I recently read, traveling the world is a huge part of multicultural families. These books allow elementary aged kids to travel the world. We travel to meet our families and learn about the world. We hope that our children explore cities, new cultures and understand their own better.
Food, festivals, customs and little things that make us all different and yet similar at the same time. Below and a list of books, my children and I have read and enjoyed. They act as little passports to the world around us.
Since, it is impossible for everyone to see everything, it is so much more important now than ever for us learn from each other and share stories of how our worlds truly are.
Elementary Aged Kids Travel the World with Books
Maya and Neel Series
Originating from Indian authors, this series is an authentic look at Mumbai and Delhi. The authors plan to add more books to these series and talk about lot of Indian festivals. Great for younger kids, learning about India and Hindi too.
A fun read for little kids who would love to see India. An easy read.
Travel Guide Series
These are kids who love a lot of non fiction. Gives a great look at different countries around the world with facts and celebrations.
Nick and Aya Series
A great book for parent bonding. Father and daughter take trips to different cities/countries around the world.
National Geographic Series
Who doesn’t know Nat Geo and their bid to empower the world with a real life look within countries. They have a lot of books about countries around the world.
Seymour and Hau Series
Books about Italy, Morocco and more, Seyomour and Hau is a great book for advanced elementary readers. Chapter books with images to boot! These make a wonderful gift too.
50 States Guide & Activity Book
You can learn all about America by buying this guide and their activity book combined. It is a great resource for social studies.
Flat Stanley Series
Another chapter book with images, these make a great read. Kids who like Judy Mody or Stink, would love Flat Stanley and all his adventures around the world.
Real Kids, Real Stories Series
Sometimes, learning about the world is not just about the cities, countries. It is about the people who are making courageous choices and bringing real change around the world.
Hello World Series
Perfect for little kids, these books give them a view of what different cities around the world look like.
I am neurotic about predators. When my kids started preschool and when they go to out for activities to the park or for classes, I’m constantly on the look out to protect them. To look for people who may not be “safe” or are “over friendly”. This is not just a fear thanks to the vivid, disturbing news we are exposed on a daily basis. It stems from memories.
At the age of 11 living in Madhya Pradesh (India), I opened the door to the postman and he asked for a glass of water. When I got it for him, handing it through the grill(thankfully) at the door, he caught my hand and held it to his crotch of his pants, then kissed it and smiled. Even at that young age, I knew that was wrong and ran to my mom to tell her. He was put in jail for a day before his wife came to plead for his life and he was released.
When I was 14 and used to walk home from school in Kuwait (Kuwait) with my mom a man used to often follow us all the way home in his car.
These are just two of the many experiences I’ve had personally. I don’t say this to scare you. Of course, it was scary and still leaves me feeling icky. These events taught me at an early age, that there are many deranged people out there.
While these are some of my worst memories, I think somewhere it made me hyper aware and at the same time stronger, knowing it’s not to be taken seriously. Maybe I got desensitized to it all (not a good thing). In India and Kuwait, there is an unsaid acceptance and allowance of such behavior. That is food for another discussion.
But this is why I’m a strong advocate that the conversation begin early so that children be able to recognize such behavior, understanding that sometimes even people you know are capable of horrible acts. Mind you these things happened while my parents were close. It is not the act but the reaction that carries significance.
My son is 8 now but I have been having conversations with him about personal safety since he was 4. Specially because he has always been an extremely friendly child who loves to make “friends”. Now, so is my two year old daughter. And I worry about their friendliness making them easy prey. On the other hand, I never want to them to lose their happy demeanor. To be too scared to say Hi to strangers. We need people who are friendly to make the world a warm place to live. Who aren’t scared to be the first one to break the proverbial ice. So how do we do it?
The below conversations we have at regular intervals in my household becaus for children repetition is very essential. Every child is different. You will find it useful to use the below as baseline to start a dialogue essential for proactive thinking. To start talking about this disturbing topic is the first step.
No Secrets Within Family
I believe this is the most important thing kids need to remember, in their early years specially. Of course there will be a time when their life is their own but when they are young they are to know that while they don’t have to tell their parents every single thing, it is wrong if someone, specially an adult tells them to keep a secret. My parents have always have open dialogue. There absolutely nothing I feel uncomfortable talking to them about. This I think is what helped me just go and tell my mom, ” The postman took my hand and put it on his pants. ” immediately after it happened. One should never feel fear in telling their parents anything.
I always say that no topic should be barred from discussing with kids, specially when they see something on TV (adults kissing) or hear something that may possibly confuse them about issues. Listening and letting them ask questions, no matter how uncomfortable that are answered as you may see fit is a great way to make sure kids trust parents.
“It’s Mom Dad’s Job to Protect You”
I write this because, I have often read, predators scare kids by saying “Stay quiet or we will hurt your mom/dad/family” or “Don’t tell anyone or I will say you did …. so and so” . Please re-iterate to your child that it is YOU who are supposed to protect them and that you trust them. And no matter what they do, they can always come and tell you.
Your body is off limits No one and I cannot emphasis this enough, No One should touch them inside their shirt or skirt/pants. Or kiss their lips. With some people being extra cuddly, it is okay that kids understand that saying no if they feel uncomfortable is just respecting their body. This is one of the reasons why I too personally always ask children for hugs. They can always be taught to show their respect and love in other ways. It means a lot more when it comes from them than mushing them anyway.
Permission is Must
We all tell our kids they should ask before going anywhere but many a times we forget to tell them not to walk off with a friend to an unknown place. They should always play where you can see them and they can see you. They should understand walking off into the horizon behind a balloon or ice cream cart is Not okay. Going to a secret exciting place with a friend or some adult they know is not okay. They should always ask for permission from the person in charge before going anywhere.
In the beginning, when I started this conversation my son asked me, ” Who is a stranger? ” And then we went on to discuss who all are considered family, friends and people we just meet once in a few months or a year. It is important that kids understand the definition of a family’s boundaries and relationships.
No Helping Strangers
It’s important to be nice. Say hi to strangers. Smile at them but remember to explain to your child that they are too young to actually help an adult. Many children feel very grown up in being able to do something an adult asks them to do. They are in a constant hurry to prove themselves or please others. So if an adult who is a stranger says,” Can you help me with … ” they are to respond with, ” Sure. Let me go ask my parents/teacher first. “
There is Enough at Home
Kids are greedy by default. It’s not their fault. They are drawn to that extra piece of candy or toy or whatever is their favorite thing. And many times we parents exploit this honest response by making lot of activities incentive based. But at the same time every child needs to know that their parents can provide everything for them. They do Not need to ask or take anything that any other person offers them in return for something.
Shout, Run away & Assault
Like honesty is the best policy. I believe running away is the best policy in any dangerous situation. Children need to know that when they feel uncomfortable, their first response should be to shout out and run away. If someone does try to or successfully does grab them then nothing is off limits. Nothing! You are allowed to hit, punch, bite, scratch and most importantly scream. We even practice the volume level at home.
Fear is not the solution to anything. The world is scary. The only way we can live is being constantly cautious. As adults we now are naturally so but we need to enable our children to do the same and know what to do in any given situation.
Have you already had this conversation with your child?
What age did you start?
Are there any other things you would make sure they know?
To the volunteers, helpers, emergency services workers, teachers, family, friends, and my mum… I wish to say “Thank you!”
Sometimes we take for granted the helpers in our world!
Today, I was witness to a volunteer, a helper, harassed online for her efforts. Last week, I saw a soccer coach say he has confrontations weekly, for ‘not running his team the “right” way’.
This is not ok! This must stop!
Attention, please! These are our volunteers! People that rearrange their schedules, give up their family time, and do special training so they can be our helpers. If you can do a better job – prove it! Take the course! Be on the receiving end of ungrateful people’s comments week after week.
I understand we are all busy with duties to attend to, errands to run, families to look after, working long days…
When was the last time you actually did not just toss “Thank you” over your shoulder as you departed, in a hurry?
When was the last time you took the time to say “Thank you” to your:
To the police officer who helped with directions?
The nurse taking your blood pressure?
The cleaner at work?
The postman who delivered your mail?
When was the last time you stopped and said, “Thanks for making my lunch, Mum!”
When was the last time you made the time to stop and validate the contributions people, tirelessly and selflessly, make to our lives?
