Taking Family Vacations

Taking Family Vacations

The kids are out of school, and we’ve banked up just enough vacation time for this exact moment. After a few years of travel being limited, it’s time for a summer trip!

Do you recall that one summer vacation or that one family trip as a child that was etched into your mind as one of your best memories ever? Every year as a kid my family would always go on a family vacation. It usually centered around Nebraska Football but nonetheless, it was a family vacation. I knew I wanted my children to make the same kind of memories. So, when my husband and I started a family, I knew family vacations were a must.

In the early years, we didn’t have two nickels to rub together so our vacations were shoestring budget worthy – but we made memories. We began small with a weekend getaway over spring break to Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City. It was perfect for a young family and consisted of a free visit to Cabela’s, which was kind of like a zoo.

As the kids got older, the vacations changed. We saved enough money…well that is with the help of the grandparents, to make a trip to Disney World. Like they say, “It’s the most magical place on earth,” and it truly was special.

Then COVID-19 grounded us for a while but last fall we finally brought back family vacations. We made it to Estes Park, Colorado for a week which included hiking, shopping, horseback riding and a quick trip to the Denver Broncos Stadium.

This last month we went to Branson, Missouri. And when I say we, there were eight of us. This vacation was extra special, not only did my parents come but my brother and niece joined us. This trip was filled with mini golf, a ropes course, roller coasters, the Titanic Museum and our all-time favorite Wonder Works.

Now here’s the thing. Our vacations aren’t perfect. There is always chaos. At any given moment, someone needed an attitude adjustment. We spilled stuff. The photos didn’t turn out great. We forgot to pack important things. We were crammed into one car for what seemed like forever. We got lost. We were hot and sweaty – or freezing. But all those things made the memories!

Between the numerous amounts of putt-putting, sitting around the pool, horseback riding, trying to spot a bear or a moose around the edge of the mountains, and talking about life – those are the little things and the big things everyone will remember.

On top of the memories and bonds that are built, it’s healthy to get out of the normal routine of life. Life at home is filled with responsibilities. Between our jobs, errands to run and responsibilities to be kept, vacations are filled with joy and are usually worry-free. They allow us time to breathe fresher air, see bigger cities, ride down a river and learn a little history. They also give us the opportunity to explore together. They provide the backdrop for shared memories between grandparents, parents and kids, which cultivates a closer family bond. Vacations provide opportunities to learn about the world we live in, cultures different from our own, and the benefits of being open-minded.

If you have been putting your vacation off, take a moment to think of the importance of family vacations so you can regenerate and reconnect with your loved ones.

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!

You may also like

Facing My Travel Fears

Facing My Travel Fears

Wanderlust: a strong desire to travel. There has always been this deep desire in my heart to travel. For some reason, hopping on an airplane is exhilarating and all part of the adventure. Once upon a time, I even tried to convince my dad into investing in a new business venture for me – travel blogging. He didn’t quite like the idea, as he didn’t know how he was benefiting from the investment – I guess who could blame him! However, I need to let you all in on a little secret, airports terrify me. Let me say that again airports terrify me, not the flights – airports.

I’m Scared of Airports

Travel day brings an elevated level of stress. Every time I step into an airport, I immediately enter a time warp back to when I was 13 years old. My siblings and I were surprised with a trip to Walt Disney World. As we were making our way to our connecting flight in Atlanta, I took a wrong turn and ended up on a tram in the wrong direction of my family. As the tram was pulling away, I noticed my family wasn’t on the tram and I could see my dad’s face through the tram’s windows. With the help of a guardian angel at the next tram stop, I sprinted in the right direction trying to find my family (I have NO sense of direction) and there my dad was sprinting towards the tram stop.

Here I am 30-plus years after this traumatizing event for a junior high student and travel anxiety for me is still incredibly REAL. My family will attest to this anxiety and in all reality, they do not help in combating this fear. It is incredibly difficult to experience new places with such a fear of airports, but I can honestly say that the excitement doesn’t start until I am waiting at the gate.

Trying to Ease my Travel Anxiety

My anxiety starts creeping up a few days before the flights with insomnia. For how prepared to fly I believe I am the list below seeps into my mind.

  • Worry about proper documentation
  • The security lines
  • Crowds and chaos
  • Other anxious people running around

At the airports, I am very irritable and have an overall tense feeling until I reach the boarding gate and walk down the passenger bridge to the airplane. I constantly remind myself to not give in to the anxiety of airports, however, that is easier said than done.

