Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

Wackiest Father’s Day Cards!

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With another Father’s Day come and gone (the one day we can get away with just about anything!) I scoured the Internet to find some of the funniest cards families gifted their fathers to say thanks. And boy, did some of them get creative!

“Dad, I thought I’d give you this card in lieu of an awkward hug. You’re welcome.”

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“As far as Dad’s go, I could’ve done a lot worse.”

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“Dad, without me today is just another day. You’re welcome.”

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“Happy Father’s Day! I got you a present, but if you want to get technical…technically you bought you a present. By the way, can I borrow $20?”

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“Dad (crossed out Mom), you’ve always been my favorite.”

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Did you get a funny Father’s Day card or gift this year? Let me know in the comments below!

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Fathers, You Don’t Play a Role in Your Child’s Life: You Play Many

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For much of our history, the roles of a father and mother were clearly defined. The father earns income, provides stability, is the protector of the home and people in it. The mother is the caretaker, the loving parent with a home to run. But those roles have been changing for quite a few years now, and we are now at a pivotal point where both fathers and mothers can choose the kind of roles they feel best suits them as parents, and fathers can be much more involved in the raising of their children than they were expected to be in years passed.

In fact, studies have revealed they should be much more involved with their children. A review of multiple studies found that kids who grew up spending time with their fathers were less likely to have behavioral and psychological problems. They were also more likely to be independent, intelligent and have improved social awareness.

So fathers, being in your child’s life as more than a provider and protector, but also as a loving parent can actually improve their life all around! An LA Times article also concluded that “researchers found that the chances of teen pregnancy and other early sexual experiences were lower for daughters who spent more quality time with their dads.” Dads, I think we can all agree that is good news.

This is all good news, actually, considering the fact that more than 200,000 homes in the US have stay-at-home dads, and there are 1.9 million single fathers in the country. Often, it is a concern that a father won’t be able to fulfill a mother’s role, but these studies show that there really is no such thing as a “role” that either parent plays, and children will benefit from having the role filled, regardless of whether a mother or father is filling it.

So what can we do as parents? We can figure out our strengths. We can spend time playing and loving our children as they grow up. We can fill every role there is, and we can fill them whether or not our partner already is filling them. Both partners can be providers. Both can be caretakers.

Be open-minded toward your approach to parenting, and your child will reap the benefits.

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Parenting 101: Ground Rules

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I’m not someone who has been much of a believer in “ground rules” for parenting, or one right and one wrong way to raise a child. Every family is different, has different beliefs as to how their kids should be brought up, and determines what kind of values should be instilled in them. However, after this past week where one child was left in the woods in Japan as punishment, while another somehow was able to get into a gorilla’s exhibit at the Cincinnati zoo, people are starting to question if maybe there are some “taken for granted” parenting rules worth spelling out.

For one, keeping an eye on your kids in a public place. When you lose track of a young kid, they could end up anywhere—kidnapped, lost, or, you got it, in a gorilla’s exhibit. People have raised the question of keeping all toddlers on leashes or in strollers, while others think that may be heading into “extreme” territory.

I think it might just be worth mentioning that you should keep an eye on all of your kids every couple of minutes—even when another one is needing your attention. Yes, parents aren’t super humans with eyes in the back of their heads. No, that doesn’t mean they are incapable of keeping tabs on their kids, making sure they stay in one spot while your attention is needed elsewhere.

And if you see someone else’s kid getting into trouble they shouldn’t be in, let’s collectively parent that kid and say, “Stay away from there kid!”

As for the parents in Japan, all I can say is, every parent has been in a car with a kid driving them nuts. But one too many, “Are we there yet?”’s rarely has them pulling to the side of the road and dumping them out—especially not for more than a minute, and then driving away without them.

My solution? I can’t say I know what needs to be done about child protection laws, or criminalizing parents for their lack of good judgment.

But I do know that these bizarre parenting stories are great inspiration for children’s authors everywhere! (“That Time My Parents Left Me in the Woods”…anyone else see the bestseller potential?)

What are your thoughts on this week’s bizarre news stories? Let me know in the comments!

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4 Ways to Give Your Kids the Best Summer Break!

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It’s finally here! After we’ve all come back from our Memorial Day weekends, the reality of summer break has finally hit. But as exciting as the prospect of two summer months to fill with fun and relaxation can be for kids, it can be difficult on parents to strike the balance of giving your kids an amazing summer break, while still needing to take care of your other responsibilities. Luckily, there’s a way to do both. Here are some tips on how to do so!

