Doing Life Together

crying-1315546_1920Today, so many children have to cope with stress and trauma beyond what we would like to see for them. Technology and media have brought events of trauma into our everyday lives. News stories of rape, murder, teen shootings, kidnappings, suicide, AIDS and HIV, life threatening diseases, terror and most recently war are just a few of the daily topics of news. It’s a lot for children to properly digest. They need our help.

When a child struggles with issues related to safety, you may notice headaches, stomach aches, irritability, trouble sleeping, withdrawal and wanting to be close to home, appetite changes, fears of going to school and changes in behavior. So how can you, as parents, help your children handle the stress of today?

Consider the ages of your children, their temperaments and their interest and knowledge of unsafe events. Preschool children should be sheltered from news and global terror. They cannot make sense of these horrifying events. Younger children need lots of reassurance. They often confuse reality with fantasy. For example, they might ask if the plane flying overhead is going to bomb your house. Don’t reassure them that everything is going to be fine and that nothing will happen. This may not be true. Instead, reassure them that you, their parent, are doing everything in your power to make it safe for them.

Give children chances to express their feelings by talking, drawing, writing or through creative expressions like dance. These are opportunities to teach values and faith. Not only can you talk about a Christian response, but discuss the hope we have in Christ. His promise is that when we can call on Him in times of trouble, He will help us. He can give us supernatural peace and comfort.

Teens usually form their own opinions about news events. Help them think critically. Should we turn the other cheek like Jesus tells us in Matthew, or do we stand up to giants like David did with Goliath? Go through scriptures and help them apply the Bible to their everyday lives. Speak of the bad actions of people, not bad people.

In general, limit the exposure all children and teens have to images of violence and aggression. The research is clear that exposure to violence creates a fearful perception of the world, and increases aggression and anxiety. And exposure is traumatizing.

Most important, pray with and for your children. Remind them that God is in control and nothing happens away from His watchful eye.

girl-486950_1920I was asked to be on a radio interview this a.m. to talk about the fad toy, the fidget spinner. Kids love them. Some teachers want to ban them from the classroom because they are distracting.

The question is, “Does the fidget spinner help kids who are fidgety?” I’ve heard all kinds of answers–everything from it helps children with ADHD, PTSD and anxiety. But is there science behind these claims? Or, are we hearing anecdotes from parents?

Before we get to the science, the fidget spinner has an interesting history. It was not developed by a behaviorist or neuroscientist, or even an innovative lab team. According to Time Magazine, it was created by a woman named Catherine Hettinger, who had the idea that the spinner might help children calm down in unsettled environments like the middle east. She imagined it to be an alternative to kids throwing rocks at police, maybe even a way to promote world peace. But toy companies did not catch her vision and the toy did not become a sensation until now.

Teachers will tell you that the fidget spinners make a low noise. But when you get a bunch of kids spinning them in a room, they can be distracting. More important, Duke University clinical psychologist and professor, Scott Kollins, tells us that there is no evidence to support the claim that this tiny gadget helps children focus.

One of the possible suggested application of spinners is with kids with autism. But Dr. Pilar Trelles, a psychiatrist and autism expert at Mount Sinai Health System in New York gives these cautions: 1)  “For children who have high arousal, this could cause them to be overstimulated and hyperactive.” 2) Kids with neurodevelopment disorders could become preoccupied with the device. 3) Because these devices involve repetitive firing of the body’s visual system, there is some concern about children being triggered with seizure disorders.

Kids with ADHD also use fidgeting as a coping mechanism. The thinking is that fidgeting may help an ADHD  child’s working memory in that movement may stimulate under active parts of the brain (e.g., dorsolateral prefrontal cortex) involved in attention, planning and impulse control. However, the fidget spinner is much less of a physical activity than a child fidgeting, so it doesn’t give the same benefit as the child actually moving his or her body.

Bottom line, we don’t have evidence for real benefit of this toy at this time. Like most fad toys, the fidget spinner will probably come and go and eventually be relegated to join the bin of other fad toys. Better to engage in active play–dig in the sand, run, play tag and work off that extra energy!

Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live long and that it may go well with you in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  

Deuteronomy 5:13 (NIV)


baby-165067_1280This year, I will celebrate Mother’s Day with my children, but not my mom. She passed away before Christmas of 2010 and it will be sad to not talk to her, send her flowers and recall fond memories.

