Not Back To School Day – August 22, 2016

NOT BACK TO SCHOOL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A  press release went out today about our upcoming NOT Back to School Day – a day in which we celebrate the freedom to Unschool in the state of Texas.

While millions of Texas children return to school on August 22, almost half a million are Not going Back to School and we look forward to making this a day of celebration for Unschooling families across the state!

If you plan something for Not Back To School Day, please feel free to share photos and comments about how you spent your day at our Facebook Group. It would be fun to see what everyone’s up to on Not Back To School Day!

 

PRESS RELEASE:
July 19, 2016–Fort Worth, Texas — While many parents are preparing for the state mandated first day of school, homeschooling and unschooling parents are enjoying plenty of quality time with their kids. With almost half a million children being homeschooled in Texas alone, there is a growing trend to forego the traditional preparation for the first day of school in favor of celebrating our freedom to homeschool by gathering together to encourage each other in our home school journey.

Texas Home Educators, Texas Unschoolers and Family Catholic Educators are celebrating the freedom of homeschooling, by encouraging local homeschooling and unschooling groups across the state of Texas to plan fun local activities on August 22, 2016, the official “Back To School Day” for Texas public school students as an official “NOT Back to School Day”.

Speaking for Texas Unschoolers, Michelle Conaway stated: ” I am excited to partner with Texas Home Education Support Groups in celebrating an official “Not Back To School Day” each year. We hope to encourage our local homeschooling and unschooling groups across the state to mark August 22 on their calendars as the official “Not Back To School Day” and celebrate by hosting various events for their local unschooling communities. We will be posting pictures on our Texas Unschoolers Facebook group of various “Not Back To School” events and welcome all photos and posts celebrating the joy of Homeschooling in Texas.”

Ellie Andrew, chairman of Catholic Family Educators, said, “Our children learn all the time. They don’t need to go to a place called `a school,’ to be taught by someone called `a teacher,’ in order to learn. Not Back to School Day reminds us of why we are homeschooling.”
Our hope is that each year homeschoolers across the state will celebrate “NOT Back To School Day” by hosting fun activities for homeschoolers in their areas as a celebration of home education in Texas.

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ASK A VETERAN

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Sue Patterson answers the questions that come in through the Texas Unschoolers‘ website or our Facebook Group or Page. Do you have something you want to ask for the next issue of our TexUns Newsletter? Your questions will remain anonymous.

 

 

 

 

QUESTION:  

What is the best way to go about preparing a transcript for my child if he decides to go to college? How should we be preparing for this?

ANSWER:
Transcript preparations are a big fear for a lot of people. But there’s no reason to worry about it. Unschooling parents can easily look back at their child’s life experiences and translate those into educational language/subjects. If you have collected photos for a scapbook or blog, these will be really helpful with jogging your memory.

With the Texas community college system, admissions staff are primarily looking for a graduation date and a signature. No one is looking at how elaborate your recordkeeping was or the depth of study your child did in any particular area. Many many unschooling teens opt to enter the college path by starting at the community college level and then transferring to a university as a sophomore. For those who want to go straight to a university, filling the teen years with interesting “real life” adventures will help set your child apart – and for paperwork purposes, you can translate those into subjects if you need to.

Here are some links for more info:

QUESTION:
What if my teen isn’t showing any interest in working, driving or preparing for adulthood? Should I be strongly encouraging her to begin thinking about these things? Or should I continue to allow her to just hang out on the computer with her friends and see if she decides to pursue these things on her own eventually?

ANSWER:
Lots of times, we parents project about our own lives onto our kids. We may have been SOO ready to be independent and GET AWAY from school/parents/etc. That we assume that our kids want that same thing. Chances are, living within an unschooling family feels a lot different. There may not be the same rush that we experienced.

“Strongly encouraging” sounds good, but it often backfires. From the sound of your question, I think you may already know that. Continue with your unschooling thinking, if you can.

Having a real need is what spurs changes in behavior.

When they want something they need to buy, and don’t have the money, they’ll move toward getting a job.
When they need to get somewhere and you cannot take them, they’ll consider getting their license.

