Archive for the ‘Family’ category

Helping kids cope with uncertainty with Dr. Christine Carter

December 22, 2020

As a parent of a teenage boy, starting high school in the middle of a pandemic, I was thrilled to listen in on a Team Up! conversation between author and sociologist Dr. Christine Carter and Dr. Michael Latham, president of Punahou School.

Dr. Carter begins by acknowledging that the pandemic has changed the way children learn and socialize, and the way that we parent them.

One of the most powerful ways to cope with the overwhelm we feel is gratitude, she shares. Instead of focusing on the things we cannot do, we can appreciate the things we have, the people we know, and the things we can do.

Dr. Carter shares three key parenting skills that we should practice:

1. Help kids connect and learn social skills. “Family connections are a good predictor of mental health,” Dr. Carter said. More than ever, we need to have dinner as a family and build at least one good friendship to sustain them. In a way, introverted kids can do better because they can focus on a single relationship.

2. Help kids focus and command their own attention. Technology is designed to distract, Dr. Carter warns, so we need to set up an environment where it doesn’t disrupt learning. For example, put device chargers in a parent’s closet (not in a child’s bedroom or even a common room), turn devices off during family meals, and encourage kids to read books.

One suggestion is to give children freedom within limits, so they have the security they need and the choice to make mistakes safely, knowing that parents will stop them before things get dangerous.

3. Help kids rest and get enough sleep. This is one of the easiest practices, and for the parents of teenagers, may be the hardest to follow through on. I remember wanting to stay up later and wake up later, and it’s a struggle.

One of the most important reminders is that as parents and teachers we should acknowledge that things are hard, and help children label what they are feeling. Validate their emotions, and listen without trying to fix their problem.

“It’s very hard to witness pain in our children, and it’s also the most helpful thing we can do for them when are struggling, is to bear witness to their pain,” Dr. Carter admits.

Asked about what has changed since she wrote “Raising Happiness.” Dr. Carter shared, “Happiness isn’t the most important thing –having meaning is much more important, having a connection to something larger than yourself.”

How have your parenting practices changed in response to the pandemic? What challenges do children face? How can we help children recover from difficulty?

Being thankful

November 24, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving.

Happy Thankfulness Day.

Oprah Winfrey reminds us: “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has taught me many things this year, and one of the most important lessons is the reminder to be thankful, to appreciate what we have and the people who are in our lives.

Sometimes we’re not satisfied with what have and we look for something new, something more, something different.

Often what we have is more than enough.

And when we share our thankfulness with others, we can magnify our appreciation and joy.

Here are three things that you can do today to strengthen a mindset of thankfulness and gratitude:

* A surprise thank-you. Choose someone you know who works hard, who has been isolated by the pandemic, or who doesn’t receive a lot of recognition. It could be your mail delivery person, a bus driver, a neighbor, an old school friend, a teacher who made a big impact on you, or your favorite waiter or cashier, bank teller or librarian. On an ordinary day, surprise them with a phone call, an email, or a letter letting them know you’re thinking of them.

* Thankful tree. Draw a tree trunk on a large piece of cardboard (from an appliance box) or poster board; or use a real indoor tree. Cut out shapes of leaves, flowers, nuts, or fruits; use tags or even ribbons. Everyone should write down at least one thing they are thankful for, and hang it on the tree. I still have a tree that my family made years ago, and I think I’ll add more leaves to it this year.

* Thankful reminders. Create a daily alarm on your phone, tablet, or computer that asks, “What are you thankful for today?” Ask family and writes to send you an email with three things they are thankful for – and then send it to them during next year’s Thanksgiving. At home, find a simple jar and fill it with colorful slips of paper noting things you are thankful for or with small tokens that have meaning to you (such as a button, a leaf, a flower, a picture).

Thank you for reading Better Hawaii, for your encouragement, for being open to different points of view, and for your optimism.

Who are you thankful for? How can you show your thankfulness?

A letter to my pre-COVID-19 self

September 8, 2020

Dear pre-COVID-19 self,


2020 will be full of uncertainty and unexpected challenges. It will begin like any other year, but it will be extraordinary.


