Come and listen to why I wrote The Truth and also how the girls react to the book! A real girl’s response is worth a thousand imagined responses!
Who has the time to focus on a child’s emotional and developmental needs? Certainly oftentimes not the parent. Most parents are frazzled, living on the edge of exhaustion and deep into multi-tasking. Parents are of course responsible for all the basics that a child needs. They provide the housing, the trips to the pediatrician, the late night soothing after a bad dream, the trips to the mall for school clothing, and most of the daily needs that children have, such as getting a ride to school, and sitting at the table for dinner.
But who has the time for the magical moment with a child? Who has the time to really listen to what she is saying and even write it down, next to a digital picture of the moment when it was said? Probably not the child’s mom or dad. And who has the time to help her develop the social and intellectual skills she really will need to be a good citizen?
Most likely it will be the grandparent. That is, if you realize how important you are, and you take the time to step up to the plate. It is you who can have the magical moments with your grandchild-find those flowers to press and start the rock collection and sit in the window seat chatting about how it was to grow up long ago. And in grabbing those magical moments you do something else. You will be doing a great service to the next generation. You will be helping them grow in three basic ways that no one else in the world may have the time or patience to attend to. Here they are:
1.You can help her develop her curiosity. Nothing stirs the mind to be curious than someone else so fascinated by a subject that you just have to learn more. You have the time to be fascinated and to pass that feeling along. For example, just learning how to grow tomatoes in a barrel can be interesting and exciting for both you and your grandchild. Or you could have a neighbor that speaks in sign language and be determined to learn some. And that curiosity that you have will rub off on your grandchild. She will be interested in others as she grows up. She will see the world as a multi-faceted marvelous place that you have helped her notice!
2. You can help your grandchild develop her intellect. Whether you live around the corner or thousands of miles away, you can send your grandchild books, interesting articles, puzzles, games, etc. And you can make sure that when you are with her you teach her lots of stuff. You can discuss the news, find countries on the globe, play word and number games, read plays aloud. All is good for developing the mind and expanding the mind so that your grandchild will think beyond her direct environment.
3. You can help your grandchild develop her social skills. You have the time to teach her manners-how to set a table. How to open a door for grown-ups. You can take her out to eat, even if it is at the local diner. And you can teach her how to read a menu, eat with intention and enjoyment, make good conversation as she eats, etc. You can teach her how to ballroom dance. Or maybe square dance. You can take her to meet your friends or to do good needs. She can help you at the local food canteen or socialize with your friends.
And what is the result? Your grand child will grow up to be a fine, caring, knowledgeable person with a desire to help others and be able to socialize with people of all ages. Not a bad accomplishment!
1. First of all, stay in touch with your grandchildren, so you have a good baseline on their personalities and development. If you live apart then rely on all the modern world has to offer: e-mailing, phoning and faxing, Skype, home video’s, photographs, shared family blogs and of course snail mail. Not only will you be ready to help if there is something ‘up’ with a grandchild, but you will have such fun communicating and being part of their world.
2. Help each child feel special. For example you could create scrapbooks of special moments for each child on special occasions, such as a milestone birthday. The scrapbook can contain your thoughts and wishes for the child as well as photo’s, special souvenirs saved from times spent together, and even family history. Each scrapbook can be very different, reflecting the needs and interests of a particular child.
3. Whether you see your grand kids every week or every three years, make sure you spend some alone time with each child. It is amazing how differently kids share themselves and even their hopes, dreams and secrets when the other siblings, or parents are not around. If you can’t do much, even a slow walk around the block will lead to good fun and a better knowledge of your grandchild.
4. Now that you have the relationship going well, it is time to become very observant. Do you see any strange or unusual habits developing? Or do you see some social changes? These could include everything from an eye twitch to excessive crying, bullying of a sibling, spending too much alone time in her room, a change in friends that gives you some concerns, or maybe too few friends. It could also include such things as becoming a very picky eater or suddenly putting on a lot of weight.
