Six Ways to Help Kids Use Social Media in a Healthy Way

by Christa Hines on August 23, 2017

By age 10, many children already have social media accounts on sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat, even though these sites require that users be 13 or older. If you’ve spent any time on social media, you know that it can have an influence on mental wellbeing–both positive and negative.

While many of us jump online as an entertaining distraction, too much social media can invite feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and depression. As adults, most of us can recognize when it’s time for a break. But if you’ve ever tried to get a child off of a video game, you know that most kids don’t have a strong sense of limits. Given the opportunity, my kids would play video games from morning until midnight!

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics,  kids who spend too much time on social media are at risk for mental health issues like depression, anxiety and distorted body image, which can lead to eating disorders. Like many adults, they can easily fall into the trap of believing that other people’s lives are better then theirs. Furthermore, exposure to negative news, alarming photos and videos, as well as toxic individuals can heighten feelings of anxiety, fear and hopelessness.

The good news is there are ways to guide our kids toward healthy social media consumption that will help them create a more well-rounded, fulfilling life.

Define your boundaries. Besides depression and anxiety, the more time kids spend on social media, the more problems can arise from invasions of privacy and sleep deprivation to cyberbullying. Establish family rules around when and where electronics are allowed in your home. Involve your kids in the discussion. Role model healthy electronics use by following the rules you create. Create a charging station where everyone’s devices are turned in by a particular time each evening.

Talk about social media. Remind your kids that what’s happening in their friends’ social media lives isn’t the complete picture. Social media posts are  simply snapshots of people’s more complex lives–sides of themselves that they choose to share. No matter how beautiful the selfie or enviable the status, everyone has their own set of problems they’re dealing with.

Consider if your child is really ready for social media. Read up about the different social media sites that your child wants to join. Common Sense Media is a good resource. Be aware that many of these platforms have age limits for a reason, depicting subject matter that your child may not be developmentally ready to handle. Consider your child’s personality. Do they tend to be impulsive? Do they understand that nothing they post is private? How well do they communicate with others via text and email? How will you stay in the loop? Are you willing to check in regularly and have discussions about smart online decisions? Will they talk to you if they see or experience something that bothers or worries them?

Discuss privacy. Make sure privacy setting are in use and that your kids only friend people they know in real life. Learn everything you can about a platform that your child wants to join. Join it first to see what it’s like. Some apps don’t have strong privacy protections and can open the door for strangers to message them. How will your kids handle those types of messages if you permit them to use these sorts of apps? Discuss the type of personal information should they never share online. Remind them that anything sent through messaging apps or posted online can be shared outside their network. A question they might ask themselves before posting: “Would I want Grandma (or my favorite teacher, etc.) to see this?” Set up restrictions on their phones that require a parent to enter a password before they can download an app. This way they will come to you first to discuss the app they want and you can decide together if it’s a good idea.

Take a digital sabbath. Choose a day of the week when your family unplugs from social media and the online world. This is an opportunity to simply be in the present and pursue personal interests without worrying about the rest of the world, other than the people who matter most to you in the here and now. If this is difficult at first, plan ahead. Invite another family over for an early dinner. Go on a family hike or bike ride. Take your child shopping or for an outing. Make it a family game day with indoor or outdoor games. Arrange for a neighborhood barbecue.

Strike a balance. Encourage and push your child to get involved in activities at school. Outside of school, help them discover activities that give them a sense of purpose, personal satisfaction and that nurture their self-confidence. They’ll begin to develop friendships around shared interests so that when they do go online, they’ll be less willing to put up with obnoxious, mean-spirited individuals and focus more on attracting positive, uplifting people into their online universe.

 

 

 

 

 

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New to Back to School? Six Fun Ways to Connect

by Christa Hines on August 9, 2017

Family calling cards designed by Kari Burkholder, Two Turtles Gift & Design Company

Many of us are gearing up for back to school, which means we’re going to have the chance to say hello again to families we haven’t seen all summer. But if your child is new to the school or headed to Moms Day Out, preschool or kindergarten, you both may be going in without knowing a soul. Here are some fun ways to begin connecting with other parents and feeling like part of your child’s school community:

Attend back to school socials. Many schools host welcome breakfasts and school orientations to new families. Best case scenario is the school assigns you a seasoned family who can introduce you to other parents and fill you in on little details about the school that you wouldn’t have otherwise known. If you find yourself more or less on your own, attend other family-centered events that the school puts on. While these can be a little intimidating at first, take your kids and go. Notice another mom standing by herself? Go up and introduce yourself. Ask about her kids and the grades they are entering.