It’s helpful to have conversations to make sure they’re not creating a story out of some fear they have. This is tricky to do if you’ve made it clear what you want. Give them room to choose something different from what you want/expect – and withhold any criticism you have. Think of yourself as their best supporter. Help them look at what they want to do, see it for what it really is, and remove your own judgements. If the goal is truly to transition into young adulthood, practicing making your own decisions is a step in the right direction.

If you would like to discuss these questions or have more questions, please visit our Alternative Living and Learning Forums here.

Sue Patterson, wife and mother of three grown unschoolers, lives in Pflugerville, just north of Austin. She has been an active homeschooling advocate at the local, state and national level for nearly two decades.

Sue’s book Homeschooled Teens: 75 Young Adults Speak About Their Lives Without School, is an awesome resource for anyone embarking on the teen years!

Sue is a Coach/Consultant and Unschooling Mentor helping families who are new to unschooling or homeschooling find a way to create more joy and adventure in their lives. She has a private coaching practice with a variety of options for helping families on a 1:1 basis, create an educational environment that looks nothing like school.

Sue is the Managing Editor of The Homeschooler Post – an online journal focusing on learning for home educators. She manages Unschooling Mom2Mom, blogs at her website, and speaks at various conferences around the country.

Find out more at SuePatterson.com.

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Embracing Life Learning

 

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So many times, people ask, “How do you Unschool?” For me it has been a process of paradigm shifts and a lot of recalibrating what I thought I knew about life and raising and educating kids. Here are some of my processes. Perhaps they will be of benefit to you as well.

Letting go

Living in the moment

Loving life as it comes, the good and the not so good

Not trying to MAKE things happen

Getting into the flow

Letting go of doctrine

Letting go of old beliefs

Believing in the Magic of Life

Allowing myself and my kids to be WHO we are

Allowing myself and my kids to express what is within us (even when it’s uncomfortable for me)

Allowing Life to Unfold as it Unfolds

Letting go of Knowing

Living in the Question

Asking Questions

Being then Doing

Playing More, working Less

Questioning my thoughts, my agendas, my way of looking at things

Seeing from a broader prospective

Letting go of Judgment

Embracing Peace not problems

Embracing Gentleness

Realizing there are NO Problems, only situations

Trusting that life is always as it should be in this moment.

Basically, just finding the joy in life and living THAT with my kids. No judgment. No worries. No threat. Just living and learning freely though it all.

 

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Gaming Addiction, by Rachel Miller

Keyboard Gaming

I’ve been participating in discussion groups with Unschoolers for many years.  One of the most popular topics and areas of concern for those new to Radical Unschooling is visual media, specifically gaming.  A common objection to gaming is the potential for addiction.

Clinically speaking, addiction is defined as:

a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. Dysfunction in these circuits leads to characteristic biological, psychological, social and spiritual manifestations. This is reflected in an individual pathologically pursuing reward and/or relief by substance use and other behaviors.

Do I believe that someone can become addicted to video games?  Absolutely.  Just as someone can become addicted to food, exercise, books, or sex ~ all of which also play a meaningful part in our lives.  For nearly 40 years, since the Rat Park studies of the late 70’s, researchers and medical professionals have repeatedly found that addictions often disappeared when the environment of the addicted was positively changed.  The drugs, alcohol, and video games are a means to producing a euphoric effect combating a perceived miserable situation.  The solution to or prevention of addiction is not to forbid or limit your child from video games (or food, or exercise, or books), it is to facilitate an environment and foster a relationship they don’t feel the need to try to escape from.

Often parents will then share the “signs of addiction” they note in their children.

She gets cranky and rude!  

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!

That’s all he does all day!

Let’s take each of these statements and find possible solutions that are respectful to our children’s interest in gaming.

