Category: teens and tweens

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{FREEBIE FRIDAY} Summer Fun Checklists for Families and Teens

Last summer I wrote a post about allowing boredom in the summer months. I still stand by that post. I think our culture does not know how to be bored. We have constant stimulation and entertainment at our fingertips. You can read the post I wrote HERE.

This year is not not typical. It is not normal. The usual summer events are not happening. Most summer camps have been canceled or modified. Many church VBS programs have been canceled or modified. Between social distancing, phases for opening the country, riots and political unrest… home is looking like the place to be this summer.

I was sharing with my husband this week that I want to have a healthy balance with my children this summer. I want to engage them and I want them to sit in that boredom that breeds creativity. Normally, by the time we get to summer… we have come to the end of an intensly busy year and are ready to just relax and slow down. With the quarantine, we have already slowed down. We have already relaxed. We have played all the board games and made all the sweet treats. We have planted a garden. We have chilled in the hammocks. We have done the summery things.

Regardless of where you are in the world, you have been affected by COVID-19. You may or may not be ready to enter back into society. You may be wary of playgrounds and public pools. You may not yet be able to go to your library. You may have to wear masks and wait in a line outside to be let into Target. Things are different now… and will be for a while.

I have put together a couple of summer fun checklists. The first one is more family friendly… you can use it with all ages. The second is geared towards teens. These are things you can do at home or with friends. Summer fun you can safely accomplish while social distancing (or not). Click on the link BELOW the image to download the printable version.

All clip art was designed by me and can be found at Ninja Mom Designs on Teachers Pay Teachers.

If you like these checklists and are looking for more summer fun for your child, check out my Summer Fun Creative Journal from Ninja Mom Teaches on Teachers Pay Teachers.

What is your family doing this summer? How will you make memories? How will you spend the time that would have gone to other activities? I only 2-3 summers left with my oldest. I want to make the most of my time!!!

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Navigating Friendships During Trauma

I have four beautiful children. Each one engages the world with their own, unique personality. I have introverts and extroverts. I have one who is best friends with everyone she meets and one who has a few select, close friends.

When our family experienced extreme trauma, crisis, and isolation four years ago due to cancer treatment, I did not realize how deeply friendships could be affected. I did not realize how much of a game changer trauma can be.

We had to move five hundred miles away so my daughter could receive the care she needed at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. My husband and I made the decision to pack up our family and move to Memphis so we could be together during that difficult time. We looked at the situation and decided it would be better to be together in a foreign land than to be split up. We left our community, our friends, our jobs, and our homeschool classes behind, expecting it all to be there when we returned.

If you have watched the show, Stranger Things, you will grasp this analogy. When we returned, I felt like we were in the upside down. We were in familiar territory, but yet not. The places and things and people we left were still there when we returned, but somehow everything was different. Only… it wasn’t everything… it was us. We were the walking wounded. We had been stripped down and laid bare by trauma. The Lord was healing us. He was giving us balm for our souls… but there is no overnight fix for trauma.

Experiencing pain, death of a loved one, a difficult pregnancy, a move, a sick child… a worldwide pandemic… should give pause. We cannot just rush through and hope for life to “go back to normal.” It will not go back to normal because you are changed. We came back from cancer treatment and I realized that new friendships had been formed while we were gone. My children’s friends had moved on and made new memories without them. And that was ok. It was a totally natural thing to have happen. I, however, returned broken and panic stricken… and not the extroverted, fun and confident person I had once been. I no longer knew how to engage groups of people without making it weird.

I’m not even kidding. I remember being at our town’s Christmas parade and being introduced to someone. I said to her, “I’m sorry. I’m socially awkward and don’t really know how to have light and fluffy conversation. If you need to talk about hard things or suffering, I’m your girl!” … You can imagine the look on her face.

Why am I sharing this? We are in a unique position of all experiencing trauma, simultaneously. We are not all experiencing it the same way, but we are all in it … in some form or another. We will come out of this quarantine, but normal will change. We will not ever go back to the days before…. at least not as we knew them. Everything will be overshadowed by COVID-19. I’m not saying that in a way to create fear… but in a reality kind of way. For a time, anyone who coughs in public will receive dirty looks. People will likely continue to wear masks. Those with immune compromised children will be even more hypervigilant than before. We will question all decisions involving crowds of people. Our decisions and thoughts and actions will now be filtered through the lens of COVID-19.

Healing will come, but it will take time and it will look different in different people. Eventually the wounds will heal… your guard will relax. You will smile and laugh and grocery shop with ease. But there will be scars.

Your friend group (and your child’s friend group) dynamic may change. The natural leaders may step back. The quiet ones may step up. Change may happen….. but so will healing… in time.

Here are some ways I think you can prepare your kids to re-enter the world and have grace on themselves and their friends.

