Make Your Time Matter

by CMHines4 on January 20, 2015

M&M-EXPO-2015-BadgeWhen a child isn’t gaining the weight she needs due to inadequate nutrition, doctors use the diagnosis “failure to thrive.” At that point, extra measures are taken in an effort to help the child grow healthier. As moms, when we don’t nourish our spirits and our bodies, we also fail to thrive.

When we’ve arrived at this stage, we’ve lost sight of our dreams, our sense of purpose and our zest for life. We may be feeling sick and lacking confidence. Not only is this state of living dangerous to our own personal well-being, it negatively affects our families.

Considering the multiple responsibilities today’s mom attempts to balance on top of the thousands of distractions daily life presents, you can see how frighteningly simple it is to find ourselves slipping down the rungs of the “priority ladder.”

Living life with intention has never been more critical if we are to feel happy, at peace and fulfilled. That’s why I’m excited to participate in the 2015 Mothers & More Virtual Expo: Mothers’ Time Matters, which will provide moms with the resources, experts and community to live life with more intention.

Where you can find me at the expo:

On Monday, Jan. 26 at 12 p.m. CST, blogger and bestselling humor author Jen Mann and I will be hosting a joint conversation, titled “Find Your Path, Find Yourself.” During this conversation, you’ll learn ways to invest more time in yourself to help you achieve a happier, more fulfilling life. After all, when moms are feeling happy and healthy, their families do too.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 12 p.m. CST, Mothers & More has also invited me to share tips for preparing our kids for social media. If you are unable to attend at the scheduled time, both presentations will be recorded and available for expo participants to listen to later. I will be giving away a copy of my book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

On Tuesday, Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. CST, Jen and I will also take to Twitter and be available to answer any questions you might have. Use the hashtag #MMExpo to participate.

If you’d like to register or learn more about this event, click here or on the Mothers & More Expo icon in this post. I hope you’ll join in and bring a friend. Your time matters and this year, wouldn’t you rather see yourself thrive rather than just… well…survive? So join us. Let’s do this together and make 2015 the best year ever!

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Photo courtesy: Girl Scouts Council of the Nation’s Capital

Mmmm….Thin Mints, Samoas, Tagalongs…Everyone I know has their favorite Girl Scout cookie. And now if the council in your community is participating, you can order these delicious treats from your favorite scout through a digital cookie platform.

For the first time ever, Girl Scouts is introducing their scouts to a high-tech approach to cookie sales. Scouts will have the opportunity to market and take online orders using their own customized websites or through a mobile app.

Scouts can email a link to their customized website to family and friends. Their customers pay by credit card and the cookies are shipped directly to them. Girls who aren’t using the website option, can download an app to their “smart” device and accept credit card orders in-person.

According to the Girl Scouts’ organization website, “Digital Cookie will expand girls’ knowledge of and hands-on experience with online marketing, app use, website customization and e-commerce.”   

GSA goes on to say that they will ensure the safety of their scouts by having parents and girls sign an Internet safety pledge and require parental oversight and consent for any changes made to each scout’s personally customized website. And if you were wondering, 100 percent of cookie sales proceeds will still go directly to the scout’s local council.

If done with guidance and support from parents and leaders, I think this is a positive opportunity for girls to learn modern lessons in e-commerce. The more guidance we can provide our kids about how to engage in positive, professional communication practices online the better. And what a great way for these families to discuss ethical, safe interaction online and steer their children in the right direction as they begin exploring the ins and outs of online engagement.

What is your favorite Girl Scout cookie? What do you think of the digital cookie program?

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Find Your Village, Reach Your Goals

by CMHines4 on January 2, 2015

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Want to know how to find your village? My book “Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life” can get you there!

Happy 2015! Did you make any new years resolutions this year? Studies find that we are more likely to achieve our resolutions if we share them with others and tap into a network of support.

Depending on your personality, you may only need one or two people to lean on or a team. Either way, having others there to cheer you on, offer advice and provide moral support will make a difference when you are feeling less than confident in yourself. Of course, the challenge is finding and fitting into a group that’s right for you.

Where do you begin? Search out people who share similar interests. If you would like to start a walking/running group with other moms, for example, ask around on social media, your neighborhood or at your gym.

Or maybe you would like to join a moms group. Search online and see what groups exist in your area. Check with your local library or your place of worship. Look at Meet-Up.com for neighborhood groups or start your own. Sign your child up for a parent-child music class to connect with other moms. *I include a list of moms groups here on my resources page.

Reconnect. Some individuals may currently be shallow connections, particularly friends in social media. Make a list of people who you would like to try and get to know better or reconnect with. Reach out to them and see if they’d like to meet up for coffee or lunch. Set a reasonable goal for yourself like “I will connect with someone I want to get to know better once a week.”

