Conquering the Overwhelm

Let’s be honest, the subject of this email is a bit lofty. Can one truly conquer all that overwhelms her? I’m not sure, but I’d say that frequently I find myself overwhelmed. So if I can envision myself victorious, then that’s the place I’d like to be.

In today’s world, it’s so easy to get swept up in just about everything. And though we, as a society, have the most accurate ability to track time, do we really have time under control? Did measuring time create our sense of overwhelm? And if we so frequently feel overwhelmed, how do we teach our children not to pick up on that very trait we despise. And how can we expect them to do what we say, and not what we do?

Am I hitting home for any of you? How do you keep it in check? Though it may not be easy, I try to keep in mind and follow the advice that I give my kids when they are feeling overwhelmed:

  1. Take everything one step at a time. When you have a lot on your plate, make a list and knock things off in bite-sized pieces.
  2. Create systems to help you be set up for long-term success. Yes, that can add more short-term overwhelm. But spending the extra time today is worth it tomorrow.
  3. Remember that having it all doesn’t necessarily mean having it all at once. And the same holds true for doing it all. You don’t have to do it all right now! You don’t have to be superhuman!
  4. On that note, make sure you make time count! If that means scheduling things on your calendar, then do that. And do it in 5-15 minute increments (not in the digital calendar default of 30 minute increments). If it’s using pen and paper, then write it down.
  5. Disconnect to reconnect. This is a term that is used frequently in the circles in which I travel, but it could not hold more true. Whether putting your devices down for a meal or getting out of town and into nature, make sure you are spending time with those who matter most – starting with yourself!
  6. Say no. This is the one I struggle with the most. I try to be everything to everyone. It’s okay to put yourself first. It doesn’t make you selfish and it can help you set reasonable expectations. Yes, I need to heed my own advice here!

I hope you find what centers you! In the meantime, I hope you are able to Walk the Walk yourself — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Back to School Goals

Back to school season provides a prime opportunity to introduce new routines and increase responsibilities. Kids are often excited for a fresh start and eager to stretch a bit outside their comfort zone.

Here are some parenting goals to consider as we head into a new year.

1. Get on Schedule
Getting off on the right foot actually starts well before the first day. Longer days and lack of routine often make summer sleep schedules unpredictable, and clever parents start adjusting sleep schedules in the weeks leading up to school. (Full disclosure, I’ve never had much success getting on the school schedule before the year starts. I enjoy our lazy mornings too much. Nevertheless, it’s a smart idea.)

2. Prioritize Sleep
Current research shows that too little sleep causes serious physical and mental health problems for children. Lack of sleep contributes to bad moods, sickness, depression, and even obesity. It has been documented in a handful of major studies that children, from elementary school through high school, get about an hour less sleep each night than they did 30 years ago. Just an extra 15 minutes of sleep can boost attention span, grades and overall daily well-being.

3. Add a New Chore
What baby step is your child ready to tackle? If they are bringing their dishes to the sink after dinner, they could load the dishwasher. If they throw their dirty clothes in the hamper, they could carry them to the laundry area for sorting.

4. Build Your Lunch Arsenal
Need new backpacks, lunch boxes, containers, and water bottles? It’s easy to spend a solid chunk of change just getting your kids out the door. Save a bundle by purchasing quality items that are more durable and taking advantage of seasonal sales.

5. Pack Healthy Lunches
Even if your school offers a “healthy menu,” children are prone to choosing chocolate milk and dessert over fresh fruit and vegetables. u*do*lunch teaches kids to Plan, Purchase, Prepare, and Pack their own lunches. Personal experience shows that kids are more likely to eat a healthy, well balanced lunch if they have some skin in the game.

6. Schedule a Surprise Visit
If your school permits lunchtime visitors, make a plan to drop in unannounced after a few weeks of school. The look on your child’s face will be priceless.

For this month’s Walk the Walk, start a conversation with your children about their back to school routine.
  • Are they feeling excited or anxious?
  • What new responsibilities would they like to tackle this year?
  • How can you work together to make lunchtime less stressful and more nutritious?
As always, encourage them to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.
Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Summer Recharge

May is the new December. Flooded by after school-activities, state testing, and end-of-the-year deadlines, most of us burnout. Some consider it a sprint to the finish line, but in our house it’s more of a crawl.

