Are You Feeling Nostalgic These Days?

How are you?

How are things in your corner of the world?

I hope that wherever you are and whoever you are with you are healthy and doing what you can to care for yourself.

After all the turbulence last week related to the coronavirus outbreak, I was physically, emotionally and mentally exhausted when the weekend arrived. On Saturday and Sunday, I found myself craving breakfast for every meal and watching lots of classic TV shows. In two days, I binge watched two seasons of “The Waltons” and ate my share of fried eggs and bacon. By Sunday evening, I actually felt more calm, content and a few pounds heavier!

On Monday morning I went into my office, refreshed and focused, and ready to start a new day and a new week. I opened my email and, as I expected, my Inbox was full of messages waiting for me. One message immediately grabbed my attention. The subject line of the email read: “Are You Feeling Nostalgic These Days?”

I was struck by the question. So, I opened the message…and read it…and by the end of the message…I had an “Ah Ha!” moment. I realized that I HAVE been feeling nostalgic these days. I was nostalgic all weekend. Every time I fried eggs and bacon and watched another episode of “The Waltons” I was feeling nostalgic.

Nostalgia is that warm, fuzzy feeling you have when you think about fond memories from your past.

Sometimes the trigger for nostalgia can be a song, photo, scent, story or person. For me, the smell of fried eggs and bacon takes me back to my childhood and waking up in the morning to the aroma of breakfast being cooked by my mother. The smell reminds me of a time in my past when life was carefree and simple.

“The Waltons” was one of the few shows we watched as a family on one of the few television stations we could get living on the farm. Watching the show this past weekend not only reminded me of the similarities between the Walton family and my family, but also of the values I was raised on, the hard work ethic I was taught and the “we’re in this together” mindset we lived by.

Little did I know, until my “Ah Ha!” moment on Monday morning, that my body, soul and spirit was in dire need of nostalgia this past weekend.

We are living in a time of change and instability right now. Nostalgia can actually be a stabilizing force for us. Studies have shown that people with a greater propensity for nostalgia are better able to cope with adversity and are more likely to seek emotional support, advice and practical help from others. It’s shown to boost a person’s mood, reduce stress, increase feelings of social connectedness to others and offer optimism about the future. Research shows nostalgia makes people feel loved and valued and increases perceptions of social support when people are lonely.

Falling back on our store of happy memories can be one of the best things we can do for ourselves right now. It’s one way to endure the change that is happening and create hope for the future. It may be just the thing to give us all a welcomed fresh perspective on our current situation.

There are many ways you can use nostalgia to keep you motivated, uplifted, connected and hopeful. Here are some things you can consider doing:

1. Let your past recharge you. Recall personal milestones and past achievements in order to reinvigorate your energy and stay focused on achieving your current goals. Dig out your medals, trophies, diplomas, news clippings or other memorabilia to remind yourself that you are a capable and talented individual.

2. Make nostalgia a group activity. Asking others to share their nostalgic memories with you is likely to give you all a psychological boost. You might be surprised what you learn about your friends or family members. Ask open-ended questions to initiate sharing, such as, “What kinds of clothes, hobbies or slang terms were popular when you were a teenager? What was your favorite thing about school? Who was your favorite teacher? What was your favorite book or movie when you were young?”

3. Get in touch with loved ones from all stages of your life. Reaching out and connecting with friends can bring back fond memories and ignite fun (and maybe embarrassing) storytelling!

4. Spend time looking at old photos or home movies. Have story time with your family using photos. Do you have idle time? Create a photo scrapbook. Or, turn off the TV and watch home movies instead!

5. Let music stir up happy feelings. Turn on your favorite music from the past and have a dance party with yourself or others!

6. Create a scent that takes you back to the past. Are you craving the smell of your Grandma’s baked cookies? Then, bake them! Spend time in the kitchen preparing recipes you enjoyed from past family traditions.

7. Play board or card games you enjoyed when you were younger. Many classic games can be purchased online. Looking for a list of games to help jog your memory? Click here for a list of some of the most popular games! (By the way, playing the card game, UNO, with my competitive and ornery grandmother, and all the laughter that would go with it is something I always re-live when I still play the game today!)

8. Watch your favorite TV show from your childhood. Was there a TV show you couldn’t miss watching? Was it a show that brought you together with friends or family? Click here for a list of the most popular TV shows from 1950-1990! Browse Netflix, YouTube or other streaming sites and find your favorite show(s). Make some popcorn, grab your favorite beverage, settle into something comfortable and enjoy!

