Special Giveaway for Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected

by Christa Melnyk Hines on September 16, 2014

HH&H_cover_730x600-1Are you like many parents wondering if your digitally-focused children will have the necessary communication skills that will help them form strong, healthy relationships now and into the future?

As a communication researcher, writer and the mom of two children, I certainly did. That is why I spent nearly a year writing a book on this very subject. And now, today, I am excited to announce that Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator is here!  (Click the link to learn how to purchase your copy.)

Who is the book for? Whether your child is just developing a gift for gab or you are getting ready to hand her a smartphone for the first time, this book is for any parent interested in helping their multi-media child nurture a well-rounded set of communication skills.

What’s the book about? This book will help parents:

  • Prepare children of all ages to be thoughtful, more confident communicators.
  • Help kids begin establishing healthy boundaries, which are integral to staying safe and avoiding toxic relationships.
  • Teach timeless skills that everyone needs in order to feel empowered and happy.
  • Foster smart phone and social media etiquette. 
  • Gain a stronger understanding of social media technology, including blogging, podcasting and gaming.
  • Nurture savvy, proactive social media users

How will this book fit my life? Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected is packed with a generous range of ideas and tips that you can implement as your parenting journey evolves. Second, this is a “busy-parent” friendly book, which means it won’t take you weeks to get through it, and you can start trying the ideas that fit your family right away.

What’s the giveaway? To celebrate the launch of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected, beginning today until September 30, you are invited to enter to win a “Hyperconnected Digital Swag Bag” which includes:

  • a Nabi 2 Tablet
  • a digital copy of Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected (including bonus material)
  • a bag of 10 “conversation gems” for your family to spark conversation whether sitting around the dinner table or on a road trip.

FREE! To thank you for visiting me today, please accept my free download “101 Family Conversation Starters.” Cut out the ones you like and add them to a family conversation jar or make conversation gems out of them.

Don’t be a stranger! Over the next few weeks, I will share more helpful tips and resources that you can use; a how-to on making conversation gems for crafty folks; and invitations to share your thoughts, stories and ideas about nurturing the next generation of smart and confident communicators. And if you are on Facebook, come on over and visit me at my  Virtual Book Launch event on September 24 from 4:30-8:30 p.m. CST.

To enter the giveaway, use Rafflecopter below and subscribe to my Confidently Connected monthly e-newsletter, which includes communication tips and resources that will help you and your family build stronger connections for a happier, healthier life. To gain additional entries, follow me on Twitter, share information about the giveaway on Twitter or pin Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected on Pinterest. You may also share a comment here on my blog.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Time for a Party…A Virtual Book Launch Party!

by Christa Melnyk Hines on September 11, 2014

HH&H_cover_730x600-1You are cordially invited to join me for a Virtual Book Launch Party celebrating the release of my new book Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World!

When: Wednesday, September 24 from 4:30-8:30 CST

Where: On Facebook

Who: This event is open to anyone who is interested. Feel free to bring your friends!

What: Like never before, we parents are raising a dynamic generation of digital children. And with this generation we are dealing with an unprecedented set of complexities ranging from online reputation management and smartphone etiquette to age-old issues like creating healthy boundaries and empowering kids to engage confidently with others whether online or offline.

Throughout the afternoon/evening, please be my guest. Share your thoughts, concerns and tips about parenting in the digital age. Also, learn the good news about our online generation and nibble on tips, trivia, and fun facts, too.

You will also have multiple opportunities to enter to win a Nabi 2 tablet and a copy of my ebook!

(This event is in no way administered, sponsored, or endorsed by Facebook.)

*Check back here next Tuesday, September 16 when my book is officially available for purchase, for fun opportunities to enter the giveaway!*


Blogging 101 for Kids

by Christa Melnyk Hines on September 10, 2014

Does your child have a particular passion that could be explored more through writing or photography? Blogging is a fun and educational way for kids to practice their writing and research skills while interacting with a receptive audience at the same time.

Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

For the under 12 crowd, Kidzworld and Yoursphere offer a safe, moderated platform for kids to blog with parental consent.

Your child could also blog through a free platform like Blogger or WordPress. Make the blog private and just invite family and friends to follow. (Posts can be forwarded which is why you still want to be careful about your child revealing too much personal information. More on that below.) 

Tumblr is especially popular among teens and is a “short-form multi-media” blogging site. Members post photos, video and short posts.