She gets cranky and rude!  Is your child hungry?  Bringing snacks to a gamer can help eliminate blood sugar drops and other hunger symptoms that manifest in a short temper. Monkey platters are a fun and easy way to keep energy up.  Is your child simply venting their frustration at a particularly difficult level?  Sometimes parents will be upset because their child is grumbling about a lost life or a failed task.  A child verbally processing the game play isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  This could be an opportunity for you to ask questions and better understand what they are doing.  You could offer to help them look up a walk-through on YouTube or take a moment to grab a drink of water before sitting back down and trying again.  Have you interrupted their play?  That leads to…

He throws a fit when I ask him to stop!  If I’m in the middle of reading a book and someone interrupts me ~ I generally ask them to give me a moment to finish the sentence/section/chapter.  I apply the same principle to our gaming children, “I’d like to talk to you about something, when you find a stopping point can we chat?”.  Or setting up the expectation that we have commitments later in the day.  When our son started getting into games like League of Legends where a match could last thirty minutes or more ~ I made an effort to let him know if we have appointments so that he doesn’t begin something that he can’t finish.  Some servers penalize users for leaving matches/games/rounds early.  Equate it to sports.  Can you imagine if your child was playing football and you walked onto the field in the middle of the 3rd quarter and said, “We’re leaving.  Now.”  It’s frustrating to not only the individual player, but the “team” as a whole.  Work on identifying what led up to their frustration and brainstorm solutions that are respectful to both of you.

That’s all he does all day!  This can have roots in several places.  If you’ve limited gaming (or Television, or food, or pretty much anything) ~ you’ve likely created scarcity.  Then, when children are given the opportunity they will “hoard”, trying to get in as much as they can in fear that it will be taken away again.  When the restrictions are removed and our children are secure in the fact that gaming is available at any time ~ they are emotionally free to explore other things.  Though, for some children, gaming IS their passion.  Which means that it isn’t a matter of scarcity, but of interest and they will continue to spend significant amounts of time on it.     Many folks complain that kids can’t “stay on task” or “focus more than a few minutes” ~ but when a child spends hours/days/weeks immersed in something, parents will complain about how much time is spent on it.  Even if your child wants to spend “all day” gaming, that’s OK too.  It is as valuable an experience as reading, writing, talking, and researching.  If you really pause and watch, you will see that they are doing all of those things as part of gaming.

If you’d like to talk with other Unschooling families about possible solutions to concerns, learn more about removing arbitrary limits, or just meet more people on this journey ~ please join us on the Alternative Living and Learning Forums here.

Rachel-photo

 

Rachel Miller is married to her high school sweetheart, Josh, and they happily unschool with Cam and Livy in the Houston suburbs.  She is one of the coordinators of the Texas Unschoolers Conference in New Braunfels.  Her family will also be at the Free To Be Unschooling Conference in Phoenix at the end of September.

 

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Unschooling Teens: “All He/She Wants to Do Is…”, by Shannon Stoltz

 

Mom Teen

“All she wants to do is…”  The first time I heard this phrase a friend was lamenting about how she wanted her then 15 year old daughter to get a summer job or do something similarly “productive”.  That was to be the first of many times I’ve heard a parent of a 12/13 year old or 15/16 year old say, “All she/he wants to do is…”    

Parenting and homeschooling, no matter the style, changes around 12/13 and again around 15/16.  The relationship between parent and child, particularly if you are coming from more conventional philosophies, changes.  Our children are more independent, exploring ideas and activities that interests them.  And that doesn’t always match up with our own expectations.

When how our vision for our children’s path is different than what our kids’ are actually doing, fear creeps in and we get statements like:


“All she wants to do is sit in her room reading and writing in her journal.”

“All she wants to do is draw.”

“All he wants to do is hang out with his friends and skateboard.”

“All she wants to do is hang out with her friends and party.”

“All he wants to do is work.”

“All he wants to do is play basketball and hang out at church”

“All he wants to do is play games with his friends on the computer.”

But in reality, what our children are pursuing is actually building a foundation for their future. We just don’t yet know what that future looks like, and that can be scary.

For us as parents, this is a time to let go of our agenda for our kids and embrace their journey in becoming the unique individuals they are. It’s a time to learn how to support our children differently than we have done before, to see them as their own person and support them where they are at. It’s not an easy parental transition, especially if you have had compliant kids or come from an authoritarian background.

For our teens, this is a time of learning who they are as people, experimenting, developing relationships, and testing ideas, forming and discussing ideas and opinions with others outside the family. Unschooling at this age level is fabulous because it is all about trusting the process, building relationships, and supporting the kids where they are at.