In this world, at this time, we are quick to criticize all the mistakes people make. We have no trouble pointing out the erroneous grammar in an article we are reading (yes, I am guilty of this too!), a spelling mistake in the book we are reading, and decisions of government we disagree with… but how often do we stop to say “thank you”, and mean it?
A post popped up today from one of my favorite blogs for young children’s books: Growing Book by Book. It talks about books for teaching children about gratitude and appreciation.
In the list is a book recommended for my dyslexic son by one of his teachers. It is called “Thank you, Mr Falker” by Patricia Polacco, about a child’s school experience: her inability to read although she is desperate to do so, several years pass and she still cannot read, then a very special teacher works out her issues, and helps her back on track.- https://g.co/kgs/goUwzm
I like the reminders to be grateful and appreciative. The lessons to share with our children but… maybe we can take it one step more… stop and take the time to say “Thank you!”
“Thank you” to our family who always respond when we need their assistance. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge the freedom and thankfulness in just knowing our support network is but a call away.
I live in a bicultural/ biracial family. In our second language Arabic, you do not use the word “Thank you” to your family members. You may assume your request is considered and a response forthcoming with the solution an act of love, and care – your acceptance of their assistance is the only thank you expected. I find it very difficult at times when my family is doing something for me. I am most grateful but my “thank you” always met with surprise and a “You don’t have to thank me, you are family!” The understanding that they do what they can to make each other’s lives easier, and I am by extension of marriage included, is rather humbling.
I am just sitting here thinking….
Eighteen months ago, we changed continents.
Our majority language became our minority language and our minority language became our majority language.
We changed cultures.
We changed from living in a house to living in an apartment.
Just one of these things may have been difficult but…
I am so grateful for the experience.
I am grateful for the new teachers of my children who are working to help us improve our children’s literacy in their new majority language.
I am most grateful of all for the family and friends who have supported this move and helped us settle anew!
I have a BS in zoology and animal behavior. I then received my MHS in International Health from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and currently direct a study looking at HIV and people who have a history of drug addiction. I am also a Certified Life Coach as well as a trained hospice volunteer. My life’s focus has been to learn about nature as well as people and their cultures. This inspired me to travel many places: Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Algeria, Morocco, Thailand, Peru, Mexico, Panama, Europe, the US to name a few. As I traveled, I also focused on learning about my own identity. This led to doing three vision quests, two of which were in the Sahara Desert. I published a novel based on my experiences in the Sahara called, The Rhythm of the Soul.
How did you come to your passion/profession?
I have always been an observer. I was not only introverted growing up, but much younger than my three siblings. As I grew up, my observations fed my love of nature. I love to learn, so I read a lot and wanted to increase my knowledge about the world around me. Part of pursuing this passion was going to college to learn about animals (zoology and animal behavior) and graduate school to learn about people and health (international health). The other part of following my passion was when I made the decision that I had to travel to places in which I had keen interests. All of these external passions were fed by my yearning to not only understand the world around me, but to also understand myself. That is when I went back to nature through the practice of vision questing and other nature-based soul journeys.
Tell us about your childhood and what led you to this thought process?
My love of animals began very young with our family cat who, when I was a toddler, would follow me around like a dog and always want to sit on my lap. I have always felt a connection with animals, both domestic and wild. I loved helping my father feed the squirrels and birds in our backyard. Along with my love of observing animals was my curiosity to observe people. These fed my interests to pursue my studies and travels.
How many places have you lived? How has that affected your worldview?
I have only lived in two places – Baltimore, MD and when in my 20’s San Diego, California for two years. I have been back in Baltimore ever since. However, the travel bug bit me in my 20’s and it propelled me out into explorations far and wide, which I mostly did on my own. I travelled as a single woman from Europe, to Mexico, to Thailand, and more. I decided that if I waited until I found traveling companions, I would never get to see all the places that called to me. Going to different countries very different from my own gave me a deeper understanding of how we are all subject to the same human conditions, even though we have an amazing variety of ways we express ourselves culturally. I started to realize that, as rich and different as we may seem on the surface, we are more alike than not. The religious stories, myths, fairytales, etc. that we learn from the cultures we grow up in all have the same themes because really we are only human after all.
What do you think are three biggest struggles most people experience traveling?
As exhilarating as travel can be, it can also be exhausting. I can say that is true when one travels solo. But the upside of traveling alone is how you connect with people to share experiences and stories. Another struggle may be language barriers. However I have found that even when I have no understanding of a language, there are ways to communicate and what can help is to listen deeply and be very expressive with gestures. Figuring out directions in an unfamiliar landscape is also challenging. When you first arrive in a place, there are no bearings to know where you are and how to navigate to where you need to go. But traveling alone gave me a great sense of direction for the times I got lost and all the practice I got learning how to get back on track.
What were your unique impressions of the Tuareg nomads in the Sahara Desert?
I traveled with a Swiss organization that had already forged a deep connection with the Tuareg. Our group had the advantage of being with men who were used to guiding Westerners into their land. This allowed for all of us to share our stories and learn from each other over the weeks we were on our quest. I realized the deep wisdom the nomads have about a land that seems to offer so little sustenance. They are very intuitive and in tune with what is going on around them and with their camels. The connection they have with the earth and nature is still very strong. Their traditions have been passed down for generations, but modern times have placed many restrictions on nomadic living. They are feeling the harsh consequences and much unrest has been happening in the countries where they live – Algeria, Niger, Mali, Chad, and Libya. They are different in the ways that their environment, culture, history, and society shaped them, but when we shared stories about those differences, it gave us a chance to find laughter and empathy for how we all must deal with the conditions of life.
What is a vision quest? How does it help people?
Vision questing is choosing to take time away from your familiar, every day life to completely unplug from all the tasks and technology that weigh you down and go into a nature setting in order to seek greater depth and clarity about your life purpose. It is based on indigenous rites of passage that mark significant life transitions. There are a variety of organizations that lead vision questing, so it is important to find seasoned guides to ensure you have a meaningful and safe experience. Your work with the guides and the gathering of other seekers who go into the wilderness or place of nature involves a lot of introspection and sharing through journalism, dream work, medicine walks, drumming, etc., all preparing you to sit solo – alone for up to four days and nights while fasting. Sitting solo in nature is the hallmark of a vision quest.
What are three pieces of advice you would like to share with parents?
While I have never been a parent, I have been close with my sister and other single parents who were raising children. I can only provide advice from a vicarious perspective. First, as much as you don’t want to, inherent in raising children is wounding, which is necessary to help them grow and learn. Wounding may be as simple as taking your child to his first day of school and seeing him cry because it brings up fears of being abandoned. It is important to consistently reassure a child that you will always be there to provide love and guidance through the scary aspects of growing up. Second, there is no such thing as a “perfect” anything – parent, child, family, etc. There may be times when you feel proud and grateful and there will still be those times when parenting is hard and messy. Third, listen deeply to children because they have amazing wisdom. It may be hard to let go of being the knowledgeable voice of reason, but it’s important to allow children’s insights to be seen and heard.
How, in your opinion should one be open with other cultures when conversing?
One way that can bring openness is to be curious about another person’s culture. Show interest by asking questions to find out more, rather than make assumptions. People love to talk about themselves, so give someone a chance to tell their stories. Another way to let a person know I am open is to share my travel experiences of being in their culture.
Do you have anything to share with our readers?
My book, The Rhythm of the Soul, is a wonderful tale of a very brave young woman. One of my reviewers is a father of a daughter who writes, “There are so many gems of wisdom and moving quotes that cut to the core of what life is about… Being a father of an only daughter, I found it personally meaningful to have a story of a brave female protagonist finding herself in a world that too often teaches women to play small and deny their own hearts and truth. I highly recommend this book as a journey of self-discovery and a regaining of the dark, feminine wisdom that lies within our own hearts and helps us discover our full belonging in the great mystery of just being!” – Michael Brant DeMaria , PhD psychologist and author.
Who is your support system? The people you call on the toughest of days? What do you turn to for comfort when you are stressed out? Where can you go to get relief and peace when life feels chaotic?
The answers to these questions are important parts of your unique support system. A support system is a catalog of resources that offer you practical and/or emotional support. More specifically, these are people, places, and things that bolster you.