The good news is that we made it!

Summer is the perfect time for families to slow down and reconnect. You probably won’t succeed in either goal if you immediately slip into bad screen habits. After all, it’s difficult to have rich face-to-face interaction while your kid is playing Minecraft. So start summer strong by scheduling tech free time.
Board Games

If you think “boring” when you think of board games, it’s time for a hardware update. While old standards like ClueLife, and Jenga still delight, the world of board games has exploded since you were a kid. Board games are great tools for teaching life skills like taking turns, working together, making decisions, dealing with consequences, and being a good sport. Plus they are fun!

Some of our new favorites include:
– Tsuro
Single Player Games
As Dr. Seuss predicted, “All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot!” Fortunately, more and more games are being designed with solo play in mind.
Some include:
– Friday
Loosing yourself in a good story is the ultimate summer indulgence. Focus on making summer reading FUN as opposed to overly educational. Find books on subjects that interest your kids or tie into your summer vacation plans. If you have a reluctant reader, try audio books or even a kindle if it sells them on the idea.
Take children to the library or bookstore to browse. Need some ideas? Check out the New York Public Library’s list of 100 best children’s books or the 2018-2019 Georgia Children’s Book Award Nominees for grades 4 – 8.
Family Reading 
Even after children learn to read by themselves, it is fun to read aloud together. Books provide fantastic dinner conversation, and are a low-cost way to entertain an entire family.
Solo Reading, Together
Schedule time to sit down and read different books in the same room. It’s surprisingly enjoyable!
Get Outside
Encourage your kids to get outside before noon. Visit local trail for a shady hike or hit the pool. Stock-pile tech time for afternoon boredom and summer storms.
It’s Time to Walk the Walk 
For this month’s Walk the Walk invest in a summer mindset
  • Take your kids to browse at a bookstore or the library. 
  • Schedule a weekly (or monthly) family game night.
  • Brainstorm ways to lead by example this summer. With some planning  — and will power — you can encourage a stress-free summer mindset that does not revolve around technology.
As always, encourage your family to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.
Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Are You a Free-Range Parent?

Would you let your 9-year-old ride the New York City subway alone?

In 2008 Lenore Skenazy did. After writing a column about leaving her son in Bloomingdale’s with a subway map, a MetroCard, and a $20 bill, she was labeled “America’s worst mom” by national media outlets across the political spectrum including the Today show, MSNBC, Fox News and NPR. The boy made it home without incident.

I almost know the feeling. When my 7 year-old ran ahead of me to board a Prague metro train, I questioned what he would have done if we had in fact been separated. He explained, “take the metro to Anděl, transfer to the 6 tram, get off at Kavalirka, and walk two blocks.” He had no money. He didn’t speak the local language. Yet he knew exactly what to do after just a few days in town. (Of course, I would have been worried sick!)

Across the country, parents have been arrested, investigated, and even lost custody for simply letting their kids play unsupervised for brief periods of time — even in their own front yards. According to Skenazy, many Americans perceive little difference between letting their kids walk to school and letting them walk through a firing range. Any risk is seen as too much risk. She ultimately launched the free-range parenting movement to promote building problem solving and self reliance skills. If we do not let our children explore and discover boundaries on their own, we can limit their ability to grow and function as they get older.

Last month, Utah became first state to pass a “free-range parenting law” which changes the definition of neglect so that a parent can no longer be arrested for a crime as simple as letting their child play at the park, walk to school, or run an errand. The law permits mature kids with good judgment to do things alone.

As parents we sell our kids short when we over-protect. A child who thinks he can’t do anything on his own eventually can’t.

Our kids are capable of amazing things. For this week’s Walk the Walk consider taking some small steps toward independence.

• Is your child ready to go to the restroom alone at a restaurant?
• Is your child ready to walk to a neighbor’s house without an escort?
• Is your child ready to stay home alone while you run an errand?
• Are YOU ready to to loosen the reins a bit?

