The Healthy Bond of “Belonging”

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For as long as I can remember, belonging has mattered to me. I experienced its power and beauty in my own family. It’s easy to look back and remember groups I belonged to in high school and college. It’s with those groups that I have most of my memories.

I can easily remember some of the second graders I taught who struggled to fit in. I saw their insecurities affect everything. It still makes me sad today. This pattern was also noticeable with my college students. I was privileged to intervene in both settings to establish healthier connections among students.

Belonging within our families is an important foundation to our security. Knowing how we stand within our families – including our extended families – informs our identity. Because of what I observed, It’s my guess that students who struggled were challenged somehow in their belonging at home.

What do you do that strengthens your family bond? Does your family have strong friendships with other families? Being strategic in both cases is good for adults and kids. Families who purposefully and consistently engage with other families form stronger bonds among themselves and not just with the other families. It’s a win-win.

This is always true. And, because another academic year will soon be upon us, I want you to think now about the quality of your family bond. Why? Because the stronger it is, the better your communication with your kids will be. The more confident they’ll be to head out your door and into another. The more likely they are to know themselves well and how to present themselves to teachers and peers. And, as I often say, having fun together has many benefits including that the challenging days are easier to take.

Being strategic in the remaining weeks of summer might give your kids just the boost they need to begin another school year with confidence.

What if you set out to have local adventures? You’ll all benefit from and enjoy a few evenings and Saturdays or Sundays out of the house exploring something local. This doesn’t have to be a big deal. It doesn’t have to take lots of time. You can keep it simple.

A woman I’ve gotten to know and greatly appreciate, Laura Hoevener, wrote a book with Terri Weeks specifically about Adventures Around Cincinnati. Check it out for sure if you’re going there or live in the area.

I appreciate that they pulled out and generalized the first section of the book as Adventures Around You. This fabulous piece has insights for all of us, no matter where we live. It’s free with Kindle unlimited. It’s only $2.99 for your Kindle or other devices.

They define an adventure as “a planned outing on a day we set aside to explore a new destination with our kids.” Check out all the benefits they write about:

• Memories for a Lifetime
• A Tradition to Remember
• A Family that Plays Together, Stays Together
• Prepare Kids for Challenges
• Expand your Comfort Zone
• The Confidence Builder
• Adding Structure
• Take Some Risks, Reap the Rewards
• Accountability Makes All the Difference
• That’s What Friends are For
• Sharing your Knowledge and Experience

Seriously?! Isn’t this a great list? Laura and Terri’s content and examples will encourage you. I’ve heard people talking about their regrets that the summer is almost over and they haven’t had much fun or changed things up for their kids. It’s not too late. Have an adventure this week!

Today’s video is about a two-word power phrase that’s both very encouraging and very instructive. Be blessed as you listen and successful as you start to use it. We think the phrase can influence your thinking and your children’s. Watch for this to happen.

“Are Things Looking Up for You?” by Sally Baucke

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Today, I’m posting my friend’s blog for you to read because I’d like you to pray with me for her son. I met Sally Baucke, a Christian comedian, when we shared the stage at a Hearts at Home convention. We became instant friends. Today’s blog isn’t funny, though. It’s serious and worth reading. I love what she writes about looking up.

When you read this, would you please pray for Cooper, a lieutenant in the United States Army, and all the other heroes serving here, there, and everywhere? Ask God to protect them and hold their family members close. War is real. Very real. Thank you. (If you’d like to encourage Sally, please comment here. She’ll read them.) – Dr. Kathy

“Are Things Looking Up for You?” by Sally Baucke

dsc01917When is halfway good?  When you reach the halfway mark between deployment and homecoming.  We just passed that mark with my Army officer son Cooper’s time in Afghanistan, and for that I am thankful.  Mozzie is glad too (yes, I’ve become the Great Dane whisperer), so why is Cooper’s dog looking up?  My inner puppy tells me he is looking to the hills, at least I hope he is.  That’s where we all need to be looking right now.

Four years ago Cooper took me to a special place in Vermont where he went to clear his head during college.  He showed me a rock on a hill that was carved with these words:

I lift mine eyes unto the hills from whence cometh my help. 

Cooper found comfort in those words, as have many for thousands of years.  He was surprised to learn that I too knew those words.  Ok, so I heard them first from The Reverend Mother in The Sound of Music, but those words were from the Bible, Psalm 121:1 to be exact.

So why are we told to look up? Is God really up? Does He reside in the stratosphere?  Perhaps the Bible suggests we are supposed to be looking to the hills, which are inherently up, because we cannot see what lies on the other side and in our natural human state, we want to see what we put our trust in. The hills obscure our vision, and we have to trust more to believe that God is actually on the other side waiting to deliver us. If He were in the valley, or in the low land we could see His every move.  This way, we have to look, wait, expect, and hardest of all, trust.

