Parent Tips, Self-Advocacy, The Happy Student Podcast

#104 What “They Say” about Parenting with Lauren Jumrukovski

“They say” a lot of things about how you should raise your children and it can be totally overwhelming and stressful when what “they say” just isn’t practical for you and your children. Our guest, Lauren from They Say Parenting is here to tell you it’s okay and to talk about how she let go of what “they say” and how you can too!

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About They Say Parenting

  • Everyone says something different about how one should parent, that it makes it difficult to know what is best.
  • It is best to go with your gut because you know your children and their habits more than anybody.
  • Lauren wants parents to know that they are not alone if they feel anxiety about the “rules” of parenting.

Goals for “They Say Parenting” blog

  • You are not alone in this.
  • We are great parents, mistakes and all. It’s ok not to be perfect, and in fact, it might even be better.
  • We don’t always have to listen to what “they say” because there is no substitute for experience.  
  • The blog is an uplifting place that make parents feel better. A place that make parents feel confident knowing they are doing the right thing because it’s what they think is best.

Personal experiences from Lauren

  • She felt pressure to breastfeed; however, it ended up not working for both her and her children. So, she made the decision to use formula in order to provide her children with the nutrients they needed.
  • It’s ok to do something different that doesn’t follow the rules.
  • For example, it’s alright to not have a super healthy dinner once in awhile.

Topics on Lauren’s blog and her upcoming book, They Say, Not Your Average Parenting Book

  • Her honest experiences as a parent.
  • Ideas/hacks/activities that have made parenting easier for her.
  • It is not your average parenting book.
  • Do’s and don’ts that have helped Lauren navigate parenting.
  • Reminders that it is normal to question oneself as a parent.
  • There are real tips from a real parent.
  • Focus on your intuition or gut when parenting.
  • You know best!

“There are occasions and instances where it doesn’t matter what ‘they’ say or what ‘they’ think, you just have to do what works.”

They Say Parenting

Order Lauren’s Book: They Say… (Not Your Average Parenting Book)

TheySayParenting on Instagram

@TSParenting on Twitter

TheySayParenting on Pinterest

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

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Difficult Topics, Easy Action Items, Great for All Ages, Self-Advocacy, The Happy Student Podcast

#92: A Resolution that’s Actually Good for You

Resolutions are not always good for you. Sometimes they can lead to burnout and feelings of inadequacy. Let’s resolve this year to do stuff that is good for us and for our kids – like get more sleep! A lack of sleep is currently leading to a public health crisis. Let’s help our kids lead happy, healthy, productive lives by helping them (and us) prioritize sleep!

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The Every Mom: “8 Doable New Year’s Resolutions for Moms” suggests resolutions we need. The resolutions are:

  1. “I resolve to put myself on the [to do] list”
  2. “I resolve to put down my phone”
  3. “I resolve to accept the mess”
  4. “I resolve to lean in to fun”
  5. “I resolve to let go of perfect”
  6. “I resolve to treat my body with kindness”
  7. “I resolve to leave space on my calendar”
  8. “Above all, I resolve to give myself grace

The thing about the “hustle” is that it’s not being shown to make people’s lives better. It’s leading to burnout. Do we want our kids to grow up and hustle and burn out? Or do we want them to grow up and have a great work-life balance in which they feel like they are really living a good life? I vote for the good life. Especially because, as I’ve argued before, that good life actually makes you more productive and is better for your career in the long run. And if we want our kids to behave in ways that will promote the good life, we have to too because they will do as we do.

The Washington Post just published an article “Go to Bed! Brain researchers warn that lack of sleep is a public health crisis”. The article says, “The growing consensus is that casual disregard for sleep is wrongheaded – even downright dangerous”.

Researchers are showing that:

  • Preschoolers, so kids ages about 3-5, who skip naps have worse memory than those who take naps. The kids who get more sleep overnight, but who missed naps, still have a worse memory.
  • Poor sleep may be associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s.
  • And bad sleep habits, like those all-nighters, can increase anxiety and feelings of loneliness.
  • As the article says, “’It used to be popular for people to say, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead.’ The ironic thing is, not sleeping may get you there sooner.’”

How do you get more sleep for your kids?

Prioritize sleep for yourself. Your kids will hear what you say about sleep being important, but if they see that you skip sleep, they will realize that in theory it’s nice to get sleep, but if you have something to do, you should skip it. They will do what you do.