Have a family calling card. A friend of mine shared this idea with me, which I wrote about in my article “15 Genius Tips for Back to School” in the August issue of Kansas City Parent magazine. Using a clever design that’s more memorable than a regular business card, she hands people she meets a card that tells them her name, her contact information and the names of her child(ren). Kari Burkholder, a talented designer and business owner here in Kansas City designs these adorable cards. Check out all of her beautiful products on her Facebook page Two Turtles Gift & Design Company

Use social media. Many schools have their own Facebook page where parents chat about school functions or post questions. If you’re a new family, write a post that introduces yourself and your child. Mention that you’d love for your child to meet a few classmates before school starts. Then, ask if anyone would be interested in getting a few kids together from your child’s grade for a playdate at a nearby park.

Attend Moms’ Night Outs. Parent volunteers at our school coordinate monthly moms’ night outs for moms to gather without kids. These are a lot of fun and usually the first gatherings of the year are the largest. If your school parents host  these types of functions, try and go. Other school PTOs/PTAs organize meet and greet coffee gatherings at the beginning of the school year as a way to connect. Ask around to find out what your school does. 

Volunteer. Schools are always looking for volunteers and this is a wonderful way to meet other parents. Doing something alongside other volunteers takes the pressure off, especially if you find social gatherings a little intimidating. As you get to know some of the other parents, begin attending other gatherings to grow your network. Just be sure to choose volunteer opportunities that interest you and that work well with your schedule so that you can feel positive about your service. 

Show your friendliness. You know that old saying, “Smile and the world smiles with you. Cry and you cry alone?” Emotions are contagious. When you’re in a bad mood, people tend to steer clear or they mirror you in a negative way. People instinctively respond to our facial expressions  and body language whether positive or negative. Go into social events with a warm smile and upbeat, welcoming attitude. Be curious about the people you meet. Ask them about their kids, their summer vacations and what they’re most excited about in the coming year. Even if you’re feeling a little nervous, I promise, just by showing up, laughing with and meeting other welcoming moms, you’ll enjoy a healthy shot of confidence and a boost of happiness. This isn’t just my opinion. Science backs it up. After a pleasant social interaction, the feel-good hormone oxytocin surges in our bodies. 

What are things you have done that have helped you connect when you’ve been the new mom to the group?

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Do you ever wonder how you come across on social media to others? What do your photos, posts, likes and comments say about your personality?

ApplyMagicSauce.Com, a free personality prediction site created by the University of Cambridge’s Psychometrics Center, claims to “accurately predict psychological traits from digital footprints of human behavior”. I was curious to see how the site works and if my social media profile is an accurate reflection of who I am, so I gave it a try.

How it works. When you connect Apply Magic Sauce to your Facebook or Twitter profile, it will go through your photos, posts, likes and comments to determine your personality profile. I chose to just have my Facebook account evaluated since I’m most active on this account in both a personal and professional context compared to Twitter. 

What you’ll learn. On a sliding scale, the site will evaluate your level of openness, how you manage life challenges, your level of extraversion, how well you get along with others and how satisfied you are with your life. It will even predict your political affiliation, gender preference, education and religion.

The level of openness, for example, distinguishes creative and imaginative people from more down-to-earth, conventional-minded people. You might rank high in openness, low or somewhere in the middle. But it doesn’t just rank, the site also attempts to interpret the data. Here’s how the algorithm interpreted my openness profile:

“Your digital footprint suggests that you are intellectually curious and appreciative of what you consider beautiful, no matter what others think. You might say that your imagination is vivid and makes you more creative than many others.”

You’ll also learn your digital age—what your digital footprint suggests about your age. Mine suggests that I’m 36, which is a few years younger than I am in real life.

What it means. Most of us know that our social media profiles aren’t separate from ourselves. They’re often extensions of our real life–or at the very least, a slice of our reality. Besides being a fascinating and speedy personality assessment, the beauty of this tool is it can help you figure out what messages you’re sending out to the world about your personality and if you’re coming across in a way that feels genuine to you. 

What does your social media profile say about you? Are you happy with the results? Do you feel they are accurate?

