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What is Space Camp like for a unique kid? Awesome!

Our sweet daughter just returned from Space Camp. In fact, she went 30 years after my husband went to there in 1986.

Fiona, 2016 and her dad, 1986

Fiona, 2016 and her dad, 1986. She was so excited to recreate these images!

 

It is always somewhat of a risk, both financially and emotionally, to send a child with special needs off to camp. I’m happy to say, this was a big hit! In fact, it was so good I wanted to share, and she agreed to let me share, this entry from her blog about how she felt there:

As I write this I lay in my bed my 4 roommates fast asleep around me and I am so happy I’m bursting at the seams. This week at Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama has been the best week I have had in my entire life. Our team Isidis of 14, 16 if you include the Crew Trainers, is a family after this short time. Even with people from India, Denmark, Norway, Egypt, and the USA we found home in Huntsville.

The camp has been everything I dreamed it would be and more. The food was banging, the adults in charge were kind and understanding and felt like your friend, and on top of that we got to do the coolest things next to actually going into space. In the first of 3 mission simulations I was paycom, a position that boils down to the hole control room of the ISS. It was amazing. I had to help the crew on the ISS solve anomalies that ranged from waist water leaks to failures in the CO2 pumps. The second mission I was pilot of a orbiter called Enterprise. It was amazing. Me and my commander flew a spaceship whilst 2 EVA offices did space walks out side our windows.

On our 3rd final, longest, most ambitious, and most fun mission I went to Mars. It is without a doubt the most fun I have ever had. I was EDT2 I was in charge with my EDT1 of getting the computer systems on the Mars base up and running. Simple right? I would have been if it was not for our Crew Trainers medical anomalies witch ranged from the muteness of our commander to the drug addict botanist to me thinking I was the president (dictator) of Mars to a person on the Mars moon have who lost both of their hands to hypothermia. 

Not only did we do these amazing missions with amazingly inventive detours. When you sign up for the camp you choose a track Mission Specialist (MS) or Pilot (PLT) (I was PLT but wanted MS it’s a story for another day) depending on witch one you get to do one of 2 amazing trainings. For MS they went scuba diving in the indoor tank. And PLT we went to Aviation Challenge (another camp that is linked to Space Camp) and learned about survival training we took a tour of the numerous planes and other aircraft and then did multiple flight simulations.

We did so so many other things such as engineer a rocket, build a Mars rover, and decontaminate water form Mars. I don’t think I could ever fit everything we did into a post but really this week has been so amazing I could never put it into words.

 

To hear that the “adults in charge were kind and understanding and felt like your friend” was all I needed. But there is more; a super nice kids sent her a text (or social media message, probably) thanking her for being so awesome, and giving her credit for the success of the team. Did I mention her team won the spirit award? So much positivity! I love it. It is so nice to know that there are places that do youth development right. Thanks, Space Camp, for making a kid that rarely feels great and included feel great and included!

 

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Dad, 1986 and Fiona 2016

Huntsville, Dad with girls.

Huntsville, Dad with girls.

That smile says it all!

That smile says it all!

Three years since Sandy Hook…How to Talk with Kids About Violence and Terrorism

Today is the 3rd anniversary of Sandy Hook. I remember when I first heard about the children of Sandy Hook being killed. My heart broke, and the tears rolled and all I wanted to do was watch the TV and read the blogs to better understand what was going on. It was like the car accident where I couldn’t turn my head away. My kids were 11 and 8 at the time, and I sure didn’t want them to see it. I tried to behave normally, but of course they could tell something was wrong. That night, I sat down with them at dinner and their dad and I gave them a child-appropriate explanation of what was going on.

A child-appropriate explanation of Sandy Hook…how I can even say that is mind-boggling. Unfortunately, gun violence and terrorism has become a common factor in the American way and while I don’t want to talk about how to talk with children about violence and terrorism, I feel I have to. Our children are having lock-down drills at school, are hearing stories of violence from other children, and many of our children are experiencing gun violence in their neighborhoods and personal lives. So while I wish I wasn’t writing this, I’m writing to talk about how to talk with children about violence and terrorism, with the hope that this blog will never need to be read.

