Doink! What to Do When You Mess Up

by Christa Melnyk Hines on April 23, 2014

Sorry photoEver been faced with a pending conversation that creates a sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach accompanied by a sense of doom? There’s nothing like the feeling of wanting to pull the blankets over your head and wish the problem away, especially when you know that it is unlikely you’ll come away from the conversation feeling any better.

I’ll be the first to admit it: anticipating a difficult conversation, keeps me up at night. I don’t like it when I know I’m going to disappoint or anger a friend, or I have to apologize for something I regret saying.  

For example, say you make a promise to someone and then realize, “Oh criminy. Why did I say that? I got caught up in the moment of being friendly and without thinking it through, I made an impulsive commitment that there’s no way I can uphold.” Or, “I can’t believe I made such an insensitive remark! I feel horrible about that.” 

Here’s how to handle it:

  • Before having a difficult conversation, write out a script to yourself to get your thoughts in order. 
  • Talk it over with someone you love and trust, who isn’t as emotionally invested and can provide an objective opinion about how you plan to address the situation.
  • Address the matter as soon as possible.
  • Apologize. Try not to make a list of excuses or lie. Instead, you might say “I realized after I promised to help you out that there were a number of personal factors I hadn’t considered. I’m afraid I was hasty and not being realistic. I’m so sorry.” Or, “I can’t believe I made such an incredibly stupid and insensitive comment. I hope you will forgive me.”
  • Seek ways to repair. If the person needed a volunteer or help of some kind, tell her that you will do what you can to help her find someone else.
  • Follow-through on helping out in ways that are reasonable and realistic for you. 
  • Give the situation time. Once you have said what you needed to say, move forward and realize it may take time to repair the relationship if the infraction was serious.

It is possible that you may have weakened or even sacrificed the friendship. Nevertheless, you faced your mistake head-on with integrity and honesty. Sometimes, that is the best we can do.

Illustration courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/by gubgib.

 

 

 

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The Curse of Comparison

by Christa Melnyk Hines on April 14, 2014

Comparison quoteWhen my son was a baby, I joined a mother’s group. I enjoyed being part of the group, but one thing always bothered me. Some of the mothers seemed to be exceptionally focused on how much their babies weighed. The bigger the child’s size and weight, the more bragging rights that mother had. I would look at my son and think, “Well, gosh, he’s not that big at 6 months. Am I doing something wrong?”

But my son was growing and thriving–at his own pace. I had to take a careful look at my insecurities as a new mother and realize that I had to follow my own path according to my instincts and values. While there is comfort in comparing notes with other moms, I had to remember that my kids aren’t going to be like everyone else’s kids and that is what makes them special and individual.

Throughout my years as a parent, I’ve been presented with many dilemmas. Some of them sound silly in retrospect, but I’m a researcher by nature. I tend to explore every possible angle much to my husband’s annoyance. For example: Should I redshirt my summer baby or go ahead and send him to kindergarten as his preschool teacher recommends? Should I let my son play with Nerf guns or would I be condoning violence? Should I keep my older son in a booster seat even though most of his friends are no longer in one?

In each of these instances, my husband and I weighed the circumstances and made our decisions based on what made sense to us. So we sent our son to kindergarten on time. We let our other son shoot Nerf guns, as long as he doesn’t point them at people’s faces or the dogs. And much to their irritation, we require that our sons remain in booster seats until they have reached the recommended height and weight.

Comparison is exhausting and self-defeating. Most of us simply don’t have the time, energy or will to chase other people’s rainbows. And besides, we can’t truly understand what is driving their individual decisions because we aren’t in their heads, living their lives.

And, that’s okay.

Will you regret some of your decisions? Probably. But life is imperfect and so is parenting.

There will always be moms who make parenting look easy. They appear to have all of the child-rearing answers, including nice, clean, typical children and Pinterest perfect lunch boxes. Applaud their efforts, but keep in mind that they have their own struggles that may not be entirely obvious.