  1. Be patient. Your friends may not be ready to re-engage right when you are. And… that is ok. Give them space. Keep inviting them without expectation. Let them know you are still here and love them. Be patient with your friend’s parents. Respect their decisions if they aren’t ready for their kids to go out in groups yet.
  2. Be aware. We all have experienced COVID-19 in some form or fashion. By the end of this, most of us will know someone or be someone who was personally affected and infected. Be aware that your friends have been hearing bits of information and processing in their own way. They may be cavalier… or they may be afraid. Be aware that we have all experienced the effects of this quarantine and bear some scars.
  3. If the friendship is important to you, be a friend for the long game. Your friend might never be the same…. so be willing to love them where they are and get to know them all over again. Engage your friends in ways that you can right now. If zoom is all you’ve got… use zoom! Text, call, drive by and wave, write a letter, play video games together. Be a voice that helps bring your friend up and out of sadness or depression. Don’t give up! If your children are young, set up virtual play dates for them! We started using Facebook messenger kids for my younger children. A friend of mine set up a Lego Club Facebook group where kids can be challenged and post their creations and interact with each other virtually. We did a drive by birthday party for a sweet little friend. Sometimes a car full of children will end up in our driveway… they stay in their car… we stay a safe distance a way and we talk and play for a bit.
  4. Give grace. For the most part, we have been quarantined for forty plus days with our families. Our worlds have become quite small and maybe we have forgotten the social niceties of the world at large. Most of us will emerge with some bit of social awkwardness. When zoom is over and we are face to face again… we may have to relearn making eye contact and natural flow of conversation. Give yourself and your friends grace.
  5. It’s ok to not be ok. Healing takes time. I was in a lay counseling class once at a church… simply meaning teaching people who are not professional counselors how to counsel. I remember reading that a miscarriage takes something like 6-9 months to grieve. I don’t know where they got their numbers, but when I experienced a miscarriage a couple of years later I found comfort in the fact that I didn’t have to be ok right away. They had different timelines for different degrees of trauma… but guess what y’all. This pandemic is a new thing. Yes… there have been pandemics before…but not in the age of technology where the world has become smaller and flatter and we all know what everyone is doing. This is an unfounded and uncertain time and we have no timeline for the healing or grieving process that will come. I’m not saying to wallow in self pity and depression…. but I am saying… don’t be surprised to find out that you have been deeply impacted. Your kids have been deeply impacted. Your friends and your kid’s friends have been forever impacted. We are living through an event that will be taught in future history classes. It’s ok to soak that in. I have since learned through experience that there is actually no timeline for grief… it can surprise you years down the road. But so can joy.

Trauma changes us. I do not have a degree in counseling or work with people who have experienced trauma. My husband does… and he is really good at it. But I do have my personal experiences. I know what it feels like to have the rug pulled out from under you… to have normal life changed in an instant. When we came back from my daughter’s cancer treatment, I desperately looked for the normal. I kept saying, “When will normal return?”. It took time… probably two years on the other side for me to realize that normal as I knew it was over. There was a new normal. A new pattern. A new lens through which to view life. New memories to be made.

The one constant… the one thing that did not change was the Lord. He has not changed through any of it. He is the same today as he was yesterday and will be forever more. I learned more of him. I clung to him. He is the constant, the anchor, the steady. I lost a lot when life halted and changed planes. I am still realizing the depths of the losses. But I did not lose Him. He promises to not leave us or forsake us. When we experience panic and anxiety in our home, we have the affected person slow down and think about things that are true…. starting small (like you have brown hair… you are wearing a long sleeve shirt, etc.) and moving to the more abstract (still true)… God is real. God is true. God is here and loves you. So… let’s look for the truths. Let’s take one day at a time. And let’s be hopeful for the days to come.

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Virtual Games to Play During Quarantine

Do you find yourself in a sea of Zoom meetings and Facetime? Or maybe your kids are missing their friends and craving interaction? I am blessed to work in youth ministry. We have been working hard to plan times for connection for the group. We have Bible studies and weekly check ins. This week we added in a weekly game meet up. I’m compiling a list of games to use with the students and wanted to share them with you… the interwebs.

Scavenger Hunt

I’ve seen a few different ways to do this one. You can share an image like one of the ones below (found on Google) and have everyone send in a picture or screen share a picture when you meet up virtually.

We put together a virtual scavenger hunt for our youth using Google Slides. I hosted the meeting on Zoom and used the screen sharing feature to present the objects.

You are welcome to use the hunt we put together. The rules are simple… the camera has to stay stationary. Everyone has to be seated in front of their device until the object is presented… then they race to find it and bring it back. We did that the first five people to return get a point. It has ten objects as well as three bonus/ tie breakers. Click on the image below:

Two Truths and a Lie

Instruct each player to think of three statements about themselves. Two must be true statements, and one must be false. For each person, he or she shares the three statements (in any order) to the group. The goal of the icebreaker game is to determine which statement is false. The group votes on which one they feel is a lie, and at the end of each round, the person reveals which one was the lie.