Invest. If you join a group, invest your time to become not only a name on a roster, but a part of the group. This means attending group get-togethers and taking the initiative to lead or help with an event or responsibilities within the group.

Be patient. We live in an instant gratification society. We want friends and we want them now! But, friendships take time to develop. Only a few friendships are formed immediately and usually those kindred spirits only come around once or twice in a lifetime.

Be curious. The word “communication” is derived from the Latin word “communicare” which means “to share.”As you head out into the social scene, you may feel uncomfortable and nervous. Approach new situations by inviting people to share a little about themselves. This begins as small talk, but can deepen into fascinating conversation when we discover interests in common. Remember this: people like people who are interested in them, not people who are trying too hard to impress or be interesting. Ask questions like “what brought your family to this area?” “how did you find out about this group?” “how old are your children?” “what are your family’s favorite places to spend time around here?” Then listen.

The benefits.  As you launch into Operation Get Connected, you’ll start feeling both physically and emotionally better. This isn’t a coincidence. Social connection is wired into our DNA. When you have the opportunity to engage in conversation with others who share your interests, you feel more alive and positive. Feel-good hormones like cortisol will flood your body, boosting your immune system and providing a buffer from depression which can be fueled by isolation.

As you strengthen your village, your family will bask in your efforts. Your children will have a brave role model to help them as they navigate their own social circles, and as a whole, your family will feel more at ease and integrated into the community.

Are you struggling to find your tribe? What are the challenges holding you back?

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Is Your Holiday Turning into a Circus?

by CMHines4 on December 4, 2014

Between a certain elf that must be encouraged to find a new location each night (bonus points if he does something interesting), gift purchasing and the millions of other little things we do in an effort to create a happy holiday for our families, it is easy to get run down. For your sanity and your health, check out my seven tips to recapture the magic of the holiday season. What do you do to calm the frenzy of the holidays?

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Apps that Work to Prevent Cyberbullying

by CMHines4 on November 20, 2014

ID-100288795Over half of adolescents have been bullied online and 43 percent of kids in grades four through eight have been victims of cyberbullying. Check out these two free apps that aim to prevent and address bullying:

KnowBullying – Created by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, this free app provides conversation tips for parents to begin talking about bullying with their kids. It also helps families learn to recognize the warning signs of bullying and strategies to prevent bullying for ages three to six, seven to 13 and teens.

STOP IT – Available for Apple or Android, there are two versions, one for schools and one for individuals. The app is customizable and includes four features that empowers kids to stop cyberbullying, including Stop It, Help It, Friend It and Report It.

Using the StopIt function, if a child is cyberbullied, he can take a screen shot of the message and easily forward it to a customized list of trusted adults and/or school administrators (if the school is enrolled in the program). The system also automatically sends out a message to the person who wrote the message letting them know that their behavior has been reported.

Through the HelpIt function, kids can access resources for help 24-7 if they are struggling or in crisis.

FriendIt helps kids anonymously stand up for other kids by taking a screen shot of a message and reporting the bullying behavior to a trusted adult.

The ReportIt function allows kids to document messages from cyber-predators by reporting the behavior immediately to law enforcement.

*Also, if your child is on Instagram, you might be interested in reading this fascinating opinion piece called “The Secret Language of Girls on Instagram” that appeared in Time magazine.

Know of other cyberbullying prevention apps? Let me know in the comments below!  

For more on helping kids manage online relationships and communicating well both online and off, check out my ebook Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World.

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Stuart Miles

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Talking to Kids about Suicide

by CMHines4 on November 11, 2014

“Place your hand over your heart, can (1)Two teenage girls, who attended our neighborhood high school, committed suicide this past weekend. One ended her life Friday afternoon and the other teen, who had just expressed her grief about the loss of her classmate on her Twitter account, stood in front of an oncoming train on Sunday evening.

My deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of these two teens.

Whenever anyone so young chooses to end his or her life, the tragedy reverberates throughout the entire community. No matter where you live, talk to your kids about suicide and learn ways to help your child grow more resilient.

I want to share an excerpt of a letter that Gwen Poss, the principal at the girls’ high school sent to parents and released to the media. These are important reminders for all of us to think about when talking to kids impacted by suicide.

Here is my request for all parents for this afternoon or evening – please have a heartfelt conversation with your student about these tragedies and specifically about suicide. Have this conversation with your son or daughter tonight – you know them best. Ask them how they are feeling, be non-judgmental, and avoid any gossip related to details of the deaths or causes. Keep communication open and maintain high supervision and knowledge of their whereabouts. It will be vital that you are closely monitoring your student’s social media accounts for messages being sent and received.

Include in your conversations tonight these messages:

- Suicide is a horrible decision and is not an option.

- There is nothing they could have done or said to change the outcome of these tragic deaths.

- Emphasize that suicide is not the way to handle problems, no matter how big or how painful.

