It’s almost that time of year again when school winds down and we all take stress-free vacations, get beautiful tans, don’t have to worry about any school work, all the kids get along, and cell phones no longer exist…don’t you wish! As summer approaches, we want to provide some ideas to help make this summer more relaxing, enjoyable, and memorable than those in the past. Summer can be challenging for many reasons: childcare, finances, keeping up with the Joneses, boredom, transportation to camp or swim team practice, you name it. Here are three helpful ways to improve your family’s Summer 2019:
Maintain structure but increase free time and play. Depending on the age of your child or teen, continuing to have a bedtime, curfew, limits on screen time, and other boundaries is crucial. Most kids and teenagers function best with a routine and structure in their day (whether they realize or will acknowledge that or not). With less schoolwork to do, there is inevitably more time for relaxing, spending time with friends, or perhaps even helping around the house. Activities and camps can be wonderful, but it’s also great for kids to have a break from the hustle and bustle of their normal busy lives and just be at home or with friends.
Communicate more. Summer is a great opportunity to spend more time talking to your kids, especially when the topic of school and grades isn’t at the forefront of conversation. Ask your kids what their dream summer would look like, identify an activity or special night (game night, pizza night, family “walk the dog” night, etc.) that your family can commit to once a week. More time together allows for more opportunities to converse, learn more about what’s going on in each other’s lives, and appreciate the people we so often take for granted. You don’t have to get fancy or expensive – keep it simple.
Enjoy quality time together. Think back to your summers as a kid. What made them special? Summer 2019 may look a little different but slowing down, sitting on the porch, playing in the sprinklers, and enjoying time together rarely gets old. It may not be a big vacation, but cherishing the simple moments often helps us feel more appreciative and experience more joy in the day-to-day. And on those vacations…try to take it easy and make it your goal to not feel as stressed this year. The kids might get sunburnt, the bathing suits might not get packed, the daily grocery store runs may never end, but come September we’ll all be wishing we were back at the beach together.
If we can slow down and appreciate the small things every day, Greenville might just be the best place to be in Summer 2019.
A recent study published by the University of Missouri’s Center for Body Image Research and Policy suggests that there may be a link between positive body image and frequency of children eating breakfast with their parents. The research found that eating breakfast more often throughout the week was associated with positive body image. The study also showed that kids were more likely to have a positive body image if they regularly ate breakfast with a parent.
What does eating breakfast with your kids have to do with their body-image? More research needs to be conducted to better answer that question, but I think there are clues as to why this association is present in recent research.
Taking time to sit down for a meal may seem like a lost art in our country. Considering the increase of households with two working parents on top of the full schedule of children who are not only engaged in the classroom, but in homework, sports, and other extracurricular opportunities as well, time runs short. Is this shift in time allotment worth skipping family meals? Research indicates that family dinners improve academic performance, self-esteem, resilience as well as decreases the likelihood of teen pregnancy, substance abuse, obesity, depression, and eating disorders. Gathering around the table for food and conversation has been a human tradition for thousands of years. When humans take time to prepare food, sit still, enjoy a meal, and share it with others, we participate in something that is holistically beneficial.
It’s okay to eat. When parents prioritize eating breakfast, they model for their kids that eating is normal and a good thing to build into one’s day. Parents that complain about their appearance and regularly participate in dieting behavior set a tone for the way their children learn how to consider personal appearance and relationship with food. When parents take time to sit down with their children to fuel their bodies for the day ahead, they are not only teaching their kids the value of slowing down and mindfully consuming food, but they are also setting an example of how to care for the body in little ways. Research indicates that eating disorders develop through a complex compilation of factors and that parents are not to blame. Nonetheless, parents can play an important role in creating a home environment that helps prevent eating disorder onset by helping their children foster positive self-esteem, eating competence, healthy coping skills, and healthy messages about the role of food in wellness.
Maybe gathering around the table for breakfast or dinner is not realistic every day for your family, but steps could help you and your family shift towards more meal times together? It is okay to start small and think big. The things that we give most priority to in life will further fill our schedules. Sitting down to a bowl of cereal in the morning might make a bigger impact on families than we realized.
