The Music Mom: Eileen Carey

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One of my favorite things about music is its unique ability to connect people. It happens in the rocking chair of the baby’s nursery, the sacred sanctuary of the church, and the sprawling decks of the stadium. Seemingly all around us, music is often the bond that unites us on both big and small levels.  

The really cool part of this musical bonding is that it starts well before we are even able to recognize or understand it. From our very first moments on this planet, we hear the soft lullaby of our mother, and it brings us comfort. Soon, we begin to associate our mother’s voice with love and safety. We begin to experience the early stages of a bond that will grow stronger and stronger as we age.

Want proof of just how moving a mother’s lullaby can be? Enjoy the sweetness of this baby girl turning emotional as her mom sings to her:

This is just one example of music causing individuals to bond on a one-to-one basis. We choose our significant others based on numerous factors, but sometimes their musical taste can certainly sway us a little.

Perhaps we like the same style of music. Perhaps we even like the same artists within that same style of music. And if we happen to like the same songs from the same artists within that same style of music, look out: there just might be a love connection! 

Sometimes, though, two incredibly talented people connect while making beautiful music together, and the rest of us reap the reward:

Music is also capable of bonding large groups of people. Sporting events, music concerts, protests, and religious gatherings are all events during which music can unite us. Below are some examples of people from different walks of life joining together in song.

Check out these epic chants from European football matches (yes, I know, it’s soccer for us Americans):

Of course, the most common setting for sing-alongs is a concert. With that in mind, nothing beats this memorable concert footage of every single person in the crowd singing along with Freddie Mercury – and each other – at Live Aid in 1985: 

Sometimes the crowd is so inspired that it doesn’t even need an act onstage for it to sing in unison. Check out this crowd singing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” before punk-rockers Green Day take the stage:

And when the songs are as good as The Beatles’ tunes, sometimes a sports crowd will sing along with one another during a game. Case in point is this 1960s English football crowd singing Beatles songs:

Music is so good at connecting people that sometimes it does it at unexpected places at unexpected times. Check out these a cappella singers as they burst into song at a Chick-fil-A restaurant:

The scenes above are of people uniting to sing fun, light-hearted songs. Sometimes, though, music can add weight to a more serious moment.

One of the best examples of this was at the 1963 March on Washington. Thousands upon thousands of protesters joined together to march for equality for all Americans. Folk singer Joan Baez lead the crowd in singing a riveting version of “We Shall Overcome.” Fortunately for us, the inspiring moment lives on film:

There are so many reasons to love music. It can heal. It can inspire. It can energize. But I am most awed by its ability to unite us. The examples above are only some of the ways it can do this.

When have you seen people come together through music? Which songs are especially good at uniting people? Leave a comment with your thoughts, and thanks again for reading. 

Both as parents and as musicians, it is sometimes difficult to successfully communicate our feelings. Sometimes we struggle to find the right words, or to hit the right notes. And when the topic is parenthood itself, forget about it: sometimes the struggle to accurately express the joy, sadness, and uncertainty of parenthood feels insurmountable.

The good news, though, is that dozens of songwriting music moms and dads from the past have already given us a massive catalogue of songs that perfectly capture the ups and downs of parenthood. From John Lennon to Lauryn Hill, from Stevie Wonder to Lee Ann Womack, their lyrics tell of both the bliss and the blues that come from caring for our own flesh and blood. We can use their songs, their sounds, and their stories as motivation for our own songwriting.

Better yet, we can find endless parenting inspiration in their tunes. As we listen to their songs, we can reflect upon our own parenting experiences, hopefully with the goal of becoming better moms and dads.

However you want to use these 8 great songs, I’m sure you’ll get something positive from them. Some will bring you smiles, others will bring you tears. Either way, I hope you’ll do the following: listen, learn, and love. 

“Isn’t She Lovely” – Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder wrote this feel-good tune for his daughter, Aisha Morris. If it feels authentic, you’re right: “Isn’t She Lovely” begins with a baby’s first cry recorded during an actual childbirth and ends with a recording of Wonder bathing Aisha as a toddler. “Isn’t She Lovely” is super sugary and fun – and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I Hope You Dance” – Lee Ann Womack

Lee Ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance” represents every parent’s wish for their child.  The song’s lyrics come from the perspective of a mother who wishes her children will embrace life, and, when they are older, give love and faith a chance. Due to its ability to put into song every parent’s desire for their children, “I Hope You Dance” is unsurprisingly Womack’s biggest hit. 

