Tuesday, May 30, 2017

How TV Used to Be

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own.

On days that I would stay home from school because I was sick, I didn't have a TV in my bedroom. I'd rest most of the time but when I did get a chance to watch a show. my parents had a small black and white set that they'd keep in the kitchen which could get four channels.

The screen was six inches by six inches which when compared to today's smartphones seems tiny now. With four channels to choose from and daytime TV relegated to mostly soap operas and infomercials, I'd be at the mercy of whatever was on TV at the time.

My kids just don't understand the struggle behind the way TV used to be. 

The way TV used to be: Open up the TV guide and find the time when the show you want to see is on. Try not to forget when you will be watching your show. Wait months until you see that episode on a rerun because you missed it. Try to program the VCR with the blinking time to record when you want. Find a blank VHS tape that doesn't have family movies on it.

The way TV is now: Record your show for later digitally. Create a list with your favorite shows to watch on your time at any time. use a mobile device or smartphone to watch that same show on the go.

They literally have a myriad of shows to choose from at any given time. Whether they are in the mood for cartoons or movies, it's right there at their fingertips. Age appropriate comedies are filtered through their age profile, eliminating shows they shouldn't be watching without me or my wife. And when dad is home sick from work, Netflix can keep them entertained while dad recovers with no worry because they create playlists of new shows and old favorites that they keep in a queue that's all their own.

The way TV used to be : I'd turn the dial to UHF or VHF and turn the dial until I'd see a flicker of a show. Then, I'd adjust the antenna until it would come in clear.

The way TV is now: Turn on the TV. Enter your preferred show and watch it in crystal clear clarity.

Ask my six year old how to navigate Netflix and she can deftly do so. If an older adult is visiting, I can count on any of my children to help them navigate it as well. Our Netflix includes a profile for dad, a profile for mom, and one for the kids. The only dilemma once you understand how it works is to figure out something that everyone will like. Netflix can simplify that for you. Using the below spinner, choose your show by giving fate a whirl instead.

The way TV used to be : When my uncle used to come and visit our house for the holidays he'd raid the Sunday paper to look for the TV guide. He'd sit at our basement bar sipping a cocktail and circle or highlight every show he was interested in for the next five days. Then we would wait for our chance to use the main TV while he was parked in front of it all week long. Sneak in a show when he's in the bathroom. He has to pee at some point right?

The way TV is now :  Let your uncle watch his shows. Let your kids watch their shows. Watch your show up in your room in private with headphones. A Netflix account can accommodate up to four screens in Ultra HD. Can't get the movie you want? Sign up for DVD service and they will be shipped directly to you! It's a great time to be alive.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Transform Your Summer Giveaway

I was compensated for this post. All opinions expressed are my own and belong to DadNCharge. 

I carried him wherever I went so much so that his decals, which I carefully placed where a bicep would go if he were human, would start to peel up from the corners where my thumbs would pose him and the paint from so many skirmishes started to wear away like scars from a fierce battle. He raged in campaigns against evil robots trying to harm the humans of the planet Earth on the floor of my bedroom and exotic locales like my backyard.

We spent hours together among the front bushes that if carefully manicured, could hide a small boy where the concrete window sill ledge provided not only a seat, but a home base for the Optimus Prime and the rest of the Autobots. If you were a child in the 1980's you very likely spent time with him too wondering if every big rig on the road were hiding a secret and your furious attempts to get a air horn blast from a willing trucker meant that you were somehow connected.

Nostalgia has this certain grip on me due to those hours we spent together and have manifested in my enthusiasm to promote the Transformers to my own children. It started with the Rescue Bots, moving logically up to one step changers, and working our way up to each transformation level as the kids increased incrementally in age.

What drew us in as children to the series was the connection between the Transformers, a dad, and his son Spike Witwicky. Spike was the Autobots only ally and he shared this secret with his dad Sparkplug in the animated series in the 80's. Destined to carry on this tradition with my own children, it has been a gradual process involving a box set of DVDs, Netflix and hours of research together.

