Family Dialysis – 2 Tips To Have a Better Week With Your Kids

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“Emotionally Stable”    Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

It used to be that you had to have some gray hairs on you before you felt this “rock and a hard place” feeling.  But just in case you didn’t know, this is how our typical middle schoolers are living each day.  Our young 11-13 year olds are leaving the house feeling pretty “fresh” and then somewhere between math and recess and the bus loop they look like they are hanging on by a thread.  This is in the best and worst of neighborhoods.  It has less to do with family income, status or zip code than it ever did, even though that seems to matter more than ever.  In reality it has to do with what we as moms and dads do to debrief, cleanse and reboot with our tribe everyday.

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Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

Earlier in the year I started a Periscope® broadcast called “The Friday Night Family Scope”.   My mission was to bring families closer together in a positive way.  For many of us the weekends need to be a time of family dialysis.  We need to get inside the blood of our kids and remove the toxins.  If we don’t go into the shadows and knock on their doors, ask the right questions and find out what they are focused on, we can’t provide help.

But if your kids are anything like mine, you know that you can’t wait for Friday to make this happen.  How can we motivate and energize our kids more frequently?  How can we get inside their lives and stay in there, especially if they are moving into young adulthood?  Can a few minutes a couple of nights a week make a difference?  Yes!  We are more than chauffeurs, ATMs and short order cooks.   We do more than feed and clothe.  We do even more than teach and keep them safe.  In just a few minutes devoted parents can do pivotal things.    We help our children thrive in a scary world.  And we gotta jump in and do a little very day.  

2 Quick & Easy Tips:

  •  Listen More Than You Lecture.  If you are guilty of this, raise your hand.  Come on!  Raise it up right at your desk or in your kitchen or at the gym.  I know you are out there.  Join us.  My hand is raised too!  One is markedly easy.  The other is definitely hard.  But if you can get a tween or teen to talk to you, even if what they are saying is making you want to scream at the top of your lungs, try to listen.  Yes, sometimes the story seems like a web that is wrapped upon itself and you want to jump in and untangle it.  I know…I’ve been there…in fact, I visited that familiar destination earlier today.  In the midst though, it hit me that I needed to assign dignity to this young adult that is so much like…well, me!  And a lecture wasn’t going to cut it.  What about you?  Can you use your ears first this week?
  • Let Acknowledgement Be Your First Words.  I keep thinking that after I speak I love to know that someone was actually listening to me.  The same is true for our kids; listening is only half the battle.  The other half is letting them know that we heard  them.  Extract something to show that you acknowledge they have been willing to share.  “I know what you mean”, doesn’t carry as much weight as “Man,  that sounds awful!  I’m sorry that you had to face that.” (Or whatever similar matches your tribe).  It’s not easy for our kids to open up.  If they do, don’t waste the opportunity.  Acknowledge them, their feelings and what they have to say.  It’s worth it.
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Photo by Max Conrad on Unsplash

So many of our precious kids are at pressure’s edge.  The waves keep coming and they are aren’t dressed for swimming.   If we are going to make a difference we are going to have to dive in deep.

To encourage my readers and add value to the family, I’m introducing a monthly blog series called:  Family Dialysis.  The goal will be to chat about ways to get closer as a family and ensure that parents are the major influencers to a positive future.  Let me know what you’d like to see.  I’m excited to share with you!

Chatone Morrison ©2017

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A Bit of 10-year-old Self Discovery

fullsizerenderAfter school unwind with my little man. He normally runs in with a bunch of boyish banter. But yesterday he went straight to his room without saying hello. Spells trouble. Color change? (It’s a Maryland thing). Reflection form?  Lost glasses?  What??  Nope. Nope. And nope. He was dealing with emotions and developing identity.

I did what Mom’s do. Started asking questions.  Expecting to hear about  recess basketball, the math quiz, the virtues of jazz band and the like.   I was on high alert when his answers were despondent and distant. Five minutes of questioning and probing (which seems short, but honestly is not) and the reluctant answers began to flow.

It began in PE, because little girl classmate, we will call “Anna” has not yet mastered  a spiral when throwing a football. She tried for half the class. The teacher was patient. Allowed her to keep trying. Ignoring everything around him, that doesn’t include him is his  specialty, but something new came up.  When several boys laughed and called Anna out of her name; when he saw that her feelings might be getting hurt, the boy we have been pouring into and trying to raise well showed up.

First he thought he could stop them.  Just talk them out of it. No chance.  He saw on a basic level the P’s of evil: Persuasive and Pervasive.  It seeks its way into the fabric of people and moves on through the room and it’s really hard to trace the beginning or find the end.  He tried to get them to stop.   The teacher was not responding and he felt like he had to do something.  It didn’t even dawn on him that his actions, standing up for someone else like that might at best create alienation, or at worst be dangerous; my child has been threatened before.  But it didn’t matter to him, he said he was just angry about it.  And he wanted to do something which he did…because  when he couldn’t make a direct difference, his backdoor ruckus caused the teacher to take notice.

Don’t get me wrong, I love teachers. Educators rock.  They stay in a difficult job that is extremely demanding and often bears a dividend so far down the line it’s not realized until years later. I imagine that can work against your positive energy.  Especially when have a gym full of 5th graders.  (Sigh)

Identity peaked when Ms. “Gym” saw what was happening; due to the ruckus.
“Everyone sit down!  Who laughed at “Anna” and made fun of her?!  Step up right now!  We are not having any of that in my class!”  (Silence and Levi tilting his head in the direction of his otherwise friends, trying to get them to be honest about it.)   Not a chance.

This continued until the threats began.  Ms. “Gym” announced that all balls would be taken if someone didn’t come forward.  In other words, all would suffer for the few. That struck his compassion bone, the one I didn’t know was yet growing…he couldn’t take it anymore.  He stood up and walked over to put his ball away.  Now here in the story I really felt my patience wearing thin.  Was this super cute and respectful kid telling me that he really was the one making fun and laughing at “Anna”?  I would like to say that I hadn’t accused him of that…but alas, even those of us who wear crowns fall off the throne one or twice a day!

His answer was so simple. “No, mom.  I didn’t want everyone to lose out.  It wasn’t fair.  So I thought if I said it was me, at least all of them would be able to keep playing. Seriously mom – I don’t like when things are not fair.  Then she accused me of lying.  And I had to admit that I was just trying to save the class.  And then I got in trouble for lying!  You can’t win!”

Again…my left eye of scrutiny didn’t want to buy this story.  My truth and pride radar were in conflict.  But in the end, being able to slow down with him, I realized that it was all true.  There had been a collision of his emotions and who he wants to be in life.  A problem solver, lover of justice and purveyor of good.  The presentation needs work for sure…but pretty cool I think. The things you learn when you slow down and let your little people talk.

The ending?  I asked the question that I sometimes forget to ask.  What would make you feel better son?  The answer was the best part of my week so far:

Remember when you used to help me sleep by rubbing my eyelashes.  Will you do that right now?

Needless to say – we laid together on the couch for a while, whispering and giggling and relaxing, then I took these pictures.  It was the most intimate of dates with my boy.  We both left better than we came.  And I think that’s pretty cool.

Go Forth and Parent in Positivity!

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Chatone Morrison – 11/18/2016

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