My kids have deep dived into interests from 12 and up. We’ve gone through periods of intense focus into manga, anime, robotics, blacksmithing, cake decorating, working, Minecraft, archery, gaming of all types, survival skills, art, writing, digital drawing, herbal medicine, horses, chinese light novels, theater, the list goes on. Weeks, months, and even years of a focus and then it shifts or fine tunes further.

I’ve seen their friends do the same. And their parents, across all styles of education, struggle with the change – that their kids are no longer malleable to what they want them to do – and then have to figure out how to support their kids where they are.

Early on this journey of being a mom of teens, I remember literally sitting on my hands and biting my lip, as I watched my son, then 13, working through a difficult task, approaching it differently than I would. But instead of telling him what and how to it, I restrained myself and honored that he wanted – and needed – to go through the process of figuring it out himself. He knew that he could ask for input, instead he asked me to bring him food and to sit with him as a companion and listen to his thought process, and be there for support. I needed to respect that. Now, at nearly 17, he still often asks me to bring him food, and to be there to listen to him share his ideas, stories, and thought processes.

One of the big differences between unschooling, especially radical unschooling, and other styles of education and parenting is that word RESPECT.  With unschooling, especially in the teen years, it’s not about our kids respect for us and their showing respect to us or other adults. Instead, it’s about us showing respect to them — to their ideas, interests, and needs. It’s another level of giving, of pouring into. It’s about respecting their needs and supporting them.

For a social kid who wants to hang with their friends, it’s about providing an environment to do so. For a kid with an online community, it’s about respecting that’s where their friends are and treating them with dignity and respect, and supporting their collaborations and time together. For a kid who likes to spend hours by themselves (often in the middle of the night), it’s about letting them and making sure they have the resources they need. And when they want to talk and share, to be there for them – to listen, encourage, support, and help them find the resources they are looking for.

For an unschooler, “All he/she wants to do is…”  becomes an opportunity – an opportunity to engage and connect, to encourage and support, and to facilitate your child’s interest – no matter how obscure. And it becomes an opportunity to grow yourself, as a parent and as a individual. At the end of the day, it’s all about trusting the process, embracing the learning as it happens, and, most importantly, building wonderful relationships with your teens.

Want to discuss Unschooling teens? Visit us at the forums to talk more about the ideas in this post here.

 

Shannon Stolz Bio Pic

 

 Shannon Stoltz is an unschooling mom to four fabulous kids, ages 19, nearly 17, 14, and 12.  You can read more from Shannon here at her website.

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Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child

This post comes from an original article by Jerry Mintz at the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) website: The Ten Signs You Need to Find a Different Kind of Education for Your Child. Published here with permission from AERO. Click over to the article for more of Jerry’s thoughts on alternative education models, and find out if the AERO Conference might be something for you and your family.

1. Does your child say he or she hates school?

If so, something is probably wrong with the school. Children are natural learners, and when they’re young, you can hardly stop them from learning. If your child says they hate school, listen to them.

2. Does your child find it difficult to look an adult in the eye, or to interact with older or younger children?

If so, your child may have become “socialized” to interact only with peers within their own age group—a very common practice in most schools—and may be losing the ability to communicate with a broader group of children and adults.

3. Does your child seem fixated on designer labels and trendy clothes for school?

This is a symptom of an approach that emphasizes external rather than internal values, causing children to rely on shallower means of comparison and acceptance, rather than deeper values.

4. Does your child come from school tired and cranky?

While a student can have a hard day in any school, consistent exhaustion and irritability are sure signs that their educational experiences are not energizing, but actually debilitating.

5. Does your child come home complaining about conflicts that they’ve had in school, or unfair situations that they have been exposed to?

This may mean that the school does not have a student-centered approach to conflict resolution and communication. Many schools rely on swift, adult-issued problem solving, depriving children of their ability to emotionally process and thoughtfully discuss the situation at hand.

6. Has your child lost interest in creative expression through art, music, and dance?

Within the traditional system, these creative outlets are often considered secondary to “academic” areas, and are not as widely encouraged. In some cases, courses in these areas are not even offered any more. This neglect often devalues, or extinguishes, these natural talents and abilities in children.

