Transitioning Your Child to College: How to Let Go

Transitioning Your Child to College: How to Let Go

As a parenting expert, I have had the opportunity to witness the ups and downs of raising children. One of the toughest challenges parents face is letting go when their children leave for college, trade school or into the adult world. It is natural to feel empty, sad, and overwhelmed, especially if you have been their primary caregiver for the past eighteen years. However, I am here to tell you that letting go is not the end of your parenting journey. Instead, it marks the beginning of a new chapter in your life and can ultimately bring you closer to your child.

According to a report by Pew Research Center, around 6 in 10 parents experienced “empty nest syndrome” when their last child left home. This syndrome is characterized by feelings of loneliness, sadness, and a sense of loss. It is a real phenomenon that can affect parents’ emotional and physical well-being, leading to depression, anxiety, and other health issues.

It is important to understand that feeling empty is a natural response to a significant life transition. It is okay to grieve the loss of your child’s presence in your home and the daily routine of parenting. But it is also important to recognize that it does not mean your role as a parent is over. In fact, this new chapter can be an opportunity to strengthen your relationship with your child in ways you never thought possible.

Here are some tips to get through the initial stages of empty nest syndrome and embrace this new phase of your life

  1. Acknowledge your feelings: It is okay to feel sad, empty, and even lost after your child leaves home. Acknowledge your emotions and give yourself permission to grieve.
  2. Focus on the positives: Instead of dwelling on what you’ve lost, focus on what you’ve gained. Use this time to pursue your own passions and interests that you may have put aside while raising your children.
  3. Stay connected: The distance between you and your child can be bridged by technology. Stay connected through phone calls, texts, FaceTime, or other similar tools. Make plans to visit them or invite them for holidays and vacations.
  4. Embrace your new identity: You are no longer just a mom or dad; you are now a person with your own identity and life. Embrace this new chapter of your life and explore new opportunities.

While it is normal to feel empty when your child leaves for college, it is essential to see it as an opportunity for personal growth and a chance to strengthen your bond with your child. Remember, this is a new phase of your parenting journey, and it can be a fulfilling one if you allow yourself to let go and embrace the changes. Reach out to Amanda Irtz, your parenting coach and expert, for guidance and support during this transition.

Raising Children in the Digital Age: Tips for a Balanced Approach

Raising Children in the Digital Age: Tips for a Balanced Approach

I’m not sure what I was more afraid of: my son loosing his last baby tooth or the entrance of social media into his life. One the one side, “officially” saying goodbye to that baby tooth pulled at all the emotional strings in my body. They reminded me of just how far he come – and how many years around the sun I walked since his birth. I didn’t want to loose my little boy: snuggling with me in the morning, playing hide-and-go seek at night, watching videos about puppies and kittens together. And, on the flip side, I was deeply afraid of my son stepping into the world of social media – or rather social media controlling my son. What would happen to him? Would I truly loose that little boy forever? After all, I’d read all the recent news about the dangers of social media in our kids’ schools and I lived it in my years of being an assistant principal. Honestly, I didn’t see any added value to opening this door for him.

Alas, I am not writing this article to reiterate all the dangers and restate all the horribleness that you already know about social media. This would be the same thing as never talking about safe sex with our kids and then grieving when our kids decide to learn on their own. You are welcome to stop reading if that last sentence struck a cord with you. Instead, this article is about embracing social media not because I like it, but because it is part of our world today.

The Digital Age

In 1995, the internet was becoming more widely available and mobile phones (remember car phones?) were more widely used. AOL was released, email began to be used for communication, and the first digital camera was released. Privacy was an increasing concern and the CDA, or Communications Decency Act, was passed in the U.S. to protect minors from viewing explicit material online. Social media had not yet been developed, making the rise of platforms like Twitter and Facebook in the mid-2000s an unprecedented phenomenon. Our parents, most of them now grandparents if you are reading this article, were standing in the same place we are right now.

Our kids today are growing up in a digital age, where technology and social media are integrated into our lives in ways that were never imaginable. It is important to recognize the potential of how this can be harnessed in a positive way so that our children can benefit from the resources available to them, while still keeping their safety in mind. Social media can be used to expand connections, foster relationships, and build skills that our children can carry into adulthood, making it a tool they should continue to use. However, with this new age of technology, comes a new set of responsibilities — teaching our children how to use it intelligently, safely and in accordance with our values.

