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Archive for the ‘family’ Category

Teenage Blues? Find out how this father re-connected with his teenage son.

Recently I spoke with one father who confessed to having difficulty liking his son. Clearly his son was rebellious and had some behaviors that most parents would find offensive. The son rarely did what he had promised. He blew off chores. He had trouble backing down and he thought he never made a mistake.

When I pushed the father to tell me something he liked about his son, he reluctantly admitted that the boy was a pretty good student, didn’t get in trouble at school, had a great sense of humor and a rather endearing smile. The trick for me was to get the father to focus on his son’s attributes at least some of the time. This would allow the father to feel good about his son as opposed to always feeling negative.

The first thing I did was to ask the father to bring me a list of fifty things he liked about his son even if he had to go back in history and remember some of the incidences from his son’s childhood. Although the father dutifully made his list he couldn’t wait to tell me how his son had messed up that week.

The father’s next assignment was to only comment on the positive things his son did. The idea was to get the father to change his focus from looking at the negative to looking at the positive. This assignment did not work either.

I then came up with the idea that every time the son messed up the father would say in his head, “At least he’s alive.” When I told the father this he said, “You do have a point.”

The following week when I saw this man he said that the assignment had worked. For the first time in almost three years he felt some genuine closeness toward his son. He no longer saw his son as an incompetent. What he saw was a boy struggling, sometimes inappropriately, for his own identity. As this father left my office that day, he grinned a little and said, “You know, I really do love that kid.”

If you’re having trouble loving your kid because of his hard-to-deal with behaviors, why not experiment with one on the previous homework assignments?

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

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What do you think is the most important message of the book?  

The message I wanted to convey was that all kids are motivated. The task of a parent or teacher or counselor is tapping into what interests a seemingly unmotivated kid has, in order to get him moving in perhaps a more productive endeavor. The second message: You don’t have to be a great student to accomplish great things in life. 

Of the numerous adversities Alex faces, which do you think is the most trying?

I think Alex’s long recovery at home after the accident, as well as how his appearance had changed (he now had a dimple on his cheek), were the most trying.

Why crickets? Has the question of food shortage interested you for a while?

Years ago, I had read that you could eat crickets. So when I was working on the book, I started exploring what bugs people eat in other parts of the world. I got so interested that I visited a cricket farm in Florida. And what an education I got! I incorporated that experience and had Alex and his family and Mr. D visiting a cricket farm and then, of course, Alex’s entire class raising crickets as part of their class science project.

Regarding food shortage: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been conscious of what a terrible thing it is not having enough food to eat. When my mother was growing up, she didn’t have enough food, and I think her talking about going to bed hungry stuck with me.

Are there plans to publish another book that continues Alex’s adventures?

Yes, I have the story line and this time not only Alex, but also several of his classmates will take center stage.

How important was your own counseling practice to the development of the very convincing character in the book, particularly Alex and Mr. D?

I’ve been a counselor for many years so I think the counseling process that took place between Mr. D and Alex was similar to what actually goes on when I see a kid in counseling. So I would say it was essential.

How is the style of the illustrations connected to the story?  

 I’ve known John Dyess, the illustrator, for many years and have admired his work. So I was delighted when he agreed to illustrate the book. When I look at John’s work, I feel a connection: whether an illustration of a beautiful trout about to take a hook for Field & Stream or a bunch of guys playing basketball. That’s what I wanted the kids to feel when looking at the various bugs – a connection. When I first saw the illustrations for the book, I was blown-away.

How much is Alex’s physical condition (and recovery) a metaphor for his emotional one? 

When Alex was young, his father died, but he had little recollection of the event. But talking with his mom about his father’s death during his recovery was twofold: To help Alex come to terms with not having a father and to come to terms with his own pain from the accident. Years ago I asked a seventh grade class to write some of the losses they had experienced, trying to get a sense of loss at their age. I was astonished and saddened that almost everyone in the class had experienced a loss, and often a major one: the death of a sibling, parent, grandparent, relative, or divorce within the family and all the losses that entails.

Was any of the story based on real life events?