7. Has your child stopped reading or writing—or pursuing a special interest—just for fun? Are they investing the bare minimum in homework?

This is often a sign that spontaneous activities and student independence are not being valued in their school. Children have a natural inclination to direct their own learning; however, an emphasis on meeting standardized test requirements limits the abilities of teachers to nurture and encourage this inclination. The result can be an increasing apathy toward subjects that were once exciting, and a loss of creativity.

8. Does your child procrastinate until the last minute to do homework?

This is a sign that the homework is not really meeting his or her needs—perhaps it’s “busy work” or rote memorization—and may be stifling to their natural curiosity.

9. Does your child come home talking about anything exciting that happened in school that day?

If not, maybe nothing in school is exciting for your child. Why shouldn’t school—and education—be a fun, vibrant, and engaging place?

10. Did the school nurse or guidance counselor suggest that your child may have a “disease,” like ADHD, and should be given Ritalin or another behavior regulating drug?

Be wary of these diagnoses and keep in mind that much of the traditional school curriculum these days is behavior control. If test requirements limit a teacher’s ability to engage students, if students are discouraged from following their own passions and expected to sit for five or six hours a day with limited personal attention and interaction, I suggest it’s the school that has the disease, EDD—Educational Deficit Disorder—and it might be time to get your child out of that situation!

Discuss this post at the Alternative Living & Learning forums here.

Original AERO article by Jerry Mintz here. Definitely worth a read.

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The Traveling Unschooler, by Liza Rumery

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So you have decided not to send your child to school — not because of illness or trouble or family obligation or whatever. Rather, you decided not to send your child to school, because you wanted to do something else instead of it. You wanted to realize what might happen if your child grew and learned in a free environment, in his or her own unique way, on his or her own time. You actually turn your back on school — the system of education — and walk away with your child’s hand in yours and go forth into a completely open realm of endless possibilities of learning, because you can, and you want to see it come to fruition, understanding that it will. You decide that faith and trust and love and respect are enough ingredients for the process to work. You let go of the reins and move out of the way, exhaling all the while as the socially-created pressures of conformity, regiment and expectation melt away from you, making space for a different kind of relationship between you and your child, your child and the family, and the relationship that the child has with the Self.

That is unschooling.

But it isn’t about school anyway, it’s about the child and family first. It is a new road, a new approach. So what would you do if the hours were yours for the unpacking? How would you lead your life? What would your days look like? What might be the things of interest to your child that would last until he or she feels full? What would you like to expose your child to seeing or doing now that your calendar is free? Would you and your child stay home, make play dates, go to museums, go fishing, knit, mold clay, bake cookies, play tennis, draw, watch movies, read, build something, learn a language, learn to weld or, perhaps, do “nothing?” Just hang and be? Relax? Tune out? Sleep in? All of the above? It is fun to consider for sure, being immersed in the things that bring you and your child joy, maybe even finding out something completely unexpected.

That is also unschooling.

Our daughter has never been to school, so essentially she always has been an unschooler, going with the flow of what comes naturally to a child — play, learning and discovery. As she grew up, we did things in our hometown and surrounding areas, occasionally going out of town for a bigger scene. We looked for people and groups that do what we do, but we weren’t always successful. Often, Midwest winter weather created hinderances to gathering, and our rural setting created distance. Eventually, we yearned for more as a family. We wanted to go out in the world.

Now, at the wonderful age of seven, our daughter is a full time traveler. For us, this is unschooling.

Liza Trailer Rainbow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

During the years before having her, my husband and I traveled often, able to pack a small carry-on and fly off somewhere at a moment’s notice. We traveled to Spain and Mexico, Hawaii and Las Vegas. We’d meet friends or family wherever, whenever. But after we had our daughter, we traveled rarely. When we did, the small carry-on became a suitcase full of baby stuff, then kid stuff, and it wasn’t as much fun. In fact, is was work. Like most parents, I was exhausted. Furthermore, having a home and stuff kept us tied to one place, limiting our ability to travel. We missed traveling for pleasure, we missed traveling as lifestyle, and we no longer wanted to be obligated to our things. We wanted to honor experiences, so we decided to do something about it — this time, with kid in tow.

