Monday, March 12, 2018

What to do about Social Media FHE

Warning: This post will be scattered and incomplete and proably won't convey all the thoughts that I have in my head about this topic, because I really don't have time to type that all up, but as the farmer says in the movie Babe "at'll do, pig."

So, let me just cut to the chase.

We let our children know this evening that we would like them to stay off of social media until they are grown...And I guess because we've been leaning in this direction for them for such a long time it must've not been a shock for them in any way, because no one cried or had a meltdown.

I mean, really?

I can only chalk this up to the gospel principles we've taught them, to personal and honest experiences we've shared with them about our own technology use, and good old-fashioned reasoning we've done together about this.

Now, being someone who has used social media for good for quite a while now, this might seem hypocritical, but really I've thought about it and read about it and considered what to do, and lately this has just felt right for us and for my kids.

So tonight as we discussed (under Guy's tutelage) the section in For the Strength of Youth that deals with Entertainment & Media, we worked our way over to the topic of social media and time spent on phones and before I even got the words out, Scarlett declared that she was ok staying off of social media, eventhough her friends tell her "you don't have a phone? I feel bad for you!"

My kids are brave.  I've got to hand them that.  And I reminded them tonight before I broke the news to them that in so many things we ask them to be different and to stand out.  This was going to be another one of those situations.

When "smartphones" came onto the scene just over ten years ago, almost no one that I know even considered that there might be negative effects.  Now a decade later, we are only just beginning to see the effects.  And there are plenty of people who are distancing themselves from social platforms who once embraced them.  

I am reading the book (ironically I'm reading it on my phone) called "How to Break Up with Your Phone" by Catherine Price.  I already had a desire and started taking steps to lesson my phone-time, but this book really drives that desire up about ten knotches as the first half of the book she hits you with fact after fact about what social media and technology does to our brains, to our memory, to our ability to focus and on and on.

We've always taken a wait and see approach with our kids and devices/media.  We've tried to anyway, because we were never quite sure what route was best.  We've dipped our toes in with the kids and media only to pull it back again when we saw how it affected their behavior and when we saw that we weren't ready as parents and didn't have all the answers we needed to navigate this new world with children.  On the other hand, my son Guy was one of the youngest kids I've ever heard of to get into indexing, again under my care and assistance.

One of the phrases from General Conference that has stuck with me in the last few months is this from Elder Stevenson: "Let us also teach and demonstrate the righteous use of technology to the rising generation and warn against the associated hazards and destructive use of it. Viewing social media through the lens of the gospel can prevent it from becoming a spiritual eclipse in our lives." 

Just in the last few days, I finally could come to terms with how I interpret this quote.  I AM modeling righteous use of technology for my children.  I am finding ways to practice good use of technology by giving them brief, supervised access to it, instead of letting them loose on phones of their own and saying "Good luck, kid! Try not to get addicted."

As much as they might have wanted that perceived freedom, I just couldn't do that to them.  I could see what too much screentime does to their happy young minds and I couldn't let them go there.  (My favorite catchphrase for when my kids ask WHY can't they go online or WHY can't they just watch TV, etc in any given moment is "because I'm raising children, not robots, now go outside and play!" Or I'll say, "Because I want you to be a ''real boy'" a la Pinnoccio. Or my favorite sarcastic phrase that stemmed from a real incident, "TV told me to, Mommy" always gets a laugh!)

This article that I read recently really helped me bridge the gap and opened my eyes to how much added unnessary pressure my children would have to face if they were to keep up a personal social identity online in addition to having to figure out their real in-person identity at the same time.

This is pressure I did not have to endure while simultaneously going through puberty.  I was free to figure myself out outside of the public eye.  I want to give my children this same gift.

I understand that in the coming years they might change their mind on this, but as of right now I think they're relieved....the same way they seemed relieved the other week when we taught them about our standards and expectations for them when they begin dating.  The pressure was off.  Now they knew how to respond to questions from their peers.