We each have different priorities, values and desires. You don’t have to put blinders on. Seek input or help as necessary. But in the end, listen to your heart and be comfortable with your choices, while also giving yourself permission to be flexible.

And, condemn the curse of comparison because, Mama, you are right where you are supposed to be.

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Inspiring Moms Blog Series: Lara Krupicka

by Christa Melnyk Hines on April 7, 2014

2012LaraKrupicka headshotWelcome back to my “Inspiring Moms” monthly blog series, featuring moms who are inspiring connection in their communities!

In this second installment, I would like to introduce you to Lara Krupicka, who has integrated connection with other moms as practically a way of life from her home in the suburbs of Chicago. You may have seen Lara on my blog before when we collaborated on the Mom to Mom Gratitude Gala & Giveaway last November.

Lara, a mom of three daughters, is an internationally published parenting journalist and the author of Family Bucket Lists: Bring More Fun, Adventure & Camaraderie Into Every Day. She speaks regularly at moms’ groups, women’s events, and church retreats. In addition, she runs a “Family Bucket Lists Moms & Dads” Facebook group for parents interested in connecting over the shared interest of bringing more memorable experiences and adventures into their family lives.

Here is yet another way that Lara connects with moms in her community and how you can, too!

You are a busy working mom, why is connecting and building community with other moms a priority for you?

As a writer I spend a lot of time alone in my office. So I need time with other people, but especially with other moms. It’s enough of a priority that I schedule it on my calendar. For me, getting out to meet up with other moms has always been my version of the office water cooler. We talk about what is going on in our schools and neighborhood. And we often swap advice and tips. It has been important to me to have a group I can go to who relates to where I am at and I can count on giving perspective and where I can be helpful and supportive too.

How did the group start and what has been your role in helping it evolve over time?

Our neighborhood has a coffee group that has been meeting for something close to twenty years. Initially I think it was just a few moms who lived in one subdivision, but gradually we’ve grown to encompass moms from neighborhoods that feed our grade school and middle school. I can’t say that I have played much of a role in shaping the group – we have one mom who carries the job of coordinating our schedule & keeping everyone in the loop on where we’re meeting from week to week (we rotate homes every Thursday morning during the school year and the hostess puts out a brunch spread).

For my part, I’m always on the lookout for ways to connect friends from various circles. I know so many amazing women, that I love to bring them all together. So in the past year I have begun announcing to all of my friends on FaceBook when I am hosting the coffee group. I extend the invitation to anyone who wants to come. So far no one new has taken me up on the offer, but I have had women ask if I was serious. Which I hope means that they’ll join us the next time I host.

What advice do you have for moms who feel isolated or disconnected?

Don’t brush off invitations. It’s easy to assume that people are only being polite when they invite you to an event like our coffee group. I know a neighbor invited me within a few months of us moving in, but it took me several years to actually go. I wish I hadn’t been so intimidated by what I thought was a closed group. Yet I think many of us do that – we fear there isn’t room in a social network for us, when in reality they may need us as much as we need them.

And on the flip side, don’t be afraid to extend an invitation and extend it more than once. It may take a few tries before calendars line up or other barriers come down when trying to get together with another mom or moms. When a mom says she’s not free to accept your invitation, don’t just say “let’s try another time” – actively seek a different date. It’s worth the effort.

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Well, Hello Spring. It’s Been Awhile!

by Christa Melnyk Hines on March 26, 2014

ID-10013457I noticed tiny green shoots testing the air in our front garden this week. When I head outside in the mornings with my dogs, the silence of winter has dissipated. In its place, birds flirt, strut, chortle and call. There is a hum and an energy in the air that I have’t felt in awhile, and I’m soaking it in.

We are hardwired to welcome spring as a time of renewal for our bodies, our spirits and our homes. We have faith that the sun will soon warm our faces once the stinging wind has finally grown bored with our complaints.

