Thanksgiving Conversation Starters

We are big fans of Thanksgiving at Portraits that Move because it brings together our favorite things - family and gratitude (and food!).

There is nothing like gathering together around a table to share stories and relish in the small moments that make our lives, especially our family lives, rich and memorable. But, as natural as it is to have conversations with our loved ones, the conversation doesn’t always flow naturally.

Thanksgiving Conversation Starters.png

Don’t worry. We’re here to help you get the conversation started and keep it going this year at your Thanksgiving table. Try these tips for a fun, stress-free Thanksgiving for families of all ages and sizes. Our conversation starters and Thanksgiving table games are guaranteed to bring joy to your table, and to teach you things about your family that you never knew.

Make the Alphabet Game the Gratitude Game

I’m thinking of something that begins with the letter…

We all know the popular road trip game, where you work your way through the alphabet, guessing something that begins with each letter of the alphabet while the person who is “it” provides clues to the guessers.

Customize this game for your Thanksgiving table. Take turns going clockwise around the table (or starting youngest to oldest). The first person who is “it” says “I’m grateful for something that begins with the letter A.” Each person around the table guesses what that is based on hints.

This is a fun, easy, and interactive way to share what you are thankful for. It is also a natural way to start a conversation around gratitude, and to teach you what little things matter to your loved ones.

Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters

Craft stick conversation starters are one of our favorites! We have a complete DIY guide to creating these fun, reusable conversation starters that are perfect for Thanksgiving table games and throughout the year.

DIY Popsicle Stick Conversation Starters for Kids and Tweens
What you need:
2 mason jars
1 pack of large craft sticks
markers (we chose brightly colored and metallic Sharpies to make it extra fun)
a list of creative questions for kids

diy conversation starters for kids mason jar craft stick.JPG

See more suggestions and tips for creating your own craft stick conversation starters. For Thanksgiving, you can customize the colors, add festive stickers and coordinate your sticks to go with your table and decor themes. It’s a great way to get the kids involved in holiday prep and to keep their hands busy while you are finishing up your last minute cooking and decorating!

Favorite Things and Follow-Ups

After everyone is seated at the table, instruct them to put their place cards in a hat (or a pumpkin, cornucopia or Thanksgiving themed cup!). The person at the head of the table pulls out one name at a time and asks that person to name one of their favorite things.

After that person shares a favorite thing, encourage everyone else around the table to ask questions about it so they can learn more. Questions can include “has that always been one of your favorites?” “What makes you like that so much…”

Other favorite things follow-ups should include things like “That’s a great book! When I was your age, my favorite book was…”

This is an easy way to learn more about each other. Favorites and follow-ups is a particularly good game if you have tweens and teens at your table who want to share but don’t always know how, and who sometimes feel too on the spot when they are barraged with questions. The key to getting kids to talk honestly and openly is to create space in which they feel comfortable, rather than exposed.

Cheers to comfortable spaces, laughter around tables, and conversations that create memories well beyond the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Teaching Kindness to Kids in a World Filled with Anger

These are the lazy days of summer.  We're supposed to be watching our kids play on the beach, staying up late for game night, and telling old family stories, passing on our traditions and making new ones.  If we are lucky, many of us are doing this during these last weeks before the start of the school year.  But even if we are, these simple joys are competing with the very real strain of witnessing a world that feels like it is absent of kindness.

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As parents, what do we do?  How do we teach our kids to practice kindness in a world filled with so much anger and hatred?  How do we nurture them and prepare them to spread good in our world as a counterbalance to all the bad?  How do we do that without destroying these treasured, peaceful family moments that we want to preserve?

Moments like this are actually the foundation for teaching about and building kindness.  The more time we spend with our children, the more spaces we create for them to ask and answer questions.  We allow them to hear their own voices and to know that we are listening to them, respectfully.  This gives our children the tools they need to develop the empathy and confidence that will help them create and engage in a better world.

Kindness Begins at Home

We teach kindness by demonstrating kindness.  For parents, this means exercising a little extra patience, especially when we are busy and really don’t have the time to slow down as much as we would like. 

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Teaching kindness starts with respectful listening.  Listen to your kids when they ask the hard questions.  Also, remember to listen to your kids when they are telling their stories, whether they are about building Minecraft worlds or imagining shooting into the galaxy with a stuffed monkey. 

