Tag Archives: Recreation

Helping Your Kids Open Up

When’s the last time one of your children came to you for a real heart-to-heart chat? Has it been over a year since you’ve held your sides with giggles while doing something silly together? Do you feel like you are constantly battling video games, cell phones and the Internet in order to get a one-sentence response—let alone a conversation—with your kids? In this fast-paced, over-scheduled world, months can go by without real conversation and that’s too much for my liking. I’ve thought about the times when I’ve really connected with my kids to recall what triggered our closeness. And since no two kids are a like, I’ve reached out to experts as well for more ideas. Here are the top tactics that may help you bridge the communication gap and get your kids talking.

  • Get Active:
    Experts agree kids chat more with you while busy doing a physical activity together. I learned this when I was a camp counselor one summer break from college. Campers between the ages of six and 17 stayed the entire summer at this camp in the Pocono’s that catered to Manhattanites.  My job was to take each child out in a canoe, teach them the basic strokes, and later take small groups on trips. I was amazed at how the children, from the youngest to the oldest, would open up after 10 minutes or so of hard work in the canoe—especially the boys. The repetitive motions in the sun and fresh air, seemed to get even the shy kids babbling about friends, parents, school, pets, etc. I was overwhelmed with the sadness of some of the stories: a daughter raised by a slew of nannies; a son whose dad left when he was a baby; an eleven-year-old girl terrified her mom wouldn’t visit unless she landed the leading role of the camp play. …It goes on and on. I would listen and correct their J and C strokes. By the end of the summer, I was convinced that the best therapy in the world occurred while canoeing, hiking, running, or just walking with someone you trust. Even if you have a demanding work schedule, mini hikes on weekends or even walking into town for an ice cream, can inspire meaningful conversation or simple fun.
  • Family Dinner:
    Doing research for my article “How the Family Dinner Can Help Your Teen”, I discovered a survey conducted by Columbia University’s National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse that found teenagers who eat with their families at least five times a week are more likely to get better grades in school and less likely to have substance abuse problems.Today, only about half of American teenagers say they have regular family dinners and the survey suggests that family time may be more important to children than many parents realize—even more important than a host of extra-curricular activities.Will Courtenay, Ph.D, psychotherapist in Oakland, Calif., father of two, and author of Dying to Be Men agrees family dinners work—but only if limits are imposed. “Family dinner is great—and research shows they’re beneficial for kids—but these benefits are lost if your daughter or son is texting at the table or engrossed in tunes streaming through their earbuds. It’s important for kids to learn that dinner time is a time to communicate with others at the table and to share stories of the day.” (I’d add that some parents are just as bad. Make sure the television is turned off before sitting down at the table!)
  • Family Game Night: (And, YES, this is possible for us single parents, too!)
    This may seem corny for some, especially teens, but give it a go anyway. Experts say it works if you incorporate your kids’ interests. So if your children hate scrabble or charades, don’t impose that on them.“It’s all about finding out what they like to do. What are their interests? And what is their temperament?,” points out Rona Renner, R.N., a parent educator, mom of four, and founder and host of Childhood Matters Radio Show. As an example, Renner says she purchased a ping pong table when one of her sons was 13-years-old and put it in the living room.“We just needed something to do together that we both enjoyed. When he turned 13 and entered junior high, it felt like overnight we just had nothing in common,” she reflects. The times playing ping pong were “precious” as it helped them reconnect and just have some fun.
  • Volunteer at School:
    I know this is a hard one for some. It may not be feasible to volunteer often at your children’s schools. But, if possible, find out all the different events and activities with parent involvement and sign up for one. Even if you’re only able to take off one day of work and spend one day being a chaperone on a school trip, you’ll get a chance to see your child’s friends and meet more parents. Dipping into your kids’ worlds at school opens up a host of things to talk about.
  • Sleep Talk Therapy:
    Can’t squeeze in quality time during the day? Try it at night! That’s right. Sleep talk therapy is becoming recognized by experts as a way to reinforce your love and encouragement to your children. Believe it or not, it works! A child hears differently in a sleep state and once you introduce yourself as his/her parent, your child rises into an alpha state of sleep where he can hear you, but doesn’t wake up. Please read my article “Connect With Your Children While They Sleep” to see how it works in detail.
  • Limiting “Kids’ Exit Strategies”:
    I call these the zone-out toys. For my oldest son it’s video games—but for others it can be online chat, Facebook, texting, Nintendo, TVs and computers in bedrooms or other solitary activities that keep kids away, silent and in their own worlds. Put limits on these and offer up fun activities to do together when possible and see what happens.
  • Family Pet:
    If you have the space and finances, a family pet, like a dog who needs to be walked every day, is a great way to bring unconditional love, silliness (and activity) into the family. Courtenay said one of his clients tried this strategy with great results: “A mom who was struggling with getting her adolescent son to open up, recently told me she decided to get a puppy—which she knew her son would like. The two have since been able to connect more deeply with each other, as they both care for their new addition to the family.”
  • Stay Present and Patient:
    It’s hard to connect to a parent who has his laptop on his knees at all times. So try to leave your work behind when you’re home and hanging out with your family. Experts say carving out family time—even if just for an hour in the evening—sends the message to kids that they are important. And if your teens (especially boys) barely notice, Courtenay says to have patience.
    “Patience is also important. A man I work with just today talked about how grateful he was to his mother for giving him time to “warm up.” Driving home from school, he’d be silent for what seemed like an endless amount of time—which she wouldn’t interrupt—and then finally, he’d be ready to open up to her.” The morale to that story is not to nag or push. Sometimes becoming a friend (even to your children) takes being a friend. Lighten up, listen and take the time to get to know one another.