Benefits of Family Dinners
The all-too-familiar sound of your alarm welcomes you into another day with its early morning wake-up call. Let’s not forget about fatigue. She loves to sneak in her two cents along with the alarm. You hit the alarm but resist the urge to do so aggressively because the latest iPhone was not cheap and the Lord knows you don’t want to take a trip to the Apple Store. You drag yourself downstairs to begin your morning routine, and let’s be real, usually it consists of dread, fatigue (I hope that first cup of coffee kicks in ASAP!), and a hint of rush. You get yourself out the door with the objective of not spilling your travel mug all over yourself while strapped down with your purse, laptop, gym bag, and car keys in hand. You snag a relatively good parking spot and again proceed to make it to your office without any spills, broken limbs, or body burn from carrying 3 bags on one arm. Let’s crush this day!
Who can relate? Life can feel like a whirlwind. Add kids into the mix and one can easily feel like their life is a never-ending effort to simply keep up.
Cultivating a heart of gratitude can be difficult in the midst of meeting the demands of reality and trying to find enough energy to get through each day. Personally, I realized that I did not enjoy beginning my morning feeling rushed, exhausted, and stressed. Fifteen years ago, I began spending 2 minutes every morning reflecting on things I was grateful for over the last 24 hours. I figured 2 minutes sounded sustainable, so that is where I began. That may not seem like enough time to make a difference, but over the course of 15 years, I’ve spent over 175 hours committed to cultivating gratitude. Those hours have helped me remember what matters most to me and to acknowledge rather than overlook the little things that I am thankful for. During some seasons of my life, I struggled to write. There were days when all I could come up with is “my dog, my home, an intact body.” Other days I felt like I could fill a whole page.
Research compiled in a 2014 Forbes article on gratitude found that the regular practice of gratitude improves mental and physical well-being. One noted study found that Vietnam War Veterans who had higher reported levels of gratitude had less stress and lower rates of PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder). Additionally, research shows that not only are those with higher rates of gratitude less susceptible to headaches and pain, they are also more likely to exercise, see the doctor, and take overall better care of themselves. To make an even stronger case, research participants with higher gratitude levels were more empathetic, less aggressive, and less likely to retaliate when given negative feedback.
Just google gratitude research and you can find a plethora of scholarly articles speaking to the value of practicing gratitude. Beyond just hearing “Research says I should…blah, blah, blah,” we seek to enhance our reader’s lives by providing relevant content and support to catalyze meaningful change. Whether it is planning for an extra 5 minutes before you head out the door for work or school to jot down a few grateful reflections or closing your day with a few minutes to journal before hitting the lights, starting somewhere may be all it takes to begin cultivating more gratitude in your life. Fifteen years later, I have seen this practice powerfully impact the way I experience difficulties in life and savor joys to be remembered.
Morin, A. (2014, November 23). 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that will motivate you to give thanks year-round. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/amymorin/2014/11/23/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude-that-will-motivate-you-to-give-thanks-year-round/#6c093bf0183c
“Have you gained weight?” I remember being 15 years old and hearing my father ask me this as I sat down my messenger bag full of that weekend’s homework assignments. I honestly do not even remember my response, but what I do remember is the pit that formed in my stomach and the internal thought, “It’s true, I really do look heavier,” that restlessly paced through my brain. My dear dad is not the meek and mild type. No, he shoots straight with his words in the same way he does with a rifle in his hands and his eye on the bullseye. He had no intention of making me feel insecure but, after all, I was his only girl smashed between two boys and he was learning as he went. As a competitive high school cross country and track athlete, I was mortified by the changes in my body. To me they meant slower times and a deviation from what I thought my body needed to look like to be successful as an athlete. I had no idea what was happening to my body and it seemed my dad didn’t have a clue either. It felt like things would never get better.
Female adolescent development can be a breeding ground for body image issues and disordered eating. I think it is easy to overlook the significant changes that the body experiences. Think about a puppy. Watching a puppy grow taller and stronger into mature form is amazing. So much changes in such a short amount of time that friends and family can’t help but remark, “You have gotten so big! What a good dog!” When a young girl begins to change into a woman, the internal and external feedback is usually less positive and often uncomfortable.