This summer, on June 21st, we have the opportunity to keep the tradition going with Transformers :The Last Knight. Humans and Transformers are at war, Optimus Prime is gone. The key to saving our future lies buried in the secrets of the past, in the hidden history of Transformers on Earth.

Saving our world falls upon the shoulders of an unlikely alliance: Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg); Bumblebee; an English Lord (Sir Anthony Hopkins); and an Oxford Professor (Laura Haddock)
In this movie, kids play an important role in the battle for Earth as seen in this clip from the Kids' Choice Awards.  

From June 1-4, at the Pennsylvania Convention Center, Wizard World Comic Con will feature an appearance by a new character from Transformers : The Last Knight named SQWEEKS. Attend the con and get your chance to get a selfie with this franchise's newest star. Find his appearances in your area at these events:

May 25-28           Phoenix – Phoenix Comic Con  
May 27-28           San Francisco – San Francisco Carnival 
June 1-4              Philadelphia – Wizard World Comic Con
June 3-4              San Diego – San Diego County Fair at Del Mar Fairgrounds
June 5                 Wilkes Barre, PA – WWE Monday Night Raw 
June 9-11            Dallas – Taste of Dallas
June 10               New York – 116th Street Festival/Puerto Rican Pride Weekend
June 13               Boston - Boston Red Sox vs. Philadelphia Phillies 
June 16-18          Detroit (Brooklyn, MI) – Firekeepers 500 NASCAR
                           Last Stop – TBC*
* we’ll let you know when this is locked!

Want to transform your summer with your kids? Comment below about who is your favorite Transformer and why below and you will be entered into a drawing for 1 of 2 Family Four Packs to an ADVANCED SCREENING of TRANSFORMERS : THE LAST KNIGHT. The battle for Earth has begun. Who will lead us?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 22, 2017

Navigating Fatherhood

Disclaimer : This post is sponsored by Navdy and I was provided compensation for this post. Look for more posts this year about the adventures my family and I have with Navdy.

No one knows what it is like to be a father until you are. Every time your child opens their eyes to look at you it will remind you of that moment when you first saw each other.

I still feel that flutter in my heart every time I catch their eyes from across the room whether it be at a school concert, a dance, or in their classroom. Their eyes will continue to follow you throughout their childhood. They will look to you for guidance and support. They will look to you for comfort and assurance. They will always be watching what you are doing and emulate you as their example for what is good and right.

But our connections aren't always there. Sometimes we will get disconnected and distracted by the things in life that try to get in the way. Keeping our eyes forward is important because if we aren't looking ahead, they won't either.
**Given the difficult nature of capturing Navdy’s projected display on film, this picture is not fully representative of how Navdy’s display actually appears during use.**
I try to remember this every time I take my kids out for a drive in the family car. It started when they were small. I tried to stay focused with them in the car seat around the neighborhood because it was the only way they would sleep. I remember long trips in the car to visit family while driving and seeing accidents along the road, realizing that if we were driving faster, it could have been us instead. Just a moment's glance away from the road can mean a car wreck by the side of the road.
I try to remember this when they are loud that it's still my job to keep my eyes forward.  Kids themselves can be as distracting as what is outside the car too.
Distracted driving is a killer that is on the rise with technological innovations like smartphones. They beg us to take our gaze off the road, thus putting ourselves and our families at risk. Fatherhood is hard enough to navigate without all of these added distractions.

And then I found something to help me stay connected and yet still keep my eyes on the road. Navdy is a Head Up Display that mounts on your dashboard and projects a transparent image on your windshield, showing things like maps, calls, music, and messages. It connects to your phone and displays your car's information so that your eyes can stay forward and on the road ahead, rather than glancing down at your phone. For just $28 per month or a one time price of $499, Navdy is worth the investment in your family's safety.