Another article for inspiration: Stay Connected: Family Fun That Doesn’t Cost a Fortune.

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Waiting to Re-Emerge

Photo by Miroslav Petrasko

I’ve been under the weather, so has my oldest for weeks. Also slammed with deadlines and an inability to completely get through some fears that linger. (Two steps forward, one back.) I will start my project soon and continue with this blog, regardless of pressure to stop. In a way, I’m waiting to truly emerge again after events from the New Year. There is so little we can control in life, except the way we live. It reminds me of a Jackson Browne line: “Nothing Survives, but the Way We Live Our Lives.”

Anyway, this week I’m feeling down and a bit defeated by things out of my control. I’ll have to not let them hold me back permanently. The year started out so amazing, however. I spent New Years week on a cruise watching a man emerge into grace. (Emerge seems to be my word for the evening, bare with me.) I watched him take care of his father who took a dramatic turn for the worse. With humor and compassion, he took such amazing around-the-clock care of his father without one word of complaint. I don’t know if I could be as strong or as graceful in the same circumstances. And, by the end of the cruise, his adorable father was much better. But even at his worst, the 80-year-old man had me laughing and wishing I could be so much fun to be around when I felt like crap. It was a reminder to me of what is important. I’ve had so many reminders in my life so far, that I wonder why I seem to keep needing them? And while I’ve been pondering so many of life’s lessons, I guess right now I’m focussed on one: sometimes, protecting those we love, or ourselves, takes a bit of courage. So, in a muddled hour tonight, as I wrestle with sinus headache, heartache, and so many thoughts, I ran across this old post from a fellow blogger:

“when I decided to give up what I thought was right for me and truly let go of the sadness in the past, did things come together for me. I have read many books about “letting go” of the things that have hurt us and focus on present circumstances-quite frankly I thought this was a bunch of made up feel good nonsense. But it was only when I stopped holding on and gave up feeling rotten, opened up my mind and heart, did things really start to happen for me”

I couldn’t agree with her more. (Read her post She Never Saw It Coming.)

My problem isn’t that of letting go of the past and moving forward—but just in the confidence necessary to keep moving forward regardless of where that leads. I’ll just add the caveat that focussing on present circumstances can only be helpful if those circumstances aren’t mired with toxic distractions so you can go where you need to go. Phew, too heavy, right? I’m taking a short time out, or a breather, to listen, watch, gain a bit of strength and re-emerge.

Good night all. I’ll be back in better form soon. x

Harnessing Fear in the New Year

“Normal fear protects us; abnormal fear paralyses us. Normal fear motivates us to improve our individual and collective welfare; abnormal fear constantly poisons and distorts our inner lives. Our problem is not to be rid of fear but, rather to harness and master it.” Martin Luther King Jr.


Happy New Year!! As you can likely tell, I’m slowly inching into this new year. I’m just getting to my first post and I’m excited to say that gifts are being mailed out to the NavigatingVita contest winners next week!!

This first month of 2012 has been filled with many surprises so far. Not all good, but I’m learning a lot about myself and others. I wanted to write this first post of the year about Fear and its power to paralyze and keep us from being present and living the lives we are meant to lead. It’s not a coincidence that so many women going through divorce vent via support groups or with friends about receiving threatening texts and phone calls from Exs over a myriad of issues with control at the heart of each. Being able to rise above the noise, determine whether or not it is a real threat, and then harness your fear, is a liberating endeavor. I, by no means, have any answers, but I think for most of our issues  we, intuitively are our best guides. Blocking out the noise of chatter; stopping our minds from obsessing on all the what ifs; and avoiding talk with friends who may plunge you further in fear; are all good ideas.

Sometimes it’s hard to know when fear is really merited, isn’t it? I’m currently dealing with a disturbing event. Although I can’t discuss it at the moment, I can discuss how I’m mentally dealing with the fear. I’ve found a spiritual counselor and with meditation I’m learning to listen to my inner voice. I’m avoiding chatting with too many people about it as their ‘advice’ could spiral me further into fear. And even though there are wrongs that my ego would like to right, I’m learning to let it go. Sometimes the best reaction to a volley, is to let the ball bounce off the court and to move on. It’s been two and a half years, I’m tired of volleying.

For the record, as I move into my next phase, I just want to reiterate that NavigatingVita is a place of inspiration for myself and other single or divorcing parents. My goal is to find ways for us to explore our daily struggles and the important issues of our lives—while striving to remain positive and to focus on moving forward in a loving way.

I know a lot of you who are going through divorce may have become paralyzed at one point or another by the fear that I’ve discussed. Focussing on all the fearful issues will only keep them in front of you and you’ll chase them like a dog chases his tail round and round. Plus, it plunges you into a victim role.

Because again, the more you focus on it, the worse it gets. The better focus is on ourselves. Of course, if you’re battling real issues with abuse or neglect, harness the fear and deal with it calmly with your attorney. But for the most of us, we need to take a time out, and focus on ourselves.

I hope you’re motivated to take that time out with me. This new year is going to be a great one for us all!

Lots of love,

Laura