Look into summer camps. When you can’t afford to take a vacation yourself, it can be best to let your kid have a fun getaway on their own with a reputable summer camp! You can choose one according to location, interest (dance camps, band camps, Christian camps, etc.), or based on which camp their friends are attending. This will allow your kids to learn independence being away from their parents, give them a fun vacation in a new area they’ve never explored, and allow them to make new friends! And it also gives you a week or two (however long the camp goes on for) to have a kids-free staycation of your own.

Look into day camps. If it isn’t financially feasible for you to send your kids to overnight camps, day camp is a great option! A lot of times local churches, YMCAs, or other community organizations will host day camps throughout the summer where kids can stay entertained and make new friends while you have to spend a day working, or running errands. Save them some boredom, and you some time!

Plan local day trips on weekends. And let your kids help choose the location! Maybe you go to a local park for a picnic and games, or to the next town over for your favorite lunch spot. If you live by water parks or the beach, pick a day to take a trip over there. Whatever you decide to do, it will give your kids something to look forward to during the slower weeks at home when you have responsibilities to take care of.

Make sure they spend some time OFF of their screens! It’s so easy to let your kids plop down in front of the television or their video games when you need them to be entertained, but those memories aren’t going to last all their lives. Try to get them to spend an hour outside in the sun, whether they walk the dog around your neighborhood or play in the sprinklers in your yard. And make sure to remind them that reading is always a great way to stay entertained when they complain about being bored!

What are some of the things you remember doing during your summer breaks as a kid? Let me know in the comments!

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Your Kid Did What? 4 Reasons Parents Make the Best Writers

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It seems as though in the last decade the number of parent bloggers has skyrocketed, and for good reason. Who doesn’t have a great story of their kid to share, or advice to up-and-coming parents who don’t fully comprehend the craziness, joy, and exhaustion being a parent can bring? And apart from the blog world, there are plenty of parent-turned-authors out there as well (including me!). If you’re a parent who has ever thought about picking up that pen, here are 4 reasons I think you should go for it.

You have a lifetime (and your child’s lifetime) worth of unique experiences to share: Some people don’t want to start their blog or write their book because they think it’s all been said before. But that is not true. Every child says a different funny thing, every person’s background and family life and thoughts are unique to them, and make for a unique story to be told. If you write honestly about your own experiences, you won’t be copying anyone by writing them down.

Writing can be a great way to document your child’s youth: There is so much writing can help you remember about your life than a photograph can. You’ll be able to look back on all sorts of fun memories you and your child share, and they will be able to someday read what you wrote and remember their childhood!

You can see the world through a new (younger) set of eyes: Writing from a child’s perspective can be one of the best things for a parent to do. You’ll have to work that much harder to understand their emotions and thoughts, making you more empathetic as a parent. Whether you’re writing a novel from a child’s P.O.V. or a blog post from their eyes, taking the time to put yourself in their shoes will make you a better writer and parent.

You can share the experience with your child: Basically, it’s another opportunity to bond! Coming up with blog posts together, like an arts & craft DIY or a book review will give you and your child a creative outlet to connect with, and will help them grow their own writing and creative skills. For me, writing my book was all a collaboration with my son, since the main character is one we came up with together when telling bedtime stories. A family who creates together, stays together!

Do you have a parenting blog, or a book you wrote that stemmed out of your parenting experience? Leave the name in the comments below, and we can all share each other’s experiences!

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Theology of Parenting: Is There a Religious Take on the Work of Raising Children?

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A recent article on the Atlantic explored the idea that there could be a theological take on the work of parenting that has been largely ignored or pushed aside in the male tradition many religions have been formed by. As a father, taking on an active parenting role that was traditionally held by women throughout history, it was interesting to read two female theologians discuss how their religions (Judaism and Christianity) impacted their work as mothers.

One woman, Danya Ruttenberg, said, “I figured out that my tradition actually had a lot to teach me about love and the holy and navigating hard feelings, and finding more patience when your patience is used up,” which directly correlated to lessons she needed when raising her young children.

On the other hand, Bromleigh McCleneghan recognized the disconnect in what religious scriptures taught versus what real life consisted of as a mother. “Women’s work with bodies and fluids is not just ‘not holy,’ but profane. Not just ‘soft,’ but really not a part of spiritual life,” she claimed. Ruttenberg agreed.