There is no set script for what to expect during adolescence. The timing of development, body changes, mood swings, and onset of the menstrual cycle can look a little different for each child. In healthy development, we understand these changes will occur, but the timing and extent of change is left relatively uncertain. Here are a few ways that you can help support your daughter during this stage of her life.
- Remind her it is healthy and normal. Development changes are a good sign! It means the body is doing exactly what it was designed to do, even though the changes seem overwhelming and uncomfortable at times. Reminding your daughter that she will reach a place where she feels comfortable and adjusted to her body changes will encourage her of the fact that this stage will not last forever.
- Remind her that the female body can become stronger, faster, and more powerful through the early 30s. It would have been so nice to understand this at 15. Take a survey of the ages of some of the most competitive female Olympic athletes and you will find that many of them are in their mid 20s through 30s. Encourage your child that with adequate sleep and nutrition, their body will be better yet on the other side of adolescence.
- Remind her that the heart and integrity of a person can always be made stronger all throughout life, but the body will change through the lifespan and its capabilities will shift with age. There is no shortage of opportunities for comparison. It is all too easy to get sucked into chasing after a perceived physical ideal as a means to increase self-confidence. Parents should 100% support the development of healthy self-care habits in their teens while also affirming the ways they show integrity, character, and hard work. The young woman who feels insecure about her body needs to hear that her value as a person is much deeper than her physical appearance.
- Don’t panic. Weight gain during adolescence happens. Like my dad, sometimes parents are not sure where the line is between the normal body development changes and unhealthy weight gain. If you are concerned that your child is not adjusting as well due to a lack of physical activity or unhealthy eating, consider how to increase healthy habits for the whole family, rather than focusing on body size. Go on family hikes, support your child in trying a new sport of interest or hobby involving physical activity, and seek to fill your pantry and refrigerator with healthy options for everyone to try. Make nutritious, balanced meals, invite your kids to have input in healthy meal ideas they would like to try, limit screen time, and, if you have a dog, encourage the kids to take turns walking the pet each day. Emphasize the value of exercise and proper nutrition for overall health, improved sleep, energy supply, improved mood, and long-term health. Healthy comes in many sizes. If healthy behaviors are present and no other medical concerns exist, your child is on the right path!
My dad didn’t always say the right thing, but he also praised me for my strength, my will to go after any goal I set my mind to. He praised my desire to work hard and be disciplined. Many of those messages I heard from him helped me to push through adversity because I knew he believed I was tough enough to get to the other side.
As a parent, you do not have to be perfect to raise a confident daughter, but there is always room to get a little better. Supporting your daughter through adolescence means reminding her that her value and beauty is more than skin deep. It never hurts to invite your child to talk about what they are experiencing. Listen well and remind her that while developmental discomfort is normal, it isn’t easy. Affirm the character traits you see in your child that are positive. The internal world creates the scene for what becomes our external experience. Last, acknowledge your own perceptions about body size and consider how those perceptions may be shaping your expectations for your child. Growing up in a house full of athletes, my parent’s view of “healthy” was largely shaped by their lens of being highly competitive athletes themselves. While the apple often doesn’t fall far from the tree, seek to let your encouragement of healthy habits be greater than your encouragement of obtaining a certain weight or shape.
Social media and the Internet are discussed, utilized, and examined by most children, teens, and adults on a daily basis. According to the Pew Research Center (2015), 92% of teens go online daily and 71% of teens use more than one social media or networking site. Studies also show that girls spend more time on social media sites, whereas boys spend more time playing video games. It is important to note that smart phones allow children and teens easy and almost instant access to the Internet and social media sites. Many grandparents, parents, and guardians are active on social media, whereas others know very little about different apps, websites, and associated terminology. There are many steps parents can take to help increase their child’s safety online. Researchers suggest parents start by talking to their children about social media.