Raising children in the digital age is tough, but there are a few essential tips to help parents help their children be mindful and responsible when it comes to social media. Positive Presupposition, Balance, and Modeling Desired Behaviors are key steps in helping children make the right decisions when it comes to their digital interactions. Establishing a set of expectations early on, such as keeping game time in family areas, no closed doors, and a time frame for use, is a great way for kids to understand the importance of online safety and etiquette.

Keys for Balanced Approach

Key #1: Let go of an all-or-nothing approach. An all-or-nothing or zero tolerance approach about social media is not conducive to teaching children responsibility, respect and safety in the digital space. As parents, we need to take it upon ourselves to provide our children with the tools to develop a healthy and mature approach to their digital activities, rather than adopting a black and white perspective with no room for discussion. In today’s society, social media is an integral part of many people’s lives, and we must be realistic in our expectations on how to use it properly and safely. My goal as a parent is to eventually send off my kids into the big world to make a huge, positive impact. I want them to have all the skills they need to do so. Honestly, I’d rather be their teacher about social media – than someone that might not have their best interests in mind.

Key #2: Instead of monitoring every move, take it as an opportunity to build a relationship of trust and understanding. Parenting doesn’t always have to be a scary and daunting task. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so take the time to nurture your relationship and share the responsibility with your children. It may be daunting, but with a bit of patience and understanding, it can create the perfect balance between protection and exploration. After all, life is too short not to love your parenting journey. Allow your child to have some slack so they can make a mistake (or two). I like to be a partner in my son’s social media world. Instead of spying on him, deleting friends, and monitoring what he is up to, I have decided to be a neutral friend. So, I see what is going on, but I don’t insert myself and I definitely don’t embarrass him (that is an entirely different blog post). Think about it as standing on the street corner while your child walks themselves to a friends’ home or to the school doors. You are in the background. You are aware.

Key #3: Hold a positive presupposition. Constructively use a positive tone when interacting with children about social media use. Start with the assumption that kids will make the best decisions when given the tools to do so.

Key #4: Back to Balance. Finding a balance between protection and exploration is essential for children to develop healthy digital habits. Reasonable restrictions set by parents can ensure that kids are using these tools and platforms safely.

Key #5: Model healthy behaviors yourself. It is important to model the desired online behaviors so that children can understand the importance of digital etiquette. Take the time to emphasize the value of positive communication and how to respond to the platforms and other users appropriately.

Expect Some Eye Rolls

I’ll be honest, there are some serious eye rolls that happen in my home. I know this. I also know that my son is learning how to navigate this world – and I’d rather get eye rolls, then a whole list of other things that could go wrong. There are certainly days when I hear the quintessential, “but my friends’ parents don’t care like you do,” and “why can’t you just be cool and leave me alone.” Well, my response to this: I’m your parent. I love you. One day, when you’re an adult, maybe I’ll fall into the cool category. For now, I’m happy with the balanced approach that I’ve shared with you here. Thus, when it comes to our children and social media, it is essential that we find a balance. We must equip our children with the tools to make and understand responsible decisions on their own, while also emphasizing the importance of safety, privacy and respect when using online platforms. With this approach, our children can benefit from the positives of the digital space, while also learning to use it in a conscientious and thoughtful manner.

If you’re reading this, please like, share, and comment if it feels aligned for you. Also, know that I’m here for you. Please reach out to me here. To live your best parenting life, check out my latest workshops.

Developing a Meaningful Relationship with Your Child’s School

Developing a Meaningful Relationship with Your Child’s School

As a mother of two, I know how important it is to build a meaningful relationship between parents and their child’s school. As a previous school administrator and teacher (22 years, friends), I know just how crucial this relationship truly is. There are obviously many important relationships and partnerships in your life that also support your child’s wellbeing. Here you’ll learn why this partnership is one to put some new energy into.

I also know from experience, that today’s busy parents often feel overwhelmed and may not have the time or energy to communicate with your child’s school because everything seems perfectly fine and okay. Maybe you also feel intimidated or uncertain about how to go about establishing a meaningful relationship with school staff because you hold memories of a not-so-great school experience in your own childhood. Despite these challenges, I want to show you how to stay connected with your child’s school because it is the key to helping them thrive academically, socially, emotionally and in their extra-curricular activities.