What I find to be most interesting about their conversation is the disconnect between what many religious people practice, which is building strong family lives (meaning have children and raise them well) and the lack of instruction or discussion in theology when it comes to doing just that. For instance, Ruttenberg brought up the fact that a certain Jewish prayer is meant to be said while standing and silent—but how is a mother supposed to react when her child is crying, disrupting the silence the prayer requires?

After much research, because the majority of texts were silent on that subject, she “finally found one text that says you should indicate to your child without speaking that they should stop, and if that does not work, you just walk away from the crying child.”

I think most parents would agree with me in saying that is not what would be considered the best way to handle their child’s (especially a very young child’s) crying.

What the article ultimately comes to is the idea that gender roles, especially when it comes to parenting roles, need to be looked at in a broader scope when it comes to theology. “Holiness” and children don’t need to be lived in different rooms, and the sooner we can come to accept the two to be intertwined, the more we open up space for women (or men taking on parenting roles) to be involved in theology and religion as more than caretakers who stand by while men (or non-parents) do the deep religious work.

What do you think about Ruttenberg’s and McCleneghan’s take on theology and parenting? Do you believe the two works are able to be lived out simultaneously? Let me know in the comments!

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What Happened to #BoysWhoRead?

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As many of you who have been following this blog for a while know, I started a campaign some time ago called Boys Who Read, which aims to encourage children and parents together to make reading an enjoyable habit in their lives. As a children’s author, father, and lifelong reader, I wholeheartedly believe that books are an important part of expanding a child’s inner life, helping them to understand the world and the people within it with greater empathy, compassion, and curiosity.

As C. Gordon puts it, “A book is a magic carpet on which we are wafted to a world that we cannot enter any other way.”

And don’t our children deserve to know the pleasure of walking on that red carpet?

I have written about it before, and I will write about it again: As parents, we need to encourage our children to turn off their screens, turn off the Netflix, and pick up a book once a day. But the approach with which we encourage them to do so is extremely important. If we treat reading a book like a recreational activity (you’ve finished your homework, now you can read!) and going to pick out a book like an exciting outing (why don’t we go out for ice cream and pick out a new book!), then their mindset will follow.

But what is also important in helping your children fall in love with reading, is choosing the right books. Which is why every day this week on Twitter and Facebook I will share a book I think your child will love, using the hashtag #BoysWhoRead. Follow along, and share your own book recommendations with the hashtag so that parents all over can benefit and help their child become lifelong readers themselves!

Let’s work together to create a new generation of #BoysWhoRead. Can’t wait to see what you all have to say!

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Tough Talk Tuesday: How to Talk to Your Children about Terrorism

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Following last week’s devastating attacks in Brussels, I began to realize that in today’s world, terrorism is no longer a topic we can avoid talking about—even with our children, who we long to protect from such atrocity. Likely they know bits and pieces of what has been going on, from learning about 9/11 in their history classes and seeing news of ISIS all over the media, but how do we approach these topics in a more personal way?

Of course, the conversation you have with your child will depend on their age, but seeing as I focus on writing for children around the age of 9, this article is going to focus on that particular age range. Here are some ways I thought of to best handle such a far-reaching and emotional topic of conversation.

Start by asking what they’ve heard. Many times, information will be spread around their school by other kids who may have overheard their parents discussing the attacks, seeing their parents watch the news, or from posts on social media. The problem with this is that often times the information will be scattered, unclear, and maybe exaggerated to a point where your child could feel more scared than they need to about the situation. A good way to start your conversation would be to come to a clear point about what they know about an attack, and about terrorism in general, and then set the story straight if any of their information is incorrect.

Don’t diminish their feelings about the situation. Whether they know an exaggerated story or the full truth, likely your child is going to feel scared about what they know. Don’t tell them not to worry about it or that their fear is misplaced—it is better to be honest with them in saying that other people are scared by what’s happening too, and that their feelings are understood.

Show them the “good side.” Much of what your child knows at this point in life is that there is bad, and there is good. This has been emphasized in the TV shows and movies they watch, the books they read, and the stories they’ve been told; there are bad people, but the good people win. After they know that feeling fear is normal, let them know that there are police, community leaders, military, and a government working to protect all of us. Show them pictures of people lighting candles, laying out flowers, and coming together after a tragic event. Remind them that there is good in the world, and that the stories they know about good winning are true.