I encourage you to keep this living document somewhere you will be able to see it and access it with ease. Reflect: Can you remember the last time you felt overwhelmed and unable to take the next step, or even figure the next step out? This trapped feeling can be tough to get out of. However, the closer we keep our tools and supports, the more frequently we are reminded of the resources around us, and the easier it will be for us to reach out and ask for help.
Parents, especially parents of teens and emerging adults, often share that they feel isolated. Once school drop-offs and play dates are things of the past, parents and caregivers tend to have fewer organic opportunities to interact with one another. This feeling of isolation is an opportunity to build and maintain your systems of support– an important aspect of self-care.
Developing a Support System
Recently, I have become more observant of the ways that I use my own support system, and I’m excited to share how this network has served me. When I brainstormed my own system, I sat with some of the words that I use to describe myself: highly sensitive, empathic, introvert, anxious, curious, detail-oriented, antsy, creative, and so on. As I considered each of these traits, I asked “What brings me comfort? What brings me stability?” Then, I generated broad lists and ideas for supports that were already in place, as well as supprots I wanted to integrate.
Today, I’m sharing some of the specific ways I use my support network to inform daily and weekly practices. These ideas are meant to be examples for you to consider and explore as you dig deep into your own needs and preferences for support. I invite you to edit, revise, revision, and recreate your own map of supports and structures for including these into your regular practices.
10 Ways to Integrate Your Support System into Daily Living
Slow Down. I notice that I feel most supported when I am not rushed. When I take the time to transition from place to place or role to role, I feel more grounded. Observe your transitions and find ways to slow down throughout the shifts you endure daily.
Accountability Partners: I talk with my accountability partner weekly for 20-30 minutes each Friday. We cover celebrations and accomplishments for the week and set goals for the coming week. Explore an accountability relationship with a friend or colleague! Email me for more info on how to get started.
Top 3: When I have a work-related situation that I don’t know how to solve, I have 3 close friends who are also solopreneurs that I can contact to share, brainstorm, and create a plan. When I face depression, I reach out to my partner, my sister, and a close friend. Consider having a top 3 list for personal life, as well as work life.
Shared Interest Groups: I meet weekly with my writing group. We are building a culture of support, resource sharing, and feedback around our work as writers. This helps me know that I am not in isolation as I do my creative work. Join groups of people who have similar interests and projects as you.
Scheduled Self-Care: Yoga and walking in nature support me in feeling strong in my mind. I set aside time for these activities (and others– like baths, reading Young Adult fiction, and meditation) because they help me refuel. Plan time for the self-care activities or your choice.
Structured AND Unstructured Family Time: Each week, my partner and I typically designate two “date” nights. This is time that we are dedicating to one another and to our relationship. While we don’t always have plans and rarely leave the house, we have a plan to be with one another. This gives us plenty of other time to connect spontaneously or to work on our individual projects. Explore supports like family meetings, movie night, or walk and talks with your family members. Be mindful of leaving plenty of downtime in the weekly calendar too.
Less is More. Whenever I notice that I am overwhelmed, I (attempt to) stop adding to my plate. I also check the calendar to see if there is anything extra or unnecessary that I can eliminate. I’m finding more and more that a “no” can really be the biggest “yes” to myself and my mental health. Know that it’s okay to say no, to cancel plans, or to decide not to add anything else to your to-do list.
Professional Supports: I’ve always been an advocate for seeking the help of professionals, from therapists, to coaches, to yoga teachers, to acupuncturists, to doctors, to editors. I spend time curating my list of professional supports and depending on my needs in a given season, I prioritize different appointments. Seek professional supports that align with your values and needs (including insurance, location, and services). Don’t be afraid to “shop around” until you find a great fit.
Happy spaces and places: I travel to happy space figuratively through safe place meditations. I also know that a nearby trail and green space always brings me comfort, as does a bookstore or library. Identify the space and places that can help you shift your energy and find a sense of safety.
Screen-time Limits: Because so much of my work and communication involves screens, I can become overly exhausted and unable to focus. This leaves me switching between tabs or apps and in the end, I feel like I accomplish very little. When I set timers or myself, limiting my time on a given task and setting an intention to attend to one task, I feel more efficient and calm. Set limits for your technology usage. Be curious about the amount of time that feels healthiest and most enjoyable for you; let this inform your limit-setting.
It is my wish that you leave this article with new ideas and awarenesses for building and maintaining your unique support system. Get your free guide and support system map here to help you begin this process. Furthermore, I invite you to share this process and practice with your family. Noramlize asking for help and utilizing resources. We are all in this together.
I’m here to support, and I can’t wait to hear about and learn from your unique map!
As a Life Coach for Teens and Parents, Courtney supports tweens, teens, and young adults in finding their voice, growing confidence, and thriving. Through 1:1 and small group coaching sessions, teens and tweens are able to overcome anxiety, disconnect, and isolation as they explore their truest sense of self and develop a deep sense of empowerment. Courtney supports parents in practicing self-care and growing alongside their children. Sessions with Courtney lovingly guide families in developing the trust, communication, and connection that’s crucial for a life of ease.
Climbing up a hill behind a century old pueblo in New Mexico under an inky dark sky, I settled in a chair between my two children. We are silent, gazing at a darkness we’d never seen, punctuated by blazing points of light. I never dreamt a diagnosis of life-threatening food allergies for my son 12 years ago in Pennsylvania would have brought us here today.
Sometimes circumstance chooses you.
In the midst of closing on a new-old house in 2002, we were painting, racing back and forth between the two homes. With my husband at the new house, I went back to give my 10-month-old something to eat. I had grabbed a few jars of baby food at the market, thinking he might like the oatmeal & apple cereal as a treat. Strapped in his high chair, smiling and babbling away, he obediently opened his mouth when I made like an airplane and zoomed the cereal to his mouth.
After a few bites, he stopped his normal movements. His color turned gray. I lived half a mile from the hospital, so I grabbed him and the jar and raced into the emergency room. The nurse took one look and rushed him inside. After doses of adrenaline and a battery of tests and several hours, they handed my son back to me with epinephrine and directed me to see an allergist. I went home in a daze. My son had a life-threatening food allergy to egg. Further testing revealed allergies to wheat, peanuts, tree nuts and barley. He had the same reaction to all of them. He stopped breathing.
What do I do now?
There were no allergies in my family. There also weren’t the products you see lining the market shelves today. Even now, it’s rare to find something he can have. There aren’t many products that encompass all his food allergies. I didn’t know what to do.
His first birthday cake was a two-pound block of cheddar cheese with a single candle in it. Three months after the diagnosis and I was still floundering. My son’s allergist is one of my favorite people. He galvanized me into action with one simple sentence.
Choosing to do nothing is a choice as well.
We decided that while his life would not be the same as others, it would still be extraordinary. I learned everything I could about food allergies, cross-contamination, and to cook differently. And I decided to home educate my son.
Some folks turn to home education because their school system is inadequate. Some choose because their religious beliefs dictate another path. And some choose because it’s the best way to keep their children safe. We fell into the latter category.
After numerous close calls with cross contamination that wasn’t visible to the eye, we chose to embark on a journey I never envisioned. [bctt tweet=”Food allergies became the silver lining for my family, I had never expected.” username=”contactrwc”]
School is so much better the second time around.
Much to my surprise, I found that I loved home education. I loved sharing the discovery with my son. I loved being the one that sparked the “aha” moment. In the beginning we covered all the standards covered in traditional schools: he learned his numbers, the alphabet, how to read, how to add and subtract, how to spell.
We fell in love with books together.
Reading room was our favorite activity. I’d spend at least two hours a day reading aloud, small boy seated by my side. “One more chapter,” he’d plead. “We’re just getting to the good part.” Weekly trips to the library fed our voracious appetites. His comprehension and vocabulary soared. It was magical.
We loved the stories we read, but it wasn’t quite so interesting covering every other subject. It wasn’t tactile enough. We needed to get up close and personal.
School Became Discovering Cultures
We took our classroom on the road. After reading about Vikings and the settlement of North America, we headed north to Canada and Nova Scotia. We hiked Cape Breton Island, learned about Alexander Graham Bell at his museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia. We visited The Gaelic College in Englishtown and learned about Gaelic culture. We stayed in a small cottage on the sea, owned by a man who had left his homeland in Holland to pursue life in a quiet Canadian province.
