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    April 15, 2014
    Getting Outdoors With Your Family

    So far this Spring, I’ve tried to get outside as much as I can with my family and friends. Already, we have walked on our local Greenway, gone to the lake, driven around with the windows down, played badminton, volleyball, cornhole, and grilled out. I’ve been so tired of being cooped up indoors all winter! And getting some fresh air does wonders for both physical and mental health. It’s extremely important for kids to get to play and spend time outside (away from the TV and computer!), but if you’re out of ideas, this post by Jennifer Hughes at The Jenny Evolution has some fun outdoor activities for you to try out:

    -Go for a walk or hike together

    -Plant a garden and tend to it

    -Grab the bike

    -Go stargazing

    -Pick up sticks and clean up the yard

    -Go tent camping

    -Make an obstacle course

    -Draw with chalk

    -Play tag

    -Go to the park or playground

    Photo Credit: William Wootton 


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    April 8, 2014
    Compassionate Kids

    No one wants their kid to be a bully or a jerk. But, how do you teach young kids to be more inclusive and empathetic? It can be tough in a world where racism, sexism, and selfishness are so ingrained in our culture. You have to work hard at it and keep reinforcing positive emotional intelligence literacy in kids for it to stick. In short, tell them about the golden rule: Treat people how you want to be treated. One way to teach this is to read to your kids! This post by Melissa Taylor at Imagination Soup has some more tips on fostering compassion in young kids, and teaching them how to be more inclusive of kids with different backgrounds than themselves:

    Parents and educators can use literature to teach their children and students how to be more compassionate and inclusive of others. Developing high emotional intelligence in our children is an attainable goal when we use all of the great  literature resources that are available.

    Lee & Low is one excellent source. It specializes in culturally authentic literature for children and young adults. Their website offers resources for home and school, including a section about discussions on race and titles that support these discussions.

    Photo Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt 


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    March 26, 2014
    (Almost) Wordless Wednesday: Important To Remember, Easy To Forget

    Photo from Pinterest


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    March 25, 2014
    Dos And Don’ts Of Parenting A Teen With Depression: Part 2: The DO’S

    Yesterday, I wrote a little bit about my personal struggle with depression, and I included what you should NOT do when having to parent a depressed child. Today, I’m going to end things on a lighter note, and talk a little bit about things that have helped me in the past. Most of them are pretty simple, and parents can help a lot with them. Again, I am not a doctor, and this is not medical advice. So, without further ado, here are some things you SHOULD DO if you have a teen with depression:

    DO:

    -Seek professional and medical help for your child: I know I talked about this in the last post, but I can’t stress it enough. They will be able to give you an official diagnosis and help you treat it. Doctors and psychologists KNOW what they are doing, and will be able to help you figure out the best thing to do for your child.

    -Get the information: Educate yourself on what depression is. Go to your doctor, ask questions, get pamphlets. Read websites on clinical depression, and the stories of people who are struggling with it. Remember, depression is not simply a sad mood that one can snap out of. It is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It affects everyone a little differently. Learning how it affects your kid will help you know how to deal with it.

    -Ask how they’re feeling, periodically: Having a good relationship with your child is key. Talking with them can be really cheap therapy. Sometimes, all it takes is my mom to ask “How are you?” And we end up talking for hours. At the end, I feel like a weight has been lifted from me. Allowing them to vent in a private setting (don’t be afraid of tears!) is cathartic and really helps.

    -Be there for them. Ask if you can help with anything. See if anything is stressing them out. School? Relationships? Work? Pinpointing stressors and removing them (or at least working through them together) is key.

    -Motivate them and compliment them: A big part of depression is feeling like you’re worthless and inadequate. Another part is not feeling like there’s a point to anything. Sometimes all it takes to lift the spirits is a friendly comment and some encouragement. Tell them their hair looks nice, tell them how proud you are that they accomplished something (even if it’s something simple like getting a good grade on a test, or helping you cook). Help them set goals and check up with them on their progress. Having something to work for and look forward to is a huge way to be lifted out of the dumps.

    -Provide a healthy environment: Nothing makes me more depressed than living in a messy, dark room. Dirty clothes everywhere? Dishes piling up? Bathroom is basically a crime scene? No thanks, I’ll just go back to sleep. And on top of that, they have to go to school, do work, and all they’re eating is greasy fast food? BAD combination. Keep the house clean, help them with their room, open the windows, and make sure they’re eating a healthy, balanced diet.

    -Get them out of the house: The absolute WORST thing you can do to a depressed person is leave them alone in their room all day with their thoughts. Provide a consistent routine for them. Kick them out. Make them hang out with their friends. Take them for a walk in the park, go shopping, go for a drive to look at scenery, go to the movies, go bowling or to a batting cage, go to a play or sports game, or just do some yardwork in your garden together. Anything that can distract them and show them how beautiful the world is is good. Physical activity like walking or exercise also increases endorphins (the happy chemicals!)

