The Evolution of Caribbean Parent

So, I’ve been MIA from my blog, mostly, because life gets in the way and in my quest to effectively parent my children I have to ensure my priorities are lined up correctly. I have to say I got in quite a bit of family time and for that I’m grateful. My sister and her family visited for a few days and we had an amazing time in the city.

wp-image-542130244

The other thing is that, I didn’t think it would be as difficult to write about parenting, considering its something I do on a daily basis. Man was I wrong, I was often torn between what to share and deciding whether or not I was qualified to write on a particular subject that came to mind. As I launched this website I selected a few bloggers that seemed interesting and began following them. The one thing I noticed about these blogs  is that you could sense the authenticity and the content is relevant. And then it hit me, why limit myself to just parenting  when there is so much value to be added by sharing  insights on other areas of life? 

wp-image-1202755135

That presented a bit of a dilemma, since I started the blog to be a parenting resource and already named the site Caribbean Parent. The truth is, being a parent has been a driving force for me and I can attribute my success to the fact that I want to show my children that they can accomplish anything they put their mind to. I still believe the information I’ll share will be of value to parents so that kind of  justifies the reason the site will remain Caribbean Parent lol. Almost everything we do is to ensure that they have a better life than we did. I have accomplished quite a bit in four and a half years and I believe the knowledge I’ve gained is relevant to anyone trying to do just that. I will share tips on a variety of subjects including career and personal finance  that will hopefully add value to your journey. Feel free to leave a comment below and follow the blog.

Advertisements

No Electronic Devices Required; Your Guide to (an almost) Gadget Free summer

sesame place 3 (2)

School’s out…. Now What? This is normally the time of year I dust off the tablets and hand them over. This year I made a decision to limit their screen time after reading a few studies that link increased use of electronic devices to mental health issues in children. Not being able to just leave them to be entertained by the devices presents a bit of a dilemma, as I will now need to find alternate ways to  keep them occupied for the next 8-9 weeks and most importantly without breaking the bank. Fortunately, my daughter will be spending the summer in Jamaica; that means plenty of outdoor play with her cousins and trips to the beach. The boys will be in summer school, so that takes care of the weekdays, now I need to plan activities for  the weekends. I have put together a list, I hope to use as a guide and I thought I’d share it with you. Here are my five tips for creating gadget free summer fun.

 

Plan a Road Trip

When you’re a family of five, airline tickets can cost a pretty penny, especially during the summer months. Rather than forego a summer vacation, plan a road trip, even if you need to rent a car, the savings are quite significant. We try to limit our trips to anywhere within a 6-hour drive; beyond that it gets to be a little exhausting for me. If you don’t mind being in car for longer, your options are multiplied. I like road trips because you can cover multiple states in one trip, I especially like stopping at various Points of Interest to check out the sights and get in a quick pic. It is also a great way to take a break from the stress of life in the city to find some summer solace.  Check out Travel + Leisure’s Best road Trips” here.

Board Games

Yup, bring out the board games; I know it sounds a little ancient, but it’s a lot of fun. I mean old school monopoly, scrabble, Uno, my kids also love headbands. Not only does it get them thinking; it’s a great way to interact with each other, something that is rare these days, especially when dealing with teenagers. Besides, when was the last time you made a complete fool of yourself? Getting their buy-in may be a bit of a challenge, so throw in a gift-card of their choice for winning as motivation, after all, who doesn’t need extra cash in the summertime?

battery park (2)

Plan a Picnic

“Healthy families spend time together in activities that each family member enjoys, and they do this often”. They play, work, eat and share some outside activities together.” A great way to maximize outdoor fun for everyone is spending time at a local park, pack some lunch and have a picnic. The benefit is two-fold; parents can spend some quality time together as the children play and meet and interact with new friends. Just don’t bring the IPAD, the kids will immediately forget that they were quite happy just playing on the swings and the other parents will hate you for it. One of the benefits of living in NYC is the endless number of year round freebies. NYC Parks are home to some of summer’s most memorable events; free concerts, food and film festivals. Take advantage; after all your paying enough taxes to live here. Cities all over the country offer similar activities throughout the year. A good place to find them is by checking your city’s visitor’s bureau website.

