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Archive for the ‘Parenting’ Category

Back to School! Podcast 6

The Allen kids are back in school this week. Unlike times in the past, back to school is changing, especially for college students. The days of going to a brick and mortar school for the first year of college is no longer the only option. Is doing a non-traditional option, such as community college or even doing early college high-school a good option? We will tell you our opinion in this week’s podcast.

Book reviewed: College (Un)Bound: The Future of Higher Education and What it Means for Students by Jeffrey J. Selingo. (2013).

Article reviewed: How to Make Stuff in Wired, March 29, 2011. http://www.wired.com/2011/08/big-diy/

A story about Limor “Ladyada” Fried, the first woman on the cover of Wired and one of Fiona’s role models.

Screen Shot 2015-08-23 at 6.12.44 PM

 

Key words: back to school, college alternatives, welding, early college, kids

#MuslimLivesMatter Essay: There is a Muslim in My House

There’s a Muslim in my house

By Kim Allen

(Originally written in 2010; update below)

A Muslim is in my house and it makes me so happy. I got an email from my alma mater saying that there was an international student from Turkmenistan that needed a place to stay. I had a place for her, so I quickly Goggled Turkmenistan to see exactly where it is and how well this might fit for our family. After a family conversation that included a vote from each family member, we sent an invitation to Zoe to stay in our home.

Zoe arrived at our home in mid-August, just at the start of Ramadan and all the talk of burning Qurans that comes with 9/11. Before Zoe arrived, it never even occurred to me to consider what kind of religion Zoe belonged to or that she even belonged to a religion. We soon found out that Zoe is a Muslim, although to her pronouncement, “not a good Muslim” since she didn’t fast or pray regularly. Having a Muslim in our house did, however, make the conversation about 9-11, Quran burnings and the ground zero Islamic Center debate much more personal. In fact, having Zoe in our house has been hands down the best education on religion and living our principles that I could have asked for. Ever! Now that we have a Muslim in our house, our whole family has experienced acceptance and encouragement of spiritual growth.

I sometimes fail, but I try to raise my kids to see people as people, and not as their religion. This may stem from my own religious upbringing– the whole time I grew up, I didn’t even know what a Muslim was. For that matter, I didn’t know what a Jew was and I barely even knew what a Methodist was. I was raised Baptist; not any kind of Baptist, but Missionary Baptist. The kind of Baptist that is so Baptist that that any other kind of Christianity is seen as being “modern” and wrong. So Baptist that we didn’t even learn that there were other types of religion besides Christianity.   So I find it very interesting considering where I sit now, with a Muslim in my house.

There is so much I can be doing as a parent to show my child religious tolerance, or better yet, religious acceptance. I can, and do, talk with them about how important it is to be open-minded and open hearted for differences in beliefs. I can talk with them about how important it is that we respect others no matter what our thoughts and traditions are. I teach them about the importance of accepting others for who they are and how they treat others, rather than their ideology. I could go one step farther and listen to my children as they express what’s important to them and explore what qualities are valuable as human beings, neighbors and community members. We could even go and visit other churches, synagogues and mosques, so that they can see and learn from experiences about how other think and live and believe. I don’t do that, and probably won’t. But I could.

This, however, is what I know to be true. There is no more powerful teaching tool than fostering  a deep and meaningful relationship with someone that believes differently.

This is something I did on accident. I would love to say that I asked Zoe into our home to foster religious growth in my children and to help them open their eyes to differences. But like most times when our children really learn from us parents, I stumbled into this moment. Someone needed a room; I had a room to give.

But the beauty is…the result is far more amazing than I could have planned. We are the ones that have been on the receiving end of this situation. We are the ones that now understand a whole new culture; my children can now listen to the stories about far away places and have not only an open heart and mind, but a deep seating connection that they will take with them as they become the next generation of leaders.

Zoe is our Muslim and we love her. In the six weeks that we have had her as a guest in our home, we have discovered that being Muslim isn’t a whole lot different than being Baptist or being Methodist or being Unitarian for that matter. Zoe, like the rest of us, lives her life trying to be the best person she can. She makes us laugh, helps us grow and teaches us daily.

You know what else? Zoe, our Muslim guest, is a peacemaker. My children are consistently greeted by a calm, understanding and patient friend in Zoe (even after eternal moments of begging for one favor or another). Although she has only been here for six weeks, she has shown grace, poise and humor in a way that has made her family. So the Muslim in my house has taught us an important lesson: as we listen to the news and hear of people wanting to burn a Quran and spread hate, we know that being a Muslim isn’t awful. In fact, it is great. I’m glad there’s a Muslim in my house!

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Follow up: 5 years later.