I am currently blogging from an airport, waiting for my next flight. I just returned from a family vacation, where we had two international flights. In a few short hours, I will go through the entire airport process for a domestic flight to a leadership conference. To combat some anxiety (or at least try) I have signed up for travel alerts on the Carriers app, I have another book to read, I have calming music downloaded, and a journal to record my thoughts. However, probably the most important way to relieve anxiety is to not get caught up in the chaos around me.

Adventure is out there, and it is always waiting for me just beyond the boarding gate – however, I must conquer the airport process first.

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

Mothering in Tough Economic Times

Mothering in Tough Economic Times

With gas prices, grocery prices, rent/property taxes skyrocketing, how are you managing? I sit here thinking about how things will be six months from now and it scares me to no end. Everything is so expensive, and it just keeps going up!

Motherhood is tough. It’s tough even in the best of times but throw in this current economic climate and moms need ways to cope.

Despite the uncertainty and turbulence of life as we’ve known it right now, I hope you are enjoying the longer stretches of daylight and warmer weather as I am. Taking time to notice things with our five senses is a great way to slow down and come back to ourselves when we are caught up in emotions and anxiety.

Yes, our tanking economy yields plenty of opportunities for mothers to break down, not a lot can be done about that. But what is important is that we have the resilience to snap back.

How I’m Saving Money

Some things I am currently doing to help are the little things that save us money.

With gas prices skyrocketing, I honestly have been getting gas when it’s half or fuller. I do it at 6 a.m. at Sam’s Club before work and I pump it super slow. I track my mileage and check my tire pressure often. I use an app for money back at the pump and I continue to get the oil changed on time.

When it comes to food, a big thing I’ve been doing is buying meats in bulk and snack items when on sale. I meal plan before shopping then buy only what we need or what we will use if it’s cheaper. However, since it is summer, I have become the pantry police and must cut my kid’s snacking habits. Also, I just planted our garden and plan to can some goods in the fall. I will be ready for an apocalypse if need be. When it comes to fruits, I freeze what I can to keep my kids from eating them all in one sitting. Lastly, I highly recommend investing in a deep freeze if you don’t already have one. When we do buy in bulk everything fits in there.

When it comes to other bills, I do the laundry and run the dishwasher at night, we close vents off in rooms we don’t use especially during the day. Also, I check the exhaust vents and ducts inside and outside. This saves on time, and electricity and the appliances last longer. We invested in blackout thermal curtains. The difference has been huge for us in the summer and winter months on heating and air.

Staying Resilient During Tough Times

Mothers rarely get a break, and we’re hard on ourselves. Add economic hardship to the mix, and it can be easy to spiral downward to a very dark place. When you have resilience, you can stop that spiral and even reverse it.

Our children count on us to teach them the life skills they’re going to need and resilience in uncertain times is one of the most important.

My goal is to provide a happy, healthy home for them. I shouldn’t feel bad that I can’t buy them the newest iPhone. The importance of the basics has never been clearer.

The most important lesson to keep firmly in mind – and that I share with my kids and repeat to myself – is the hard times won’t last forever. They never do because change is life’s only constant. It’s that knowledge that lies at the heart of resilience itself.

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!

You may also like

Making Summer Memories

Making Summer Memories

Summer has always been my season. Growing up I spent my time riding bikes, and swimming, but most evenings were spent at the softball fields. Nostalgia sweeps over me with the small summer moments of eating vegetables straight from the garden with my dad, picking peonies with my neighbor lady and roller skating on our sidewalks.

Now 40+ years later, I am reminded of those simple moments quite often, and I still love everything about the summer — even the summer heat!

For most of us, the school year is over which translates to summer sun and summer activities. As summer begins, whatever your plans may be I encourage you to make the most of each opportunity. We all have those memories that are brought up around the supper tables, go and create those memories. However, do not forget the sweet summer moments that remind us we do not always have to be elaborate in our plans to make lasting memories.

What I’m Looking Forward to This Summer

While I am looking forward to the norms of the summer, I am sharing a few of my favorite simple things of the summer.