In Florida, we kayaked with manatees under the watchful eye of a conservationist who taught us the best way to see is to be quiet. We were rewarded with glimpses of docile, lovely sea cows in their natural habitat.
We hiked through wetlands, careful to avoid sleeping alligators sunning themselves on the banks in the tall grasses. Together we learned to be more observant of the world around us.
In New Mexico, we marveled at the idea of a “wild cow.” Though I laughed at my son’s suggestion when we encountered a lone bovine in the mountains of the Gila National Forest, a shaman (medicine man) soon set me to rights as he pointed out what we could touch and what we should avoid walking in the wild.
California introduced us to sweeping extremes. Desert in the south, full of rippled dunes that encroached on the roadway. Sunny groves of citrus and almonds and avocados. We saw firsthand what living in drought conditions meant for families that farmed dry acres. We drove up through clouds to wrap our arms around the famous California redwoods trees, and we were cautioned to watch out for the grizzly bears.
We drove through miles and miles of our nation’s farmland, lulled into a quiet rhythm by seemingly endless acres of corn. The very next day, the sense of calm was shattered as we raced toward Kentucky, ahead of a series of tornados. The skies were black and calm and too quiet. The lines for fuel were long. Every day brought a new aspect of the adventure.
Conversations and Music
Each day on the road, we’d pull out a map and get a general idea of where we were headed. Nothing was set in stone to allow for detours as needed. One of our favorites started with a barbecue billboard and ended eating sandwiches along the river in Ozark, Arkansas on my birthday. The late afternoon sun was warm and we were the only ones in this little town at the river that day. Magical.
The connections and adventures are equally strong in your own town, or the next one over. The idea is to talk more, learn firsthand and spend time together. Creating memories leads to conversation, sometimes even lively discourse. My son and I hold diverse political views. But at the end of the day, we are better for the interaction and the time spent.
And Every day ends the same …
And I’m grateful for that. As the day draws to a close, my son gives me a hug, and an “I love you, Mom.”
I love you too, Buddy.
Deborah Fingerlow is a writer, traveler and explorer seeking adventures both large and small. Parent to one daughter in college and one teenage son in cyber-school. Food allergies play a significant role in day to day life decisions, as does the support network of a small town in south central Pennsylvania. Neighbors are known by their first names and a walking district encourages community engagement. Business to business communications and the development of authentic connections are Deborah Fingerlow’s superpowers. You can find her at the local farmer’s market, therapy dogs in tow, camera in hand. You can find her on twitter @debfingerlow and on facebook @connect.converse.write
The article is about raising an emotionally stable child, why is it important and how we can achieve it. Also it is important to spend quality time with children so as to understand their needs and inner conflicts , which is very essential for the growing minds.
Like many things I’ve found myself doing as a parent (attachment parenting, learning about the Suzuki method, figuring out how to adapt myself to a child who needs a rigid schedule, etc.), I never set out thinking, “Gosh, I think homeschooling will be my parenting method.”
In fact, when my oldest was born, I had visions of first day of school photos in a photo album, school pictures on a wall, and time spent doing homework at the kitchen table.
I did not imagine giant social studies projects strewn about the living room, piles of learning resources everywhere, and amassing a large collection of STEM toys and science kits that would be additional enrichment for reading books about robot construction, watching Bill Nye the Science Guy, and following an experiment-based science learning model. However, that’s how things turned out.
I Was Homeschooled
I had a rough time in school. I was poked fun of a lot. I was a very bright, gifted, kid, but I had trouble sustaining motivation and I had a lot of trouble with feeling anxious.
My mom was a big fan of talk shows back in the 1980s and 1990s. One of her favorite of those shows was People Are Talking. One of the episodes featured a homeschooling family, and that was all the fodder my mom needed to consider it as an option.
After a tumultuous time in 8th grade, I was pulled out of the public school and put into an umbrella school for the purposes of being homeschooled as an 8th grader.
To make the long story short, I went back to public school for 9th-the start of 11th grade when I was pulled out again. After taking the California High School Proficiency Exam a few weeks before my 17th birthday, I graduated early and started junior college.
I Never Wanted to Homeschool My Own Child
My younger brother was also homeschooled. Instead of being advanced and bored in school, he had been put into special education, and was bored. My mom pulled him out as well, and then fought every day with him to get him to do his work. He’d already developed a hatred for learning and one of those nasty limiting beliefs that it was something he couldn’t do. I know that now.
As a young 20 year old pregnant for the first time, I did not.
I saw the struggle, knew my own (I kept working ahead, and because I was working with an umbrella school, they wanted to slow me down so I would remain at the grade level for my age, particularly since they’d already skipped me a grade), and wanted no part of that sort of relationship with my kid. I was dead-set on never homeschooling.
So Much for “Never”
As my oldest progressed through the public school system, I became increasingly bothered, but the boiling point came in 2nd grade. He was eight years old. He was becoming increasingly depressed and despondent. His reasons for feeling this way involved both the fact that he was being pulled out of his class several times a day for other services and because he was being badly bullied by other kids.
With this fuel, I went to meet with the principal. The school he was at had a no bullying policy. The principal proceeded to tell me that my kid was “making himself a target for bullying.”
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
There I was, working on a Ph.D., a year out from starting my dissertation, when I couldn’t deal with the public school system anymore. I’d already been reading a book,
The Well Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise.
I’d purchased the first level of their history program and Core Knowledge’s What Your Kindergartner Needs to Know, What Your First Grader Needs to Know, and What Your Second Grader Needs to Know. I was already doing “afterschooling.”
I looked up the homeschooling laws for Michigan, and filed the paperwork to homeschool as a private school. I got my curriculum, and I withdrew him from school. I started homeschooling him using the classical method, and it was really successful.
Since then, a lot has changed. I homeschooled my oldest through seventh grade. Because of health issues, he returned to public school in 8th grade. We weren’t a fan of the charter school we tried out, but we did like his junior high – I was really nervous about putting him back into public school in junior high because middle school tends to be rough.
He did really well there, and then we had him in high school. He did well, but I wasn’t as happy as I could have been with the high school experience he received. Based on a lot of the things that happened in high school, my husband and I decided that we would homeschool our younger children – preschool through high school – following the classical method.
Not for Everyone
Homeschooling isn’t for everyone, but it works really well for our family. I work from home, so I’m able to put in the work needed to be successful with homeschooling the kids. We’re lucky to have a really great library available to us, so that we’re able to get books to supplement our lesson plans.
We also have a lot of local museums, and our local rec center, and they are all great resources for enrichment courses for our kids. We have a lot of fun, many of the days of the week.
Have you considered homeschooling? What do you think about the concept, if you haven’t yet?
Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.
I came across my high school yearbook the other day and couldn’t help pouring through the pages and reading the words friends from my past wrote to me. Majority of friends wrote things like, “Let’s keep in touch,” and, “Friends forever,” and “I’ll never forget…,” which was followed by a litany of memories that today, I have absolutely no memory of.
Heck! Many of the people I was hard pressed to remember them at all!
Why do we become friends with some and not with others? Why do some friendships stand the test of time yet most do not?
As I refer back to my college psychology classes, John Bowlby, a researcher from the mid 20th century would say it all goes back to how we “attached” to our main caregivers (our parents) during infancy. His attachment theory stated it was a survival mechanism. Bowlby’s thinking was how we attach to our parents during the first few years of life determines how all of our relationships throughout life will be.
And failure to properly attach was detrimental, with consequences like delinquency, reduced intelligence, anger, and an inability to show affection toward others.
As we moved into the present century, more in-depth research and study has been done. While there’s something to be said for the importance of infant-parent attachment, in that the relationship with the parent can be affected by how we attach within those first few years, having that “vital” period doesn’t play near as big of role on the outcome of our future relationships with others.
During the time Bowlby’s theory was becoming a thing, there was Jane Elliot. Ever heard of her? Neither had I (until I learned about her in a college psychology class), but what she was able to accomplish in the way of making friends and losing judgment, is nothing short of amazing.
The Story of Jane Elliot
Jane Elliot, a third grade teacher from a small town in Iowa, in my mind, made history with her teaching and all of us would do very well to learn more about her work.
