Birds of a Feather

Birds of a FEATHER… lessons for all ages.

A few months ago you could have easily of found me crying in my son’s room missing him so bad it hurt.  I would lie in his bed sobbing and feeling sorry for myself.  I was the mother that lost a child.  I thought I would never be able to go on.  How could I?  and then Facebook saved me from drowning!

Not literally drowning by emotionally drowning.  As I was in the dark crying rolled up in the fetal position on his bed, my phone would sound and my notification light would blink.  When I got enough courage to check my phone, it was full of joyful Facebook posts.  Post after post of my friends and their families, at parks, on play dates, out to lunch.  Everyone’s life kept on moving forward even though my life has slammed to a halt.  At first I was angry.  I was in so much pain I wanted everyone else to feel the way I did.   But then I was grateful.  Facebook was the only source of communication I had with many of my friends at the time.  My friends are FULL of joy, love and happiness and emotions are contagious.  Without them knowing, their post brought me out of my funk.  I smiled at the milestones their kids were reaching and it reminded me of the memories I shared with my son.  I laughed at their goofy family adventures and it reminded me of the memories I shared with my son.  I nodded in affirmation at the difficulties they were having with balancing school and sports and it reminded me of the memories I shared with my son.  I thought I lost my world but my friends reminded me, without even trying, that he will always be with me.  This is when I realized that the people I chose to have in my life are way more powerful than I could have ever imagined.

Think about it… What if I was on Facebook, my only outlet to the outside world, and it was bitchfest after bitchfest?  I would have lost all faith in humanity.  Emotions and attitudes are contagious!  

YOU ARE WHO YOUR FRIENDS ARE!  If you surround yourself with happy positive people, you will be happy and positive too.  And the opposite holds true as well.

When I came out of my shell and saw the sun again, my friends were right there for me.  Bring me love and support and I started to feel joy again.  Being around happy people made me happy.  Emotions and attitudes are contagious!  I think to myself that myself…How did I get so lucky?  How did my life fill up with so many fabulous people?  Then I realized it wasn’t by chance.  Some way, somehow my parents taught me how to find quality people and ingrained in me the importance of surrounding myself by their influence.

This was probably one of the most important messages my parents taught me.  I current work at a middle school and I see the influence friends have over each other.  EVERY child is influenced by others.  Please don’t think that your kids are immune to peer pressure.  It’s not possible.  What students wear, their word choice, behavior, ALL of it is influenced by their friends.  I have seen good kids do very naughty things because of peers and I have seen naughty kids do amazing things because of their peers.  School aged kids are looking for acceptance and approval from their peers more than anyone else.  The older they get the more important it becomes to them.  So how do you teach your kids to pick good friends?

I don’t have a 100% foolproof answer to this question but I can share some of my thoughts…

1. Talk to your kids.  Know what is going on in their lives.  If they don’t want to talk to my, you can’t make them.  However, you can make it awkward for them not to.  For example: I use to ask my kids, “How was school?”  and they would answer, “good”.  Now I ask them, “What was your favorite thing you did today?” or “What would you change about today?”  This opens up the line of communication.  I also started reading books on cd with my kids in the car.  This forces the kids to unplug and it gives us something we all have in common which opens up the lines of communication.

2.Be the role-model.  If “birds of a feather flock together” holds true, then so does “apples don’t fall far from the tree”.  If mom is a gossip girl, chances are her kids are too.  Sometime our worst behaviors are projected onto our kids and we are clueless how they picked up the habit.  Bad language, rude behavior, talking back, anger.  These are all learned behaviors.  And so is kindness, using manors, taking turns, giving to those in need, sharing, being courteous, being brave, happiness, study habits, standing up for what is right.  Bottom line… If you want to know why your child is acting a certain way, look in the mirror first.  

3.Know your kid’s other role-models.  If your kid’s favorite person on earth is a thug artist chances are your child will mimic his/her behavior.  This goes for anything.  Favorite tv characters, movie stars, athletes and so on.  When my daughter started acting sassy, I thought it was just her age.  Then I realized even the characters on the Disney channel were talking back to their parents, being rude to each other at school, or being down right mean.  DISNEY?!?!  Be careful with what you expose your children to.

4.Get rid of toxic people in your life.  If you have someone in your life that is bringing you down, cut them off.  One of the best saying I have ever heard, “If you cut someone out of your life chances are they handed you the scissors!” This is a valuable lesson for your kids.  I had to cut off a family member because she was influencing my kids in a way that my husband and I felt was dangerous.  You are NOT going to get along with everyone and you DO NOT have to be friends with everyone.  It’s OK!  You have to smile and nod and be nice, but you don’t have to have EVERYONE in your life.  You will be happier without them.

5.Define “Good Person” for your children.  So many times we tell our kids, “Don’t hang out with ____ because he is not a good person.”  Explain why.  Teach your kids the morals and values that you feel they need.  Give your children things to say to other kids.  I worked at the same school my son attended and he would come home upset that someone would say something mean about me to him.  I told him to just agree with whatever they said.  My middle school son does not need to defend my honor to another 12-year-old.  This advice gave the rude kids nothing to talk to him about and it stopped.  

Bottom line, there is no instruction manual for life.  Life is short, live it full of love and kindness and surround yourself with positive people!  Emotions and attitudes are contagious! 

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