By Joyce Suttin
Bo was our golden lab who loved to swim in our pool. He lived for his exercise, and the pool was his domain. One day, my son was learning new strokes and tried the dead man’s float. Bo decided his boy was in imminent danger and jumped into the pool to rescue him. Instinctively, he pushed my son’s head up and held onto him with his paws in an effort to save his life. My poor son choked and sputtered as he tried to keep Bo away and ended up with water in his lungs and a chest full of scratches.
I praised Bo as he shook water all over me in his zealousness to get my opinion of the event. I knew that he’d accomplished more harm than good, but I could relate, because I know I’ve often done the same thing in my interactions with others.
I was talking with someone the other day about their relationship with their teenager and offered my advice. After forty-some years of parenting, grand-parenting, and teaching teenagers, my wisdom was really quite simple: “Don’t take things personally.”
It’s hard not to react with annoyance, anger, or sensitivity when you feel like you are being rebuffed. It’s hard not to take unkind words or actions personally, not to think of all the times when there were other things you wanted to do, but you stopped and listened and attended to your kids’ needs.
It’s hard to stand on the edge of the proverbial pool and watch and pray, knowing you have said all that needs to be said and done what you could. Now is the time to just step back a bit and let them try. Let them make the clumsy dive. Let them try the new strokes. Let them imitate their friends. But don’t jump into the pool like Bo and try to rescue them prematurely. Just watch and wait in case they call for help. And pray. Because in the end, prayer and unconditional love are really what will make a difference.
If they eventually call out to you, don’t berate them for all the times they didn’t. If they knock on your door, don’t tell them you’re too busy. Be the anchor. Be the rock. Be the stable place in the unstable world and let them know that things will be all right. Then treasure that moment with your arms around them again, and give them faith to jump back in the pool.
Joyce Suttin is a retired teacher and writer and lives in San Antonio, USA.
Text and image courtesy of Activated magazine.
By Gregory M. Lamb, Christian Science Monitor
Parents want their kids and teens to care about others—whether at school, in their community, or in need a continent away.
The good news is that children “are sort of hard-wired” to want to help others, says Michael Ungar, author of “The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids.” “They want to take on responsibility.”
While adults do wonderful things to help others, even more amazing is the number of children and teens who are “making a difference,” too.
"Childhood projects are a great time to sort of step back and let the child develop those skills, from time management to seeing the impact on others if they don’t fulfill their obligations," says Dr. Ungar, a family counselor and professor of social work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The bottom line: Support, but don’t shove. “Our kids are really watching us,” he says. “If we’re showing empathy to others, if we’re cooking a casserole for a neighbor who’s fallen down and broken her hip, if we’re doing those small things in our community,” kids will notice, he says.
Below, we highlight five outstanding young differencemakers—children and teens who have turned their care for others into impressive actions. They show that there’s no age barrier to becoming a force for good.
Wyatt: Making clay wiggle to save the oceans. Wyatt Workman was conducting his phone interview from a closet in his house.
It apparently was the 7-year-old’s private office, a place to speak with an inquiring reporter in some confidentiality.
The second-grader from Glendale, Calif., is a budding environmentalist, clay sculptor, book author, blogger, and auteur. His colorful, six-minute clay-animation movie (“Save the Sea from the Trash Monster!”) is attracting hits on YouTube and at his website, wyattsworks.com.
Next spring he’ll show his film at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif., and speak on his favorite topic: cleaning up the world’s oceans.
"They want me to talk about the ocean," Wyatt says. "It’s going to be a big process!"
He’s contributing the proceeds from all his various artistic ventures to Oceana, a nonprofit ocean advocacy group (oceana.org).
Wyatt attends Wesley School in North Hollywood, Calif., which emphasizes community service.
As a 6-year old, he came home with an idea.
"I said ‘I want to make a movie,’ and my mom, like, freaked out," he says.
"He knew exactly what he wanted to do," says his mother, Timathea Workman. "He had me sit down for about 3-1/2 hours one evening while he dictated to me.