  • How do you prioritize sleep for yourself? Remind yourself what you value. I value a happy, healthy, long life. So when it’s getting close to bedtime and I haven’t put away the laundry or responded to Fireborn’s Instagram comments, I think, yes, those things are important. But deep down what I value is that happy, healthy, long life. So it is time to go to bed. Those things can wait. As The Every Mom says, “I resolve to accept the mess” because what is important is my sleep. I’m also following another of The Every Mom’s resolutions – to put myself on the to do list. I’m sleeping because I am worth it.

Reduce the number of after-school activities your kids participate in so they can take naps or get their homework done earlier so they can go to sleep.

Establish bedtime routines to help your kids calm down and fall asleep easily so that they have good sleep habits for the rest of their lives.

Institute a no-smartphone policy for after a certain hour so that you kids can get uninterrupted sleep. This one is hard with older kids and will require a serious conversation with your kids about the reasoning behind it so that they really understand. They may not like it, but if they understand it they will be more likely to comply.

Let your teens sleep as late as they want on the weekends. It’s a natural part of their development that they want to sleep late. So don’t wake them up early because they are “wasting the day away”. That sleep is not a waste. They need it. Their bodies crave it. Let them have it.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode! Comment below or send us an email!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!

Working Around Being Uncomfortable: How to Self-Advocate
Difficult Topics, Great for All Ages, Self-Advocacy

Working Around Being Uncomfortable: How to Self-Advocate

Speaking out against injustices committed against others is easy. When I see someone else being treated badly, I quickly judge it as unacceptable and have very little trouble voicing outrage. For instance, when I tutored at a middle school and saw a boy knee another boy in the groin, I immediately spoke to the offender and then discussed the situation with my adviser at the school.

However, when we are the victims, often we do not feel that outrage, and we do not stand up for ourselves. Sticking up for yourself is much harder than sticking up for someone else.

I remember waiting for a doctor at a walk-in clinic with my aunt, Margaret. I had poison ivy. It was crowded, and we waited there forever. Eventually, Aunt Margaret went to the receptionist and complained, loudly. I was so embarrassed. I kept thinking; Doctors are very busy. They will get to me when they have time. It’s just poison ivy. I bet everyone else who has gone in has just had it much worse than I do. But thank goodness Aunt Margaret had complained because apparently, they had forgotten about me. We could have truly been waiting there forever.

When my husband came home with an unfairly graded test recently, I encouraged him to talk with the teaching assistant (TA) who graded it to discuss why he got points off (and to maybe get some points back!). (Self-advocating for a better grade on a test was never actually a problem for me, but it is for lots of students). He resisted. He would rather just accept his lower grade, since it was above average anyway, and just try to do better next time.

Why would he do that?! Because self-advocating takes time. Because self-advocating is uncomfortable. Because arguing for points back on tests is not “cool” (mostly because in general in America, it is not “cool” to be serious about school).

But the problem with not self-advocating and not getting those points back is that now his overall grade will suffer, his grade will not be reflective of his actual understanding of the material, and if he does not talk to the TA about the grading system, he will not know how to improve for the next test.

So how do you get comfortable with self-advocating?

For starters, your child has to practice.

Communicate with your child about what is fair.

Re-frame his understanding of the experience: Explain that your child is not asking for anything unreasonable, but rather what he deserves. Teach him how to communicate that effectively with his teacher. 

When I ask for a better grade on a test, I never start with that. Instead, I ask, “Would you mind going through this test with me? I still do not fully understand all of the answers…” or “I have a few lingering questions…” Then I go question-by-question explaining why I thought my answer was right and ask, “Am I missing something?” When I do this, it does not feel like standing up for myself; it feels more like I am asking for my teacher’s help understanding a concept. Teachers respond well to this as opposed to outright demands for better grades. It gives them the opportunity to choose to change your grade. While you are self-advocating, it feels more like explaining your thought process, which can really help a teacher understand you better and increase her desire to help you learn.

A problem frustrating parents since homework was invented is children missing homework and then not wanting to discuss it with their teachers. That is an understandable feeling. It is easier to do nothing. Also, he is probably embarrassed and does not think his teacher will make an exception for him because he really screwed up. It was his fault, and he does not want to hear his teacher tell him that. But there is a workaround.