5. If there are changes as noted above, don’t react with drama or accusations. That is sure to set your own child off, and perhaps close the door to your visits and also, perhaps, perpetuate a bad situation so it will become worse. Rather, talk gently and with care and in private to your child. Perhaps say something like, ” I notice that Janet seems to spend a lot of time a lone this summer. I don’t see Anna belle and Susie come around anymore. I was just curious about this.” And then let your own grown child have some time to respond. She may appear indifferent or she may open up and share her own concerns. Your granddaughter will be best served if follow your own daughter’s lead and see where it goes. It may be painful, as you wish to change everything at once for your granddaughter. Sometimes we can only plant the seed and long after your visit you will find out that your granddaughter is indeed in counseling or working with the school guidance counselor in a peer group for social issues.
6. However, if you see a real crisis, then you have every right as family to be persistent and direct. For example, if you hear your granddaughter throwing up in the bathroom after meals, you should speak with authority (again in private) to your daughter, that she must take your granddaughter in for a medical exam. Eating disorders are real and potentially even fatal. You have a responsibility to react strongly.
Likewise, if you see one of your grand kids bullying and or physically punching, pushing hard, etc. on a younger sibling again and again, talk to your own child seriously. First of all, it is dangerous. Your older grandchild could hurt the younger one both physically and emotionally. Secondly, he could have his own emotion problems that need attention. Lastly, he could be a bully in the making and will also intimidate and hurt other children in the school yard, on the street, in the school hallways, etc.
7. Lastly, remember to share yourself with your grand kids. Just because everyone today has a cell phone, doesn’t mean the kids aren’t fascinated by the fact that your had one phone in your house when you grew up, or that the family of six drivers shared one beat up car or that you got up at 6:00 am for your paper route through town. Maybe you even had a doctor that still made house calls when someone was suddenly ill! It is the richness of your history along with your wisdom and willingness to push for the health and happiness of your grand kids that make you a great grandparent. Don’t give up your assignment! The kids need you!~
Sometimes, as a Grandparent, you may think you are dispensable. You are kidding yourself. Even grandparents that are visited once a year or even less frequently leave a remarkable imprint on a grandchild’s life and have an important role to play. We know some of the reasons why. For one thing, most grandparents give off a sense of love and adoration for the grandchild that few parents have the energy or interest to sustain. Also, grandparents are good at providing extra treats, often coming through with a special gift or the money for a science camp, a trip to Disneyland or some other experience in life that the parents simply can’t or don’t feel obliged to offer. Lastly, grandparents are so interesting. They may live in houses or apartments that feel from another time. For example, they still may have a record player in the closet with a bunch of rock and roll records on the shelf or maybe opera’s. It doesn’t matter, it is just so much not where the child lives every day. And the TV has a giant back to it! There are old pictures on the tables and somewhere in the back of a closet are white leather gloves that great grandma wore on her wedding day!
But even beyond what I am mentioning so far, grandparents have influence that can be critical. Grandparents have that extra pair of eyes that parents have often sacrificed in the line of daily duty and upkeep of the children. By this I mean that they come to the family and the kids, often with fresh eyes. As the newcomer who may not have visited for a week, or a year, they often immediately can tell when something is off. Parents can miss these subtleties. We know that human nature acclimates to an awful lot. A quick test of this innate quality is suddenly looking at pictures of yourself from a couple of years ago. Suddenly a current look in the mirror reflects aging or at least change. On a daily basis we don’t see change.
So when grandma or grandpa come to visit or you visit them and the smell a rat, listen with every fiber in your body.
And grandma, when Abigail slams the door and doesn’t seem quite right, get ready to put on your detective eyeglasses and play sleuth. You may be even instrumental in the saving of your grandchild’s life, or at least her sense of well-being.
You don’t believe me? Well, stay with me and we will discuss Seven Ways that Grandparents Can Help Their Grandchildren Grow up Strong, Safe and Happy!
I am very excited about this real life interview with a budding poet and fiction writer. Ally is a student at the Manasquan School in Manasquan, New Jersey. I had a chance to meet Ally when I went to talk to Girl’s Club at the school about being a writer, as well as a psychologist and sharing my first book in The Truth Series, The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything). Since then Ally has shared with me many of her writings and poetry. I am very impressed. She speaks from the heart with eloquence, spirit and humor. I hope she goes very far as a talented writer and poet. Enjoy our interview!
