Seven tips to reduce driving anxiety for families with teens

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Within weeks of each other, two of my children, ages 19 and 16, received their driver’s licenses. The past year has been full of stress whenever I have gotten in the car with them. There were several arguments regarding who was going to drive. One child needed experience, while the other needed experience and needed to fulfill state-mandated driving hours. My oldest child decided to wait until she was 19 to obtain her license. Some of her reasons included not wanting to have to take the time to go do them, the cost of the driving classes and frankly, she enjoyed having her dad and me take her to the places she needed to go. It was stress free for her. She didn’t have the fear of someone hitting her. She didn’t have to worry about being stranded in the car if something had happened to it. My daughter then went off to college. She decided it was time to get her driver’s license so she didn’t have to rely on others to take her places.

On the reverse side, my 16 year old couldn’t wait to get her license. She wanted that freedom early on. She wanted to drive herself to school, activities, work and to friend’s houses. She was determined to get through driver’s education classes quickly and get her license as soon as she could after she turned 16.

Having two drivers caused double the stress. I am not one to give up control of a motor vehicle easily. I want to be able to make the decisions on when to turn, how fast to go and when to press the brake pedal.

Here are a few suggestions to help deal with the stress of having a new and inexperienced motorist in your house.

  • Make sure your child takes driver’s education. I have had both a child who took it and one that didn’t. I believe the value of the classes and driving experience with someone other than a parent is paramount to increase their driving abilities.
  • Start slow. Let them drive in parking lots first. After that, take them on back roads. Main roads will come next, then freeways. Refer back to driver’s education. One plus, at least where I live, is that they must drive freeway and drive downtown. Having someone other than the parent is good for the child’s initial experience of driving in fast-paced traffic and congested areas.
  • Take a deep breath and relax. They have to learn sometime. By giving your child as many opportunities to drive, you are enhancing their driving experience.
  • It is ok to hold on tight to the door handle. It is a natural reaction. Over time, the tightness of your grip will ease up, I promise.
  • When you press the imaginary brake on the passenger side, and your child notices, that is ok, too. Just let them know you were trying to help them out. That too will stop in time.
  • When you arrive safely at your destination, sit for a few minutes, take a deep breath and decompress.
  • Lastly, make sure you tell your child what needs improvement. Also tell them what was awesome. They will appreciate both the negative and positive feedback.

Letting go is often difficult. You won’t be able to hold on to your child forever. Let them grow up. Smile at them knowing you have raised them to be responsible young adults. Driving is just another milestone in your teen’s life. Just wait until graduation and moving off to college!

Source: freedigitalphotos.net

How to Handle Jealousy Between Siblings

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Source:freedigitalphotos.net

We’ve all seen it and many of us have had to deal it with it – sibling rivalry, aka jealousy. In my house, the jealousy often comes from one of my daughters borrowing clothes of my other daughter, especially without asking. When one walks into the room wearing something of the other, the yelling and bickering begins. There has never been a knockdown drag-out fight, and for that I am grateful. However, I have had to intervene on occasion.

The following are some suggestions on how to handle these intense moments.

 

  1. Before I intervene, I try to see if the children are able to work it out themselves. I have taught them from an early age that they need to speak up about what is making them angry and how they are feeling. I also have encouraged them to try to solve their problems before I get involved. As adults, we are expected to do that, especially in the work place. It is called the chain of command. The people are to try to work out the problems before seeking the help of the next person in charge.
  2. If having the kids work out their problem with each other doesn’t help, I will make several suggestions. One suggestion I have given is to just put back the item that was borrowed and find something else. This often ends the problem quickly but the kids are still mad at each other.
  3. Something else I do is to have the kids negotiate. This comes down to stating specific items that can be borrowed. An example would be, if daughter one wants to borrow something of daughter two. Daughter two may ask to borrow something in return. If I let you borrow my red sweater, I’d like to borrow your blue one on Friday.
  4. My two daughters have come up with one negotiation that I really like. Sometimes they will offer to do whole loads of their sister’s laundry to be able to wear something of the others.
  5. At the end of all the fighting and negotiations, I make sure I remind the girls that they are lucky to have a sister, and if used wisely, they could in essence have a much larger wardrobe if they could share effectively.