Get to know blogging

If you aren’t sure how blogging works, open an account and play around with the platform. Learn how privacy settings work and familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions associated with the platform.

Explore blogs your child likes. What do you and your child find attractive about them? Take a look at other kids’ blogs. Check out the site www.blogsbykids.net.

Focus your child on a particular topic or passion. Does she love to read? Encourage her to create an online book club where she posts reviews of different books she reads. Teach her how to link to the book and the author.

If your child loves photography, have him take pictures and create a photo blog. (If he is using a smartphone to take photos, turn off geo-tags under the phone’s privacy settings.)

Safety considerations.

Naturally, your child’s safety should be top of mind.

Create a set of rules with your child before she starts blogging to discuss the type of information you are OK (and not OK) with her sharing.

Talk about the types of information she should never share like her full name (she could choose a nickname instead of using her real first name if that makes you more comfortable); year of birth; name and location of her school; address; or photos of herself.

Review her posts before they go live to make sure she isn’t inadvertently sharing information that could put her personal safety or identity at risk.

Discourage your child from using the blog like a private journal. He should ask himself questions like: Am I OK with Mom or Dad seeing this? Would I be embarrassed if my friends at school read this?

Post an email account on the site that goes to you first so you can review any correspondence that individuals are sending. This is a good way for you to show him examples of spam and the types of email that you ignore.

Set up privacy settings to approve comments before they are posted.

When is a good age to start blogging?

Whether a child is ready for blogging or any other type of social media really depends on your child and her maturity level. Many schools start kids blogging as early as second and third grades to flex their writing muscles with an encouraging audience. Educators use carefully moderated and secure sites like KidBlog.org.  

Kids are impulsive by nature. Create a digital citizenship contract with him that states in no uncertain terms your family’s beliefs about appropriate online behavior. Discuss questions like: What will you do if someone reacts negatively to one of your posts? Above all, carefully monitor his online behavior.

Another good rule of thumb is to follow the age requirements posted by the site. If your child sees you violating the rules, he’ll think it’s acceptable for him to break them too.

Photo courtesy: Clare Bloomfield/FreeDigitalPhotos.net


The Value of “No Phone” Zones

by Christa Melnyk Hines on September 2, 2014


If your family is anything like mine, you run in a million different directions all week long. By consciously creating device-free zones that make sense to your family, you can take advantage of routine opportunities to connect with each other. 

Here are a few times/spaces to consider powering down or silencing distracting devices:

Dinner time – Studies find that families who eat dinner together have lower rates of substance abuse, depression and teen pregnancy. Kids who regularly eat dinner with their family are also more likely to have higher self-esteem and better grades. But that time to check in with your family is all for naught if everyone is engaged in his or her own electronic device. 

Bedtime – According to a survey by the National Sleep Foundation, kids who keep their smartphones or other electronic devices in their rooms at night are more sleep deprived. Have your kids turn their phones and electronic devices over to you at night to be plugged into the main charger station in your home.

In the car – Turn your car into a no-phone zone. The car is a great opportunity to talk to kids even before they can really carry on a conversation. Point out the animals in the fields, the cars, the weather, the birds. Talk about where you are going and what they will do and see. They are paying attention to you talking to them, soaking in the words and making sense of the world around them.

If you are distracted by incoming texts, turn the phone to airplane mode or do not disturb. You’ll have a much more credible voice when you start warning your future teen driver about texting and driving. Plus without other distractions, kids of all ages are more likely to talk about whatever is on their mind. With you looking at the road and not directly at them, important conversations can feel less intense.

Is texting and driving a tough challenge for you to overcome? Check out this 35-minute video documentary, “From One Second to the Next,” directed by Warner Herzog. This eye-opening documentary features the stories of accident victims and drivers who were texting while driving.

Do you have no phone zones in your home? If so, when and where do you ban electronics? How does it benefit your family?



5 Ways to Start a Storytelling Tradition

by Christa Melnyk Hines on August 29, 2014

Books picStorytelling is a wonderful way to connect with your child. Through stories you can weave lessons about your family’s values, while also enhancing listening skills and delighting your child’s natural curiosity and imagination.

Chances are you have already told your kids stories about when you were a child. If your kids are like mine, they probably never tire of hearing about some of the difficulties you experienced or the funny situations you got yourself into.

Here are a few ways to introduce storytelling into your child’s life.