Visit A Museum

While this may not seem to be as exciting as the other options it can be a wonderful learning experience for parents and children alike. You’d be amazed at what you will discover; we visited the USS Constitution Museum in Boston this spring and my kids were able to explore the exhibits and witness first- hand how a warship is restored. They thought it was pretty awesome too. Also, if you’re an immigrant it’s a great way to learn some American History, it will come in quite handy when your kids have questions about their homework or when preparing for the Naturalization test. Fun Fact:  NYC and Washington D.C. account for half of Forbes’ Top Ten Museums in America.

sesame place 1 (2)Amusement/Theme Parks

A timeless favorite of kids everywhere, it can be a little expensive but there are still places you can visit on a budget. For example, New York Icon Coney Island is home to Nathan’s annual hot dog eating competition and free fireworks on Friday nights in the summer; a great way to unwind after a long week. My son and I visited Sesame Place a week ago, he had an amazing time at the waterpark. Word of advice: the waterpark should be the last place they visit for the day, otherwise, it will be tough to get them to try anything else. I love that the day ends with a parade with all the characters, even as an adult I got the feeling as though I was on Sesame Street.

I’m sure you’ll have fun regardless of whatever you decide to do. I think the most important thing is that you spend time together as a family. Get outside, the weather’s great! Happy Summer!!

Feel free to share your tips by leaving a comment!

 

How to Cope with the Challenges of Parenting

essential

If you were rooting for the Golden State Warriors, you’re probably still celebrating the win. The GSW are the 2017 NBA Champions. I’m not much of a basketball fan (at least not since the end of the Shaq/Kobe bromance), but their slogan ‘Strength In Numbers” has stuck with me. It has been their tagline for the past few years and they have remained focused on that. What does that have to do with parenting?……. Everything! I have the joy of raising a teenage boy and its nothing short of a roller coaster ride. A few months ago, I was frustrated, thinking there’s no way I could do this. But then it hit me, I needed to change my thought process, I was focused on raising my kids the way I was raised; the way I knew how. Something had to give, I decided to step out of my comfort zone and began talking with people I knew about their own kids. What I realized is, just by asking how their kids were doing, I found out that a lot of them were going through the same thing I was. I also realized that I didn’t need to do this alone, with that I decided to change focus. If I’m going to maintain my sanity while raising a teen I need to be adequately prepared for the journey.

final piece

Just as you invest time and energy into becoming better employees, perfecting a hobby, you should invest in becoming a better parent. There are tons of resources available, some free others can be quite pricey. There is a resource that’s free and available to all; other Parents. We are always curious to know what else is out there and if anyone else has had/is experiencing what we are going through. I understand that some of us are very private (especially my Caribbean folk) but sometimes, by internalizing everything we become frustrated, that frustration turns into anger and even depression. That’s’ the last thing you want to happen, you need to be emotionally stable for the sake of your family. Whenever I talk to other parents I realize that they have similar struggles and experiences and I somehow feel a sense of relief knowing I’m not alone (…or losing my mind). Use them as resources, hopefully they have ideas to share that will add value to your journey and be prepared to share your experiences as well. “Each one, help one”.