9. Create new memories by making deposits into the nostalgia bank today that you can draw on when you need a boost in the future. What happens today will become the memories you hold onto forever. What can you do today that will create positive, lasting nostalgic memories for you or your family? Be creative and imaginative.

If you find yourself feeling nostalgic these days and wishing you could recapture a moment and feeling from your past, give in. It may give you the boost you need to deal with your current challenges or to simply feel better — not just about your past or present, but also about your future.

Take care of yourself. You are important. You are needed.

Shake Up

We’re living through a very difficult time right now. Anxiety, stress, isolation and fear of the unknown seems to have invaded many of our lives in a short period of time. The coronavirus has shaken up our lives. It has shaken up our routines. It has shaken up our jobs. It has shaken up our investments and bank accounts. It has shaken up our social calendar. It has shaken up our families. It has shaken up our relationships and connection with others.

I’m going to be honest. I worry about what this “shake up” means in my life and those I love. But, I worry even more about what it means in the lives of kids.

Kids’ familiar daily routines have been disrupted with the closing of schools. The in-person classroom environment and the support of an afterschool program to help kids achieve academically doesn’t exist right now. In-school mental health services and other programs to meet kids’ social and emotional needs aren’t available. Extracurricular activities kids enjoy participating in outside of the school day have been canceled. The personal relationships kids depend on daily for support, guidance, encouragement and affirmation are on hiatus as everyone is encouraged to stay home.

For the last six weeks I’ve been writing about the most effective strategies research recommends to delay the onset of risky behaviors with middle school students. I’ve written about four of the five strategies – idealism, normative beliefs, personal commitment and parent/adult attention. In this week’s blog I was planning to write about the fifth and final prevention strategy. With all that’s been happening in our world this past week, especially with kids, it’s a very timely and important strategy to talk about.

The prevention strategy is “bonding.” Research shows the importance of every child having positive relationships with peers and adults.

Kids who have friends with prosocial values, opinions and common interests are more likely to influence each other in positive ways and increase the likelihood they won’t engage in risky behaviors.

Kids also need at least one positive adult in their life to decrease the likelihood they will participate in negative behaviors. For most kids, this adult is a parent. For other kids, the adult may be a grandparent, aunt or uncle, teacher, coach or even YOU. Every child needs that one adult who will coach, cheer, guide, support, monitor and care for them.

Many of your students have friends and adults in their life who are influencing them in positive ways. But, there are also students who do not have positive friends or who have no friends at all. There are also students who believe they don’t have any adult in their life who cares about them or who they can talk to about things important or concerning to them.

Research recommends our prevention efforts include the strategy of bonding – affirming and building long term, positive peer and adult relationships with students. I know what you might be thinking…It’s easier said than done. I agree. But, it’s so important.

With the shake up going on in the world and in the lives of kids right now, affirming and building positive relationships is more important than ever. Many of our kids are lacking routine and structure, getting less adult supervision and monitoring and having more idle time. If you couple all of this with also having friends whose influence is negative, the risk to engage in negative behaviors increases even more.

The relationships we have in our life right now and the people we stay connected with will make a difference in how we all make it through this challenging time – including your kids. Think about the students you work with who don’t have positive peer or adult influences in their life right now. What can you do to let them know you care? It might be as simple as a phone conversation, text message or Facetime call to simply say, “I’ve been thinking about you. How are you?” You never know how this one action, if done regularly, could have a huge and positive impact in the lives of your students right now.

Our world may be shaken up right now, but we will get through it. Practice patience. Show grace. Relax. Focus on what and who is important. Stay connected. You might be surprised how current relationships are strengthened, old relationships are renewed and new relationships are created – even with your students.

Stay in. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Step Up and Step In

The middle school years can be just as challenging of a time for parents as it is for their kids.

We go from being one of the most admired, loved and smartest people in our kids’ lives during the elementary years to someone who doesn’t know anything anymore. We play “second fiddle” to our kids’ friends. Our rules and expectations are being questioned and challenged. Conversations that came easy with our child are now limited and difficult to initiate.

If you’ve been or are a middle school parent, you understand. The middle school years can be tough.

At a time when parents need to step up and step in even more with their parenting practices, parents may feel the tendency to step back and pull away during the middle school years. Many give up and give in to the other influences they believe is overriding their influence.

A recent study asked kids, aged 11 through 17, “Who has a very important influence on you?” The kids’ responses were:

  • Parents (86%)
  • Grandparents (56%)
  • Place of worship (55%)
  • Teachers (50%)
  • Peers (41%)
  • Community (23%)
  • Television, movies and music (22%)

Studies consistently indicate that parents are the single most important influence on kids’ decisions to smoke, drink or use other drugs. It’s also important to recognize the influence non-parental adults – grandparents, teachers and YOU – can play in kids’ lives. Yet, many parents and adults do not fully understand the extent of their influence.