Navdy has helped me and my kids go on many adventures together and let me focus on getting us there safely. We've gone on retreats together in areas where finding the "main road," which was actually made of dirt, put me on edge. Fatherhood is wonderful but three kids screaming in the backseat when you don't know where you are going is bound to get on your nerves.

It has helped us locate alternate routes and short-cuts to save us time. The Navdy app connects with the Navdy display and lets me control functions with the Navdy dial on my steering wheel. I can also operate Navdy via voice commands and simple hand gestures.

It has lead us to places we never thought we would be together, like the oldest pretzel factory in the United States where we learned the symbolism behind the twist and how to make one with our own bare hands. The important thing about the journey is getting there together.

Navdy is more than just a navigation system, though. With it syncing to your phone, you can play music, read and respond to texts, app notifications and phone calls while on the road, and it can find areas of interest using Google Maps while keeping your eyes forward, even when your mind isn't one hundred percent present.

Once, my daughters and I went on a weekend retreat together. On the last night my daughter threw up in her bed in the middle of the night and we spent most of the night sleeping very little while she would wake every few hours so I could hold the trash can for her. It wasn't the end to a great weekend that I expected, but when you have kids, these things happen and you have to be able to move forward.

I texted a friend on the retreat letting her know we were leaving before breakfast with my daughter looking pale and clutching a large soft drink cup I had left in the car. We were headed home and hoping for the best. I prayed that there would be no puking in the car.

I couldn't wait for a response because we were in between episodes, but her text came through the Navdy which read it to me so I wouldn't have to look down. "We will be home later, if your other kids want to spend the night, just let me know when you get home." I could either reply to her text through the Navdy display or let her know that I was busy driving and that I would respond later. Or, I could even share my entire trip with her, sending a real-time interactive map showing my exact location and ETA, so I didn’t have to worry about keeping her up-to-date with our location while driving—all without touching my phone or taking my eyes off the road

Navdy is peace of mind for those times when you are navigating more than just the roads. Fatherhood is a long learning experience with no training and no manual. As we travel the long roads with our children, we learn to read signs along the way, learn from our mistakes, and look forward to what else is in store for us.

Fatherhood, like those very same roads, is a journey into the unknown. And if you think that sounds daunting just remember, eventually all of these same kids will be driving you down those same roads someday.

Do you know a dad who could benefit from the Navdy navigation system? It makes a great gift for Father's Day and will help him navigate more than just the roads. Watch the video below to see Navdy in action.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Five Gifts From the Heart for Mother's Day

Each year my kids painstakingly create a Mother's Day card often using acronym to describe what they mean to her. The word M.O.M.M.Y. is filled with words like magical, outstanding, marvelous, masterful, and young. Actually, honey, I threw that one in there and take all the credit for suggesting it. But this question comes around every year in May; What do we get mom for Mother's Day?

My kids know that my wife likes purple Skittles most of all, black licorice, and sappy TV dramas set in the days of pioneers. She loves her purple robe and early morning walks. Most of all, she appreciates when people to nice things for others which usually translates into an attempt to make breakfast in bed for her.

This is no small task  which ends up with me cleaning up the kitchen like we were preparing a six course feast. As much as I complain about the clean up, my son is masterful at making eggs and my six year old loves making toast. While they are doing that, my nine year old prepares the plate like an artist and I make the perfect bacon that my working wife has spent the last ten years bringing home.

Some kids tend to get resourceful when it comes to Mother's Day. Coupon books that can be cashed in for chores they should already be doing appear, bouquets of flowers taken from the front yard end up in makeshift vases, and my middle daughter who is the best hugger there is, provides an abundance of embraces like they have an expiration date.

Yet, Mother's Day is starting to feel the same year to year to me. So much so that I can't distinguish from one year to the next what we did for her on this one day the rest of the world tells their moms "Thanks for giving birth to me and for putting up with my shenanigans ever since!"

There's another side to a child's resourcefulness and it comes from the lessons we impart to our children about passion and drive to do something different and unexpected. Kids learn early that a the kind of gift given isn't the one the 40% off end-cap at the store but one that has meaning.