We sold all of our stuff, bought a travel trailer and decided to meander this giant country that is the United States until we’ve had our fill, and then we will head abroad. Because we work for ourselves and we are an unschooling family, we can travel freely, where time and the road are ours and being together is a priority.

Most of the unschoolers/homeschoolers we know stay in once place, because they are tied to job or committed to their communities. It is wonderful to feel rooted and part of something, and we like to meet folks like us in various places across the country living in this way. It’s a great way to become familiar with a region and see how other families live out their lives of doing things more naturally. But we feel that, given the opportunity, traveling as an unschooling family creates amazing bonding experiences and a world view unlike anything we have ever known. Freedom and experience make for a heart-pounding elixir.

Through travel, our daughter has an open mind about the next adventure — the next playground, the next zoo, the next hike, new people. She used to lament that she didn’t want to leave this or that campground or playground, but now she knows that we will find something new and/or unique somewhere else. Amazingly, she doesn’t want to go back to where we have been; she wants to continue going forward. She lives in the moment, which is a such a great aspect of unschooling, and is reinforced through travel.

We have experienced more intellectual conversations with our daughter since we have traveled; she is more mature and aware of the world. Although she sees other kids at campgrounds, she integrates on her time, because she enjoys hanging out with people of various ages or with us or by herself. She ponders what she wants to do, because she can. She is starting to be more self-serving regarding her activities, taking initiatives on creative projects, because she knows there are no time constraints. Her schedule is open. So much of this is true for unschooling families in community settings in a brick-and-mortar home. In fact, it is likely the way of life for most unschoolers. But traveling adds a few more layers to the experiences of the unschooling family, and we continue to witness it firsthand.

Liza and family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is no doubt that unschooling found us and it is a path that we chose. It is also something that we strongly advocate now. Add the layer of travel and the unschooling world opens up to you that much more. If you are able to travel as a family, do it. Do it often. It is a wonderful, exciting, grounding, freeing experience to see the world with an unschooling lens. We know that this family is invested indefinitely. Hopefully, we’ll see you on the road!

Would you like to discuss travel and unschooling? Visit our forums here to discuss this post.

Liza Rumary Bio Pic

 

Liza likes to do a lot of things. Currently, she really likes to travel, write, read, swim, practice yoga and meditation and cook. She dreams of Spain and quiet places. She loves spending so much time with her family. And she believes in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

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Deepening the Parent Child Relationship

Child-Adult-HandsWe all crave human connection. The parent/child connection is one of the strongest of all.

But how do we really connect with our kids? Let’s explore a few ways we might tighten the bond.

Be In The Here and Now

How many times have you found yourself thinking about your kid’s future? If you’re like most parents, it’s pretty often. Will they be successful? Get a good job? Be in a good marriage? Develop the skills to maneuver through life’s challenges?

Many of us react to these thoughts, attempting to shape children into who we believe they should become and many times don’t even notice who they are – right now, in the present.

What if, for just a moment, we could let go of what their future might look like and be present with them right now? What kind of world could we create if we confronted our own fears and inadequacies and didn’t bequeath them to our children?

Being present with our children means being mindful of what is, today. Resisting the fact that he doesn’t like math for instance doesn’t make him better at math. Insisting that she dry those tears when she’s sad doesn’t magically make her happy. When we notice the “should” and “should not’s” that invade our thinking, we realize that our thoughts have hijacked this unique moment with our child. Perhaps instead of reacting we can ask, “If there were no tomorrow, how would I be with my child right now in this situation?”

What if our kids come with their own blueprint? Could our love and confidence in them be all they need to flourish in life? Can we have faith that what makes them tick now will lead them to the perfect tomorrow? If we challenge their every move and make demands on them because we’re caught up in their future, we lose something very precious; this moment in time, being with them just as they are. Meeting our kids today becomes an opportunity to know them and accept them here and now. It gives us a chance to embrace gratitude and discover gifts in the present. It puts laser focus on what is good today.

