Vacation Destinations: Disney World, Branson, the Grand Canyon, Europe, the Bahamas, the Lake of the Ozarks, St. Louis
These are a small sample of places people go on vacations. My family has been to some of them and hope to go to more some day. Vacation is a priority for us. My husband and I value it and include saving for it in our monthly budget. To us, vacation offers us a chance to have quality family time and experience new things. On trips, we try to do activities that hit everyone's interests. We also split up at times and offer some one-on-one time with each kid. Of course, that is not always possible but for the most part we can accomplish it.
I imagine, at times, our travelling may seem excessive but I haven't regretted a trip yet. (Although catch me in a moment of meltdown by someone during the trip and I may answer differently, it's not roses and sunshine the whole trip;). The months leading up to vacations typically involve lots of planning. This is fun for me and another way to connect. I like to discuss with my family the different plans and options available.
I understand that I am lucky to be able to regularly vacation. I know many who are not able to do so. I also know many don't value vacations. I encourage everyone to try though. Even if it is just a long weekend together, the family time is invaluable. There are lots of ways to make it affordable (Groupon and Orbitz time websites) and making some small changes to spending can make a big difference. My kids do extra chores for us, other family members, and neighbors we know in order to have spending money for trips (even my six year old). We also ask for gift cards for the holidays to use on trips.
Some of my best memories of childhood are the trips I took with my family. We didn't usually have a ton of money but my family made it work. It was worth it!
It's A Wonderful Life
"I wish I'd never been born."
This is a quote from George Bailey in the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." In saying that, his guardian angel decides to show him what life would be like for his friends, family, and others if George had never been born. I attempt to discuss this movie with many clients because of it's message. I'm shocked by how many young people have never seen this movie. Maybe this is because it is one of my mom's favorites so I've seen it a lot, but also because I know it has been parodied frequently.
I bring it up with clients because I want them to understand what an impact they can have on the world. I hear too often that no one would miss them if they were gone (and then they say maybe only their parents) and that they (the client) don't matter. I point out that just like a drop of rain in a river spreads out and effects more then we know, they too have an impact. We explored what impact they may have already made and what kind of impact they hope to make.
The movie usually airs during the holiday season. Check in out and discuss with your kids how they think things would be different if they had never been born. Help them connect how they matter and want they want to do in this world.
Image Source: Everett Collection
← USE ARROWS KEYS →
Image Source: Everett Collection
← USE ARROWS KEYS →
Image Source: Everett Collection
"Time to Clean up"
If you have kids, you've said this. If you are lucky, your kids start cleaning up right away. If your kids are like mine, most of the time this is not immediately done. Heck, half the time my kids don't even "hear" me. One of my closest friends recently told me about the toy jail she has at her house and how it has been helping with clean up.
Here's how it works: The kids are asked to clean up their toys. After some time, she asks the kids if they are done. If they say yes, she reminds them that anything still out will go into toy jail. Often this results in the kids taking another run around the house to pick up last minute toys they missed. Once done, my friend then checks the house. Anything left goes in toy jail. Any toys that end up in jail remain there until a chore (assigned by the parent) is completed. If a toy remains in toy jail for too long, it is donated (the length of time depends on what works for your family).
I loved this idea! It has really been helping her with less push for clean up.
Let me know if you try it out
The picture is an example of a PostSecret posted at www.postsecret.com. I have spent time every Sunday over the last twelve years going to that website.
It is an amazing experience! I also own numerous PostSecret books.
Frank Warren created PostSecret in 2005. Anyone can send in an anonymous homemade postcard with a secret on it. Frank then picks from the ones he receives and posts them on the website, puts them in his books, or displays them at exhibits he does all around the country.
The postcards encompass a wide range of feelings and secrets. Some will make you tear up and some will make you laugh. Throughout the years, I've read many that I could have written. Some I've even wondered if a friend or family member has written. That is what makes the experience so amazing. It shows us we are all connected. There is a stranger somewhere who has felt what we felt and dealt with something similar to us.