The beauty of the internet is that you can find all of these things without leaving your own home and most often, the gift you already have like Verizon FiOS TV and Internet can quickly connect you to meaningful moments that mom will enjoy.

So if you are stuck for Mother's Day and have no clue what you should get mom, try these heartfelt suggestions instead with some help from Verizon FiOS TV and Internet. With  FiOS Instant Internet, she can do all these things at once without  worrying that someone might come into her room and ask her for a Wi-Fi password. At 750 mbps upload and download speeds

1. A Gift from the Heart 

Loopholes Boutique  - A store created by two young girls in Philadelphia area, they design clip on and pierced earring designs for all ages. At $4 a pair, you can find something cute and fashionable that kids can afford for their own moms and support a local business right here in Philadelphia.

2. Mom Movie Marathon

Moms are all about quality time with their offspring unless they aren't and could just use a few hours to themselves to wind down from a stressful week. month, or year. Get mom her slippers and a nice warm blanket and make a playlist for her of your favorite mom movies so she can cuddle on the couch and chill out. With the FiOS Quantum Gateway Router and FiOS Custom TV, you can let the kids play on their devices at the same time so they won't be tempted to ask mom what she is doing in the bathroom with the door closed.

3. Call or Video Chat

Is there anything more that mom wants than to see or hear you? I know for a fact that it's all she said she wants this year. Let's face it, you miss her saying that you're not eating enough or that you look tired. But, it's going to payoff in the end. Spend a bunch of time showing her all the cool tricks the kids can do via Skype and her love tank will be full for awhile.

4. Deep Cleanse

Moms do A LOT for their families and in turn we like to leave things laying around that remind her that we are always here. Tell mom to head to the spa and do a clean sweep of all the clutter in your house. When she comes back, not only will her body be refreshed but so will her chi. You don't want a mom with bad chi.

5. Make It Personal

With the billions of photos we take everyday on our smartphones and digital cameras, there are bound to be some selfies and family photos mom might want to look on fondly some day. Make her a photo book or calendar that commemorates your time with her. Your siblings will be jealous they didn't think of it first and you'll move to favorite status in no time. With FiOS Instant Internet, handling all those big files and uploading those precious memories will be a breeze. With 750 mbps upload and download speeds, the only thing you'll have to wait on is the shipping of your finished book.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post with Verizon FiOS in Philadelphia. All opinions expressed are my own. #FiOSPhilly

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Don't Call the Guy, Be the Guy with the DIYZ App

This post is in collaboration with DIYZ. All opinions of apps and companies that help me complete DIY projects are my own.


YES I... sort of...can. Can I get back to you on that? I need to go look something up real quick.

I admire Bob the Builder, he's a guy that knows what he is doing. As for me? Well, I can do certain things well and all the others I have just made up as I went. I've learned a lot of things along the way after owning a few different houses and there has been a lot of trial and error. Owning a house is just like being a parent. You have no idea what you are doing, but you learn along the way how things should be done.

My kids often come to me with problems in the same way. How far away is Jupiter from Earth? Explain gravity and why it works. Where do babies come from?

The thing about dads is that even if we don't have the correct answer, we find a way to quench the thirstiest of minds. Jupiter is so far away that you'd be dead before you reached it. Gravity works because the mass of the Earth is so large and it is spinning that it pulls us to the center. Babies come from storks, haven't you seen the movie yet? Boom. Done.

My dad didn't have Google when I was growing up so he probably just told me to go look it up in our 52 piece collection of the World Book Encyclopedia. Those books helped me through most of my school reports and they are the reason why most English classes now have rules about plagiarism.

And when I couldn't find the answer? My dad probably just made something up, because that's what dads do. My brothers and I are all DIYers. We learned it from our own dad who most certainly learned it from his dad. Some projects you can just do on your own because it's going to get expensive if you can't figure it out yourself.

