Tag: parenting

Helping Kids Make New Friends at School

Helping Kids Make New Friends at School

A new school year brings excitement. There are new classes, new teachers, and new clothes. At the same time, a new school year can bring anxiety over unknowns like new challenges and new people. As parents, we want to see our children transition into these new situations as painlessly as possible. The following tips will help.

Encourage your child to step out of the comfort zone

Great things never happen inside our comfort zones. Kids will need a little nudge to embrace that. Making new friends may feel scary to your child. Take the time to point out all the benefits of making new friends like learning new things and having more playmates on the playground.

Discuss how it's kind to make friends with a new student, and provide your child with ideas for making that happen like inviting a new student to sit at your child's table in the lunchroom. Playing together on the playground, sharing toys, or reading together are other easy options for forging new friendships.

Practice meeting someone new

Work with your child to learn the social skills necessary to meet someone new. Practice using direct eye contact, speaking audibly and clearly, and asking questions to create a conversation. The best way to do that is for you to model the behavior and then allow your child the opportunity to practice these new skills.

Practice at home until your child is comfortable, and then encourage him to practice these skills in real-life situations outside the home. Playgrounds, parks, or church gatherings provide opportunities to practice meeting new people and having conversations. Be encouraging, help your child adjust skills as necessary, and praise your child's efforts.

Teach your child how to resolve conflict

Conflict is inevitable, even in strong friendships. Your child needs to know how to resolve it quickly. Teach your child to seek to understand when conflict arises. Many conflicts occur simply because we make assumptions when we should instead ask questions to understand the situation before responding.

Teach your child to take responsibility for his part in a conflict and to show grace to the other person. Most conflicts can be resolved fairly easily if resolution is the goal, but these skills must be taught and practiced. 

Be your child's role model

The best way to help your child make new friends at school is to model friend-making skills yourself. Go out of your way to talk to new people and make new friends. Let your child see you shake hands and start a conversation with someone new. Invite friends over to your home for dinner or meet up for a playdate with your children. When your child sees you do these things, making new friends will seem like a natural thing to do.

Why We Do What We Do

Why We Do What We Do

"Take a practice push."

That is what the Obstetrician told me as he stood on the other side of the delivery room putting on his gown and gloves. So I did. And before I could even finish the "practice push," Maverick was born. Ryan caught him. I have never seen a doctor dive across the room so fast. Apparently after previously having two other babies, I no longer needed "practice."

Maverick arrived two weeks before his due date because he was in distress. Maverick was dying from a rare bacterial infection.

This week is Maverick's 12th birthday. Every year, I remember back to his actual birth day and thank God for every minute we have been blessed to have him in our lives. He spent weeks after his birth in the hospital fighting for his life, and it could have ended so differently. For many parents, it does end so differently. Their pain and disappointment is not lost on me.

While we were at the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit), Maverick had an IV in the top of his head. He was on a ventilator, he had tubes jammed into his wrist, and a line inserted in his umbilical cord. There were monitors covering his body that showed his vitals on a TV screen and beeped loud alarms whenever something went wrong. He was sedated, we were not allowed to hold him, and he was dying. I spent the first several days in a zombie-like state of shock, just praying to God to heal Maverick.

Every minute felt like an eternity, and I eventually lost track of what day it was and whether it was even night or day. We kept vigil next to his side, just staring at him while we waited for any sign of improvement. After praying for what felt like years, the words to a Mark Schultz song popped into my head. It's called "He's My Son" and was written about parents whose son had a terrible illness. I hadn't heard the song since we lived in Memphis years before. It had been sung at church one Father's Day. The words that I heard in my head are "I try to be strong and see him through. But God, who he needs right now is YOU."

And that's exactly how I felt in that moment. I had done everything I could do (which, incidentally, was not much). The doctors were doing everything they could do. Our friends and family had done everything they could do. Maverick needed more than us at that point; he needed God. You see, God could be with Maverick when I could not. I had to sleep. I had to eat. I had to take a shower. I couldn't be there every minute. But God was. I wasn't even allowed to hold Maverick. But God could. God could be with Maverick through every step of this nightmare, and I believe He was.

