Why You Need to Understand Social Media

by Christa Melnyk Hines on July 17, 2014

“I don’t like Facebook. I don’t see the point and it’s a waste of time,” a mom says to me.

She makes a great point. Social media can be a time suck. I jump onto Facebook or Twitter during the day for an actual purpose, and then I completely forget what it was I was going to say, do, or check on. I’m easily sidelined by the entertaining moments or daily news posted by my friends and family. 

ID-100198698Many parents choose to stay off of social media for privacy reasons, too. They don’t want photos of their kids floating around the Internet or they aren’t interested in re-connecting with people from the past.

These seem like valid reasons to steer clear of social media.

But, here’s the thing: Even if you aren’t an active user of social media, you need to understand how these platforms work. If you are in the throes of parenthood, you are raising children who are–or will eventually be–digital users. Today’s kids simply don’t conduct their social lives in the same ways we did.

As Tracey Hawkins, the Safety Lady, says in my article “Stay Safe from Social Media Gossip” in the July issue of Kansas City Parent magazine, you can’t fight what you don’t understand.

Do you want your kids to cut their teeth on social media with guidance from their peers or from you?

Even if you have no intention of doing anything more than lurking, at the very least familiarize yourself with social media platforms that you know your child uses or would like to use. Here is why:

  • You’ll be able to follow your kids online and see what they are posting and who they are interacting with. Use mistakes or errors in judgment as opportunities for discussion.
  • Your involvement will promote conversation about social media between you and your child. Ask your kids questions. Ask them to teach you about the sites they are interested in. Help them think critically about these sites. What do they like most about these platforms? What annoys, bothers, or frustrates them about the sites?
  • You can offer guidance to help your kids build a smarter, confident digital identity. Just because they are tech savvy doesn’t mean they always make the right choices when it comes to creating a street-savvy online footprint. You teach them how to be safe in their offline life. The same attention needs to be paid toward their online life.
  • You’ll know how to navigate their social media pages. (Make sure you have access to their passwords.) As their parent, you are ultimately responsible for knowing what they are doing and saying online. Be proactive now to avoid playing defense later.
  • As an aware parent, you can proactively and firmly shutter accounts that you feel are harmful to your kids or promote cruel behavior among participants. Be sure to discuss why these sites don’t align with your family’s values.
  • By brushing up on social media rules, you will be in a better position to be aware of and enforce age restrictions set by the sites. (Most require that users are at least 13 years old.)

To read more about social media use and teens, also check out my article “Separation Anxiety: Teens & Social Media Addiction” in the July issue of The Health Journal

Which social media sites are your teens currently into? 

Photo courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/chomnancoffee 

{ 0 comments }

Inspiring Mom Blog Series: Beth Beseau

by Christa Melnyk Hines on July 7, 2014

Welcome to the Confidently Connected Inspiring Mom Blog Series, in which I feature moms who inspire connection among mothers in their communities. This month I’d like to introduce you to Beth Beseau, facilitator of Kansas City Mompreneurs!

beth beseau headshotI first met Beth McElwain Beseau at a presentation I gave to a group of moms. She invited me to join her group the KC Mompreneurs, which includes more than 200 mom entrepreneurs from across the Kansas City area. Through her website, social media, including her popular Facebook group, and networking and shopping events, Beth is instrumental in helping moms connect with customers, as well as, find support and network with other business-oriented moms.

Beth worked in the accounting and financial field before she retired and became a stay-at-home mom to two wonderful boys. Two years ago, Beth was looking for her chance to start her own business. Although she was tempted to become a financial advisor, she instead launched Frugal Froggie which is a website that shares tips for frugal living, frugal resources, recipes, and reviews.

CMH: You are a busy working mom. What inspired you to start KC Mompreneurs?

Beth: I wanted an affordable place for moms to network and grow their business. Having attended events that were expensive to join and to attend, and usually children are not able to attend, I wanted a place for a mom to network as a business owner and bring her kids if she needed to bring them. 

Originally the group was more of networking playdates, but the group as grown so quickly that we have not had a networking playdate in a while.  I do hope to begin the networking playdates again in the fall. 