If you see a drop off in parental involvement and engagement during the middle school years in your school or youth program, don’t conclude that it’s because your parents don’t care or aren’t interested. Instead, believe they care even MORE. The problem their facing is they don’t know what to do with their child right now. The parenting practices that came so naturally or easily to do during the elementary years are harder to do now. Sometimes the harder it gets, the easier it can be to give up and give in. This is the last thing we want parents to do.


We need parents to step up and step in even more during the middle school years.

Research shows that increased parent/adult attention is very important and has identified six important things for a parent or another important adult to delay the onset of risky behaviors with a middle school child. They are…

  • Nurture a loving and caring relationship.
  • Use positive discipline.
  • Encourage and support positive friendships and activities.
  • Supervise and monitor the child’s whereabouts, activities and friends.
  • Set, state and enforce rules and expectations about risky behaviors.
  • Be a positive example.

In future blog posts, I will break down each of these strategies and offer practical and proven ways your parents can use them with their middle school child.

For now, just know and believe that a majority of your middle school parents really do care. They just need to be reminded they still can and do influence their child. Their opinion and actions really do matter and it’s important to stay, “in the trenches” during these critical years. Empower them to step up and step in! Support, love and care for your middle school parents. They need it just as much as their kids do.

Making a Commitment is Better than Having No Commitment

Have you ever made a commitment to someone or to something and then later you regretted making it? You probably had all kinds of reasons or excuses running through your head as to why you couldn’t keep the commitment. (Trust me! You’re not alone. This has happened to me many times over!)

But, surprisingly, you found yourself still following through with the commitment anyway. Maybe you followed through because you didn’t want to let yourself or the other person down. Maybe you followed through because you wanted to be known as someone who does what they say they are going to do. Or, you followed through because you realized the commitment you made really was important to you.

Research shows that when we make a commitment to someone or something we are more likely to follow through with it than if we made no commitment at all. Commitments guide and influence our behaviors.

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In other words, making a commitment is better than having no commitment.

The problem is that as kids move through the middle school years their commitments to not drinking, smoking or using other drugs begin to weaken or erode. Risky behaviors they were “never, never” going to do when they were in elementary school are now something they might “do someday” or “when they get older” or have already done.

This is why commitment-making is one of the most effective prevention strategies you can use to influence the attitudes and behaviors of your middle and high school students if you want to delay the onset of risky behaviors with them. It’s important for you to affirm commitments that are still strong, strengthen commitments that have weakened or make commitments where commitments no longer exist.

As we all know too well, it’s easy to make a commitment, but it’s a lot harder to keep it. So, you need to think about what it’s going to take to increase the likelihood the commitments your kids make for themselves are kept.

Here’s what research tells us…

If you want commitments made to be kept then you need to make commitments voluntarily. You are more likely to keep a commitment YOU wanted to make compared to making a commitment someone told you to make. Encourage your kids to make commitments they want to make for themselves even if they aren’t the commitments you want them to make.

The second condition important in helping commitments made to be kept is making sure they are personal. YOU need to write your commitments in your own words and say it the way you want to say it. This means that giving all kids the same drug-free pledge or commitments, written by someone else, don’t work. This “one size fits all” mentality assumes that one set of commitments works for all. Research shows this isn’t the case. Instead, let each of your students write their own personal commitments.

The last and third condition important for you to keep your commitments is ensuring they are public. Once YOU make a commitment it’s important to share it with others who can support, remind and help you. Otherwise, it’s like the New Year’s resolutions we make to ourselves. It’s easy to not keep them if no one else knows we made them. This is why you need to make sure that when your kids make commitments they share them with others who are important to them and who can help and support them in keeping them.

Do these three conditions make sense to you in how they can help you keep a commitment you make? Can you think of a time in your life when you made a commitment and followed through with it because one or more of these conditions were met? I know I can.

The saying that “commitments are made to be broken” just isn’t true. Commitments are made to help us do what we want or need to do. It’s true that commitments can be challenged and can be broken. But, when this happens, it’s not the end of the world. Sometimes this is when we learn some of life’s most important lessons and can re-commit with even more intention and determination.

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So, don’t be afraid to ask your kids to make commitments for themselves when it comes to not engaging in risky behaviors in the future. It’s one of the best things you can do to help them do what THEY want to do.