Winter is tough on me. I don’t thrive in the cold; I huddle. Social engagements that weave their way through the warmer months and dance through the bright holidays, grow sparse by the time February hijacks the calendar. My energy slackens. I have to work a little harder to cross the must-dos off my list. I’m not as good about getting out and about.

With spring nuzzling its way in, that’s all about to change. Here are a few ways we can all make the most of spring’s revitalizing energy:

Spring clean. Bag up the clutter and clear out the trash…or is it the other way around? Commit to one drawer a day or one closet a weekend. Change the air filters and clean the windows. Notice an immediate jump in your energy. For more on simple spring cleaning tips, check out my article on ParentingSquad.com

What is one area of your home that causes your energy to drop?

Re-prioritize. If your family is like mine, you are never not busy. If you are feeling drained, set aside some space in your calendar for creative pursuits, last-minute family outings or for nothing but goofing off.

For more ways to spruce up your social life, check out my article Making Mom Friends: 24 Ways to Spruce Up Your Social Life in the April issue of KC Parent.

What would you like to prioritize?

Detox. I shut the door on sweets and desserts until Easter. This is a huge challenge of my willpower because chocolate, in particular, is my fr-enemy. I renewed my CSA membership for the summer to ensure we have plenty of farm fresh veggies coming our way. Another way to ensure my family is eating well is to make meals ahead of time. For  a how-to on planning a freezer meal party, head to my post on ParentingSquad.com.

What is something you can do to help your body detox from the winter? 

Reconnect. Plan an evening that both expands your creative horizons and reconnects you with your friends. Make jewelry together, take a cooking class or host a garden party. Or scrap it and head to a great restaurant and a movie. How about Moms Night Out, which hits theaters on May 9? Here is the trailer.

Want more ways to connect? Join my Facebook group, Confidently Connected Moms. The group is “closed” to protect the privacy of the members, but we aren’t exclusive. Send me a request and as long as I can tell that you are a real person, I’ll add you in!

Photo Illustration courtesy FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Michal Marcol

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Inspiring Moms: A Blog Series

by Christa Melnyk Hines on March 17, 2014

Beginning this month, I’m starting a new monthly blog series featuring moms who are inspiring connection in their communities.

Kristal RonnebaumKicking the series off, I’d like to introduce you to Kristal Ronnebaum. I met Kristal recently when she invited me to take part in her upcoming second annual Honey Dews Baby Expo, a community shopping event for expectant and new moms that features local vendors and speakers–many of whom are moms, too.

What struck me most about Kristal when I met her was her warmth, energy and enthusiasm. She has a giant heart and is truly dedicated to bringing moms together to provide them with helpful resources in a friendly, supportive atmosphere.

Read on to learn more about Kristal and her April event. If you live in the KC metro and you are interested in attending Honey Dews Baby Expo, comment on this post, and you’ll be entered to win a pair of tickets valued at $25 each.

What compelled you to start Honey Dews Baby Expo?

When my best friend Joy and I had our sons, born just two months apart in 2012, we felt there needed to be an event designed to celebrate, pamper and educate new and soon-to-be mommies. Turns out others agree! Our first event attracted nearly 150 guests and was supported by over 30 local businesses. Our 2nd annual event coming Saturday, April 5, 2014 is on track to double both our attendance and the businesses that support it.

The second element of Honey Dews Baby Expo is to help support our local resources featuring baby products, services and education. There is an enormous amount of talent in the KC metro, and new and expecting families need to know they are here. I have a list a mile-long of resources I wish I had known about much sooner than I did. Honey Dews Baby Expo helps families by bringing these businesses together in one beautiful and convenient location.

You are a busy mom with a full-time job outside of the home. Why is connecting and building community with other moms a priority for you?

My favorite quote I heard while I was pregnant was, “live the life you want your children to live.” We strive everyday to be the very best version of ourselves without ‘losing’ ourselves. That’s a very tough thing to do. As women, we put others needs above our own everywhere we look. It’s our nature. However, if we were all well-nurtured, happy and taking the best care of ourselves, imagine how much more focused, productive and full of love we would be?