I encourage you to check out the site and maybe even send in a secret.
I recently saved the from a post on Facebook. I had been wanting to write about that very topic for some time. Too many times a week I hear clients dismiss their feelings because "someone else has it worse." The fact is, yes, that is often true but that does not lessen the feelings of pain, sadness, etc. that my client is experiencing.
We are allowed to feel whatever we are feeling regardless if someone else is suffering more. How we respond and react to those feelings is under our control but our feelings are never wrong.
Sometimes I am sad or mad and I can think of many examples of people who have it worse, but that doesn't mean my feelings are not valid. I am often happy and in a good mood but never think "well someone else has it better than me right now so I shouldn't be happy." So why do we do that with sadness and pain.
It can be powerful to respond to sadness by looking for why we are grateful. Not because we are wrong to feel sad or need to get over it, but because it can make us feel better. And yet, it is also okay to sit with the sadness for some time. As long as we are not hurting ourselves or others, we can survive uncomfortable feelings.
Over the last year I've noticed an increase in the amount of labels in teens and people in their twenties. Often when I think of someone being labeled, it is a bad thing. With the terms I have been hearing, that is not the case. As many of the terms are newer (and some I had to ask what they meant), I thought I would share some of the more common ones. I obtained the definitions from Urban Dictionary.
cisgender- someone whose gender corresponds to their assigned sex. Example: Cisgender male. Born male, identifies as male.
pansexual- a person who is sexually interested in other people regardless of gender, identity, or chromosomes.
demiromantic- someone who only feels romantic attraction after having an emotional connection.
demisexual- someone who only feels sexual attraction after having an emotional connection.
panromantic- a person that is attracted to all genders romantically but not sexually.
deadname- the birth name given to someone who has changed their name, frequently used for trans people's birth name.
I find it interesting that new labels are being created. I asked a few clients why they felt that was and the answers they gave lead me to believe that labels are already being thrown around, so why not own them and make them accurate.
Here are two websites that have a lot more terms and definitions:
Don't be afraid to ask if someone identifies with a term you are not familiar with. It is a great way to learn!
These August memes pretty much sum up what I have been feeling this past week. I can't believe summer vacation days are winding down and another school year is about to start. My husband is an 8th grade teacher, so he has had to already start back with teacher meetings and next week my kids will start back.
In many of my sessions with clients, we have been discussing the upcoming school year. The majority report similar feelings-nervousness and excitement. Students look forward to seeing many friends again, having activities start back up, and getting out of the house. They dread early mornings, lots of homework, pressure, and feeling judged. In looking back on my school days, I also felt similar emotions, but not to the extent many feel now.
I typically only work with ages ten and up, but, across the ages, the feeling of being judged is very high! Many schools state zero tolerance for bullying but the bullies are smart and it regularly happens. Also, students feel judged even when that is not there peers' intentions. Due to social media, we invite ourselves to be judged even more than in the past although if we don't have it, we are judged in a different way.
I want to challenge everyone this year to talk to their kids about if they feel judged and if they are judging others. What type of comments affect them? Do they pay attention to how their comments affect others? What are non verbal signs that their comments affected others negatively? Are we sharing positives and complimenting others when appropriate? The majority of people like to hear good things about themselves, so we should share those freely. If we do provide a negative comment, what purpose is it for? Constructive criticism to help someone grow and learn is good, calling out others to boost ourselves up is not. If you are reading this and thinking, surely my kid is not judging others, you may be surprised. We do it often as adults too. We need to give some extra attention to our actions/words and their impacts.
"Make sure you are being safe", a dad says to his teen son.
"What's your body count?" one teens asks another.
"He wanted to have sex but I didn't so I gave him a bj", a teen tells her best friend.
The first comment seems appropriate. It is good for a parent to talk to their teens about sex safe practices. But that should not be the only conversation parents should be having. We also need to talk to our teens about respect, consent, and values. I know there are many different views and values regarding sex but not having a conversation with our kids at all is hurting them. We need to be talking to our teens about the emotional effects of sex.
