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Back to School Anxiety – Tips to Help Kids With School Stress

Back to school can be an exciting and anxious time for our kids. After summer holidays, they are not always eager to get back into the school routine. Even being excited to see friends they haven’t seen since the end of the last school year can add stress. For some, toss a new school into the mix, and, well, you get the idea.

We want our children to have positive experiences at school. We also don’t want them to feel overly anxious and nervous. So, how do we help them ease into the new school year?

Tips to Help Kids With School Stress

  1. Remind them they are not alone: While it may seem to them as though everyone else is comfortable and confident, let your kids know that most kids are actually anxious about the return to school. The nervousness they feel is completely normal.
  2. Sleep, sleep, sleep: Make sure your child is getting enough sleep, not just during the school year, but in the days leading up to the start of school too. Start to get into a regular bed time routine before your kids’ first day. Also, remember that your child may be extra tired and a bit cranky the first days or weeks of school. You may need to exercise more patience with them!
  3.  Give them healthy fuel: Start the day off with a good, healthy breakfast. Going to school with an empty stomach won’t give them the strength they need both physically and mentally. Make sure they have enough for snacks and lunch too.
  4. Listen… A LOT: If your child is experiencing stress and talks to you about it, let them talk. Listen to what they have to say and remember that issues that may not seem important to you may be very important to them.
  5. Talk to them: You can relay your own experience, but remember, you are sharing your experience to help them understand that their fears are normal and not minimize their feelings. Say things like, “I remember what it was like, and yes it is hard” rather than “I remember what it was like, but now I see it’s not a big deal” will go a long way. Make sure your kids know that they can come to you with any problem they may have.
  6. Be Prepared: Make sure you have all the supplies they need ahead of time. A day or two ahead, help your child decide what to wear and make sure those items are clean and ready to go for their first day. Make sure they know the routine for getting to and from school.
  7. Keep a close eye on them: You know your child. If you think they may be experiencing anxiety that is unusual or severe, it may be time to seek professional help for them.

    Checking in with your child routinely on how they’re feeling about school can help you identify any issues that are being to boil. School can be challenging, but it should be a fun place to go.

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Prevent Drowning- This Summer and Always

Recently I watched a story on our local TV news about a toddler that fell into his family’s backyard pond. The mother was close by and only had her back turned for a moment. Fortunately, this mother was able to retrieve her son from the bottom of the pond and, since she had CPR training, revive him before the ambulance arrived. This story has a happy ending; the little boy is fine and the pond is now a sandbox.

Not Always a Happy Ending

All too often though, stories like this end in tragedy. Drowning is the second most common cause of death for small children from 1 to 4 years old! The little ones are at risk because they are usually unaware of potential dangers and they move so darn fast! As parents and caregivers, we need to minimize the dangers.

The bathtub and backyard pools account for most drowning accidents involving small children. It only takes 2 ½ inches of water to drown a child. Even if the child does not drown, near drownings can leave a child with permanent brain damage. Most drownings are preventable with a little diligence and planning.

What You Can Do to Prevent Drowning

  1. Watch Your Child: The most important thing is to watch your children constantly around any water, inside or out. Never leave them alone in or near water for even a moment. Keep your eyes on them and be within arms reach of small children at all times – really! It only takes a split second for tragedy to occur.
    I’ve observed little ones playing at the waters edge while the parents were about 5 feet away – but with their backs to their child. That child could drown and they wouldn’t hear a thing – even if only looking away for a minute, that is all it takes.
  2. Be Aware of Standing Water: When bath time is done, empty the tub right away. That also goes for any wading pools and buckets of water too (even the dirty water in a cleaning bucket can be a temptation and a hazard for a child). The toilet can also be dangerous; keep toilet lids down or get a toilet seat lock.
  3. Teach Your Kids to Swim: A great defence against drowning is swimming lessons. Many of these lessons do not just teach your child to swim, but also teach different water skills and safety. However, swimming lessons will not ‘drown-proof’ your child and there is no substitute for direct supervision. You still need to watch them very closely.
  4. Enclose Your Swimming Pool or Pond: If you have a swimming pool at home, you should completely enclose it on all sides and have a lock on the gate. CPR training can really save lives. If you have a hot tub, ensure that it is covered securely when you are not using it. Backyard ponds and other water features should also either be fenced in or have a grate covering them – or, like the woman at the beginning of this article, turn them into a sandbox or play area while your children (or grandchildren) are young.
  5. Learn CPR: CPR (Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation) is an important lifesaving technique that anyone who plans to spend time around the water should know – particularly if you are in charge of the care of children.  While CPR can sometimes save drowning victims’ lives, it can also help stave off death until emergency personnel can be on scene.