“Beautiful Boy” – John Lennon

The typically brash ex-Beatle really let down his guard on this one. Half philosophical statement on the absurdity of life (“life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans”) and half soothing lullaby for his newborn son Sean, Lennon’s “Beautiful Boy” is the love song every parent sings to their brand new little guy. 

“Young Boy” – Paul McCartney

Another ex-Beatle here. This time, though, the song is much more in character with the more tender-natured Paul McCartney. While his wife Linda prepared a dinner for a journalist, McCartney removed himself to a separate room and began strumming the core of what would be “Young Boy.” The song was both a reflection upon his younger days and a message filled with sage advice for his young son.

“To Zion” – Lauryn Hill

The story behind Lauryn Hill’s “To Zion” is the most complicated one on this list. The song is an introspective piece surrounding Hill’s decision to have her first child, Zion David Marley. Her career had climbed to heights previously unknown when she became pregnant. Many friends and industry veterans suggested Hill have an abortion. Instead, the strong-willed singer kept her baby, causing her to eventually feel as though she herself had been “born again.”

“Here For You” – Neil Young

Most of the offspring on this list ranged from still unborn to young child when their parents wrote of them. Leave it to Neil Young to buck the trend. Young wrote “Here For You” for his daughter Amber Jean, who was 21 years old and in her final year of college. Young talks about how much he misses her, and he reminds Amber that he will always be there for her. “Here For You” is a poignant ode to the complexities of the feelings we feel as parents while we watch our kids transition from childhood to adulthood.

“Kooks” – David Bowie

David Bowie wrote “Kooks” for his newborn son Duncan Jones. The song offers perhaps the most unique perspective on this list: “Kooks” is the term Bowie uses to describe the eccentric nature of he and Duncan’s mother. He’s basically saying “Look out, kid. You’ve got a couple of odd – but loving – folks for parents. Get ready!” I love how at the end of “Kooks,” Bowie reminds Duncan of the genetic nature of kookiness: “Because if you stay with us, You’re going to be pretty kooky too.”

“Cats in the Cradle” – Harry Chapin

This one is the most heartbreaking song on the list. By far. Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” tells the unfortunate story of a father who never has time for his son. Towards the end of the song, karma strikes yet again: now an adult, the son just can’t seem to find any time for his father. Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” is the type of song that seems to touch every generation, and it’s easy to see why. As parents, its message is loud and all too clear: the time we spend with our kids while they are young is precious, and it will eventually end. 

What songs about parenthood would you include on this list? Leave song titles in the comments. And as always, from one music mom to another, thanks for reading. 

As music moms, we often feel pressure to place our creative endeavors on the back burner of our priorities.

Society tells us that our music, our art, and our poetry – all the things we cherish as important expressions of our creativity – are supposed to come after we focus on our families, our careers, and the other realities of life.

I recently realized that the creative things we do are more than mere distractions. They are more than mere hobbies. Instead, the outer expressions of our inner creativity are a huge part of what makes us human.

In essence, the songs we sing, the stories we write, the portraits we paint – all these things partially define who and what we are. Our desire to connect with our creative side comes from our desire to connect with ourselves.

With this in mind, I have become increasingly focused on keeping my creative juices flowing. Here are 4 steps I’ve taken to enhance and unleash the creative queen inside me, even when all the world says moms like us should do otherwise. I hope these tips help you satisfy your natural urge to create.

Remind yourself that your art is a necessity, not a luxury.

All too often we treat art like it’s a luxury, something expendable that we don’t necessarily need. I wholeheartedly disagree with this view.

I consider the creative process – and its sometimes inspiring results – a necessity. When you think of something as being vital to your health and existence, you tend to cherish it and make time for it.

Treat your creative expression as something crucial to your health, because it is. By doing so, you are ensuring the best possible you. And we all know that you reaching your full potential is the best thing for you and your loved ones.

Discover your creative tribe.