CMH: What has surprised you most about the networking group? 

Beth: I truly want a place for a mom to get her piece of the pie. Most stay-at-home moms left the workforce to be stay-at-home moms. Having just a little bit of success for the stay-at-home can mean the world to her. That boost of self confidence is just amazing to see. And to see a mompreneur who was nervous to present to a room full of mompreneurs and have an amazing presentation and be thrilled with herself and job well done is what keeps me going. It makes me smile to see that nervous mompreneur smile as she says to herself, “I did it!”  

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

Beth: It is so hard to be a mom and start a business, let alone do them together at the same time. It is great to have a group that is there to support and help you grow your business. And even better, that it is a group of moms who completely understand the unique experience of being a business owner and mom. 

Want to learn more about Kansas City Mompreneurs? Visit www.KCMompreneurs.com.  The group is also on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Google+.

Know a mom who you would like to suggest to be included in this special blog series? Contact me at christahines13@gmail.com. 

{ 2 comments }

3 Signs It’s Time to Move On

by Christa Melnyk Hines on June 11, 2014

Paulo CoelhoBy nature, we women need to surround ourselves with a supportive village of other women. It’s a survival mechanism that is practically written into our DNA from those hunting and gathering cave-dwelling days.

In today’s society, we have the advantage of many choices when it comes to the different social groups we can join––both online and offline. But beware of joining the wrong group which can be demoralizing and can fuel isolation as much as lacking a network at all. 

Here are three signs it is time to move on:

1. Mismatched values. Values in friendship are as important as they are in marriage. If the group is critical of the choices you make in the interest of your family, the chances of forging long-term, trusting friendships in that group are slim. 

2. Something’s off. You can’t put your finger on the problem, but something doesn’t sit well with you when you are hanging out with the group. If the members’ discussions and way of doing things make you uncomfortable, anxious, bored, negative or unenthused, this is your intuition’s way of telling you to keep shopping.

3. Life changes. As time goes on, our kids grow older, our lives evolve and our priorities change. We may suddenly find ourselves in a group that is no longer a very good fit for any number of reasons. You don’t have to spurn those friendships, but do give yourself permission to expand your network and seek other groups that nurture your spirit and accommodate your goals, interests and schedule.

Do you frequently find yourself in groups that don’t feel right? Decide if you are being true to your authentic self. Get crystal clear on what you desire in your friendships and in your support network. For example:

  • Do you need to be around women who share your commitment to a healthy lifestyle? 
  • Are you someone who thrives on inspiring and lively discussions about books, news and other cultural events? 
  • Do you have a need to be around people who are as passionate about making a difference in the world as you are? 
  • Are you more comfortable around moms who work outside of the home or do you relate better to stay at home moms? Why do you think this matters to you?

Whatever you do, don’t give up. Finding a circle of friends that is just right for you will make a critical difference in your personal happiness and outlook on life. As far as I’m concerned, you deserve nothing less.

 

{ 0 comments }

How to Be a Good Customer…and a Positive Role Model

by Christa Melnyk Hines on June 5, 2014

ID-100224430While in college, I worked as a waitress, now referred to in more politically correct terms as a server. This was probably one of the most physically demanding and difficult jobs I have ever had, but also one of the best learning experiences.

One of the restaurants I worked at was a chain restaurant that tried to offer a fine dining experience. The cozy leather booths were deep and relatively private, the lighting dim and the muzac twinkled softly through the speaker system. We had a number of regular customers who we either looked forward to seeing or dreaded. 

One customer who I waited on a handful of times came in every Sunday for the early bird special. She was a middle-aged woman with blunt cut brown hair who never smiled and would request the exact same booth each time. 

She occupied her time by reading a book––and complaining about every detail of her meal and service. The steak wasn’t cooked quite to her liking. The salad didn’t come out fast enough. The food she said was abysmal. 

The first time I waited on her I was hurt when she left and didn’t leave a tip even though I’d worked hard to accommodate her many requests. Another waiter told me not to worry about it. This customer never tipped anyone and came in every weekend despite how horrible she claimed the food and service to be. 