When we listen to the little things, we make time and space for their voices, and we model for our children the values of respect and empathy.  We also give them the confidence they need to speak up in defense of those who are treated unfairly, and on behalf of those who need and deserve kindness.  Remember, kindness needs courage, and courage comes from confidence.

Celebrate Kindness

When you are spending time with your kids, enjoying the last days of summer, and during the busy season of school and sports and rehearsals, always take a moment to encourage, share and celebrate acts of kindness.

kindness lessons kids.png

We have spoken about getting your kids to talk about their day, and the value of using targeted questions (to avoid the generic “How was your day?/It was fine.” conversation).  As you go through those specific questions with your children at the end of the day, during the trip home from school, around the table, or at bedtime, ask for an example of when they showed kindness.  Ask them to tell you about a time during the day when they saw someone else demonstrate kindness. 

Then remember to ask the harder questions.  Ask them if there was a time someone didn’t show kindness.  Other questions should include: Did you encounter a situation where someone needed to be shown kindness and wasn’t?  Sometimes, is it hard to be kind to others?  Why?  What can we do about that?

Share Your Own Experiences

If we expect our children to feel comfortable speaking with us about things that are difficult – and we can all agree, sometimes it is difficult to show kindness to others – we need to be honest with them. 

Tell your children about your own struggles.  Maybe you have a co-worker who frustrates you, maybe you are so tired that you feel you can’t find the energy to ask someone if they need help, or how you can do something to make their day easier.  Tell your kids about this.  Ask them if they have ideas for how you can practice kindness more often.

Keep the conversations going and let your children know that we all need each other.  In spite of the anger and the hatred that we see in the world, we can do better, if we can come together.

What My Son Taught Me About Listening

The other day I took my son to the pharmacy with me. When I got to the counter, the woman there, who has helped me many times noticed him and our relationship. "He is so cute she said, how old is he 9?" I agreed and then we got into a conversation of how fast the time goes, and how special life is with a young child.

Then something else happened, the woman started opening up to us. She told us that she had never had her own children, but had a nephew. She had been unemployed for the first year of his life and had been very involved in his care. He was very dear to her, almost like a son to her. She was deeply connected to how fast he was growing up, how short the time is and how precious each moment is. The conversation went on for a good ten to twelve minutes.

Eventually, we paid and left the store. After a pause, my son said to me, “Mom, she really wanted to talk to you today. She had a lot of things to tell you.”

I hugged him and said, “That’s true honey, but sometimes the best gift we can give someone…” He interrupted me: “I know mom, the best gift we can give someone is to listen because everyone has a story to tell, right?”

My eyes filled up with tears. I was so grateful that he knew this intuitively. He was open to her and to listening. My son showed me that he values storytelling and, more importantly, human connection. As parents we often wonder if we are doing a good job. We question whether the life lessons are sinking in and making sense. On this day, I was thrilled to realize that my son, had things to teach me.

And I was grateful that I was able to listen.

This week, take an extra moment to listen to the stories of those around you. Most importantly, take a moment to listen to your children, and to find those opportunities where they can teach you.

Keep the Conversation Going: How to Communicate and Connect with Kids from Wherever You Are

This morning I boarded a plane for a work trip to Orlando to attend a board meeting for the Kids in Need Foundation. I was looking forward to the trip. I am proud of the work we do and I always leave our meetings feeling inspired and energized.

Still, I felt sad as I said goodbye to my son. I hate missing time with him. And even though the tasks of parenting can sometimes feel monotonous, I enjoy making his lunch, our walks to school and our evening routines.

This morning he seemed a bit quiet which made me feel that he was having similar feelings. At nine years old, he may not be able to express them, but I think any time we are separated from our children there is a slight amount of discomfort for everyone involved. And perhaps with children of divorce this may be even more so. 

It got me thinking about how to stay close to him while I am traveling. How can we both stay in tune with each other when we are hundreds of miles away? I think technology is an amazing tool we can use. I will facetime to connect with my son when he gets home from school. I will show him my hotel room and encourage him to do the same for me. I’d like to see his homework sheet, his dinner, the smile on his face. 