- Help is available. Talk to a parent, a teacher, any trusted adult.

- If they know of a friend that is struggling, let an adult know as soon as possible.”

Prevention tips and awareness

Ways to help lessen the chances that your child will consider suicide an option when times get rough include building a strong, cohesive network around your child and developing a relationship built on good communication. That’s not always easy with teens, but don’t give up and stay on top of what they are saying on social media.

These aren’t one-time conversations. Use books, movies and TV shows to highlight individuals who overcome unimaginable odds, refusing to give up. Share your own stories and challenges. Life may seem dark and overwhelming right now, but it always gets better.

Encourage your child to let an adult know if they notice a peer posting messages on social media that indicate they might end their life.

According to the the National Association of School Psychologists, factors that can strengthen a child’s resiliency  to suicide include:

  • Peer support and close social networks.
  • School and community connectedness.
  • Cultural or religious beliefs that discourage suicide and promote healthy living.
  • Adaptive coping and problem-solving skills, including conflict-resolution.
  • General life satisfaction, good self-esteem, sense of purpose.
  • Easy access to effective medical and mental health resources.

For more information also check out the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

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The Sting of Invisibility

by CMHines4 on November 4, 2014

Hello- Is anyone there-Social media can be something of a double-edged sword. Adults and adolescents alike crave the instant positive reinforcement that online friends deliver after posting a status update or a photo. But how does it feel when your posts generally seem to go completely ignored by your social network?

This form of rejection, according to a study out of the University of Queensland in Australia is like living in a “mental hell” affecting a person’s sense of loneliness and lowering his self-esteem. 

If adults feel this way, imagine how an adolescent might be affected? How can we buffer our kids from putting too much stock into online “likes”?

Peer relationships become increasingly important as kids enter third and fourth grades, a few years before most start jumping onto social media. This is a prime time to help your child nurture a solid support network “in real life.” 

Imagine, for a moment, your child sitting at the lunch table at school and he tries to chime into or start a conversation with his peers, only to be ignored as if he is completely invisible.

Made to feel irrelevant, insignificant and excluded is just as difficult to bear as mean, hurtful comments. In fact, deliberate exclusion by a peer group is considered a form of relational bullying. The resulting sense of isolation can affect a child’s self-worth, fueling dangerous feelings of negativity, depression and anxiety.

Your child doesn’t have to have a lot of friends, but finding ways to solidify fledgling friendships can help him feel more positive and resilient.

  • Look for extracurricular activities at school that underscore his distinctive talents and interests. He’ll derive self-confidence and pleasure from activities that he enjoys. These activities will help him connect with other like-minded kids who appreciate his abilities and efforts.
  • Talk to your child’s teacher to find out which kids your child seems to have a lot in common with. Ask if there are ways to bring the kids together as study partners, lunch mates or recess buddies.
  • Find ways for him to nurture budding friendships by hosting playdates outside of school.

By honing these relationships, you can help your child realize that she matters a great deal, that she isn’t invisible and is an integral part of a caring community. And while rejection will still sting no matter what its form, knowing that she has friends and family who “have her back” will build her resilience now and into her adolescent years.

Once she gets onto social media, she’ll begin to learn that posts that go unacknowledged or ignored aren’t a reflection of her self-worth. Shouldn’t our goals and life pursuits be loftier than the number of thumbs up we get? “Likes” after all, simply aren’t a reliable measure of our value as human beings. Not when our innovative, creative and smart kids have so much more to offer this world.

How do you feel when you are ignored online? How are you helping your kids prepare for the ups and downs of online social interaction?

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Five Creative Interactive Storytelling Apps/Sites

by CMHines4 on October 22, 2014

Serious art is born from serious play. ~ (1)Five Creative Interactive Storytelling Apps/Sites for Kids

I love interactive sites that promote storytelling and give kids an opportunity to flex their creative muscles, especially if the platform gets them revved about literacy and learning. Whether your child loves to draw, tell stories, journal, take photos, or play with audio and video, your creative genius might love exploring a few these digital storytelling apps and websites that I found.

*This list is in no way complete. If you have a suggestion, please be sure and leave a comment so I can check out your recommendation!

Superhero Comic Book Maker and Princess Fairy Tale Maker by Duck Duck Moose Gallery (ages 5 and up). For kids who aren’t writing yet, these two apps enable them to choose colors and backgrounds featuring animated monsters, superheroes, princesses, ballerinas and so forth. When they are finished, they can record a story and play it back. Cost is $1.99.

We Make Stories.com by Puffin Books (ages 6 and up). This site is a comic creator and story design where kids can illustrate and write a story. They can then share it with friends, save it and/or print it out. Cost is $9.99

MakeBeliefsComix.com (ages 8 and up). This family-oriented app and website created by Bill Zimmerman provides writing prompts for kids, as well as templates for creating comic strips. I also like the family activity suggestions for parents. Free!

