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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A Grandparent’s Guide to Fostering Political Engagement

A Grandparent’s Guide to Fostering Political Engagement

Politics. Some people say it’s a naughty word. Others say it’s our nation’s most popular sport. Some people are conservative, some are liberal. While others look at issues, legislative bills and the law independently to make decisions regarding the issue and the impact on all citizens. Some say politics save us, and others say politics destroy us. We all think differently, which makes it interesting.

Lifelong Passion For Politics & Empathy

I’ve always been political, ever since I had friends who were sent to fight in Vietnam. After a classmate’s death, the whole concept of speaking to power became engrained in me and is now part of my personality. That, coupled with Title IX, had something to do with also forming the personality I now possess. I’ve turned into a grandma who wants to help everyone in need.

Nurturing Civic Engagement

I’ve always tried to share my opinions with the grandkids without telling them what to do and what not to do. That’s their parents’ job, not mine. Now my grandkids are of voting age, so I remind them to investigate the candidates, pick their choice and vote. I would love to tell them how to vote, but I know better.

I let the grandkids know when I’m making calls with a phonebank, knocking on doors, putting up yard signs and writing postcards. They usually don’t respond or they will send me a smiley note. I have no idea if they actually read it, but I’m hoping they’ll eventually catch on.

Events of the Ralph Yarl Shooting

The other day, one of my grandkids gave me a call and told me I should look into the Ralph Yarl shooting in Kansas City. Ralph was a 16-year-old who was picking up his younger siblings from their friend’s house. He thought he had the correct address and went to the door to get his brothers. Unfortunately, he was on the wrong street. When he knocked on the door, the homeowner was frightened and shot Ralph through the glass door. Ralph struggled to his feet and went to several other homes seeking help. Finally, someone called the police. Ralph was transported to the hospital, where he was treated and released after several days.

I asked my granddaughter if she knew the area where the shooting occurred. She indicated it wasn’t close to her apartment, but one of her friends lived very close. I asked her if she was frightened, and she said no but wanted me to help bring an awareness to others and get involved in important, life or death issues.

Taking a Stand For Gun Control

Since I talked to her earlier this week, I’ve thought more about her request. We have homicides in Lincoln, but I’ve always thought of them as people who were angry with each other. But I checked the Lincoln and Nebraska statistics about hate crimes. They are certainly here. Lincoln and Nebraska are not immune. So I started calling my state legislator and asked about his views on gun control. He does not seem to believe in gun control. He wants anyone, anywhere to have quick access to their favorite firearm.

I called my granddaughter and told her I’ve found my new cause, which may give her some motivation to do the same. If nothing else, I know she’ll read my new questions and comments about getting involved.

Two days later, she sent me a video as she marched through downtown Kansas City and protested. I guess grandkids are always listening, and they will act when the topic hits home. We’ll always be connected!

Nancy Becker

Nancy Becker

Grandkids & Grandparents

I have four grandchildren ages 14-17. In some ways, I’m a very typical grandma, always proud of everything the kids do and wanting to help support them in whatever way I can. In other ways, I’m not very typical. My goal as a blogger is to share my thoughts and experiences that I think are funny and meaningful as I adventure through grandmahood.

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Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

Kid-Friendly Conversations About Gun Violence

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

Safety Plans for Emergencies at School

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

How to Ask Children About Current Events

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

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

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

Ways to Comfort Without White Lies

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

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

Emotional Control & Empowerment Strategies

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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

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

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

Summer Activity Ideas From My Tween

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

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

Last Year’s Summer Camp Disaster

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

Alternative Summer Programs for Preteens

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

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

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

Advice for Parents About Summer Camp Enrollment

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

What to Do When Your Kid Wants to Quit Sports

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

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

Deciding When to Let My Kid Quit Sports

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

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

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

Starting the Conversation

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

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

Coming to a Final Decision

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Dress for Interview Success

Dress for Interview Success

There are moms who love prom dress shopping and there are moms who love wedding dress shopping. Then there’s me. I love to take my daughters shopping for interview clothing. Now, I haven’t had the opportunity to go wedding dress shopping yet, but I sure do hope it goes better than prom dress shopping.

