Is Your Pre-Teen Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Is Your Pre-Teen Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Whether it’s a snow day home from school, an unexpected business meeting, or a childcare arrangement that fell through, there probably will be times when I’ll need to leave my child home alone. It’s natural for parents to worry when first leaving kids without supervision, but here’s what you can do to prepare your kids for staying home alone.

Is My Child Ready to Stay Home Alone?

Did you know there’s no hard age for leaving your kids home alone in Nebraska? Everyone says it depends on the child and how responsible they are, but it can be hard to know when kids are ready to handle being home alone. It comes down to your judgment about what your child is ready for.

My kids are at that age where it’s questionable. My son is almost 13 and my daughter is almost 10. My brother used to watch me while my parents were away at that age. It was a nightmare for me, and I didn’t want that for my daughter. Granted, Cohen is nothing like my brother, but they still argue and fight.

Every child is different, but I worried that my kids didn’t have the maturity and skills to respond to an emergency if they’re alone. However, my son said he was ready, and my daughter was okay with it.

Practicing Home-Alone Trials

We decided to do some practice runs, or home-alone trials, before we left for the evening. We let them stay home alone for 30 minutes while we ran to the store and were easily reachable.

When we returned, we talked about how it went and the things that we needed to change or skills that Cohen might need to learn for the next time. We discussed a plan for if he needed to get himself and his sister out of the house, which neighbor they should go to first, second and third.

Our Rules for a Successful Home-Alone Routine

Before my husband and I left for a couple hours with friends, we set ground rules:

  1. No opening the front door.
  2. Only let the dog out the back.
  3. No going outside.
  4. No using the stove or oven—they knew what meals and snacks were available, instead.
  5. Don’t tell anyone, including your friends, you are home alone.
  6. Don’t ignore your sister.
  7. Cohen is in charge, but if there’s a problem, call or text me, grandma, and/or 911 in case of an emergency.

We also scheduled a check-in call. We made sure Cohen understood when we were available and when we might not be able to answer a call. We created a list of friends and family he could call or things he could do if they got lonely. We gave them all the electronics.

Finally, we stay consistent. We’re never gone for more than a couple hours. We are never more than 20 minutes away. And they will never be left alone overnight. We set a schedule and stick to it.

My Takeaway: Staying Home Alone Is Empowering My Kids

My son handled it well. Staying home alone was a positive experience for him, giving him a sense of self-confidence and independence. So, cover your bases and relax. With the right preparation and some practice, you and your child will get comfortable with home-alone days in no time!

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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Do My Children Really Hate Each Other?

Do My Children Really Hate Each Other?

One of my most cherished dreams as a mom is that my children should be the best of friends. To see them fighting, grabbing each other’s toys or constantly bickering and squabbling can be a distressing and bewildering experience. On the other hand, when my children get along, I sit back and inhale every second. I love hearing them make each other laugh, entertain each other and enjoy each other. I love every millisecond because I know it won’t last long and it will end in them screaming at each other.

Dreaming of Friendship Among Siblings

I always said I wanted to have two children and then I’d be done. That was the vision I had for my family. I grew up with a sibling. That is what I knew. For whatever reason, that’s what I was comfortable with considering for my own life.

Now, I have two wonderful children—a nine-year-old girl and a twelve-year-old boy. They are great kids. They are full of personality and intelligence and love. I believe that they really love each other. But, more often than not, they can’t stand each other. When I sit back and think about my children’s relationship with each other, I immediately hear The Facts of Life theme song in my head. You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…siblings.

A Look Back at My Family Dynamic

It’s not like my brother and I were thick as thieves. We could barely tolerate each other for the early part of our lives. But while my brother and I might not have been best friends for most of our young adult lives, I’d say he’s one of my favorite people in the world now. Though I know he’d have a smug look reading that, I’m pretty sure he knows that to be true. If my parents had a second child just to give him a sibling, I’m glad it was me. Thirteen-year-old me would call you a liar for saying I ever said that.

Unraveling the Sibling Equation

That’s the thing about siblings—sometimes they’re friends from birth, sometimes they hate each other for life. Two children being born to the same family guarantees nothing. I wonder how much this closeness is affected by difference in sex or age. Why do some brothers and sisters get along so much better than others? To what extent are parents the cause of it, and what can they do to make it easier for children to get on together?