I can be their scapegoat when their friends ask why they aren't online.  "Oh my crazy parents won't let me be on social media.  Pssh, yeah, I know, crazy, right?" 

And when they are adults, with fully-formed identities, testimonies, and convictions, they will be ready to be a force for good out there in the cyberworld on their own.  Until then, we practice and do these things together.  

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Monday, March 5, 2018

Tribe Pride FHE

 Tonight's FHE started out semi-calm and got weird real fast.

We read and listened to the section in For the Strength of Youth that talks about Family.  (Which, by the way, the narration and the words on the site are not exactly the same, so we listened to and read both.)

I asked the kids to write down or draw pictures of the principles that we learned as we listened, which they did, but apparently the example of 2 year old Val drawing on his face was too much for my older kids to handle.  They had to join in...and so did Dad.  By the end of it, despite my protests, they all had made a messy, funny memory together.

Here are some of the concepts we learned: Families are a great blessing from God.  They take a lot of effort.  Not all families are the same, but they are all important to God's plan.  Families can be some of our closest friends.  (I accidentally wrote "closet friends" which had us all in stitches too.)

The kids took turns sharing their posters with the family and hanging them on the wall for us to look at in the coming week.

Here we are being boring and listening to the lesson...before face-painting hijacked FHE!

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Parenting Middle-Schoolers

As usual, I have about five minutes to blog so I'm going to make this real quick.

I have mentioned a few times over the last year how parenting my oldest as he's turned into a middle-schooler/pre-teen has been a challenge.  Because of the move and all of the added challenges of transitioning to a new life and also being pregnant and adding to our family, it made jumping into a new phase of parenting that much more tricky!

I was trying my best to come up with solutions and strategies, but I was quickly realizing that I didn't have all the answers.

But I'm happy to say that the Lord kept guiding me or putting me in conversations with people who had more answers than I did so that I could take some of their words of wisdom to heart and it has helped.

I wanted to just quickly mention a few books that have helped me develop my strategies as a parent of three tweens!

The first is a book called Unsteady by JeaNette G. Smith.  It is written from an LDS perspective and explains how and why we should teach our kids to save serious or exclusive dating for a time when they are ready to choose a spouse...preferably post-high school and post-mission.

I found her explanation of the six stages of relationship to be enlightening. I certainly didn't have an understanding of this when I was a youth, but now my children will.  Already in fifth and sixth grade my oldest two are having to ask and answer these questions.  They have people pressuring them to "like" someone.  They've been asked out on dates, etc.

As proactive as we have been as parents in explaining sex to our children, there is still suddently a whole new world opening up to them that we need to guide them through...a world of "dating", a world of technology, a world of making friends and on and on.

Although I haven't finished reading this book, it felt like the author really helped me catch-up in being able to reason with my children about the dating standards and helping them come to a logical understanding of why the standards on dating are a wise route to pursue.  And this was an important detail for us to address now as they were suddenly asking a lot of questions which we hadn't yet considered.

The second book, of course, is called "Growing Up Too Fast: The Secret World of America's Middle Schoolers" by Sylvia Rimm.  Now Dr. Rimm is a neighbor of my mother's, believe it or not, and she is also a renowned expert on parenting who specializes and has written many books on parenting gifted children and girls...two areas I need help with.

After mentioning her to me multiple times, my mom finally just gave me Dr. Rimm's book and told me to read it.  But being a busy Mom, of course I wasn't getting far into it.  Finally, one night in the middle of the night, I woke up and thought, "I need to read that book!"  So at 4am I found myself reading her book straight through and highlighting many pages and making notes in the margins.

Now you know any prompting that gets you up at 4am to read a book is legit.

I am so glad that I did this, as her book really helped me to change the way I was thinking about my preteens and helped me to better understand their generation and the things they have to deal with.

Her book really deserves it's own post, but I will just blurt out a few concepts she teaches that helped me a lot:

1.  Consider that because of their exposure to TV/Media/Technology, this generation is dealing with things that are 2 years or more ealier than you did at their age.  So think of yourself two years older than them and then approach their problem with that in mind.