I’m sure you’ve already discovered the value in belonging to a community of mothers. Thank God for the bonds we have created with those who share in this crazy thing called motherhood. Who knows how we’d survive without their comfort and words of wisdom.

Likewise, uniting with fellow creative souls can do wonders for your journey through motherhood. If you’re fortunate enough to add the right members to your team, you’ll receive all the camaraderie, inspiration, and emotional support you could ever want.

These creative mamas are out there, and they’re very likely looking for gals like you. Hunt them down, and then watch with joy as you propel each other to creative heights previously unknown.

Choose yourself over everyone else (at least once in a while).

This might be the toughest one of them all. We are programmed by society to always put our kids above our wishes and desires.

Every mother struggles with this, and for good reason: taking time away from your child is hard. Sometimes, though, it’s absolutely necessary.

While we all agree that becoming a mother is the best thing that has ever happened to you, remember that it’s not the only thing that has ever happened to you.

You are a complex, multi-faceted woman, so it is absolutely essential that you fully discover all aspects of your being. This most definitely includes your creative side.

Ignore the haters who try to guilt you into ditching your creativity.

There’s a good chance you’ve already experienced this, but there will always be naysayers and doubters who tell you to give up on your creativity, dreams, and goals.

These Negative Nancys will join with the Debbie Downers of the world for the sole purpose of persuading you that childbirth ought to mean the end of your creative endeavors.

They’ll pour on the guilt for spending an afternoon in the studio when you could have been watching your kids at home. They’ll shame you for spending a night playing the live music you’ve poured your heart and soul into, simply because your spouse had to watch the kids. Boo!

My advice? Don’t give them one single minute of your precious time. You don’t need their permission or blessing to be the creative soul you’re meant to be. Wish them well, and then move on.

And then, with your family and friends as inspiration, keep doing exactly what you’re made to do: create.

 

A brand new year is just days away, and with it comes the temptation to draw up a list of resolutions that we hope will make us better versions of ourselves. While we typically focus on fixing our bodies, relationships, or checking accounts, this time I want to encourage you to focus on your mental health as you plan for the coming year.

As working parents who need to be in the best shape possible to successfully manage our families, careers, and relationships, it is vitally important that we care for our minds as much as we care for our bodies. 

Doing these 4 things will ensure that you are on the path to well-being, thus making you the best you possible: 

Embrace your emotions.

As parents, we often feel that we need to hide our emotions from our kids and, to a larger extent, the rest of the world. The truth is that pretending that we don’t have emotions is unhealthy.

Instead of suppressing your feelings, embrace your anger, sadness, or disappointment. Allow yourself to feel these things, and then calmly and coolly figure out how you plan to respond to them.

You’ll soon feel better, and your children will grow up knowing that even if you have no control over a particular situation, you can still control how you deal with it.

Bottled up emotions are bad for everyone involved; do what you can to feel them, discuss them, and then respond to them in a thoughtful and positive manner. 

View your mistakes as opportunities to improve.

Do you ever make a mistake and then replay it over and over again in your mind? Do you put yourself down over the littlest of things? Do you constantly compare yourself to other people? If so, the coming new year is the perfect time to stop doing those things.

Never forget this: we all have our faults, and never are those faults so bad that they mean the end of the world. We all make mistakes, but hardly ever is a mistake so bad that it can’t eventually be fixed or viewed as a positive thing.

Simply try to learn something about yourself, something that can be used in the future to make things better. Accept that failure and mistakes are a part of life, and then start to view them as opportunities for improvement and growth.

Improve your physical health.

We all know that there is a relationship between how we treat our bodies and the way we mentally feel. It’s all connected. The foods you eat, the number of hours you sleep, and the amount of exercise you get are all factors in determining your mental health.

So what exactly can you do to improve your physical and mental health? Be sure to eat nutritious meals, drink lots of water, get plenty of sleep, and find at least one physical activity you enjoy.

Doing these things will help eliminate your anxiety, guilt, and fatigue. In their place, you’ll feel more relaxed, self-confident, and energetic. For those of us who manage active families and careers, feeling that way is essential to our success. 

Live in the moment.

It is so incredibly easy to obsess over the things that have happened in the past. Too often we try to change them, or we regret the way certain things turned out. That is a surefire way to breed anxiety and self-loathing. 