Strip Designer by Vivid Apps (ages 8 and up). With this app your child can take photos of his own artwork or upload photos and create his own comic strips using a comic book template. Not only can they create their own comic strips, this a fun way to build a how-to project or make a mash-up of vacation photos. Cost is $2.99.

Book Creator Book Creator says it is designed for ages 4 and up. You can try it for free before downloading the app. Kids and adults can make picture, art and photo books, as well as other types of ebooks using fixed layouts. The app also allows for audio and video elements. Upload your completed project into iBooks. You can also share the book with your family and friends. Cost is $4.99.

Do you have a favorite digital storytelling app or site? Share it here! I am compiling a list to go in my resources section!

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How Dining Out Builds Communication Skills

by CMHines4 on October 15, 2014

And bring your kids!

Eating out offers a communication skill-building opportunity for kids.

Kids acting up in restaurants results in bad press from time to time, but don’t let that deter you. While it won’t necessarily be relaxing for you (that’s what date night is for, right?!), taking your children out to eat periodically is an enriching experience that helps them learn important communication skills and appropriate behavior in a public place.

  • Choose a family-friendly restaurant and if you have younger kids, come prepared with crayons, scratch paper and a light snack. My husband and I always chose loud restaurants when our kids were little since they were still learning to keep their voices down-and if necessary, we wanted to have the option to clear out quickly with as little embarrassment as possible.
  • If your child is an unpredictable toddler or preschooler, be mentally prepared to pack your meal to go and pick up the tab early should a tantrum ensue. You might warn the server. Trust me, you won’t be the first parent to have to leave before the meal is over! Sitting still in a restaurant isn’t the easiest activity for a busy, moody tot. (And hungry people are irritated people no matter what their age.)
  • Engage your kids in small talk. Talk about the menu choices and the foods they like to eat or might like to try. Discuss the restaurant surroundings. Tell stories of your favorite foods when you were a child. Review the day or talk about what you are looking forward to the next day or over the weekend.
  • Even preschoolers can learn to order a drink. Give them two choices like milk or juice. Tell them to look at the server when they order the drink and to speak up using “please” and “thank you”. If you have a shy child, be ready to provide back up and encouragement during the ordering process.
  • Elementary age children should be able to order their main meal. Discuss the menu choices with your child and then coach him before the server arrives about making eye contact and speaking up while ordering. Provide support for any questions that might come up during the ordering process if it seems like your child needs help.

While you may not be able to eat out frequently with your family due to the cost, take advantage of the times you can make it work. Lunches are usually less expensive than dinners. Even if you choose a fast-food restaurant, your child can still help during the ordering process. Over time, your children will learn essential skills about how to behave in public and will grow more confident communicating politely on their behalf with others.

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How to Nurture Social Skills in Techie Kids

by CMHines4 on October 7, 2014

Socialize (3)Many parents worry that once they introduce their kids to technology, they’ll lose them to virtual friends and a social life conducted exclusively through texts and emoticons. I think most kids crave real-life, interpersonal interactions as much as the rest of us. In an environment where most of their friends interact online, the challenge is making sure your kids complement their online interactions with a healthy offline life.

Kids begin developing key communication skills between the ages of 8 and 13. Here’s how to make sure your kids have plenty of opportunities to develop those vital social skills that will help them nurture close friendships as they grow into adolescence and adulthood:

  • Involve your child in extracurriculars like sports and activities that expose them to a real-life network. Outside of sports, scouts, performance arts and 4-H are just a few types of organizations that help kids develop communication and leadership skills. I recently got my 9-year-old involved in an organization called Destination Imagination, which combines engineering, creativity and performance/presentation skills.
  • Most major social media sites stipulate that members must be 13 and older. Use this rule to your advantage. If your child wants to interact with friends online, restrict their interactions to texts that you can easily scroll through and check.
  • Slowly introduce social media. When you feel it is appropriate, introduce your child to sites that are geared toward kids under 13. You and your child can then explore social media in a relatively safe environment together and begin learning the rules of appropriate, positive social media engagement.
  • Decide when and where you allow electronics in your life. Be firm about your boundaries. You will send the message to your kids that while screen communication and virtual networks are wonderful complements to their social lives, electronics don’t get to control their time.
  • Nurture conversation skills by eating meals together as a family, spend time together, have your kids call relatives on the phone, and provide them with opportunities to interact with adults of different generations. During these interactions, coach your kids on eye contact and manners.
  • Remember when our kids were toddlers and we were all about scheduling playdates? As our kids get busy with school, homework and extracurriculars, it is easy to forget that scheduling face-to-face time with your kids’ friends is still important. Take a couple of hours on a weekend and have a friend over. Even if they spend some of that time playing a video game, they will still be interacting with each other.

What do you do to ensure your kids are developing a solid set of social skills?

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