 

FOR YOUNG CHILDREN

  1. Be age appropriate. Ideally, young children will not be exposed and will not need a conversation about this topic. Sometimes children catch a glimpse of a story on the news or overhear adults talking about violence and terrorism. If you know you children have been exposed to the information or find that children do have questions, it is important to talk with them in a way that answers their questions without providing too many details.
  2. Be Affectionate. Violence can make each of us upset, and for children, we can help them feel better by offering lots of kind, warm interactions. Snuggling, hugging, holding hands, and kind words all help the child feel loved and safe.
  3. Let children know that you and your community are doing everything possible to help them be safe. Reassure them that most people are good, and that it is OK to just play and not worry.
  4. Avoid Media. If at all possible, keep the news viewing away from children. Sometimes commercials or adds will show violence and if so, use the steps above to help explain the situation.
  5. Encourage Communication. Let them know you are always here is they have questions. Answer their questions as honestly as possible but with a tone of encouragement and reassurance.

Here are a few examples of what you can say.

 

I saw that you watched some of the news with Grandpa. Do you have questions about what you saw?”

“Sometimes people do bad things, but we are doing everything we can to keep you safe.”

“Hey, I have an idea…let’s turn off the tv off and play a game or you can go outside.”

“That was really scare what we heard today. I want you to know that I love you and we are working really hard to be sure that doesn’t happen to any of us.”

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My girls last night, showing us all love.

 

For older kids, it is harder to shelter them. They know what is going on. Right after the Paris bombings, both of my girls came home with stories about how children in their schools had been targeted as terrorists. My 14 year old said, “I heard this one kid tell another that the Muslim kid was probably a terrorist”. My 11 year old said that the teacher yelled at the whole class “you do not call any of my students a terrorist. Do you understand?”

They were both upset, and clearly wanted to talk. And we did, and we still do. One of our very best friends is a Muslim. This hits us hard, but all children are affected by violence and terrorism to some degree. Older children and teens are more likely to be exposed to violence and terrorism or conversations about them and as such, parents need to know how to respond.

 

FOR OLDER CHILDREN

  1. Be Available. One of the best predictors of positive outcomes in youth is the quality of their relationship with parents and family. Open, on-going communication will help the youth process the information, and will help build positive relationships.
  2. Validate Feelings. How often do we say “don’t worry about that…”. While we naturally want our children to not fear terrorism or violence, the truth is that violence is a part of their reality and validating their feelings is a good way to help them feel supported.
  3. Answer Questions. With the Internet at the tip of their fingers, older children and teens will find answers on their own. However, if they can get information from you, chances are the information will be more credible and accompanied by an open communication. Let your child know you are always there if they have questions or want to talk.
  4. Be Affectionate. We might not think of teens needing affection, but the truth is, they do. Despite what they tell us, youth need encouragement, love, hugs, snuggle, and pats on the back as much as younger children. Especially in times of tragedy or when dealing with highly emotional events. Be sure to let teens know they are loved, valued, and important to you.
  5. Plan for Emergencies. While planning is important for all ages, older children and teens will feel a sense of relief if there is a plan in place for what to do in case of an emergency, including violence and terrorism. Knowing where to go, who to call, and what to do in times of trouble can help youth feel reassured.
  6. Focus on the positive. It can be easy to focus on what is wrong in the world, so it is critical that parents take time to focus on what is right. Even in times of trouble, there are positives, so taking time to focus on what is going well can alleviate stress. Reassuring youth that the chances of them being targets is low and letting them know you and your community are doing all you can to keep them safe can help reduce stress.

 

Here is what you could say:

 “It is scary to think something like this could happen to us or your friends”

“I understand why you are upset. This is a stressful topic”

“What do you think you could do or say next time? Want to practice”

“Let’s make a plan for what we would do if there was an emergency. You know that probably won’t happen, but we can still have a plan.”

 

Bottom line, we all wish we didn’t even have to think about this. However, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the kids at Sandy Hook, and the many other children that have died in gun violence or terrorism. With young children, it is about monitoring exposure and offering reassurance. With older children, it is about open communication and validation of feelings. With all children, it is about working to help them feel loved, safe, and listened to.

 

Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you want more information, feel free to check out the following resources:

Controlling the Future: Goal setting and New Year’s resolutions

Happy New Year:

This week we interview our daughter, Sofia Allen. Sofia shares her opinion  about life as an Allen kid and talks about her Wildly Important Goals (WIGS) and her New Year’s Resolutions.  We all talk about the Allen Family New Year’s Resolutions, including more balance in our non-nutritional use of technology and food.