Just today I spoke with Cooper.  He is safe and in good health, but our world is on fire. Honest policeman in our communities are under fire, family values are under fire, and the ideals of democracy are under fire.  All of this disturbs me greatly. None of us know what will happen next.  So I will lift mine eyes to the hills and wait for the only help which will help us all now.

Mozzie is looking, waiting, and trusting.  Will you do the same?

7-18-16 SallyBauckePlease check out Sally’s blog for other posts.  You may also want to follow her on Facebook. The posts about Mozzie and other every-day-life things will cause you to smile.

Sally explains herself in this way: “All  you really need to know is that I am just a regular Joe, an “every woman” kind of gal who loves to wear a tiara around the house while she cleans. (Ok, so maybe not every woman, but close.) I don’t want to be famous, I just want to be an encourager of people. I’ve been married for almost 30 years, have 3 amazing sons, and am an RN by education. I started doing comedy through a random appearance at a church chili comedy night. With nothing prepared, I got up and talked off the top of my head for 20 minutes. Seriously!”

Twenty minutes in comedy time is like 10 years in real time.  It’s a lot of material! I got hired the next day.

I love to speak on stage, and writing my book What Didn’t Kill Me Made Me Funny! was simply a stepping stone for that. In the process, I have fallen in love with writing, and hope to do more of it in the future. (Gosh this sounds like a yearbook entry.) The most important thing you need to know about me is that I have a Savior who loves me like his own which I technically am, by grace alone. He is the Love of my life, and the Lover of my soul. Without Him, I am nothing. My book is the story I felt called to tell, and nothing less. I hope you enjoy it. {Note from Kathy – I think you’ll LOVE her book! I highly recommend it.}

Very timely. Recorded for you now. Dr. Kathy offers suggestions that will help you help your children process tragedies. She suggests three things to talk about and one source to use. Based on some quick feedback we received, we think especially her second and fourth ideas will be very interesting for many adults, too. We truly hope this is helpful. If it is, please share it with your friend. Thanks.

We All Need to Know, and Feel, Important

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The girl’s head snapped up as soon as I made the point. Her look was a mixture of confusion, fear, and sadness. What I said obviously affected her. It was distracting and concerning.

I had just talked about children being important, significant, and valuable. I probably said something like this:

You are important, significant, and valuable. God created you and He didn’t have to, but He wanted you. Jesus took your sins upon himself and died to set you free. He did this for me, too! That’s how important He says we are. You have unique gifts, talents, dreams, and desires and you may be the only one that has the combination of these things that you have. This too gives you great value. You are important! Everyone is important. We are not more important than others, but each of us is important.

That’s when this little girl’s head snapped up so her eyes met mine.

When I finished my message, she came forward to talk to me. With some of the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen and with a quivering voice, she asked, What if I don’t feel important? I know I’m important because God made me and loves me like you said. But, I don’t feel important when I’m with my family. I want to feel important and not just know I’m important.

She’s the first child to ask me this directly. I have often seen a look on the face of children and teens that I believe is communicating this same pain. I don’t want to forget. It’s one of the realities that motivates me to be who I am and do what I do. It saddens me and makes me angry.

Lately I’ve been applying her question, What if I don’t feel important? and her mature-beyond-her-years-statement, I want to feel important and not just know I’m important to current cultural issues.

Before I continue, though, let me encourage you to think about it. In what ways does feeling important matter to you? Are there times when feeling important trumps knowing you’re important? Or, are there times when knowing you’re important isn’t satisfying because you’re not feeling important in the moment?

In my heart I believe it is these groups wanting to know and feel they’re important. It’s painful to know it but not feel it. And, if people feel unimportant often, they might question whether they are important. If people doubt they’re important, their actions don’t matter. Their lives don’t matter.

Are these movements questioning our society, “Am I important to you?” “Do you care that I’m alive?

So, here’s where I’ve landed. In my presence, do people different from me feel important. I know they’re important to me, but my questions are:

  • Do they know they’re important to me?
  • Do I make eye contact with them?
  • Do I smile when noticing them?
  • Wait. Let’s back up. … Do I notice them?
  • Do I say “hi” and ask for their names?
  • Do I interact? Why? To get to know them? To judge them? To correct them? To love them? To communicate that I value them?
  • Do I reject or accept?
  • Am I apathetic or concerned?
  • Does my concern result in positive action?

You get the idea.

We’re only responsible for ourselves. Parents, of course, have major responsibility to raise children with positive and right beliefs. Let’s do what we can where we can. Let’s not contribute to the problem, but work to change what’s real.

Ideas for Genuine Positive Change in Our Lives, Families, and World

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What if individuals were healthier? Kinder? Less judgmental? What if families were stronger? More loving? Truly connected?

What if families were healthier? A country is only as strong as its families. A church is only as strong as its families. A school is only as strong as the families who send children there.