It was a spring morning in April, 1968, which could have gone on like other normal day as Mrs. Elliot’s students came to class. But this wasn’t just any April morning. It happened to be the morning after Martin Luther King was assassinated. With much thought and trepidation, Jane chose to completely toss the days lessons aside. As a matter of fact, she tossed the next several days of lesson plans aside. Little did she know her students of an all white community would learn a lesson they’d remember for the rest of their lives and it completely altered the direction Jane Elliot would take throughout the rest of her life.
Overnight, Jane had devised a plan to teach her students about race, about diversity and about judgement, about friendship, as well as self esteem. Sounds pretty amazing, right? Her experiment was eventually dubbed “Brown Eyes, Blue Eyes.”
Immediately, when the first school bell rang out, Jane was separating her class in two. On one side of the room were the brown eyed students and on the other were the blue. She had neckwear, collars for one side of the room to wear for the next several days. She told her class that from that point forward, everyone with blue eyes were bad people. They weren’t to be trusted. The brown eyed and blue eyed students weren’t allowed to play together or even communicate with each other. She even went so far as to tell the brown eyed students that the blue eyed children were inferior and stupid and to really hit it home, the blue eyed students weren’t allowed to drink from the same water fountain. Sound familiar?
Mrs. Elliot played this to the hilt. When she was doing small group lessons with a mixture of brown and blue eyed students, she went so far as to tell the blue eyed students they were wrong, even if they were right. After several days passed, the rolls were reversed and suddenly the brown eyed children were the inferior ones. Eventually, all of the classroom had “played” both rolls.
The experiment has a whole lot more to it than this, but what the children came out of it learning was they were all very quick to jump on the bandwagon and belittle the “inferior” students. The inferior students grade average plummeted during this time frame.
But one thing is for sure, this experiment was a big example of how negativity can be detrimental to social relationships.
Help Your Kids Create Lasting Relationships
How can we, as parents, teach our children about judgement, racism and self esteem? It turns out one of the most important roles we play is to be good role models. The old saying, “children are like sponges,” is actually truer than we might think.
As it turns out, young children actually do have more neurons making connections in their brains than they will have when they start becoming teens. As it turns out, children really do learn much more by our actions than by our words.
Teaching our little ones to be a good friend and how to talk to others starts with us. For example, we want our children to be open and honest with us, but in order for that to happen, we need to practice what we preach, walk the walk, talk the talk, so to speak. It’s important for us to create an environment where we’re able to share how we’re feeling and our experiences (within reason and age appropriate) with our kids.
It turns out, one of the most important aspects in making friends is being able to make ourselves just a little bit vulnerable, to share some of our self with someone else. Perhaps we have a different opinion than the one our friend just shared with us… Do we tell them we feel the same way so they won’t think bad of us? Or do we take that chance and voice our differences and risk them not liking us because of it?
Even as adults, the same thing still applies. It’s those people who listen to our differences and like us anyway who we become closest to. That skill of “listening” is also one of the most important aspects of creating lasting friendships. Many people don’t actually know how to “listen.” They know how to “hear.” What’s the difference, you may ask? Well, listening actually takes conscious practice (In my life coach training, many weeks were devoted to the art of listening).
You see, most people hear what they’re friends are saying trying to find a spot in the conversation to interject our own comments. At the very point where something our friend is saying sparks a comment we want to interject and we hold onto that thought until we can find a break in the conversation… We’ve actually stopped listening. Listening is about being present in each moment as we listen and speak to others.
Lastly, from my experiences, I’d have to say the next most important aspect of being a friend is curiosity. So this is how it works… We have to put ourselves “out there.” Take a chance. Be vulnerable. And listen for your friend as they share their vulnerabilities with you. The act of “listening” allows us to remember our friend’s vulnerabilities and curiosity helps us to ask our friend in future conversations about how the vulnerable experience is progressing in their life.
Unfortunately, throughout life, friendships come and friendships go. Sometimes they go due to a change of location, a change in job, a broken confidentiality. Just like any good relationship, friendship takes time, empathy, curiosity and responsiveness.
And if you’re very lucky, you’ll have a small handful of very close friends who stand the test of time.
So, are you going the extra mile to create lasting relationships for your child ?
Janie Saylor is a professional certified life coach with a degree in psychology, her focus is in the emerging field of positive psychology. Janie is the mom of two grown children, her son, age 20, and her daughter, age 24. In 2006, Janie published a book, “The Road You’ve Traveled, How to Journal Your Life,” which came from her experiences teaching life journaling to people over the age of 60 for 10+ years in many different communities in the Metro Detroit area. Janie’s used her experiences and education as she developed an 8-week online coaching program and has had tremendous success in improving the communication, lives and relationships of her clients. Janie enjoys uplifting others with positive posts and memes on her Facebook page, BecomeUniversity. Janie calls it “Your Happy Place.”
Just what do I mean by the “other side of giving?” To put it into context, I’ll need to tell you my story.
Like many of you, I consider myself a humanitarian. A philanthropist. Since high school, I can remember enjoying the act of giving. I think it started Labor Day weekend 1979, when my best friend and I door knocked collecting for MDA, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Jerry Lewis telethon.
We turned in our money at the local tv station, then sat by the tv eagerly watching the main tally board grow to surpass the previous year’s giving. Just knowing we played a part in affecting those numbers, no matter how small, made us feel good.
A few years later, when I had kids in school, I’d purchase several turkeys and other dinner items, then would take the grocery bags to our school principal so she could distribute to the families she knew were in need. Through the years I’ve given coats and other cold weather wear. I’ve given hot meals, coffees and cocoa to needy people standing on busy street corners.
But some of the most rewarding times, were the years my kids and I sang Christmas carols at a senior living community. We’d watch our audience snap their fingers, clap hands and bop along. There was a sparkle in the people’s eyes and they’d often assist us by singing along. Each year, I watched their tears well up. There really was no better feeling… Except for the many times I saw one of our kids wipe tears from their own eyes in response. Every year, we’d complete the evening at our neighborhood coffee shop with a tasty treat of hot chocolate. My children still recall these times with sweet fondness.
One year at my weekly business meeting, I suggested we adopt a family over the upcoming holiday season. Later that day the president of the group, Trish, called asking if I’d had a particular family in mind, because she did. She asked if I’d mind if she took the lead. No, I definitely didn’t mind her running the show!
As each weekly meeting passed, Trish told us a little more about the family we’d adopted and although I wasn’t able to afford to purchase anything new, as my own financial circumstances were poor that year, I did find a wool coat in near-perfect condition in my closet. But when I offered Trish $10 from coins I’d turned in, she smiled, gently pushed my hand back and said, “It’s okay, I know you can’t afford to do this.” Knowing she was right, I hugged her, wished her a Merry Christmas and returned the bills to my near empty wallet.
My financial circumstances that year had put me behind with just about every creditor and utility company I had. I hadn’t answered my telephone in nearly a month and needed to call the heating company to avoid disconnect.
Before making those calls, I decided to take a few minutes to do some meditation. I knew making those calls would be difficult. So, I went to my room, sat on my bed and breathed. About 40 minutes later, there was a knock on the door. Fearing it was a creditor and hoping they’d go away, I ignored it. The knock came several more times before I finally answered. A sweet smiling face of a beautiful woman greeted me. She said simply, “I’m here to deliver some gifts.”
Learning to Accept
“You do? Who are you?”
“That doesn’t matter,” she answered.
“Who are they from?”
“That doesn’t matter either. But I’m to tell you there are many people who love you very much. Merry Christmas.” She placed gifts bags on the porch and turned to leave.
“Wait!” I took her hand and pulled her into an embrace. “Thank you so much.” I watched her disappear around the corner of the house, closed the door, then sat on the floor beside the gifts. I peeked inside one bag catching a glimpse of what was inside.
Money! Tears came as I pulled a lovely wreath from the gift bag. Among it’s silver and red ribbons, dollar bills were fanned out and attached as well. Bills of all denominations… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Also inside the bag was a stack of gift cards and some decorative tins containing wrapped candies, cookies and even more money. I cried. Hard. Hunched over, forehead on the floor, sobbing. I mean, “can’t breathe, snot running sobs.”