As always, encourage your family to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Are You a Responsible Digital Citizen?

Lately I’ve been having a lot of conversations about what it means to be a responsible digital citizen. From hardcover books to articles published by the New York Times, you’ve probably noticed at least some of the ink given to the topic.

Statistics about Generation Z are alarming, especially the fact that overall measures of happiness are plummeting. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media found that 78% of teens check their devices at least hourly. This obsessive behavior disturbs daily activities, creating patterns similar to substance abuse.

But when should adult media habits enter the discussion? We are all guilty of minor offenses like checking a quick work email while listening to a story about playground drama on up to major infractions like texting at a stop light — or even while operating a moving vehicle.

The old adage “do as I say, not as I do” is not going to cut it. Like it or not, you are your child’s number one role model when it comes to technology. Nothing will change until we acknowledge our personal struggles to tame the 24-7 stream of news, work, and entertainment. We are always connected.

At chick*u*do, we are developing a mobile manifesto to accompany our new parent-child technology contracts for smartphones and tablets. Here’s what we’ve written so far:

We declare that mobile devices no longer own us. Our children are more important than (time-sucking) social media feeds. Our spouses deserve more attention than (fake) news. And our pets are far more entertaining than (most) YouTube cat videos.

We are done stressing about internet speed. Moving forward our focus will be connecting in person with family and friends, and we will fight the urge to live inside our smartphones. Standing strong against FOMO, we choose to lay down our devices and live in the moment.

What do you think? Would you be willing to commit to any or all of the following restrictions?

• Making first 10 minutes and last 30 minutes of every day device-free.
• Refusing to text/email while driving, even at stop lights.
• Calling people on special occasions instead of sending a quick text or social media post.
• Silencing devices while socializing with other human beings.
• Leaving home without a device for a minimum of 20 minutes each week.

Join us on Facebook to brainstorm ideas for our manifesto. We can’t wait to hear what’s on your mind!

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Is Smartphone Addiction a Thing?

The Case for Technology Rules

Mobile phones are everywhere these days, flooding our lives with both the literal beeps and figurative noise of a 24-hour news cycle and social media feed. The relentless pull of digital distractions can be particularly difficult for young people with less developed impulse control than adults.

Recent headlines reflect growing unease about young people’s ubiquitous access to mobile technology. In January alone, Apple investors publicly urged the company to develop additional monitoring tools and the New York Times raised the issue of phone “addiction.”

According to an American Psychological Association (APA) survey of over 3,500 U.S. parents, 58% say they worry about the influence of social media on their child’s physical and mental health, 48% say that regulating their child’s screen time is a “constant battle,” and 58% say they feel like their child is “attached” to their phone or tablet.

Parents have reason to be concerned. Current research shows that the average American receives his or her first phone at age 10 and spends over 4.5 hours a day on the device. A 2016 survey from Common Sense Media found that half of teenagers felt addicted to their devices, and 78% checked their devices at least hourly. Such obsessive behavior disturbs daily activities, creating patterns similar to substance abuse.

Teens who engage in limited cell phone use (up to 1 hour a day) report being happier than teens with either unlimited access or complete restriction. If you want to help establish good habits and prevent dependency, try the following:

Set Expectations
Start with a discussion about smartphone etiquette and sticky situations. Encourage mindful device usage, avoiding urges to check a device when sitting face-to-face with friends or family. Our decorative parent/child mobile phone agreements are designed to guide an initial conversation and serve as a regular reminder of the responsibilities that come with smartphone privileges.

Monitor Use
Studies show that people significantly underestimate the amount of time they spend on screens. Apps like Moment track overall usage with a breakdown of time spent on individual apps. Using algorithms detect issues like cyberbullying, sexting, and depression, Bark helps protect children online without compromising their privacy. Screenagers and Savvy Cyber Kids provide amazing resources for parents concerned about screen time.

Take Breaks
Simply removing smartphones from the bedroom at night can make a huge difference in quality of sleep, self esteem, and overall health. If kids resist, try apps like OurPact to disable specific apps during set hours.