I recently learned that the second and third comments are happening and more often than we think. More and more teens are taking pride in their "body count." For those that may not feel ready for intercourse, they engage in other forms of sex thinking that they have to do something. Many teens do not feel oral sex (especially a female giving to a male) is a big deal. No one can become pregnant, so why not. I know that in high school health class, teens are informed of some of the dangers of oral sex but a class lecture one time is not enough.
I encourage parents to talk to their tweens and teens about all forms of sex. Talk to them about what they hope for them, how they feel sex impacts a relationship, and how to handle themselves if they are not ready or their partner is not ready.
I had this conversation with my sixth grader on a very basic level that was appropriate for her age. As she ages, I will have additional conversations with more detail and depth. She already knows, though, my values. I hope she waits until she is married but, at the least, until she is in love (and obviously that no form of sex is okay at her age). It is okay if those are not your values, I'm not trying to push my values on you. But you must take time to think about your values and what you want for your children. If we don't share this with our children, they seek guidance elsewhere.
I'm not foolish enough to believe that talking to our kids about our values will mean there will be no more talk of body count and no more hook-ups. I do think, though, that it will help many teens find a better path.
I recently watched the second season of 13 Reasons Why. There was a scene where one of the characters was talking to his mom telling her that he has felt suicidal at times. She not only dismissed those feelings, but told him that he would have no reason to feel that way. She told him he was a "good boy."
The scene really spoke to me because I know it happens frequently. Loving, caring parents dismiss their children's feelings because they (the parents) can not handle them or understand them. They think only "troubled" youth (whatever that means) could possibly feel that way. They are scared of what it might mean if their child really has suicidal thoughts.
I also have had many parents in the past tell me that the youth is just saying it for attention. Maybe, but then shouldn't we give the kid attention before it becomes worse. This attention does not have to be in the form of extra privileges, gifts, etc but a youth expressing suicidal ideation (SI) needs our attention.
There are other scenes in the TV show where a youth expresses their feelings and the parent in one way or another tells them they are being dramatic. Again, maybe, but telling them that does not change how the youth feels. It does, however, increases the chances that the kid will share less with them.
As parents and caring adults, we need to listen and validate our kid's feelings. Validating does not mean we agree or even understand why they are feelings that way. It means we are showing our kids that we understand they are having strong emotions and can identify what those emotions are. For example, your sixteen year old son tells you he is really feeling depressed after a fight with his girlfriend and that life will always suck. Validate his feelings by saying something like "it sounds like you are really upset and sad over the fight. it is hard to fight with those we care about. Do you want to talk more about it?" If you don't have time in that moment to give your full attention, set up a time and make it a priority.
Just because something seems like a small deal to us, does not make it feel small to our children. Think about a time you were really upset and someone dismissed those feelings. How did that make you feel?
If your kid is having feelings that seem to much to handle or is expressing SI, seek out help. For SI, ask your child if they have a plan. If they say yes, seek help immediately by calling BHR (800-811-4760) or taking them to the hospital.
I feel like I read a lot about our youth that is bad. They are often labeled as entitled, disrespectful, and dumb (I'm thinking eating Tide pods). I see a different side.
I facilitate a group for youth in eighth through twelfth grades, typically every other Thursday. I always leave the group impressed. The insight the young people show is impressive. We've covered topics such as peer pressure, consent, stigma of mental illness, school support, and even processed feelings after the Florida school shooting. These "kids" express a wide range of emotions and display deep thoughts on the topics. They also support one another and wish others (think adults) would too.
Of course, they discuss some things youth do that is disrespectful or dumb, but who isn't that way at some point. The cool thing is they are able to recognize that behavior as negative (even if it is their own) and gain ideas on how to change it from each other.
I am privileged to be a part of their conversations and share my "old" perspective on things.
I encourage everyone to take some time to talk and listen (really listen) to our youth. You might be surprised with what you hear and learn.
Stefanie F. Pisarkiewicz, LPC
Experience and information from a counselor and mother- sharing her two cents on children and teens.