And here is the most reassuring part: God created Maverick and loves him more than I ever could. He loves in a way I cannot even comprehend. He was with Maverick through it all, holding him, loving him, and seeing him through. I am only human, but God is God. "God, who he needs right now is YOU." When I thought about all that, I realized I needed to trust God's plan in that situation. I maybe wouldn't like the outcome, but I trusted Him to know what was best for Maverick and the rest of us. That was not an easy decision to come to, but if God loves Maverick more than I ever could, I had to trust that His plan would be the right plan whether I liked it or not.

Maverick's neonatologists prepared us for the worst, as his death was likely. They ran out of options and treatments to try. To this day no one can give a human explanation for why one day Maverick just started getting better. That kid is a fighter and a true champion, and I know God is the reason. There is absolutely no other explanation.

I do not pretend to understand why painful experiences to happen to us. While this situation with Maverick had a good outcome, other situations did not. We have lost three other children to miscarriage. I do not know why these things happen. They leave a pain in a parent's heart that never entirely fades. And who knows what will happen in the future? We could lose a child, one of us could become terminally ill, or an accident could cost one of us our life.

But on Maverick's birthday, we count our blessings. Maverick miraculously was healed and today is a happy, healthy, extremely active boy who hasn't stopped moving since the moment he unexpectedly shot out of me at birth. He serves as our constant reminder to be thankful for each day with each one of our five children. We remember to live each day to the fullest, and we remember what our true priorities are. 

We remember that God and good communication got us through that challenge, and that's exactly how we'll get through each challenge that comes our way in the future. That is why we are Communication Consultants and Speakers... we share our story to give others hope, and we assist our clients in overcoming communication challenges and building stronger relationships. We love what we do. 

The reason we do what we do really hit me when we spoke at a seminar in Syracuse, New York, several years ago. 

We spoke in a dimly-lit old theater, sharing our story about our son, Maverick’s, near-death experience. Afterward, an elderly lady pulled me aside to speak to me privately. She told me that decades earlier she had experienced the very same thing with one of her babies.

But she said back then they did not have the specialized treatments that Maverick received, and her baby ultimately died. She sobbed as she quietly admitted she had never told anyone her story before, outside of her family. She said that hearing our story gave her the courage to deal with her pain and tell me about it. She said she almost hadn't come that night but decided at the last minute to show up. We were both so glad she did. Some healing took place-- for both of us.

That is why we do what we do. We are truly nothing special. We are not spectacular. We certainly aren't perfect. We are not pastors or preachers or professors. We don't have everything figured out. Our story is not the most amazing one we've heard. Our "load" is not the heaviest. We are just real. We just tell our stories and share what we have learned from them. We share how we’ve learned to communicate effectively because if you can communicate, then you can work together to solve any issue. We work with other speakers to help them share their stories, expertise, and lessons, too, because audiences need to hear them.

We feel very passionate about sharing our stories and lessons because there may just be someone in our audience who might gain even one glimmer of hope from what we've been through and what we’ve learned. We do it to tell others that if we can do it, so can they.

We do it for that lady in Syracuse, and for others just like her.

Check out this video about our experience:


Why We Do What We Do
How Screens Affect Your Child's Communication Skills

How Screens Affect Your Child's Communication Skills

We are surrounded by televisions, phones, tablets, laptops, and gaming devices. We can’t even go to the grocery store without someone on a television at the end of each aisle screaming at us about the latest product we should buy. 
Even our work necessitates ever-increasing time behind screens. I’m a Communication Consultant and Speaker, and I coach my clients via Skype and FaceTime. I spend time texting, working on a computer, talking on technology affecting communication skills phone, checking emails, and engaging on social media. I love the mobility that screens provide in my career. I can literally work from anywhere because of screens.

But how do screens affect our face-to-face communication skills?

More importantly, how technology affecting communication skills of our children, whose social and communication skills are not yet fully developed?

In some ways, devices with screens benefit our kids. Kids are more engaged than ever in politics, world news, educational activities, and daily online discussions with friends and family. But there are limits to screen-based communication.

Electronic screen-based communication cannot teach face-to-face social skills. Those skills can only be learned in-person, and those skills are vital to our children’s future success in the adult world. There is no electronic substitute for real-life face-to-face interactions.


Social skills like table manners cannot be learned behind a screen.