It’s hard to be everything to everyone when you are exhausted and feeling alone. Don’t forget to keep investing in yourself.  Connecting with other moms is crucial. Sometimes a good laugh, a good cry or a 10-gallon jug of coffee with a fellow mommy friend is all we need.

There is a great support and peace in knowing we are better together. It’s going to be okay, and there is never a time we are truly alone. There is always someone else going through the same ups and downs that we are.  There is no perfect mother. Just the one that strives to do her best every day. Sure, we’ll stumble from time-to-time, but having this support makes it easier to dust ourselves off and try again tomorrow.

How do you envision the Baby Expo contributing to a mom’s sense of community?

With over 52 local businesses supporting Honey Dews Baby Expo so far, we have created a well-rounded event that showcases a variety of products, services and education to assist in every aspect of raising a family. Only 300 tickets will be sold to create that sense of community and ensure each and every one of our guests feels important, appreciated and celebrated.

By design, Honey Dews Baby Expo fosters a close and intimate environment that encourages lots of one-on-one attention and conversations with our partners.  Each of our guests will leave with immediate access to each of our partners at their fingertips.  Time is precious as new parents, and we have worked very hard to ensure their time with us is an investment worth making.

If you are a new mommy, we encourage you to bring your baby with you to the event to take advantage of the many hands-on opportunities we have planned for both of you. Otherwise, if you feel comfortable leaving your baby in capable hands for this short four hour window, come join us to soak it all in and enjoy the mommy pampering elements, too. The majority of our partners are mothers too, so you will feel that sense of community and belonging the moment you walk through the doors.

We have happened upon the most incredible services and talent featuring baby products, services and education in this city.  The support is outstanding, and they are all here waiting with open arms to help.

How does creating and participating in community nourish you as a mother?

Each of us has our own one-of-a-kind set of talents and gifts. I was taught at a very early age, and still believe to this day, we owe it to ourselves and the world to shine them in their brightest light.  “Live the life you want your children to live.”  Children are so impressionable and if we can show them what that looks like and live it everyday, their future and our overall community will benefit exponentially. I feel most alive when I am contributing to something much bigger than just myself. Motherhood is a perfect example of that, and it truly take a village.

What advice do you have for moms who are feeling isolated? 

You are a mother. What a miraculous gift! Please try hard not to compare yourself to others. Try to remember the woman you were before sleepless nights and being able to control your schedule and find time to take care of you!

They say we should fill our cup with the things that nourish and feed our souls first and what spills over our cup is what we give to the rest of the world. While Mommyhood is the most amazing thing ever, it can be very isolating and quite frankly the single most challenging job on the planet. A strong mother knows when to ask for help and seeks out new friendships with other mothers who can relate.

Some of my greatest friendships in life have been created in the past 18 months of Connor’s life. Together, these mothers are unstoppable and are full of a love that is truly indescribable until you hold that baby in your arms for the first time. I joined several mommy groups in the past year, and in addition to creating amazing friendships with other mommies, I have found a sense of belonging and relief that everything is going to be ok.

It’s a funny thing that happens when you quit trying to fit the perfect mommy mold…you realize there’s not a single other mommy that has figured it out either and there’s nothing lonely about that.

About the event: Honey Dews Baby Expo is on Saturday, April 5 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Deer Creek Golf Club in Overland Park, KS. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated to HappyBottoms.org, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing diapers to families in need in the greater Kansas City community. Diapers are not covered by any public assistance.

Bring a diaper donation to the event, and you will receive extra chances to win prizes throughout the day as a thank you for your support!

Want to a chance to win a pair of tickets for you and a friend? Comment here by answering this question:

What qualities do you look for in mom friends? 

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Three Social Benefits of Video Games

by Christa Melnyk Hines on February 27, 2014

ID-10089515“Mom, did you know that if I play Super Mario Brothers, my brain is going to get bigger?” So begins my son’s argument about why he should get to play Wii. Noting the skepticism on my face, he pulls out his Scholastic News and points to a German study that shows that playing the video game increases brain volume. The kid knows how to make a persuasive argument.