Even siblings who are best friends fight sometimes. It’s normal for siblings to annoy each other, and resolving conflict helps them practice important social skills. But if your children are anything like mine and are constantly fighting, there are ways to help keep the peace.

Strategies for Surviving Sibling Spats

During this long winter break from school, I started looking for patterns in my children’s conflicts. The fights tended to happen when they were looking for attention or were bored. Figuring out the root cause helped me get ahead of the conflict. Setting rules ahead of time helped too.

Then, since I was home with them for extra time thanks to the snow days, I tried to lay the groundwork for more positive behavior. I told them that while I knew they could solve small disagreements, I was always there for bigger issues. Since Cohen is older, I started with him and coached him on how to respond when conflict starts: “If she hits you, please don’t hit her back. Instead, come tell me right away.”

I tried to tell them how proud I am of them when they make a good decision. When I see them interacting and calmly following the rules they agreed to, I praise them for it. I also encourage them to report the kind things that their siblings do like sharing their snacks.

Lastly, I tried to help them let go of the notion of fairness. Life throws curveballs and sometimes it just isn’t fair. What Mom says goes.

These strategies are only a stepping stone in the complex relationship of my children. I plan to continue to provide them with a loving environment and hope that as they grow older their relationship grows as well.

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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Eight Years of Sharing Our Family’s Journey with CapitalMOM

Eight Years of Sharing Our Family’s Journey with CapitalMOM

Happenstance. I was mindlessly scrolling through Twitter eight years ago when I came across a tweet seeking ideas for a mom in the Lincoln, Nebraska area. I sent off a direct message, and a month later, my blogging journey began.

Growing Alongside Us

For eight years, I have been blogging for CapitalMOM. Eight years of sharing my family’s story with you, my readers. You have watched as our oldest daughter grew from a freshman into a young woman planning her wedding. You have watched our senior daughter grow from a stubborn, creative little girl to a young woman who is determined and passionate about her beliefs and values. You have watched our freshman son grow from a courageous kid I only wanted to protect from everything into one of the kindest souls with the most infectious smile you will ever meet. You have watched me doubt my parenting, struggle with grief, share joy—or cry—over the new stages of life, teach accountability and inspire our kids to do good in our world.

How My Readers Transformed Me

Thank you doesn’t justify the feelings going through my heart right now. You, my readers, have been part of our family’s story. Before blogging every month, I prayed for my fingers to pen a story that would impact just one of you. However, I believe I was impacted the most. As I continued writing this portion of my story, I changed for the better. Because of you, I am a better mom, wife, friend, teacher and person. No matter the thoughts flowing from my heart to the keyboard, I knew somewhere, somehow one of my readers would be inspired, and this encouraged me to better my writing and my story. We may never cross physical paths. However, I blogged to share our story to inspire you.

My Son’s First Wrestling Win

In my final blog, I want to share a paragraph our son wrote after his first-ever wrestling win. I ran across this letter while cleaning our kitchen this summer. This letter is nearly ten years old, and the message is stronger today than ever.

“This was my first year of wrestling, and I wanted to win a match for my dad. It took a lot of practice and effort, but it was worth it. I was wrestling a Waverly kid, and my dad was trying to take pictures of the first and second periods I was in my stance. The Waverly kid and I got up. I took a shot. I had the Waverly kid on his back during that time. I got back points as the time ran out. I won my match. My dad was so happy. I learned never to give up, even when you think you will lose a match.”

Always Be in Someone’s Corner

The point of sharing this isn’t the last sentence, but the part where my husband was there with the camera. My husband was in our son’s corner that day. And he noticed. I hope you’re always in someone’s corner. Whoever that person may be for you, whatever they may need (love, discipline, encouragement), always, always show up in their corner.

Thank you CapitalMOM and thank you to my readers. You all have a special place in my heart, and know I will always be in your corner because you were in mine for eight years.

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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Should Parents Actually Spend So Much on Youth Sports?

Should Parents Actually Spend So Much on Youth Sports?