When all the money was counted, the total more than covered the disconnect, as well as several other bills. Tears continued the rest of the week. I used the gift certificates to purchase gifts for my children. Even as I write these words, tears are flowing again.
Thankful For Others Giving
I knew these gifts were from my business group, and we were the family Trish talked about all those weeks. So, I called to thank her. “For what?” She not so innocently responded. “By the way, no one in the group knows it was you,” she added.
Every Christmas season, I hang that special wreath on the front door and tied an ornament inside it’s greens, a golden angel, as a reminder of every one of my friends who gave to me that year. Every one who gave so generously.
I’m definitely not accustomed to being on “the other side of giving” to that degree. That year’s gift still means more than anyone could ever know. I give a silent toast every year on Christmas… To those who gave to me and to those who give to so many others, I would just like to say, “Thank you my Dear Friends. Thank you.”
Janie Saylor is a certified life coach with a degree in psychology and a focus on the emerging field of positive psychology. She’s mom to two grown children, her son, now 21, and her daughter, 25. In 2006, Janie published the book, “The Road You’ve Traveled, How to Journal Your Life,” which came from her own life experiences and those of many others who she taught life journaling to for 11 years. Janie’s also co-author of the book, “When You’re DONE Expecting: A Collection of Heartfelt Stories from Mothers All across the Globe,” consisting of stories sharing a beautiful perspective of Motherhood. “In writing about my own life so openly, my hopes are for just one person to see their own struggles from a different perspective.” Janie enjoys uplifting others with positive posts, videos and memes on her Facebook page, Become University, “Your Happy Place!”
I sat there, going over my list again. I wanted to be absolutely sure my oldest, Mr. 19, would have everything he needed for college. I’d been preparing myself for this moment since before he could walk or talk, knowing that children are only children for so long and that eventually even the littlest of birdies would leave the nest. It’s funny, because when he was six, he used to curl up in the Papasan chair I kept in my office with his Beanie Baby collection, and tweet at me while I worked on papers for classes. He called the chair his nest, and his stuffed animals his “birdies.”
And here we were, thirteen years later, long past the time when it’s acceptable for a child to want to snuggle, with him with his head on my shoulder and me sharing blankly ahead. It had all gone so fast! How did it go so fast? How did 19 years just fly by? I half-joked, “You could always go to college here.” We both laughed and then he headed upstairs for one more sleep as a full-time resident of our home. We’d packed as much as we would be able to safely fit into the van for this trip, and it would be a long drive with me navigating for my husband the next day.
Just the Two of Us
For the longest time, I was a single mom. We had each other’s backs. I would let him stay up late and play board games on a Friday night. We’d go and check out the local bowling alley together when we got too bored around the house. I’d drag him along to a coffee shop where I’d meet friends to study or I’d head for a change of venue to write. It felt like it was the two of us against the world, and I had my lists. Oh, I had my lists.
Lists of books to read, lists of things to teach before he went off to college and out into the world, lists of must-have childhood experiences, lists of places to go, lists, lists, lists. When I pulled him out of public school in second grade to homeschool him, the lists multiplied. I had lists of subjects and lists of topics within those subjects, I had lists of field trips, and I had lists of college requirements.
And Dad Makes Three
When I met my husband, I had no idea that he’d be my husband. We quickly became friends. It was my general practice to not introduce people I dated to my oldest. I had no intentions of dating my now-husband, so he quickly became part of the circle. And we quickly fell in love. When we moved in together, my husband asked my son how he felt about him becoming his stepdad. My son responded, “That’s great! But lose the step. You’ll just be my dad.”
And so it went. He gained a dad; my husband gained a son, and we continued our board game adventures, now adding three-player games into the mix.
A Few Siblings and a Lot of College Prep
My oldest returned to public school in 8th grade, and quickly made it clear that he had big dreams of going off to college. I’d been preparing him for it since he was little, so it was no surprise to me. He fell in love with a small school in Iowa upon receiving a brochure from them advertising their school when he was a freshman. It’s funny, but that’s exactly the one place, other than the local university, where he applied, and not only did he get in, he got in with scholarships. Senior year became about me wrapping my mind, more and more, around the fact that my tiny sweet baby had now grown into a young man and soon he would be off, making his own life for himself.
And Then it Hit… Like a Horseshoe to the Face
I was preparing myself all summer. He had his first real part-time job at the grocery store. He was very busy. We tried to play as many board games as possible, watch movies together, have him spend as much time as possible with his three new younger siblings. We had shopping for dorm essentials on the calendar, and then it happened – we got a call that he’d been accepted into a special program that would have him leaving for college a week earlier than what we’d planned.
I may have fallen apart just a little bit. Instead of getting to spend time with him as had been planned, I now had to say goodbye a week earlier – and we wouldn’t get to see any of the welcome to college events that the school had planned.
It felt like someone had thrown a horseshoe directly to my face. The moment I’d been preparing myself for for 19 years was coming earlier than expected and in a different way than expected, and as anyone who knows me knows, I don’t do well with the unexpected.
We drove to his school, had a tantrum-filled dinner as his send-off, and though some may disagree, we opened a bottle of wine and let him have a glass. He was embarking upon a new journey (and I wanted him to know what a little bit of alcohol felt like in his body in a controlled environment before peer pressure and college parties kicked in). We got his much-needed dorm room supplies, and helped him move his belongings in. We hugged. He walked to the dorms and we pulled out of the parking lot – with me in tears. I would be missing his birthday for the first time ever.
The Hot Mess Phase
I had planned all sorts of things when we got home – starting my 3 1/2 year old’s pre-kindergarten work, lots of fun toddler activities, sewing projects and blog tours. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t sew. I couldn’t teach. I could just sit and stare and maintain. It didn’t help that I was also fighting off postpartum depression from the birth of my now 6-month old. I didn’t show up for my self-imposed runs in preparation for the 5k I’d signed up for. I didn’t write other than to keep my paying clients satisfied with my work. I didn’t tend to the house or laundry. I cried. I cried a lot.
Nothing in the 19 years of being a mom prepared me for the depth of grief mixed with pride and excitement that I would feel when my child launched for college. Of course I was happy for him – here he was – he’d done it; he’d made it. But I was completely taken aback by the sadness I felt knowing that my oldest – the one I’d done a lot of growing up with – was now an adult and although he’d come home for holidays and perhaps summers, he was out on his own.
Pulling It All Together
I continued like this, putting together care packages, counting down the days until Thanksgiving break, when we had the chance to go visit him for parent’s weekend. We went up. We got to meet his girlfriend and his roommate. We got to see that he was happy and doing well and navigating this whole adulting thing pretty well.
I felt less sad and broken on the drive home after. He was doing well with his debate team, doing well with theater stuff, doing well. He wasn’t being all work and no play – one of my biggest fears for him. He was getting out and being social with his classmates. I was able to relax. I was able to come home and do more and start to get back to where I was at the beginning of August.
Know that if you’re child is heading off, it will be a change. Things still don’t feel right. I struggled with Halloween and decorating for it this year. It was hard to feel like I wanted to do my usual go-all-out for the holiday thing that I do, but we still had fun. Know that you’re not alone. A lot of people feel this way when it comes to adapting to the change.
I still get out an extra plate and bowl for him if I’m tired and serving dinner – because I’m on autopilot, and for 19 years I also worried about making sure he ate and was well. I couldn’t be prouder of him. I also couldn’t be counting down the minutes until Thanksgiving break more excitedly.
Have you had to say bye to your little one all grown up? What was it like for you?
Freelance writer and entrepreneur Ronda Bowen has been publishing articles on a variety of topics including parenting and education for the past decade after leaving a graduate program in philosophy. She has four children ranging in age from 6 months to 19 years old. She believes that it is vital to raise children to be globally aware and to have empathy for others. Current projects include two blogs, political website, fundraising for an international non-profit organization, and a handmade business.
Think about it. How many times have you said a phrase or reprimanded your kids and thought, “My mom used to say the same thing!” Or done something in such a way that it reminded you of your dad?
It’s because we tend to mimic our greatest influences and in most families, our greatest influences are our parents.
And this can be both good and bad. Because while we pass down positive traits and habits, we can also pass down negative ones.
Influences of Generational Parenting
I grew up in a family that didn’t hug often. My mom was critical, and wasn’t one to hide her disappointment. And as a growing child, it hurt me. I took that negativity and looked inward, always wondering what was wrong with me.