Yes. As a graduate student, I was a counselor at a boy’s home, so it was a natural for Mr. D to have been raised for part of his life in one. The part where his father, whom he never knew, came into the store where he worked and never identified himself, that happened to a close friend of mine. Sadly, the incident with the dogs was also based on a real-life event. The planting of a bottle garden, I did that many years ago with my husband, and I also like to roam around in junk stores like Alex’s family.

Have you tried eating crickets?

Actually I have. I’ve also eaten worms. How could I talk to kids about a book that has the potential of feeding the world and not have tasted some crawly cuisine myself? You can buy edible crickets and worms on the Internet. Dare I say, you too should take the plunge and try a handful of crickets or some crunchy worms. Believe me, you’ll catch the attention and admiration of a lot of kids.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” as well as, “The Parent Teacher Discussion Guide.” and “Thin Becomes You”. Doris’ web page: www.doriswildhelmering.com

 

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The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World will grab the attention of any upper grade or middle school student. Whether interested in science projects, bugs, getting along with others, or motivation, readers are caught up in the story from the first page to the last. Teachers, parents, and counselors will find the book useful to stimulate conversation about difficult topics like bullying, doing well in school, and family illness. Students will love the practical approach to friendship and family. Would make for a great classroom book group discussion!

Dr. Catherine Von Hatten, Educational Consultant, Retired Public School Assistant Superintendent, Teacher, and Principal

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Doris Wild Helmering’s young adult book The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World is ostensibly a story about 12-yr-old Alex who is unmotivated at school but realizes with the help of a sympathetic school counselor that he loves to learn about bugs and worms. However, this book has an unusual twist in that it is also a learning tool that provides essential information about how protein-rich insects and worms can be used to enhance worldwide nutrition.

After a few dark months of recuperating from a serious accident, Alex visits an indoor cricket farm where he encounters terrible smells and overwhelming chirping sounds. He asks a lot of questions and is inspired at the food potential of these loud, malodorous creatures. At first, Alex and his grandmother cook up a few recipes with crickets and worms in their apartment kitchen. Although his mother is at first skeptical, his grandmother, brother, and counselor encourage Alex to think big about his newfound knowledge. After a successful class science project, Alex partners with a company to raise crickets and produce “bug bars” to help feed the world.

This is an engaging tale that rings true regarding a boy’s enthusiasm for insects and application of what he learns to help alleviate world hunger. Illustrations by John Dyess also help make this book rich with visual energy. Endnotes offer readers additional information about the role insects can play in meeting global food needs and activities that encourage children to think more about nutritional protein sources for food.

By offering nuts and bolts information about nutrition in insects, Doris Helmering has provided an unusual twist on the story of a child who doesn’t like school and feels that he is not meant to do anything important. This work would appeal to upper-elementary and middle school students and their parents, and even adult book clubs could enjoy this story within a story and might even be inspired to taste a few crunchy crickets.

Patricia Gregory, PhD — Assistant Dean for Library Assessment Professor, Pius XII Memorial Library, Saint Louis University

Now Available on Amazon

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Treat your parents with respect and they will respect you.

I’ve talked to a number of parents who feel their grown children do not treat them with respect.

Here are a few things parents have said they wanted:

Please say hello and act like you’re happy to see me when I come for a visit. And when I call on the telephone, show some interest in what we’re talking about.

And please, please answer the telephone sometimes when I call. I know you’re available.
Ask about my life and what I’m doing.

You know I have little money. It would be nice if you helped me pay some of my doctor bills.

Respect my right to redecorate and change things in my house. Don’t tell me I don’t need a new sofa or family room furniture. I’m not ready to be buried yet.

Ask before you help yourself to food in the refrigerator.

If I tell you I don’t like something you’re doing, don’t punish me by not seeing me or not talking to me.

Sometimes invite me to one of your parties so I can meet your friends.

Just because you’ve changed religions, don’t ridicule mine.

Offer to bring something when you come to dinner.

Accommodate my schedule sometimes when we make a date to get together. I have a life too.

Once in a while come for dinner and stay the whole evening.

Stop ridiculing me when I tell you about something I’ve read about vitamins, or diet, or changes in the laws. I’m not always mistaken or stupid.

Tell me about your life and the people you’re dating.

Call back when you say you’re going to call back.