Water play can be great fun — please play safe!

 

Baby in a back seat located child safety seat

Preventing Children’s Deaths in Hot Cars

children-are-still-dying-in-hot-cars--dont-let-it-happenA parent’s worst nightmare is something happening to their child.

Compound that nightmare by knowing it was preventable and was their own fault? Already this summer, numerous children have died after being left in a vehicle. The outside temperature does not even have to be hot in order for a car to become too hot to live in for even a short period of time. Even in mild temperatures, the interior of a car can become hot enough to lead to death during an extended period of time. What is so frustrating is this happens every single summer.

The excuses for leaving a child in the car vary: my baby was sleeping and I didn’t want to wake him up…or I thought I’d only be gone a few minutes. Perhaps the most heartbreaking is I forgot my child was in the back seat. While some say they can never imagine forgetting their child was in the vehicle, it can happen with a change of routine, sleeping child, fatigue, and a host of other reasons. My heart breaks for these people and their families, and I hope with these tips it will never happen to another family.

Tips to Help Prevent Leaving Children Behind:

  • Make a habit of always looking in the back seat when you get out of your car – even when you know your child is not with you
  • When arriving home, get your kids out of the car first before getting your groceries or whatever out of the car
  • Put one of your children’s toys on the front seat as a reminder that they are in the back seat
  • Put your cell phone, briefcase, or purse in the backseat on the floor in front of your child
  • Put a sticky note on your dashboard to remind you
  • Use one of those child safety mirrors in the back window so that each time you look in your rear-view mirror you see your child as well
  • Set an alarm on your cellphone for your anticipated arrival time at your destination with a reminder about your child

Some of you may think that this is all common sense and we don’t need reminders like this. But children are still being left behind in cars during hot weather with fatal effects. I

If you see a child in a car, don’t hesitate – call 911.

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Puberty And Sexuality In Adolescents With Disabilities

Sexuality is a part of everyone’s life.

All too often the perception is that people with developmental and/or cognitive disabilities are not interested in or have the ability to be involved in intimate relationships that most of us take for granted. This is not true.

For example, the National Down Syndrome Society indicates that creating an environment conducive to healthy sexual expression must be considered in designing educational, vocational, social, recreational and residential programs. Positive sexual awareness can only develop through personal empowerment, self-esteem, understanding of social relationships and personal interaction/communication skills. All these factors influence how intimacy needs are met.

Teaching Everyone

The emotional ups and downs that are common in adolescence are also present in pre-teens and teens with disabilities. As with all children, they will have questions and wonder about some of the feelings they are experiencing and the changes their bodies are going through. We do a real disservice to them if we ignore these facts.

Without any knowledge or explanations, they may develop fears and anxiety about what is really perfectly normal. It is vital for children to have the facts so that they are not vulnerable to unintended pregnancy, sexual abuse, and sexually transmitted infections.

It is a sad truth that those in our society with disabilities are often targets of sexual predators. Arming them with information and confidence can help lessen their risk. The more you talk openly and honestly with them about sexuality, the safer they will be.

Children with disabilities need the same information and education about puberty and sexuality as other pre-teens and teens. When talking to youth about sex, their ability to understand the material needs to be taken into consideration. However, it is important to cover all the bases and not skip over anything. Many teenagers and adults with disabilities understand more about sexual development, sexual activity and pregnancy than their parents and others would expect. One must be mindful to focus on not just the physical sexual act and reproduction, but also with decision-making, cultural norms, peer pressure, relationships, and social skills. The conversations can take place over a period of time and some of the information may need to be repeated.