1. When did you become interested in writing poetry?
I became interested in writing when i was young but then forgot about it and put it aside for the 1-4th grades. In fifth grade i was praised by my teachers and started writing again. Then in 6th grade i put it on hold for the summer. This was the first year i truely found my calling.
2. Can you remember your first poem? Can you share it?
Yea i remember my first poem, i wrote this when i was 3 or 4 and my dad wrote it down for me. Here it is:
Dad is the wind which carries me through the day
Mom is the sun who brights up my day
Kiki (my sister) is the stars above
And me? I smile
3. How do poems come to you?
Wow this is a great question. Poems come to me like a shooting star but more often. Sometimes ill be sitting in math class, taking notes and ill just spark. My friends like to call it overdrive because ill have a two page poem finished in 2 minutes. And sometimes ill write poems in my sleep
4. When did you start to write other forms such as fiction?
I started writing other forms of writing when i was in fourth grade. I remember writing a story called “The world behind the water” it was about my friends and a story about atlantis, then this year i really got a kick out of it
5. Can you share with us one of your favorite poems that you wrote?
You are sick
You stabbed my heart
Until I couldn’t cry
You’ve have made me
Un-satiable to your effects
On my soul
You stole my heart and
Toyed with life
I was the marionette
And you held the strings
But then you randomly decided
To cut them
I love you
6. Are there adults in your life who have encouraged and helped you on your writing career? Who were they and want did they do for you?
Yea there are many adults who have encouraged me and helped me. My teachers Mrs.McWilliams and Mrs.Kim- they both taught me what i needed to know and encouraged me to go out there. My principal Mrs. Carlolson has been supportive of my writing and funded my classes. My friends Alice and Tess(even though they aren’t adults) have proved to me that i am a really good writer even when im hard on myself and have inspired me. My best friend Griffin too. He was there to read my writing and encouraged me to go out there and not care what people think. You, Dr.Holstien have encouraged me the most and have helped me truley go for it. I’d like to thank them and you for all the help and encouragement.
7. What advice would you give another young person interested in writing poetry or fiction?
If your interested in writing then go for it. If its a passion and you live and breathe it then your on the write track. If its your passion then just go for it submit your writing to publishers like Teenink.com ( i have a subscription to they’re magazine) where they publish everything imaginable. Show your teachers and get yourself known. Develop a portfolio and look at those old notebooks because there may be some gems in there. And most of all don’t care what people may think is weird or strange about your writing you’ll be surprised.
8. What are some of your dreams for your writing?
Some of my dreams for writing are to become an author and speak to kids around the country-maybe even world. I have always wanted to have my own colum in the New York Times. I’d also like to become has famous as Robert Frost or Edger Allen Poe.
Fiction writing has given me, a positive psychologist and educator, a way of providing self-help information and support to girls, tweens, teens and the adults in their lives. There are so many topics to tackle: bullying,family dysfunction, relocation, crushes and of course body issues. In The Truth Series, the girl faces and handles many of these issues. It is in the second book, Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe!, when she is 13, that she begins her own journey with how she perceives and handles her body. She becomes convinced that her derriere is too large and…But I’ll let you read that for yourself.
The important point is that I put theses episodes about body image into Secrets and some questions at the end of the book for further thought and discussion, because we have a National Epidemic going on. Between real obesity in children and the perception of being overweight, whether in fact true or not, that can lead to various forms of eating disorders, we have a big problem on our hands.
On television newscasters remark that movie theaters are losing money as they have to change the seats in the cinema to now be 21 inches wide, rather than 19 inches. This is but one tiny result of a culture that is having problems with eating throughout the lifespan.
Of course, as a psychologist and educator, I am on the front lines with tips and advice for you, so you can help your children grow up strong, resilient, confident of their self-image and themselves, not obese and without eating disorders. Let’s hope they can indeed, fit into cinema seats that don’t have to be widened.
Tips for Parents around Raising Strong Healthy Children, in both Mind and Body:
1. Praise your children for their positive actions, behaviors and words. Make it clear that their response to life as a good citizen and a loving family member is much more important than their looks or body type.