Open Up the Communication

The first step to building a successful relationship is to ensure there is open communication. I make a point of keeping up to date with school information and any changes they’ve implemented by attending school meetings and speaking with my child’s teachers via text and email. My children’s teachers know about what is happening at school, what makes my kids tick, and what it means when they see a certain behavior (good or not-so good) in their classroom. They know these things because I share the with them. You may wonder why a teacher needs to know so much … I deeply believe that teachers, because of my experience, show up every day at school because they care about our kids. They want to know as much as they can so they can create an educational experience that supports your child.

Nurture Trust and Mutual Respect

But open communication alone is not enough, you also need to work on trust and mutual respect. I want to encourage you be supportive of the tremendous work teachers do every day, the budget shortfalls they face, and the lack of support they often receive from (other – not you) parents. Your partnership means everything to a teacher.

The best way to communicate with a teacher is to establish regular communication. This can be done through phone calls, emails, online forums, or social media. It is important to be proactive in reaching out, and to be clear and respectful in expressing your needs and concern. When reaching out, provide enough context so the teacher or school staff understands the reason for your inquiry

Remember the Why

From my 22 years of professional experience, I know that teachers and school staff show up to school every day for the kids, and truly that is it. I’m sure you are very aware that the teaching profession isn’t known for paying their teachers buckets of money because they are contributing to the greater good of humanity. No. So, keep in mind in your communication why your child’s teacher does what they do.

Also, keep in mind your your why. Why are you truly reaching out to the teacher or school administration? Are you trying to understand the rubric for an assignment? Are you hoping to get clarity of what really happened at recess? Remember, that what your child shares with you is from your child’s perspective, and not from the teacher’s perspective who is also teaching upwards of 25 other students in the classroom.

Final Thoughts

Communication between teachers and parents is very important in creating a successful learning environment for students. Open and honest dialogue is something everyone should strive for, as it facilitates understanding and builds strong relationships and trust. Even when disagreements may arise, having an open line of communication is essential to ensure the best outcomes for students. By putting in the effort to communicate openly and respectfully, everyone involved in a student’s academic life can benefit in the end. So while it’s never easy to talk through complicated issues, it’s always worth it to invest in a strong dialogue between parents and teachers.

To connect more with Amanda Irtz please visit her on Instagram @confidentparent_amandairtz. If you find value in this post, please like and share.

Communication 101: Understanding the Art of Effective Listening for Parents

Communication 101: Understanding the Art of Effective Listening for Parents

The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them. – Ralph G. Nichols

Parenting is a challenging but rewarding job. As a parent, it’s important to understand the power of communication and the importance of active listening for parents. Building strong relationships with our children starts with effective listening. Listening to your children is an art form as well as an important skill, and yet many parents find themselves in a “one-way conversation” where they’re doing all the talking. The key to being an effective listener is to really focus, paying attention to the conversation and using active listening techniques.

I learned about the art of listening from my children and through my 22 years of service in public schools as both a teacher and administrator. Every thing I learned was in part because of what what I wasn’t doing. Don’t get me wrong, no one actually said, “you’re not listening to me.” Instead, I would only hear bits and pieces of the bigger story. I’d struggle to connect because I wasn’t fully engaged in the conversation.

I did learn a few things, and I want you to have these tools, too. Here are some tips for listening to your child:

• Make eye contact: Show your child that you’re paying attention by making eye contact when they are talking.

• Stay focused: It’s easy to become distracted by other things, like the TV or your phone, but it’s important to remain focused on what your child is saying.

• Listen without judgment: It’s important to avoid passing judgment when your child is talking. Even if you don’t agree with what they’re saying, try to resist the temptation to criticize or lecture.

• Ask questions: Show your child that you’re interested in their story and thoughts by asking questions. This will also help you understand the situation better.

• Repeat back what you heard: Once your child is finished talking, repeat back what you heard in your own words to make sure you understand the conversation.

So how do you know that your child is feeling heard in your family? Here are some of the behavior that your child may exhibit when they are feeling unheard. These behaviors are not alone mutually exclusive to effective listening. There are, of course, other contributing factors that can be looked at.

