Reprinted from The Chicago Tribune
Woman News Section
May 21, 2003
Making The Tween Connection
By Sharon Honaker
Special to the Tribune
They're no longer begging you to take them to the playground, but they're not old enough to drive themselves to soccer practice either.
That's how Ginny Bishop describes the "tween years," children ages 8-12. The 40-year-old Littleton, Colo., mom and Chicago native has three tweens and three more coming up.
Seeing this time as the last chance to connect with her children before the teen years, Bishop decided to become a "larger-than-life" mom who did things--lots of things--with her children. From snowshoeing to hiking, visiting homeless shelters to helping the elderly, Bishop began doing all sorts of activities with her children, individually and collectively.
"The tween years are such a wonderful time, I'd like to freeze them," said Bishop, a former marketing professional turned stay-at-home mom.
Wanting to share her experiences with others, Bishop wrote "Tween Time: Over 52 Ways to Celebrate Life with Kids Ages 8-12" (Happy Life Press, $10.95) The 128-page paperback contains suggestions ranging from storytelling to fort-building to volunteering, each illustrated by Bishop's 11-year-old daughter, Camille.
Most of the activities have been done by Bishop or her friend and contributor Kim Griffeth. They're also kid-tested and approved. Bishop's children, for instance, won't let her include the "Funky Turkey Trot" because it was "too embarrassing."
Release last fall, "Tween Time" is in its second printing. For a self-published, self-marketed book, Bishop is proud of her "seventh child." She still makes daily sales calls and has started holding tween fests, wehre parents and tweens do community projects together.
Best part of being a tween mom: I always saw myself as a great preschool mom; I wasn't so sure about being a tween parent. But it's great, especially the conversations. Tweens are smart and savvy. When they talk about the decisions they've made, you realize that as a parent you did do something right as they were growing up. But you're not their first choice anymore.
The teen years: I'm bracing myself. I know about drugs and sexual activity. I hope when my children become teens they'll talk to me when the really tough things happen. That's why these tween years are so important. If those lines of communication can be established now, hopefully they'll stay open forever.
How she handles all her roles: I've never worked so hard in my life. I pack every single day like you wouldn't believe. I do all the "mom duties," like houseswork and carpooling, and then most nights, I'm working on marketing the book until 12:30 a.m. But I wake up excited, so it's all worthwhile. I'm absolutely passionate about the book.
Where her family fits in: My husband, Joe, gets our four older children off to school so I can work early in the morning. Then when the 3-year-old twins get up, they come with me everywhere--to the printers or a bookstore or an interview. At night, Joe cleans the kitchen and my children help each other with homework so I can answer e-mails and do other things involving the book. Sometimes the pace gets to be too much. I know I'm pushing everyone's tolerance when my kids complain, "do we have to stop at Kinkos again?"
Her advice for parents of tweens: Find out what your tween is passionate about and do something with them related to that.
What the book has taught her: If you have an idea, nothing can stop you. I hope my children learn that too. When we couldn't afford to produce the book, people came through with more than $50,000 in cash and in-kind service donations. Everyone helped.
The message for parents: Children, especially tweens, need time to connect with their parents. You don't always have to buy them something. They want your time and that may be more costly than writing a check. But it's worth the price. This age only comes once. Freeze it in your memories and theirs.
"Tween Time" is available at bookstores and tweentime.com.
Copyright 2003, Chicago Tribune
Get in on the Giving in Colorado
Reprinted from Parenthood.com
By Ginny Bishop
How Your Kids Can Learn Powerful Lessons While Serving in the Community
This holiday season encourage your family to consider giving a gift of time or contributing to a local charity. Most nonprofit organizations that benefit children and families have ongoing needs for volunteers or donations. By involving the whole family in regular community service, children learn the importance of responsibility, while receiving hands-on, real-world experiences.
Compassionate. Responsible. Successful. Most parents want these character traits to come to mind when they think of their child.
But how do we get our kids to think and act compassionately and responsibly? Although there are many ways to teach responsibility, there is probably no better way than to involve kids in regular service in their communities.
“We know that kids who participate in service learning do better in school, feel better about themselves and become active members in their communities,” says Cathryn Berger Kaye, author of The Complete Guide To Service Learning: Proven, Practical Ways To Engage Students in Civic Responsibility, Academic Curriculum, & Social Action (Free Spirit Publishing Inc., www.FreeSpirit.com, 866-703-7322).
And doesn’t that make sense? When kids have a chance to get their hands busy making a difference about something that they’re passionate about, they can’t be stopped.