And we can stay close by asking some good, deep questions. Here are some questions that evoke answers that go beyond yes or no:

  • What was your favorite part of your day today?
  • What was the worst part?
  • Did someone do something for you that made you feel really special?
  • Who did you have lunch with?
  • What is new with your friends (and name them specifically)?
  • Did you learn something today that made you feel excited? If so, what was it?

I will also tell my son details about my day, the same way I do at home. That way he has a sense of where I am and what is happening. I will do the same tomorrow, all the while, reassuring him that I will be home tomorrow evening. It will be great to be reunited and in the meantime, we will stay close and our conversations will continue.

 

Overcoming Shyness: Tips for Working with Kids on Camera

People often ask me what happens if their child is shy or does not want to participate on the day we arrive to film their Portraits that Move video. I always respond with complete sincerity that this is not a problem at all.

Our main goal for the film shoot is to create an open, loving space for the child to be who they are. If they feel pressured, pushed or coerced in any way, it will not work.  We want your kids to know that we love them exactly as they are.

working with kids on camera tips

We recently did a holiday shoot for two girls, Savannah and Derby. For the second year in a row, we documented the sisters for their family's Holiday Video Card. We had spent time with them last year, we cherished them and the entire family loved their first video.

Still, when we arrived to shoot the video the next year, one of the girls, Derby, was not into us being there. Initially, she refused to talk to me. She did not want to do anything we asked of her and, at one point, she even hid from us.

tips to overcome shyness on camera filmmaking tips from kids director

I showed Derby love at every turn, letting her know that her feelings were normal.  I assured her and made her feel comfortable with the filming process in the following ways:

  • I let her know that she could show us and tell us what SHE wanted. All of her answers were up to her.
  • We loved her and smiled at her even through her protest. It is a weird situation to have a camera there - we acknowledged that, and we acknowledged her feelings.
  • We encouraged anything that would bring her comfort. You will see a purple stuffed snake throughout the video. She wanted it close to her, and we agreed.
  • When she said it was over for her, we wrapped it up. There is no reason to push a child beyond the point they are willing to go. Safety and comfort are most important.  Children need and deserve to feel in control of their own experience. After all, how can our kids show us their best selves if they feel uncomfortable?

Ultimately, the film captures Derby’s spirit beautifully. She is sparkly and loving and filled with fun. I loved spending the afternoon with her. I hope she felt the same. 

The Joy of Watching Our Children Grow

This year we have had the great blessing of working with some of our Portraits that Move families for the third year in a row. It is an incredible experience and all that I hoped it would be when I started Portraits That Move.

It is fantastic to talk to our children about what moves them, inspires them and motivates them. I love hearing about all of their feelings and observing how their interests and passions change from year to year. I am able to see the incremental change in a way that you as their parent may not always recognize. I think it is also fun for the kids. They are excited to tell me things - to show me how they have grown.

I am a person that has a heightened sense of the passage of time. As a result of the health challenges that I have had, I have always had an intense awareness of the fragility of life and the quick passage of time.  I want to preserve moments in time for you, for your family and for your children’s children.

The families that work with us year after year love having a personal catalog of our work. They enjoy both the process and the final family videos. I feel grateful for the trust they extend to me to listen to and connect with their children. I am grateful to parents for inviting me to capture the passage of time, to give the gift of time back to them, and to their children.  

The work we do, creating custom documentary quality videos of families, is a gift to each of us as Portraits that Move filmmakers. As we enter into the holiday season, I look forward to giving that gift to all of you. 

Activities with Kids that Spark Conversation

Engaging our kids in activities that make them feel comfortable, creative, inspired and open encourages them - and makes them feel comfortable  to have good, honest conversations with us.

Because celebrating the real voices of our kids, their insights, dreams, observations, and joy is so much a part of our mission as filmmakers, we have come up with some ideas for fun activities that create conversation.  These are great things to do over summer vacation and throughout the year.

Play Outside

The outdoors is full of inspiration for kids and adults. As stimulating as the out of doors is, it is free of the distractions of home.  You won't be tempted to try and put away all the toys in the playroom or check your email "just one more time" when you are outside, immersed in nature. 

activities with kids

Playing a game of catch, going on a nature walk, collecting shells, or searching for the perfect shady spot in the park all provide opportunities to ask and answer questions about the world around us and to get insight into what is on our children's minds and in their hearts.