Every generation lives through hardships, whether it’s a natural disaster, war, or plague. I don’t know what challenges you will face, but I know it will change everything.


So here are some things I want you should know:


Take care of what you can. You can choose how you react to challenges, how you treat your family, how you speak with others, and how you care for yourself.


Believe that other people are doing their best. They may be having a hard day too. They have to follow “the rules” even if they don’t like them, and the people who make those rules usually have good intentions.


Decide what is most important to you. Sometimes your life is filled with so many distractions that you can lose sight of the important things. Think about the things you planned to do “one day” or “next time.” What can you do “right now”?


Let go of things out of your control. There will always be things that are unfair, things you can’t change but just have to live with, like the weather, or certain health conditions, or a genetic predisposition, or your family. But you have control over other things, so…


Take a stand for what you believe in. Out of your control doesn’t mean you are powerless. Whether you sign a well-written petition or write a persuasive letter, talk respectfully with a friend or march peacefully in a protest, or make informed choices when you vote… you can change opinions, you can challenge ideas, and you can raise expectations.


Change starts with you. Someone else won’t change their beliefs, their habits, or their prejudices on their own. Show them that it can be done, show them how to do it, propose solutions, and be a role model and mentor.


And when things are back to “normal,” keep the changes that makes things better. You don’t have to back to the way things were. Take the best changes and make them part of your everyday life.


How will you react to the coming challenges? What will you write to your future self?


With aloha,

Your future self

Conflict resolution for superheroes

April 28, 2020

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to resolve personal conflicts recently.

The COVID-19 crisis is testing us in many ways – emotionally, physically, and financially. We are more isolated from others and yet closer to the people we live and work with.

Inevitably, personal conflicts will arise and relationships may be strained.

It’s a good time to remind ourselves that we can resolve conflicts peacefully.

When my son was in the third grade, he was a big fan of superhero movies, especially “Iron Man.” I found a free poster for kids about Superhero Conflict Resolution: I Messages.

The poster focuses on “I Messages” and gave us four easy tips to resolve conflict:

  1. Say the person’s name.
  2. Tell how you feel.
  3. Tell why.
  4. Tell what you want.

Here’s is my then 8-year old son’s idea for resolving conflict between Iron Man and Killian from “Iron Man 3:

Iron Man says, “Killian, I feel angry when you burn people up. Please stop burning people. Thank you.” Killian responds, “Iron Man, I’m sorry. I will roast marshmallows for people.”

We may disagree and we may argue, but Hawaii will get through this together.

Have you used “I Messages” to resolve disagreements? What are your tips for resolving conflicts?

Painting a tropical island

April 14, 2020

“I find inspiration in all around me.” – Joni Young

Last year, my husband, 12-year old son, and I followed along with a Bob Ross episode and created our own versions of “Reflections of Calm.” Bob Ross made it look so easy (it wasn’t), but we didn’t give up, and we created three works of art that we are proud of.

In these challenging times, when we’re living with each other 24/7, I wanted give us another chance to express ourselves through art.

Once they agreed, we browsed through YouTube to find an acrylic painting for beginners, something that would remind us of Hawaii’s beauty – a beach, an island, a gorgeous sunset.

We decided on a tropical island painted by artist Joni Young.

I was ready with everything we needed: 11”x14” canvas panels, acrylic paints, and art brushes. I reminded them that we didn’t need to follow the colors and images… we could make it our own.

Here are versions of the tropical beach created by my son B and myself. You’ll notice that B didn’t even put in an island and added only one tree, and I created a white sand beach with a park bench.

Our second attempt at a painting party went much smoother than our first. We knew that the artist would paint much more quickly than we could paint, we were comfortable changing colors and elements, and we all finished and signed our paintings.

Best of all, we spent a creative, enjoyable afternoon that we’ll remember for years.

How can you add more art into your daily life? Where do you find inspiration?


Artwork and tutorials are the property of Joni Young Art and are intended for personal enjoyment and learning of a student. Watch “How to Paint a Tropical Island” on YouTube at or find out more about Joni Young at