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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Sharing Advice with My Softball-Loving Daughters

Sharing Advice with My Softball-Loving Daughters

I wrote this four years ago and wanted to revisit it because my heart is overflowing with all of these lessons for my daughters as we are in the thick of the softball season.

From Players to Coaches

One of you is a senior who is wearing her softball jersey for the last high school season, and the other is coaching your first ever high school team. Someday you may be sharing these exact words.

I know you both love softball and you both have been playing since you were eight years old. I want you to know there is no doubt in my mind that someday you will miss this. You will miss playing in the dirt, smelling the grass and throwing a runner out trying to steal. You will miss your teammates and coaches. You will wish you could take one more swing of the bat or slide into home again, but for now, take a deep breath and soak up every minute you are blessed to play and coach the game you love.

I am not sure if you girls notice, but I get butterflies for both of you. I believe you two have what it takes to own the moment. I love watching you play and coach.

Lesson 1: Control Two Things

You can only control your attitude and effort. Play with heart, but try hard to not let your emotions get the best of you. Move onto the next play. Your attitude is a reflection of your heart. Also, you may not be the most talented on the field, but there is no excuse for someone working harder than you. Through your dedication and hours of practice, amazing things will happen—just keep working. Never let your work ethic be less than your best. Love the game.

Lesson 2: Learn From Wins & Losses

Both are going to happen, and both provide opportunities to grow not only as a player, but also as a team. Every team has a “this is the greatest moment,” just like every team and player faces adversity. Without those greatest moments and adversities there isn’t a meaningful story to tell.

Lesson 3: Don’t Hang Your Head After Mistakes

I know this is tough. Life is full of strikeouts and overthrows, but these give us opportunities to learn. Just like the wins and the losses, there is a great deal that can be learned through mistakes. Challenge yourself and your team to have a growth mindset by refocusing your mind to become 1% better everyday.

Lesson 4: Trust Your Coaches

Know your coaches want you and your entire team to reach the fullest potential. We have to make a decision to set the team up for success. Those decisions can lead to successes and failures. However, you have to know your coaches care about you. Your coaches put the hours into learning the game, just like you, and they are passionate about the game just like you. Believe in them, trust them, respect them and thank them. They love the game just like you.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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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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Embracing My Story: The Transformative Power of Vulnerability

Embracing My Story: The Transformative Power of Vulnerability

“What is your story?” My body filled with anxiety. My skin crawled. I picked at my nails. This was the third time this summer I was asked about my story. But I build walls and keep people out. I only let a small group of people know my story. However, I know that to start building a connection, I need to be vulnerable and share my story.

Finding Joy After Heartache

My narrative came to a halt during my mother’s battle with cancer. In the middle of being a wife and a mother to three young children, I was processing how to live life without my mom and leaning on my faith, knowing this was my mom’s path all along. Her life story was planned long before she was ever conceived.

In our final conversations, my mom said, “Shelly, your gift is joy.” I quietly sat there, tears streaming down my face, feeling everything but joy in that moment. My mom continued, “Shelly, you must share the joy in your heart with your students and my grandkids. As I lay here, all I see is your joy.”

The Gateway to Authentic Connections

“Staying vulnerable is a risk we have to take if we want to experience connection.” — Brené Brown

Vulnerability. I hate this word. Am I the only one who feels this way? Vulnerability unlocks our authentic selves for others to see our flaws and fears. But I know a shared vulnerability builds bridges between people and fosters empathy and compassion—the cornerstones of genuine connections.

Experiencing a connection with others is a fundamental human need. It brings a sense of belonging and validation, reminding us that we are not alone on our journey through life. When we connect with others on a deep level, we gain support, encouragement and new perspectives that enrich our lives. These connections can lead to profound personal growth and a more vital self-awareness as we learn from other’s experiences and offer our insights in return.

My Journey Towards Vulnerability

Vulnerability and connection go hand in hand. We open space for communication, emotional intimacy and the freedom to be authentic without fear of judgment. These connections nourish us and have the power to withstand the tests of time, becoming a source of comfort and strength in our lives.