Take Leah Garvin, a junior at Kent Denver School. She was inspired to start Project Youth At Risk — a program that raises awareness about teen homelessness — after hearing homeless teens from Urban Peak, a Denver-based youth shelter, speak about their experiences living on Denver’s streets. Project YAR has done more than raise awareness: At its first event in October, it raised $1,300 for the cause. (See profile)
“I know kids see adults standing on the side of the road, holding up signs that say, ‘I’m homeless, please help me,’ but I don’t think the youth at Kent Denver have ever seen a 15-year-old on a street corner holding up a sign that says, ‘I’ve been homeless for five years.’ So I wanted to raise awareness between the youth at a great school like Kent Denver and the homeless youth in our city,” Leah says.
Kids learn powerful lessons when they serve others. But how can parents lead their kids to these lessons?
Small Hands with Big Hearts
If you want community service to be part of your child’s life, start early. When your child is young, talk about how you serve people in the community, and how it makes you feel good to do for others. Then show them how rewarding it can be, beginning even before your child starts school. A 4- or 5-year-old absorbs these lessons and learns to love service when you get them in on the giving early.
“Giving children the chance to serve in the community is a wonderful gift. Research shows that youth service builds the life skills that all children need and for that reason I encourage every parent to find something their child really cares about and then do it with them,” says Stephanie Hoy, executive director of Assets For Colorado Youth.
Simple ways to begin modeling service include talking about times that you made a meal for a sick friend, or babysat a neighbor’s child as she was recovering from surgery or perhaps taking care of a neighbor’s house when they’re away on vacation. That’s really where service to community starts — right in our own backyard.
Next, pinpoint what, where and how your family would like to serve. Begin your discussion by listening to what your child is passionate about and then do your homework. If it’s animal care or gardening that gets your child excited, research organizations that can help put his good ideas for service to work. Many organizations such as Metro Volunteers, local schools, churches and community centers offer service projects that would interest adults and children alike. And if you can’t find an organization serving that particular need, start an outreach program of your own.
Mark Paolucci, an eighth-grader at All Souls School, was inspired by his mother to help others. Now, he runs a free lawn-mowing service for his elderly neighbors. It helps the neighbors and helps him feel good about himself. (See profile.)
“Most of my neighbors are elderly, and it’s hard for them to take care of their lawns. So I help them out for free. It makes me feel like I’ll be a good citizen when I’m older,” Mark says.
Whatever service projects your family chooses, make sure that it’s something everyone can commit to and be responsible for on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if it’s a once-a-month literacy program at a local homeless shelter, a once-a-year adoption of a family at Christmas time, or an occasional meal your family makes and takes to an elderly shut-in, just make the date on the family calendar and honor it.
“It is our role as parents to find ways to harness the energy, ideas, skills and talents that kids already have to make great things happen in our communities,” Kaye says.
It usually takes a parent’s nudge to get the ball rolling. Sometimes a quick conversation about what kids can do with their outgrown clothes or their gently used toys and books will get them to start thinking about the bigger picture.
Sometimes kids come up with their own ideas.
“I told my mom that I had a lot of toys and I didn’t want to make my basement more messy,” says Navy Hall (see profile), a third-grader at Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School. “So instead of a birthday present, I asked each of my friends to bring a new backpack that we could give to kids that don’t have any.”
That simple conversation started the ball rolling, and Navy donated 13 backpacks to kids in need this fall.
It’s never too late to help children get started on making community service an important and rewarding part of their lives. Whether you’re sending a child off to high school or to kindergarten, it’s never too late to connect with them through community service. Just get going, and get in on the giving!
Helping Out in the Community
Here are some local organizations offering volunteer opportunities for youth and families, and also some agencies that can help match your skills and areas of interest with agencies in need of assistance.
American Red Cross - Mile High Chapter, 303-722-7474; www.denver-redcross.org – Volunteers needed to serve as instructors for babysitter training classes and CPR/first aid classes, assist individuals in response to disasters. Training provided. Red Cross Youth Corps Councils offers training, support and resources to high-school age kids interested in completing service projects.
Craig Hospital, 3425 S. Clarkson St., Denver. 303-789-8417; www.craighospital.org – Volunteers have flexible hours and schedules in order to work in the gift shop, visit patients receiving treatment for brain and spinal cord injuries, or assist the nursing staff in physical or occupational therapy and therapeutic recreation.
Denver Dumb Friends League, 303-696-4941, ext. 393; www.ddfl.org – Many volunteer opportunities including animal care, outreach projects and foster animal housing.
Denver Urban Gardens, 3377 Blake Street, Suite 113, Denver. 303-292-9900; www.dug.org – DUG gardens are created entirely by volunteers of all ages and skill levels. Working daily, volunteer tasks include planting trees, installing benches and painting murals.
Family HomeStead, 303-623-6514 – Provides emergency and transitional housing for homeless families and children. Year-round volunteer opportunities.
Food Bank of the Rockies, 303-371-9250; www.foodbankrockies.org – An affiliate of America’s Second Harvest, helping to feed the hungry by soliciting and distributing food and grocery products. The Food Bank also has a Kids Café that provides meals and educational activities for children and families. Volunteers needed to sort food, fill orders and organize food drives.