Model Behavior
Of course we parents are struggling with the same addictive behaviors as our children. Remember, kids are watching — and following — our lead. How will you curb your own bad habits in the coming weeks?

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Defining “Kindependence”

Do you find yourself asking difficult questions at the end of the year? And setting (sometimes unattainable) goals to change the whole world order every January?

At chick*u*do, we spent the majority of 2017 discussing the concept of “kindependence.” To be successful in life, every child needs to practice being independent — with a dash of kindness added to the mix. And the secret to achieving this goal? We parents need to step back and practice letting our children be independent. 

According to author Michael Thompson, “Independence is like high jumping: You have to run and jump and sometimes fail, and then put the bar back up and run and jump again. As a parent, you’ll wince when your kids hit that bar, but you can’t jump for them.”

The ultimate job for every parent is to raise kids that are prepared to leave home, and it’s never too soon to start teaching your little ones life skills. January is a great time to create new habits for you and your family.

For this week’s Walk the Walk, start a conversation with your children about kindependence.

• Write the term kindependence on a piece a paper.
• Ask your kids to interpret the word.
• Explain what the word means to you as a parent.
• As a family, write a definition of kindependence.

• Post your final draft in a family space for reference.

Point to the definition when you assign new chores or your kids react negatively to existing assignments. Give your kids one new task in January, be it packing lunch (with u*do*lunch!) or tackling their own laundry. As always, encourage them to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,

chick*u*do, co-founder

The Green Kitchen Gift Guide

With the new year approaching, it’s a great time to make a family resolution to reduce household waste. The following items will make great stocking stuffers for family and friends.

Mesh Produce Bags
By now, we’ve all seen — and hopefully used — reusable grocery bags, but think about how much additional plastic your family wastes packing up produce at the grocery store. These BPA-free mesh bags come in many sizes and are easy to clean using the gentle cycle (air dry). You can also use them to purchase bulk items like nuts and rice.

Beeswax Wrap
Did you know there is a natural alternative to plastic wrap for food storage? Made from cotton fabric coated in beeswax, this wrap is reusable, economical and environmentally-friendly. Order online or make your own!

Fabric Sandwich Bags
There are loads of washable sandwich/snack bags on the market today. Look for food safe fabrics that are phthalate, lead, BPA, and PVC free. They are perfect packing sliced fruit, sandwiches, and dry snacks in school lunches. Encourage buy-in by letting your kids pick their favorite patterns and designs.

Travel Cutlery Set
This stainless steel flatware comes with a carrying case for school lunch, travel, camping, or even take out. Don’t need chopsticks on the go? Replace them with your favorite reusable straw.

Reusable K-Cup Filters
If you love the ease of Keurig coffee, cut waste with reusable K-Cup filters. These stainless steel micro mesh filters also allow you to make your own gourmet ground coffee in a Keurig brewer.

Be sure to discuss why you are making changes at home with your family. Ask your kids

• How well do these new products work for you?
• What kind of reusable lunch items are your friends bringing to school?
• Do you have any ideas about how we can reduce waste in 2018?

Take the conversation a step further by writing online reviews of the products you bring into your home. As always, encourage your kids to Walk the Walk — one step at a time.

Until Next Time,
chick*u*do, co-founder

Weekday Lunch Hacks

Giving Back

As the holiday season approaches, many parents face the annual question of “how much is too much?” From sweets treats to gifts galore, American families face a slippery slope towards spoiling our next generation.

Encourage gratitude in your family’s attitude this holiday season by blocking off some time to give back. No matter what your age, volunteering in your community has untold benefits. You not only get to help others but also get to have fun, meet new people, and try new activities.

A positive volunteer experience offers kids an energizing escape from the pressure they face at school and home. Research shows youth who volunteer feel more connected to their community, adapt better to unfamiliar social situations, have better social skills, and are less likely to engage in risky behavior.

A commitment to giving back is one of the most precious gifts you can give your kids. Talk to your kids today about how they would like to give back. Make a plan, and give reluctant children an opportunity to invite a friend along for the ride.