 

When you have to listen to your children fight over belongings, it doesn’t make the day pleasant. By trying one of these strategies, it just might make the day better.

Remember, though, one day they just my start borrowing your belongings.

Why spoiling kids with too many presents can turn them into the Grinch

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It’s that time of year again…holiday season is upon us.

The holidays offer plenty of reasons to celebrate—making new memories, indulging in yummy treats and a chance to observe family traditions. For some, the holidays also come with plenty of reasons to be stressed out and anxious—finding enough time to finish shopping, preparing the meal and, of course, stress from family.

Especially for parents of little ones, experiencing unnecessary stress from family can be all too common. For most, it begins way before the holiday season even begins, because they know that they will once again have to deal with the gift-giving “madness.”

It seems like many parents deal with being on the receiving end of loud gifts that cause many headaches; large presents that barely fit inside the home; cheaply-made unnecessary gifts; or, even worse, an overabundance of gifts.

But, what do you do when you don’t want to hurt your parents, the in-law’s, aunts, uncles, etc., feelings? Or what do you do if your spouse doesn’t want involved and it’s their side of the family? How do you respond when a gift is given and you have to return it, throw it away or donate it and then they come back and ask where is the gift? What’s a graceful way of saying “I’m the mommy and I want what’s best for my kid.”

For some families, the issue is resolved with just a simple conversation explaining boundaries and stating gift wishes. But, for other families, it doesn’t end with just a short chitchat. Some grandparents or family members like to push their limits—because they think they can. But, what they don’t realize that by crossing the line and breaking the parents’ wishes, they could potentially be causing more harm than good. Because, many people today feel that we are raising the next generation of kids who will be overindulgent, and will think that they won’t have to work for what they want because it will just be handed to them.

Of course, there are several great alternatives to avoid this chaos. Many families participate in drawing names from a hat that way everyone gets one gift; using the money that would have been spent on gifts and setting up a savings account that will be used later for education, prom, future wedding, etc.; buying experience gifts like zoo memberships, science museum tickets, etc.; or by picking a charity and collecting gifts for them.

But, if those options aren’t what you have in mind and you still wish to participate in gift-giving, here’s a friendly reminder—be mindful of what you are giving, and when in doubt, ask for permission from the parents first. Below are seven gift-giving tips for grandkids offered from grandparents.com.

  • Never give loud gifts: This includes those tempting drum sets, stuffed animals that talk repeatedly and those infuriating tech electronics.
  • Never give large gifts: Those gifts often will get you blamed when families are living in limited spaces.
  • Never give luxurious gifts: It’s been proven to make everyone involved uncomfortable, because often times the child will not appreciate the money that was spent on it or understand how he or she needs to take care of it in the manner the gift giver expects.
  • Never give top-of-the-list gifts: Often times, parents try to give their children the No.1 gift on their list. Purchasing the most important gift can spoil the season for mom and dad.
  • Never give age-inappropriate gifts: We always want to consider what is safe for the child, and especially if there are younger siblings involved, too.
  • Never give parents-required gifts: This can be stressful for the parents, especially when they already have a busy schedule.
  • Never give collectible gifts: Kids want to play with the gift, which can lead to them being disappointed if it breaks.

So, this holiday season, I challenge you to think about the choices you are making as you are shopping for gifts to give. Because, what you might think is harmless now, could potentially lead to greater problems 15 to 20 years from now.