Zoe lived with us for two years, and has been a part of family for five years. I have had the absolute honor of calling her a friend and a member of our family. She has given us all the gift of her kindness, compassion, and world views. She has introduced to people from all over the world, many of them Muslim. She is a gift, and in light of the horrible shootings of three Muslim young people in Chapel Hill, I wanted to share a bit of the light my relationship with Zoe has brought. #‪#MuslimLivesMatter

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Zoe and my girls running a 5K.

Parenting in the Future Episode 5: Teens, Technology, and Mental Health

Welcome to the 5th episode of Parenting in the Future Podcast with special guest, Fiona Allen! Fiona, our 13 year old daughter, joined us and gave us information about the apps all the teens are using, and told us her take on mental health, technology, and what it is like to be a teen. Chris reviewed the book, Age of Opportunity by Lawrence Steinberg and helped us better understand adolescent brain development. Kim responded to a quote image she read on Facebook that read:

 

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

Nostalgic Parenting Judgement

My curfew was lightening bugs. (OK–works for younger kids probably more than teens)

My parents didn’t call my cell, they yelled my name. (Too much to say about this; better listen to the podcast)

I played outside, not online. (Did you have friends from all over the world? Do you want your children to have 21st century tech skills? Do you struggle, like we do, to have appropriate boundaries for your teen and their technology use?)

If I didn’t eat what mom cooked, I didn’t eat. (First of all, that is sexist. Second, my mom cooked with a whole lot of lard and bacon grease. Third, I’m happy we all share in the food prep. Last, I hope I’m more respectful to my kids than that).

With nostalgia aside, this really isn’t true for our family. In face, we embrace technology. Want to know more about all of our reactions? Listen in!

 

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She's a typical teen in that she didn't want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona and her Dad doing a podcast. She’s a typical teen in that she didn’t want her picture taken. This is the compromise.

Fiona's one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

Fiona’s one and only time wearing a dress. It is a COSPLAY costume from her beloved Anime.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One of the joys of parenting: podcasting with my kid.

One of the frustrations of parenting: hearing my child’s cell phone go off every 2 seconds during the podcast.

ADHD Brain: no place for the mundane

Did you see the article called A Natural Fix for ADHD by Richard Friedman in the NY Times on Halloween? I saw it because my child’s curriculum assistance teacher sent me an email saying “It soooo makes me think of Fiona…especially when they mention the nomadic people. We are just talking about her traveling the world.” This post could go on to tell you how much I love Fiona’s curriculum assistance teacher. The fact that she is reading and thinking about my daughter at 11 pm is so telling to me, and I see why Fiona has success at school in great part due to her teacher.

Instead, however, I’m focusing on the content of the article and how it soooo makes sense! And it gives me hope for a very bright future for my daughter with ADHD and anxiety. I thought this was a great read and helps me see how my daughter is going to be able to create success for herself in adulthood. In fact, I can totally see how my kiddo will benefit from ADHD once she gets to choose her own environment. That is the take away I got from this article-ADHD is really hard for kids because they have to go to an institution that quite frankly is boring for their brain and body. At least that is true for Fiona. School and the mundaneness of life are quite boring to her. There are exceptions. She loves project based learning where she can incorporate her love of technology, such as the math project where she gets to put pictures of her beloved Anime characters on a poster.

The other aha I took from this article was a better understanding of Fiona’s total all-consuming desperate attempt to always be online. The section on technology makes so much sense as she is truly caught between two worlds; one with immediate gratification and intense imagery and stimulation (digital world) and one that is, well, not that. No wonder this kid complains daily about going to school. It is painful for her. She doesn’t fit in; she feels as if she doesn’t belong.

A poem on Fiona's Instagram account. One of many.

A poem on Fiona’s Instagram account. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

A poem Fiona wrote during a sleepless night. One of many.

Fiona has the type of brain and body that was essential back in the day of nomadic hunter and gatherers. In fact, that’s probably how our side of the family survived all these years in the first place. No offence, but my folk are not the super sharpest tools in the shed. We are, however, great at adaptability and work well with the land and hunting and gathering. (Well, not me. I would more likely starve to death than kill a live animal to eat. But then again, I’m the exception of my family in other ways as well, seeing as how I actually finished high school and excelled in academics. But that is another story for another day.)