We often do the same thing with the future. While it is wise to plan for the future, we often spend too much time focusing on what might be. The truth of it all? None of us are guaranteed tomorrow, much less months and years from now.

While we’re doing all that bad stuff, it is entirely possible that we are missing out on some good and exciting things that are happening now. Without even realizing it, life speeds by, filled with fascinating people, places, and things that deserve our attention.

The best way to live is to treat today as if there is no tomorrow. Take time to notice the little things, spend quality time with your beloved friends and family members, and do the things that make you happy.

These 4 tips are only some of the things you can do this coming year to ensure your mental health, but they are a start. I hope you’ll try them.

I wish you and yours a happy and safe new year. Make this year the best ever! 

If you’re like me, you’re already starting to feel some of the burnout that comes from the holiday madness. As parents who love seeing our kids enjoy this time of year, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of trying to do all the fun things that come with this season. But here’s the truth: more is not always merrier.

Sometimes it’s better to slow down and savor the season. Below are 5 ways to do just that. My kids and I have had memorable experiences doing all of these, so I hope you’ll try them.

If you want your entire family to truly enjoy the current Christmas and New Year season, you should:

1. Do less.

It’s tempting to try to cram as many activities as possible into this time of year, but it is not always the best approach. Plan fewer, more meaningful, outings.

After all, the best thing about this time is that families get to be together more than at any other point during the school year. Time spent together is what Christmas and New Year’s is all about, so it doesn’t really matter where you are.

Who you are with is all you need. 

2. Plan ahead.

Mapping out your outings is always a good thing, but it is especially beneficial during the holiday season.

You already have enough stress with buying gifts and seeing some of those hard-to-connect-with relatives (we all have them), so why give yourself one more thing to stress out about?

Planning ahead will allow you more mental energy for the things – and people – that matter most.

3. Stop trying to be perfect.

If you’re like me, you want every holiday party to be the perfect gathering, every toy you buy to be the perfect gift, and every Christmas tree ornament to be the perfect decoration.

But none of that is possible – and it doesn’t need to be. Allow yourself to find joy in the simple act of doing these things, rather than obsessing over how well they turn out. Again, your family isn’t looking for perfection; they are looking for time spent together.

It might not be perfect, but in their minds, time spent together is pretty darn close. 

4. Remember that simple and quiet are more than okay – in fact, they are ideal.

Everything nowadays is bigger, louder, and more exciting, so it’s quite natural that we feel the holidays ought to be, too.

But I have found that my favorite times of the Christmas season are the simple and quiet ones: the late-night snuggles on the couch beside the Christmas tree, the early morning walks on the soft and newly fallen snow, and the hours after the kids have opened their Christmas gifts and are now reading their new favorite book.

These soft and sometimes silent moments stay with me long after the drama and energy of the season have faded away. 

5. Value the gift of experience more than things.

All the things you could ever buy your kids can’t compare to the time you spend with them.

Long after their momentarily favorite app, toy, or article of clothing has vanished from their memory, they will fondly recall the people and places that make up their most meaningful experiences. Many of those experiences will include you and the holidays – especially if you make sure to live in the moment.

Activities like making Christmas cookies, watching your favorite holiday movies together, and snuggling on the couch with mugs full of hot cocoa are the perfect ways to slow down and savor the season while you make memories that will last well beyond this Christmas. 

Happy holidays to you and yours!

As a mother, I am frequently asked right about now what I want for Mother’s Day. The expectation is that I’ll request some of the more traditional gifts we tend to give moms: chocolate, flowers, or a massage.

While I will gladly take any (or all) of these items (and not just on Mother’s Day), they are not what I think most moms want. Of all the things you could give your favorite lady for Mother’s Day, the one thing that seems to matter the most to the moms I know is this: your time.

Nothing can beat receiving the time and attention of someone you adore. Especially nowadays, when there seems to be a million and one distractions that keep us from our favorite people. Getting our loved ones’ attention always makes us moms feel special. Always. 

Now that you know what most moms want, go out of your way to give it to them. A lengthy phone call or FaceTime session is great. An afternoon chat at Starbucks is a wonderful gift. Even better, if you live close enough to do it, an unexpected visit will make every mom feel special.  