In my family, that's the case except when it comes to plumbing. There seems to be some sort of long standing curse placed there by a DIY project between my dad and his brother and a stubborn toilet which resulted my dad and my uncle driving all over Chicago trying to find a "plumbing tool" called a screw extractor they would be the only way to fix said plumbing issue.

If you are a first time homeowner you'll probably spend your weekends carting hardware back and forth from the store multiple times a day. You'll get home and curse under your breath that you forgot to purchase the only size wrench that fits every nut and bolt in your house due to a contractor's love of the metric system. You just can't call in "your guy" every time you run into trouble. Repeat after me "I'm a moderately intelligent adult who is capable of great things with a little guidance"

But, who wants to spend all day surfing the net, trying to find videos that pertain to your particular project? I once looked up how to install a new garbage disposal and fell down an online video wormhole. Pretty soon I was watching dancing puppets singing about Hogwarts because they mentioned the word pipe somewhere in the video. Before I knew it, my research on the project I was supposed to be doing was flushed down the drain.

Wouldn't it be nice if there was an app where all of this information is stored in easy to follow directions?  What if instead of asking all of my dad friends on Facebook how they would do it, I could actually find someone who knew what they were talking about?

Well, it's true..It's called the DIYZ app and it's about to change your DIY life. They have endless projects from crafts for Mother's Day, to How to Install a USB charger. The great thing about this app is that it gives us DIYers of all levels the knowledge needed to complete a project with confidence. With the DIYZ app, it's time to #GetWise.

Don't know how to install a ceiling fan? Terrified of your electrical box? Don't default to "your guy", when you can do it yourself for much cheaper. You can do a live video chat with a Pro Advisor who can walk you through your project.The DIYZ App is free to download and is available in the Apple App Store for iPhone and Google Play for Android. For a limited time, the video-chat feature is FREE! Imagine the power to show someone exactly what you are looking at so you can get the right help.  Take that dad!

The app outlines exactly what you need to complete the job and if you don't have the necessary tools it will take you right to an Amazon shopping list so you can have it shipped directly to your door, instead of those boomerang trips to your nearest hardware store.

After every winter season, the siding on my house turns into The Green Monster. The north side which is in shadow most of the day, develops algae and mold which looks even worse on our white house. But, with the DIYZ app, my project to clean our siding just got so much easier.

All I had to do was open the app, tap on the exterior category and scroll through the projects until I found it. You can also use the search function to find it right away, but I like to see what other projects I could possibly do in the future as well. Once you've found your project, you can see an overview which gives you an idea of difficulty level, time needed and cost. In the steps tab, the project is broken down into easy instructions which included a segmented video explaining what to do. That means I could be outside working on my project and I could refer to each step without leaving the area and getting distracted!

While my house does have siding, it isn't vinyl siding, but asbestos board so I wasn't sure if the tutorial on the app would be different for my project or if I would have to be gentle with the material. I did a live video-chat with a DIYZ Pro Advisor. Advisors are available from 6:00 PM to 1:00 AM ET Monday through Friday. On weekends, DIYZ advisors will be available to help tackle projects from 8:00 AM to 1:00 AM ET. Even your dad isn't that reliable!

DIYZ Homepage: https://www.diyz.com
DIYZ Twitter:  https://twitter.com/DIYZ_App / @DIYZ_app
DIYZ Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/diyz_app / @DIYZ_app
DIYZ YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVRsZ1NjtnDAU5JkhXEjyBg/

Friday, May 5, 2017

#ISleepTo Shape the Youth of Tomorrow

I see it every day at work, students too tired to participate with their heads down on their desks even unable to function let alone string some sentences together. The early morning combined with a wild weekend can spell disaster for any teen. There's no worse feeling as a teacher when you jubilantly greet them at the door with a fervent GOOD MORNING! to be greeted by a dismissive grunt and look of disdain in their bloodshot eyes.

As a teacher, I have to be a leader and set the example so if I'm yawning and disengaged, my students are likely to follow suit. What happens when I don't get enough sleep? I end up with a classroom atmosphere that is boring and unproductive. I set the tone with my alertness and exuberance so if I am not firing on all cylinders, everything and everyone else suffers.