  • Deck sitting, especially under the stars and lights, where the quiet encompasses me.
  • Walking 18,000 steps following my son on his golf outings.
  • Sun brewed iced tea, three to five hours in the bright sun brings a mellower taste to my favorite beverage.
  • Corn on the cob and what is even better, grilled corn on the cob. Our friends introduced this to our family and even our kids love it.
  • Tomato sandwiches – you know the BLTs without the LTs, these are absolutely delicious in the summer. On a side note, I refuse to eat these in the other seasons as the tomatoes are not fresh.
  • Kohlrabi is another favorite garden pick which was introduced by my dad.
  • Walking sheep with my kids.
  • Family Farmer’s Market adventures, what could be better in the summer? Fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, fresh flowers and great conversations.

The first signs of summer are upon our family, with the most obvious being that I’m unfazed by time and days of the week. Still I am excited to create a full summer of memories while being intentional about the simple things of 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

Getting Ready for Middle School

Getting Ready for Middle School

Middle school. Just saying the words brings me thoughts of puberty and pimples. Of insecurity and awkwardness, including bad hair and braces. Really, middle school years, I believe may be the most challenging and confusing time in one’s life.

However, the idea of changing schools for middle school is new to me. I went to a private school that was Kindergarten through 8th grade, so I never had to transition to middle school. Recently, Cohen and I had information night at his new middle school. We took a tour, met some of the staff, asked questions, and learned about expectations and procedures. He had so many questions that I tried to answer but again I didn’t go to middle school, so this is new to the both of us. Cohen says he is ready, but I am not.

Since he is my oldest, this is uncharted territory for all of us. Right now, he’s excited about meeting new people, having new experiences and gaining more independence. It will be a new adventure and I am looking forward to watching him grow. I will admit, though, that I am also more than a little scared. I’ve heard lots of stories about kids making bad choices, giving in to peer pressure, using social media for inappropriateness and trying to do grown-up things far too soon. I’m sure he’s aware of these things as well.

Part of me wants to think he is too smart and too good to fall into those traps. But then there is the real me, that refuses to be a naive parent who is blind to the truth.

Yes, I have taught him basic values and morals, but now, more than ever is the time to help him apply it all. I believe middle school is the ideal time to mentor him in how to practically work out the character qualities that he learned as a boy. He is so sweet, loving, kind and innocent – and I don’t want that to change.

Because he is our first child, it may seem like the other parents are giving freedoms and privileges that I will not; I may be stricter, but I hope to stand my ground and not feel pressured to do the same. I know my son better than anyone, and I can make the call when the time is right to do these so-called more grown-up things.

And perhaps my greatest job during these years is to study my son and determine just where he is on that spectrum of growth and development, mentally and physically, and parent him accordingly. Not according to a number (grade or age). I do not want to parent him according to what his friends are doing. I want to do the very best thing for him, in the stage he is currently in.

For me, hitting the middle school years is like getting to half-time of an important game: I may be ahead now, but the game’s not over. I need to towel-off, get a big drink of water and then gear up for the second half. This is something that I want to finish strong.

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!

You may also like

Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

Is it a Tantrum or a Meltdown, and How can I Best Respond?

My daughter turned eight over the weekend. We had a small slumber party with her closest friends. But the day before the party, I threatened to cancel it altogether.

It’s not just toddlers that have tantrums, even older kids can lose their cool. This happens to Collyns at least once or twice a week.

She has strong feelings that take over her entire body. This happens when she is angry, hurt or frustrated. Sometimes for no reason, sometimes over homework, most of the time when it comes to cleaning up her messes. Usually, I try to ignore the tantrum but that rarely works. Then it’s timeout in her room which makes the tantrum louder and more destructive. So now we are trying something different.

Tantrums Vs. Meltdowns

After doing a little research, I found out that tantrums and meltdowns are different and handling them requires different approaches. They are both overwhelming for her and us as parents. I then reached out to her pediatrician, and she made me realize that learning how to deal with her anger without choosing destructive responses is critical. And understanding the difference between a tantrum and a meltdown helps us properly guide her through these intense times. As parents, our support and guidance matter greatly.

The doctor said that Collyns is most likely having a tantrum. She explained that “tantrums are a normal reaction or outburst to feeling anger or frustration, a cry for attention or an inability to communicate, within a child’s scope of awareness and control, and goal-oriented.”