Some important points for parents to make include:
- Not everything you see or read online is true
- Only accept friend or follower requests from people you actually know
- People may not be who they say they are
- Once you put something online it can never be permanently erased
- Be kind – cyberbullying does exist
- Think before you post – talk about consequences of potential actions
- Parents have the right to look at their child or teen’s social media site
- Limit what you share
Parents should also develop a list of clear, concise rules, boundaries, and expectations for their child on the Internet. These rules might include not posting anything the child wouldn’t want his or her parent to see or read, or the parent having the right to look at the child’s page or app on a regular basis. As previously mentioned, because many children and teenagers have smart phones, accessing social media sites can be done almost anywhere. If kids do not have cell phones and there is a computer in the home, parents should put the computer in a common area where they can monitor the child’s activity. Parents are also encouraged to structure the time their child spends on the Internet. This may vary based on the child or teenager’s age, but having specific times designated for phone or Internet use can improve productivity, increase communication in the home, and improve relationships and quality time spent as a family. Parents can also use phone time as a reward for positive behavior choices or completion of desired tasks. Bedtime should be a “no phone time”, when phones are placed in a common area to be charged or turned off. Sleep is crucial for children and teens, and social media can decrease the quality and amount of sleep if technology is not monitored.
Though it may be challenging, it is important for parents to model the behaviors they desire for their children. If mom or dad is on the phone at the dinner table, the child will likely not understand why his or her phone has to remain elsewhere. Children and teens imitate their parents’ behaviors. Parents may want to create an account, profile, or page on different social media sites so they can better understand the apps their children are spending time on and monitor their activity. Some of the most common apps are Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Vine and Kik. Some apps allow the user to remain anonymous which often leads to cyberbullying and cruel words being exchanged and posted. Parents should be aware of this and talk to their child or teen about the implications of this feature. Additionally, on some sites, users can choose who is able to see what information; therefore, a child could be friends with a parent on Facebook but not allow the parent to see certain information or material.
Having an open, honest relationship and communication with your child is the best way to ensure that you know what sites or apps he or she is on and how he or she uses them. Some teenagers post about their current struggles on social media hoping for feedback from peers and strangers. If parents are on social media and know what’s going on with their child, they can initiate healthy conversations or get their child professional help if needed. Some teens turn to social media in search of friends. Meeting and communicating with friends online can make a child or teen feel wanted or important. Unfortunately, the child’s social skills, which are imperative for healthy functioning, are not addressed or improved upon. Encourage kids and teens to talk about and face their problems rather than Facebook them.
The following links provide helpful information for parents, children, and teens regarding ways to adjust privacy settings so that strangers cannot view you or your child’s social media profile or page:
Privacy Settings on Facebook
Modify Privacy Settings on Twitter
Control Visibility on Instagram
Make Your Tumblr Private
AdjustYourPrivacy.com for a comprehensive site where you can update all your accounts (safesearchkids.com)
There is also filtering and monitoring software and parental controls which parents can use to increase Internet safety.
Practice makes perfect … well, maybe not quite perfect, but it sure helps! You wouldn’t send your child into a soccer game, tennis match, or ballet recital without first learning the skills of the game or rehearsing the part. Similarly, it is important to remember not to expect a child knows how to behave appropriately or use calm (not fearful) behavior for new or difficult situations, especially those that he or she has not encountered before or not previously performed well in.
The solution: Practice! One of the best ways to reduce negative or unwanted behaviors is to role-play or practice appropriate behaviors in advance when the situation is less threatening. Prior to actually attempting the real situation, “practicing” getting into a car seat, saying hello to a neighbor, riding in a grocery cart, eating in a restaurant, demonstrating good sportsmanship in a game, or even making a mistake can give a child a script for what is supposed to happen and how to react. This can in turn build confidence.
Practice can also be fun and creative and feel more like a game than a requirement. The key is that it occurs before the actual situation and the child knows that it is happening; therefore, pressure for performance is reduced. An incentive may also be a good idea (based on participation and appropriate behavior) to make practices more enticing. So the next time that something feels difficult or does not go as planned, take the pressure off and practice first, before you play.