Studies show that teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep to function at a high level and adults need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep.  That means when it comes to healthy sleeping we need to be on the same page to be in sync. Sleep is fuel for the brain. It needs to rest so that the body feels refreshed and restored. For this reason, #ISleepTo be the best teacher I can be.

The benefits of a good night's sleep are not underrated. The CDC reports that people who suffer from sleep insufficiency are also more likely to suffer from chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, depression, and obesity, as well as from cancer, increased mortality, and reduced quality of life and productivity.

When my sleep suffers it not only affects my students but my family as well. Ask any new parent what they miss most about their childless life and it is likely all about the sleep they used to get. No more sleeping in on weekends or mid-afternoon naps when there is so much laundry that needs to be done and a screaming baby that needs your attention every four hours if you are lucky.

As a father, sleep is an important part of not only physical well being but my mental health as well. The CDC also discovered that between 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorders so it is even more important as adults to get proper sleep and implement healthy sleeping habits.

When I'm tired and not myself, everything seems to pile up behind it and I become irritable and angry. That's when I take it out my frustrations on my spouse or my kids by yelling or getting short with them. Hindsight the following day is usually me making a promise to myself that I'm not going to do it again, but I do because while I am tired, there's no way to really know how ineffective my sleep habits have become. For this reason, #ISleepTo be the best father I can be.

Thanks to the people at Beautyrest, they have come up with a way to keep me honest. The Beautyrest Sleeptracker is a monitor that works with your existing Wi-Fi to connect with an app on your phone that monitors your sleep and reports back on how you can improve it. It comes with two sensors that you place under your mattress that report back to the "brain" of the unit which in turn sends information to your phone that is measurable.

The Sleeptracker monitor and app keep track of Restless Sleep, REM Sleep, and Deep-Sleep which lets you know what percentage of your night's slumber qualified for each. The idea is to take a look at your sleep patterns and based on your day's activity, make smart choices about how to maximize the best sleep for you. Just like diet and exercise, setting a sleep goal is just as important for our overall health and once you look at your personalized research, the Sleeptracker app can help you make better decisions about your quality of sleep.

You can also factor in workouts, amount of consumed caffeine, whether you had a pet in the bed, took medication, or screen time before bed. The screen issue is a big one for me as I usually watch TV right before bed. The app told me that blue-light radiating screens shouldn't be watched a good half hour before bedtime. What most people don't know is that the stimulating effect of the screen continues to suppress melatonin, the hormone that helps you regulate your sleep, for at least thirty minutes after you turn it off.  This makes sense as parents across the country watch TV, use the computer, or play on a tablet after the kids go to bed but we do it normally right before we head off to sleep.

What I like about the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor is that it isn't a wearable. I used to use a wearable to keep track of my sleep but if I took it off to take a shower or forgot it downstairs, I'd be less likely to bother because once I'm in my pajamas, it's all over.

When I'm tired, I just want to crash and with the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor it is always in my bed ready when I am to record and report. All I have to do is tell the monitor that I am going to bed and end recording when I wake up in the morning.

My wife and I have been using the Beautyrest Sleeptracker app for a month now and have been comparing notes on our quality of sleep. My snoring has a lot to do with her results unfortunately but it's cool to see how different our experience can be even though we are in the same bed and see how the apps insights can be modified to cater to our individual needs.

If you care about the quality of your sleep but don't want to rely on a wearable to do it, I suggest you try the Beautyrest Sleeptracker monitor and app and see how it can improve your quality of sleep. I did it not only for myself and my family, but more importantly America. Now, if only Beautyrest could cure my snoring.