When we sincerely see our kids and value this day as it is, they know it. Only when we unconditionally accept them now – their thought processes, their interests, and their dislikes – are we making real connection with them. Connection builds trust. Trust establishes authentic relationship. We all want genuine relationships with our kids. And what’s more, they want it with us. Relationship now equals a future that will take care of itself.

REALIZE YOUR KIDS ARE NOT A REPRESENTATION OF YOU

Every human being is born unique, with distinct thoughts, ideas, creativity, gifts and fears. We may know this, however; many of us unconsciously view our kids as extensions of ourselves.

If we disapprove of their ideas, actions or lack thereof, we are embarrassed or ashamed. We might think, “Where did I go wrong?”

If we’re proud of their ideas or actions, we tend to take a bit of credit for raising them right. “I did good raising that one!”

Why do we do this? Why do we put so much of the focus on ourselves? In our society we tend to view our children as representations of “our” values, beliefs and goals. If our kids project the “appropriate” values, beliefs and goals, we feel we’ve done our job as a parent. If they don’t, we tend to feel that something is wrong with them or that we’ve somehow failed in our parental duties.

But what if our children were born with distinct ways of moving in the world? What if left alone with love and acceptance from us, our kids’ ideas could morph into concepts that change the world for the better? Is it possible that we’re focused on who our kids should be, rather than who they are, in an attempt to appear favorable in the eyes of society, family members or friends?

When we attempt to shape, form and yes, even force our children into certain behaviors or ways of thinking, they tend to shut down. They either comply with our ideals out of fear or the need for our approval or they rebel against them with anger and confusion. We all know that fear and confusion are not the ideal emotions in which to operate our lives. And yet so many children grow up sacrificing their own unique gifts and ideas for the sake of their parents, their peers and their society. Their voice is lost to a confused world.

Our kids are not a reflection of us. It’s okay to let them explore the world and come up with their own unique style, values and goals. Our relationship grows stronger when we accept them just as they are, relieving them of the duty to project a good image of us.

BE STILL AND LISTEN

Parents have more life experience than their children; this is true. But do we know all there is to know about life? Can we be sure that we know what is right for another human being?

We have our perspectives to go on but the buck stops there. When we assume that we know more than our children, that we know what our children should be doing, feeling or pursuing, we cut off communication. If we know, we don’t listen. We shut ourselves off from further query.

Living in the question of life is magical. It sends the signal into the world that we are open to new perspectives, new ideas and unique problem solving techniques. When we listen to our kids, really listen, we are open. Open to the possibility that they know something about their own lives. We shut them down when we already know how or what they should be, act or pursue in life. If we open up to the possibility that they just might know more about their lives than we do, we connect with them on a deep level. We inspire them to look within rather than chase approval or direction from the outer world.

Can our kids teach us if we let them? Perhaps if we find ourselves judging our kids, we can pause and listen. Maybe instead of responding with our own knowledge we can ask open-ended questions. “What excites you about that video game, Johnny? I’d like to learn more.” or “I see that you’re angry, Sara. I’m listening.”  And then listen fully without trying to change what they are doing or what they are saying. If we choose to be present and listen – put the focus on how we can assist rather than change – our child feels heard. He feels as though he has a voice and his most intimate partner, you, is listening. Open dialogue is established and the child feels empowered rather than managed and judged.

Our kids don’t need fixing. They need experienced partners in life who believe in them and value their wants, needs and desires. They need calm human beings who can empower them to find answers within. If we can’t listen honestly and openly, we negate any chance of connecting with them on that deeper level.

Many of us believe we have our children’s best interests at heart. We don’t want them to be hurt, fail or look stupid. We want them to thrive. But sometimes hurt and failures are the springboards to living a life filled with meaning. If we focus on the possibility that our children might be hurt or fail and we stop them from what they are feeling or doing, we rob them of learning how to navigate their own lives. We cut the cord of relationship in favor of fear.

Be present; envision that children are here with their own gifts to present to the world. Listen to what they have to say. True connection will be born and thrive in the parent child relationship if we only dare to let go and trust that all is well. Right here. . . Right now.

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This is a free online conference scheduled for May 23-27, 2016. Sign up for the conference on their website at www.ednextgen.com. They will be interviewing 25 experts discussing social emotional learning and mindfulness.

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