time to hang out.” That’s when my parental anxiety set in. I knew in my heart that my middle-schooler was too old to go to that wonderful day camp that kept him busy and active, but I also knew that letting him “hang out” all day would mean too many unproductive hours in front of the TV, computer or his phone.

Plus, I can’t leave him home alone for extended periods of time, and he’s definitely not ready to plan his own day-to-day schedule. If he did, it’d be unlimited gaming, never-ending TV show binging, and meal times full of artificial colors and flavors. But at least the dog would love having him around!

Last Year’s Summer Camp Disaster

Having him at home with nothing to do over the summer isn’t a good option. I know from experience. In the summer of 2021, my son’s favorite program wasn’t available, and he hated the new summer camp that I signed him up for. So halfway through, I pulled him from that camp. By then, all other camps were full, so he stayed home. I tried to keep him busy with chores and other activities, but it wasn’t possible to keep that up all summer. The worst part is that the summer camp he loved is back this year, but he aged out!

Alternative Summer Programs for Preteens

After he turns 13, he wants to officiate youth soccer games. But until then, I thought he might just get his wish of staying home and doing the bare minimum. Until I discovered some alternatives.

More and more recreation centers, schools, museums and colleges are catering to this age group with classes and programs. I even found a volunteer center that is looking for preteens and teens to lend a hand. And it’s never too early to cultivate the entrepreneurial spirit—like mowing lawns or reffing soccer.

This age group may be beyond the general day camp approach, but there are so many creative programs out there that match our kids’ special interests. Just don’t be surprised if a single program doesn’t fill your preteen’s entire day. The camps my son wants to attend are only a few hours a day. They’re also expensive. We can’t afford to have him attend all summer long, but a couple weeks here and there may just work.

Advice for Parents About Summer Camp Enrollment

By being resourceful, I found a number of activities to make this an active, engaging summer for my son, while still reserving a little time to “hang out”. The best tip I can give parents who are interested in summer programs for their preteens? Start planning now. Many programs require advance registration, and popular ones fill up quickly.

My next step is to plan my busy work life around drop-offs and pick-ups. I’ll get the most out of my lunch breaks and set up a carpool schedule with his friends. By the end of the summer, I may feel like a taxi driver—always on the go. So much for decompressing!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

My daughter, Collyns, is almost nine years old. All her life, she has hated sports. She tried gymnastics but didn’t enjoy it. She loves to swim but not in the winter. She doesn’t have a competitive bone in her body. She’s my “free spirit,” the complete opposite of my son. But recently, she expressed interest in playing basketball. So, I signed her up for a recreational league.

Now, we’re halfway through the season, and she doesn’t want to go to practice or play in the games. There are only six girls on the team, so I think that she needs to stick to her commitment and play.

Deciding When to Let My Kid Quit Sports

At some point in life, many parents find themselves in a similar situation. What do you do when your kid isn’t enjoying sports? Do you push them to keep with it? Or do you let them quit? Unfortunately, there isn’t a cut-and-dry answer on how hard to push your children to try new things, including sports.

On one hand, I want to teach her important life skills, like perseverance, following through on commitments, and tolerating discomfort. These values will hopefully build her confidence when she faces challenging situations in the future. Plus, she seems to enjoy being on the court, exercising, and socializing with her friends. Sure, she has no idea what she’s doing, but she’s slowly learning.

On the other hand, I don’t want to force her to continue with an activity that’s maybe doing more harm than good. If it was harming her physically or emotionally, there wouldn’t be any debate.

Starting the Conversation

I needed to know why she wanted to quit before making my decision. I asked if she was being bullied by her coach or teammates or if her body was hurting. No. I asked her what was making her change her mind. She told me she was frustrated about her skill level. She enjoys dribbling and shooting the ball but not playing the game.

I told her that her feelings were valid and that I would think about letting her quit. I took a couple days to reflect and discuss it with her father. He didn’t want this to become a bigger issue, but I didn’t want her to quit. I knew she was just frustrated and needed to learn to try and solve problems before throwing in the towel.