Go For a Walk

Again, you are limiting the distractions that try to steal attention away from our kids, and you are limiting the distractions that prevent kids from focusing on their thoughts and engaging in conversation with us (it's pretty difficult to answer a question fully when they are indulging in some screen time).

take a walk together stop and smell the roses

Walking together gives your child the chance to fill you in on his or her day.  If possible, walk home from camp or from school.  Ask a mixture of precise and open-ended questions to remind them of different moments in the day, and to get a sense of what they enjoyed, what they didn't, and what those moments made your child think about and feel.  

Questions like "what was the best part of your day" or "who did you sit with at lunchtime" are easier for kids to answer than "how was your day."

Build Something Together

When we work on something together we need to communicate and to focus.  All of this helps to create a comfortable environment for conversation and for sharing.  We feel connected when we are working on a project together and kids gain confidence and feel proud when they are able to build something from start to finish. 

build something together

Get out some puzzles, look through craft books and science experiments and find a project that is challenging but not intimidating, that is collaborative and fun.  Talk with your kids first and let them help you choose what project you want to do together.  Talk about why you are choosing that project and talk, as you go, about what comes next, how the steps connect, and who should do what to make your project work.

Learn Something Together

It's good for our kids to see that we can still learn something.  Kids feel less shy when they see that we also need to go step by step and they feel excited, right along with us, as we make progress to learn something new.  

learn something together

Learn simple sign language, or try another new language (especially if your child is taking lessons in school or through an afterschool program).  Discover facts about animals or regions of the world, try out some new dance steps, or go to a music class together.  Learning something new together gives you a sense of shared accomplishment.  You can practice together and discover together, all the while nurturing an environment of communication, trust and support.

Cook a Meal

Integrate conversation and special time with your kids into your daily life.  Cook breakfast or dinner together.  Let your child help you choose what to make and include him or her in the preparation process.  Reading recipes and measuring ingredients helps younger kids build literacy and math skills and making a meal together sets the stage for good conversations.

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If you are making breakfast, talk about your plans for the day.  If you are making dinner, talk abut your favorite moments of the day.  Talk about ingredients, flavors, and family traditions.  Preparing and eating food is a time honored way of connecting and sharing with others.  Using this time intentionally with our kids passes along traditions and infuses an everyday task with joy.

Peek at Our Filmmaking Process

We talked with Max and Julian about video games, superpowers and what they love about mom.  We talked about how it feels to have a brother and to be one.

Throughout the Portraits that Move filming process, we asked Max and Julian questions independently and together.  We gave them space and time to really talk to us, to do more than introduce themselves and some of their favorite books and keepsakes (Harry Potter, a panda photo). 

Our questions and the environment we create during a Portraits that Move film shoot, allowed these adorable, imaginative boys, ages seven and nine, to tell us about some of their aspirations and their concerns. And as always, we got some priceless responses.

"growing up makes me scared because I have to pay taxes and make money"

"I appreciate my family because they're nice to me and they care about me.  I love them."

Like all of our portrait length and snapshot films, we as filmmakers and the family who received the final product, developed a new insight into children's lives.  And what a gift that is!

Discover your own Portraits that Move Portrait or Snapshot.

Things Kids Say

There is nothing like a conversation with a child, or an overheard observation, to put a smile on your face.  One of the daily joys of documenting the lives of children for their families, is getting to interact with kids and hear their take on the world around them.

Book a moving portrait from Portraits that Move. 

Talking with kids, and even more so, really listening kids, gives us a glimpse into the world through their eyes.  It is at once exciting, new, precious and nostalgic.  And occasionally, it is hilarious.

More than anything, though, it is fleeting - these observations and conversations that we so often miss in the hustle of school dropoff and shuttling back and forth to activities and balancing work and home and kids and life.  Through it all, there is this desire to hit the pause button, to freeze on a moment, to come back to that conversation you had with your son that showed you who he is, and who he is becoming.  You want to go back to that evening at the dinner table when your daughter made you laugh, really laugh, and you realized this family of yours, these moments, they are what is precious.  And no matter how long these days and weeks can feel, they won't last forever.

But maybe the memories can.

 

 

Dreaming of Growing Up

One of the things that I most love to ask kids is what they want to be when they grow up. I find the answers they provide exciting, compelling and quite astute.  Kids are able to dream, they do not let limitations inhibit them. They are tapped into their strengths, their interests and what brings them joy. The world is open to them and it is incredible.