Table manners are largely overlooked today as we often eat on the run, in our cars, or in front of the television. Unfortunately, kids who do not learn table manners are at a disadvantage as adults.

Business lunches, professional dinners, and romantic dates require a proficient display of table manners. As parents, it’s our job to make sure our kids have practiced these skills and have a thorough understanding of them.

We need to teach them to shut off the TV during meals, keep their elbows off the table, chew with their mouths closed, not to talk with food in their mouths, how to keep the conversation rolling, proper ways to pass food around the table, and to say “please” and “thank-you” when food is passed. It sounds simple, but many children have not been taught these important lessons.

Further, kids are missing out on opportunities to learn basic interaction skills, like meeting someone new, when they spend too much time behind screens. Kids need to know how to properly introduce themselves to someone new, use direct eye contact, shake hands, speak clearly and audibly, and make small talk.

These skills are necessary in adult life, and we must be purposeful to teach these skills, model them, and provide situations for our kids to practice them.


Ironically, another social skill lacking today is talking on the phone properly.

Modern kids are so accustomed to texting that they are missing out on verbal phone skills. As parents, we must teach our children how to talk on the phone. We must teach them to answer a call properly, take a detailed message, be polite, and how to end the call.

They must also be taught how to make a call. Begin a call by saying, “Hello. My name is ________. May I please speak to _________?” Start a phone conversation by stating their own name and asking politely to speak to the other person. Too many kids and teens these days have absolutely no idea how to politely make a phone call.

Major issues like physical safety, finances, and education are in the forefront of parents’ minds today, while social skills have taken a backseat. Technology have exacerbated the situation by limiting natural social interactions. While screens are useful tools for careers and learning, they tend to stunt real social growth. Social skills and interpersonal communication suffers as a result.

Parents, take the lead.

Limit your children’s screen time to a reasonable amount, monitor their social media interactions, and create opportunities for them to learn face-to-face social skills. Set a good example in your own screen usage, and model how to communicate effectively with others. Take the time to teach your children table manners, phone skills, and conversation skills. Encourage them out of their comfort zones. You can do it, and their future depends on it.


3 Social Skills Your Kids Must Master

3 Social Skills Your Kids Must Master

All parents want their children to display adequate social skills so they can function and succeed in life. Unfortunately, many children do not possess such skills. Parents are busy and don't always realize there is a deficiency until they're thrust into an embarrassing social situation.

These skills can be taught and mastered. If you've observed some less-than-fabulous behavior from your children, do not despair. You can start today to course-correct and point your kids in the right direction where social skills are concerned. Help your children master social skills in the following three areas.

Basic Manners

Kids need to have a thorough understanding of manners like holding the door for others, proper etiquette, saying "please" and "thank you," meal-time manners, and social media etiquette. These manners are developed through practice during face-to-face interactions with others.

Parents who model these skills find it easier to teach these skills. Kids learn by watching what you do, so practice good manners yourself. Your kids will pick up on what you're doing. Take it a step further by talking with your kids specifically about manners. Praise them when they do well, and encourage them to improve when they don't. It's important to keep the conversation about manners going. Learning these skills is a journey that takes time and corrective input from parents.

Conversation Skills

Everyone should be able to meet someone new and keep the ball rolling during a conversation. Teach your kids to make direct eye contact, shake hands, speak audibly and clearly, and ask questions of the other person to keep the conversation going. Whether your kids are shy or outgoing, everyone needs these skills. Everyone can learn and implement them.

The easiest way to teach these skills is to put kids in situations where they can develop these skills. When you attend a barbecue, a church gathering, or a reunion, encourage and challenge your kids to introduce themselves and have conversations. Praise them for stepping out of their comfort zones, and afterward discuss ways to improve. 

Phone Skills

It seems counterintuitive in this day and age to think that anyone would lack phone skills. We're on our phones all the time, but mostly through text. For kids, verbal communication occurs less frequently. Phone etiquette like how to answer the phone, take a detailed message, be polite, and how to end the call properly must be taught and learned.

Teach your kids that when they make a call, they should say this:

"Hello. This is ___________. May I please speak to __________?"