  • Emotional intelligence. As with everything, video gaming enjoyed in moderation can be beneficial for cognitive skills like organization, focus and planning. Unlike violent video games that desensitize and reduce empathy in kids, many games are excellent for building prosocial, emotional intelligence skills like kindness and self-awareness. Look for games that kids can play together and simulation games like Facebook’s Cityville, in which participants build cities, work to be good neighbors and help keep their community happy. For younger children, check out Nintendogs, in which kids care for a dog, train it, teach it tricks and enter it into competitions.
  • Prosocial. Allowing your child to play popular video games (vetted by you, of course) gives them something in common to talk about with other kids, offering a way for them to connect and build friendships. You’ve probably heard about the especially popular game Minecraft, an example of a game that is valuable for developing planning and organization skills. Some games also have virtual multiplayer functions, where your child can play online with friends.
  • Family connection. Playing a video game alongside your child is a positive way to spend time together. Not only can you stay tuned to what interests your child, you can better evaluate what they are playing, guide them as they work to problem solve and ensure that the game is in line with your family’s value system.

LearningWorksforKids.com and CommonSenseMedia.org are two resourceful websites that help you evaluate games and apps for age appropriateness, content and the types of skills that are nurtured.

Image courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/ImageryMajestic

What video games do your kids like to play?

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Socially Skilled? It’s not always a dog’s life

by Christa Melnyk Hines on February 20, 2014

Believe it or not, we can learn a couple of things about improving our confidence from our animal friends, especially more social species like dogs.

IMG_1895

This is Dexter.

Unlike many dogs I’ve owned, he won’t come running up to you  happily wagging his tail. He has social anxiety. He does one of two things when he sees another dog or someone that makes him nervous. He tries to make himself look bigger by barking and puffing out his hackles along his neck and back. Or he runs for cover and tries to squeeze into the smallest space he can find.

We as humans exhibit similar behaviors when we feel nervous, unsure or fearful. In situations where we lack confidence, we instinctively try to make ourselves smaller by crossing our arms and folding into ourselves. While I’m not suggesting you start growling at anyone, nonverbal power poses are a lesson we can adapt from the animal kingdom.

Strike a power pose by stretching your arms out wide for two minutes as Amy Cuddy suggests in her fascinating TED talk, and you’ll be amazed how much more confident you feel as a result. One of my favorite power poses is the warrior pose in yoga. Your body is literally changing your mindset. Try it before heading into your next interview or presentation. You’ll feel more relaxed and sure of yourself.

Dexter also derives confidence from his party animal friend Marvin, a very outgoing (albeit sometimes overly friendly) golden retriever mix. He doesn’t realize it, but this is a clever strategy when feeling anxious about a social situation.

If you are headed to a party or a gathering where you won’t know very many people and the very idea makes you break out into a sweat, take a friend who is good at starting conversation and making friends. Watch and learn from friends like this. They can be valuable assets, helping you to learn simple conversation starters and to feel less nervous navigating unknown territory.

Like humans, dogs are wired differently. Some are outgoing, some are pleasers, others are fearful and untrusting, and others are just plain bossy. While we can work with dogs to improve their behavior, as humans we can take a self-motivated cognitive approach to our weaknesses by learning different strategies and putting ourselves in a variety of social situations to lessen our anxiety over time. And, the more confident you grow, the happier and more relaxed you’ll feel across social situations.

Now, that’s a dog’s life!

What do you do to feel more confident before going into social situations that make you uneasy?

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Affectionately Yours…Happy Valentine’s Day!

by Christa Melnyk Hines on February 14, 2014

Valentine’s Day love quote2offers a loving reminder to practice affection toward the ones we love throughout the year. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of family life be an excuse for putting your marriage on the back burner.

