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?


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 Miles


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.


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 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 (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!


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.


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?


And the Winner is…

by CMHines4 on September 30, 2014

HH&H_cover_860x600_strokeCongratulations to Kari Burkholder! Kari (as chosen by is the winner of the Nabi 2 tablet, a digital copy of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected and 10 conversation gems.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the giveaway and showed social media love over the past two weeks by buzzing and sharing the link to my book. I appreciate all of your support and encouragement as I launched this new baby into the world. I’ve had a great time, and I’ve enjoyed connecting with some terrific folks.

If you are so inclined, there are still ways you can help me spread the word about this social media training resource for parents…

  • Share the link on Facebook
  • Tweet about it on Twitter
  • Pin the book’s cover image on Pinterest or Instagram
  • Write a review on Amazon or
  • Add the book to your Goodreads shelf

Thanks again for your support!


Interactive Technology Brings Families Closer

by CMHines4 on September 29, 2014

Studies find that interactive technologyOnly 24 hours left to enter to win a Nabi 2 tablet and a copy of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected! Scroll down to the Rafflecopter widget below to enter! 

According to a survey conducted by Pew Research, “A majority of adults say technology allows their family life today to be as close, or closer, than their families were when they grew up.”

What are some ways families stay connected with technology? I asked this question during my Facebook Virtual Book Launch Party. One of the most popular ways that parents said they stay connected is through Skype and Facetime.

Skype and Facetime are especially great technologies when a spouse travels for work. A parent can show their child their surroundings, read a book together or simply say good-night using video technology.

These technologies are also fun for grandparents who live far away as a way to see and chat with their grandchildren.

While your kids may spend a good chunk of their time making silly faces on camera, the early exposure to talking through video will help them feel more relaxed visiting with people this way later. Many teens also use Facetime and video hangouts to chat with friends. And in the future, more employers may start using Skype or other video connections to interview candidates living across the country.

Texting is probably the most common way we stay connected to one another. We can coordinate schedules and check in with each other easily throughout the day using instant messaging.

Among families, Facebook is a simple way to stay connected with long distance relatives. I have not only grown more aware of my extended family’s lives thanks to Facebook, I’ve even gotten to know relatives I may not have ever “met” if it wasn’t for social media.

What do you think…. Has interactive technology brought your family closer? If so, how do you use technology to stay connected?


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A Special Thank You!

by CMHines4 on September 26, 2014

Only 4 more days left! Join me as I celebrate the launch of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected! Enter to win a Nabi 2 Tablet and a digital copy of my book. Enter daily if you like! Go to the Rafflecopter link at the end of this post.

Thank yThe average user of a social networkingou to everyone who was able to make it to my virtual book launch on Facebook. I had so much fun interacting with a great group of parents and learning more about their concerns and challenges surrounding raising this generation of digital kids!

If you couldn’t make it, the event page is still available. Be sure and check out the conversation threads and the resources that I made available. Click here to see it.

Also, feel free to post to the page if you have questions or comments. I will be checking in and I’m happy to answer questions any time.






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