Coming to a Final Decision

A few days later, I sat down with her and let her know my decision. I explained that earlier this year, she agreed to play the full season, and I think she should honor that. Together, we came up with three ways to possibly make basketball better.

  1. Practice — We realized that one practice a week wasn’t enough to build her skills, so we started to run drills at home.
  2. Attitude — She told me that I needed to be more positive, less competitive soccer mom. During games, I needed to watch my tone and give her words of encouragement. Unlike my son, she wanted to learn what she did well after a game, instead of hearing how she could improve.
  3. Enjoyment — Lastly, I encouraged her to go out and have fun. The score doesn’t matter.

I don’t want to give up on my free spirit child. If the end of the season comes and she still isn’t happy, I’ll help her find something that’s a better fit—like an individual sport instead of a team one. I’ll always push her to try new things and praise her for her efforts. That’s the best way to find a winner.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Children & Social Media: Teaching Internet Safety for Kids

Children & Social Media: Teaching Internet Safety for Kids

Let’s face it, as much as we might want to keep our kids away from social media forever, that’s probably not realistic. It could happen at any time. Eventually, my kids may want their own social media accounts.

It’s not a political question, but I know people have strong opinions about it. This topic recently came up in my house. Obviously, both my kids have seen us use social media. My almost 12-year-old son is already on Kids Messenger and YouTube. He also has online chat in multiplayer video games like Fortnite. I know other social media apps require you to be 13 years old but even that seems young.

Is Social Media Too Dangerous for Preteens?

I remember when Facebook became popular. I was a freshman in college, and I wanted nothing to do with it. I know I probably can’t force my kids to wait until college to be on social media, but that would be nice! Not only is social media a big part of my work life, but it’s also a big part of my creative life. So, the question that came up, “Can social media also be part of my pre-teen’s life, or is it too dangerous?”

The simple answer—from both my husband and I—is yes. It can be a part of a pre-teen’s life, and it is dangerous.

Parenting in the Digital Age

Don’t get me wrong, I am very aware that pre-teens and teenagers use social media to have fun, make and maintain friendships, share and learn interests, explore identities and develop relationships with family members far away. It’s an extension of their offline and face-to-face interactions. But this is also new territory for most parents, including myself.

Instead of being terrified by the situation, my husband and I sat down and discussed it. We didn’t have social media growing up, nor cell phones or the internet. We’re parenting in a whole new world, and we know that it’s up to us to teach them right from wrong whether online or offline.

Creating a Social Media Plan for Kids

As a family, we came up with a plan that everyone agreed on.

Using social media responsibly doesn’t just happen. It requires regular conversation and routine updates. That’s why my husband and I will monitor Cohen’s social media usage. At first, I thought that seemed to be violating his privacy, but my husband reminded me that kids don’t always make the best decisions. So, when Cohen gets social media apps, we all understand that I can look at his pages any time.

Our social media plan goes back to our cell phone rules. I have his passwords and can look at his messages. We try to be proactive by teaching him online etiquette and safety before he gets in trouble and learns the hard way. The most important part of this plan is having an open dialogue with our child and setting boundaries around the appropriate, responsible use of digital devices.

Conversations about Digital Responsibility

We explained to Cohen what social media is and how it can be used in a child-friendly manner. We told him there are restrictions in place for his protection. We discussed appropriate and inappropriate online behavior. We let him know that he is vulnerable to online predators, even if he’s unaware, so to be careful with virtual strangers.

I taught my kids about responsibly uploading photos of themselves and friends. They know that whatever they post on social media stays there forever. While images, videos, tweets and messages can be deleted, information can resurface for others to still see, screenshot or save their content before it goes away.

Instead of banning my kids from all social activities online, we’ll continue to teach them how to be smart about their social engagements and keep the conversation going as they grow older.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Top 5 Things I Would Tell New Moms

Top 5 Things I Would Tell New Moms

At the end of every year, there are always top 10 lists for something. Recently, a friend asked me if I could write a blog about the top five or 10 things I would tell new parents. So, after reflecting on the last 12 years of parenting, here are the things I wish someone told me as a first-time mom.

#1: Ask for Help

Motherhood is the only job that anyone can do without experience. Somehow, we all figure it out as we’re going. But I wasn’t prepared for how tough the beginning would be.