I’m more and more convinced that we need to look at ourselves. As an example, I know people living in turmoil who would benefit from their own peace, but all they seem to be thinking about is the turmoil “over there.” There are people who are hateful and angry, but don’t seem to know it. Or they do, but excuse it and justify it. As I often say, there are reasons for beliefs, attitudes, and actions, but no excuses. None. Or, there shouldn’t be.

Let’s be willing to change beliefs and attitudes that result in actions that aren’t right. Yes, I still believe in right and wrong.

And I believe the effort to change is worth it because we’re worth it and so are others. We weren’t created to live in isolation. We were created for community. Let’s do it better. Agree?

Have your children been complaining a lot about all the things you don’t let them do? Do they feel like their world is full of many, many “I can’ts”? Today, Dr. Kathy shares a positive phrase with you that can turn their behavior and attitudes around. You’ll learn it in a quick 1½ minutes.

8 Great Smarts Featured On “Listening In” Podcast (Now Available)

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Warren Cole Smith

Warren Cole Smith

My grandparents used to tell me of great times they had with family and friends. They’d gather around a radio to listen to important news and to be encouraged by radio theater. Today we have podcasts.

Find your children and friends and gather around your device to listen to this podcast – a modern-day interview not all that different from what they might have listened to. It was my joy to be interviewed by Warren Cole Smith back on June 16th for his podcast, Listening In.

You’ll enjoy this quick-paced 40 minutes as Warren asked me to explain the 8 great smarts. We had time to share stories and illustrations. For example, we talked about things in my background that motivated me to study the smarts. I have rarely talked about these details. I think you’ll enjoy them.

As always, thanks for being open to my ideas. I truly hope you benefit from this podcast and it serves as a great discussion starter with your children.

 

Would you like to know a two-word phrase that has the power to change yesterday’s problem behavior to positive behavior today? That’s what Dr. Kathy shares in today’s video. Please share this with others if you think it’s helpful. As always, thanks for your support.

People Matter: Investing In Others Enriches Our Lives

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I was reminded of something important last night. If we want our children to be able to carryon meaningful conversations with people, there are some basic understandings that come in very handy. But something much more important must be established.

I’ve written about friendship skills in some of my books and we provide materials to help especially preteens and teens engage with their peers. And, in my book 8 Great Smarts I explain that when we are being people smart we are better able to think with other people. This smart, like the others, can be awakened, strengthened, and trained. I encourage parents to do this for themselves and their children.

Some of us are introverted and we get our energy when we are alone and some of us are extroverted and we get our energy when we are with others. This, too, is valuable to understand as it relates to conversing with others. It’s definitely worth explaining to our children. Not only will they become more comfortable in their own skin, but they will be less judgmental toward others not like them and perhaps more successful at engaging with them in meaningful conversations.

Last night, to celebrate my birthday, I went to dinner with two friends who do not live in the area. We have not seen each other for two years. It was a glorious three-hour conversation that probably could’ve gone for several more hours except that it was late. Being people smart helped us. But, I’m introverted so sometimes times like this can be exhausting. It wasn’t. It was energizing and full of life that will last. Why?

We like each other and we genuinely care for each other. We asked about each other’s family members and how our ministries are going. We shared stories about God’s faithfulness to remind us of His goodness. We talked about struggles and committed to pray for each other. Our questions didn’t come across as obligatory interrogation, but rather genuine interest and concern.

All of this has to do with basic friendliness and other-centeredness which I wrote about on Monday. All the skills in the world won’t help if we and children don’t care about others. Knowing whether we’re people smart, self smart, introverted, or extroverted is valuable, but will never replace genuine interest in others. Care. Concern. Curiosity. Love. Maybe these can be taught. I know they can be awakened, modeled, and talked about. We have to get our eyes off ourselves.

There’s another reality. We and our children must be comfortable enough with ourselves to share ourselves with others. One-sided conversations don’t lead to friendship.

Do your children have a solid, healthy identity? Do they know themselves well enough to talk about themselves with humility and joy? They should. But, this can result in being self-centered if we don’t talk about others and our delight to relate. We were created to belong. To be connected. To love and be loved.

When is the last time we talked with children we influence about being friendly, open, kind, inquisitive, and conversational? Have we helped them know their strengths, interests, and challenges? Do they know which ones might be good to talk about with others? Who?

I think instruction can be valuable. Pray and think about this. Ask your children whether they want help. Talk about what help you wish you had.

I do think most of what my friends and I experienced last night was due to healthy self-awareness and genuine appreciation and love for each other. It resulted in vulnerable and confident sharing that was life-giving. Talk about this, too.

Guess what? Tonight I get to see these same friends again along with many others. And, tomorrow night and Friday night I’m having dinner with other friends. I can forget I’m introverted for a while because people matter and investing in others enriches our lives. I’m very grateful!