Finally, be an open book (only about the necessary facts). Answer their questions. Why does this happen? Is it going to happen to us? Be honest—give them the information they need, and only that. Don’t go into detail about all the bad things terrorist groups do, don’t show them any gruesome pictures, and don’t scare them into believing that an attack can happen at any moment. End every one of your answers by reminding them about the good side, and the good people working to keep them safe. This is an uncertain area of life, but your children need to be certain that they are loved and protected.

When I think about what children need to know about terrorism, I think of the video below:

There are bad guys everywhere, but the flowers and candles are here to protect us.

 

Have you had a conversation with your child about terrorism? Let me know how you would handle it in the comments below.

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How Parents Can Reduce the Risk of Cyberbullying for Their Children

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It was bad enough in the days where children were bullied at their schools, but today an even bigger problem we face is the bullying that happens to them under our own roofs—via the Internet and social media. The hell kids can be put through by their own peers no longer is limited to school hours, but all hours of the day, to the point where some children have ended their own lives to stop the pain. Sometimes, as parents, it is easy to feel helpless to stop this bullying trend, whether your child is being bullied or is the bully himself. But there are measures you can take to minimize the risk of cyberbullying taking over your child’s life.

Limit the hours your child is allowed to spend on their devices/social media. Yes, every kid has their own phone these days. Yes, it is likely they will need to be on the Internet for homework, and for socialization in general. Not allowing them to have a device (cellphone/tablet) at all may actually hurt their social lives and make them more susceptible to bullying, but limiting the hours they are allowed to use them will keep them from making their lives revolve around cyberspace. Tip: Don’t let them take their phones with them to bed at night; this will save them from losing sleep over what someone has said about them on the Internet.

Monitor you child’s online presence. You have a right as a parent to look at your child’s text messages, their Facebook, their Insatgram, etc. Don’t allow them to block you from anything, and you will have a better understanding of what they are dealing with. If you see any harmful comments, document them and delete them from your child’s eyes. If they’ve already seen it, a dialogue will be opened to you to have with your child about cyberbullying and how they should best handle themselves in their situation. An ignorant parent is not going to be able to help their child through this rough time.

Emphasize the importance of living offline. If you are constantly on your phone, tablet, or laptop, that will encourage your child to do the same. If you stress to them that what is online isn’t real life, and spend more time going outside, seeing friends, and spending one-on-one time, phoneless, with your child, they will do the same. When their entire life does not reside online, the effects of cyberbullying will not be as harmful to them, because they can see that what is on a screen is not real life.

Love them. No matter how much you work to help your child avoid cyberbullying, the fact is that everyone is made to feel worthless at some point in their lives. But loving your child unconditionally, and in a way that makes them feel secure, will help them to know that they are not worthless, no matter what anybody behind a screen says.

Has your child ever dealt with cyberbullying? How did you help them through it? Let me know in the comments!

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Does Being a Good Parent Poorly Affect Your Physical Health?

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Recently, Quartz released an article citing a study that proved being an empathetic parent actually wreaks havoc on physical health. Specifically,

“Researchers surveyed 247 pairs of parents and their adolescent children on how often and to what degree parents could understand their children’s feelings and respond with appropriate concern. They also took blood samples. Empathetic parents and their children were both better off psychologically. Children of empathetic parents also showed lower levels of inflammatory markers. Their parents were just the opposite. Their samples revealed this low-grade systemic inflammation.”

So basically, empathetic parents enjoy the pleasure of a job well done, while reaping a host of physical challenges that come with working hard. And who says parenting isn’t a real job? The study went further to analyze children with depression and their parents to conclude that empathetic parents (or caregivers in general) develop chronic inflammation and elevated stress hormones over time.

What does this mean for parenting? Is there such a thing as being too empathetic as parents? Should parents hold back from giving their entire self to their children to avoid risking such physical damage?

I’m going to say no—and I think most would be in agreement with this stance. As parents, the best things we can do for our children is to give our all, whether that puts extra stress on our bodies or not. HOWEVER, that isn’t to say our children don’t need us to be healthy, as well.

Before we all turn into Cinderella’s evil stepmom to keep inflammation and elevated stress levels at bay, how about just taking a few deep breaths when you feel overwhelmed? Take a bath when your children are at a friend’s house for a sleepover, indulge in a glass of wine after their bedtime, or pick up a habit such as meditation, exercise, maybe even writing, to let off some steam.

When it comes down to it, parenting is a difficult job, but the benefits to your children of being an empathetic, involved parent far exceed the risk of the physical health drawbacks outlined in this study.

What are some ways you practice self-care as a parent? Do you think it’s important in helping you be an effective, empathetic parent? Let me know!

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