Never Have I Ever

Players hold up all ten fingers. You take turns making declarative statements of things you have never done. If a play HAS done the thing, they have to put down a finger. Once their ten fingers are all down, they are out of the game.

Example:

Speaker: Never have I ever been to Disney World

Players who HAVE been to Disney World have to put down a finger.

Story Train

Create a continuous story. One person gives the opening sentence (or word), then the next person adds on the next sentence (or word). Continue until everyone has had a chance to contribute to the story.

Twenty Questions

There are no preparations or special materials required to play. This game works best with a small groups of about 2 to 5 players.

Select one person to begin Twenty Questions. This person is designated as “it.” For each round, this person must choose any person, place, or thing. The person can be living (e.g. a current athlete or classmate), deceased (e.g. a famous person in history), or fictitious (e.g. cartoon or movie character). The place can be anywhere in the world, including creative places. The thing can be an inanimate object, an animal, a food, etc. Basically anything can be chosen, but try to make the selected item something that can be reasonably guessed. It’s no fun to play a guessing game that is impossible to solve!

After the person has chosen a person, place, or thing, the guessing begins! The other players take turns and ask “yes” or “no” questions in an attempt to figure out what the chosen answer is. That is, the questions must be answered with simply “Yes” or “No.” After each guess, keep track of the number of guesses that are used until it reaches the limit of 20.

Once 20 questions are used up, players may not ask any more questions. If a player correctly guesses the object before then, they become “it” for the next game and choose the next person, place, or thing. Otherwise, the answer is revealed.

Yahtzee

This one is easy to play in the traditional manner. Each player will require 5 dice and their own score card. If your friends don’t own Yahtzee, they can print a scoresheet online.

Players should show their dice rolls using video chat so everyone can see what they are doing. Otherwise, play in the traditional manner.

CLICK HERE for the directions for Yahtzee.

Chess

Similar to Yahtzee, each person needs to have their own board. Communication is key with this one.

Both players will have to record every move on their own gameboard so each person has to communicate their move very clearly. This is easier on boards that have the grid labeled with numbers and letters. But even without a labeled grid, you can show your board to communicate your move.

Hangman

One player thinks of a word or phrase; the others try to guess what it is one letter at a time. The player draws a number of dashes equivalent to the number of letters in the word. If a guessing player suggests a letter that occurs in the word, the other player fills in the blanks with that letter in the right places. If the word does not contain the suggested letter, the other player draws one element of a hangman’s gallows. As the game progresses, a segment of the gallows and of a victim is added for every suggested letter not in the word. The number of incorrect guesses before the game ends is up to the players, but completing a character in a noose provides a minimum of six wrong answers until the game ends. The first player to guess the correct answer thinks of the word for the next game.

One Word Game

This game kind of has to work on the honor system. The person who is “it” has to promise to close their eyes while the others collaborate.

“It” will close their eyes while the host of the game holds up an object. They will put the object down. “It” can open their eyes. The other participants have to try to get “it” to guess the object… but they can only give clues one word at a time. The clues cannot include any parts of the name of the object.

Example:

Host holds up a pencil sharpener

Person 1: shavings

Person 2: pointy

Person 3: draw

Person 4: wood

Would You Rather

Ask random “Would You Rather” Questions and hear the different answers/ opinions.

HERE and HERE and HERE are some great lists of questions.

The Toilet Paper Game

I KNOW y’all have toilet paper at your house!!! Tell everyone in the group to go get “how much toilet paper you need” … if they ask, “Need for what?” Just smile and say, “Go get however much toilet paper you usually use.”

When everyone is gathered, each person has to tell a fact about themselves for each square they are holding.

Who is It?

Have everyone in the group privately message an interesting fact about themselves to the host. The host will read out a fact and everyone has to try to guess who it is about.

Camera Roll

Host will shout out a number. Everyone has to find a picture on their camera roll matching the number and share it.

Example:

The host says 7

Everyone finds the 7th picture on their camera roll and shares it with the group.

How are you guys passing the time these days? How are you mainting community and connection? What about your kids? How are they doing?

Comment below and share your social distancing interaction ideas!

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The Action Bible Anytime Devotions- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I don’t know about you, but my kids are all about graphic novels. They like the art and style. And, let me tell you… finding age appropriate, clean literature in graphic novel form has proven to be more than a challenge. It seems that as soon as we find something we like, we turn the page and find foul language or oversexualized content. Enter the Action Bible from David C Cook. We have it downloaded on our Kindles… it is a fantastic Bible and resource for kids. Because of our love of the Action Bible, I was thrilled when we were given the chance to review another book in the same style, The Action Bible Anytime Devotions.