Say yes or no to an invitation in a timely manner. Don’t keep me on hold until the last day.

Remember my birthday and on time.

Be gracious and thank me when I give you a gift, rather than acting as though it’s too much trouble to open it.

Listen and believe me when I tell you I’m tired. Don’t push me to go on to one more store.

Invite me to dinner sometime.

Take a little time out of your life to remember to see your grandparents. They always took time with you when you were little.

Be on time for dinner or call when you’ll be late.

Pay back the money you owe me or talk to me about it.

Stop being critical of my taste in clothes.

If you borrow one of my appliances, return it without my having to ask.

Don’t get mad if I tell you I can’t baby sit, and don’t expect me to baby sit every weekend.

Stop talking about what I did wrong when I raised you. Tell me what I did right.

Give me a hug and a kiss when you leave.

Treat me as nicely as you treat your best friend.

Following these requests won’t solve all problems between parents and grown children. But it certainly sets the stage for a more respectful relationship.

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Pouting closes off communication channels between parent and child.

Dear Pouting Parent,

Did you know that pouting closes off communication?

Pouting says I refuse to be close.

Pouting is a form of anger.

Parent, you can’t fix the problem when you pout.

It’s okay to be quiet and back off from your child when you’re ready to chew a nail because of his or her behavior. At the same time, answer your child when she tries to talk to you. If she tries to make small talk, understand that it is her way of saying, “Let’s be friends” and her attempt to get back in your good graces.

At some point, discuss her infraction and what you would like to have happen differently in the future. For example, you might say, “I’m very disappointed in the way you acted when your friends were over. As an apology and a gesture of good will, I’d like you to take out the trash and shred that stack of papers in my office. Once you do these chores, I’ll put away my bad feelings, and we can be friends again.”

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Here’s a far too familiar family drama.

Bobby comes in from playing and heads for the refrigerator. He stands in front of it, surveys its contents and grumbles, “We never have anything to eat.”

Mom, already frustrated from cleaning up the four messes that Bobby made earlier that day, says sarcastically, “Then what do you call the stuff you’ve been shoveling in your mouth? And close that refrigerator. It’s not an air conditioner, you know.”

Dad sitting at the kitchen table, gets into the act and says, “He’s a growing boy dear, what do you expect?”

Bobby responds, “Yeah, Mom, I’m a growing boy.”

Mom gives Dad the evil eye and says, “And who invited you into the conversation?”

Dad answers, “Just trying to be helpful, dear.”

Now Bobby looks at both parents and says,”I hope you two are not going to fight the whole night.”

“That will be enough,”Dad replies.

Within two minutes, this very typical family has traveled the triangle and everyone has had his or her turn at being a Rescuer, a Victim and a Persecutor.

How did it all start?

When Bobby left four messes in the kitchen and didn’t clean up after himself, Bobby became a Persecutor. When Mom took responsibility and cleaned up the messes, Mom became a Rescuer and defined her son as Victim.

A persecutor on the triangle is a person whose behavior is hostile and angry. The Persecutor usually “gets” people with nasty remarks, sarcasm, and hostile behavior, but denies or discounts the fact that he’s angry.

A Rescuer is a person who takes care of people who don’t need to be helped or who takes care of people when they don’t want to be helped. In both instances, the Rescuer discounts the other person’s ability to take care of himself.

A Victim is a person who acts as though he can’t do something for himself when, in fact, the opposite is true. The Victim discounts his ability to take care of himself.

When Bobby walked into the kitchen and grumbled, “There isn’t anything to eat,” Bobby became the Persecutor and Mom moved from Rescuer to Victim.

Mom, however, made a fast shift from Victim to Persecutor when she commented about the food that Bobby has been shoveling into his mouth and the fact that the refrigerator was not a cooling system.

Dad hopped on the triangle with his comment, “He’s a growing boy.” Dad became Bobby’s Rescuer and Mom’s Persecutor.

Bobby, taking permission from Dad to persecute Mom, responded to the invitation with his own persecution: “Yeah, I’m just a growing boy.”

Mom, unwilling to stay Victim, came up swinging with,”Who invited you into this conversation?”

And on, and on . . . Which, of course, leads to the moral of my story: With so much drama in the family, who needs television?

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