The point is this: gifts are great, but in the end, all the “things” we get our mothers will eventually crumble, fade, or spoil. In contrast, the memories made during the time we spend with our moms will last forever. 

If you’re not a mom, I hope you’re able to find time this weekend to meet, talk with, and enjoy your mother. If you are a mom, I hope you have an amazing Mother’s Day, one spent with all the people who matter to you.

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

As parents on the move, it is sometimes way too easy to settle for giving our families fast food or hastily made meals. The biggest problem with that approach is that it leads to poor nutrition. As a result, we often feel sluggish. Not only that, but we’ve all experienced the moodiness that comes from not eating properly. No thanks!

In contrast, taking the time to properly plan our family’s meals gives us, our spouses, and our kids the best nutrition possible. The result? We are able to have the type of healthy and happy family we want.

Here are 4 reasons why you should do whatever it takes to provide your family with the best nutrition you can:

1. Good nutrition leads to a greater sense of well-being. 

Eating a diet that is low in nutrition is proven to reduce physical and mental health. For example, the Mental Health Foundation reports that approximately two-thirds of people who consistently eat fruit and veggies report no mental health issues. In contrast, those who do struggle with mental health problems typically eat less healthy foods. All of us can enjoy a greater sense of well-being by making sure that we eat lots of vitamins, minerals, and complex carbohydrates.

2. Good nutrition maintains our immune system.

We all hate when our kids are sick. We know that their immune system is their defense against disease, yet we often allow poor nutrition to negatively break down that defense. Maintaining a strong immune system requires an intake of proper vitamins and minerals. It’s simple, friends: making sure our families eat a well-balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat foods will help support their healthy immune system.

3. Good nutrition gives us more energy.

As parents, one of the most frustrating things can be when our kids are sluggish and seemingly incapable of doing what we’ve asked them to do. It is at those times that we need to remember that their bodies get their energy from the foods and liquids they consume. The main nutrients their bodies use for energy are fats, carbohydrates, and proteins. Any deficiency in these areas, as well as a lack of hydration, will cause low energy levels, and, worst of all, high irritability.

4. Good nutrition is less expensive in the long run than unhealthy foods. 

This may or may not shock you, but almost two-thirds of American adults are either overweight or obese. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the heart disease, cancer, and diabetes that result from our poor eating habits cause an unnecessary $71 billion per year in medical costs. In short, it might sometimes cost a little more to eat well (although planning in advance can prevent this extra cost), but the long-term costs of a poor diet will be much worse.

 

 

Sometimes being a mom feels like I’m in the middle of an epic and mysterious novel. The plot is long and winding, and I’m not quite sure how the whole thing will end. As one of the co-authors of this story, though, I’ve got a pretty good feeling that all the characters in this book called “life” will end up pretty okay.

Thanks to an unforgettable Reader’s Digest article, I recently stumbled upon a series of touching stories about moms that will inspire you to hang in there, despite the many ups and downs of these riveting stories we share with our children, family, and friends. 

What follows are just some of the stories their readers shared involving their moms. In 100 words or less, readers from all around the world told their “poignant tales of the bond between mother and child.”

I hope these 7 short – but oh so sweet – tales warm your heart like they did mine: 

MOTHER OF ROCK
by Paul Anderson, Mt. Pleasant, Michigan

For my brother, my sister, and me, Guitar Hero was a competition of who could score the most points on the hardest level. Mom, on the other hand, would play the ten-minute “Freebird” on the easiest level while we kids prepared for our next showdown. When Mom restarted the song after missing a note, we all shouted our disapproval. “Rock stars do what they want,” she said, and we laughed because we agreed: Mom was a rock star. That’s why, later, her funeral felt more like the last stop on a farewell tour, with “Freebird” as the perfect send-off.

TWO SIMPLE WORDS
by Abigail Wortman, West Long Branch, New Jersey

On the first day of first grade, I stood by the front door with butterflies in my stomach. I voiced my biggest concern to my mother: “How will I make friends?” Crouching in front of me, she handed me advice I carry with me to this day: “Be Switzerland.” Be friends with everyone. Treat everyone equally and fairly. For all of my 20 years, I have lived by these words. Soon I will graduate and become a part of the real world. And on that first day, nervously facing new responsibilities, I know I will whisper two words to myself: “Be Switzerland.”

