Parent Orientation – Loving our Kids Before it’s Too Late

3-Seville101aMy girls started school today with a back to school orientation.  Most colleges have a Freshman Orientation.  But where and when is the Parent Orientation?  Listening to Jennifer Fulwiler on the radio yesterday, I was intrigued by a segment about teens and “peer orientation.”  No, it wasn’t about a child’s first day of school or leaving your teen in the woods and making them find their own way home (though this may be very tempting at times, it’s orienteering, not orientation).  The segment was about helping our children find their North, their grounding, their belief system, their sense of direction.  After reading the book, Hold Onto Your Kids by by Doctors Neufeld and Maté, Jennifer stated, “peer orientation is the #1 battle modern parents should be fighting.”

The authors of the book contend that “peer orientation undermines family cohesion, interferes with healthy development, and fosters a hostile and sexualized youth culture. Children end up becoming overly conformist, desensitized, and alienated, and being “cool” matters more to them than anything else.”  Wow.  Any parent who reads or hears that should stop and think.  Is that my child?  Have I allowed this to happen in my family?  What matters more to my kids – what I think or what their friends think?  What I believe or what their friends believe?  What I tell them is right vs wrong or what society tells them is right vs wrong?

We’d all like to think that our children listen to us, believe us, see us as the main influence in their lives, but is that really true?  The premise of the book argues that it is not.  In our modern society, parents don’t matter.  Sometimes I see it with my own girls – Mom is right about some things, but society is right about most things.  How did that happen?  Since when did society become the ruling being over all thoughts and beliefs?  Doctors Neufeld and Maté tell us that social media pays a large role in peer orientation as does our society’s value of economy over culture. But the biggest factor is the alienation of the child, and this is usually not done on purpose.

We no longer live in villages, tribes, or even communal neighborhoods.  Extended families live miles, perhaps even states or countries apart.  Often, both parents work long hours away from the house, and divorce is rampant throughout our society.  Who fills the void?  Television, movies, social media, and peers.  Children must be “cool” in order to succeed.  They lose their own individuality and hide their natural curiosity and intelligence in order to better conform with their peers.  One result of this is the rise of the gang culture within many of our cities.  Children want, no they need, to feel loved and accepted even it comes from a non-loving source.  Children who don’t have that love and acceptance, feel vulnerable and enraged, and lash out at other children as well as themselves, causing emotional and physical harm.  This leads to bullying, shunning, an increase in suicide, and in some cases, teens killing teens.  By losing touch with our kids, we parents are contributing to the downfall of society,  Does that sound harsh, scary even?  You bet it does, but there is hope.

Parents can bring their children back around by helping their children to see the value not only in their parents but in themselves.  The key, according to Dr. Maté is being emotionally present for and nurturing toward our children.  He argues that orientation to a mother, a father, a sibling, or peers results from attachment, an “essential for human life.”  Children who are detached, cannot be taken care of.  They shun attachment and emotion, and they end up shunning others.  We need to connect to our families, to our children.  We need to spend time together, eat together, vacation together, talk to each other, listen to each other, and help each other.  We need to make sure that we parents, our families, are the people to whom our children attach.  It’s not a matter of politics or continuing a family legacy.  It’s about helping children to know that they have a purpose in life, that they matter, that they are loved and valued for whom they are.


An indicator of where a child’s orientation lies is how they identify themselves.  Humans used to be identified by their family, their clan, or their tribe.  That’s not the norm any more.  We identify ourselves by our political party, our peer group, society’s definition of who or what we should be.  Remember when everyone was identified as “Ken’s Wife,” or “Judy’s Daughter?”  When’s the last time you heard someone say that?  That is an attachment, an
acknowledgement about whom it is that matters.  Last night, I asked my girls to tell me who they are, how they would identify themselves if being introduced to someone new in our community, not by using a societal description but by answering honestly about how they see themselves in life.  My favorite answer was Katie’s.  She said, “I’m Rebecca’s sister.”  She didn’t say it as a jealous or undervalued younger sister or as someone who 2-Merida29simply follows in another’s footsteps.  She said this with pride and love.  The child I worry about the most identifies herself by attaching herself to her sister.  Now that’s an orientation I can live with.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Ten Things Your Teen Should Know Before Leaving Home