Unfortunately, first, you have to admit to the wrongdoing. That is the hard part, but it is also the first step to getting your teacher on your side. Teachers much prefer students who come to them for help than students who ignore them. So…

Step One:

Stay behind after class until all the other students have left, approach your teacher, and say, “I am worried about my grade. I know I have not turned in several homework assignments and they are very late. Is there some way I can make some of the points up or can I get extra credit some other way?”

Depending on your child’s age and the reputation they have already created, their teacher will be more (or less) lenient. Sometimes, that first step is all your child will need, and their teacher will go through which assignments need to be re-done. Sometimes that will not be the case.

Step Two:

If step one is not enough, say, “Okay, but would you mind telling me all the homework that I missed so that I can re-do them anyway and show you that I do know the material?” (The same can be said of re-doing a test on which they did poorly.) Even if the teacher does not improve their grades, it will certainly generate good will (and an improved reputation) that they can cash in on later.

Moral of the story: find ways to help your child workaround the uncomfortable feelings of standing up for themselves by re-framing the situation and the way they communicate with their teacher so that they start practicing standing up for himself.


Reference:

Davis, P. (2015). Personal communication.

Your Teacher Doesn't Want to Fail You
Elementary School, High School, Middle School, School Advice, Self-Advocacy

Your Teacher Doesn’t Want to Fail You

Has your child forgotten to turn in a few assignments?

Were they incorrectly graded on a test? 

If so, these are great opportunities for your child to learn to self-advocate, for your child to go to the teacher and talk about making up work or revisiting test questions in an attempt to improve her grade. However, students often feel uncomfortable talking with their teachers about these issues and so avoid these conversations.

Perhaps they feel embarrassed about missing those assignments and by not talking to the teacher about them, they can avoid directly thinking about how they messed up. Perhaps they are worried that those questions they answered correctly were actually incorrect. Perhaps they do not know what to say to their teacher.

To help them, if they are young enough (i.e., not in high school) and unwilling to self-advocate on their own, you can set up a meeting between you, the teacher, and your child. You will be there to support your child and help if he has difficulty saying what he wants to say.

Before the meeting, talk about how you envision the meeting going and what your child will say (with her input). The meeting will probably go something like this: You will sit down in the classroom together and say hello. The teacher will want to know or reiterate the purpose of the meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to acknowledge that you have missed a few assignments and that has been hurting your grades. You would like to make up the work if possible. And it is your child’s responsibility to say that.

Your child will probably feel uncomfortable. So, you can remind them that their teacher is there to help him learn and wants him to succeed. So even if you can’t make up the work, the teacher will probably help you come up with a solution to make sure that in the future homework is turned in on time. Also, no matter what, this conversation will show the teacher that you care and will gain you some goodwill in the teacher’s eyes. A teacher’s goodwill cannot be underestimated. 

Then you both go and talk with the teacher. If your child is still uncomfortable, you can again say, “[Insert teacher’s name here], I’m sure you will agree with me when I say that teachers want their students to succeed, right? Otherwise, we would not even be having this meeting. So, [insert child’s name here], let’s talk about if there is anything that can be done to make up for the missed homework assignments.”

By reiterating this point in the meeting with the teacher, your child will see the teacher’s positive reaction and feel empowered by it. Then, even if your child cannot make up the work, the conversation has been framed in a collaborative tone (instead of the argumentative tone your child was expecting), which will encourage creative problem solving to help your child do well in this class.

Any time we self-advocate, we want to start the conversation (and hopefully end it) collaboratively. Teachers (and future co-workers and bosses) are much more likely to want to help you when you approach them in a friendly way, as opposed to an argumentative way. If you assume that the teacher wants you to succeed, it is much easier to see the conversation as collaborative as opposed to combative. And that is the lesson we want to impart on our children – that to successfully self-advocate, have a collaborative tone and assume goodwill on the other party’s behalf.

Once your child has gone through this process with you, she will feel more confident self-advocating by herself next time.

Sexual Assault: How To Talk About It With Your Kids
Difficult Topics, Self-Advocacy

Sexual Assault: How To Talk About It With Your Kids

Last week the US was riveted by the testimony given by Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and Judge Brett Kavanaugh. The entire event and Dr. Ford’s telling of her story have left people feeling shaken and stressed.

Talking about sexual assault is hard. It’s something parents naturally want to protect their kids from. But kids, especially teens, are paying attention. And it’s something they may even be dealing with at school (from the reaction by sexual assault victims it’s clear that this is happening in high school at the very least).