THE NEED NEVER GOES AWAY
by Saman Rahman, Peshawar, Pakistan

“Mommy, you are a fairy,” I said. My mother laughed like tinkling bells. “I am serious, Mother. You know everything.” “My child, I try to answer as best as I can. When you grow older, you will not need me,” she said. “No, Mom, I will always need you. Nothing can change that,” I said. Her words echo in my heart as I look at the blue sky: “Dear daughter, nothing remains the same except the vast blue sky.” It has been ten years since I lost my fairy. Mom, you were wrong about one thing: I still need you.

MEMORIES IN VERSE
by Pat Witty, Fairmont, Minnesota

The day I was dreading had arrived—it was inevitable. I had seen it coming but had chosen to ignore it for as long as possible. My very capable, intelligent mom had started forgetting to pay her bills, and it was time to take over her finances. As I looked through her wallet, I made a remarkable discovery. Tucked away in a tiny compartment were four Mother’s Day poems I’d written for her in the 1960s. She had saved and cherished those simple gifts for 50 years. What a happy surprise!

MIGHT AS WELL FACE IT…
by Beth Kailukaitis, Kalamazoo Township, Michigan

Coming home from work one day, I found my mom dancing to Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love.” I watched, enthralled, as she moved and sang along, her hips twisting to the beat, big smile plastered on her face. It had been a long while since I’d seen her dance, so this display of pure joy was infectious. She died unexpectedly in her sleep a few weeks later. I have many memories of her that I’ll always cherish, but none quite as happy and carefree as her dance that day. It’s definitely the simple things—thanks, Robert Palmer!

PAY IT FORWARD
by Teresa Martin, North Aurora, Illinois

You reap what you sow: In her old country, my mom saw a very poor blind woman with her young daughter. She felt sorry for them and loaned them all her savings. Although Mom was worried sick about it, they miraculously returned every cent. Two decades later, when Mom left her Communist country and came to America as a refugee, the Catholic Church gave her money to feed her many children. She returned them every single cent, and her children continued to pay back through worldwide charities. Mom is now 90 years old and has a richly blessed life.

A STAND-UP WOMAN
by Robin Hynes, Slingerland, New York

My mom had a great sense of humor and a knack for making everything fun. One thing that resonated with me, even as a small child, was how much she seemed to enjoy her own company and found ways to entertain herself. As a kid, I remember her giggling while paying bills. What was so funny about bill paying? She would put humorous notes in the reference section of the check: For the electric bill, she might put “You light up my life,” and for the mortgage she’d write “Four shingles closer to owning it all.”

Have you ever watched one of those YouTube videos of a kid composing a beautiful piece of music or drawing a masterpiece that is way beyond his years? Perhaps upon seeing such creative magic you thought to yourself, “Hey! I want my child to do that.”

Well, it’s entirely possible that your son or daughter already has similar skills within them. The problem is that they have yet to unleash them. The good news is that it’s never too late to discover your child’s innermost artist, poet, or musician. 

So how do you bring out all that creativity that seems as though it’s been hiding in your kids? Raising children who successfully tap into their creativity is not an easy task, but it can be done. 

Here are 5 tried and true ways to raise children who fully realize their creative potential:

1. Remember that mistakes are not only acceptable, but they are good for the creative process.

Tons of recent research tells us that kids who fear failure are much less likely to think creatively. When your daughter messes up that drawing she’s been laboring over for the past three hours, focus on the process rather than the outcome. Praise the time and effort she has put into her work. The goal is for you to view mistakes as opportunities for growth, rather than failures. Your kids will be the better for it. 

2. Embrace a good mess.

This one is tough. I like a neat and clean space as much as anyone, but sometimes you just gotta let it go. Sometimes when our kids are smack dab in the middle of their creative groove, messes can develop rather quickly. Let them have at it. There will always be time to clean it up later on. The benefits of them fully diving into their creativity far outweigh the temporary inconvenience of a messy mess.