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My favorite types of conversations are those where I get to delve deeper into topics and issues facing moms. There’s nothing that quite fills my spirit like listening to stories, sharing experiences and exchanging viewpoints. These types of conversations energize me and inspire a sense of connection and community with the women I talk to.

Needless to say I was thrilled when Shannon Kinney-Duh, a holistic life coach and creator of A Free Spirit Life, and Ashley Walburn, owner of Home Holistic invited me to join them for an episode about connecting in the digital age on their Mindful Mama Movement podcast. 

On the show today, Shannon, Ashley and I talk about dealing with technology and how to create deep and meaningful connections with our families. We also talk about why self-care is important for moms and why it matters for the overall wellbeing of our families. Head over to the Mindful Mama Movement website to listen to the episode.  You can also download the episode on iTunes here. 

Check out the other episodes of this uplifting podcast too. I’ve consistently found the Mindful Mama Movement podcast to be both enlightening and empowering, while providing a positive community and welcome miniature retreat from the busyness of daily life.

P.S. Be sure and listen to the end of today’s episode to find out about the giveaway I’m offering! After you listen, let me know what comes up for you from the conversation! I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

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I know many people—adults and children—right now who are feeling anxious and worried. One expert I spoke with recently told me that today’s kids are the most anxious of any generation.

As our kids most influential role models, what are some simple things we can do right away to help ease stress and anxiety for ourselves and for our kids?

1. Limit violent images. Sadly, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle, violence is a daily part of life that we invite regularly into our homes. If we overexpose ourselves to hostile, dark images and stories, we risk growing increasingly angry, fearful and aggressive. We are what we consume. In the same vein, if we allow our kids to regularly view death and destruction on TV, in the news, and in video games, I believe we effectively manage to terrorize and desensitize these most precious, vulnerable spirits. We don’t want our kids to begin to see the world as a cruel, cold place. Indifference is the enemy of empathy and can feed narcissism.

2. Swap good news. Search the back pages of your daily newspaper or online for interesting nuggets of news that you can share with your family around the dinner table or when you’re headed to extracurricular activities. What are stories that bring you hope? Who inspired you today? Who showed generosity in an interesting, unusual or thoughtful way? What is a story that made you laugh? And ask your kids: “What’s something you heard, did or witnessed that made you feel good today and made others feel good?”

3. Show gratitude. When we take time to give thanks for the gifts in our lives, we can move away from feeling like we don’t have enough or that we aren’t enough to the people we care for and love. Ironically, the scarcity mentality is rampant in our abundant culture. And yet, there are people who literally have next to nothing and still find reasons to be grateful. The more energy we put into enjoying what we do have in our lives, the less we’ll focus on what we don’t have. Gratitude provides a solid return on investment for the spirit.

4. Create a family bulletin board. Put up a bulletin board in your house where you post the good stuff. If you don’t have a bulletin board, use your refrigerator or a door in your home that everyone regularly sees. Include a collage of accomplishments of each family member, favorite photos of your family having fun together, uplifting quotes and inspiring stories about people in your community and around the world.

5. Share positive news online. While we shouldn’t ignore what’s happening in the world, we can help spread joy to counterbalance the negative. Share uplifting, humorous and thoughtful items. Begin following organizations, writers and artists that will help fill your news feed and inbox with more uplifting, creative and inspiring items. Some that I personally like include TED, Project Happiness, Uplift Connect, SARK, Flora Bowley, Martha Beck, Christina Katz, Marie Forleo and Wayside Waifs (an animal welfare organization here in KC) .

6. Tune in and then move along. If you’re a news junkie, too much news can drive anxiety and stress and harm your overall sense of wellbeing. Try limiting your news intake to twice a day. Avoid fear-mongering personalities and mean-spirited commentators. After reading an article, move on to something else rather than reading the rancorous comments that follow. If you’re worried about missing out, sign up to receive breaking news from one of your favorite news organizations.

7. Unplug. Turn off social media. Focus on a work project, go fishing, meditate, read a book, cook a new recipe, craft, play a game with your kids, clean out the junk drawer, journal, shop or write a letter. The options are endless. If there’s an issue that is particularly bothersome to you, take action rather than ruminating. Write that letter to the editor, call your congress person, contact the customer service person about the problem or work to resolve a conflict in an important relationship.

