Al Cole Interviews Shelly on The Importance of Fathers

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Al Cole with “People of Distinction”.

In this interview, I share the importance of fathers and how couples, divorced or together, can work together to support the growth and development of their children. This was a fun, informational, and stimulating conversation about how moms and dads are different, how a father’s involvement supports both mothers and children, and what we can do to help fathers get the support and resources they need to be an active, healthy influence in their child’s life.

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Al Cole from CBS Radio is known for his outstanding broadcasting, public speaking, literary and musical achievements. Al is published by the international book line “Chicken Soup for the Soul“. He’s the talk show host of the nationally syndicated “People of Distinction“. His People of Distinction Humanitarian Award honors Unsung Heroes who make the world a better place through their great humanitarian work.

You can learn more about “People of Distinction” at http://peopleofdistinction.org/

Happy Parenting!

Shelly

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Mentors: What Are They and How Do You Find One?

A mentor is “an experienced and trusted adviser.”

How do we come to find mentors? Often we either seek them out or they appear in our lives as someone to whom we feel connected.  Whether it is someone to share in your parenting, career choices, or hobbies, mentors can help you grow.  I just got off the phone with one of my mentors and am reminded by how much my mentors inspire me! My whole life I havesought out people I think are amazing, people that will be straight with me, people I can model, and people that will make me a better person for just having known them. I have a mentor from every stage of my life, and every town I have lived.

I just returned from Amsterdam, where I visited the Van Gough museum. Van Gough was only an artist for a total of 10 years (age 27-37)  and constantly sought to study under people who could do what he wanted better. He painted hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of sunflowers until he had what he thought was the perfect sunflower. He lived a simple life with no money, borrowing from his parents and brother to live. Like many, his work was popular after his suicide at age 37.  His last letter to his brother, who had supported his art career, was about what a failure he was. Wow! That part of the audiotape actually brought tears to my eyes.

Van Gough had many mentors that contributed to the artist he became.  Thinking about this in the context of what my mentors have meant to me, I was reminded of a quote about youth, “The best help we can offer the youth of today is to prepare them for tomorrow.” ― Mark W. Boyer

Webinar_PC RlpsWhile this is about teens specifically, I think it applies to all. We can all benefit from preparation for what we haven’t yet experienced. We can learn so much from the people who have had those experiences, or from those who simply have access to different information or unique perspectives that challenge or add to our own. Through this, we are given an opportunity to see the world through a different pair of glasses. Whether it is a teen in your life or a good friend….don’t let them live their life not knowing the gifts they have to offer the world.  If you have the opportunity to be a mentor to someone, don’t hesitate. If you don’t have a mentor, find one.  You never know the impact those relationships will have on your life.

Tips for Finding a Mentor:

1. Mentors Have Something You Want: Mentors are credible sources for learning whatever it is you wish to learn. They offer support and guidance in a particular area. This doesn’t mean having all the answers. In fact, often mentors rely on their own thoughts, interpretations and experiences.

2. Mentors Nourish the Relationship: Mentors have qualities you respect. They  ask open questions and get to know you personally. They show genuine interest in your hopes, dreams, challenges, and interests. Then, they use this information to provide opportunities for you to grow.

3. Mentors Share Insights and Experiences: Mentors share their experiences, but in a neutral way. The idea is that you are left with information and ideas so that you can make a decision for yourself. Mentors offer ideas, encouragement, and an “open door policy” to discuss  the challenges you may face. Challenges are not road block, but opportunities to grow through.

4.  Mentors Listen Well: Mentors are a great sounding board. A mentor is someone you can say anything to; you can feel free to express your excitement and your fears. They will offer direct advice, but only when asked. Often through their fresh perspective and honest listening, you will solve your own problems.

5. Mentors Provide Encouragement: Mentors will give you those upbeat words of encouragement that help you to see what you can not see for yourself. We are often our own worst critic. Like Van Gough, we may see ourselves as failures from time-to-time. Mentors can remind you of your strengths and accomplishments, while giving you the hope to keep pushing when you really just want to give up.

Help You Teen Find Mentors

As their parent, you can certainly be a mentor to your teen. However, you can also play an active role in helping them find other mentors. They already benefit from your love, wisdom and experience. Trusted mentors will not take away from that relationship. It will give your teen access to another person that cares about his or her well-being  Research shows that teens benefit greatly from having someone, outside of their parents, to bounce things off of.  While you may want your teen to talk to you, don’t take it personally if they find someone with whom they connect. Rather than competing, become part of that relationship by talking to them about what they are learning.