The reason she said Collyns was having a tantrum and not a meltdown is because meltdowns are most common among children with sensory processing disorders, autism or other medical issues who are easily overstimulated or lack the ability to cope with emotional triggers such as fear or anxiety. Meltdowns are an instinctive survival reaction to being overstimulated or feeling distressed, and are not goal-oriented, meaning they are not affected by a reward system. Meltdowns are long-lasting; and children may never grow out of them like they do tantrums.

The doctor then continued to explain that once the reactive part of her brain has been triggered, the reasoning part of the brain is temporarily ‘offline’. So, explaining or rationalizing with her doesn’t work – the conflict is just likely to escalate. Which it does 99% of the time! So, in short, we have been dealing with her tantrums all wrong.

Learning to Deal With Tantrums

Being alone when she’s very upset doesn’t teach her what she needs to learn either. So, instead of sending her off into her room to calm down when she starts to lose it, we now stay with her and try to just restore a sense of safety. We found that if she feels safe, she can have a big cry, show you all those tears and fears she’s been stuffing down, and let them go. That helps her be more emotionally regulated in general. When having a tantrum, she needs to borrow my strength and calm. I remind myself to keep breathing, not to take anything she says or does personally, and of how much I love her.

Collyns is most certainly over-reacting. She stores up her feelings and waits for a safe place to discharge them and releases. She has a big “backpack” of pent-up emotion that needs to be released; she reacts to provocations that seem slight to me by having big meltdowns. So, while I may not see the reason for such a big reaction, I now see it as a chance to help her work through some feelings that she hasn’t been able to manage.

So now when she loses it, I try to stay calm, comfort her, and realize it’s the perfect time to turn a tantrum into a learning experience.

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!

You may also like

Finding Balance in a Busy Schedule

Finding Balance in a Busy Schedule

Do you ever just want to quit? Your heart is overwhelmed, the busyness is all-consuming. There are definitely seasons like this and for some, it happens more than others. Some of us can stop and look at the flowers, for others we stop, pick the flowers, run home, cut the stems at an angle and then arrange them in a vase.

Pause for a minute.

My parents rushed us from our weekend basketball tournaments to dropping my sibling off at volleyball practice, while I needed to get to my piano lesson before participating in both our late-night basketball games. My parents’ vehicle looks like a disaster from fast food wrappers to water bottles. Don’t forget our backpacks as my siblings and I try to catch up on homework in between activities.

If we believe our hearts are overwhelmed and busyness is consuming us…what about our own teenagers?

Overscheduled

Most days, if not all, I see teenagers (mine included) rushing from one activity to the next, overextending themselves in pursuit of social, academic, athletic and leadership opportunities. And, why? Because of grades; because of college; because they are told they have to; because they are told if they do not participate in year-round sports they will not find success; because their friends are doing it; because ______ (fill in the blank).

It is no wonder our teenagers are stressed both physically and mentally.

When I look back at the start of the global pandemic, everything just stopped. We were forced to declutter our lives. And honestly, some of those moments during the pandemic I hold closest to my heart. Our family spent time together completing puzzles, watching birds, gardening (or at least trying to garden) and even cooking. As we navigate into the new normal, it seems as if society is reverting back to rushing around from activity to activity. Our teenagers feel the pressure from all different angles to maintain their hectic schedules with no downtime.

Finding Balance

With our own overscheduled children, healthy conversations about commitments and truly understanding their passions helps create a healthy balance. Around our home, we also extend grace. If our kids want to sleep in, we let them sleep in. Their growing bodies need it. We protect two weeks of our summer where there can only be family commitments — no academic, athletic or social commitments. We talk about strategies to combat stress, especially when busy days occur.

As parents, we often step back and reflect on our own lives. My challenge is for parents to truly step back and reflect on the commitments they are asking of their children. Are the commitments we are asking of our children truly bringing them joy and providing the time to discover who they are?

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

The Birds and the Bees

The Birds and the Bees

The dreaded question, “where do babies come from?” Cohen starts middle school next year and I think it’s time to have the talk.

Yes, the “TALK” talk.

The talk that no parent looks forward to, but all parents know it’s critical.

Having “The Talk”

There is no perfect or single best time for “the talk.” In fact, I think it should be a series of conversations you have with your child.

Too many parents wait for the “right” time to come along for the talk, only to find that it never does—and then they don’t have the talk at all.

My parents never sat me down and talked about sex. And I realized that if parents don’t teach their kids about personal health and sex, someone else will.