Habitat for Humanity of Metro Denver, 303-534-2929; www.habitatmetrodenver.org – Brings families and communities in need together with volunteers and resources to build decent, affordable housing. Youths must be at least 16 to participate in construction projects, and Habitat also offers many suggestions for youths under 16.
Metro Volunteers, 303-561-2300; www.metrovolunteers.org – Matches individuals wanting to donate their time and efforts to organizations that require assistance. Specific opportunities available for families, groups and youth. “Visit from St. Nicholas” program provides surprise backpacks to less fortunate school children.
Mile High United Way, 303-433-8383; www.unitedway.denver.org. Partners with more than 90 community-based agencies and invests in more than 20 collaborative nonprofit projects so the community’s time and money help the most people.
Office of Volunteerism, City and County of Denver, 720-913-8464 – Volunteers are able to work with various city agencies..
Ronald McDonald House® Charities of Denver, 1300 E. 21st Ave., Denver. 303-832-2667 – Families can help prepare meals throughout the day. Volunteers can also donate toys for kids of all ages, as well as gifts for parents. Contributions of food supplies, cleaning products and toiletries also requested.
Sacred Heart House of Denver, Almost Home Bookshelf Literacy Program, 2844 Lawrence Ave., Denver. 303-296-6686; www.sacred hearthouse.org – Service contributions includes reading monthly to homeless children, and donating food, clothing and furniture to homeless women with children.
Service-learning Colorado, 303-866-6897. www.service-learning-colorado.net – Programs teach service in a way that builds academic and citizenship skills while serving community organizations.
Volunteer Connection, 303-444-4904; www.volunteerconnection.net: Matching individuals to volunteer opportunities in Boulder County.
Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado, 303-715-1010; www.voc.org – Projects protect, preserve and improve and Colorado’s public lands.
Volunteer Match, www.volunteermatch.org – Get out and do good! A nation-wide web-based service to find the volunteer opportunity just right for you.
Volunteers of America, 303-297-0408 www.voacolorado.org – Coordinating agency for many volunteer projects in the Denver metro area.
Women’s Bean Project, 2347 Curtis St., Denver. 303-292-1919; www.womensbeanproject.com – Ages 16 and over and their parents can work off-site at consignment events at churches and fairs, as well as help put gourmet food packages together.
Leah Garvin Stands for Youths At-Risk
A bumper sticker on Leah Garvin’s car tells you what you need to know about the 17-year-old junior at Kent Denver School. It gives you a peek inside her soul: “Don’t hold strong opinions about things you don’t understand.”
Leah follows her own advice. She founded Project Youth At Risk, a program that aims to raise teens’ awareness that there are kids just like them who have no place to call home.
Moved by her involvement in the organization Peace Jam and conversations with kids from Urban Peak, a Denver-based youth shelter, Leah decided to take action.
“I listened to the youth at Urban Peak talk about living on the streets, and I was struck by how much they struggled. I knew then that I had to do something. I realized that it just takes one thing to strike someone’s heart, either in your own life or in someone else’s, to call you to action,” the activist teen says.
Flanked by two supportive faculty members and a committee of energetic classmates, Leah decided to start Project YAR, and she set a date for the first YAR fundraising/awareness event at Kent Denver in October 2003.
“After three years of believing in Project YAR, it was inspirational to see Kent Denver kids come to the rally and learn about kids they may have never known existed!” Leah reflects.
The rally included youth organizations such as Peace Jam, Colorado Anti-Violence Program, the Arapahoe House and Stand Up for Kids. Hip-hop artist C/Rayz, was on hand to entertain the crowd.
At the end of the day, Leah’s group had raised more than $1,300 in donations and had raised teens’ consciousness about struggling kids.
“This event really wasn’t about raising money. It was about raising awareness, and I think we did that quite successfully. I feel that you should always be trying to stretch yourself by taking yourself into new situations where you can learn,” says Leah.
Where is Leah headed next? She hopes to be accepted at the University of California at Berkeley next year.
“I want to choose a university that has a spirit of activism because that’s what I’m interested in,” Leah says.
Well, that’s no surprise.
Mark Paolucci – A Neighborly Citizen
Mark Paolucci is a typical teen that likes to go to the movies, hang out with his friends and play soccer. He’s the second child in a family of seven, so on any given day he is serving someone other than himself.
For most of us, that would be enough service, but not for Mark. Instead, the 14-year-old offers free baby-sitting for Danny, a 12-year-old boy with Down syndrome.
“I offer to baby-sit for Danny when his parents want to go out because he doesn’t have a lot of friends, and it’s kinda fun that I can help someone,” says Mark, who’s an eighth-grader at All Souls School.