"He wanted me to write down all the things the characters would say and what would happen. Then he would work on the clay."
When Wyatt was ready, he’d call her in to take a photo with a camera, since his hands were covered with clay. The photos then were pieced together to create a stop-motion movie. (His cats—Chewie, Toulouse, and Marie—“helped out” by jumping up and making holes in the clay with their paws.)
Wyatt’s clay modeling (he’s made more than 70 sculptures of animals that he hopes to sell to fund ocean cleanup efforts) and moviemaking have led to additional ideas.
"I said, ‘we need one more thing to be cool,’ " Wyatt tells his interviewer. "And my mom said, ‘What’s that?’ And I thinked and I thinked and I thinked…. [Finally] I said, ‘I want to have a book.’ "
True to his word, still images from the movie will be published in book form, too.
"I want to be like Martin Luther King Jr. and do something to make the world a better place."
Alexa: Building schools for the disaster-struck. Alexa Peters loves drawing—and her dog, Cooper.
Now she’s turned that into a way to help others. The 12-year-old from Andover, Mass., has illustrated a picture book for children called “Cooper and Me,” the story of a young girl very much like Alexa who longs to take her dog with her to her first day of school (cooperandme.com).
Three dollars from the sale of each book goes to the Happy Hearts Fund (happyheartsfund.org), created by fashion model Petra Nemcova to improve the lives of children in countries hit by natural disasters. (Ms. Nemcova herself barely survived the tsunami that struck Indonesia in 2004. Her fiancé was swept away by the floodwaters and perished.)
Alexa hopes to raise $10,000 to help build three schools in Haiti through Happy Hearts. “We came upon the Happy Hearts Fund through a friend,” says Monique Peters, her mother, who wrote the story for “Cooper and Me.” Last February, they contacted Nemcova, and she eventually visited Alexa’s home. Nemcova was so impressed that she made Alexa the youngest “ambassador” for her program.
In June, Alexa and her mom went to Peru to visit three schools supported by Happy Hearts. The children “love going to school. It’s their safe haven,” Ms. Peters says. Homes often have no running water, refrigeration, or indoor plumbing. “They appreciate everything. They have so little,” she says.
Alexa is planning to illustrate a new book, with the story set in Peru. It may center on a 12-year-old boy they met named José, who walks for an hour each day to a larger city to sell candy to support his family.
Alexa’s advice for others who want to make a difference: “Keep going. And if it’s something you’re passionate about, really follow that dream, and you can be successful.”
Dylan: ‘One Starts Many’ to clean up the Gulf. Dylan Stock was in first grade when the Gulf oil spill began last April.
His class at The Principia School in St. Louis studied the spill’s effect on birds. He even went to a hair salon to gather human hair to be used on booms to capture the spreading oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
But Dylan wanted to do more. He created a website, onestartsmany.com, with help from his mother, Carrie Silver-Stock. “I was really worried about the sea creatures,” Dylan says. “My mom asked me if I wanted to make a website, and I said ‘sure’. And I came up with the name One Starts Many.”
The website includes Dylan’s ideas on how to protect the oceans.
At a November fundraiser he collected $1,145 to send to two Gulf charities, Kids in Need During Disaster (kindd.org), which buys clothing for children in a fishing town hit by the oil spill, and the Audubon Institute in New Orleans (auduboninstitute.org), which treats stranded and injured marine wildlife.
With support from WitKids (witkids.org), a program that supports kid-based projects (its motto is “whatever it takes to make the world a better place”), Dylan traveled to the Gulf last summer on his own “fact-finding” mission, which included meeting New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
In September, the 7-year-old spoke to first-graders through fifth-graders at his school to tell them about his trip. He also invited them to become members of his new Ocean Club, which he established at the school.
The club already has helped to clean up a local creek.
"It’s inspiring for us that he felt like he could make a difference," says Mrs. Silver-Stock. She and her husband, Steven Stock, wanted "to nurture that in any way that we can," she says. And Dylan says he isn’t done.