Display old photos. Integrate a few old photos or paintings of your grandparents or family ancestors into your home decor or pull out the family photo album. (Remember those?!) These photos invite curious youngsters to listen to stories about the family members who were previously just names that dotted the family tree. Share funny anecdotes or any stories of the struggles your relatives overcame during a time when life didn’t have all of the modern conveniences we enjoy now. 

Story Cubes. Roll the dice and make up a story. An inexpensive game called Rory’s Story Cubes gives kids and adults the opportunity to practice their improvisational storytelling chops. Arranging the dice into a storytelling line, also helps kids think about the order of the story that they tell.  

Picture this. Sitting side by side or around the kitchen table each person draws a picture or cuts a photo out of a magazine. Next, set a timer for up to 5 minutes. Each person writes a story about his or her picture. When the timer goes off, everyone stops and reads what they wrote. No critiquing or worrying about achieving perfection. Take it from me, there is no such thing as a perfect first draft. This is only for fun! *If your child is too young to write, have her draw a picture and tell a story about it. 

Circle story. Stuck on a long car trip or winding down at bedtime? Start telling a story. Either make one up or start with a real event. Ask your child to add to it. Take turns until you come to the end. Kids love considering what-ifs. This technique offers a good opportunity to imagine a what-if no matter how outrageous! 

Replay. Sometimes books don’t end the way we’d like them to. Ask your child how she would re-invent the story if she was the author. 

What are some ways you have introduced storytelling into your family’s life?  



Social Media Networks for Kids

by Christa Melnyk Hines on August 19, 2014

HH&H_cover_730x600-1Somewhere between the ages of 7 and 12, consider slowly beginning to social media train your child. While most social media networks only cater to the 13 and up crowd, there are several social media networks designed for younger kids that provide a healthy training ground.

 With your supervision, these sites can offer a positive introduction to how social media works and address questions that come up while interacting with others online.

What is COPPA?

When you start exploring social networks geared for kids under the age of 13, first take a look at how the company plans to use your child’s personal information. Under the Federal Trade Commission’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a company that targets kids under the age of 13 is required to disclose to parents what it plans to do with any personal or identifiable information it collects about your child. Parents must also provide consent for the child to use the site.

Discussion Opportunities

When you land on a site that you and your child like and you’ve read the terms of privacy and terms of use, start discussing the following:

  • How to create a strong password.
  • Safety and security. Never share your password with anyone and tell mom or dad if something you see makes you uncomfortable.
  • What a good, safe profile looks like.
  • What types of information we don’t share with others.
  • What interests him about the site.
  • What an avatar is.

Sites to check out:

Club Penguin (7+): Part of the Walt Disney company, this network offers an interactive forum for kids to play games that help with motor skills, creativity, teamwork and math (like money management). Kids can chat with other players in a safe community and can also create their own social groups. 

YourSphere (9+): CommonSenseMedia.org gives this site a 4-star rating for its safety and clean content. YourSphere requires that parents go through a background check to verify their identity. Kids earn credits for positive interactions in the community and membership rules are stringent. 

GromSocial (9+): This site doesn’t win the highest quality marks on CommonSenseMedia, but it appears safe. This social media network was started in 2012 by Zach Marks, who was 11 at the time. The network touts safety for kids in a friendly, monitored environment. It features a built-in filter that kicks out profanity and has a strong anti-bullying message. Parents can receive reports about their child’s activity, such as who he communicated with and what he viewed. The site features games, music videos, live chats, opportunities to customize avatars, and post photos and videos. There is also a place for kids to seek help on homework. Parents approve friend requests.

Is your child on a social media network? Please tell me about it. I’d love to check it out!

Coming Tuesday, September 16! Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital World


Put Family Rules in Black & White

by Christa Melnyk Hines on August 14, 2014

RulesPost photoSpelling out your family’s principles now can help later.

Are your kids a few years away from owning a smartphone and stepping into social media? If so, now is the perfect time to get crystal clear about your family values reflected in the house rules you set.

In many ways the online world still seems like the wild west as far as what is appropriate behavior and what isn’t. The unknowns and ever-evolving platforms fuel perplexity and plenty of anxiety for nervous parents.

Online life has become an extension of our offline life, underscoring the need to teach kids appropriate filters, boundaries and conscientious behavior.

Recently, my family gathered to outline our household rules. The decision to put these rules into writing was mostly driven by an uptick in sibling conflict, disrespectful attitudes, poor choices and irresponsible behavior–issues that I assume many families with elementary school age children deal with.