Teenage Brains

Using Social Media for Good

You already know, you’re having trouble putting the phone down, I know I am. Since you’re going to be on the phone use it as a resource. Social Media is our daily lifeline, use it to your advantage. There are so many mommy communities and blogs out there, trying to keep up with them can be exhausting. I simply can’t do all of that and still attempt to have a life. What I’ve done is to follow a few parenting blogs on Twitter, why? because most of them share links to their blog posts there. I can follow the link to the post or save to read later. Of course, you won’t agree with everything they offer, but there’s value in most. You may also like the fact that some retweet jokes from top mommy bloggers; great for those moments when you just need a laugh. I follow Today’s Parent, Parenting.com & Huffington Post Parent.  Do you know the 7 Universal Truths About Raising Teenagers? The first; Teenage brains don’t work properly” had me laughing before I even read the info that followed. It confirmed what I was thinking and immediately reduced my stress level, which was much needed at the time.

Counseling

If neither of the above suggestions work, then counseling is also an option. A lot of conflict arise from being unable to find a reasonable middle ground for parent and child. There’s often a disconnect between what our expectations are and what our children want to do. Life would be way less complicated if we could bridge the gap. Counseling is one of the ways in which we can try to overcome this obstacle. Your child’s Guidance Counselor is a good place to start. You can learn a thing or two about who your child is at school just by talking to them. Even if your child has managed to stay under the radar, Guidance Counselors are often required to meet with students throughout the school year  to guide them through the education process.

You may also reach out to licensed professionals through community organizations and Employee Assistance Programs (EAP). I have always worked for companies that offered EAP, but never looked into it. EAP is an employee benefit that assists employees with personal problems and/or work related problems that may impact their  job performance, health, mental and emotional well-being. You may qualify for multiple sessions with a licensed social worker or psychiatrist at no cost to you and major health insurance covers additional sessions as necessary.

Life is complicated with hurdle after hurdle, the key is to turn your frustrations into action. Feeling frustrated by my own shortcomings as a parent I decided to take action and in taking action, I found a lot of useful information that has helped me. Seeking after knowledge in any area of life can be overwhelming but it also creates a heightened sense of awareness. As I mentioned in my introductory post, I’m crazy for starting a blog with everything I have going on, but the truth is, by researching and exploring the options for topics to write about. I am empowering myself for all that lies ahead; achieving the objective I set out to attain. I have also come to realize that a lot of the challenges we face as parents, are universal, transcending ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, I am sharing this post as a Caribbean American parent, but I hope it adds value to your journey, regardless of where you are from.

……..Making the best of life’s simplest moments.

Because carving out Family Time can be toughI used to feel so disappointed when I would plan to spend time doing something “fun” with my kids and it didn’t work out. A feeling of guilt would come over me every time we were not able to sit down for dinner as a family. I felt like I was failing at creating the perfect family environment, recalling my own childhood memories as the standard for the kind of Mother I needed to be. I had no choice however, but to get over those feelings and find creative ways to carve out much needed family time. Here are two quick and easy tips for getting over the hurdle.

Some of the best memories are created from events that are unplanned.

Be Spontaneous! Getting the family together for a planned event or excursion may be a challenge, learn how to maximize every opportunity to create lasting memories. A few evenings ago, I bought a piece of watermelon on the way home from work. As I was about to cut a piece for myself, my daughter walked into the kitchen and asked if she could have a slice, then came my husband, he took his piece, my step son was not too far behind. No sooner than I gave him his share did my toddler come running in, at this point we were all standing in the kitchen eating watermelon and sharing jokes. We had just created one of the most perfect moments without even thinking about it.

Connect

Unplug and Connect

Technology has made it so easy for people to connect with each other and simultaneously distances us from one another. Have you ever noticed that you are in the same space as your spouse/children and both of you are on a device, with zero verbal communication for hours at a time? It is critical that we carve out time to disconnect from the virtual world and spend quality time with our families. Your children will remember and cherish the moments you share with them for the rest of their lives. It is also important to connect with our children to help them maintain good mental health.