Only now as an adult do I see the connection between how my mom treated me and how she was treated by her mom.
My grandmother was never the emotional type. I don’t remember her ever using the words “I love you.” She demanded perfection and didn’t ever want to appear as anything less. And as part of the family, anything different or less than perfect was looked down on.
And to my grandmother, my mom was different. I know my mom had some awareness of how she was treated. And that she did not like it and did not want to be like her mom.
Unfortunately, passed down traits, the ones we pick up and learn throughout our lives, can be very hard to reprogram.
While I can see some of the differences in the way my mom parented and the way she was parented, I also saw many of the similarities.
And this is something that is very common in people who have been hurt themselves. They go on to do very similar things. Because hurt people tend to hurt other people.
While I’m very aware of how I treat my kids, I may still say something out of frustration. Or I may yell more than I intended to. And of course, there’s always some guilt after and a lot of apologizing and hugs, but I do often wish my initial reaction was different.
How To Break The Pattern
So how can we change this? How can be reprogram ourselves to not repeat the patterns that once hurt us?
It starts with awareness. Awareness of not just the way we parent now, but also of the way were brought up.
Ask yourself these questions:
What was my childhood experience like? Was it mostly good or bad?
How has it affected my life today? (This one may take some deeper work. For example, if you often heard children should be seen and not heard, perhaps you still feel the need to keep quiet and not voice your opinions. If someone told you that you were shy, you likely still feel like you are, maybe even using your shyness as an excuse to NOT do things. If you were told you couldn’t accomplish things, you may have a tendency to hold yourself back and not try new things now.)
Are there any feelings you had as a child that you hope your own children never have to feel?
Is there anything my parents did that I know I do NOT want to do?
What kind of parent do I want to be?
This may take some journaling and looking deep into your past. I want to encourage you to think of anything that seems out of the ordinary. Maybe you remember comparing your parents to your friend’s parents. I want you to remember these thoughts and remember those feelings. There must have been something in that instance that made you long for something different.
And this may take some time. Facing our past isn’t always the easiest. And sometimes we are too closed off and emotional disconnected from our experiences to see how not normal they really were.
These questions are meant to bring you to a new awareness. When we’re aware of our own past, we have a much better chance of changing the present and the future.
Here’s the thing about parents and parenting. I do think that our parents did the best they could with what they knew, just as we are doing today. But I also believe that parenting tactics and styles can easily get passed down when we’re not aware of them. Luckily, with a little awareness, we can make conscious decisions to change things.
What are some parenting traits your parents have passed onto you ?
Corinne Kerston is an intuitive parent empowerment coach who helps moms who are struggling with kids who don’t listen, throw tantrums and act out. She helps them eliminate the yelling, scolding and resulting mom guilt that comes from it. If you’d liked to learn more about how Corinne can help you understand and positively parent your own children, schedule a free 30-minute call here.
In October, Rebecca Vijay wrote an article for Raising World Children about her tragic experience of losing one of her twin children. I want to send a giant thank you to Rebecca, for bringing awareness to, not only her own awful experience, but for all of you moms out there who’ve lost children, either within the womb or after they were born.
She expressed her grief in such a beautiful way. I loved learning about the word Vilomah, which Rebecca explains is the Sanskrit word meaning “a mother who has lost her child.”
Rebecca’s work helped me to want to express my own experiences with this. I have lost children. Several times. Many miscarriages when I was 30 and trying to get pregnant. But the very first time is the story I’m interested in telling you today.
WARNING: TRIGGER ALERT!!!
It started when I was 12 and an older boy, 16, from another school showed great interest in me. At the time, of course, I was far far too young to date. (My parents didn’t know I was.) And far too young to be making grown up decisions… Looking back, (I actually realized this a long time ago. I’m presently 55 years old) this experience with this boy dramatically shaped my entire life and the choices I’ve made.
I don’t remember at what point in the “relationship” he began having sex with me. I say it in this way because he raped me from the very beginning. Looking back, I think about why a 16 year old boy would be interested in a 12 year old girl. And there is absolutely no reason that he should!
But his multiple sexual assaults resulted in a pregnancy when I was 13, just about to turn 14.
First of all, I knew I, somehow, had to tell my parents. But there was absolutely no way I wanted to disappoint them. I can remember being extremely ashamed in myself. And scared. And sad! Above all, trapped. I was afraid to tell them both. But mostly, I was afraid to tell my Dad. The thought of disappointing my Dad was, back then and throughout my life, something that was very upsetting to me.
After a couple of day, which seemed like a life time to me, I’d decided I was going to tell my Mother first.
I vaguely remember the night.
Dad was working late and both my older siblings were out as well. I cried, as I had been since the moment I felt I was pregnant. I asked my Mother if we could to talk. I was laying on the couch and she came forward and sat beside me. I don’t remember the words I chose, but I do remember her holding me so tight, telling me she loved me and that she would tell my Dad.
This was just the first step of many I was about to face.
For a several weeks, I was determined to have the child. Mom drove me to the doctor quite often as he requested seeing me weekly. Both my parents were supportive of my decision. But one of my last trips to the doctor, when I was just over 2 months along, the doctor sat with Mom and me and explained that he didn’t believe I’d be able to even carry a child to term.
At 13, I had a very small body and frame. He said there was a strong possibility that either I or the baby would die in the process of carrying and birthing. I’ll never forget that day, the ride home and my Mom’s words.
She said, “Up until now, this only affected you and the baby that is inside you. But now, this affects me and the baby that was inside me. You can hate me, scream at me, you can feel how ever you choose to feel about me. But the decision has now been made and when we get home, I’ll be calling the hospital. You’re going to have an abortion.“
And oh boy, did I cry!!!
This was in the early 1970s, shortly after the Roe vs Wade decision (January 23, 1973, a woman’s right to have a legal abortion according to the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States), which enabled me to have “the procedure.”
I don’t recall the time frame, between that trip home from the doctor and when “the procedure” was performed. And I only vaguely recollect the trip to the hospital, the preparation or being taken into the operating room.
What I do remember, quite vividly, is waking up to seeing my Dad at my bedside with such a look of love for me. I don’t recall his words. I don’t know if he told me the words, “I love you.” Actually, I don’t think he said anything at all.
But what he did do was hand me a small glass bowl, shaped like a bowl someone would put a goldfish in, but much smaller. Inside the delicate bowl was a partially opened bud of a baby pink teacup rose. No words were necessary. This was all I needed for me to get the message of his love for me. That we’d make it through this. And I cried with relief!
I’d taken a leave from school prior to this day and for several days following. I thought that since the boy was from another school, which was 30 miles away, that my secret was safe among just my family. The school I attended was small. Perhaps only 600 people all together, from the sixth grade through the seniors. I never even told my very best friend.
But, Somehow, when I returned to school, everyone knew.
I heard the whispers. I saw their faces. I understood their body language. Judgement. Judgement. Judgement.
I’m not sure how long it took for the whispers to stop, but I remember one particular girl who took it upon herself to badger me with her religious values, expressing to me how horrible of a person I was for what I’d done.
Oh not about the unprotected sex so much, but for having an abortion. I’d find notes shoved in my locker. Notes with graphic pictures of what an abortion does to an unborn baby. She’d pass notes to me in the classroom. If I left my textbooks unprotected for any amount of time on my desk, I’d return to another piece of paper shunning me.
I didn’t know what to do to stop them from coming. Day after day !
I remember though the day they stopped. My older sister, came into my classroom and stood up to this bully for me. Unfortunately, it got to the point that my sister had to resort to threatening to cause her bodily harm if the badgering toward me didn’t come to an immediate halt. And that day, they did!
But what it left was an indelible mark inside me, compounding my own shame toward myself, which I’d felt from the very beginning. My own disappointment in myself. My own guilt. And sadness.
I mentioned in the beginning of this article that these experiences ended up shaping my entire future. Up until today, that is. The boys (and when I grew up, the men) I chose to have in my life were also men who wouldn’t treat me right. Men who said they loved me but their actions were anything but.
Unknowing of what was going on exactly inside me, inside my unconsciousness, inside my body. The nightmares and flashbacks became prevalent. The increasing high startle reflex seemed normal. Many years later when I had children and as they grew, they learned early on not to jump out from hiding to scare me.