I tell Fiona so often that it truly does get better. The older she gets, the more choices she has. Just this week she got to select her options for alternative high schools. She wants to learn welding at the career technical school. Doesn’t really fit with my ideas of how I would plan her life, but I love that she so clearly understands herself, and understands that she would be so much more successful in a school where she gets to use fire and hot metal to create art at school. And truthfully, that sounds so much better to me than having sitting in a math class, even one that let’s her print out anime pictures. She’s not made for sitting and listening. That’s what I love most about her, and what I want so most for her is to find an environment where her talents and natural abilities can shine, where she can be engaged, and .

http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/opinion/sunday/a-natural-fix-for-adhd.html?referrer&_r=0

A Word from My Daughter

I write a lot about my 13 year-old daughter, Fiona, and her struggle with mental illness. She actually does a lot of writing herself, so today I share with you something she wrote for her school newspaper.

green ribbon

Ribbons

By Fiona Allen

About 40,000 people will commit suicide this year. That’s the same amount of people that will die of breast cancer this year. In fact, it’s predicted that by 2030 suicide deaths, which are most commonly caused by depression, will outweigh the number of deaths from stroke, cancer, accidents and even war.

Today I am here to talk to you about mental health awareness and the lack of it. We talk about breast cancer often. You probably know the awareness ribbon is pink. Right? But can you guess what color suicide, mental health or self-harm ribbons are? Not very many people talk about mental health or suicide. The ribbon color for suicide is yellow. The awareness ribbon color for mental health is green, and the awareness color for self-injury is orange.

The reason that we don’t have much awareness for mental health issues is because it’s taboo to talk about mental illness in our society. Is also seen as “not a real issue”. Mental illness is an illness just a serious-if not more serious-than other illnesses that receive a whole awareness month.

Kids all around us that are our age are suffering and dying from mental illness on a daily basis. In fact about every 15 minutes somebody dies from suicide, and that does not include the kids who are passing away because of anorexia or those attempting to kill themselves. It’s a scary thing to look at. It’s scary to think about too, but I challenge you to look at it and to make a stand about it.

If you suffer from a mental illness you can get help and get treatment. If you’re feeling like you’re going to kill yourself please, PLEASE call this number-it’s the national suicide prevention lifeline 1-800-273-8255.

Talk to your parents or another trusted adult about your feelings. I know it’s so hard because I’ve been through it before myself. But I know you can do this.

I would like to challenge all of you guys out there to spread awareness for these horrible disorders. I challenge you to wear a ribbon or a shirt that’s one of these colors (yellow, orange or green) every Tuesday. In our school we need to not only stand up against bullying, but we also need to stand up for mental health disorders.

I also challenge you to try to make somebody feel better. Be kind. Be friendly. Just try to lighten up someone’s day. And I challenge all those folks out there that are suffering to stay strong. You can do this. I’m so proud of you.

Citations:

http://www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org

Cancer.org

http://www.save.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=home.viewPage&page_id=705D5DF4-055B-F1EC-3F66462866FCB4E6

Please let me sleep, Mom!

I suspect anyone that has to wake up teens already knew this, but the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends a later school start time for middle and high school students. This is because of the natural sleep cycle and schedules of our busy teens. Lack of sleep = public health and academic performance issues. And this is for typical students. Many students with mental health issues have additional issues when it comes to sleeping.

AAP sleep recommendation article

I find this interesting because at an IEP meeting for my daughter yesterday the LEA said, “perhaps you could try giving her an earlier bedtime so that she can get more sleep”. Hmmm…wonder why I (nor her therapist nor the medical doctor) never thought of that. Oh wait…that was the 1st thing we tried back when she was a preschooler. And in elementary school. Every single year.

My daughter has had sleep issues since, well, since she was in my womb. That child has a natural nocturnal sleep pattern, and her ADHD and anxious brain will just not let her rest. I get it. I have the same brain. It takes me an hour to get to sleep most nights, just like it does Fiona.

I am usually the consummate professional that can understand people sometimes have a lack of information. But this made me mad! First, I’m a psychologist with a PhD and I am a parenting expert. Not that that even matters because truth be told, all parents know their children. What parent wouldn’t start with an earlier bedtime? This vice principal was outside of her knowledge base, and I got mad when something as easy as an earlier bedtime is the solution being offered. And I told her such. In fact, I might have mentioned that she might need to get a bit more training on adolescent brain development. I might have said a few more things, but I can’t remember it all clearly now.

You should know that this reaction stemmed from my request for a later start time accommodation for my daughter. Fiona has always had sleep issues, but it is really catching up with her this year. She is stick, tired, and sick and tired of school. I have a letter from the doctor documenting the medical concerns. More sleep might be just what she needs to be successful. My thinking was that if we all want Fiona to be successful, then perhaps a modified schedule could be a first start.

The answer is no. It can’t be in a formal IEP. She can have an excused absence if she is sick. Next.

Fiona's Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

Fiona’s Haiku: These are the kinds of things she writes in her room as she is trying to sleep.

What did I learn yesterday? There is room for education on the importance of developmentally appropriate practices and mental health realities for all of us that work with youth and their families. And when it comes to my kids, I recognize that I may have a bit of a temper if you question my kid or my parenting. But then again, I do have red hair.