We went around the table and we each took a turn adding what we thought should be a family rule and the consequences for breaking those rules. With our kids dialed into the process and understanding what our family felt was important to creating a happier home life, we established a new tone about how we relate to each other.

Later as I sat down to compose our household rules, I couldn’t help thinking about how these same rules will translate in the online environment for my kids in coming years.

For example:

  • Use respectful language
  • Engage in courteous, kind behavior
  • Ask for permission
  • Aim for compromise
  • Apologize if you make a mistake

These rules for living seem so basic and simple.

But as we all know, life doesn’t lend itself to simplicity. Life is messy and complicated. New situations present learning curves. Sometimes we make a wrong turn. Sometimes we break or push rules out of curiosity. Kids do this all of the time. Other times it isn’t until we swerve off the cliff of not-so-great choices that we decide to rest our weary heads on the values and principles that have never steered us wrong in the past.

For my family, seeing our rules in black and white posted on our refrigerator reaffirmed the values we hold dear in a non-nebulous way that I hope will guide their choices and behavior as they eventually begin interacting with others online.

Naturally my kids test these rules every day and remind each other “Hey, you just broke a rule – you can’t call me that name.” Sometimes to change a pattern, we just need to be more aware of it. And I believe this exercise is helping.

If you would like to try this with your own family, ask these questions:

  • What household rules are a reflection of my family’s values?
  • How will we hold each other accountable?
  • What are the consequences for breaking a rule?
  • What are the incentives that will positively reinforce our household guidelines?



Coming Tuesday, September 16!

I am pleased to announce the launch of my next ebook Happy, Healthy & Hyperconnected: Raise a Thoughtful Communicator in a Digital Age. Head over here to get more details and read first reader reviews!


Why You Need to Understand Social Media

by Christa Melnyk Hines on July 17, 2014

“I don’t like Facebook. I don’t see the point and it’s a waste of time,” a mom says to me.

She makes a great point. Social media can be a time suck. I jump onto Facebook or Twitter during the day for an actual purpose, and then I completely forget what it was I was going to say, do, or check on. I’m easily sidelined by the entertaining moments or daily news posted by my friends and family. 

ID-100198698Many parents choose to stay off of social media for privacy reasons, too. They don’t want photos of their kids floating around the Internet or they aren’t interested in re-connecting with people from the past.

These seem like valid reasons to steer clear of social media.

But, here’s the thing: Even if you aren’t an active user of social media, you need to understand how these platforms work. If you are in the throes of parenthood, you are raising children who are–or will eventually be–digital users. Today’s kids simply don’t conduct their social lives in the same ways we did.

As Tracey Hawkins, the Safety Lady, says in my article “Stay Safe from Social Media Gossip” in the July issue of Kansas City Parent magazine, you can’t fight what you don’t understand.

Do you want your kids to cut their teeth on social media with guidance from their peers or from you?

Even if you have no intention of doing anything more than lurking, at the very least familiarize yourself with social media platforms that you know your child uses or would like to use. Here is why:

  • You’ll be able to follow your kids online and see what they are posting and who they are interacting with. Use mistakes or errors in judgment as opportunities for discussion.
  • Your involvement will promote conversation about social media between you and your child. Ask your kids questions. Ask them to teach you about the sites they are interested in. Help them think critically about these sites. What do they like most about these platforms? What annoys, bothers, or frustrates them about the sites?
  • You can offer guidance to help your kids build a smarter, confident digital identity. Just because they are tech savvy doesn’t mean they always make the right choices when it comes to creating a street-savvy online footprint. You teach them how to be safe in their offline life. The same attention needs to be paid toward their online life.
  • You’ll know how to navigate their social media pages. (Make sure you have access to their passwords.) As their parent, you are ultimately responsible for knowing what they are doing and saying online. Be proactive now to avoid playing defense later.
  • As an aware parent, you can proactively and firmly shutter accounts that you feel are harmful to your kids or promote cruel behavior among participants. Be sure to discuss why these sites don’t align with your family’s values.
  • By brushing up on social media rules, you will be in a better position to be aware of and enforce age restrictions set by the sites. (Most require that users are at least 13 years old.)

To read more about social media use and teens, also check out my article “Separation Anxiety: Teens & Social Media Addiction” in the July issue of The Health Journal

Which social media sites are your teens currently into? 