Teach your child to always state his/her name before asking for the other person. Teach kids not to mumble while on the phone, and show them your preferred way to take a message. Make sure they know they should write down the caller's phone number along with the message. Even though we use text communication more than verbal communication these days, phone etiquette is still essential and must be taught. They will need these skills when dating and in their careers.

Model and Teach

Your children will learn from your example. Be sure that the example you're setting is the one you want them to learn from. None of this is complicated, but much of it is overlooked in modern times. That doesn't mean it's less important, however. Good manners and basic social skills will never go out of style, so take the time to teach your kids. They need you.

Mayor to Mayor

Mayor to Mayor

By Ryan Sharpe

I was The Mayor.

Not officially, of course.

But during my college hockey career, The Mayor became my nickname because I was known to take forever getting out of the rink after every game because I took my time shaking hands with fans and signing autographs for little kids.

I did it because I love people. I love interacting with them and learning about them. It makes me feel good to make someone else feel special or important.

So I became known as The Mayor.

Our son, Maguire, recently attended a robotics engineering camp at our college where I was once The Mayor.

On the second day, he texted Carrie to tell us how he had befriended the entire hockey team when he saw them in the cafeteria and how they were now asking to see his robot videos at each meal.

The Mayor.

It's clear that my love of people has been passed on to Maguire. Of all the traits he could get from me, both good and bad, I'm glad he got this trait. It will serve him well. Befriending others, accepting them, and appreciating them is so very important.

Especially in the world we live in today.

Parents, take the time to teach your kids how to build relationships. Teach them to value others and to be a "good-finder." Teach them to put down their phones and have real-life, face-to-face interactions with other people. Teach them how to make friends and how to be a good friend. Teach them to get out of their comfort zone.

And we need to lead by example.

Mayor to Mayor.

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying Connected with Your Spouse with Small Children in the Home

Staying connected with your spouse while having small children in the home can be a major challenge for many couples. Often one or both of you is working full-time, or staying at home with the kids (which is tons of work), and the sheer physical exhaustion from caring for the home and kids can leave you feeling disconnected from your spouse.

So how does a couple with young children in the home stay connected?

First, you need to have the right mindset.

Accept the phase of life you are in, and realize that it is a phase.

Often I have become very frustrated about the challenges of staying connected with my husband during this time in our marriage. What has helped me, though, is to recognize that this is a phase, and that it does get easier over time.

    Now that our daughter is slightly older, it is easier to do some of the things that were more difficult when she was an infant and toddler.

    So keep in mind, first of all, that this phase of life will change. And recognize that there may be things you WANT to do as a married couple that are just not possible right now. Instead of wishing the time away, do your best to enjoy the phase you are in currently, and try not to become resentful of the demands that young children place on you and your spouse.

    Prioritize your marriage.

    Although the phase of having young children in the house may mean that life will look different than at other times in your marriage, it also is a very good idea to prioritize your marriage.

      As a couple, you need to decide that you will make your marriage a priority. It is often said that many divorces take place once the children are grown and moved out the house. Why? Because the married couple didn’t stay connected while the kids were living at home. They focused so much on the children and their needs that they lost their identity as a married couple.

      If you want to avoid this, then you must mentally make the decision that your marriage will come first-- before your relationship with your children.

      Once you’ve accepted the phase of life you are in, and you’ve made a decision to prioritize your marriage, it’s time to begin putting into action some steps to stay connected as a couple.

      Here are a few strategies that have worked really well for me and my husband:

      1. Date Nights. I am a firm believer that having a regular date night--even when the children are young--is absolutely essential to staying connected and maintaining your communication.

        My husband and I often attempt to have conversations around the house. I say attempt because we are inevitably interrupted by our 7-year-old, who loves to talk non-stop. We have learned that it’s basically pointless to try and discuss anything of importance when she is awake.

        I'm sure we're not alone in this situation. That's why date nights are so essential. Having a specific time when you go out together allows you to have a full conversation without being constantly interrupted or having to run and change a diaper, get someone a drink, or clean up puke.

        In our marriage, Saturday nights are reserved for each other. Once a month we go out, and the other Saturday nights we do something together at home. After our daughter is in bed, we make an effort to talk, play a game, watch a movie, or do something else that helps us stay connected.