8. Call a friend. Talking to a good friend can help ease anxiety. Schedule lunch or go for a walk together. Gather your friends for happy hour. Social time can give us a break from the worries that plague us.

9. Engage in self-care. Make a list of everything that makes you feel happy, comforted and cared for. Then pick one and go do it. Carve out 15 to 30 minutes a day to do something that invigorates and calms your spirit even if its something as simple as a hot bath or painting your toenails.

10. Run it out. Exercise can have a profound effect on your overall wellbeing and can help reduce stress, anxiety and tension. Run, dance, walk, do yoga—whatever you enjoy that gets you moving.

11. Listen up. Turn on your favorite music station, listen to Pandora, play soothing classical music in the background or tune in to an inspiring podcast.

12. Laugh. Follow comedians and funny writers online. Watch your favorite sitcom, late night show or a funny movie. Invite your kids to take turns telling jokes at the dinner table. Listen for laughter in your home. Nothing makes me laugh like listening to my 11-year-old cracking up as he reads Calvin & Hobbes or Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Laughter truly is the best medicine. 

What do you do to manage stress and anxiety?

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Refresh, Renew, Rejuvenate: Spring Articles Are Out

by Christa Hines on March 17, 2017

Even if the weather is still cold outside, I love curling up with the spring magazine issues. Nothing rejuvenates my spirit after a cold winter like cheerful daffodils, crisp, clean decorating ideas, fresh meal ideas and even adorable bunnies hopping across the glossy pages. As a writer, I’m also reenergized when I see my work from the past few months appear in these issues!

Below is a sampling of articles that I wrote for publications across the U.S. this month:

Woman’s Day

My article “Small Horse, Big Heart” tells the story about a Kansas City nurse who rescued a miniature horse from starvation. Now Sweet Pea is a certified therapy animal, gently nuzzling her way into the hearts of people in domestic violence shelters, retirement communities,  inpatient mental health facilities and schools that support youngsters with special needs.

Black Hills Parent (SD)

Check out my articles How Dining Out Builds Skills and Support Your Spirited Child.

Arizona Parenting

How can unplugged time benefit our kids communication skills? Find out in my article “Unplug!”

Sonoma Family Life (CA)

Pregnant? Consider if a postpartum doula would be a good option to help support you during the “fourth trimester”. A postpartum doula can help provide emotional and physical support to mom and baby. Find out more in my article “Bringing Home Baby: Can a Postpartum Doula Help?

Today’s Family (OH)

An over-scheduled, hyperactive lifestyle can leave you feeling emotionally and physically burned out. Furthermore, living this way can be incredibly risky to your health. Nefertari Williams shares her story and some sage advice for every busy mom in my article, “How to Mindfully Bust Out of a Hyperactive Lifestyle”.

Kansas City Parent (KS/MO)

Can you believe it’s already time to start planning summer camps for our kids? If you’re at all hesitant about introducing your child to the camp experience, check out my article about the “10 Benefits of Summer Camp”. After doing the research for this piece, I immediately signed my son up for his first overnight camp. He’s beyond excited!

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People in the fitness industry like to say if you “don’t use it, you lose it.” We need to flex our muscles or we grow weak. It’s no different when it comes to our social skills. For kids this is especially true. They are only just beginning to develop the skills to interact with others face-to-face and on the phone. But if most of their communication happens through texts and social media, they aren’t practicing life skills that will help them feel more comfortable interacting with people in a variety of settings and situations.

Luckily, we have plenty of fantastic, fun-to-read resources at our disposal that can help all of us grow stronger in how we connect with the world.  Here are a few to check out:

10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge and Found Self-Help that Actually Works—A True Story by Dan Harris

A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas by Warren Berger

The Distraction Addiction: Getting the Information You Need and the Communication You Want, Without Enraging Your Family, Annoying Your Colleagues, and Destroying Your Soul by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World by Christa Melnyk Hines

Home for Dinner: Mixing Food, Fun and Conversation for a Happier Family and Healthier Kids by Anne K. Fishel, Ph.D.

The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations that Create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding by Kathy Taberner and Kirsten Siggins

Raising Can-Do Kids: Giving Children the Tools to Thrive in a Fast-Changing World by Richard Rende, Ph.D.