“I like to come over to try and get to know Danny better. He’s pretty talkative, but not really mentally at the same level that I’m at, but that’s OK because he can do a lot of the physical stuff like play football and box like I can. We have fun together,” Mark says.
Mark credits his love for community service to his mother.
“I’ve grown up watching my mom cook meals for people who were sick, take care of their kids and do lots of nice stuff to help people out. So I know that even if you don’t get paid, you’ll feel good about yourself in the end for helping out,” Mark says.
When Mark isn’t sitting for Danny, he offers free lawn mowing and raking services to the elderly neighbors on his block.
“Most of my neighbors are elderly, and it’s hard for them to take care of their lawns. So I help them out for free. It makes me feel like I’ll be a good citizen when I’m older,” Mark adds.
It seems like Mark is the best kind of citizen already.
Navy Hall Shares Her Blessings
Meet Navy Hall. She’s 8 years old and a third-grader at Laura Ingalls Wilder Elementary School. She loves to play four-square, ride her bike and tease her younger sister, Zoe. If you believe that every person — no matter how young — can make a difference in the world, then you should have been included on Navy’s birthday party guest list.
“I told my mom that I had a lot of toys, and I didn’t want to make my basement more messy. So instead of a birthday present, I asked each of my friends to bring a new backpack that we could give to kids that don’t have any,” Navy says.
Navy collected 13 new backpacks and when she started buying her school supplies in the fall, she donated those backpacks to the kids staying at Sacred Heart House of Denver, a local homeless shelter for mothers and children.
“At first it made me sad not to have any presents to open at my birthday party, but then I was really happy that I didn’t choose presents because I felt good about helping other kids,” Navy explains.
And that’s really what it’s all about.
Ginny Bishop lives in Littleton with her husband Joe and their six children. Bishop is the author of Tween Time, Over 52 Ways To Celebrate Life With Kids Ages 8-12, Happy Life Press, 2002.
From Colorado Parent, a United Parenting Publication, December, 2003.
Retailers and revelers find lots of treats this season
By Jennifer Wolcott Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Halloween is creeping up fast. Surely, by now, spiders hover above your
doorway, a string of orange lights dangles from your porch, and
inflatable ghosts lurk on your lawn. Or at the very least, your Elvira
wig is good to go.
Long gone are the days when getting ready for Halloween meant one had
only to carve a pumpkin, stick a candle in it, and fill a bowl with
candy in time for those first trick-or-treaters.
Today, Halloween is the second-biggest consumer holiday, after
Christmas. Roughly $1.5 billion is spent every year on costumes and
another $3 billion on party accessories. And nearly half of Americans
age 18 and up are planning to decorate their homes or yards with a
Halloween theme, according to the National Retail Federation.
Clearly, the day is not just for young hobgoblins anymore, but for
grown-ups whose role used to be limited to flashlight-carrying
chaperon. In fact, an estimated 65 percent of adults now participate by
dressing up, decorating their homes and lawns, or attending holiday
parties. Even pets are joining the fun, as 66 percent of American pet
owners now deck them out in costume. (Favorite pet costumes, in order
of popularity, are: pumpkin, witch, cowboy, devil, and clown.)
So how did a holiday with Celtic roots become a retailers' jackpot?
Halloween, which marked the last day of summer on the ancient Irish
calendar, has been celebrated in various forms in the US since the
1600s. But by the late 1800s it had become a tame and even genteel
holiday. It gained momentum with trick-or-treating in the 1950s. Then,
in the late '90s, Halloween decorating took off, says Ellen Tolley,
spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation. Halloween "became more
than one day, it became an entire season."
This year, since Halloween falls on a Friday, revelers are expected to
be out in force, and retailers could gain a whopping $6.9 billion.
But commercialism aside, some say the increased exuberance is a good
thing. "It's a distraction, a release, a way to blow off steam," says
Phillips Stevens, a professor of anthropology at the University at
Buffalo in New York. "There are a lot of deep social concerns these
days, so we need this."
Nicholas Roger, author of "Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party
Night," offers a bit of historical perspective.
"Halloween's origins were never really meant for young children," the
Toronto resident says. "It has traditionally been a night of escape and
inversion, when social norms are turned upside down. There might also
be some truth in saying that, in our post-9/11 world, people are trying
to forget and just have fun. It's not bad for a kind of cathartic
Ginny Bishop, a mother of six from Denver, is also upbeat about the
Halloween hype of recent years, especially the participation of adults.
It provides an opportunity for adults and children to connect -
something that parents yearn for in today's "increasingly disconnected
world full of video games and television."
Ms. Bishop, author of "Tween Time, Over 52 Ways to Celebrate Life With
Kids Ages 8-12," adds, "Making this connection is not about Disneyland,
but about sharing traditions and celebrating everyday life in small,
"For this, Halloween is just the ticket.
(c) Copyright 2003 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.