I am beginning to realize vulnerability is not a sign of weakness but a powerful tool for forging connections with others. By sharing our stories, fears and joys, we begin to build lasting relationships with people who make our lives better. Next time you are asked to share your story, take the time, and you may find a sense of belonging and a deeper appreciation of the human experience.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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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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Ready or Knot: Becoming the Mother of the Bride

Ready or Knot: Becoming the Mother of the Bride

When I started blogging for CapitalMOM in 2017, our oldest was a freshman in high school. She was just starting to grow into the young woman that we all prayed she would be one day. Now, six and half years later, she video called us to show off her engagement ring.

From Baby to Bride

Right before my eyes our little baby with rolls who hated to sleep in her crib grew into a determined, outgoing and beautiful young lady. I could swear it was her four-year-old voice that said, “we are getting married!”

Love, Laughter and Panic Attacks

I tried to keep back my tears. I locked this moment with all its joy, excitement and happiness into my heart. But suddenly I realized, “I’m the mother of the bride.” Cue the elevated heart rate and panic. “Mother of the bride?” I thought, “I’m not ready for our oldest to get married.”

My Wedding Planning Commitments

For the next 30 minutes, thoughts hammered around in my brain as I sat in complete silence. I mentally made a list of everything I wanted to honor during this wedding planning process:

  1. This event will not overshadow our middle daughter’s senior year or her graduation. She deserves a present family as she approaches all of her lasts of high school.
  2. Keep the planning process moving forward without being pushy.
  3. Listen and offer guidance, but know that all decisions and the day ultimately belong to our daughter and her fiancé.
  4. Be supportive and a beacon of encouragement.
  5. Create a spreadsheet with the budget, email confirmations, deposits and guest list.
  6. Love her through the smiles, the tears, the joy and the stress.

Welcoming Her New Chapter in Life

I know we have raised our daughter to be the best possible version of herself. I know she has found the young man she wants to grow old with, so I must be willing to let go and let her start her life with her husband. Our relationship will change. She won’t need me the same way as she has in the past. Even though I’ll be consumed by a variety of emotions on her wedding day, this mother of the bride is going to enjoy it all.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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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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The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

The Summer of Yes: Prioritizing Family Over Work

It happens every single school year: the last day. Our children are anticipating summer more than ever, but I just want to put off summer for a few more days. Just a few more days to hear the chattiness of the juniors outside my door. Just a few more days to prolong our youngest from officially being in high school. Just a few more days before we officially have a senior in our home again.

Embracing “This Moment”

Then I am reminded of my favorite verse from Esther 4:14, “Perhaps you were created for such a moment as this.”

This moment. A moment where an entire wave of emotions engulf me. With a deep breath to prevent tears from filling in my eyes, I smile. I know our kids are ready for their next chapter. And at this moment, I decide this summer is the summer of “yes.”

Breaking Free From Work

Why yes? I am a self-proclaimed workaholic. I got it from my dad. My career is my comfort zone. I will probably be planning for my classes in the Fall of 2023 the Monday following our last day of school. It’s what I know. It’s what I excel at. It’s my purpose. It’s my why.

But this summer, I want to put myself and family first. This summer is a change agent to focus on the moment. A summer to just be.

My Strategies to Live More in the Present

But how am I going to make myself play rather than work? I have a few things to focus on more in the moment:

  1. Appreciate the sunrise and sunset
  2. Walk
  3. Sing made up songs
  4. Read
  5. Cook
  6. Smile
  7. Let go of the “to do’s”
  8. Take the scenic route

July will come. August will be here and the start of a new school year will begin in moments. I know I will undoubtedly be overcome with emotions. Those juniors outside my classroom door will be seniors. However, my hope is that I will be prepared for that moment, because I decided to say “yes” rather than work this summer.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

You may also like

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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How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

How Our Family Makes Time For Each Other

It looked like a family reunion, but it was a funeral visitation. I arrived ready to share my condolences with my cousin, expecting an evening of somberness and shared stories. However, my expectations quickly changed. As I wrapped my widowed cousin in a hug, she quietly reminded me, “Tonight is a gathering of love, family and celebration.”