So, take a deep breath and don’t let that uncertainty hold you back. The truth is that there isn’t one “correct” way to teach your kids about sex and you can chart your own course.

I wanted my kids to learn about their wonderful, incredible, perfectly-made little bodies from the people who love and value them more than anyone else on this planet—me.

We just told Cohen about Santa. I mean, #LetThemBeLittle, right? And now, it’s time for the sex talk.

He’s already had the puberty talk in school, I gave him a heads-up of what was coming and told him to write down any questions he had, and we could discuss. And to my surprise he did. He and his father chatted while playing video games and I was okay with that.

Answering Questions

So here we go. After talking with some friends who’ve already had the “talk”. I gave up on the idea of presenting the subject in one big talk – I didn’t want to overwhelm him with more bewildering and even distasteful information than he could process at once. Instead, I bought ice cream, made sure Collyns, his little sister, was gone for the evening and we began. We had a gentle conversation that I think will continue over several months or perhaps even years. I wanted to keep our explanations as simple and specific to the discussion as we could.

The hardest part, of course, was staying composed. We tried to respond to his initial question without turning red or acting as though some momentous exchange was about to take place; we didn’t want to suggest that sex is linked to feelings of shame. We remained calm and spoke naturally. We didn’t want this important message to make Cohen feel nervous or uncomfortable because we wanted this to be an ongoing conversation. It’s something we can talk about.

When we arrived at the point of giving a technical description of “the Act,” we said something simple like, “Look, I know this sounds gross to you now, but – trust me – it will seem different when you’re older.” We tried to be straightforward and honest, so we could get through it.

Pause, ready? Here we go.

“When a man and a woman decide they want to have a baby, the man’s penis goes inside the woman’s vagina, and sperm comes out of the man’s penis. Sometimes the sperm joins with one of the tiny eggs inside the woman’s body, and that makes the egg begin growing into a baby. This happens in the special place women have called a uterus.”

An Ongoing Conversation

Once we made it through this, Cohen looked both dumbfounded and suspicious, especially since it probably dawned on him that his parents have done this thing at least twice. He suddenly changed the subject, and said, “I got it.” We ended the conversation with letting him know that we are both here to answer any questions and that we loved him. We let him leave. We knew he heard us and needed time to let it all sink in.

So, the “talk” may be over but hopefully, there will be an ongoing conversation. And when he gets a little older and starts noticing girls, the “talk” will continue. But for now, I can breathe again.

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!

You may also like

Doing A Social Media Detox

Doing A Social Media Detox

The word detox, do you all remember when it was associated with the latest cleansing fad? Now the word is more often associated with stepping away from technology – digital detox. I often wonder how difficult it is to step away from technology? Our phones are our alarm clocks, our calendars, our calorie trackers, our way of communication. Even my husband and I often wonder how school administrators completed tasks for their jobs pre-cell phones.

At the start of every digital citizenship unit, I share this with my students, “According to The Journal of American Medical Association of Pediatrics non-school related technology use doubled to 7.7 hours a day of screen time during the pandemic. Pre-pandemic screen time was 3.8 hours a day.” When reflecting upon this, most students agree, but they do not want to be the person who spends that much time on their devices.

I admit it, I visit multiple social media sites daily. I mindlessly scroll through sites and get sucked into the rabbit holes of information. We absolutely battle the screen time usage around our home; even though we have multiple educational discussions with our children about the importance of healthy screen time balance. We discuss how social media can be positive, yet there can also be much negativity surrounding it.

Which leads me to a question I ponder often, where or how do we find the balance?

Last week a dear friend texted me to let me know she deactivated her social media account. She continued that she did not need the noise in her life and it has allowed her to be fully present in the moment. Wow, that was a huge light bulb. If my friend could leave social media, I could hit the pause button. Actually, I did it. I hit the pause button on my personal accounts and put a time limit on my professional accounts. However, most importantly, I hope to encourage my children to delete one social media app for a time period.

A social media detox is going to shock my system. However, I am looking forward to allowing myself to be bored (to be really bored), to take out a piece of paper, to create or to pick up yoga. This time is going to allow me to be more present, allow me to reconnect with my surroundings. This type of detox, I hope, will be a time of being mindful.

Who knows maybe this detox will be life-changing, maybe not. At the minimum, I know I am creating more sensible boundaries on how I spend my time online and truly making personal connections.