    -Give them space: This is a little contradictory to what I just said, but even though going out and being active is key to fighting depression, sometimes they WILL need time to themselves. Especially if they’re an introvert. It’s totally normal for teens to be a little withdrawn and keep more to themselves. Sometimes, you just wanna play video games for 5 hours. That’s what being a teenager is about: wasting time and not having to care about it. Plus, if you try to smother them too much, they may be less excited about opening up to you. Let them live their life.

    -Find a balance: This is difficult, but you need to know when to meddle and when to back off. Use your intuition, talk with your child, and do what you feel is best.

    -Realize there’s no way to be perfect: Even if they are taking their meds every day, seeing a therapist regularly, engaged in active, healthy habits, and regaining control of their life, there are still going to be bad days. A bad day or a bad week doesn’t mean your child has failed, and it doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a parent. It sucks, but that’s how depression is. They can be doing really well and then suddenly slump again for no reason. It happens. Learn to roll with the punches, and keep on truckin’. 


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    March 24, 2014
    Dos And Don’ts Of Parenting A Teen With Depression: Part 1: The DO NOTS.

    Brace yourselves, guys! This is a long one. So long, in fact, that I had to break it up into two parts. But before I go any further, I need to say that I am not a doctor, and in no way is this article intended to give medical advice. I am writing this based on my own experience as a young adult who struggles with depression and has in the past as a teen. I’m trying to give you a guide on how to provide emotional support to your kids. This also isn’t to help you diagnose depression, it’s for parents who already know or suspect that their child has it (for symptoms, check here ). I’m going to try to help you get the facts, and let you know what has worked best for myself. Hopefully this will give you some new information, from the perspective of someone who has had to go through it. Since this is a pretty lengthy article, I’m going to split it into two parts. Today, I’ll be talking about what you should absolutely NOT do when dealing with a depressed teen. Tomorrow, I’ll try to give advice on what you should DO to help them through it. But for today,

    DO NOT:

    -Blame yourself: My parents are the most loving, awesome people you will ever meet. I had an amazing, happy childhood and they have constantly given me their full support with everything I’ve ever wanted to do. The point is, you can be the most perfect parent on the planet, and your kid might still suffer from clinical depression. It can happen for many reasons, most of which will be completely out of your control. Growing up is hard, no matter where you come from!

    -Think it couldn’t affect YOUR child: Depression has many faces. Is your child a star athlete? The top of her class? A popular social butterfly with tons of friends? A talented musician? Funny, outgoing, clever, creative? You think they couldn’t possibly be depressed, because they have no reason to be? None of that means anything, and depression often doesn’t have a “reason” (even though there are events that can trigger it). It can happen to anyone. In fact, people with more intelligent or creative minds tend to be depressed more often.

    -Assume they’re trying to kill themselves: Not all teens with depression will self-harm. In fact, many don’t. I never wanted to hurt myself or die– I was just extremely lethargic and uninterested in things that used to make me happy. Talk with them, and don’t freak out!

    -Assume it’s a phase: Liking stupid rubber band bracelets? That’s a phase. Dressing in a new way is a phase. Branching out on music tastes, hanging out with different friends, using new vocabulary– these are all totally normal phases that teens go through when trying to discover who they want to be. Sleeping for 15 hours a day, having anxiety attacks about going to class or socializing, and turning to self harm is NOT a phase, and is not normal.

    -Ignore it- Although I said that many kids with depression do not self-harm, there are some that do. Know the signs, talk with them, keep a close eye on them, and seek medical help if you discover that they are self harming.

    -Tell them to “snap out of it”: Would you tell a diabetic to just “get over their insulin imbalance?” Would you tell someone with a cold to just “try NOT having the cold”? Of course not! Depression is a chemical imbalance in the brain. It is a PHYSICAL as well as a mental disorder. Telling them to “just get over it” is NOT helpful, and will often make it worse. They’ll wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why CAN’T I snap out of it? Am I really that incompetent? Why is life so hard for me? Why is everyone else so good at just existing?” And it’ll just continue the cycle.

    -Be afraid of professional help/medication: Sometimes, people find therapy, antidepressants or a combination of both to be very beneficial. For me, therapy worked wonders and the drugs did almost nothing. It’s different for everyone though. Needing one or both doesn’t mean they’re “crazy”. The stigma that mental disorders carries is extremely harmful to people that have them, the people that need help, and the rest of society as a whole. Stop the spread of false information, and get your kid the help he needs.  


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    March 13, 2014
    Getting Kids to Clean

    I was a messy kid. Who am I kidding? I’m still pretty darn messy. I HATED doing dishes, cleaning my room, scrubbing the bathroom….even the basics of just picking up my things were hard to get me to do. I just didn’t see the point of it all! I had better things to do. Cleaning was boring, plus it’d just get messy again anyway. I’ve gotten better since I moved into my own place and have decided that I DON’T want to live in a pig sty. But, young kids really don’t care. Sometimes it can be hard to instill the value of cleanliness in them (some kids are neat freaks though….it just depends on their personality). It may seem impossible, but hopefully, this article by Anna at Mylifeandkids.com will help you if YOU have a messy kid.

