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What We Can Teach Kids AFTER We Learn and Live the Lessons Ourselves
by Dore Frances, M.A., Theapeutic Consultant and founder of Horizon Family Solutions, LLCThese are challenging times for children. The continued increase of technology means that kids are now exposed to information on cell phones and computers that is far beyond their emotional and social IQ. While technology is a tremendous tool, explicit images and manipulative conversations easily found in cyberspace are robbing children of their innocence and, in some cases, leading them into actual danger.
Even when parents and professionals are vigilant in monitoring the daily technology available in their homes and at work, kids still have access at the library, playground and other Wi-Fi Hot Spots, school, and just about anywhere now. This fragmented situation is adversely affecting millions of children.
As of today, almost 22 million American kids are living with one parent; more than 80% of those are primarily being raised by Mom.
Just a short 50 years ago (in my lifetime), a child living without a father was somewhat rare. Now it is common. Thus, our modern age presents vast challenges to our children, and they need to learn lessons quickly by those who have learned and lived the lessons themselves. You cannot teach something to children you have have not learned and experienced.
As is widely known, I had a tough childhood filled with abuse, abandonment, instability and loneliness. However, it has not stopped me from rising to become who I am today - a compassionate, forgiving, loving human being. My achievements are not breathtaking, however, they are lessons I have learned and lived and am now teaching to those who are open to learning.
- Lesson One - This is the greatest lesson any child can learn: ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE. Yes, this is something of a cliche', so it has to be vividly demonstrated when being said to anyone. As a youngster in San Mateo, California, without any parents around, I toughed it out and became a great and passionate person. No matter what happened back then, I use it as a positive tool to always go forward. For those that know me, and know what I have achieved in my 56 years of living, it is simply astounding that I am here and alive today. Those who know me know the odds I faced. Many of our children today are facing those same dismal odds. I had no parental guidance, was abandoned several times, had no family connections to guide me into the world. That adds up to one simple truth that every child needs to be told each and every day: "Whatever dream you have can happen in your life."
- Lesson Two - ESSENTIAL FORGIVENESS. I was adopted at birth and left in the hospital a week until my adopted parents had time to come get me, my father abused me starting at age 4, and then he left for several years when I was 5, my mother committed suicide when I was 9, and because no family member wanted my younger adopted brother and myself, we went from relative to relative for the next several years. When I was 12 my father and his new wife, her older daughter (16) from a previous marriage and two new babies they had (age 4 months and 2 years), took us in, as we had no where else to go any longer. The home was chaotic and my brother and I did our best to adjust to our new surroundings. My father started abusing me again, so when I was 13, I ran away from home for the first time, was gone 2 weeks, and then ended up in juvenile hall. I stayed there for 2 months and never had one family visit. That kind of situation can ruin a child, and I have seen it ruin many children in my life. However, for those that know me, I betray no bitterness. I speak of my family with the belief I did survive for a reason. I admit my family was "reckless" and I was "reckless" as a teenager. I was not the center of anyone's universe, and knew I had to find my own way. As for my father, the damage and void he left in my life motivated me to succeed. It is obvious to all that have met me that I am not wallowing in past pain. I do not harbor bitterness towards my childhood experiences. Instead, I accepted my situation and saw it and still see it as a challenge to be the best person I can be. I forgave all my family members and took what I learned and embraced a positive outlook.
- Lesson Three - HARD WORK IS TOUGH - DON'T LIE ABOUT IT. A child does not go from being abandoned, abused, neglected, having pain in their lives for whatever reason to being a college graduate or CEO of a company, or even a carpenter with their own business, without doing some hard work. I am where I am today because I kept putting myself through school for many years. I worked many kinds of jobs from babysitting, to cleaning houses, to being a nanny, to washing dishes and waiting tables, never feeling I was any less than the person who hired me. I learned how to lay a foundation for success when I was working for my father from age 14 to 18. Early on I paid attention to see the big picture and not what was just in front of me at the moment. I adore and love the work I have been doing with kids and families for the last 17 years. I feel I have been a great example to many in different ways. For all of us that assist children and families, our passion for what we do is very important and will ultimately define in some way the lives of all those we touch. So be honest and speak with truth. Show compassion, integrity and love. Be professional and passionate every day.
- Lesson Four - PERSISTENCE IS AN ADVANTAGE. I had few advantages as a child. However, I never gave up, not really. Every time I was knocked down, whether emotionally, mentally or physically, I got up. For example, the very first business I opened in California 21 years ago, went bust after just 8 months. I could have given up and gone to work for someone else where high salaries awaited. However, I had a dream. Then just a month later I was diagnosed with Stage 4 Cancer - melanoma, and was told to get my affairs in order, as I had less than a year to live. I had a little girl then, and I refused to die and leave her. I am still here. I honestly believe that all the hard knocks I took in my young life prepared me for both defeat and victory. And I have faced both several times, not just once. And probably will again. That is life. Some people shrink with they are faced with a challenge that seems devastating. Others seem to gain momentum and are challenged even more when they fail. I have never used my childhood difficulties as an excuse to quit or play the victim role. I use each and every experience as a motivator to move ahead. Determination must be coupled with very specific self discipline in order to succeed. And yes, it is hard work.
- Lesson Five - RESPECT AND UNDERSTAND. Even though my parents put their needs ahead of mine, I still speak of them in polite terms. I find a way not to demean them. I have learned to deal with my family situation by understanding it. I learned to put my own ego aside and made a decision to act respectfully toward kids and adults that are not respectful nor understand, and make bizarre and grave misunderstood comments about things they know nothing about. This has served me very well in my life.
Dore Frances, M.A., is an educational consultant, childs right advocate, parent coach, specializing in working with troubled teens and their families in the United States, Canda, and abroad. See her site at: www.guidingteens.com or contact her by phone at:(541) 312-4422, or email at:Dore@DoreFrances.com.
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