Help your Middle Schooler Thrive Socially

So many books and movies illustrate the struggle that adolescents go through in social relationships. The Hunger Games, Lord of the Flies, and Harry Potter illustrate the social dynamics at work in the middle-school aged social life: Belonging, power, status, identity, leadership, conformity, and intergroup conflict.  I really think that stories like The Hunger Games are wildly popular among “tweens” because they can relate to the struggle those adolescent characters are going through.  And, don’t you think the writers of those stories chose to make their characters adolescents for just this reason?  In The Hunger Games story, Katniss and Peeta are fighting
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Categories: Children, Personal Growth, Relationships, and School.

The Challenge of Difficult Emotions

Fear.  Shame.  Anger.  Boredom.  Sadness.  Disgust.  These are feelings we don’t enjoy, and we can often go to great lengths to avoid them.  This was documented centuries ago by Blaise Pascal, who is quoted to say “All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone.”   We try to suppress these emotions, especially fear and shame.  However, as Brené Brown has noted, emotions are like the old string of Christmas lights: when we deny or turn off one light bulb (such as anger) the whole string goes out.  Essentially, we become emotionally disabled in
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Categories: Children, Faith issues, Family, Mental Health, Parenting, and Personal Growth.

“Remember Who You Are”

Who our children become is important to parents, and the level of this importance is seen in how much time, money and effort parents devote to their kids.   I put “who” instead of “what” because “what” our kids become is limited to doing – what they do for a career, for a hobby, etc.  Who our children become is much broader than this, and includes how they think, act, and what they stand for in their lives.   Parents have a huge impact on this.  Thinking about your own child(ren), aren’t you more concerned with “who” they become than
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Categories: Children, Faith issues, Family, Parenting, and Personal Growth.

Are you Willing and Able?

Happy New Year! What I’ve been thinking about lately is will and ability.  If you think about the word “responsibility” you can think of it as “response ability.”  It’s your ability to respond to life’s demands.  Its your capacity to act.   Another thing to consider besides ability is willingness.  As great American thinker William James describes it, its the “sense of the amount of effort we can put forth.”  We all have a power of will.  It is my hope and prayer that you have an immense power of will.  It is the engine with which you drive your
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Categories: Faith issues, Mental Health, and Personal Growth.

Resolutions: How about trying to make it a happy (and new) year?

Happy New Year!  Have you made any resolutions for the New Year?  Making New Year’s resolutions is a good idea, despite the bad press it gets sometimes.  This is because they really do work! Research by John C. Norcross has shown that compared to people who don’t make resolutions,  people who make New Year’s resolutions are actually twice as likely to successfully change something in their lives.  Whether you have resolved to get physically fit, quit some bad habit, or chosen not to make a resolution, let me suggest a resolution that will change your life. This is it: work
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Categories: Holidays, Mental Health, Personal Growth, and Stress.

Thank You for Your Time (Without Your Phone)

What happens to us when face-to-face interactions become less important? What happens to our marriages, families, and communities? Sherry Turkle says our smart phone devices “…not only change what we do, they change who we are.” We deny each other of our full attention and we end up hiding from each other. We prefer interaction through technology because it can be more controlled than face-to-face, which is happening in real-time and can’t be edited for better presentation. What is happening is that we are losing confidence in each other and looking more to our technological devices to really “be there” for us.
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Categories: Family, Holidays, Managing Media, and Personal Growth.

Empowering the Bored Child

“I’m bored.”  It doesn’t take too long before this statement is heard in the summer.  Its a monotone, depressing complaint.  It can trigger anger in parents to hear this, or at least mild irritation.  Boredom by definition is a feeling of weariness with one’s present task or lack of interesting pursuits.  Its something everyone has experienced.  Its a feeling we have to live with sometimes as its part of normal human existence.  Unfortunately, with Netflix and video games this generation of children can pacify their boredom without truly overcoming it successfully.  The result is a low-grade boredom, like a lingering
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Categories: Childhood Disorders, Children, Family, Managing Media, Mental Health, Parenting, and Personal Growth.

Are You __________ Enough?

Are you _(fill in the blank)_ Enough? Good, safe, perfect, beautiful, smart, athletic, successful, funny, happy, wealthy… These are just a few of the words that we fill in the blank to the question “am I _______ enough?”  Where does this question come from?  Why do we ask this question of ourselves so much?   It comes from a mindset that there is a limited supply of what we ultimately need in order to feel happy and fulfilled in life.  This is what Brené Brown, author of “The Gifts of Imperfection” and speaker in one of the most viewed TED
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Categories: Faith issues, Mental Health, Personal Growth, and Stress.

Wonder. A Poem.

My daughter who is a high school senior recently captured her life experience and put it into a poem.  Very profound.  Here it  is…   Who will I be?  Where will I go?  I wonder. I am in a pool all by myself. The pool of my thoughts.  Just floating and, Wondering. I pull myself into a fetal position and my eyes are touching my knees. And I wonder. Where will my legs take me? Will I walk in the safe and shallow of the pool? Or will I take the daring dive of faith to live an extraordinary journey?
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Categories: Faith issues, Personal Growth, and Transitions / Change.

What St. Patrick Can Teach Us

Last spring my wife and I traveled to Ireland.  One of our favorite places that we visited there was the Saint Patrick Centre in Northern Ireland.  This museum is located in the region of Ireland where Patrick first came to Ireland from Britain.  He didn’t go there by choice.  At the age of 16, he was captured along with several others by marauding bands of barbarians and taken to Ireland as a slave.  He was a slave there for 6 years and forced to watch over sheep for some farmer.  Some time during his enslavement, he called out to God
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Categories: Faith issues, Family, and Personal Growth.