But for those of you who still have your moms, this is a time to honor her and make it a special day. I know that honoring mom will be easy for many of you and more difficult for others. Some of you will read through Mother’s Day cards and feel tremendous loss and sadness because of the difficult relationship you have with mom.

Instead of focusing on the times our moms let us down, or didn’t give us exactly what we thought we needed, let’s look for ways to strengthen this important and powerful relationship since it impacts all our other relationships.

In fact, the more we work things out with mom, the better we will be at working things out in any intimate relationship. It is so important to strengthen the mother-daughter bond and find a way to do what God commands–honor our moms. And remember, this commandment comes with a promise.

So, here are ten ways to think through how to honor mom:

  1. Tell her one thing she did right. Write it in a card or on a note or simply tell her.
  2. Recall happy times and loving memories. Again, think through the positive times of your relationship and be ready to talk about those times.
  3. Resolve past hurts and start fresh. You go first! Apologize, offer forgiveness and do what it takes to put the hurts behind you and move forward.
  4. Write a short story about you and mom and share it. Yes, this would take some effort but what a great memory maker this would be for both of you.
  5. Send a card. Express thanks. Make the card personal by adding words of fondness, admiration or what she means to you. In order words, send a message to mom, one of thanks and what she means to you.
  6. Put together pictures of you and your mom in a scrapbook. Or give her a photo that brings to memory a happy moment. You can post it on social media, print it out and put it in a frame.
  7. Buy her dinner or bring her special treats. Moms love to be the target of pampering as they are usually the ones giving to others. Mother’s Day is her turn to be the recipient of good things.
  8. Tell her you love her and appreciate all the sacrifices she has made through the years. The words, “I love you,” are powerful and need to eb said often.
  9. Extend grace. If you have a difficult mom, extend grace this holiday and pray for a moment of happiness. If you are estranged, extend the olive branch and let her know, you want to try to have some type of relationship.
  10. In the most difficult relationships, honor her for giving you life. Buy a blank card and simply write, “Thanks for choosing life and bringing me into this world. “




leadership-913043_1920Think about every job you’ve had. Now think about the leader. The leader has everything to do with your memories of the job being a good one or a challenging one. So what is it about leaders that can make an organization a difficult or great place to work? Here are five characteristics of leaders that are warning signs and should caution you not to follow the leader!

  1. The leader’s ego drives the organization. This is the leader who thinks he is above everyone else in abilities and talent. The organization is fortunate to have him or her because they are right on everything. Under the facade of confidence is a lack of self-esteem despite all the bravado. The problem is that decisions are made in order to make them feel important or empowered, rather than in the best interest of the organization.
  2. They have poor emotional intelligence (EQ) and do not see this as a need. Good leaders examine their actions and interactions and are constant learners. Self-growth is important. But leaders who lack emotional intelligence don’t value self-growth and believe they are fine the way they are. They don’t seek feedback from their leadership team. They focus on the bottom line rather than people. Leaders with poor EQ are often top down leaders who are transactional, not transforming in their style.
  3. They hire YES people. I have seen this over and over. Because of insecurity and an elevated ego, the leader has to be around people who continue to admire and reinforce their greatness as a leader. As a result, they surround themselves with people who do not disagree or challenge their ideas. This is as dangerous in leadership as it is in government. There are no checks and balances, no new ideas, and no critical evaluation of how the organization is progressing. This characteristic keeps an organization stagnant.
  4. The leader is terrible at dealing with conflict. An example comes to  mind of a leader who was called to a meeting and did not address a conflict because he was afraid of the repercussions of standing up to an injustice. Instead, he threw his employee under the bus. The leader was driven by fear and was conflict avoidant. Upon further examination, the leader had grown up in an alcoholic home in which conflict was not safe. It could end in violence or abuse. This learned style of conflict avoidance followed him into an executive position. Conflict avoidance or reactivity to conflict is detrimental to an organization and thus often results in fear and distrust in the organization. When people can’t trust that leaders will come to them and talk through a conflict, mistrust is established.
  5. Bad leaders don’t learn from their mistakes; they blame others. No one is perfect, yet failure or mistakes can be a fertile ground for learning if the attitude is one of humility. But so many leaders will make a mistake and not ask for help. They don’t want your input or discussion about what could be improved and how to move forward in a different way. Good leaders look at failure and mistakes and lear from them. Often what I see is when a mistake happens, the leader reigns in the control and begins to micromanage. And micromanaging is a morale killer.