Why Mommy-Shaming Needs to End

065-2I was recently speaking with a mother of four who is in great shape. She runs consistently, makes mostly-right eating choices, and her toned body reflects these choices. Yet, upon reflecting on her first pregnancy, she remembers hearing a lot of comments like, “Well, wait until after you have the baby, then you won’t be so skinny.” These were heard with the second, third, and fourth pregnancy, as well, just with some modifications. Since she lost the weight fairly quickly after each pregnancy, people had to change their stories. “Well, it really wasn’t until the third or fourth child that I gained my weight. Just wait until you have your next one.”

These, as well as thousands of other outlooks on a mother’s life and parenting techniques need to stop.

It seems as though everyone, whether or not they have children, has an opinion as far as the “right” way to parent. There are thousands of articles and studies that show the effects that certain techniques have on a child’s mentality throughout their life. Throughout these, we see countless contradictions as far as what will enable a child to develop as healthy as possible. When you combine these studies with every parent’s personal stories, we end up with hundreds upon thousands of ideas of what is truly right.

The problem is that these opinions quickly turn into judgments towards parents everywhere. This attitude is the kind that many mothers are now trying to stop. We hear the term “mommy-shaming” more and more as people take the easy road and make passing judgments about others that they do not even know.

We have seen lots of these comments on the Internet:
“I’m breastfeeding my two-year-old” vs. “I chose to formula feed from the start”

“My family eats separately most nights” vs. “My family eats together at the table every night”

“I have struggled with infertility” vs. “I was able to get pregnant naturally”

“I lost all my pregnancy weight” vs. “I’m still working on losing the baby weight”
What many are now striving to do is remember that everyone has different outlooks and, despite the many different parenting strategies out there, we have a lot of great people in the world that have turned out just fine.

Many women choose to celebrate their own parenting techniques, while accepting the opposing techniques of other mothers, as well. CNN.com posted a series of pictures of women doing this very thing by holding up contradicting signs, as far as how they parent. Some examples include:

The fact is that no one is perfect and no one will the make the best decision every time. It is a learning process and is based upon your family’s priorities, as well as your child’s individual and unique personality. It is the differences in our personalities and priorities that make the world function as it is. If we were all the same, there would be a lack of excitement and wonder that makes our everyday life so interesting and beautiful.

So, let’s celebrate these difference and appreciate the fact that, yes, your neighbor’s kid will turn out differently than yours. Celebrate that your sister’s son will have different food preferences than your own or that your best friend’s daughter will hate make-up, while yours piles it on. What we need to strive for is raising accepting individuals who will love others despite being different from them. It is this attitude that will truly make the world a better place.

Source: [http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/gallery/end-the-mommy-wars/index.html], [http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/gallery/end-the-mommy-wars/index.html]. [http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/gallery/end-the-mommy-wars/index.html]. [http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/30/living/gallery/end-the-mommy-wars/index.html].

What Would I Change if I Could Do It All Again?

ID-10064503I was asked what I would do differently if I were to have my children now, only, knowing what I now know. Wouldn’t that be nice, to be able to do that in life? Just go back and do things once you know how you should have done them the first time around? Well, I am unable to time travel, but I can tell you what I would change and what I would do the same. Perhaps you’ll find it useful.

  1. First of all, spend quality time with your children. Sure, the more time, the better, but really…it’s about the quality in your time. Be fully present. That is without question the most important thing I can tell you.

(I’m pleased to say I did this. I absorbed every moment into every cell of my being.)

  1. Stop with the guilt already. Just stop. It is useless. Do the best you can and let the rest go. Guilt fixes nothing and it makes life less fun for everyone.

(I wish I could have gotten this into my pretty little head. Guilt is something I still struggle with from time to time, but I’m here to tell you that it is something that you create in your own mind. Guilt will rob you of your joy and it is fruitless. Fight it with everything you have.)

  1. If your child doesn’t want to dress like a pirate to go to the freaking pirate birthday party, don’t make him. (Oh, did that seem a little too specific? Sorry.) But seriously, those little things that your child puts their foot down on…let them have their way. It won’t matter in the long run to you, but it may to them. Plus, when you get to the pirate party you’ll find that half the kids are dressed like Barney because they don’t like pirates either.