Nourish these relationships; they are life-changing.

Happy parenting!

Shelly

Why Family Communication Is Such A Big Deal AND How You Can Improve It In 6 Minutes!

Family communication: We’ve all heard about it on the news and read about it online. We know we’d like to improve it but we’re just not sure how to do it. We’ve read the lists of what to do but we just can’t seem to put them into practice.

The simple fact is that communication leads to connection and family is one of the most natural and important places to feel connected.  People form connections all the time with friends, co-workers, members of groups like a sport teams and clubs, or even gangs. Think about that list for a minute.

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Guest Blog from

Kevin Strauss
with FamilyeJournal

Free Webinar 10/1/13 @ 7:00pm ET: Want A Great Relationship With Your Child? Communicate.

FREE Webinar on Tuesday October 1, 2013 @ 7:00 Easter Time

Recently I posted an article entitled, Want a Great Relationship with Your Child? Communicate. I will be presenting a webinar on this topic on Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 7:00pm eastern time with Therapist Express. Please join us to dive into the art of parent-child communication.

Register here for this FREE webinar

Description:

Having a great relationship with your child starts with communication.  Have you ever wondered, “Why doesn’t my kid tWebinar_PC Rlpsalk to me anymore?”or “Why is my child so distant these days?”  Every parent wonders this at some point or another.  If you want to strengthen your relationship with your child, learn to connect.

Good communication involves listening and sharing aspects of yourself, while developing empathy and understanding for others.  This can look very different as your child grows and develops. This webinar will give you concrete strategies to connect with your child through communication. When you can do thins, you can have a great relationship with your child no matter what life throws your way.

Bio:

Shelly Mahon is a Ph.D. Candidate at the University of Wisconsin Madison and the parent of two teenagers. She has been working with youth and families for about 20 years, and teaching in a university setting since the year 2000.  She is the program director for Apart, Not Broken: Learn, Connect, & Create, an online program helping fathers adjust and parent after divorce or separation. The evaluation of this program is her dissertation.  Her commitment is that parents have the support and resources they need to take care of themselves and foster the growth and development of their children.

What Can You Gain from Community: Reflections from the 100-Year Flood in Colorado

Blog_Boulder flood

I am a resident of Boulder Colorado, one of the many towns that experienced or witnessed a huge sense of loss and devastation from the 100-year flood that crashed through Colorado over the last few days. Whether it is divorce, a natural disaster, or some other major life challenge, this article talks about 5 things you can gain from community.

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http://wp.me/p2YXNy-aQ

The Unique & Special Role of Dads

“Fathers are far more than just ‘second adults’ in the home. Involved fathers bring positive benefits to their children that no other person is as likely to bring.” Dr. David Popenoe

Happy Father’s Day! If you follow my blog you know that I support and conduct research on the importance of fathers. Fathers play a fundamental and profound role in their child’s development. Over the years, our culture has shifted from one where fathers were the breadwinners and mothers were the caretakers to one where fathers want to be more involved in the nurturing and caretaking aspects of childrearing.  Still, fathers bring their own twist to caretaking, one that is found to have a positive impact on their child’s thinking, psychological well-being, and social behavior. Let’s look at one of the things that make dads so special, PLAY!

Dads spend a much higher percentage of their time engaged in playful, stimulating, one-on-one activities with their children.  How does that impact their development? From the very beginning, play is essential to a child’s cognitive development. According to psychologist Jean Piaget, an infant’s mental development begins by using his/her senses and motor activities to interact with the environment.  Lying on their stomach, touching a mobile, and playing with their toes add to their knowledge of the world. As children get older, they add imitation and language to playful interactions. By the time they are teens, they do a variety of activities with their dad.  They may wrestle, shoot hoops, ride bikes, go to movies, play ball, go out to dinner together, frequent the ice-cream shop, or go on road trips. Dads pay attention to what their kids like to do and then they DO IT with them!