Adversity is part of life and learning to patiently manage these types of personalities is a valuable learning experience. But, positive comments go a long way, too, toward creating an empowered, confident workforce. 

Many teens are flooding into the part-time work force this summer. Here’s how to be a good customer to kids who are just learning the ropes of customer service:

Be patient. Keep things in perspective especially when dealing with teens. Kids make mistakes. They are still learning. And for the most part, many of them care about doing their jobs well. Consider how you would speak to the teen if he or she was your child or a friend’s child. 

Avoid bullying and intimidation. Adults who scream, yell and bully kids working customer service not only set a poor example in front of their own children about how to manage their irritation and treat people in retail, they aren’t achieving anything constructive. If you make this mistake, be sure to apologize in front of your kids, too. 

Use positive reinforcement. Tell your customer service rep when he or she is doing a great job. Customer service is hard work and chances are these kids are receiving more negative comments than positive ones. Give their confidence a boost with a little thoughtful encouragement.

Managing incompetence or blatant disrespect. We are all guilty of losing our cool from time to time especially in light of obnoxious behavior or total disregard for our needs as the customer. In this situation, it makes sense to seek out the adult manager to address the situation proactively.

Overall, don’t steer your child away from customer service because you are afraid of how he or she will be treated. I firmly believe every adolescent should cut his teeth in a customer service capacity at some point. 

Customer service builds resilience, patience and teaches kids how to work through conflict and proactively manage unhappy customers. It is a skill that will help them no matter what career they eventually go into. 

And, most of all, your kids will learn how to treat others in the service industry politely and respectfully because they appreciate it when they are treated that way themselves.

 Photo courtesy: FreeDigitalPhotos.net/Amenic181

{ 0 comments }

Working from Home: Summer Vacation Day 1

by Christa Melnyk Hines on May 28, 2014

I love working from home, but summer vacation presents its own challenges. I end up working around home and my kids during camps and other activities. Every year I somehow manage to make it work, but here is what our first official day of summer vacation looked like:

I wake up early to get a little work done.

Breakfast.

My boys do their chores, math worksheets and journaling while I work.

Threaten silence during a phone call.  

Begin phone call.

Who is blowing up a balloon and releasing it? It sounds like someone passing gas, which explains the giggles. I snap my fingers in the air and make pointing gestures indicating they need to go to another room. My boys think this is funnier than the balloon, but they accommodate and head to the basement to play.

Snack.

An argument about name-calling. “Stop calling him ‘cute’!” I yell.

Boy 2 –the reporter–returns to me and says something about brother kicking him. 

OKAY, TIME OUT!!

Snack.

Bike ride and play at the park.

Snack.

Discover giant dinosaur-sized moth at the neighbor’s house. This thing can’t be native to Kansas, can it? Turns out it is.

Lunch.

Swimming pool/snacks.

Back home – boys fight about who is going to shower first.

Send both to backyard to play so I can work.

Boy 2 gets mad at Boy 1 about something and throws the key to the fence across the yard.

Boy 2 thankfully finds the key to avoid being grounded the next day.

Sit down to work for a little bit. Two minutes later, lots of screaming coming from outside. Is someone trying to steal my kids?! 

No, Boy 2 accidentally let dogs loose while trying to help a friend out of the backyard.

Dogs had a blast chasing something across the street, but thankfully didn’t get run over.

Get them safely corralled. 

More complaints about hunger–how much food do these two really need to consume?! 

I have a headache that is about the size of that moth.

Time for dinner. And yes, they eat every bite despite the snacks all day.

Is it bedtime yet?

Yay! Bedtime – I sit down to work, but each child pops back out of bed with various concerns and issues. Hubs has strategically placed himself in our bedroom to intercept escapees, but they are sneaky! How can they not be exhausted?!

I know we’ll settle into a routine soon, but thank goodness I scheduled camps and have babysitters for the summer.

Do you work from home? How do you manage summer vacation?

 

{ 3 comments }

A Letter to the Future

by Christa Melnyk Hines on May 19, 2014

 

Got end of the school year blues?

letter quoteAs the school year comes to a close, I can’t help but feel nostalgic––more so than when my kids begin a new school year. I know as parents we often ask ourselves questions like: “Where did the time go?” “Why does each year seem to be going faster than the last?”  Before you roll your eyes at these cliches thinking “well, that’s just life” consider that there is a special way to freeze frame the year momentarily. 