 

Sofia and Fiona signing a book with Muriel Summers, AB Combs principal and the person that introduced us to WIGS.

 

 

 

Life is changing! Welcome, Skyler!

Things are always changing at the Allen house, and this week is no exception. WE are SOOO excited to welcome SKYLER GILBERT-ALLEN to the crazy place we call home. Next stop, getting into Wake Tech. You can do it, Skyler!!!!!

 

 

Skyler with yawning dad

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Put me in, coach!

Did you see that talk show where they did the make-over and got that woman a life coach and she ended up changing her life? You know the one…just about any show that does make overs now has the life coach make over because they help! They really do.

Life coaches are not only the new thing in self improvement, there is a growing science around the process of coaching and it turns out that coaches truly help people reach their goals and improve their lives.

That is why I became a family coach. I started my career as teacher, then a parent educator and a marriage and family therapist. All those were great ways of helping, but they simply do not have the results that I see in the families I coach.

If you want a change, coaching is the way to go. Many people don’t know what family or parent coaching is, so over the next few months I’ll be blogging and explaining about my work coaching families. I’ll also talk about the coaching courses I teach to masters level students.

Granted, I may not the coach they hire on those shows, but I’m excited about to share about the coaching I am doing and I hope this inspires other to take steps to improve their family life.

Cheers,

Dr Kim Allen

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Cheap Thrills

Cheap Thrills

I just realized why older adults are the people I most often see at cultural events (I mean from what I remember from my younger years when I actually attended cultural events) (yes, younger years meaning BFS) (Before Fiona and Sofia). Once the kids leave the house, all the free entertainment is gone. Just think about it; have you ever averaged the amount of time you spend (ergo the number of dollars you save) seeing shows, listening to songs, critiquing art and even cheering for your favorite team all for free in the comfort of your own back yard?

Take tonight, for example. Tonight’s shows included a humorous film about ADHD (were I got to practice my cinematography skills), an interpretive dance about the fear of the wild (see video of take 4) (never mind, apparently I’m a bad cinematographer because there are no videos on the disk), a song by Adele, and a neighborhood flashmob. Even better, several of those were repeat performances, so I got to watch them over and over and over again.

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Scary Sofia’s Cat Dance

I’d say each show averaged 10 minutes. Of course that is front to start. If I add in all the redos that allowed me to watch each show from the beginning to about mid point (you know, the point where a mistake was made, causing the whole show to begin again), I would guess it was closer to 25 minutes per performance. In total, I probably watched a good hour or so of performances in just one night. And that’s just for the ones I finally agreed to watch. I can’t tell you how many times I said “not now”. I can’t help think about the savings, though. If I paid for that entertainment, well…OK, I wouldn’t. But let’s just say if did…for cheap entertainment, that is at least $10 bucks worth a night. So for a full week, I’m probably getting about $70s worth of culture. For free.

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Best of all, I get to see the performance in my sweat pants and tee shirts.
Fiona’s art show

Thanks, girls, for giving me culture and helping me save money (unless I account for the money I spend on all the lessons you have taken in preparation for these events, which I’m not counting tonight). I feel so much better now about your eager invitations to “watch me, watch me, watch me Mom!, can you watch me now, how long before you can watch me, look at this, did you see this, mom, come here and look at this, mom…….”

What I’d like for more couples

I’m not the biggest fan of Repulican Politics, but I’ll be the first to admit when I see a good thing, even if it comes from a Republican.  So, I share with you this wonderful link that shows at least two things that all couples should have.  Caring Moments and Humor.

First of all, who doesn’t love it when a man feels emotion?  Good for you, Mr. President, that you not only feel those positive emotions for your relationship with you wife, but also that you are sharing that wonderful quality with your granddaughter.  Children need those moments in order to know what to expect for themselves.  I’m really impressed with that.

And Ms. Bush, kudos to you for finding a way to show your love and appreciation with humor.  Your touch on the President’s leg was subtle, yet strong enough to let him know that you feel his love, and you shared yours by offering him a way out of that touchy, beautiful moment.  No wonder the two of you have lasted so long in your relationship.