Affection reaffirms your love for your partner in simple, small ways and creates a soft-spoken connection. Without it, you’ll both start feeling neglected, fueling boredom and disenchantment, which weakens the foundation of a marriage. Here are a few ways to keep the heartbeat of your family healthy and happy…

Flirt! Compliments, teasing gestures, coy texts, affectionate touches and private jokes create a bond between a couple.

Appreciate each other. Empathize and show gratitude toward each other. You both do things for the family and for each other. Take time to acknowledge those things.

Laugh together. Life is serious enough. Home feels warmer with a little humor.

Pen a love letter. Leave a thoughtful note where your spouse will find it later, like in his suitcase, on his pillow or on a post-it stuck to the bathroom mirror. Speak from your heart or find a quote that you know he or she will love.

Share a hobby. Cook together, dance, watch classic movies every Saturday night, bike, play golf, travel, run…the possibilities are endless. The point is you are spending time together doing something you both enjoy.

Serenade your mate. Remember the bar scene in “Top Gun” when the guys sang “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling?” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVNWSEX-WqU So maybe you can’t sing––lord knows, I can’t! But I bet over the years, you’ve discovered a variety of tunes that you both love. Email a link to a meaningful song from YouTube to your spouse.

Date. Every month plan a night out just the two of you. Try a different romantic hot-spot or try a new activity together like dancing, hiking or exploring an area of town you’ve never visited.

What are your secrets to a happy marriage?

Want to read more about how affection is healthy for a marriage? Read my article “Marital Affection: The Foundation for a Healthy Family” in the February issue of The Health Journal.

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4 Secrets of a Skilled Networker

by Christa Melnyk Hines on February 5, 2014

connection quoteI used to have a co-worker who had the uncanny ability to light up a room the minute she entered. There was a positive energy in her personality that attracted people to her like hungry birds to a winter feeder.

Some people just seem to have an innate ability to connect with others, feeding their spirits with seemingly little effort. I bet you know or have encountered someone like this, too. What are their secrets?

1) Self-possessed. My friend was completely and totally comfortable in her own skin. She could be self-deprecating at times, but she was honest and very funny.

Key learning: Be yourself. Even if you don’t feel confident, act like you are. People can often tell if you act fake or disingenuous, but they can’t always tell that you don’t feel confident.

2.) Genuine. While she was an extrovert by nature, she was genuinely interested in other people. She had the ability to connect with people on topics she knew would interest them. A voracious reader and well-educated, she could discuss a variety of topics with a variety of people.

Key learning: You don’t have to be an extrovert to successfully connect with others. Educate yourself on your audience and their interests. Ask questions. Read the news, be aware and curious about the world around you.

3.) Charismatic. Naturally, there were people she didn’t like, but they couldn’t have known it. Charismatic people can calmly and smoothly engage difficult individuals while keeping their draining energy at bay.

Key learning: Keep conversation light and positive. Create boundaries to protect your energy level by limiting the conversation. “I have ten minutes to talk before I head out. What’s happening?”

4.) Empathetic listeners. Unless they are politicians, skilled networkers don’t usually feel pressured to change hearts and minds, but they listen carefully and exchange ideas gracefully.

Key learning: When you ask people questions, really listen to what they are saying. Empathize with them, brainstorm ideas to help solve problems (if they want advice), and share your experiences.

Side note….Disagree with something the other person said? If this is an area where you struggle––and many of us do––memorize this: “Hmmm. That’s an interesting viewpoint. I have a different opinion that I’d love to share with you, but please tell my why you feel this way.”

Usually people just want to feel heard, whether you agree with them or not. If you don’t feel you can talk about a particular subject calmly, say: “This is an emotional issue for me. I’d rather not talk about it right now.” But, the minute the conversation turns negative, disrespectful or angry say: “ Well, I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with me.”

My friend was an example of someone who knew instinctively how to build community and connection and had the confidence to move fearlessly forward into the unknown to pursue her goals.

I often wonder where her networking skills and creative talents would have eventually taken her. Sadly, we lost her too soon. She died in a plane crash over Afghanistan while working for Boston-based non-profit. But, we can draw inspiration from her example. She was there doing what she loved most––connecting us to the people she wanted to help through her photography and her sunny personality.