This month, my son’s third grade teacher asked the parents to consider writing a letter to their future 8th grader. The letters will be placed in a time capsule, and they will read them when they are preparing to graduate from 8th grade. 

As much as I loved this idea, I admit I was dragging my feet about getting my letter written. This is a crazy time of year after all. But, once I sat down and started writing, I had a hard time stopping! I had so much fun thinking about the events of the past year. 

Want to try this project? Here are few things to include in your letter if you are stumped about how to begin:

  • Write down the funny things that your child said or did. 
  • Talk about the different projects she engaged in over the school year that she really enjoyed.
  • Note the activities she especially loved to participate in.
  • Discuss the family’s highlights from the year.
  • Mention the character traits you are especially proud of when you think of your child.
  • Include inspiring advice that you think your future child might need to hear as she starts her high school years and begins preparing for college. 
  • Add a favorite quote that reminds you of your child.

I found this process deeply reflective and it helped me see the positive side of parenting. I have a tendency to get deep into the weeds and really focus on everything I’m doing wrong as a parent and what I need to fix. It’s healing and helpful to look at the things my husband and I are doing right. 

Letter writing to the future is a grounding process. But it’s something you can start way before your kids ever enter school. I wrote a letter to my son before he was born that I intend to give to him when he turns 18. I wanted him to know how excited we were as we were about to start our journey into parenthood. 

I encourage you take a moment. Reflect on your children’s year, whether they are staring at you sweetly from their baby carriers, in the throes of toddlerhood, preparing to enter kindergarten, trudging toward middle school, or chomping at the bit to go off to college. 

Imagine your children someday in the future when they are grappling with thousands of questions, wondering what their purpose is in life.You’ll be giving them a simple keepsake in your own handwriting. A nostalgic glimpse back into fleet-footed childhood. And most of all, you will remind them of what a special treasure they are to the world around them and especially, to you.

 

{ 3 comments }

Inspiring Mom Blog Series: Mandy Fields Yokim

by Christa Melnyk Hines on May 5, 2014

Welcome to the Confidently Connected Inspiring Mom Blog Series, which features a mom each month who is inspiring connection among mothers in her community. 

Headshot_MandyFieldsYokimThis Sunday marks the 100th anniversary of Mother’s Day. I think this is the perfect week to introduce you to Mandy Fields Yokim, a talented writer, editor and mother from Pittsburgh, Penn.

Mandy’s work has appeared in Parents magazine and regionally in Blue Ridge Country magazine, as well as in family parenting magazines across the country and Canada. She has been a contributing book editor for Bridges of Pittsburgh, Ultimate Pittsburgh Trivia and Grit, Smoke and Steam. Recently, she founded a global-education initiative called Wonderaddo which helps families and children learn about the world through global connections in Pittsburgh. Mandy was recently highlighted as an Inspired Pittsburgh Mommy on The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog.

I couldn’t agree with The Pittsburgh Mommy Blog more! Mandy is an inspiring mom who is not only a community builder at large, but also finds small ways to build networks among mothers.

1.) You are a busy, working mom. Why is connecting and building community with other moms a priority for you?

 I have learned that it feels really good when you have women in your life who support and encourage you. I feel stronger with a good community of women in my corner because we can understand each other and help each other out. While we all have different experiences, there are plenty of things that we have in common. I like to find those common areas and build on them so that I can learn from other women and support them as well. We are all stronger women when we can encourage each other. It has been my experience over the past few years as I’ve worked toward new things professionally or gone through things personally, that having strong, supportive women in your life is a gift – priceless.

2.) What made you decide to start your group and how does it work?

We’ve all done it – “How are you?”, we ask in passing. “Good!”, we answer in passing. I love the moms at my son’s preschool but I realized that, although we saw each other frequently at drop-off, pick-up and when we volunteered, these times were often quick and busy so there wasn’t really a chance to talk and catch up. Since it’s my son’s last year of preschool, I also realized that my community with these women that I’ve come to know and appreciate over the past few years will change once our kiddos enter the elementary schools. I wanted to hear a real answer to “How are you?” on a regular basis and have the opportunity to share experiences and have more than a shallow, rushed conversation.