Beautyrest’s website:  http://www.beautyrest.com
Beautyrest Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/beautyrestbeds/
Beautyrest Twitter:  https://twitter.com/Beautyrest/
Beautyrest Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/beautyrest/

Disclosure: I have partnered with Life of Dad and Beautyrest for this campaign in which I have been compensated.All opinions expressed are my own.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Three Little Bears

She opened her eyes and took in the state of her room. Toys were strewn about from yesterday's playdate, clothes lay on the floor, and sunlight was just beginning to peek through the curtain at her window. Over her bed, her dad was pulling the covers off going on about her needing to wake up and that she was going to be late.

Slowly, she jumped from the bed to the floor and sleepily put on the clothes laid out the night before. The cat was meowing constantly waiting to be fed. The birds chirped outside and the spoons from the cereal bowls clinked incessantly as her older brother and sister went through the morning rush.

After throwing in her folders and lunchbox, it was off to the bus. Along the way the neighbor's dog barked viciously at her as she passed. She skipped a little faster to catch up with her sister. Cars headed off to work zoomed by and landscaping trucks rumbled through leaving an air thick with gray smoke from the burning diesel.

The yellow bus arrived with a screech and a squeal as it lumbered to rest before her feet. From there it was three steps to her seat where she could sit and relax.  Only, her ears are bombarded with an explosion of sound, mostly talk but filled with laughing or the occasional boisterous singing. She's only on her way to school and so much has happened already.

Have you ever asked the kids what they did at school today and heard a "nuthin" though you knew it wasn't true? Your taxes are definitely going somewhere and you've seen how prepared the teachers are at parent-teacher night.  So why are kids so reluctant to share what has happened during their day?

Part of the problem is the questions we are asking. To get kids to respond, we have to think like teachers and guide them towards what an appropriate response might be. It's the difference between giving our students a standardized test versus an exploratory essay. You'll never truly know a student until they explain to you who they are through their words of choice. It's the very same reason authors are not all the same.

Some of the best things our kids will discover and say will happen in school and the simple fact is we aren't there to hear it. But put ourselves in their shoes for a moment and think about every detail of your morning. What you may come to realize is that it is overwhelming.  So when we ask our children a vague question about what they did at school that day, we are leaving it too open ended for them to process it.

Instead, start a conversation after school while it still is fresh with their favorite snack. Sustenence always makes me feel instantly better and more willing to share about my day. That's why my wife and I have used what we call the highlight and low-light discussion.

We ask our children to name a highlight (something great that happened) and a low-light (something not great) to highlight that life is not perfect and that we can learn from our mistakes. These are teachable moments you shouldn't pass by.

But don't conduct an interview on an empty stomach. Crack open a pack of Teddy Soft Bakes, a tasty soft snack with chocolate or vanilla filling and have them act out their day with Teddy. Teddy Soft Bakes are made with no high fructose corn syrup and no artificial flavors or colors and can give your kids a great after school snack and some time to decompress and think about their day.

Conduct your own interview using reporter Teddy and interview them with follow up questions like: "What made you laugh today?" or "What is one thing you did with a friend today?" Being specific instead of vague gives you the answers you are looking for from your kids and avoids the shoulder shrugs and "I dunnos". What you are essentially teaching them is how to effectively communicate with you and other adults.

More importantly, respond to their answers so that hey understand that you are listening to them.
The success of any relationship is based on effective communication and the way we interact with our children is no different.

Because of technology and smartphones, many youth today don't know how to make eye contact or hold a conversation with an adult. They are used to looking down at tablets and cellphones and avoiding interaction.  Practicing these techniques together can help children define their own story about themselves and help you to understand them better. You can help make their story a happy ending and that's no fairy tale.

Three Tips for Effective Communication with your Child

1. Don't talk on an empty stomach especially right after school.

2. Ask specific questions that lead to things you want to learn. 

3. Respond to their answers and affirm to them what they just said. 

I'm sharing Teddy Soft Bakes in my life as part of a sponsored series for Socialstars™  #myfirstTeddy #discoverTeddy 

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Buddy Bench That Your Teen Needs

She wakes up unprepared for another day at school. She wishes that she were still in elementary school. Those times were easier. School was easier. People were easier.