The Healing Power of Family

For the next hour, I shared hugs and visited with my aunts, uncles and cousins—some I have not seen in over five years. The catching up and many stories were a constant reminder of how much love was in that one room amongst my dad’s family. Yet my eyes and heart kept wandering over to my cousin. She was eloquently sharing words of joy, healing and love to all who came to give her condolences. I stood there in awe while soaking up the family conversations.

Strategies for Protecting Family Time

As our conversations winded down and we all went our separate ways, I spent my drive home thinking about the main theme of conversations: creating family and extended family memories.

How often do we truly look for those unscripted moments of sheer joy with our families? How do we go about looking for these moments when life seems to be all about appointments, meetings, sports/activities schedules and our careers?

Below are four simple yet broad strategies for choosing how our family protects our time:

  1. We understand the limitations of our children. Both our junior high son and high school daughter become quite overwhelmed when there are too many “to dos” or practices on their schedules. They both find solace in being at home. Saying “No” and staying home is the ultimate self-care for them.
  2. We set aside one entire week of the summer where we commit to nothing. It’s called our “No Commitment Week, Just Family.”
  3. We teach/encourage our kids not to feel guilty about protecting their mental, physical and emotional health. This is hard as our kids are people pleasers and do not like to disappoint others.
  4. We keep an open mind about “dropping all commitments” and just “going.”

Protecting our family boundaries is not always easy and communicating these boundaries with coaches is not always positive. But with the limited amount of time we have with our kids in our home, these boundaries are becoming more and more important and needed.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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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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Embracing Change: A Springtime Transformation for the Mind

Embracing Change: A Springtime Transformation for the Mind

Spring is finally here. Don’t get me wrong, I love the wonders that fluffy snowflakes bring, but warmer weather is on the way and that means freshening up!

A Time for Transformations

Spring is about change. For me, it means moving past the cups of coffee warming my hands, binge-watching winter movies, and comfy fleece sweatpants.

While we declutter and paint inside, the outside world changes, too. The grass in our yard grows greener, my flowers blossom, the sun shines a little longer and our deck becomes an outdoor living space once again.

Overcoming Anxiety & Practicing Self-Compassion

As I begin noticing the seasonal change, my mind starts to look for ways I can change my inner self. I typically don’t like change. I often divert conversations about change.

But I was recently challenged to complete a task that instantly caused anxiety. I could feel the hives taking over my skin. I was vulnerable about this challenge, sharing my fear with my support system. Most importantly, I was patient with myself and kind to myself about this obstacle.

Teaching Kids About Change

I also think of how to teach my children the importance of being flexible to something new. Instead of fearing the unknown and resisting change, I want my kids to understand that change is good. Change can refresh our attitude. Change allows us to break away from monotonous daily routines. Internal change can drive us to be better people or pursue new adventures and goals. Accepting change makes us even more emotionally powerful.

How to Embrace Change Year-Round

Here are a few ways we can encourage and welcome change:

  1. Identify our fears.
  2. Acknowledge change.
  3. Laugh often.
  4. Focus on all the possibilities change can bring.
  5. Seek support.
  6. Be kind and patient with yourself.

Change is hard but inevitable. I am hopeful my internal changes will shape me into a more confident person that lasts longer than spring.

Shelly Mowinkel

Shelly Mowinkel

K-12 & Teens

My husband and I have three kids. Our oldest is a freshman in high school, and our youngest is in second grade. Most days, I feel like we are a “tag-team chauffeuring” service, yet I wouldn’t have our life any other way. Not only I am a business/technology teacher at Milford, I am also the district technology integration specialist. I love teaching because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. My hope is that, through my blogging, I am able to inspire, encourage, and share with you my adventures of being a wife, mother, and professional.

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