What do you see as key skills of talented networkers you know?

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The Impact of Isolation…and What You Can Do

by Christa Melnyk Hines on January 28, 2014

ID-10030553Loneliness and isolation are growing problems in this country, affecting both emotional and physical health. Who is at risk and what can you do?

Who is at risk? 

  • Newcomers. Life as the newbie is lonely as you try to figure out the norms, rules and the politics of an unfamiliar environment. Deepening connections with people who seem to already have a set circle of close friends can seem extraordinarily difficult.
  • New moms. Without a network of support, a new mother is at greater risk for postpartum depression. PPD affects 1 in 7 mothers according to NAMI.
  • Caregivers. Adults 18 and older who care for both children and their elderly parents, while usually working full-time, make up the sandwich generation. Stretched to the limit, many caretakers feel guilty taking any time for themselves, driving depression and stress.
  • Single moms. Without a support network that includes extended family or close friends, the demands and stress of parenting alone can overwhelm a single parent.
  • Maxed out workers. Individuals who work and commute long hours, often say they don’t have time or energy for much social interaction or community involvement.
  • Newly minted stay-at-home moms. A new mom whose main social network was at her former job may find herself at ground zero when trying to revive her social network––and too overwhelmed to try and figure out how to amend the situation.
  • The elderly. These days, families tend to be more far-flung. Many seniors live far away from family or lack a sense of community, putting them at higher risk for health problems like dementia, chronic illness, and a 45% greater risk of dying earlier than other older adults. Connection is important for healthy aging.
  • Parents of disabled children. A parent of a disabled child who has no one who she feels can relate to her situation may feel exceptionally lonely.
  • Shy kids. Children who are shy, socially anxious or who have learning disabilities may find themselves orbiting around peer groups either blatantly rejected or unsure how to join in.

Why this matters to you…

Even if you aren’t socially isolated, you probably know someone who is at risk of isolation. Our lives are always in transition and like dominoes so go our social lives. Although we often find ourselves surrounded by people, finding our village can be much harder.

Isolation is a growing trend.

  • One study found that the number of close friends that people felt they could discuss important matters with has dropped from three in the 1980s to one or zero today.
  • More than 43% of adults reported that they were lonely.
  • People are less involved in civic and community groups and fewer know their neighbors.
  • In addition to depression, people who feel isolated are more likely to suffer from health problems including obesity, heart disease and cancer, and early mortality.
  • Persistent isolation ravages our emotional health and creates a ripple effect of stress on the family.

What can you do?

  • Welcome a new neighbor to the community.
  • Invite a mom to join you at your next mom’s group meeting.
  • Reach out to members of your mom’s group who don’t seem very involved and invite them join a committee that you are leading.
  • Check in on your elderly neighbors.
  • Create opportunities for get-togethers, like neighborhood pot-lucks, book clubs, dinner parties, kickball tournaments, neighborhood beautification projects, walking groups, etc.
  • Offer a helping hand. Can you give a stressed out caregiver a break by watching her kids for a couple of hours? Can you sit with your friend’s newborn while she takes a much needed nap?
  • Coach your child to help her learn strategies to make friends and get her involved in extracurricular activities that build confidence and encourage social interaction.
  • Whenever the opportunity presents itself, strive for inclusion rather than exclusion.

If you feel isolated, do a little soul searching.

  • What do you feel passionate about? Think about your personal purpose, beyond caring for your family.
  • Are there ways to streamline your life to open up space in your schedule to engage in a social activity you enjoy?
  • Are there activities that are no longer meaningful that can be cut from your schedule?
  • What activities can you engage in with your family?
  • Can’t find a group that fits your schedule or interests? Start your own.
  • Make a plan with objectives and a goal for your personal life. My book Confidently Connected: A Mom’s Guide to a Satisfying Social Life can also help.

 Illustration courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net/xedos4

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