2.  Try to be their "coach" not their "judge."  A Coach assumes the best about them and encourages.  A Judge condemns.

3.  Quality Family Relationships can overcome and prevent many problems.

4.  Don't be afraid to encourage children to be like you.  You are their role models.

5.  The idea of "popularity" is a distortion of the concept of true friendship.

6.  Her explanation of "Erikson's Stages of Psychological Development" was enlightening for me as I'd never learned about it.  It helped me to understand the challenges that my children will and must go through at each stage of development...and therefore I can see better how to help them and facilitate their growth.  It also helped me to see how the standards of dating will help them to develop in a healthy way to adulthood.

And lastly, you know we have been using For the Strength of Youth to teach our children during Family Home Evening the last few weeks.  We are going to continue with this.

Sylvia Rimm teaches in her book that children have more anxiety "thinking" about work they have to do than actually "doing" the work.

Now that I have read up a bit more about how I can best parent my preteens I have a lot less anxiety about it and I am actually looking forward to helping them grow into the young adults I know that they are destined to become.

In addition to talking about language and making friends, we've started having regular weekend evenings where we invite friends over to "practice socializing."  It's been interesting to see how the children do in these little gatherings. 

This feels right to me, to help lead and guide them as they slowly dip their toes into the world of socializing and eventually dating and I am grateful I have been set on a good path too as I parent them through this exciting new phase of life!

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Friendship FHE

Some nights for FHE, I literally do not have a plan.  I usually have some doctrine I want to teach, but not always a plan.

And that is why this week's FHE started with a lipsync battle to songs about friendship...because it was what came to me in the moment.

In particular, we watched and laughed at and sang along to the following music videos that I found on the spot: TLC's "What About Your Friends", James Taylor "You've Got a Friend", "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story, and by special request "He's My Friend to the Bitter End" from the musical/movie "The Unsinkable Molly Brown".  

We have a projector on our phones so projecting the videos on the wall made FHE larger than life tonight and caused things to get real crazy, real fast.  

After each video, we called out what we learned about friendship in each song...We learned that friends are loyal, friends like you even if you're not the smartest, richest, coolest, etc.  Friends don't talk about you behind your back.  Friends defend you.  Friends are there for you, etc.

Last week, we talked about Language as taught in For the Strength of Youth, so my thought was to continue to teach out of that manual using the section on Friends.

Like last week, I projected the section in FTSOY that teaches about Friends and we took turns reading what it said.

Here are some main points we focused on:

1.  Choose friends who share your values so you can encourage each other to live high standards. (This goes for friends of all faiths.)

2. To have a good friend, be a good friend.  What does it mean to be a good friend?

3.  Treat others with kindness and make a special effort to include those who are shy, feel left out, or have special needs.

4.  Don't lower your standards to fit in with or gain a friend.

We talked about the difference between an acquaintance/friend and a close friend and why we need good friends in life.  

Steve and I shared stories of friends in our lives who have had a good influence on us and why and we gave examples of what a true friend might do in different situations.  The kids also shared examples from their own lives and Scarlett gave us a report about her experience last week when she encouraged her friend not to use bad language.

We talked about how to make friends and include others and encouraged our children to work hard to make good friends.  This is especially important for us as we left all of our friends behind when we moved last year and my older kids are getting ready to move on to our very large middle school starting next year and need good friends now more than ever.

We rounded the discussion out by mentioning how our siblings are some of our very best friends and that parents and children and siblings can all become each others best friends too if we treat each other with love and respect and kindness.

With adolescence knocking at our door, many of my Mommy-friends and I find ourselves reading every book we can get our hands on to help us navigate this new rhelm of parenting.

