I was recently on Charlotte Today to talk about gratitude, tweens, and how you can help instill it. Check out the video for some tips:
I was so excited to be mentioned by Carson Daly on the TODAY Show as part of their parenting team!
You can see the video here:
The summer sun is a beautiful thing, but channel it through a magnifying glass and it will start a fire.
Every May, since my kids were little, I have given some thought as to what will be my magnifying glass in the upcoming months. What is the thing, imperceptible at first, which over days turned to weeks of summer heat and togetherness, will cause me to combust?
As an author, public speaker, and founder of a summer camp program, I have a very flexible, yet very full-time, job. I am my own boss and sometimes my own worst enemy when it comes to procrastination. Things only get more interesting when summer rolls around and Take Your Kids To Work Day takes on a new meaning from June through August. “I’m bored”, “I’m hungry”, and “”When are you going to take a break?” are not great catalysts for productivity.
And so, since my kids were little, I’ve announced at the beginning of every summer, “This is the Summer Of _______” and filled in that blank with whatever I thought would keep me sane. My themes were never glamorous, or crafty, or clever. They sound downright boring and bordering on unworthy, actually. But they were about my survival more than my kids’ entertainment. When I thought I’d lose my mind over interruptions for snacks, I dubbed it The Summer of Serving Yourself. When my kids were into riding bikes around our neighborhood, I dubbed it The Summer of Safety and Independence. Each theme came with some pre-work for me to set the stage for their success and my sanity. For The Summer of Serving Yourself I made a list of healthy meals and snacks they could prepare for themselves and on Sundays, if something required cooking ahead – grilled chicken for nachos, for example – I prepped it for them. Then, when they automatically came to me every time they were hungry, I simply pointed them to the list. For The Summer of Safety and Independence I took them out to show them routes where they could ride their bikes, streets they could not yet cross, and made sure they knew the basic rules for safety as well as how to operate a lock.
From my perspective it was a sanity saver. From my kids’ perspective, I still had to make it fun. Before I announced the theme, I asked each kid to tell me one big thing they wanted to do before the summer ended. From riding go karts, to visiting a city a couple hours away, to theme parks, to parties, the kids have requested their own rewards for achieving success in the Summer Of _____. Over the years we’ve accumulated fun memories and valuable skills.
As my kids have gotten older, the “Summer Of _____” themes have evolved from basic life skills like making your own snacks and moving around the neighborhood without my help, to “icing on the cake” themes I thought they weren’t learning elsewhere but that I personally valued. Last summer, they had to memorize poetry. No surprise, my son said “No thank you” to that one. No big deal, he just didn’t earn that summer reward, and I took that as a sign the gig was up.
I hadn’t given any thought as to what this summer’s theme would be, when one morning at breakfast my son asked, “So, what’s it the Summer Of?” “Oh,” I replied, “We don’t have to do that anymore. That was just something we did when you were little.”
The look on my kids’ faces shocked me. “But it’s a tradition!” my daughter exclaimed. Looking to his sister for support (I love it when that happens) my son pleaded, “But we want to look back someday all the summer stuff we did!”
What a difference a year makes. I was reminded that sometimes parenting is less about the day-to-day wins and more about the long game. All the while I thought I was just surviving, I was starting a tradition. Though our summers may not have been full of the classic ingredients for summer adventure, it turns out they were surprisingly, traditionally, magical nonetheless.
Today on Charlotte Today, I spoke with Eugene and Colleen about surviving the summer with kids. Check out the video for some tips on how I make it work with my kids.
I had a monumental experience traveling to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, as a guest of AISM. Over three days, I spoke to staff, parents, and students. It took three flights totaling 21 hours of flying time with 18 hours as the longest leg. I’d never been so far from home and probably couldn’t go further without getting closer. In some ways the trip showed me that kids are the same everywhere. Middle schoolers certainly undergo the same brain, body and identity development regardless of their geography. But it’s not that simple.
The circumstances in which you grow up have a lot to do with how you behave, think and feel. The families at the American School represent countries from all over the world. They bring their own cultural experiences and expectations to their new community which makes things both rich and complex. Parents are largely diplomats or aid workers and as a result their kids are sometimes targeted in kidnappings. You can imagine how that impacts adolescent development, particularly the drive to take risks. Balance that with parents who legitimately fear for their kids’ safety and don’t have a community norm for decision making, and…it’s complicated.
The school is incredibly attentive. I sat in on a staff meeting in which the staff discussed each kid. EACH kid. For as long as necessary, a teacher would read a name, then the group talked academics, social life, family life, health and behavior for that individual. My kids each went to school there for a day and each reported back, “I could go to school here a million times over” and “I would die to go to school here.” Ah hyperbole, the love language of teens.
It was hard to leave after becoming attached to everyone I’d met but with any luck, there will be another epic journey in my future.
The following is an article written by the school after my visit. Thank you, AISM!
Last week AISM hosted guest speaker Michelle Icard. As per her bio at www.michelleinthemiddle.com , Michelle is a speaker, an author, and an educator who helps kids, parents and teachers navigate the tricky Middle School social world. Michelle was brought to campus to speak with Middle School students and parents about problem solving as a means to surviving Middle School. In the three days that Michelle was on campus she was able to speak to 150 students (Grades 6-9) during the school day, 45 Secondary School faculty during a professional development session, and over 60 parents during her informative and insightful parent evening on Tuesday 24 February.
During each session the audience was privy to learn how the brain of a Middle School student works and how this impacts their decision making, their ability to assess risk in behavior, and their inability to read emotional expressions on the faces of adults.
Parents and teachers may often find that when they appear concerned or caring that a Middle School student reacts contrarily to how they anticipated. Michelle emphasized that adults should try to maintain a neutral facial expression or “a Botox Brow” when a student or their child comes to them to talk about something that may have happened. By maintaining a neutral face, the Middle School student will feel less judged, attacked, or put on the spot by the adult and therefore be more willing to share. Michelle also coached the Middle School students themselves to take some ownership of the communication they have at home with their parents by asking how their parents are feeling when then tell them certain information. This is one of the best ways to insure positive and open communication between child and parent without the risk of the misinterpretation of emotional reactions.
What is AISM saying about Michelle’s visit?
- “It was really interesting learning how the emotional part of the brain takes over your brain as the new “manager” and takes risk without knowing if it’s a good risk or bad risk.” (Grade 6 student)
- “Michelle understood our point of view better than our parents. My parents went to the parent talk and are now using her techniques which have helped communication and my relationship with my parents. (Grade 8 student)
- “I could totally hear myself in what she was saying. I need the book!” (Middle School teacher)
- “Brilliant and practical tools to take home and implement immediately.” (Grade 5 parent)
- “What I took away was the “solve for the feeling” part of the problem solving plan. That just made so much sense” (High School teacher)
- “Wonderful insights into the mind of my Middle Schooler. Lots of food for thought.” (Grade 6 parent)
- “Kids have practical tools to understand what is happening to their social & mental development”. (Middle School teacher)
- “I tried the ‘Botox Brow’ technique on my 10 year old…quirky, effective and hilariously real.” (Grade 5 parent)
If you are interested in finding out more about Michelle Icard and her insights on the Middle School experience you can find articles and videos at http://michelleinthemiddle.com/success-stories/media/ . Additionally, Michelle was kind enough to give AISM copies of her book entitled, Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years. Copies of the book are available in the Secondary School Library for check-out.