Over the past few weeks I have read several articles about the impact of access to technology on the development of our children. Occupational therapist, Victoria Prooday in a May 2017 blog post, stated that “children are being served with digitally distracted parents” and combined with several other factors, the result is alarming increases in the number of children being diagnosed with mental illnesses. She offers several solutions including; “being emotionally available to connect with your kids and teaching them self-regulation and social skills.” I like this recommendation because I have always believed that we need to help our children develop the ability to function independent of us. This is especially important as the challenges of navigating life in America often prevents us from being with our them as much as we would like to. In addition, they need to be taught social skills that will enable them to have positive interactions with individuals at various levels in society.

How are you making time for your family?

 

….

Why Am I Starting a Blog When I am Struggling to Maintain My Sanity?

 

I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR THIS!…….Who’s going to read it anyways?………. Who cares about what I have to say? …….These are some of the questions I asked myself as I contemplated setting up this blog, but the real question should be: WHY NOT? The truth is there are thousands of women like me, struggling daily to maintain a healthy family life while trying to advance their careers. All in the name of chasing the elusive American Dream. Our failed attempts often result in elevated stress levels, feelings of disappointment, anxiety and in many instances depression.

 work life 2

 

Why Caribbean Parent?

 

………..Because that’s who I am, a 30 something, Jamaican juggling parenting, marriage and career. I became a Permanent Resident in the summer of 2012 and made the decision to move to New York city in the Spring of 2013, four years later I am still struggling to achieve balance. My main reason for moving was to finally have my family living under the same roof as my husband had been living here since 2006. While I wear many hats, being a parent is my first priority. After all, it is the reason I decided to leave Jamaica. Parenting is no easy fete, it is one of the most challenging jobs we will ever have, and our own dreams and aspirations often take a back burner so that we can be the best parent possible. Aside from uniting the family, the move to America seemed like a great idea as it meant exposure to a world of opportunities for my children. The truth is, being a Caribbean American parent presents a unique set of challenges and some days I can’t help but wonder if I made the right decision.

 

What makes us so different?

 

Many of us were raised by parents with strong biblical principles, which have shaped our beliefs and value systems. Our extended families provided a strong support system, helping to maintain the home if both parents decided to work or it was a single parent household. Members of the community readily offered their “two cents” (much to our displeasure) but we understood the need for respecting our elders.

 

We got a good spanking when we were out of line; our parents could be our best friend and worse nightmare, all at the same time, but we felt loved. Another interesting point to note is that we were brought up in communities that were significantly smaller than many of the towns and cities we now live. For example, Jamaica is home to an estimated 2.9 million people, the city of Montego Bay, where I grew up has an estimated 110,000 residents, compared to an estimated 8.5 million people living in New York City. 

 

Our Reality

 work life 3

Children seem to be “out of control”, disengaged, underperforming academically and ill-mannered, a far cry from what we are accustomed to.  

The fact is, children here do not have the luxury of being raised the way we were. Life in the Caribbean has its fair share of struggles, but we can all agree that raising kids in America presents a new breed of challenges. Being a stay at home mom is not usually an option as both sources of income are needed. Maintaining work-life-balance can also be very challenging as many people cannot afford the 40 hour work week. Children are often left with strangers in after school programs and in some cases at home with an older sibling; not the traditional family environment we are accustomed to. They are battling bullying, cyber -bullying, obesity, drug and alcohol addictions, and are overstimulated by sexual images all around them.

Easy access to technology and Social Media help them create multiple personalities and has been linked to an increase in the number of children being diagnosed with a mental illness. 

The Solution

I DON’T HAVE IT, but I have purposed in my heart to utilize all available resources to help me be the best parent I can be. My goal when I moved here was to get settled in the quickest possible time so that I can focus on giving them the best chance at life. That is what this next chapter of my life is about.  I have been tasked with helping them succeed in this jungle called life and while challenging, I believe that success is still within reach.

work life 4.jpg

 

I started this blog to connect with you, with the hope that together we will successfully navigate this journey to adapting to life in America. As I find useful resources I will share them with you, to help you Survive the Move!

 

Thank you for reading my post, Feel free to leave a comment below!

 

 

Kayan LM – Caribbean Parent