3. Model creativity for your kids.

How do you express your creativity? Is it through your drawing? Your songwriting? Your dancing? Or how about your cooking? The key is to let your children see you expressing yourself through your creativity. Kids who watch their parents participate in creative activities are much more likely to do so themselves. Plus, engaging in a creative activity is a healthy act for folks of all ages. Not only will your kids be inspired to do something creative if they see you do it, but you’ll be well on your way to making a better you.

4. Set aside time for creativity.

Setting aside time specifically for creativity can be difficult, especially for those of us who are working parents. Remember, though, that children tend to thrive when given sufficient unstructured time. This is time when they can build, imagine, experiment, and explore. The good news is that it doesn’t require a ton of time to allow your child his or her creative fix. Thirty minutes after dinner or right before bedtime will often suffice. Just make sure that you allot some time each day for them to do their thing.  

5. Reduce the amount of time spent in front of a screen. 

Ugh. This is definitely one of my biggest pet peeves. I acknowledge that we may never be able to completely remove screen time. But when we realize that time spent watching videos or cartoons is time that our kids are not drawing, painting, or writing a song, we might be inspired to drastically minimize the amount of time they spend staring at the television, tablet, or iPad. Cut out the screen time, and let loose your child’s creative abilities. 

What ideas do you have for unleashing the creativity in your kids? I’d love to hear what has worked for you and your family. 

I have spoken with several parents who struggle with properly managing the relationship between their children and social media. When we allow our kids access to smartphones, tablets, laptops, and even desktops, we open up the world of social media. That is something none of us are prepared for.

Because the adolescent brain is reorganizing itself and risk-taking is high and impulse control is low, I can’t imagine a worse time in a child’s life to have access to social media than the pre-teen and early teen years.

Here are 5 reasons why we should seriously consider not allowing our kids access to social media.

1. Social media was not designed for our kids. 

A tween’s underdeveloped brain is simply not designed to fight off the distractions and temptations that come with social media use. While it is entirely appropriate to start teaching responsible use of technology at this age, we must acknowledge that there is simply no way for us to teach the maturity that the proper use of social media requires. Make no mistake: our kids will use social media inappropriately until they are older.

2. Social media is nothing more than a meaningless form of entertainment technology.

Social media does nothing to make your child smarter or more intellectually curious. It provides no skills that will help your child succeed in his or her future endeavors. Its sole function is to entertain, and it often does this in a negative manner and at the expense of others. There are literally hundreds of other things your child can do that are a better use of their time. 

3. Social media is an addictive form of screen entertainment.

We now know that people of all ages are prone to addiction to the screens we see all around us. Kids are especially vulnerable to getting hooked on today’s technology, and social media is often the gateway to this addiction. Needing to keep up with every post, comment, and “like” can turn our kids into obsessed zombies. No thanks! 

4. Social media replaces sometimes difficult face-to-face interactions with peers. 

When kids primarily interact with friends via screens, they are prevented from sharpening the interpersonal skills they will need during their life. For example, it can be difficult to disagree with someone in person, but learning how to tactfully do so is a vitally important social skill. We deprive our kids of these learning/growing opportunities when we allow them to hide behind the wall of social media. 

5. Social media can cause kids to view their friends as more important than their family.

Strong family bonds are vitally important to the emotional development of our children. While friends do (and should) play a necessary role in the lives of our kids, they should never be viewed as more important than siblings, parents, and even extended family. With its emphasis on “likes” and other forms of artificial friendship, social media tricks our kids into believing that the attention and respect of their peers is what they ought to be pursuing. 

I hope I’ve convinced you that your child will be much better off without social media in their life. I know that it seems as though every other kid is using it, but in the end, you are only responsible for what goes on in your family. Good luck!

Let’s face it. There’s something very special about the bonds we form with members of our family. These bonds are often stronger than the ones we have with even our closest friends.

Maintaining relationships with our grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins can greatly enrich our lives. The problem, though, is that doing so often takes a great deal of effort, communication, and coordination.

To help you keep in touch with your far away loved ones, I’ve compiled 4 of the simplest ways I could think of that will allow your family to stay close – no matter the distance between you. 

1. Read about each other.

Even with the sophisticated technology of today, news doesn’t always travel as quickly as we would like. I absolutely love hearing about the newest news involving my extended family, but sometimes it can take weeks or even months to learn of new births, anniversaries, or relocations.