"I think I’ll stay interested in the ocean for a while," he says.
Danielle: A kid-run network spreads peace. Danielle Gram spent her childhood in Maryland in the years following the 9/11 attacks.
"I really didn’t understand why people from different cultures wanted to kill each other," says Ms. Gram, now 21 years old and a senior at Harvard University.
After her family moved to Carlsbad, Calif., she continued to think about the concept of peace and how to achieve it. She read the nonviolent philosophy of Mohandas Gandhi and studied what Buddhism and Christianity had to say on the subject.
In 2006, together with Jill McManigal, a mother of two young children, Gram, then 16, founded Kids for Peace (kidsforpeaceglobal.org), a nonprofit, child-led group that inspires kids to work together toward a more peaceful world.
Today Kids for Peace has more than 75 chapters in several countries. In August, its Great Kindness Challenge, where children try to see how many acts of kindness they can perform in a single day, drew thousands of participants in 50 countries.
Members also sign a six-line “peace pledge” in which they promise to “speak in a kind way,” “help others,” “care for our earth,” “respect people,” and work together.
Beyond that, kids in each chapter design their own projects.
"We really want the kids to be the leaders," Gram says.
"The passion to create a less violent world has really followed me throughout my life," Gram says. But a family tragedy last year brought it closer to home. Her only brother was murdered while on vacation.
"The police still have no idea what happened," she says. "He was found stabbed to death on the side of a road…. It’s certainly been a struggle for all of us. But every single one of my immediate family members has a deeper conviction that nonviolence is the way to respond. We see my brother’s death as just more of an inspiration to make sure that no other family has to experience this."
Jordyn: Removing dangerous drugs from homes. Jordyn Schara was shocked “to see the insane amount of medication people have in their homes that have been lying around waiting to be abused or stolen.”
Unused drugs create two huge problems: They are abused by teens trying to get high, who then can become sick or even die. Or they are flushed down the drain and creep into drinking water. “It means men are taking birth control [pills] and children are taking heart medications,” she says. “It’s definitely not a good thing.”
But when the 14-year-old in Reedsburg, Wis., asked state officials what she could do to help, they told her she was too young.
That didn’t stop Jordyn. She founded a Wisconsin branch of Prescription Pill Drug Disposal (p2d2program.org). She organized a drug drop-off day for her town, and recruited pharmacists and police officers to supervise the event.
The drug return day was “extremely successful,” she says. “People lined up around the block to get in. That was just a really great feeling to know that people were willing to participate.”
Hauling away and incinerating the drugs costs about $2 per pound.
"I had to get a lot of donations and grants to support the cost of this program," says Jordyn, who is now a 16-year-old high school sophomore. "I was the youngest person [at 14] to apply for and receive a state grant in Wisconsin" to help fund her project, she says.
The Save a Star Foundation (saveastar.org) in Highland Park, Ill., donated a prescription drug drop-off box, the size of a street-corner mailbox, that’s been installed at the police station. Her project has now become an ongoing part of the community.
"Sometimes it’s hard as a teenager. You think that people don’t listen to you or don’t pay attention to you," Jordyn says. "But, honestly, if you do a service project, people will start listening."
By Misty Kay
Scientists have recently made a fascinating discovery about an unseen and little understood parasite, the negabugger—so called because of the negative effect it has on its human host’s mental and emotional well-being.
It is too small to be seen by the naked eye, yet the symptoms of infection are plainly evident. It lives by attaching itself to the soft membrane of the inner ear. Its tiny buzzing wings vibrate at a frequency undetectable by humans, but which interferes with brain waves and leaves the victim feeling confused and depressed.
These negative vibrations can be difficult to distinguish from one’s own thoughts, and the subject may easily be led to believe the buzz of negative self-talk. In more serious cases of infestation the negabugger can move into the brain of its host to lay its young, breeding thousands of little negabuggers that can quickly become airborne and infect others via negative words uttered by the host.
The negabugger is a serious pest, and treatment should be administered at the first sign of contagion. The negabugger must be dislodged and shaken out of the victim’s ear.