        Having this time reserved for date night--whether at home or out and about--allows us to look forward to that time together where we are not dealing with other responsibilities. 

        2. Weekly Meeting. Okay, this one is not as exciting or sexy as date nights. But it can be very beneficial.

          My husband and I have often run into challenges over our schedules. He works part-time as a pastor at our church and runs his own business. I homeschool our daughter and run my own business as well.

          So, very often, there are events, plans, and situations that arise on one of our schedules that affects the other person. However, sometimes we do not communicate about these things until the last minute. For me, last minute communication about events equals stress.

          So this year, we began touching base once a week about our upcoming events and schedules. Our goal is to sit down once a week and review the next week’s schedule. We discuss any changes outside of the normal routine. We talk about whether either one of us will be doing an activity with friends, or if there is a date night to plan, or a church activity going on.

          This also is a time when we often discuss how we are doing in terms of our own needs and our needs as a couple. These conversations have helped us to stay connected and stay on the same page about our marriage and our family life.

          3. Show Appreciation. The years of raising young children are incredibly demanding on both parents. There are sleepless nights, loads and loads of laundry, bills to pay, and mouths to feed. Especially when the kids are too young to really help out, and all they do is make a mess-- this can be emotionally and physically exhausting.

            That’s why it is SO important, during these years, to show appreciation to your spouse for what they do.

            It is very easy to become overwhelmed with everything you have to do that you neglect to notice what your spouse is doing. This happened with me and my husband after our daughter was born, and we both ended up feeling unappreciated and unloved.

            It took a couple years of feeling very frustrated in our marriage and finally going to therapy to realize that lack of appreciation was a major cause of our unhappiness.

            I also realized that I needed to change my attitude towards my husband in order to improve our marriage. I needed to begin recognizing what he WAS doing for our marriage instead of focusing on what he wasn't doing.

            So taking the time to notice, and appreciate, the little things your spouse does is vitally important to staying connected. When you feel appreciated, you are more likely to feel connected to your spouse.

            4. Schedule Sex. Often, in the midst of raising young children, your physical intimacy as a married couple can suffer. In the busyness of life, sometimes having sex becomes an item on your long list of “to-dos” instead of an important aspect of your relationship.

              But maintaining your physical intimacy is vital to the health of your marriage. It may seem strange, but scheduling sex can truly help to keep that connection healthy. Rather than just waiting for the right moment to happen--which, let’s face it, with kids around, is unlikely to take place--you can take control of this as a couple and actually plan it.

              I first heard of this idea at a marriage retreat that my husband and I attended, and then I’ve heard it a few other times from other couples and on podcasts. My husband and I have implemented this practice and it has helped us to stay connected even during challenging times in our lives.

              5. Have fun together. Humor and laughter in a relationship is truly beneficial to maintaining a strong connection.

                During the times that have been the most difficult in my marriage, I have noticed that we have not had very much fun together. On the other hand, when we are doing things we enjoy together and having fun, we tend to be more connected emotionally as well.

                So make an effort to do fun things that you both enjoy! Sometimes these can be the simplest of activities, but they can produce great amounts of joy.

                A few ideas: Play a board game together, either as a couple or as a family. Play a sport outside together-- kick a soccer ball around, play a game of toss, or badmiton, or go for a bike ride. These activities often result in laughter and fun naturally.

                Allow yourselves to be silly. Some of me and my husband’s funniest moments are late at night, when we are both exhausted, but we just start laughing and making crazy jokes. It can be a fun way to end a day if you are able to laugh together.

                Staying connected as a couple while you have small children running about is challenging, but not impossible. If you have the right mindset, and you put some simple habits into place, you are likely to see improvements in your relationship.


                Esther LittlefieldEsther Littlefield is a feisty pastor’s wife to her husband, Scott, and mom to her spirited daughter, KJ. They live in Maine where they enjoy as many outdoor adventures as possible in the midst of homeschooling, business, and church life. In her free time, you’d probably find her with a cup of coffee, a good friend, and a sink full of dishes. Esther is the founder of WellnessMomLife, helping moms balance marriage, motherhood, and ministry by caring for their personal, physical, spiritual, and relational wellness. Please visit her blog at, and join her FREE 5-Day Better Attitude Marriage Challenge. Follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.