I get really excited about the idea of following our kids, as they get older to see if they hold onto the same dreams or if they change them in the some way.  I want to reflect their beauty, power and greatness to them. I want them to know that I believe in their biggest dreams.

As I child I dreamed of being an actress, a gymnast or a teacher. Although I started making video at fourteen years old, I never imagined my work would bring me to this path, this place, this moment. It is more fun, and more fulfilling that I ever thought it could be.  I wish the same for all of our kids.

Here’s to them and to the dreams ahead.

Talking With Kids: What Does It Mean to Be in Love?

I am so excited about Valentine’s Day.  I love any excuse to be romantic, generous and expressive. These days Valentine’s Day is all about my son, my family and my friends. I use it as a formalized reason to express how much I treasure all of them, how much they mean to me and how much gratitude I have for the expansive love in my life.

valentine video

This year, I got curious, about what being in love means to my son, so I asked him:

“What do you think it means to be in love?”

His response, “Being in love is about generosity, kindness, loyalty and protection.”  I was floored by his answer. What a teacher he is, this son of mine.

I opened up the question to a couple of his friends.  One friend said that, “Being in love means you have a person that cares about you that you also care about.” 

talking with kids about love

Another friend said “It means finding a person you want to marry.”  This was a common theme, another young girl said, “Being in love is when you love someone so much and they love you so much, enough that you want to marry them.  And that is being in love." All true. 

I find talking to kids about their feelings and the definitions of their feelings so enlightening. Doing so opens the window into what they are thinking and also into new ways of seeing our own emotions. 

We are showing our kids how much we love them by listening, hearing them and honoring their ideas. There is nothing more loving than that.

Wishing you all tremendous love on Valentine’s Day. Hope it comes to you in many forms, those expected and those suprising.

Why We Love February

February is a special time of year here at Portraits that Move.  We are busy creating Valentine video gifts and listening to kids talk about love.  They share what love means to them, who they love and why, and what their own special plans are for celebrating and sharing love.

That's one of the beautiful things about creating documentary style short films for families.  We have the privilege - and the responsibility - of helping kids communicate their love and joy to the people they love the most.

And we get to celebrate right along with all of you.  Through every film shoot, every hour in the editing room, and all of our conversations with kids and parents, we are living and sharing love and joy.

As we head into Valentine's Day, know that we love every one of you - our clients, friends and readers.  And we are so grateful to help you spread the love today and always.

Happy Valentines Day! 


Brooklyn Author Mallory Kasdan: Our Kids Teach Us About Beauty, Kindness and Community

We are thrilled to have Mallory Kasdan, Brooklyn mom and author of the popular (and hilarious!) children's book Ella, join us today as a Portraits that Move guest blogger.

Mallory's post, which first appeared on her blog, shows how our children teach us curiosity, joy, gratitude and friendship every day, just by being who they are.

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A Curious Mind - Lessons from a Filmmaker, Inspiration for Parents

I recently read a new book, written by the extraordinary producer, Brian Grazer, entitled A CURIOUS MIND, THE SECRET TO A BIGGER LIFE.  Brian is an incredibly successful producer and the force behind such projects as Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and most recently, the hit television show, Empire. He owns his company, Imagine Entertainment with director Ron Howard.

Brian Grazer Photo: IMDB

Brian Grazer Photo: IMDB

I have followed Brian’s career for a long time because, as a film producer I am always fascinated by what makes another producer successful. What propels him or her forward?  How do they work best? How do they identify projects and decide to create them or not?  Brian is known in the industry to be hard working, affable and extremely fun to work with.

And now, after reading his book, I understand why.

Photo: Amazon

Photo: Amazon

In A Curious Mind, Brian makes the point that it is the trait of curiosity that creates more success, bigger wins and closer relationships. He offers that the act of asking questions at every juncture brings us closer to our own truths and to those that we are close to.  I couldn’t agree more.

In fact, I think I was drawn to this book because I innately understood that curiosity is the thing that keeps us young - and relatable to our children. Curiosity opens doors in our communication with our kids. When our children are asking us why a million times (while it can sometimes be annoying) it is an opportunity to get to the bottom of what they are trying to understand. And to, in turn, understand them. 

What are they curious about? What moves them? How does their line of thinking work?