One way to keep each other in the loop at all times is to design a family blog or private Facebook page. The hardest part will be getting in touch with everyone, but once you do, members will be able to make updates that everyone else can see.

2. Surprise each other with snail mail.

If you’re old school like me, you still get excited when you receive mail. Email is fine, but nothing beats grabbing a slightly worn letter out of the mailbox. A special package is even better. I’ve passed this appreciation on to my kids, as they now love receiving unexpected items via snail mail.

Sending photos, letters, and packages is the perfect way to let extended family know you still think about them. It takes more effort than sending a text or email, but remember: the effort of these small gestures go a long way towards maintaining the type of relationships you want with your extended family.

3. See each other online. 

If your family is like mine, they are probably spread out all over the country. This often makes visiting with each nearly impossible. Again, thanks to modern technology, we can bridge that gap via video calling services such as Skype and FaceTime.

It is so incredibly easy to chat with those family members who we might otherwise never see in person. This particular means of communication also allows our kids to maintain relationships with the folks they hardly ever see. 

4. See each other in person during a family reunion. 

Family reunions are growing in popularity. Yes, they take quite a bit of planning. And yes, they might require some traveling expenses. But the truth is that a family reunion can be as simple as a lunch or dinner at everyone’s favorite restaurant. It can also be as elaborate as an extended vacation at a far away resort.

Regardless of how you do it, meeting lots of extended family members at a reunion is always worth the time and effort. Nothing beats seeing the people you grew up with in person. 

If your extended family is important to you, I strongly suggest finding ways to stay in touch. All the new memories you build will definitely strengthen the bonds you already have.

As parents, we spend countless hours trying to make sure that our kids think, say, and do the right thing. How often, though, do we take time to ensure that they have the self-confidence necessary to actually follow through on those positive behaviors?

Here are 5 simple – yet effective – ways to make sure that you are raising your child with enough confidence to successfully handle all of life’s challenges.

1. Teach your child to be a good communicator.

Communication is everything. It allows us to be fully understood, thus leading to a greater sense of self-esteem. Teaching your kids to express themselves clearly and concisely will allow them to become master communicators.

They will then be able to handle pretty much all situations they encounter, both as children and eventually as adults.

2. Stop telling your child “good job” for every achievement.

This one might sound a little confusing. After all, telling them “good job” is a positive thing, right? Well, yes, it is.

But that particular form of praise is much too generic. Your kids deserve a little effort if you are going to try to give them credit. Your child’s achievements, no matter how small, are very important to them, so they deserve you replacing “good job” with specific compliments.

This method of praise also reinforces the fact that you really are paying attention to everything they do. 

3. Show your child that what they are doing really is important.

It is sometimes easy to dismiss what our kids are doing. We can act as though we are genuinely interested, but if we are not, they will notice. As you can imagine, this can negatively impact their confidence.

To prevent this type of deflation, get down on your child’s level and treat what they are doing as you would any other important task. If you want to convey to them your interest, take the time necessary to ask them questions about what they are doing.

Dive into the things that take up their time. Doing this will prove to them that you are truly interested in not only them, but also the things they do. 

4. Teach your child to create their own goals – and then help them follow through.

One of the most important things we can do for our kids is to teach them how to create achievable goals. Whether they are short-term or long-term, goals help foster focus, determination, and pride.

Discussing with your son or daughter what types of goals are worthy of their time and attention also helps instill in them a sense of perspective. They can glean from the process what is worth pursuing, and what is not.

Remember: it’s okay if your child sets a somewhat lofty goal. I’m a supporter of dreaming big, so let them reach for the moon. 

5. Model for your child how to handle failure and rejection.

At some point in their life, your child is going to fail at something. How they handle it will be due in large part to how they have seen you deal with your own failures and disappointments. Be open and honest with your child about the times that you have experienced rejection or failure.

Even more important, show them what it means to be positive, determined, and resilient. Doing this will go a long way towards teaching them how to overcome even the most painful times in their lives.

Unfortunately, we can’t prevent our kids from encountering these negative situations. But we can rest assured that we have instilled in them the type of confidence necessary to survive and thrive during life’s most difficult moments.