I would start crying. I didn’t know why. I just lived with it.
There were so many things within myself that I didn’t even give a thought to thinking they weren’t normal. I never told anyone about the nightmares or flashbacks.I didn’t tell anyone about my fears from certain people for no apparent reason. There was a hidden room, somewhere up in the far reaches of my brain. Tucked away in a box, in the way back dark corners of the attic of my unconscious, so dark and so sealed, not even I knew it was there.
Cut to three years ago. I was sitting on the back porch of my aunts house with my cousin, (who just so happens to be a social worker) talking and drinking lemonade . I don’t know how the conversation started on the subject, but she was telling me about a close friend of hers who was having great difficulty in her marriage with a manipulative and an abusive husband.
She spoke for five or ten minutes and relayed her friend’s terrible predicament, when suddenly some words simply tumbled out of my mouth. I didn’t say much, just a portion of a sentence. But it was enough that my cousin was able to imply the rest. I remember I quickly covered my mouth with my hand and stopped breathing for a few seconds.
My words came as an immediate surprise to her… and even more so, to me. Her face quickly turned me and she said, “Oh my God, Jane. Did that really happen to you?” With my hand still over my mouth, I nodded. She replied, “Oh Honey. Was it more than that?” I nodded again and she said, “You need to promise me the very second you get home, you’re going to call and get yourself into therapy! See a good psychiatrist. You probably have PTSD!”
I have no idea why I those brief few words tumbled from my lips that day. I had NEVER told anyone. Even though I’m very educated and very logical, from the teeny tiny bit that I did recollect from my past, I’d justified away as just being normal. In my mind, I was doing everything necessary to make those relationships work. That day on the porch with my cousin, that very brief moment, also has dramatically altered my life.
On The Uphill Path To Recovery
I did make that call for help the following business day. And I have been diagnosed with PTSD due to sexual and emotional trauma throughout my life. It took nearly two years for me to locate that hidden box in the upper floor of my brain.
And it took even longer before I could actually open, just a small bit, of that box. And once I did, all of the fear came spewing out at me. All of sadness. All of the shame. And a whole, whole lot of tears. Sobbing, snot rolling, can’t catch your breath tears.
The nightmares and flashbacks increased at least tenfold. Probably more.
This, in and of itself, has dramatically changed how I live my life. Five years ago I was enjoying being out with friends and meeting new people, working with the public, and living with that unknown, locked away box, which I had just learned to somehow live with… It all changed to having an uncountable amount of sleepless nights.
And a very uncharacteristic fear of going into public. Fear of pretty much all men. A startle reflex which has been absolutely off the charts.
It’s been a little more than three years of therapy, so far. A few things I’ve learned is that I continued to chose men who would fill the deep, deep void that horrendous experience left inside me. Men, in many ways, with the same manipulative ways as that 16 year old boy. And if I did happen to notice any inklings of red flags, I simply justified them away, just as I had all those years before. And I just knew, that if I tried really hard, I could help them to change. Or make them change. I could, somehow, get them to show me they loved me just as much as their words expressed.
I’ve had to work on (and I’m still working on) something I guess I’ve always had, but failed to recognize in myself, which is disgust. Utter disgust with myself. Feeling as if it was my fault. The logical side of me actually knows it wasn’t my fault. From the time I was just a very young girl of twelve years old and those terrifying experiences with that boy shaped my life.
But now, after years of therapy (which I will continue), and I’m now in my 50s, I’ve been doing my own deep studying, research and homework. And I’m very slowly improving. I’ve remained relationship free at this point since 2004, definitely by design. I’ve learned that I absolutely will do everything I can to NOT follow this pattern into my future. My self learning and therapy has taught me a lot about myself…
Like that I’m courageous, and strong and brave because I’ve lived through all of those years without becoming completely mentally unstable. I’d never turned to suicide as the answer (although I have to admit, there were so, so many times suicidal ideation has taken me over), I’d never turned to addictive drugs, overeating, smoking, or anything other coping mechanism.
But I’m very afraid of actually submitting this piece to Raising World Children for all of you to read. I’m scared to put this out there into cyberspace. I’m apprehensive of what you’ll think of me. The memories of those kids at school when I returned are haunting me right now. Even though I’ve done so much work on myself through therapy and my own self discovery on what other people think of me, and having this quote etched into my brain, “What other people think of me is none of my business.” But I still worry about what you’ll think of me.
I intend to read this piece to my BFF (in the whole wide world) before I submit it. As I’ve been writing this, I’ve been seeking the courage and strength necessary to let all of you read something about me that is so raw. The wound is still open. And I still don’t remember my whole story. After a certain amount of having the old memories come leaping out of that box at me, I still am working very hard to keep it closed. I’m still working on coping with it myself. Very often, I just want the memories to stop. So I work so extra hard to keep the box closed. To shove it back into that dark and dingy corner where it was for all those years…
But somehow, I think it’s necessary for me to tell you my story. I know that others have gone through their own personal hell in their lives. I just really hope that my message reaches the ears of those who need courage. Who need to muster up just a wee bit of strength. Perhaps this will give someone that gentle, yet forceful push to speak out to their family, share with friends, seek out therapy and work diligently.
My thoughts are with you my Friend and I send you my love in return. Do you have a story to share with me now? Go ahead. There’s no judgement here.
Janie Saylor is a professional certified life coach with a degree in psychology, her focus is in the emerging field of positive psychology. Janie is the mom of two grown children, her son, age 20, and her daughter, age 24. In 2006, Janie published a book, “The Road You’ve Traveled, How to Journal Your Life,” which came from her experiences teaching life journaling to people over the age of 60 for 10+ years in many different communities in the Metro Detroit area. Janie’s used her experiences and education as she developed an 8-week online coaching program and has had tremendous success in improving the communication, lives and relationships of her clients. Janie enjoys uplifting others with positive posts and memes on her Facebook page, Become University. Janie calls it “Your Happy Place.”
The Pew research center published an article last year about diversity pointing out 10 important demographic trends last year. One of the statistics stood out for me. It said” By 2055, the U.S. will not have a single racial or ethnic majority.”
We are raising our children in increasingly diverse society with representations from so many different cultures. The electorate, the work force, our education system are all going to be impacted. We will see people around with different ways of speaking, dressing, eating, praying and living. It is a massive opportunity to learn about each other and grow. We will essentially witness a rainbow of cultures, but we have to be ready to open our windows and step outside. What are some things we can do to make diversity an important part of our households?
Festivals are important. Other than celebrating with our family and friends, we should raise awareness in our schools about each other’s festivals. For example, I realized fall is chock full of festivals from different cultures. It would be great to do a showcase of different cultures in school. Maybe a culture day to celebrate different festivals Rosh Hasanah, Diwali, Onam, Eid, Ashura, Thanksgiving to name a few. Check the calendar and stop by the school and see if you can talk to the classroom about your festival. Encourage other families from different ethnic groups to do the same.
Children are constantly looking at the books they read to form world opinions. Let’s give our children diverse material. There is no need to be pedantic about cultural topics. Sometimes simple books are the best conversation starters. If you have read ‘Last stop on Market Street’ by Matt De La Pena, you will know what I mean. The book teaches empathy and love in a way that is so easy and even fun for the children to understand. Ask your library to stock up with diverse books be it from your culture or other cultures you have been curious about.
Make an effort to build connections with families from different cultures. We are always comfortable with the familiar, but we learn and grow by exposing ourselves to the new. Call your neighbors over be it for Chai and samosas or Coffee and Cake. Arrange for playdates with children from different communities. Just stop by and say hello to that person who just moved here from a different country. Let your friendships expand.
What better way to learn about different ways of living than actually seeing and experiencing it. Travel far and travel wide. Make it a cultural learning experience. Observe the trees, the houses, the churches, the temples and talk about similarities and differences. Try different foods, speak to the local people. Let your child always be curious.
Learn more languages
Keep your mother tongue alive. If you are a multilingual household, speak to your child in different languages. Don’t worry, children’s minds are like little sponges. They will have no problems communicating using multiple languages. Teach numbers in different languages, use basic words for food, colors and slowly build up. I need serious effort on this one myself!
What other ideas do you have to teach diversity to your kids?