(I have always been a rule follower. If there is a rule, I will find it and abide by it. Some rules are trivial. Don’t suck the fun out of things because you are afraid to bend the rules a bit. I’m still learning this.)

  1. Make them do some sort of team activity for a while. Learning to work with others who aren’t necessarily their friends is an important skill.

(I believe in this wholeheartedly. My kids fought me on this and sometimes I gave in, but the lessons learned from the commitment and the cooperation are important and they carry on into later life. Plus, when they look back, they will have some good memories of the time they spent on a team…even if they complain about it now.)

  1. Let them dress like a freak if they want to. Who really cares?

(I always let this slide. If you’ve read my prior articles, you know this. Clothing is an expression and sometimes they need it to escape. Sometimes they need to stand out. Let them have this. My son wore his winter coat for weeks one summer because he thought it made him look like a superhero. My daughter wore some crazy outfits as well. Those things helped them in that moment. In the long run, it matters none at all that you walked around with your child dressed in a silly outfit. What does matter is that you stood behind them and let them be who they needed to be in that moment.)

  1. Never make them be friends with a kid just because you are friends with the parent. Not awesome. And, they remember it forever.

(I did not learn this lesson soon enough. I had some friends with children who were downright awful and my kids were subjected to this. Looking back, I realize now, that I should have gotten together with those friends without our children in tow.)

  1. Sleep in blanket forts with them. Trust me on this.

(ahhhh…blanket forts. This is a way to enter a magical world that consists of only you and your sweet little child. We used to set them up and watch movies inside and then fall asleep giggling. Do this. As often as you can…do this.)

  1. Frame their artwork. It’s the most precious art in the world.

(My home is filled with dragons and ballerinas. Why would you go out and buy some meaningless artwork to fill a wall when you could boost your child’s self esteem and display a beautiful memory forever. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Look at Picasso and Dali, their work is a brilliant mess.)

  1. Don’t worry about what the other parents think.

(There were many times that I was worried that the other parents were judging my child’s behavior. I would catch myself scolding my kids for things that didn’t even bother me. It is confusing to your child to be scolded for something that would not normally be an issue. Everyone has their own rules. Stick with yours and don’t worry about the nitpicking of others.)

  1. Help your child to pursue their dreams and try new things. If they are suddenly interested in fencing, find a fencing school nearby. Whatever bizarre or silly thing they are interested in…let them explore it. This is the time in life when it is easiest for them to try any and everything.

(I went to a million hip hop dance competitions, robot building excursions, etc. They learned things, gained confidence, figured out what they liked and didn’t like, and had a lot of fun. Now’s the time to explore. Really, there is no time that’s not good for exploring, but let it begin now.)

Let’s see…what else?

  1. Never…and I mean never…make your child try new food when you are guests in someone’s home, if your child is resistant. Never. If you have to, say your child’s stomach hurts (and then make them something to eat when you get home). Trust me on this. The slight uncomfortableness that you feel as you tell the host that your child isn’t hungry is far less awkward than the level of discomfort you feel when your child throws up after the first bite.

(I learned this one the hard way.)

  1. Always tuck them in at night.

(Even as a high school senior, I told my son goodnight each night. I went in to his room, kissed his forehead, and told him I loved him. Do this. There is no way this could ever be a bad thing, and many times they will end up talking to you about things that are going on in their lives because they are happy to have a moment alone with you.)

I’m sure there are a million other things, and perhaps when I think of them, I will write a continuation of this article. For now, I will leave you with this all-encompassing word of advice, and the recurring theme (you noticed if you were paying attention):

Your child is smart. They are small but wise. They know what they like. They know what makes them feel comfortable. Listen to them. Sometimes they are wrong, and yes, it is your job to guide them. But, hear them. Their confidence rides so much on whether you treat them as if they are actual humans with thoughts and emotions.

Photo credit: freedigitalphoto.com