2. Don’t compare or judge people’s looks or bodies. Rather point out a person’s fine character trait or a good deed that a person has done. Your children are always listening to you and what you say, even if you think they are blocking you out! Your attitude very much influences how they will perceive others and themselves.
3. Show your children by your own eating habits, that you recognize the need for eating healthy foods. If you are out of control around certain foods and habits, what message is that sending to your kids?
4. Consider planting a small garden or learning more about the foods we eat with your children. This can be a fun activity like visiting a potato chip factory, or something more serious, like learning about the differences between organic farming and non-organic farming.
5. Cook up delicious meals, at least on occasion, and let the kids help. It can be fun to fine recipes together and shop for the ingredients as a family outing. Praise them for their help and don’t get caught up in the milk that spills or the egg that fell and cracked on the floor.
6. And of course, if you child is suddenly gaining or losing weight or showing any form of eating disorder, talk to her pediatrician immediately.
These are but a few suggestions. I bet you have some other suggestions. Please feel free to add your suggestions in a comment.
“I think everything I make is a master piece!” These words were spoken by Cecelia who is a fashion designer. What makes her particularly unique is that she is 10 years old. She has been designing since she was 6.
When I saw Cecelia on television a couple of months ago, talking about her passion, sewing her creations, and then saw other children wearing the clothing, I was amazed and impressed. It was fascinating to see her in a fabric store picking the fabrics for her clothing. She clutched a bolt of fabric, saying “I can’t live without that piece of fabric.” She now has Trunk shows in exclusive stores and is often busy sewing her clothing for other girls her age. Truthfully I loved her clothes and could even imagine liking them for myself in a big enough size. It is unusual to find people of any age so connected and centered to a passion. It is extremely unusual at 10.
Obviously Cecelia has been able to recognize and hold on to her talents and potential. And as they say, behind every great King is a great Queen. Well, behind Cecelia, must be parents who are guiding, encouraging and helping her with her talents.
What can Cecelia teach the rest of us? Certainly not that every kid must have a talent that makes them famous. Rather she reminds us all the living our dreams, doing what feels really significant to us, is a gift we should all try to get to at some point in our lives. Why? Because it makes us feel whole. We are useful to society and we thrive. These are but some of the good reasons. And how do we get there? And when?
These are big questions and not so easy to answer. But we do know that the ways we parents are critically important. Here are some guidelines:
1. Recognize and help your child to recognize her talents, strengths, coping skills, interests and of course potential.
2. Never say never to a dream of hers, (unless it is harmful). If she can’t take ice skating lessons this year because of money, leave the door open for next year. Help her figure out a way to make sure it happens by next year. Perhaps she can get a scholarship. Perhaps you can offer your services, whether making phone calls, or baking cookies or cleaning the waiting room for parents, in lieu of payment. Get on your thinking cap and try.
3. Bring interesting information and ideas into your household. Encourage good use of time. Collecting rocks or leaves or anything can lead to a science discussion or a fascination into the ways of nature. A family walk can be meaningful, healthy and leave everyone in a good mood. Always stay alert so you are opening your child’s mind and senses to the positive dimensions of being alive.
Did your parents ever tell you that when you were a kid? My parents did. I guess it was one way of explaining that the earth is round and there are places very, very far away. I would actually imagine a tunnel all the way to China. My fascination with China only increased when my mother decided it was time for the den to be redecorated in a Chinese motif. Soon we had new upholstery for the studio coach displaying a pattern of Chinese temples, and people dressed in elaborate ancient Chinese garb. I loved to stare at the upholstery and the new pictures on the wall, of course, Chinese mountains and ancient buildings. All of this was augmented by the family’s love of going out to Chinese restaurants.
Our favorite restaurant in the whole world, aside from The Seafood Grill, (guess what they specialized in?) was the Far East. Located on a second floor in downtown New Haven, it was a world unto itself. First we climbed up a dark wooden staircase to enter a large room with dark wood paneling, old wooden fans swirling slowly in the ceiling, and little china tea cups, There was strange exotic music that sounded like the black keys on our piano and Chinese waiters that barely spoke English. My parents knew exactly what to order: chow main in dark sauce, along with egg foo young.