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

My Child’s Friend

My Child’s Friend

If it hasn’t happened already, it probably will at some point: the moment you don’t like one of your child’s friends. What do you do?

I remember when I was growing up and my mom didn’t love me spending time with one of the girls in our neighborhood. She didn’t forbid me from being with her but didn’t encourage our get-togethers, either.

Eventually, I realized this friend wasn’t the right fit for me for several reasons, and the relationship fizzled. Years later, I wondered: How did my mom know?

Questioning Friendships

Recently, my son had a friend over. This friend was not very nice to my daughter and his attitude towards me made me question my feelings towards him. Granted it was a mild irritation. I found this friend annoying because he’s loud, destructive and the fact that he’s obviously never been taught to say please or thank you. It also made me worry that this friend may be a bad influence on Cohen.

A friend of mine recently said, “As long as my kids live in my house, I choose their friends.” And I don’t disagree. What I’m saying is this: There are a couple of things that a parent should and shouldn’t do when it comes to a child’s friends.

I choose not to verbally tell Cohen my feelings about his friend. I did not forbid him from hanging out with that friend. If I would say this out loud, Cohen is likely to blab, announcing publicly, “My parents say I’m not allowed to play with you!” This would make me seem mean and could cause conflict with the other child’s parents. It’s also possible that forbidding the friendship could make that friend seem more attractive to Cohen.

Forbidding Cohen seems a little bit overstepping. Unless he is in immediate, physical danger, trying to dictate who he can or can’t be friends with strips him of an important piece of autonomy (what’s more personal than our relationships?) and gets in the way of him learning to navigate the social world. If Cohen continues the friendship, even without my support, it creates a rift between us.

So, I decided that I needed to get to know the other child better and figure out what Cohen finds appealing about this friend. Most people have some likable qualities and discovering these might help me put my irritations in perspective. I try to keep in mind that children are constantly growing and changing, so the behaviors that annoyed me before may fade away as the friend matures.

Modeling Good Social Skills

Cohen doesn’t have a lot of close friends at his school, maybe just a handful. So, I’ve found that laying compliments on thick for my son’s friends who are well-mannered, responsible and kind, tends to be a successful tactic. This is part of those subliminal messages I’m sending to his brain, so he’ll start to feel that emotional reward deep inside his brain when he’s hanging around the “good” kids (the ones I like) and will eventually – God-willing – start to be turned off by the other kids. Instead of discouraging playdates with the kid I don’t like, I went out of my way to set up playdates with his friends that I do like. The goal here is to help Cohen nourish those positive friendships.

You don’t necessarily have to love everyone who your child chooses to befriend, but by being a gracious host, you support your child and model good social skills. A side benefit is that you can keep an eye on things if you have concerns about the friend’s behavior. For example, if things start to get heated, you can diffuse tensions by asking, “Who wants a snack?” or “How about going outside?”

If there’s something that the other child does that annoys you, it may help to explain your rules. Different families have different ways of doing things, and it’s not fair to be angry at a child for failing to respect your rules when you haven’t said anything, so he doesn’t even know what those rules are. Fuming silently will cause your resentment to build and won’t change what the child does.

Listening To Your Gut

Lastly, I listen to my kids and my gut. I ask questions about their friends. Moms can pick up on the very slightest detail being off if we’ll just listen. Cohen is such a sweetheart and has a good head on his shoulders, he needs to discover what friends work in his life. However, I set boundaries at our home to keep him safe, until he’s mature enough to loosen the reigns a bit and to make sure he’s showing kindness. He is smart enough to know that this friend has good qualities and bad qualities and likely knows better than to let those bad qualities rub off on him.

Ultimately, my goal is for my kids to make wise choices in their friendships.

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!

You may also like

How I Work to Inspire High School Students

How I Work to Inspire High School Students

As a principal, my husband gives many talks to the students throughout the year. Most times the talks are informational and to remind students of expectations but there are times when the talks are inspirational. During any one of these talks the students and teachers really see the heart of my husband. My favorite talk, however, is each year when my husband talks to the senior class. The words are never the same, yet the message is. I always get a little choked up when he ends this discussion, “Just remember, I love you all.” Yet, what gets to me the most is he not only encourages students to graduate from Milford High School with their high school diploma but also with a passion, a purpose and an employable skill.