1. Withdrawing from family activities or becoming isolated
2. Appearing uninterested in conversations or activities
3. Frustration or outbursts of anger
4. Refusing to communicate or answer questions
5. Lack of confidence or low self-esteem
6. Incessant talking, inappropriate comments, or tantrums
7. Increased substance abuse or self-harming behaviors

Being an effective listener is a challenge, and it takes practice, but it’s essential if you want to foster an open and trusting relationship with your child. With mindful listening and an open heart, you can create meaningful conversations and build a strong bond with your children. As said by Karl A Menninger, “Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. The friends that really listen to us are the ones we move toward. When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand. ”

As parents, we must strive to be those friends that our children want to come to and open up to. We can show our children that we care and understand them by listening without judgment and being fully present in our conversations with them. This will make them feel heard, understood and appreciated, creating a closer bond between parent and child.

More About Amanda Irtz

Amanda Irtz is a leading parenting coach and expert who deeply believes in empowering parents with holistic methods and inner confidence so they thrive. Amanda creates parenting workshops, provides 1:1 coaching, and crafts simple parenting tools.

self care AND self love

self care AND self love

For years have I practiced self care: eating nourishing foods; saying no! to tasks and to-dos that pulled me away from family time; carving out sacred time to meditate and write; adding my workouts to my daily schedule rather than just squeezing them into my day; effortlessly scheduling mini-massages; closing my office door for 10 minutes of quiet in the middle of the chaos. In fewer words: I take very good care of MYself.

Recently a phrase started popping into my world. The phrase came in and then I dismissed it, believing it was something I’d already mastered in my journey toward self-awareness. However, when the phrase, “practice self love,” continued to show its presence in conversations with colleagues, listening to podcasts about life balance, and in the multitude of inspirational videos posted on social media, I decided to pause. Wait, self love, is also the same as self care, right? These have to be the same?

Perhaps you are reading this with a slight chuckle in your brain because you clearly see the delineation between the two forms of self nurturing. Or maybe you are like me: reading these words sparks a small curiosity about the words love and care; specifically how these words relate to self. And, you might be the person who sees the beautiful blend between both the love and the care within the self.

So, I explored this new curiosity with great precision. I broached the subject in conversations with colleagues, asserting, “that sounds like self love,” and then watching their reactions. And as soon as I believed I held an understanding of these two beautiful forms of nurture, it would suddenly appear in my life again and tackle all my beliefs like an intricate puzzle sliding off the table and onto the floor. Then, finally, the quintessential light bulb flickered during an afternoon at home with my kids. Like many afternoons during COVID, there is a certain degree of creativity involved in keeping my kiddos off the screens and away from annoying each other. (Note: some days I am very successful at this endeavor – and others are a complete disaster.). On this particular day I created a project for my kids to hang positive, inspirational words and pictures on the walls by their beds. Truly, there is no better way to wake-up then with powerful affirmations and awe-inspiring photographs. Phrases such as, “I’m confident,” “I’m smart,” “Follow my own arrow,” started to fill the empty walls in each of my children’s bedrooms. Fairy lights decorated the images, bringing a touch of sacredness to the walls’ images. These images made my heart sparkle.

And, then, one day I heard: Mom, I’m a good reader. Mom, I am me and I like it!

In this small moment, an entire world of eat-your-snap-peas and growing-bodies-need-sleep took a step to the side (not away or behind). All of sudden, I understood the meaning of self love. Self love, in my own simple terms, is what we tell ourselves. It is the running script that plays in our head as we drive to work each morning; as we anticipate with uncertainty the start of a new school year; when we glance at ourselves in the mirror on one of those days. It is the opposite of self loathing with phrases such as, I’m so unloveable and My life is so hectic and chaotic. Self love is the shift into a mindset that sees possibility, that feels empowerment, that twirls with inspiration. Self love is the one thing, despite all my heart-pounding workouts, that required a huge emotional commitment to myself. It requires daily resets when I feel myself slipping into old patterns of negative talk. It is the required ticket for attracting more positive vibes into my own life.

I also believe that self care and self love feed each other. There is a synergy that connects and empowers the other. When I practice self care then my internal love for myself grows. My capacity to be open to what I have to offer the world expands. My belief that I can conquer this day with grace and ease envelopes me . And, on the days when I indulge a bit too much in those healthy energy bars, go to bed just an hour later, and skip my workout … I notice that my love for myself also expands. Why? Well, even in the moments when I’m not perfect – and when I’m totally vulnerable with ME – is when I invite more love into my life.