It is clear that asking questions of others sets the stage for more truths. It shows that we are interested, engaged and present; all things that our children need us to be.  In honor of Brian Grazer and his book, I offer up a challenge to you. Can you come up with 5 things that you are curious about your children?

Ask them, go deeper, get closer.  And tell us about it!

Here are a few curiosities of mine, conversation starters that we use at Portraits that Move when filming documentaries for families.  Use these as jumping off points, and keep your kids talking.  You - and they - will benefit from it greatly. 

How does it feel for you when you sing?
Do you like the beach or the forest better and why?

What is your favorite summer frozen treat? What do you like about it?
What is your deepest wish?

Curiosity is a core value at Portraits That Move. One that keeps us working hard to meet more kids, to understand them, who they are and all the reasons we celebrate them. 

Conversations with Kids: Transition to Summer, An Interview with My Son

The end of the school year came fast and furiously last month and in New York, the kids were in school until almost July so we are still easing into the reality of summer. June is always an intense month filled with endings and beginnings. It marks the ending of a grade, of a school year, of a class and the beginning of the carefree, fun days of summer.

My son, on his last day of school in June

My son, on his last day of school in June

Like most parental rights of passage, I found this time this year very bittersweet. I was incredibly excited for my son that he was finishing his school year and that it had been a good one for him. I share his excitement for all things summer: fireworks, ice cream, traveling, beaches, swimming, late playdates, s’mores (he really loves those!) and summer reading.  Yet all the while, I also felt a bit wistful how about fast the time is going by and quickly my son is growing up.

Much like I do when filming kids for Portraits that Move documentaries, I decided to do a quick interview with him, asking about his feelings on summer in the hopes of opening up a conversation about this transition. What I found was that he was present, thinking forward and open. He felt curious, positive and at ease. The conversation with him was brief but joyful.

talking with kids about transitions summer fireworks

Q: What do you love most about summer?

A: Traveling to places like Cape Cod and Maine because I like spending time with my family. When I go there I get to see all my cousins.

Q: How does summer feel different from the school year to you?

A: Well, I miss my friends and I don’t like learning as much as learning while you are doing something fun and summer is a way better time to do that because there is no homework.

Q: What will you miss about school?

A: That my friends are there - I miss them already - that they help me a lot and I love them and I don’t see them a lot in the summer.

Q: Do you have any goals – is there something you really want to do, learn or get better at – this summer?

A: I want to learn more multiplication. And I want to learn about rocks, and birds and nature.

Q: What is your favorite summer tradition?

A: Going to Cape Cod and s’mores, of course. 

transitions kids summer

After this conversation I felt less emotional.  Conversation and questions always soften the intensity of any moment. Our children offer us the gift of living in the present moment. It is up to us how often we allow ourselves to live in that moment with them.  I hope to do a great deal of that this summer with my son.

Speaking with our children, asking questions and really hearing their answers is such an important part of our job as parents, and my job as a filmmaker.  This summer, I want to be mindful of creating space for conversations with my son.  And I know it will make our summer all the more joyful, and memorable, no matter how quickly it seems to go.

Business Travel: How a Working Mom Can Stay Connected to Her Kids

I’ve been traveling a lot for business lately and I am reminded of how important it is to stay connected to our children when we are separated by distance and how lucky we are to have technology that allows us to do so. 

On my most recent trip to LA, my son and I took full advantage of Facetime, talking together once, and sometimes twice, a day.  It is by no means perfect, and can be difficult to get your child’s attention when you’re not in the same room together (then again, it can be difficult to get their attention when you are in the same room together).  But overall, I was so impressed by and appreciative of the way that Facetime helped us to connect while I was so far away.

Having an image and being able to look into someone’s eyes, makes it so much easier to connect with our kids.  While it can be hard to have a real conversation over the phone with my son, Facetime helped us to connect with and really listen to each other.  For him, at seven, the fact that it was digital and a little techy made it exciting and more fun than holding a phone to his ear.

More than any other time, these business trips have emphasized for me just how much of a role technology plays in keeping us connected and close.  So often, parents bemoan technology and the ways it can fragment, or separate and certainly, this can be true, but in this crazy pace of life, we really are fortunate to have this kind of technology in that it can also keep us together.