My 12-year-old, Cohen, is supposed to be practicing juggling his soccer ball. Instead, he’s playing catch with the dog. “Juggle,” I yell. “I’m not paying all this money for soccer if you’re not going to practice.”

A Love, Hate Relationship with Practice

Don’t get me wrong, Cohen loves to play soccer. However, he hates to practice at home, especially his juggling. Sometimes I feel like a drill sergeant when he loafs around instead of concentrating on his skill building, especially when it seems my hard-earned money is being thrown away.

One Costly Invite to Las Vegas

My son plays club soccer all year. It is expensive. He has practice at least twice a week, more during the warmer months. Recently, he got invited to participate in an invitation-only team camp through his club. I am very proud of him, but this training is in Las Vegas, and it’s not paid for. That’s an extra cost that we weren’t planning to spend right after the holidays. So, I asked myself, “Is it worth it?”

Are Parents Over-Investing in Youth Activities?

I feel that parents today are far more likely to invest in after-school activities for kids than any generation before. I know you can spend as much or as little as you like. My daughter plays rec basketball. She likes playing the sport but only for fun. It’s cheap and she enjoys the 12 weeks of practices and games.

Cohen, however, has never missed a game or practice except when he broke his collarbone. But what if tomorrow he wakes up and says that he doesn’t want to continue? I’ve already invested considerable time, money and effort in soccer. I might not want to let him quit.

A friend of mine had a daughter in dance from the time she was three years old. She spent thousands of dollars on instruction, costumes and travel to competitions. When her daughter turned 13, she abruptly decided she no longer wanted to continue. Another friend hated practicing the violin and her parents let her quit. Now she regrets it and wishes that her parents had made her keep going.

The End Goal: A College Scholarship

Many parents want to give their children every advantage they possibly can. We’ve discussed what high school Cohen would like to attend based on the soccer programs at each school. But, as we think towards the future, our goal with all this training and money is hopefully to land him a scholarship to college.

Making Time to Be a Kid

Not that I think Cohen would quit soccer anytime soon. But I want him to have unstructured time to play and develop other interests. I don’t want him to invest all his time on one thing. Some people say that kids should be required to try many kinds of activities to help them develop interests. Some parents impose activities on their children that they would have liked to be involved in when they were young. Maybe Cohen will enjoy them, but maybe not. I continue to ask him if he’d like to try other things. But even though he plays video games and participates in his church’s youth group, soccer is his priority.

My Reflection on Overcommitment

Is this too much for a 12-year-old? At his age, I was in three different basketball leagues, traveling to games and always playing. I don’t regret it. I even played a little in high school. However, my mom also made me try dance, volleyball, gymnastics and swim team. I, too, was a busy child. But if he likes it and wants to continue, I am here to support his dream. If he does decide to quit one day, I know the skills he learned in training will help him become a better person. Through this sport, he has learned patience, toughness, competitiveness and so much more.

His Legacy Beyond Soccer

As parents, we are role models on how to handle stress and how to balance our time. I hope I am showing Cohen that just because he is busy doesn’t mean he can’t take the time to slow down and enjoy the gift of family unity—it’s the greatest gift of all!

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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From Little Girl to Young Woman

From Little Girl to Young Woman

As a mother, I’ve experienced the joys and challenges of raising a daughter, watching her transform from a tiny bundle of joy into a remarkable young woman. It’s a journey filled with precious moments and bittersweet transitions, a constant dance between cherishing the past and embracing the future. Life paused me in my busyness this week and gave me much-needed quiet moments with my family.

A Fond Farewell to Childhood

Sometimes, I miss my daughter. I miss her bouncy, tight curls. Now, I see her in front of her mirror, perfectly assembling a low bun or braid. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss the many colorful tutus. Now I see her wearing jeans, a button-down farm shirt and OnClouds. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss the little girl running to me with a nail polish bottle. Now I see her eyes light up when she has perfectly manicured nails. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss her holding her hands wide open for her dad and me to move her, as she was too lazy to crawl. Now, she is my chauffeur. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

Sometimes, I miss her stubbornness. Now, I see determination. I see someone passionate about pursuing her goals. I miss the little girl, but I love the young woman she is becoming.