Books I plan to read:

Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin

10 Mindful Minutes: Giving Our Children—and Ourselves—the Social and Emotional Skills to Reduce Stress and Anxiety for Healthier, Happy Lives by Goldie Hawn

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less by Alex Soojung-Kim Pang

Do you have a book recommendation that would be a great addition to this list? Please tell me about it in the comments below!

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Tips for Rekindling Romance in the Midst of Parenting

by Christa Hines on February 9, 2017

Between balancing busy schedules, sick kids, work deadlines, and sheer exhaustion, parents often find making time for intimacy challenging. But romance and intimacy are two important ingredients for a happy union. And when you have a happy partnership, you’re providing a sturdy foundation for a happier, more secure family.  So how can busy parents add a little more pizzazz to their love life?

Next Monday, February 13, author and sex educator Sarah J. Swofford, a.k.a., The Mama Sexpert, will be guest-hosting a free, virtual workshop in my Facebook Group *Confidently Connected Moms.

Moms will learn about:

  • Common intimacy and romance challenges parents face.
  • How to improve intimate communication in a long-term relationship.
  • How sex can be better than ever, even as parents.
  • Strategies to identify and build a life-long sensuality.

Whether you’re married, in a long-term relationship or a single mom, you won’t want to miss this informative presentation. Not only will Sarah share helpful ideas and tips, she’ll also be available to answer your most pressing questions.

About Sarah J. Swofford, MPH:

Sarah J. Swofford, MPH, is a freelance writer, sex educator and author of From Ouch to Ahhh…The New Mom’s Guide to Sex After Baby.  She believes “moms—especially moms of babies and little ones—are underserved when it comes to easily accessible, relevant to a mom’s life sexual education.” 

A sexuality educator with a master’s degree in public health, she supports women who are navigating sex and intimate relationships amidst the demands of parenting. She writes about women’s sexuality throughout motherhood and teaches workshops on sexual intimacy for moms. She lives in Oregon with her husband and two children. Connect with Sarah at www.sarahjswofford.com; On Twitter: @sarahjswofford; or on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sarah-J-Swofford-MPH/22365021104783

*Please note: To protect the privacy of group conversations, Confidently Connected Moms is a closed Facebook group just for moms. This group is for any mother seeking a supportive, positive online space featuring helpful resources and periodic educational workshops. If you’d like to join, please submit a request. If you’re already in the group, you may submit a request to add your mom friends.  

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What to Do When Conversation Turns Ugly

by Christa Hines on February 2, 2017

Conflict and confrontation are part of the human experience, but that doesn’t make these difficult conversations any easier. Last week, I discussed ways to approach differences of opinion in a more thoughtful, measured way by being informed and listening. But what do we do when a discussion turns aggressive or mean-spirited? Here are a few common scenarios (particularly in the social media realm) and suggested solutions.

The shut-down. A controlling friend or relative strongly suggests that you pipe down on a topic that you feel strongly about. They might say something along the lines of “get over it”,  “maybe you should unfriend me”, or “you’re making people not like you.” 

Solution: Women, in particular, are frequently the target of the “be nice” card. Ask yourself: This is important to me. Am I willing to risk alienating myself from some people by voicing my thoughts on this topic? Are they really my friends to begin with?

Maybe unfriending them is the best case scenario if they can’t handle differing opinions. True friends and loved ones are much more tolerant of diverse opinions. They know you, appreciate you and respect you despite any differences of opinion. And chances are if they disagree, they’ll just keep scrolling along.

Contempt. A friend, family member or acquaintance responds to something you say in a dismissive way, discounting your feelings and attempting to make you feel as as if your thoughts are beneath them or simply don’t matter.

Solution: Dr. John Gottman calls “contempt” one of the “four horsemen of the apocalypse” and it is one of the number one predictors of divorce. Contempt is destructive to other relationships too. It’s defined as “the feeling that a person is beneath consideration or worthless or deserving scorn.” Often there’s name-calling and sarcasm involved (i.e., “maybe you should run for office if you have such strong opinions”). It’s OK to say, “I don’t allow people to talk to me the way you’re addressing me.” If the behavior continues, say goodbye—or put them at a healthy arms-length if you can’t completely dump them from your life.

Anger. You’re engaged in a confrontation where you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed with emotion.