I don’t remember much from the first few weeks home as a new mom, except feeling like I was riding a rollercoaster. There were highs, lows and days that felt like a blur. I remember wishing I had others to lean on during the process. I now know I did, but I was forgetting to ask for help. If I could go back, I’d whisper into my tired ear, “It’s okay to take the help. It doesn’t make you a failure or a bad mom.”

If someone offers to watch your child, let them—even if it’s just so you can nap. If you’re lucky enough to have parents who are willing and able to help, use them. To this day, my mom is my lifesaver when it comes to my kids.

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed in motherhood, especially in the first few years. But I survived, and you will, too.

#2: Mothers Know Best

Listen to others’ advice, but make your own decisions. Whatever is best for your child is ultimately your choice. There are so many differentiating opinions on how to be a great mom. If both you and your child are happy and healthy, you’re parenting right. You don’t need to be thriving, especially in those first years!

Side-note: Breastfeeding. So many people have differing advice. Just know that it’s hard. If you can do it, great! If you can’t, don’t stress over it. A healthy, fed child is all you need. MilkWorks was my “breast” friend.

#3: Date Your Partner

First-time moms need to work hard to maintain relationships—both friendships and romantic connections. If you’re raising children with your partner, it’s more important than ever to go on dates together. When you’re so busy raising a kid, it can sometimes feel like you have a roommate, not a partner. Dating allows you to reconnect and focus on each other.

When your kids are young, this can be difficult. Fortunately, any time together can be a date, even if it’s a trip to the grocery store. I’ve come to enjoy those simple, mundane trips with my spouse. It isn’t what we do, it’s who we’re with that makes the time special.

#4: Take Time for Yourself

The last thing I’d tell new parents is that once you become a mom, you are superwoman. You become an excellent juggler. You are now a chef, maid, teacher, personal driver, best friend, employee/employer and booboo kisser. You can do it all. Be proud of yourself. But also take time for yourself.

If you can only spare a minute or two, start your morning with a quick meditation to calm your mind or do something just for you. You may have just become superwoman, but you’re still only one person. Take care of yourself before taking care of others.

#5: Enjoy What You Can

It (mostly) goes by fast. The first year? No. You’ll be sleep-deprived and think hard times will never end. But now that my kids are older, I look back and wonder where the time went. How do I already have an 11-year-old and an 8-year-old? Now, I have more freedom to enjoy being a parent. My tiny humans can do more things for themselves, are fun to hang out with, and still think mom is cool…for now!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Toys, Cash or Bust

Toys, Cash or Bust

It’s November 1 and the Walmart toy catalog has arrived. You look and see that things have already been circled and an entire page has a large circle around every toy. This is what happens every year. The toys wanted are circled with my kids’ names next to them, so I of course know who wants what under the tree. But this year, my daughter was the only one with things circled. Why? Because my son only wants an Xbox. A $500 gift. But he knows “Santa” won’t get him an Xbox because that’s too expensive, so he is asking everyone for cash.

Should Kids Get Cash for Christmas?

But cash for Christmas perhaps you’re thinking: What? Are your kids too good for toys now? Or maybe you’re stuck on the idea that giving someone money is so impassive and unsentimental. Of course, the last thing I want to do is disappoint my kids, but I want to make sure they’re old enough to appreciate getting cold, hard cash instead of traditional gifts.

If you are like most families, your kids have enough stuff. Asking for money can be uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s about setting the stage, letting the gift-giver know the reasoning behind the request and what the money will be used for. There are lots of opinions about the good and bad of giving money as a gift–or, gasp, asking for money as a gift. And when done incorrectly, yes, it can come off as rude and selfish.

However, there are a few reasons why you might want to consider foregoing traditional gifts and asking for money instead. Cohen doesn’t play with toys. He is at that age where it’s either soccer or video games. He is trying to save money for an Xbox. I realized the older the kids, the more expensive the gifts. He doesn’t want the traditional gift, nor does he need it, so he’s asking grandpa, grandpa, aunts and uncles for money. Sure, he could use another pair of pants so if his grandma wants to go shopping, I will suggest that option.