They Need to Know You Are OK

One thing I have realized as a working mom who travels is that our kids need to know that we are safe and comfortable when we are away from them.  My son needs to know that when I leave home I am not just out in the ether.  Anything that we can do to help our kids visualize where we are and how we are, anything that provides context for them, helps to ease their minds – and gets them excited about the adventure we are taking, the adventure we are sharing with them as best we can.

My colleague Rebecca sent her daughter daily photos from our set and snapped pictures of the airplane before we boarded all of our flights.  All of this helped her daughter to see that mom is not just away from, she is out doing, and she is happy to share that with her. 

I Facetimed my son from my hotel room every morning (in spite of the time difference that had me up before 5 am) and took him on a tour so he could see the desk where I was working and the view from my window. He could see what I see and know what I am doing.  We could share moments with each other.

We Need to Know They Are OK

The challenges of business travel for working moms are not limited to managing the emotions, and the expectations of our kids.  We need to feel anchored to our children, to know that they are safe and well and thriving.  Knowing this makes it easier to be fully present in our work. It provides us comfort and security. It is essential to the success of our work.

My son’s annual field day was held while I was away and I was struggling a bit, knowing I would miss it.  But his dad shot video of him jumping hurdles and playing with his friends and sent them to me.  He recorded my son’s messages to me.  I cherished all of it. 

The videos made me feel connected and helped me to feel confident that, no matter what, my son and I share a bond.  And that I can still celebrate in his joys, even when I’m not right there on the sidelines.

What it Means to Have an Entrepreneur Mom

I love my business. I am excited to do the work that we do. I am inspired, energetic and moved by our work, but being an entrepreneur challenges me in all kinds of ways, some positive, some negative.

There are long hours, financial concerns, marketing hurdles and other challenges. It can feel relentless. I never feel like the work is done and I always feel a sense that I should be doing more, working harder. Sometimes I feel consumed by the business and distracted by it. I worry that building a business is taking me away from the most important part of my life, my son.

mompreneur lessons for my son

I don’t really believe in worrying in general as I don’t think worry actually buys us anything, so when I start to feel that way, I try to refocus my thoughts and come up with the positive things he is learning and experiencing as the son of an entrepreneur.

Here are some of them: 

1.  He is learning that hard work can be fun. I laugh a lot while I am working. I talk about how much I love my work with Portraits that Move and my son sees that.

2.  We can make our own dreams come true and that we should be fearless about it. I had an idea for this business and I went for it. It is working out for me and he is witnessing that. I believe that taking risks is important and the decision to create this business is a risk that has been incredibly rewarding.

3.  Collaboration is necessary. My son has gotten to know many of the people that are on our team. They love him and he loves them. The collaborations feel good.  They are fruitful and nourishing.

4.  He knows about the finances of business. I am an obsessive Shark Tank watcher.  We watch many episodes together and he has a better understanding of the finances of business at 7 than I did into my early twenties. He also has gut instincts about why a business may work or not and it is exciting for me to see his clear-headed decisiveness.

5.  Life can be balanced (I hope!)  I work really hard and from my home, so while my son does witness me working all the time, I still make dinner every night, host many playdates and make it to most events at school. I feel lucky to be able to create a balance and to make my own choices about my schedule.

6.  There is always more to learn. I am constantly pushing myself to learn about new approaches to the work we do, new business ideas and innovative strategies. I never rest or feel like we have done it all or like I know it all.

7.  We can lead with our hearts and feel good about who we are. Portraits that Move is a business built on the concept of joy, of family closeness and connection.

It is not surprising that I would build this type of company as I am a heart-centered person who appreciates and celebrates all of the joy that family brings. I created a company that reflects who I am and we are thriving. I am excited to do this work every day, and my son witnesses that and participates in it.

lessons for my son from mom entrepreneur

Recently on our walk to school, I asked him about what it means to have an entrepreneur mom, and what it means, specifically, to have Portraits that Move in our lives.

He paused for a second and said,

“I feel great about it Mom.”

“Why?” I asked, “Tell me more.”  

“Well,” he said, “Portraits That Move is great because it makes US really happy.” 

It certainly does.  And it is my privilege to share that joy with each one of you.  To help your children share their voices and to create a space for the conversations we most want to have, those conversations in which we learn as much from our children as we can ever hope to teach them, by our hard work, every day.

Continue to join me on this journey building a business and sharing joy.