In standard cases, treatment can be self-administered by tilting the head in the direction of the negabugger and hopping vigorously while pounding the opposite side of the head. If it is unclear which ear the negabugger is residing in, apply this technique to both sides of the head to be safe. If more than one negabugger is present, it may be necessary to repeat the process.
In extreme or stubborn cases, the victim may need assistance. If a bop on the head with a pillow fails to dislodge the parasite, it may be necessary to shock it out of hiding. A splash of cold water is nearly always effective. To prevent re-infection, place the subject under headphones and play uplifting music and inspirational readings. Also practice positive self-talk exercises with the subject.
(Warning: Pillow and water treatments should only be administered by qualified adults. If children attempt these maneuvers, it may result in injury or damage to property.)
In a clinical study involving my children and young teenager, I have found the prescribed treatment to be quite effective in helping them pull out of bouts of self-pity and other negative emotions.
For example, one day I entered the kitchen to find my then 13-year-old sobbing over a sink of dirty dishes. I sympathized, saying, “I am so sorry you’re not happy. I want you to know how much I love you. In fact, I love you so much that I have to do this. …”
Producing a pillow from behind my back, I went to work. My daughter laughed and begged for mercy. Post-treatment, the patient appeared to have made a miraculous recovery.
She returned to washing the dishes, but to my dismay she quickly relapsed. Time for step two. I went for the cold water. She saw it coming, but never thought I would really do it. After a brief chase around the house, I had her cornered and … splash!
Even she thought that was funny. A few rounds of laughs, and the dishes were almost done.
As the mother of an emotional teen girl, I have spent many hours reasoning, cajoling, comforting, and praying in various attempts to pull her out of her hormonal bouts of gloom, but lately I have found the negabugger treatment to be even more effective and faster working.
Once the negabugger’s unsuspecting targets are made aware of the danger, they can learn to recognize and take steps to protect themselves from it by not entertaining negative or destructive self-talk. An ounce of awareness is worth a pound of cure. Beware of the negabugger!
Article courtesy of Activated magazine. Image by David Castillo Dominici/FreeDigitalPhotos.net
As children enter their preteen years (9- to 11-year-olds) most experience an increased desire to belong to a group, club, or a social network of some kind. Your child may be interested in communicating via chat, e-mail, or some other form of online communication with his or her peers. When and how much you allow your preteen to use the Internet as a means of communication is entirely up to you as parents.
Identifying the risks
Many teens do not appear to fully comprehend the public nature of material posted on social networking sites. Even material shared “privately” with one or selected others can easily be made public by the recipient. This lack of sensitivity to the potentially damaging nature of such disclosures is extremely evident on social networking sites, where some teens are posting personal contact information, intimate information, and material that is highly damaging to their reputations and current and future opportunities.
The biggest message that must be imparted to children and teens with respect to privacy and the Internet is this: it’s not private! Anything and everything that is put into electronic form and sent or posted online is public, or could easily be made public. Think before you post.
In the real world, when you share information with your friends, it is primarily just between the people present at the time. In general, the distance that offline information travels is limited, as are the ways in which it can be documented.
In the online world your private information and actions can be documented and made public, often by you. In a sense, everyone who participates in public social networks is suddenly a public figure. You should consider all the implications that status carries.
* Help your child set up his or her profile and account settings so that they are acceptable and as safe as possible.
* Let your child know that you will monitor his or her social networking site or blog, and make it clear to him or her what is acceptable and what will not be allowed.
* Help your child understand the public nature of the Internet. Teach your child to be careful of what he or she divulges through text and photos. Things that he or she wouldn’t feel safe saying to someone you have just met on the street should be considered inappropriate to share online.
* Keep an eye on who your child is connecting with online and how much information is being shared by your child, or by comments his or her friends make.
* Teach your child that the surveys and questionnaires abounding on social networking sites are consumer information techniques that companies use in order to find out what kind of products you’re likely to buy, which then helps them formulate advertising strategies.