This is big news and it’s something your kids, if they are old enough to be paying attention to the news, will talk about with their friends. So it’s important that you also talk to your kids about it to make sure you can help guide the conversation. You want to make sure your kid is hearing the right take away messages.

So do bring it up with your kids, even if it is hard. You can start by asking, “Has anyone at school been talking about the Kavanaugh hearings? What have they been saying? What do you think?” to get the ball rolling.

This could be a really stressful conversation. It’s easy to want to use euphemisms and to soften the language and to avoid talking explicitly about what happened – about how Dr. Ford claims Judge Kavanaugh was groping her on the bed and put his hand over her mouth so no one could hear her scream and how she thought he was going to accidentally kill her. It’s a terrifying scenario and we often soften our language or talk around what happened to make the conversation less scary.

But that actually does our kids a disservice. Talking about exactly what happened helps kids understand and process the situation. When parents use euphemisms or talk about “sexual assault” but don’t explain what that means, kids have a hard time understanding what sexual assault really is. That’s a problem because then what happens if your child is sexually assaulted or witnesses some potential sexual assault? They may not recognize it as assault and they may not know what to do.

Also, if you are not clear about what happened and you try to avoid talking about specific parts or you tell your kids to simply “Not worry about it,” they may learn that they can’t come to you to talk about serious issues. Your children need to know that you will be there to have a serious conversation with them, especially if something ever happens to them.

There’s another problem with glossing over tough conversations: it can increase kids’ anxiety about the situation. They do not understand exactly what happened and why that was wrong, but they realize that something scary happened. Yet they see that it is so bad that you are too scared to talk to them about it. That is terrifying. They need to be able to talk with you about exactly what happened so you can help them understand what happened and what their feelings are completely.

They may need to review what happened over and over again. That’s normal because it’s such a complicated, stressful situation, it’s hard for them to understand it (it’s hard for me to understand it!). Going over exactly what happened multiple times helps them encode the information and helps them start to “come to terms” with it. The real benefit is what comes next: it helps them get to a point where they can take action.

Talk with your teen about what they will do if they ever see potential sexual assault or if they ever feel like they are being sexually assaulted. What steps will they take? Create a plan of action. Or your teen may want to get political. Having something to do can help them feel more in control of these things that feel totally out of their control.

Another thing you may want to bring up with your teen is “What have they learned?” Ask them what they have taken away from the hearing? What lesson are they learning? What are their peers saying about it?

Make sure you know what you want your teen to takeaway from the conversation. Perhaps it is that as a society, we need to talk more openly about sexual assault so that victims feel empowered to say something when the assault takes place. Or maybe it is that kids need to speak out when they see something. If you see something, say something.

Most importantly: have the conversation with your teen so they feel comfortable talking to you about it. That is one of the best ways to protect them.

Empowering Your Child to Learn Self-Advocacy
Difficult Topics, Self-Advocacy

Empowering Your Child to Learn Self-Advocacy

Parents are their child’s first advocate. They are the ones who probe and ask questions to consider every option in order to make the very best choices. It can be a constant worry to wonder if your child is reaching their full potential, especially at school where they are gone all day.

In preschool and elementary school, the parent-teacher conference is a great forum to directly advocate for your child, by asking about everything from the updated recess schedule and the field trip fundraiser to meditation in the classroom and the new music teacher. When your child is struggling with a particular issue, encourage them to speak up for themselves, by coaching beforehand how to phrase their concern. But as they age into middle school and beyond, opportunities for such directed discussions may dwindle; the responsibility of bringing up concerns and making actionable changes should gradually shift to your child.

While it may be daunting to contemplate the transition to independence, there are steps you can take to ease this passage into adolescence.