Solution: Give yourself permission to walk away. This is a form of self-care. Tell the other person that you’ll have to continue the conversation later when you feel calmer: “This conversation is blowing my emotional circuits right now. I don’t want to say something I’ll regret so I’d like to continue this conversation when I feel calmer.” Take at least a 20-minute break to go for a walk or engage in an activity that steadies your heartbeat. By taking a break, you aren’t conceding defeat, but you are doing something much more valuable—you’re honoring your feelings and preserving a relationship that you care about.

Online confrontation. You’ve said or posted something that gets under someone’s skin or makes them hopping mad. This person lashes out. You angrily lash out in return. People dig their heels in deeper. Friends jump in to take sides. Trolls show up. And the online mudslinging commences.

Solution: Most of these debates tend to be relatively pointless and generally leave both sides feeling emotionally shattered. You can’t see the other person’s body language. There’s no real opportunity for closure or relational repair through nonverbal signals, like softening of tones or kind gestures as in face-to-face situations. Thank the other person for their opinion or suggest you take the conversation offline. If someone is trolling you or making inflammatory remarks, take the behavior in hand, instruct them to move their opinions to their own page and/or kick them out of your space. 

Email bullying. Someone decides that attacking you on social media wasn’t enough so they begin emailing or messaging you in an aggressive way.

Solution: Unless you see an opportunity to clear up a misunderstanding, either ignore the message or tell them to stop or you will block them from contacting you in the future. 

What are some of the most difficult confrontations you’ve dealt with? How did you resolve the situation? 

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How to Lead the Way Toward More Civil Conversation

by Christa Hines on January 26, 2017

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” ~ Mother Theresa

I’m sure you’ve noticed—we appear to be mired in a polarized, poisonous conversational environment right now.

Somewhere along the way, many of us have forgotten how to discuss our differences in a way that’s thoughtful and amicable. Or maybe we never learned in the first place.

By sinking ourselves into echo chambers without others to challenge our views, we can be lured into the dangerous and false assumption that there is no compromise, no middle ground and no common ground.

We’ve divided ourselves between us versus them without considering the possibility that maybe the other side has a point. Maybe.

We fall under the belief that if someone doesn’t think like us then maybe we can’t like that person. (And sometimes we can’t—more on that next week.)

For those of us who desire creating a more positive, civil environment in which we can discuss opposing opinions in a healthy way, we have to begin educating ourselves and committing to being part of the solution.

Support civil debates. I’ve joined an organization called American Public Square, which was started by former U.S. Ambassador Allan Katz. The group brings experts from opposite sides of the aisle together to discuss important issues affecting our communities like social reform, education and health. A civility bell helps remind speakers to keep the dialogue respectful. Fact checkers watch for misleading information and audience members are given opportunities to question the speakers. Look for organizations like this in your community or start one yourself.

Look to role models. Watch professional debates where people don’t freak out at each other over opposing view points. Watch how they model themselves, how they present their opinions and keep the conversation civil. Watch how they conclude the conversation.

Use curiosity—then listen. When a friend says something that you disagree with, don’t get mad. Ask questions. And as hard as it may be (believe me, I know!), listen without interrupting. Be curious about why they feel the way they do. You might say, “hmm. I can’t say I agree with you there, but I’d like to understand your point of view. Why do you feel that way?” Often people just want to be heard. 

Keep learning. Expose yourself to a variety of media and news outlets. Read editorials from both sides of the aisle. In addition to relying on news sources that tend to support your views, look to credible news outlets that tend to be more moderate, accurate and balanced, and not simply using sexy headlines to attract eyeballs. Watch and listen for language that seems overly partisan in headlines and news bits. Pay attention when something is said that upsets you. Why does it upset you? Is it creating fear or anxiety? Rise above party political rhetoric and pursue verified facts.

Get involved. Be aware of what’s happening in your own community. Learn about the political leaders in your local community. Instead of assuming you’ll agree or disagree with them because of their party loyalty, be aware of how they’re actually voting on issues that you care about and that affect the community. Visit their websites. Read their policies. Read profile articles about them in your local paper. Read about the people who are affected by these policies. Realize that our elected officials work for you the constituent and you have a right to call and ask questions and politely share your opinion. Attend town halls and community events to better understand what is driving their decisions and their votes.

Find support. Surround yourself with other people who share your goal for more civil conversation, even if they don’t share your same policy views.

Next week, I’ll share tips for keeping dialogue civil, including on social media, and knowing when to walk away from conversations and toxic individuals. In the meantime, please feel free to chime in on ways you pursue more civil conversations in your life.

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