When I was very tiny I was given the French bread which they served, along with the white rice and the vanilla ice cream. (No one questions why they served French bread.) Later I graduated to spare ribs and other exotic dishes like Moo Gai Pan.
It took so little to convince my mom, dad, myself and my Aunt Lil and my Grandmother, Baboo, to believe we were in an exotic setting, eating authentic cuisine. How simple those days were.
As simple as those days were, they still left me with a fascination for China. So when I was approached to consider publishing my first book in The Truth Series: The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) in China, I was over the moon. This was an amazing opportunity. All of my old feelings of longing to somehow be part of this strange land came back to me. I leaped at the offer.
Soon, Professor Chen, an English professor in China, and I were corresponding almost daily. I got to know about him, his family and his way of life. He got to know about me. We were penpals. And we were colleagues on a project. He translated the book beautifully. When we finally had a publisher, www.xjpress.com , we brainstormed many extra passages that appeared in the Chinese version, but not the English version. You see, the editor wanted lots of passages about school work, tests, holidays. Basically, the book was educational in terms of how kids live here, as well as being a fictional diary written by a girl growing up, experiencing all sorts of emotions and events in her life.
In the fall of 2009 the book was published in China. When I saw the book I was amazed. It is so adorable. Almost every page has art work on it. Also the book is in both English and Chinese. That way, the reader can also practice her English as she reads. If you go to my Truthforgirls page on Facebook I have some pictures of the Chinese version of the book and also the party I had to celebrate the book coming out.
I encourage every author to try to get your book or books published in at least one other country. It is a wonderful way of sharing what you have to offer. Also, it is a great way to feel that you have contributed beyond your own borders. There are agents that specialize in foreign rights. If you are interested pursue them. I have an agent now, but I still have one more edition of The Truth to come out in a foreign land, that I secured for myself.
Can you guess where? It is Vietnam. My yearnings for the exotic are beginning to come true. Now I just have to book some flights!
The girl in Secrets: You Tell me Yours and I”ll Tell You Mine…maybe! has to deal with a lot of stuff. She has to adjust to a new middle school, leaving behind all her friends. She has family problems and issues. No one really understands her and she worries about keeping her best friend. And on top of that she has a crush that seems to be going nowhere.
But one thing she doesn”t have to worry night and day about is serious and potentially dangerous bullying. That is because she lives thirty years ago, when many of us parents grew up. She lives with telephones and television. Can you remember those days? Remember when a tiny note rolled up and passed along in class could be devastating? Or someone changing tables in the cafeteria as you sat down could be a message that hurt for months? These sorts of events were awful and you may have cried yourself to sleep on several occasions.
But just magnify that by 1000 and you get closer to what today”s kids have to deal with. The New York Times article brilliantly outlines the typical nightmares that many kids of today face and also the difficulties that schools have in curbing much of it. After all, schools of today, just as 30 years ago, can”t control what happens after school or on the weekend.
As a psychologist and school psychologist I take very seriously what is happening to today”s kids. Parents and schools need to respond and act, not just react. Here are some tips for you as a parent:
You, as a parent, are on the front lines of your child”s development. That means:
Making yourself available to your child at meals, in the car, in the evening when possible, and on the weekends. Here is how:
Basic Rule: Don”t use cell phones, phones, or computers when your child is expecting and may need connection, help, advice or simply love from you.
Will this be a big change for you? Maybe. But it is essential. Research shows and we can figure this out for ourselves, kids don”t like it when their parents are only giving them partial concentration.
Ways to start: Don”t talk on your cell in the car anymore when your child is with you. Also, it will make you also a safer driver.
Don”t bring any cell phones, etc. to the dinner table with you.
Don”t answer the phone during mealtime, unless an emergency is going on.
Make sure you have meals with your kid at least three nights a week.
In the evening when kids need help with homework, etc. try reading a book or doing any project that you can instantly turn away from as you go in and out of their space.
Plan weekend time as a family. During that time, whether it is a picnic or visiting a relative, set aside only brief times when any of you can use technology. Try talking, laughing, telling jokes, reminiscing. These things have worked for centuries!
I”ll be back with more tips. Remember, the child you are protecting is your own! It is worth the effort.