I decided to plan a monthly “Mom’s Playdate” event. I set up a meeting place at a local restaurant/bar and scheduled a later start time (8pm). This allowed for us to still have dinner with our family, help with homework, get baths, then head out for some fun. We picked the 3rd Thursday of every month for consistency. It’s very casual – if people can’t make it, no big deal. Some months are super crowded, others less so. I send out email reminders a week before the event and I make sure that people know that ANYONE is welcome to attend, spread the word. It’s really been so nice to build on the sense of community that we’ve created over the years. We laugh a lot, we talk about our kids but we also talk about other things in our lives outside of motherhood.

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

Remember what makes you happy. I think that sometimes when we feel disconnected from others, we are also feeling disconnected from ourselves. I suggest writing down a few things that inspire you – is it exercising more, hiking, gardening, taking photographs? Whatever it may be, search out a way that you can include some of this into your day. Maybe even just sharing this interest with others is a start. Taking a class, visiting a museum or joining a book club are ways to explore an interest and potentially meet others who may share it with you.Find time to do what you love, talk about what you love and try to connect with people who love the same things.

Let the internet be a positive influence. Recognize what makes you feel good and what makes you feel bad. Sometimes going online if you’re feeling isolated or disconnected does not help, let’s be honest. There can be a lot of drama on Facebook and in chat rooms and online groups. If you’re already feeling low, it may not make you feel better to go onto Pinterest or look through vacation pictures that others posted. Recognize this. Maybe surfing through these things DOES make you feel inspired – great! Recognize that, too. One of my FB friends recently tagged me in a post of people who lift her spirits – I had no idea! So, take it further and make your presence online be more positive than negative (while always being genuine – no one likes fake positivity) and try to attract things into your day that uplift you and help you feel connected. This goes for offline as well.

 

 

{ 0 comments }

Happy May!

by Christa Melnyk Hines on May 1, 2014

Happy May Day! Many countries around the world celebrate May 1 as the beginning of spring, leaving May Day baskets hanging on their neighbors’ doors.

Are you looking for ways to welcome spring and the coming summer months?

Check out a few of my articles for ideas on getting out of the house with friends, enriching summer time learning, recharging your social life and ideas to get your family talking around the dinner table.

Parents clipI had the pleasure of working with Parents magazine on this little article in their “Fun” section that features creative ideas to re-energize dinner time conversation. Be sure and pick up this May issue which is jam-packed with great ideas and helpful information!

Screenshot 2014-05-01 09.10.14Want some ideas to revive your social life this summer? Check out my article in Treasure Coast Parenting, “30 Days to a Healthier Social Life” or Networking 101 for Moms” in Neapolitan Family.

Getting ready to send your camper off to camp this summer? How about a few ideas to make the transition go well with my article “Preparing Happy Campers” in Pittsburgh Parent.

Speaking of transitions, many families relocate to new communities this time of the year. My article “Helping Kids Deal with Moving Anxiety” in MetroParents (MI) offers tips.

With summer right around the corner, you may be scrambling to come up with ideas that will help you keep your kiddos from forgetting everything they learned over the school year. Turns out summer time learning can actually be fun and simple. I offer a number of tips to make learning fun and relevant for your kids in my article “Enrich Summertime Learning” in Chicago Suburban Parent.Screenshot 2014-05-01 09.05.16

We spend plenty of time and energy planning playdates for our kids. Now it is time to plan something just for you! Find ideas in my article “Playdates Just for Mom” in Atlanta Parent.

Are you fitness minded, but having trouble getting motivated? Learn about what one hospital system in Virginia is doing to get moms moving in my article “New Fitness Initiative Centered Around Moms” in The Health Journal. This is an initiative that you can bring to your hometown, too!

Wishing you a wonderful kick-off to spring!

 

{ 2 comments }

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.

 

 

 

{ 1 comment }

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.

{ 2 comments }