Anyway, here I am, shopping for interview outfits for my oldest daughter only a week after I took my younger daughter. I am giddy! And my girls can tell. Both remarked, “Mom, you really do like this!”

My husband and I pride ourselves on making sure our children are properly dressed and prepared for any interview, whether in person or online. Our girls are at different ages—one is preparing for her first leadership interview in high school, and the other preparing for her first professional interview. The girls don’t have the same training or leadership backgrounds, but both will benefit from a solid interview foundation.

Best Ways to Prepare for an Interview

We shared the following tips with our daughter preparing for interview this week:

  • Know your interviewer’s dress code. Both of our girls were in professional interviews, so they purchased a well-fitting black pantsuit with a white blouse. They accessorized their suits with just a bit of color to enhance the suit, not overwhelm.
  • Practice your handshake. Make sure it’s not too firm or too loose and definitely make sure your hands are dry of sweat.
  • Research the organization. Skim through their website, social media accounts and definitely know the mission of the company.
  • Practice answering questions in front of a mirror.
  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early to the interview, and be polite to every person you interact with.
  • Take notes during the interview. Use active listening skills. Pause before you answer questions to collect your thoughts. Ask your own questions.
  • Be gracious and appreciative. Thank the interviewers for spending their time with you. Follow up with a thank you letter.
  • After the interview, reflect.

Our middle daughter’s interview was for a school leadership organization. I am thankful she gets this opportunity because it’s a safe environment to receive critical feedback, reflect, and hone her resume, cover letter, and interview skills. And in typical teenage daughter fashion, when I asked about her interview, she responded, “Fine, mom, but I’ll be better prepared for next time.” And for me, that response is worth all my time and effort.

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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Children & Social Media: Teaching Internet Safety for Kids

Children & Social Media: Teaching Internet Safety for Kids

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

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

Is Social Media Too Dangerous for Preteens?

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

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

Parenting in the Digital Age

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

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

Creating a Social Media Plan for Kids

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

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

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

Conversations about Digital Responsibility

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Top 5 Things I Would Tell New Moms

Top 5 Things I Would Tell New Moms

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

#1: Ask for Help

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

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

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

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

#2: Mothers Know Best

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

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

#3: Date Your Partner

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

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

#4: Take Time for Yourself

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

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

#5: Enjoy What You Can

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

Helping My Son Make Middle School Friends

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

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

Struggling to Make Friends

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

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

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

Putting Yourself Out There

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

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

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

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

Mallory Connelly

Mallory Connelly

Babies & Toddlers

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

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I Need to Be More Empathetic

I Need to Be More Empathetic

Growing up I was close to my mom. She was and still is my best friend. I could talk to her about anything. I felt comfortable going to her for advice. Now that I have children, I have strived to have continuous open conversations with them.

The Need to Be More Empathetic

However, I realized that I was becoming the parent that gave hugs but not advice. Recently, Cohen came home from a friend’s house abruptly. I could tell something was wrong and I went to chat with him. I found myself comforting him but asked him if he wanted to talk to his dad instead of me. In those situations, I never know what to say and I am scared to say the wrong thing. When my child is truly in distress because they feel hurt, disappointed, worried or angry, they desperately need their parent. I am glad he feels comfortable with Mitch but I need to strive to do better. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to see them feeling negatively, so my first instinct is to tell them not to feel the way they do. I suck at empathy. I give hugs and kiss boo-boos but I realized that if I don’t show empathy this results in my child feeling ashamed of how they feel, compounding the hurt.

Moreover, the knowledge that their mom does not try to understand them. I don’t want them to feel alone. Basically, this teaches them that opening up, to me, about how they feel makes them feel worse. And this is something, I fear and do not want! It doesn’t help that my husband just got his master’s in counseling, so I know he is more knowledgeable and gives better advice.

During their chats, I try to occupy our daughter. My husband always fills me in on the situation, but I want Cohen to feel comfortable talking with me. In essence, the sympathy requires no emotional investment on my part because I become the powerful saver and rescuer, which makes me feel better but not Cohen. It is the easy way out. So, I have work to do. I am not an empathic person but I need to do better for my kids so they can talk to me.