    I started when they were young. As soon as they could toddle around and pick things up/put them in a bucket, I would start them cleaning up toys. It was really hard not to get frustrated with their pace and just do it all myself, and there were many times I did just that, but I still kept at it.  Now I can pretty much just say ‘time to pick up’ and it gets done.”

    We watch hoarding shows with the kids (especially my daughter).” THIS is what gets me to clean!

    I put labels with pictures on clear bins so my son would know where to put things.”

    Huge oversized black garbage bags…my kids hear me pull them from the cabinet miles away…never saw so much stuff get picked up and I never lifted a finger!!”

    Photo Credit: Emran Kassim 


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    March 10, 2014
    Celebrate International Women’s Day! Read to Your Kids

    Saturday was International Women’s Day, but it’s not too late to celebrate! Teaching kids that women are strong, intelligent leaders is absolutely vital to eliminating sexism in society, so it’s important to discuss it with both your daughters and your sons. One way to do this in a way that kids will enjoy is through reading. Read books to your kids about strong, smart, brave girls– not just barbies and princesses (not that a princess can’t be those things! I’m a huge Frozen fan!) Girls can be so much more than just “pretty” though, and they need to learn that from an early age! They can be scientists, politicians, astronauts, business owners, teachers, archaeologists, artists, writers, doctors, inventors, adventurers! One way to highlight all that women have accomplished is by reading books about women that have changed history. This list by Allison McDonald at No Time For Flashcards is of books about great women throughout history who have brought about change, and will give your daughters AND sons some new role models:

    A Picture Book of Amelia Earhart (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler

    A Picture Book of Harriet Tubman (Picture Book Biography)by David A. Adler. 

    Wilma Unlimited: How Wilma Rudolph Became the World’s Fastest Woman by Kathryn Krull

    The Story of Anne Frank by Brenda Ralph Lewis

    Marvelous Mattie: How Margaret E. Knight Became an Inventorby Emily Arnold McCully

    Elizabeth Leads the Way: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Right to Voteby Tanya Lee Stone

    Photo Credit: Eat Sleep Draw Tumblr 


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    March 4, 2014
    Getting Kids to Sleep in the Same Room

    When I was younger, my parents tried to stick my sister and I in the same room. It worked for a little while, and bunk beds are always cool, but it didn’t last long! We could NOT get along, or we’d stay up all night talking and playing. Eventually, they had to separate us. BUT it doesn’t always have to be that way! This post by Kim Sorgius at Not Consumed has lots of tips on how to make your kids fall asleep in the same room, without losing your sanity:

    -Stagger Bedtimes- youngest go to sleep first.

    -Consistent Expectations- have a routine

    -Door Open- discourages partying!

    Photo Credit: Pawel Loj 


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    February 27, 2014
    Family Service Ideas

    At my part-time job, we are always trying to sell things for charity. If you’ve ever shopped anywhere, I’m sure you know what I mean. People are always asking to donate a dollar for some charity or another. And I think it’s great! I always try to do it when I can afford it (come on, it’s a dollar). However, there seems to be this attitude that you should only do charitable things during holiday seasons. It’s like, adults think that Santa is keeping tabs of THEIR deeds, and only want to do good for others when they think he’s watching. To me, that is preposterous. There are ALWAYS people in need, YEAR ROUND. Giving back is something I try to instill with my family. If you’d like to try, but are unsure of where to start, check out this post by Kristen at We Are That Family. It’s a list of 100 awesome service projects to do as a family! Here are a few of my favorites:

    -Babysit for a single mom or new parents.

    -Pick up trash at a local park or around your neighborhood

    -Sponsor a child monthly

    -Participate in disaster relief causes

    -Volunteer at any non-profit. Time and help is often more valuable than money.

    -Donate whatever you can, wherever you can: toys to childrens’ hospitals, food to food banks, school supplies to classrooms.

    -Write thank you notes to people that serve YOU: postal workers, doctors, teachers, restaurant servers, etc.

    Photo Credit: vastateparksstaff 


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    February 25, 2014
    Baby Sleep Ideas

    I recently became an auntie! On February 17th, my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I’m not going to spend this post gushing about how cute and perfect and well behaved he is, but I will say he’s a really good sleeper! Newborns spend most of their time (not pooping or eating) asleep. But sometimes, even if they have a full belly and clean diaper, it can be hard to get them to sleep! This post by The Savvy Bump is full of excellent ideas on how to get the little ones to rest:

    -Baby sleep is extremely complicated. All babies are different, and the sooner you accept this, the better off you’ll be. There is no magic solution. Some babies are great sleepers, some are not. Just knowing that makes things easier!

    -Read the books, but don’t take them too seriously. I learned something from each book but I also found myself getting extremely stressed out after reading them

    -Take care of your own sleep. Sleep deprivation is rough and it is easy to give all your attention and energy to making sure your baby is sleeping. However, it is important that you remember yourself! By taking care of yourself, you are NOT abandoning him 

    Photo by Me! (My gorgeous nephew!)


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