Photo courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/chomnancoffee 


Inspiring Mom Blog Series: Beth Beseau

by Christa Melnyk Hines on July 7, 2014

Welcome to the Confidently Connected Inspiring Mom Blog Series, in which I feature moms who inspire connection among mothers in their communities. This month I’d like to introduce you to Beth Beseau, facilitator of Kansas City Mompreneurs!

beth beseau headshotI first met Beth McElwain Beseau at a presentation I gave to a group of moms. She invited me to join her group the KC Mompreneurs, which includes more than 200 mom entrepreneurs from across the Kansas City area. Through her website, social media, including her popular Facebook group, and networking and shopping events, Beth is instrumental in helping moms connect with customers, as well as, find support and network with other business-oriented moms.

Beth worked in the accounting and financial field before she retired and became a stay-at-home mom to two wonderful boys. Two years ago, Beth was looking for her chance to start her own business. Although she was tempted to become a financial advisor, she instead launched Frugal Froggie which is a website that shares tips for frugal living, frugal resources, recipes, and reviews.

CMH: You are a busy working mom. What inspired you to start KC Mompreneurs?

Beth: I wanted an affordable place for moms to network and grow their business. Having attended events that were expensive to join and to attend, and usually children are not able to attend, I wanted a place for a mom to network as a business owner and bring her kids if she needed to bring them. 

Originally the group was more of networking playdates, but the group as grown so quickly that we have not had a networking playdate in a while.  I do hope to begin the networking playdates again in the fall. 

CMH: What has surprised you most about the networking group? 

Beth: I truly want a place for a mom to get her piece of the pie. Most stay-at-home moms left the workforce to be stay-at-home moms. Having just a little bit of success for the stay-at-home can mean the world to her. That boost of self confidence is just amazing to see. And to see a mompreneur who was nervous to present to a room full of mompreneurs and have an amazing presentation and be thrilled with herself and job well done is what keeps me going. It makes me smile to see that nervous mompreneur smile as she says to herself, “I did it!”  

CMH: What advice do you have for moms who are feeling isolated?

Beth: It is so hard to be a mom and start a business, let alone do them together at the same time. It is great to have a group that is there to support and help you grow your business. And even better, that it is a group of moms who completely understand the unique experience of being a business owner and mom. 

Want to learn more about Kansas City Mompreneurs? Visit www.KCMompreneurs.com.  The group is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.

Know a mom who you would like to suggest to be included in this special blog series? Contact me at christahines13@gmail.com. 


3 Signs It’s Time to Move On

by Christa Melnyk Hines on June 11, 2014

Paulo CoelhoBy nature, we women need to surround ourselves with a supportive village of other women. It’s a survival mechanism that is practically written into our DNA from those hunting and gathering cave-dwelling days.

In today’s society, we have the advantage of many choices when it comes to the different social groups we can join––both online and offline. But beware of joining the wrong group which can be demoralizing and can fuel isolation as much as lacking a network at all. 

Here are three signs it is time to move on:

1. Mismatched values. Values in friendship are as important as they are in marriage. If the group is critical of the choices you make in the interest of your family, the chances of forging long-term, trusting friendships in that group are slim. 

2. Something’s off. You can’t put your finger on the problem, but something doesn’t sit well with you when you are hanging out with the group. If the members’ discussions and way of doing things make you uncomfortable, anxious, bored, negative or unenthused, this is your intuition’s way of telling you to keep shopping.

3. Life changes. As time goes on, our kids grow older, our lives evolve and our priorities change. We may suddenly find ourselves in a group that is no longer a very good fit for any number of reasons. You don’t have to spurn those friendships, but do give yourself permission to expand your network and seek other groups that nurture your spirit and accommodate your goals, interests and schedule.

Do you frequently find yourself in groups that don’t feel right? Decide if you are being true to your authentic self. Get crystal clear on what you desire in your friendships and in your support network. For example:

  • Do you need to be around women who share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle? 
  • Are you someone who thrives on inspiring and lively discussions about books, news and other cultural events? 
  • Do you have a need to be around people who are as passionate about making a difference in the world as you are? 
  • Are you more comfortable around moms who work outside of the home or do you relate better to stay at home moms? Why do you think this matters to you?

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Finding a circle of friends that is just right for you will make a critical difference in your personal happiness and outlook on life. As far as I’m concerned, you deserve nothing less.