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However, play does much more then make children smarter. Play teaches them how to regulate their feelings and behavior.  For example, wrestling with dad is a fun way to develop self-control.  Through this type of roughhousing, children learn they can be physical and aggressive without loosing control of their own emotions. Self-control leads to prosocial behavior and positive interactions with adults and peers. Finally, fathers are much more likely to promote independence and achievement.  This is often balanced by a mother’s tendency to be nurturing.

I asked a few teens what made their dad special. As you read their response, notice how these teens express the importance of play, independence, and simply spending time together.

To me, my father is more than the normal dad. Not only is he a brave, strong, and heroic dad, but he also has a childish side.  He is fun and loves to mess around and hang out with my brother and I. Without my dad, I would never have that extra shoulder to lean on or that friend that I can always trust, no matter what. He has always told me, as his father used to tell him, that he will always be my best friend. He will always keep his promises, support me, and be on my side. Ever since I was very little, my dad has strived for me to do my best, from teaching me to ride my bike and bike up a hill near our house to teaching me how to do my times tables in third grade. He never gives up. He is always pushing me to do my best. So, in the end, my dad is not just a father, but a support, teacher, and most importantly, my best friend.

My Dad is my best friend. My favorite part of our relationship is that every morning, on the drive down the mountain from our house, we talk about life in such a free way that there seems to be no communication barriers between us that the “average American Father-Daughter relationship” is prescribed to have. We trust each other and we have each other backs. The kind of relationship I have with my Dad is the result of a long journey together and can be largely attributed to my parents divorce when I was 13. Sometimes things got really hard and money and living with my Dad was tricky. Through it all we were forced to be vulnerable and open with each other, which is why we can be so comfortable today. I am thankful for all of it. I love my Dad.

When I was little, my dad was like my superhero. Everything he did was amazing! As I got older I learned that he was not perfect, but he was authentic.  He has shared his wisdom and his mistakes with me, and through it all I have learned a lot. My dad is a role model, teacher and a friend. He is always there for me. My dad has bailed me out when I made mistakes but it wasn’t free. He showed me that he loved me, but also helped me to make up for what happened and grow past it. My dad is the guy that will learn to play hockey so that he can coach you and see you more often.  I think my dad would even pick up ballet if that was what I liked and it meant he could see me more. My dad will always be a big part of my life. I love him very much!

Never underestimate the impact you have on your child’s life!

Happy Parenting,

Shelly

Mom: Sherpa, Supporter, & Number 1 Fan

Since it is Mother’s day, let’s talk about moms. Moms become moms the day they find out they are pregnant. Before the baby even enters the world, moms feel responsible for taking care of this new life MomTeenby providing it with the most nurturing environment she can inside her body. And, babies make themselves known! They are the source of morning sickness, kicks to the bladder, sleepless nights, and the inability to tie one’s own shoes anymore. For me, coffee made me sick and I could smell rotten produce a mile away! Mothers greet their baby with open arms the day it is born, but their hearts and souls already know each other.

Most moms say that having their first child was a distinct experience; there’s nothing quite like it! Expecting moms spend months wondering things like: “What is this really going to be like?” “Can I do this?” “Will I every have time for myself again?” You may have had different questions depending on your circumstances and how prepared you were to have a child. Regardless, becoming a mom probably left you with feelings of anxiety, joy, worry and excitement.

A good friend gave me some of the best “advice” I received with my first child. He said, “Your child will not know any different. Whatever you do will be normal and perfect in his/her eyes.” Of course, as children get older they start to notice that other families do things different. There is still a comforting feeling associated with going home after a rockin’ sleepover or a fun weekend vacation with another family. There is nothing quite like coming coming home.

With all this thought about what it means to be a mom, I decided to ask some teen how they would describe their mom. Here are some of the things they said.

“A mom is the best support system anyone can have. She is someone you can always rely on to support and love you no matter what you do. She is helpful and loving and kind.”

“A mom is someone that makes you. She buys you food, drives you places, and always loves you.”

“A mom is a guide. She is your Sherpa in life. She won’t do things for you, but she will help you reach the top of the mountain. She sets you free when you’re ready to go.”

“A mother is someone with whom mistakes don’t matter. In any relationship, people are bound to mess up. Both mothers and kids inevitably do so. This can break other relationships, but there is something about mothers in which the bond is really quite special and unbreakable.”

As you go through your day, think about what “mom” means to you. If you would like, please share your thoughts in the comment section.

Have a magical day and happy parenting!

Shelly