Passion, Purpose, and Skill

With a passion, a purpose and an employable skill. My husband articulates this sentiment so well, yet this is my belief. This is my colleagues down the hall belief. What is really crazy about this, is an article I read about a month ago, suggesting employers today are starting to value skills over degrees. This article made it very clear degrees are still important, however, the skills prospective employees possess may have a bigger impact during the hiring process. This made me think even more. What can I do as a teacher to better connect students with their values and their employability skills?

A Love For Teaching

I love the teaching profession because I get the opportunity to make those around me better. I get the opportunity to have discussions with students on the importance of finding a passion. The importance of starting to develop or find their purpose. And even, teach about values and how these values develop into passionate employees.

Success in high school looks completely different to each student I serve. Even with my passion for teaching, I need a shift in my thinking. I need to encourage failure more and more inside my classroom. Allow students to develop more self-awareness of their values and apply these in the learning process. I need to encourage students to enjoy the learning process rather than focus on the grade. I need to encourage all of this while also helping my students find relevant experiences to connect their values and beliefs to their learning. Most importantly, I want my students to understand that no matter where their next stage in life takes them, the skills and passions they developed in high school will help them continue to live out their purpose. Through all of this, I can truly support our principal’s sentiments of graduating high school with a passion, purpose and employable skill.

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

Is She Trying?

Is She Trying?

School is supposed to be a fun time where children learn new and exciting things about themselves and the world around them. But sometimes children can lack motivation in school and not give it their best effort. As parents, all we want is to see our children succeed in life and that starts with school.

2 – Approaches district expectations.

That’s what I saw on most of my daughter’s report card. But this wasn’t a surprise. At parent/teacher conferences, I knew she was struggling. When I met with her 2nd grade teacher, we talked about a plan and identified the areas where she was not applying herself.

So, I wonder, is she trying? Does she care?

Setting Achievable Goals

Do you remember when you were in school, how overwhelmed you would feel with a big project or test? Maybe Collyns might be feeling too overwhelmed to do any schoolwork. So, we decided to help her by setting achievable goals that she can hit. Breaking something big into smaller milestones is a tool she has enjoyed and will use her whole life. Smaller goals make her feel accomplished and inspire her to continue working to keep this feeling up.

We started small. We decided she needed extra help in reading. She now works with a para and has a fluency folder – which is a 1-minute read at home every night, over the course of the week. She gets books from the library that she seems to enjoy reading. But to be truthful, she still hates it. She also has a hard time with reading comprehension. She tends to rush through her tests and guess on the questions rather than look for text evidence. She again despises these tests and wants them over with and so she doesn’t seem to care. During these tests, her teacher reminds her to slow down and focus and the task on hand.

Working Together at Home

At home, we also work on her spelling words. She likes using a dry-erase board to work on her list instead of pencil and paper. At night we work on 5 words from her 15-word list, so she isn’t overwhelmed with the entire list every night. Then the night before her test we work on the words she questioned during the week.

We continue to help her with math. Even though every night seems to be a fight she tries and eventually finishes the problems. She seems to understand the lesson that they are working on but must be reminded. Recently, I started to set a timer for 5 minutes. She must see how much math homework she can do correctly in the time. Most of the time she gets it done and looks at me and says, “that didn’t take as long as I thought it would.” She continues to gain confidence in her work. If she is overwhelmed, we take a break. I don’t make her do all her work in one setting if she becomes frustrated.

How you represent school and learning in your house is how your child is going to view school overall. So, if you are yelling or disciplining your child for doing bad on a test or report card, they may start to resent school and stop trying!

We’ve all done it. Used the threat of taking away something our child loves in order to try and motivate them. ‘If you don’t start doing your homework in the next 10 minutes, there will be no iPad after dinner.’

I’ve learned that doesn’t help motivate Collyns. It makes her angrier. If she starts her homework with a bad attitude, it will take her twice as long and it will most likely end with me yelling and her in tears. She will continue to hate school and feel less confident and continue to not try either at home or in class.

Staying Positive

This is not how I want her to see school. Instead, I remind myself every night to remain positive, talk about what she is doing well and see why she thinks she is not doing well in other subjects. I try not to talk down to her, but instead be the positive force she needs in her life. Fingers crossed, some of these strategies will pay off for the spring semester.

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!

You may also like

Pin It on Pinterest