Examples of How to Honor Feelings

That’s when I hit the google button and asked for examples of what I should say to honor his feelings instead of dismissing them. A few examples below:

  • That’s a big worry. I get it.
  • You are upset. I would be too.
  • You have every right to feel disappointed. I felt like that when I was your age.
  • You are mad. I understand. You have every right.
  • It hurts to see someone do something you want to be able to do but can’t yet.
  • You are mad. I’m sure you have a good reason. I want to hear about it.

So, when either of my children are hurting, I am going to try and give them a solid dose of empathy, so they feel understood and connected to me. When Mitch does this, they immediately feel better and they want his help in problem-solving. In many cases, the empathy is all they need to feel better. Simply knowing we understand allows them to feel secure and forge ahead.

Having an empathic response requires me to shift from how I feel about the situation to how my child feels. It’s me remembering how it feels to be the worst one at something or picked on so I can relate to my child. It’s selfless and it puts my child first, emotionally. Empathy creates a rugged work ethic and resilience. Hopefully, my children will learn empathy through their father, and now my ways, and will thrive on adversity instead of breaking down when negative things happen.

For now, I plan to continue to work on having empathy so I can stay close to my children. I need to remember to empathize is to empower, so the reward will be priceless.

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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Remaining Positive During an Injury

Remaining Positive During an Injury

We all hate to see it. The play is over, and players in the pile get up, but one player doesn’t. Sometimes you see the injury as it happens. Sometimes it is a mystery. Either way, nothing quiets a crowd like a sports injury. It does not matter whether it occurs in pre-school T-ball or the Super Bowl.

Youth sports injuries are an unfortunate, but inevitable part of any young athlete’s playing journey. The severity ranges from out-for-one-game to out-for-the-season or even out-for-the-year.

My Son’s Soccer Injury

This is a topic near and dear to me, and for all the moms out there. I am sure I am not alone. It recently happened to my son. It wasn’t during a game, but he broke his collarbone while running, well falling, at conditioning for soccer.

However, we initially didn’t think it was broken. Cohen was in pain for a couple of days, we continued to ice it and gave him Tylenol. He could move his arm and shoulder, so we thought it was just a bruised collarbone. He even went swimming 3 days after the fall. The next week he had his annual physical with his doctor before the start of the new school year. The doctor noticed his collarbone and wanted him to get x-rays. Sure enough, Cohen had a small break. He was issued a brace and the orthopedic doctor said no contact sports for at least 6 weeks.

Tears immediately followed as Cohen knew the fall soccer season was about to begin. It was so difficult as a parent to not only watch your son in physical pain but now emotional pain and blame yourself for not seeking treatment sooner. He was playing 3 days a week and now, nothing. Not to mention, he was starting middle school now, having to wear a brace and not being able to participate in PE, his favorite subject in school.

Managing Pain and Emotions

His dad and I knew we needed to talk with him about his frustrations and empathize with his feelings. We had to support him as he worked hard to return to soccer, even as we helped distract him from the injury by encouraging him to pursue other interests he could still participate in while on injured reserve.

We had him still attend practice and he sat on the bench at games and helped the assistant coach take stats. Which I believe, helped him see the game in a different way. He realized he is still part of the team and I feel that he stepped up into a leadership role, even on the bench. One of the hardest parts of being injured was him not feeling like he was part of the team. Staying closely involved helped with that.

The obvious first step, which we didn’t do, is to get a definitive diagnosis if your child is suffering from an injury and not to wait. It will be better for you and for your athlete if you know exactly what you are dealing with. When will it heal? Will they need surgery? All these uncertainties add to anxiety. Luckily for Cohen, it is healing correctly just slowly. If he continues to listen to the doctor, get plenty of rest and restrain his arm/shoulder movement he’ll be back on the field sooner. Until then, he does footwork drills, passes and shoots, and is anxiously awaiting the okay to start playing.

An injury to an athlete is devastating; however, it does not have to signal the end of sports if the doctor agrees. Cohen will heal and get back into the game. And I continuously tell him that hurrying this process is not a good idea, take the required time to heal and think long-term. A couple missed scrimmages in practice and one missed game out of many will not hinder their long-term success.

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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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!

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