Gifting Money is Practical & Useful

But, for now, I am tactfully encouraging my family members to give money. I am proposing ways to make it fun for them to give cash.

There are a few ways you can do this. If Cohen wanted to use the money for sports or other lessons, I would invite his family members to recitals or games. I want them to see the joy he gets from the activity and know the part they played in helping create that joy.

After Cohen saves enough for him to accomplish his dream of owning an Xbox, I plan to send family members a video or some pictures. I want them to see Cohen embracing and enjoying what their monetary gift helped achieve.

So rather it be a Barbie for Collyns, yes, her gifts are still easy to buy or cash for Cohen, there’s no hard and fast rule regarding giving cash as gifts. The truth is no one in my family needs 37 gifts. Getting off the gift-giving merry-go-round starts with a frank discussion with friends and family.

The great thing about gifting money is it’s practical and useful. Secondly, it will save everyone time from lining up at those shopping malls, and lastly, Cohen will actually love getting cash especially if you present it in a creative way. I already started pinning ideas on how to give cash as a gift on Pinterest.

Believe it or not, the gift of cash will be the best present he’ll receive this Christmas!

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

One quarter down and Cohen is doing great in middle school. He takes pride in his schoolwork, and really enjoys most of his classes, but hates it. He dreads going every day!

I am not worried about his grades; he is getting all A’s. Even though he says middle school is much harder than elementary he is doing great. He really enjoyed his Spanish class first quarter and has taught me several words. Even though I took 4 years of it in high school, I can’t speak a word! Now he is in a healthy living class and recently learned how to make omelets. Like I said, he likes his classes but hates school.

Struggling to Make Friends

He hasn’t found “his people”. As a parent, it is so hard to watch your child struggle to make friends. Cohen is kind, loving, social and so friendly, I don’t understand why he can’t find his core group of friends. I know it’s not a lack of social skills but maybe he’s just in an environment where people don’t have the same ideas or interests as him, and he’s just having a real challenge finding his group of people. He hates his pod. A pod is where his locker is located. Don’t get me wrong, he has a couple of friends at school, but he never sees them. His middle school is so big he doesn’t have his two friends in any of his classes or near his pod.

His “happy place” is the soccer field. There he has his teammates, who he considers his best friends. He would rather hang out with them than anyone in school. However, they all go to different schools, so he doesn’t see them every day or have those friendly faces in school.

But I do think is it important for him to find a group of friends or just a couple of core friends in school. I want to make school better for him.

Putting Yourself Out There

So, I think it’s time for him to explore and maybe join an after-school activity. There are plenty of clubs and school-sponsored events he can try out. This may be the perfect way to discover his other passions and interests besides soccer —some he may not have even known he has! It’s also a great way for him to learn something new. And fingers crossed, he may even make a friend along the way.

Obviously, having a locker in a pod is new. He tells me that he’s always in a hurry because he doesn’t want to be late so maybe he seems unapproachable. So, I told him to just smile more. It seems like such a simple thing to do but a smile can start a lot of friendships. I know it’s hard for him because he is in a place where he is not making friends, no matter how hard he tries, so a smile may seem difficult to do. However, not smiling can make you even more of an outsider.

Now I’m not talking about walking around with a grin all day because people will think he’s just weird. But I’m talking about lightening up and putting positive energy out there. I told him to laugh at his classmates’ jokes (if they aren’t funny, jokes) and smile at people when he walks by. If his exterior cracks and he lets people in a little, then he may have a much better chance of making friends.

As parents, we often want to immediately jump into problem-solving mode whenever our child is having an issue. But it’s a better idea to slow down and just listen to what they have to say, first. Giving kids the space to open up and feel heard lets them know that it’s okay to talk about emotions — and that you’re a good person to turn to whenever they need help.

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

In addition to the time I devote to being a mom, I also work full-time outside the home, which means my day is hardly ever as simple as nine to five. With an all-too-established schedule, as soon as I walk through the door, my day doesn’t end, but rather just begins. It’s a balancing act, especially with two children, but being a mom is one full-time job that I never want to quit!

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