In this moment as I post this blog, my thoughts about love and care seem connected. I also know that as a mother, a women, a working professional and an entrepreneur, that my understanding of both self love and care will continue to evolve. I invite you to evolve with your self love and care, too. You are worth it!

Rainbow of Emotions

Rainbow of Emotions

Parenting is no joke and I sometimes find myself getting caught up in the emotions of my own kids. When they feel sad, I tend to take on that sadness, too. When they are excited and happy for life, I also carry that energy. Perhaps this is one of those parenting things, or perhaps it is because I’m an empath. Whatever the reason, I do know it is important to shift these daily feelings so that my kids are picking up on my energy every day.

I can make a choice each day to be positive, loving, and filled with heart, or I can choose to sit in the constant turbulence of these times, projecting feelings of uncertainty and anxiety onto my kids. I’m not saying that we need to be happy and joy-filled every moment of the day because that, honestly, sounds exhausting. Instead, when we fill our hearts with the love with have for our kids, the smell of the cinnamon and oatmeal simmering, the beautiful song of the oriole bird from our outside feeder, then we shift the way we show up every day. And, this is very hard work for parents, because life does get tough, there are struggles, and we do feel all of our emotions.

In fact, we do carry the rainbow of emotions with us each day. Whether we choose to show these emotions to our world – or shove them down with a bar of dark chocolate, zone out in front of the TV, or open a bottle of our favorite libation, then we are actually giving ourselves a false sense of our own feelings. And, as you already know, when we do this we are also showing up to our world in an unauthentic way.

Let’s go a little deeper here. From my personal journey as a parent, I know that when I constantly think about my to-do list, which right now consists of getting my grass cut, finishing the trim that frames my bedroom door, nourish my kids with healthy foods (even though they still indulge frequently into sweets) and work, hard, really hard so I can provide the life that my kids and I deserve. And all of this causes stress, which leads to me feeling anxious and overwhelmed. While I’m getting vulnerable with you, I’m also sharing with you the very root of why my own kids pick up feelings of anxiety and overwhelm. My own children learn from me. They learn that when something is done or the list is too big, that I worry about it. They learn this and then apply it to their own daily doings and existence.

It’s easy to find that bar of dark chocolate, again, and indulge in the richness and chase away those feelings. It is hard to admit my own emotional energy is deeply connected to my family’s energy. However, in doing so, I am taking a step into my emotional wellbeing – and also modeling for my kids what this feels like. And, let me tell you, it feels like a vibrant, warm light. It feels like a million small jelly bubbles surrounding your body, cushioning your every movement. It feels like the life I want my own kids to experience as they grow into teens (aghast!) and eventually into adults.

You may be saying, “Okay, Amanda, I get it. Now what?” Here are some of the strategies I use to support my kiddos (and me):

  • When I feel something, whether it be sad, happy, or calm, I voice this to my kids. I say something like, “Right now, I am feeling calm because I just finished meditating,” or, “I am feeling sad right now because I miss seeing my friends in Seattle” (ladies, you know who you are!).
  • Avoid phrases such as, “You shouldn’t feel angry, jealous, sad, etc. right now.” Emotions are real and part of the rainbow we carry with us each day. Honor what your child is feeling and offer them ways to cope with that feeling. I work really closely with my child’s psychologist to understand what these strategies might be. Some of the things that work for my kiddos are going to their calm corners (small areas in our house that are set up with coloring, books, comfy pillows, low lighting) so they can decompress and work through their emotions.
  • Imagine what it might feel like to be a child in today’s world. While their feelings about a broken toy or a missing stuffed animal may seem trite in our big, chaotic worlds, it is your child’s own world and this is what they know to be true. Honor this.
  • Don’t compare. Seriously, it isn’t good for you or your children. You are your own beautiful, vibrant vessel. Own it and love it.

And, in reading this blog post, you are also taking your first step into creating more emotional intelligence in your and your child’s own worlds. I thank you for showing up to our world in your own beautiful, vibrant and authentic way. Remember, parenting is one of the most rewarding and scary jobs. You can do this!

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