My Journey Towards Letting Go

I texted Addi, “I have decided I do not want you to graduate high school.”

I am a selfish mom. I don’t want that little girl I dearly miss, who is growing into an amazing young woman, to leave home.

I start to cry. I miss the little girl, the one I could protect, the one I laid next to all those nights when she couldn’t sleep, the one who gave the best squishy hugs, the one I showed all of life’s simple wonders to.

I cry because I know I am selfish. I cry because she is graduating high school. I cry because the best is yet to come for her. That is all my husband and I have ever prayed for—that the best life will come after our kids leave our home. We have taught them values, given them experiences and shown them to love life. When the day comes to move out, our hearts will be full.

I cannot guarantee I won’t miss the little girl or the young woman Addi is becoming, but I can guarantee that I am excited about her next chapter. And I will cry because the best is still yet to come.

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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Keeping Up with the Lingo

Keeping Up with the Lingo

Nothing makes you feel older than listening to preteens speak. From eye rolls, grunts and slamming doors to unexpected hugs, tweens and teens are hard to predict and understand at times. They are talking slang and the meanings have changed just to keep us on our toes. From music to social media, there are many outlets constantly creating new slang terms. But what happens when we can’t translate the actual words they are saying?

Learning New Slang

“Slay”, “Rizz”, “Glizzy” and “Bop”. These are only a few terms my middle schooler uses in his daily vocabulary. Slang words are constantly evolving, and it can be difficult for parents like me to keep up. As a parent, it is important to be aware of the language your children are using to communicate with their peers.

The other day, after watching a YouTube video about slang kids are using these days, I realized that maybe not all moms and dads of preteens know what the heck their kids are saying when they are talking or texting. They speak in code you know? Not that I’m an expert but, unlike most parents who don’t actually work in social media, I do know some things. FYI, fleek is no longer on fleek so keep that phrase out of your mouth.

Slang words can have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used. As a parent, it’s important to understand the context in which these words are being used and to have an open and honest conversation with your kids about them. Using slang words can be fun and a way to connect with your kids, but it’s also important to use them appropriately. Using slang words in the wrong context or using them too frequently can come across as inauthentic and may even cause your kids to feel embarrassed or annoyed.

Keeping Communication Open

For me, it’s easy to overreact when I hear Cohen using slang words that I don’t understand or that I perceive as inappropriate. I try to remember that it’s important to remain calm and to have a conversation with him about why he is using the words and what they mean. Jumping to conclusions or punishing him for using slang language may cause him to shut down and may make it harder to communicate in the future. Cohen and I have a pretty open relationship. He still likes me on most days. Though that is not my main concern in parenting, I’d love it if one day we could be friends but for now, I’m his mom. I am still trying to understand preteen slang meaning. This will not only help me communicate with him, but it will also help me keep up with what’s going on in his life.

Communication between us is an ongoing process with a variety of styles and mixed results. And no matter how hard I try, there will be times when my kids feel understandably misunderstood.

My attempts to have ongoing communication with my children is a bumpy ride. The best I can do is offer a safe place for them to tell me their stories and share what’s important to them–even if it’s a video game or anime series that is not in my wheelhouse of solitaire and Hallmark movies.

I am embracing the fact that language is changing, and my children bring creativity and innovation to my daily life.

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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A Grateful Heart Is More Powerful Than We Can Imagine

A Grateful Heart Is More Powerful Than We Can Imagine

I did it. I walked away from coaching the sport I love. After nearly 20 years, I walked away from coaching at the high school varsity level. And after eight years, I will walk away as a CapitalMOM blogger at the year’s end. Through all of the joy and angst, I have grown in more ways than one through these experiences. My hope has always been that I brought joy to someone’s life—even if it is only in the slightest fashion.

The Benefits of a Grateful Heart

A grateful heart has more power than we can imagine. The most important lesson I learned along the way is when I shared joy, whether intentional or unsolicited, my heart was brimming. I wanted to dive into how a grateful heart has changed my life.

How Gratitude Changes Your Life

A grateful heart is a beacon of positivity, illuminating every aspect of life with its transformative power. When I cultivate gratitude, my mental and emotional well-being improves. Gratitude shifts focus from what is lacking to what is abundant, giving me a sense of fulfillment.