DSC01651The summer of 2016 will soon come to a close, and a chapter in my life will end.  For almost my entire adult life, I have been the mother of three school-aged children. While all of my children will still be in school for a few more years, the dynamic is shifting, and my world is changing. This was possibly the last summer that our oldest, Rebecca, will be living at home.  She will graduate from Mount St. Mary’s in the spring and go on to law school.  She is already looking into the cost and availability of apartments in Washington, D.C., and she reminds me often that she will not be returning home after graduation.  Of course, I remember telling my mother the same thing when I was at this stage, but desire is often met with that brick wall called affordability, and I ended up living at home another year until I married.  But the reality is that she will still be in school, and she will need to live close to the city, so I will have to get used to one of my children no longer being a resident of my home.  As Rebecca embarks on her senior year of college and her sister, Katie Ann, starts her senior year of high school, here are some things that I have realized every high school graduate should know how to do: Read more

A Season for Changes

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.     Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

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We’ve all read the verses or at least heard the song.  Every school choir seems to sing it at some point.  It has been featured in movies and in books.  Many reflections have been written about the words attributed to Solomon (although the author is not actually identified).  But I believe there is a line that is missing, something that each of us experiences over and over throughout our lives – a time for change.

One could argue that every line in the passage is about change, and that is very true.  Birth and death bring change as do tearing down and building up.  Scattering and gathering can be catalysts for change as can seeking, losing, keeping, casting, rending, sewing, speaking, loving, etc.  We are faced with changes, both large and small, time and time again, every day.  I am reminded of this more and more each spring as graduation time is thrust upon us, whether we are ready or not. Read more

Why It’s OKAY To Be Friends With Your Kids

DSC08130Yesterday I saw yet another article about why parents should not be friends with their kids.  I see memes all the time warning parents about this, and it seems that every magazine, parenting blog site, and advice column rails against the pitfalls of being your child’s friend.  While I do understand where they are coming from, I have to respectfully disagree.  You see, I am living proof that it’s not only possible but beneficial for parents and children to be friends, even best friends. Read more

“I am your father…”

imagesI’m going to do something today that I never thought I would do.  I have the privilege of aligning myself with one of my greatest idols, master story-teller, George Lucas.  This morning, I re-watched Lucas’ interview with Charlie Rose; and for the second time, I was mesmerized by his story and struck by his priorities.  When asked why Lucas walked away from directing for fifteen years, he said “I wanted to be a dad.”  Wow.  One of the most successful movie makers in the world, and arguably the most successful story-teller of our time, walked away from it all to be a dad; not a politician, not an actor or a rock star, not some other avenue toward greater celebrity, but a dad.

Yes, one could argue that Lucas had no need for more wealth or greater celebrity, but in today’s world, that’s hardly the point.  In a world where everyone’s main objective seems to be to grow richer and more famous, here is a man who had it all, the world at his fingertips, and the only thing he really cared about was being a good dad. Read more

My Legacy

030This morning I attended the Baccalaureate Mass for our school’s Class of 2015.  Our Pastor asked each student to think ahead 60 years and imagine looking back on their lives.  “What will your legacy be?” he asked them.  He implored them to do more with their lives than just make money.  He told them that their legacy is important and that they should make it matter.  Each one of us will leave behind a legacy, something that we pass down to future generations, whether we are the President of the United States, a businessman, a teacher, a doctor, or a parent.  Each one of us will do or say something that will not be forgotten, good or bad. Read more

Raising Teenage Daughters

I recently read an article in the New York Times about parenting teenage daughters.  I had such mixed feelings about the woman’s story!  I couldn’t quite grasp whether she was complaining, venting, musing, or just rambling.  She seemed to be saying that teenage girls are horrible beasts almost all of the time, but that every now and then, she saw a spark of the girl they used to be.  I was confused and almost irritated by this.  Ever since reading it, I’ve asked myself, is this the way it’s supposed to be?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something in my child-rearing skills?  Do my children have to hate me, treat me with disgust and disrespect, and talk horribly about me behind my back in order for them to grow into mature women?  Should I try to turn back the hands of time and make this happen? Read more

On the Road Again

DSC00380Have you ever taken a long road trip with your family?  Movies and television shows always portray these trips as the absolute worst kind of torture a family can inflict upon itself.  Sure, everyone can get irritated with other, and someone always falls asleep and wakes up cranky, but there’s a lot to be said for spending time together in a small space with nobody to talk to but each other. Read more