The Action Bible Anytime Devotions is a collection of 90 readings “to help kids connect with God anytime, anywhere.” The book is designed for preteens (ages 8-12). I honestly think it could go just a touch higher or lower in age depending on the maturity of your kids. The book is soft bound with 195 pages. The illustrations are top notch, drawn in graphic novel style. If I had had this book as a kid, I would totally have copied the drawings over and over, learning how to mimic the style.

The Action Bible Anytime Devotions by David C Cook could be used as a 90 day devotional, reading one per day. It could also be used as a topical discussion guide. On the top right of each devotional there is a theme. The themes covered in the book are: Courage, Hope, Trust, Love, Kindness, Faith, Strength, and Service.

We chose to use it as a topical discussion. Just recently, Sister 2 informed me that Sister 3 barged into her space without warning and she was very angry about it. To be fair, Sister 3 did give warning. Sister 2 refuses to wear her hearing aids and misses out on quite a bit around her. I found a devotion in the book titled, “For times when you’re angry.” It starts off metioning sibling relationships and even goes so far to use a sibling entering your room without permission as an example. It was a great lesson to read and talk about emotions. We talked about how emotions are not a bad thing- they are natural responses to our circumstances.

Each devotion in the book has an action verse, a story that relates to real life, questions and real life applications, and a challenge to take it further and read more scripture. This book is great for a personal devotion or family reading. In my opinion, the topics and stories are not cheesey or “little kid-ish.” Sister 2 (age 10) is all about things not being “little kid-ish” … so she gives the Action Bible Anytime Devotions her approval.

If you are wanting to introduce a family devotion time, The Action Bible Anytime Devotions by David C Cook would be a great way to start.

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Walking Through Grief with Teens

My family is not unfamiliar with grief and sorrow and suffering. We have experienced it first hand. We know what it is to be on the receiving end of condolences and do-gooders.

The older I get, the more I realize that grief is but a breath away. Sorrow and suffering linger close.

My children experienced walking through the death of their grandfather in December. His health had declined over the course of a couple of years and they watched him struggle.

Just last week, a dear friend of ours passed away after a seven year battle with cancer. We have really only known him for the last four years. Our families share the bond of cancer. We speak the same language. Our friend and my daughter had a special bond as cancer warriors who found their strength in Jesus. They prayed together and laughed together. They shared experiences. I am so thankful she had time with him. He understood her struggles better than most. I grieve for my sweet girl as she grieves the loss of her friend.

I grieve for the loss of whatever innocence my children had left concerning the destructive power of cancer. Upon hearing the news of our friend’s passing, my older daugher asked me the chances of her sister’s cancer coming back. Because now it is real that cancer destroys and kills. Now it is real that chemo doesn’t always work.

I grieve for my friend who lost her husband… for her kids who lost their father. I desperately hope for the day when the sad things come untrue. When sickness and suffering are no longer… when tears are wiped… when pain is gone. Like a mother in labor, feeling the pains that must come to push new life into this world… I feel pain… pushing, squeezing… driving me forward. I grieve… with a believing hope that this world is not the end.

I work with teenagers. I was on the phone with one of the girls in my youth a couple of days after receiving the news of our friend’s death. She is friends with the daughter. We talked about how death doesn’t make sense… and about how much this hurts. She desperately wanted to do something to make it better.

Talking with her reminded me of a time in high school when a friend of mine lost a friend to a car accident. I was young and immature and did not know how to be a friend to someone grieving. I avoided my friend. He needed someone to sit with him and listen, but I ran away. I regret my choices and wish I had known how to be a friend to him in that time.

In talking with my children and my youth gal about this death and sadness, I realized a few things that may be helpful if you are walking with a teen through sorrow.

  1. Grief does not come with instructions. There is not a right way to do it.
  2. As Christians, we grieve with hope. Both are true… the grief and the hope. One does not out weigh or overshadow the other. Scripture says, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4). It also says, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1). We can grieve and mourn… and we can have hope that there is more happening than what we see.
  3. Hold space. If you are the one grieving, allow space to grieve. You are not obligated to do or give anything. If you are walking along a friend who has experienced loss or is suffering, allow space. Don’t try to make it better. Wait for them to express a need. Let your friend know you love them and don’t expect a response right away. Do not look to your grieving friend to make you feel better for what they are going through.
  4. Trust that the Lord is at work. Romans 5:3-5 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

While we desperately want to make things better and take pain away from those we love, we must trust that God, in his sovereignty, is at work. Suffering produces endurace. Endurance produces character. Character produces hope. Hope does not put us to shame. There is a direct correlation between grief and hope. Those who are grieving and those walking alongside must be willing to lean into the grief to give space for the hope.