  1. Build up your child’s sense of self-worth. It can be difficult to believe that you can make a change if you don’t believe you deserve it. Praise your child’s efforts, not only their successes. Connect hard work with worthiness by drawing attention to the focus, persistence, and enthusiasm it took to reach success. Say: “You really studied hard for that math test! I’m so proud you are devoted to learning long division, even though it was difficult.”
  2. Ask your child what they admire in their friends or peers who stick up for themselves. Explore how the friend may have felt placing their request. (Anxious, confident, angry, ready? These are all valid emotions that drive action.) Focus on how they were able to voice not only what they wanted but also how they wanted to achieve it.
  3. Encourage proactivity instead of reactivity. Proactive self-advocacy is more likely to be calm and thought out — and therefore more likely to be listened to and considered seriously. It places the control firmly in your child’s hands, which reactive self-advocacy robs them of. 
  4. Visualize short and long term goals. Keeping in mind what they are working toward, whether that’s a spot in the advanced choir, placement in honors algebra, or admission to their college of choice, is a great motivator for self-advocacy.
  5. Watch your own language. It’s easy to fall on common sayings like “big girls do [this]” and “I can’t believe you’re 13 years old and can’t do [this].” Assigning blame onto your child in this arbitrary way is unlikely to inspire personal change.
  6. Ask how you can provide support. Not every child will want their parent interfering with their school life, especially in middle and high school. Remind your child that you are available to reach out to teachers and administrators and always willing to problem-solve and talk a situation out. Say: “I know you are capable of getting through this, but if you want to brainstorm together, we can talk during dinner.”
  7. Teach the history of dissent and free speech. This can be as simple as sharing a story of when you stood up for yourself, but can also include larger conversations about social change and democratic processes.

Your child will need time to practice advocating for themselves, and it can be frustrating on all sides when they experience setbacks along the way. Creating an environment where they can practice communicating their decision-making will build long-term resilience, confidence, and peace of mind for parents.

 

Written by Liza Ruzicka, Liza is a third year student at Brown University, where she is concentrating in Education Studies and Cognitive Science. Liza has completed one summer at the Internship in Building Community at Columbia University and is in her second year working as a Women’s Peer Counselor at Brown University. As a future higher education professional, Liza is passionate about mentorship. She hopes to help parents and students apply academic research findings to the nuances of their life and education.

You're Feelings Aren't You
Difficult Topics, Self-Advocacy, The Happy Student Podcast

The Happy Student #73: Your Feelings Aren’t You

Language matters. How we describe ourselves affects how we think of ourselves. If we say “I am sad”, that starts to define us as a sad person. But if you say, “I feel sad” that helps you realize that the feeling is temporary. There is an important distinction between saying “I am” and “I feel”. Saying “I am” is permanent and saying “I feel” is temporary. Saying “I feel” empowers you to take action. “I feel” helps you persevere and move forward and not become that feeling. Saying “I am” can do the opposite.

You Are Not Your Feelings

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Instead of saying, “I am sad” and defining yourself as a sad or depressed person, if you say, “I feel sad” that helps you realize that the feeling is temporary.

Feelings are fleeting and we want to ride the waves of those feelings – feel the feelings, but also realize that they are not permanent. Feelings come and go. They do not define us. When we view our feelings that way, it adjusts our mindset and it can help us to have a more positive outlook and help us persevere through tough times.

So saying “I am” is permanent and saying “I feel” is temporary. Saying “I feel” empowers you to take action. “I feel” helps you persevere and move forward and not become that feeling. Saying “I am” can do the opposite.

How can you empower your kids to use “I feel” over “I am”?

  1. Use “I feel” language yourself. Model it for your children.
  2. Have specific conversations with your children about the difference between saying “I am” and “I feel”.
  3. Brainstorm a plan together for what to do when someone in the house says “I am” when they should say “I feel”. This gets them involved in enforcing the new language structure and they will love correcting you. Encourage them to correct you/embrace it. Your kid will love that they are affecting your behavior.
  4. Do some guided meditation. The app “Calm” has guided meditations for kids. The book Sitting Still like a Frog is specifically written for kids. Meditation really helps you focus on feeling your feelings, but also letting them go and realizing that they are fleeting.
  5. Help your kids find the language to use to describe how they are feeling. The more language kids have, the better able they will be to describe what they are feeling and recognize it as a feeling. Read books like Today I Feel… and work on expanding your own feeling vocabulary and bring those words into everyday conversations.

It’s amazing how much what you say can affect how you feel, what you believe, how you act, and who you become. The story you tell about yourself matters. So think about the story you are telling about yourself as well as what that tells your kids. Help them tell a motivating story about themselves by focusing on “I feel”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this episode!

HERE’S HOW TO SUBSCRIBE & REVIEW

Want to be the first to know when a new episode is released? Click here to subscribe to The Happy Student on iTunes!

Podcast reviews are important to iTunes and the more reviews we can receive, the more likely we will be able to get our podcast and important messages in front of more parents! I would greatly appreciate if you clicked here and left a review letting me know your thoughts on this episode!