So far, I've found For the Strength of Youth to be one of the most useful tools for helping us all in this area.  And I'm grateful for it.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Using Good Language FHE

We're having a pretty awesome day over here...It's 70 degrees, so my kids have had a great morning outside. Here is Val having the time of his life playing in the mud in the empty lot next to our house.  That lot won't be empty much longer as it recently sold.

I thought I'd give a quick update on some things I'm doing and thinking about.

Last night for Family Home Evening, we talked about language and reviewed what For the Strength of Youth says about it.  Believe it or not, I accidentally said a swear word in front of my children yesterday. It was totally unintentional.  I like to rhyme words together when I'm being silly with them, and I accidentally rhymed out a bad word.  Whoops!  My kids thought it was hilarious and thought it also gave them license to repeat what I said to others.  

I know they hear lots of bad words at school or in media despite our best efforts to avoid it, so FHE seemed like a good time to review where we stand on all of that.

We read through FTSOY and talked about its recommendations on bad language and gossip.  Then took questions from them.  Scarlett told me, "But, Mom, it's so HARD, because almost everyone around me swears or uses crude language."  I told Scarlett that NOT saying anything to her friends would make it harder for her in the long run, because she would always feel conflicted and might feel tempted to use the language that she hears, whereas if she gently lets her friends know how she feels about the language they're using and asks them to try and do better, they might just respect her for it, they might even change.  And the earlier she sets that standard for herself and those whose company she keeps, the easier it will be moving forward.

We role-played how she might go about doing that.  I pretended to be Scarlett talking to her friends, and tried to mimic her bubbly personality.  I said, "Friend, I love you so much and I love being around you.  You're so beautiful. I only ever want to hear beautiful things come out of your mouth!"  Now, complimenting others is something Scarlett does freely and often, so this would be a pretty natural and kind/encouraging way for Scarlett to get her point across.

Guy asked, "But how would I do it?  I can't say stuff like that to my friends."  We worked on a few ways, Guy might briefly get his point across to his buddies...something like, "Hey, it's me here, Guy!  You don't have to talk like that with me," etc.

It seemed like a helpful evening together talking about things that are probably real-life issues for them as they progress into tween-hood.  I'm looking forward to hearing what becomes of it and if they find the courage to mention their language standard to their friends.  I assured them that even if they just told one friend, usually that person will spread the word so that they usually don't have to.  Scarlett said, "I'll tell Cassidy!"  I love that she could think of someone right away who would be understanding of her desire to raise the standard of language she and others use.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

To Follow a Prompting

Around the beginning of this year, I kept having this nagging feeling that I needed to get off of social media, which was sort of sad for me, because I enjoy connecting with friends and former co-workers through Facebook, and I also enjoy sharing about our faith and family online and I receive a lot of positive feedback about the things that I share.

Yes, that feeling kept coming back to me time and again.  I needed to let it go.

So this week, I finally took the plunge.  I removed the Facebook app off of my phone.  And contrary to what I thought would happen, it was really quite enjoyable: not being interrupted every few minutes by notifications, not scrolling mindlessly through mildly funny or mildly questionable material of little importance to my day, not thinking so many thoughts that weren't mine, and not filling my head with details not pertinent to caring for my family.

I was nervous to do it because as the Mom of six children, I am the communication hub of the family.  I need to know when school is closed or delayed due to weather. I need to communicate with other Moms about rides or playdates or things happening at school, and having recently relocated, we we are all still developing new friendships, etc.

Eventhough it did scare me a little, I took the leap of faith in following this prompting, and what resulted was more peace in my life this week, more time to look into my children's eyes and hold them and talk to them and play with them and care for them and consider their needs, and make memories with them, more conversations with my husband and time for personal and couples study.

I don't know where this is leading, but I do know that God knows my personal goals for this year. And I believe this is His answer and His way of helping guide me down a path where I can actually find time to realize those righteous desires.  

It is comforting to know that there is a Father in Heaven watching out for me and for you and for all busy parents out there trying to decide how to best live their lives.

Have you taken a leap of faith to follow a prompting recently? I'd love to hear about your experience!
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