She remembers how much the teacher used to stress acceptance and tolerance. How they had come up with rules of respect together and how each kid had taken a red washable marker and penned their name at the bottom of that document like a declaration of togetherness.  Unfortunately that connection is not forever and the ink eventually runs.

She misses how at elementary school if you were lonely, all you had to do was sit on the buddy bench and someone would come over and ask you to play. Not familiar with a buddy bench? It's essentially a designated bench on a playground where kids can sit if they are feeling lonely and want to play with someone. It is then up to their classmates to come over and invite someone on the bench to play.

They would ask you to play because of this declaration of decision; that sitting on this red metal bench was a sign that you needed something that could only be quenched by interaction from another human being. Sitting on the bench made others pause and notice you. It made people realize that sometimes people need help but they are too embarrassed or afraid to ask for it.   

This girl wasn't looking forward to school because the buddy bench was long gone. It was almost time for school and now she stands before her closet with endless possibilities but nothing to wear. Every decision seems like a monumental one. How was she going to continue to make these choices?

She wishes she could talk to someone about her feelings but she just keeps pushing it down. That's much easier than starting a conversation. She sighs. The buddy bench was an amazing part of the past.

With advanced age came more judgement and more pressure. Gone were the days as a teen where your outfit didn't matter. Gone were the days when all that mattered was who you were as an individual and that simple act of sitting down invited someone to find out who that was.

Sitting down and just talking about how your teen is feeling can be a monumental task in itself. Will they trust me enough to confide in me? Do they know I'm always here to listen? How do I even get them to talk to me?

The answer is always about effective communication.  Both parents and teens feel a disconnect because there is a perceived lack of common ground. Teens now think the same things we thought when we were their age which is namely "My parents just don't understand me."

In a study done by Netflix, parents revealed that 70% wish they had more to talk about with their teen. Common ground can be achieved easily by setting aside time to watch shows that deal with issues that teens face today. Your couch in essence, becomes your buddy bench.

Think your teen won't be open to watching the same show with you?  Seventy-four percent of teens are interested in talking with their parents about the shows they watch. With shows like 13 Reasons Why and Lost and Found, the shows bring up issues that teens face everyday including bullying, peer pressure, and body issues.

Don't know how to broach a difficult subject? Watch a show together and talk about what happened to the characters. Then ask them honestly "Have you ever experienced this? Tell me about it." What you will find is common ground through discussions about issues that they face. Maybe they aren't being bullied themselves but they have a friend who is and they don't know what to do about it. They didn't bring it up because they weren't sure how you would react.

Many teens will not tell you, but they need someone to talk to who can lend an ear and give them some advice. We remember what it was like as a teen; we thought we were alone and that we had to figure things out on our own.

As parents, it is our duty to make sure they understand that we want to know even if it is embarrassing. In fact, eighty-three percent of parents have watched a show that their teens have watched so that they can feel closer to them.  With issues that loom over teens like sex, anxiety, depression, and stress, making your couch the buddy bench can connect you with your teen. You can use Netflix to be the thing that brings you closer together initially. Keeping that connection going will be up to you.

Below are some shows that my family and I enjoy watching together and have opened up conversations about topics that have come up about middle and high school.

13 Reasons Why - After a teenager's perplexing suicide a classmate receives a series of tapes that unravel the mystery of her tragic choice.

Once I Was a Beehive - When her mother remarries one year after her father's death and sends her to Bible camp, a teenage meets others who can relate to her pain.

Pretty Little Liars - Rudderless without their missing leader, four formerly tight high school friends band together when a blackmailer threatens to expose all of their secrets.

Lost and Found Music Studios - Follows the lives of a group of musicians who are members of an after-school music program where they explore and discover their musical identities.

Little Boxes - After moving from NYC to a small town in Washington state, a biracial couple and their preteen son struggle to adjust to suburbia.

Disclaimer : This post was brought to you by Netflix and my relationship with them as a #StreamTeam influencer. All opinions expressed are my own.