Builds Resilience

Whether an opportunity is by choice or happenstance, I always try to find the good, even though there are many times I contemplate what lesson I am to be learning. In times of adversity, a grateful heart provides resilience, helping individuals navigate challenges with a positive mindset.

Better Relationships & Health

Gratitude enhances relationships, opening the door to empathy and understanding and strengthening connections with others. Moreover, a grateful heart is scientifically proven to reduce stress, boost your immune system and improve overall physical health.

A More Joyful, Compassionate World

Finally, embracing gratitude enriched my life. I fully believe it contributes to a more joyful, compassionate world where appreciation for the beauty of existence becomes a shared virtue.

It’s a constant reminder of life’s simple pleasures, encouraging mindfulness and a heightened awareness of the present moment. Writing a simple, encouraging note brought me more joy than the person I wrote the message to.

My Challenge to You…

As we write the last chapters of 2023 and the weather brings rain, snow, wind and sun, I challenge you to fill your heart with gratitude. Make it a point to list four blessings each day and see how your life improves because a grateful heart has more power than we can imagine.

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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Halloween for Teens

Halloween for Teens

Every year, kids across the country look forward to Halloween, mine included. It’s a night of dressing up in costumes and going door-to-door asking for treats. It’s almost as much fun when I’m the one passing out Halloween candy to adorable little ones in disguise. But what about trick-or-treaters who aren’t so little anymore? Should preteens/teens still be able to enjoy a night of trick-or-treating?

My Fond Memories of Trick-or-Treating

For my part, I trick-or-treated well into my late teens. I must have been at least 16 before I stopped for good. I loved making my own costumes and amassing an unholy amount of candy and counting it all up at the end of the night. Even once I started working and could have used the money to buy my own candy whenever I wanted, that wasn’t the point. My Halloween stash felt differently earned.

Maybe some of my neighbors judged me toward the end of my trick-or-treating tenure. Maybe you are judging me now—and that’s fine. I was old enough to weigh the balance and to conclude that I’d trade a couple of disapproving stares for a pile of my favorite candy, Reese’s Pumpkins.

Parenting an Older Trick-or-Treater

But now my son is almost 13 and has me questioning if he’s too old to trick-or-treat. 2022 was his last year going with his father. His father loves dressing up and going with the kids door-to-door. Every year, they decorate the house, carve pumpkins and plan out their costumes way in advance.

This year, Cohen plans to wear all black with a light-up mask, nothing too kiddish or scary but something that still qualifies as a costume. And instead of going with Dad, he has plans to go with his friends. I trust him and his friends, and I think it’s harmless fun.

How to Set Boundaries for Your Kids on Halloween

I have never questioned Cohen’s motives. He hasn’t done anything to prove me wrong. However, when he asked to go with his friends, I did reiterate trick-or-treating etiquette. It should still be the same even though he isn’t going with an adult.

I reminded him that his late-evening behavior needs to always be appropriate—especially with so many families with young kids out and about. While kids of all ages should say “trick or treat” and “thank you,” it’s especially important that he and his friends mind their manners. I want him to let the little ones go first and treat them with respect. Sugared-up preteens can get excited and forget that Halloween is a big deal for younger children.

Luckily, Halloween is on a school night this year, so I told him that homework needed to be completed before heading out. He also needs to be home at a certain time, especially if he and his sister plan to sit on the floor and barter with their candy before bed.

The Bottom Line: You’re Never Too Old for Halloween

Overall, there’s no clear cutoff for trick or treating. Each parent is free to establish their own ground rules for this holiday, but I say embrace the idea that preteens and teens aren’t too old to enjoy the innocent fun of touring the neighborhood collecting candy. What’s most important for me is that my kids enjoy themselves and follow the rules we set.

So, whether your child wants to trick-or-treat until they graduate high school or they’re over it as soon as they enter middle school, both are okay. Just make sure everyone is having fun and enjoying the tradition. After all, trick-or-treating is a custom for kids of all ages—plus, this way I still get my Reese’s Pumpkins!

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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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.

You may also like

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