Knowing “No”

All children need to be taught the difference between good touch and bad touch. They also need to understand that it is ok to say no to anything that makes them feel uncomfortable – not just with strangers, but with acquaintances and friends too! “No” and “Stop” can be very powerful (and empowering) words and they need to know that they can use them. They also need to know that it is not their fault if someone makes them uncomfortable and that they should also tell a trusted adult if something happens. In addition, they need to learn boundaries for their touching others. Sadly, since many children with disabilities are not taught boundaries, they can get into trouble surrounding inappropriate touch.

Building healthy relationships is key to happiness and satisfaction for so many; it is no different for many kids with disabilities.

It is my thought that we should approach the teaching of issues and information surrounding puberty and sexuality for youth with disabilities much the same way we do for other youth – with honesty, compassion, and understanding. Factual information about their bodies, what is happening (or will be happening) will help them through what is a challenging time.

With an understanding of the changes they are going to encounter, the feelings they may experience, and what is and isn’t acceptable behavior, they will have the tools they need to be healthy and safe both physically and emotionally.

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Teaching Your Children – Honesty

Have you ever caught your children in a lie? Have you ever told a lie?

If you answered no, well, I think you are lying!

I am sure we have all told some little white lies in our time to avoid hurting someone’s feelings. We may have even found ourselves in a situation when a lie seemed like a good idea at the time and told a doozy that we regretted later (or not!).

And you can bet that at some point when you were growing up, you lied to your parents to do something you were not supposed to do or to not get into trouble for something you did. Why would you think your kids would be any different?
Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny

I’m not talking about the “lies” about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Tooth Fairy either. Although, some people do classify these as harmful lies we should never tell our children; I don’t believe that.

Compulsive Lying

What I want to talk about is the compulsive liar; the ones who lie about the important things, the ones that lie so much they no longer seem to be able to tell the truth or keep their lies straight or the ones who lie to cover up their other lies. This happens with both children and adults. I think we have a responsibility to our children to be honest with them and teach them the importance of honesty.

Encouraging Your Children to Lie?

I know a parent who had her child lie for her to her husband (also the child’s father) about where they were and who they were with.  If you want to lie, well then as an adult I guess that is your prerogative. But having your child lie to their other parent for you? What is this teaching the child? How must this make the child feel? I think it teaches two things. First, that it is ok to do things you are not supposed to do, and second, that it’s ok to lie about it.

When Would the Lies Stop?

Many say that one of the most important things in our love relationships is honesty. When our kids grow up and are in relationships of their own, how will they know what this looks like if they did not experience it growing up? If we do not teach our kids honesty, are we setting them up for failure in their future relationships?

Teaching About Honesty

I think the best way to teach honesty to our children is by example. If they see us being truthful, that is what they learn; if they see us being deceitful, that is what they learn.

If we are truthful with our children, they will learn to be truthful with us and with others.

Sometimes this is not easy! Kids ask tough questions and sometimes the truth may not be pleasant. Also, sometimes the truth will not shed the best light on us! If we mess up, we should admit it, not lie try to cover it up. I think aside from teaching honesty, seeing that their parents are not perfect and are willing to own up to their shortcomings teaches them a lot too.

Besides, telling the truth makes life much easier. As Mark Twain said, “If you tell the truth you don’t have to remember anything.” How do some people keep all the lies straight? Maybe they have told them so often that they actually believe them to be true. I don’t know.

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Fun Kid’s Party Games

Not only do kids of all ages love to play games, games are a creative and inexpensive way to entertain children. With a little imagination you will soon have them making up their own games! Whether you’re looking for birthday party games or just something to keep the little ones busy for a little while, I think you’ll find these games easy to learn and fun for all ages.

Bean in Your Shoe
One player goes out of the room. A dried bean is given to one of the players to put in his or her shoe. Play some music and have all the players dance, each child pretending to have a bean in their shoe. The player that left the room comes back and tries to guess who has the bean in their shoe. If they guess right, the person with the bean in their shoe gets to guess next. If they guess wrong, they get to leave the room again and try again. If they guess wrong a second time, they get to choose who gets to leave the room next.

Grin or Bear It
All players except one line up in a row. One player moves down the line, making faces to try to make each player in line laugh. The children standing in line try not to laugh. The first player to laugh gets to take the next turn trying to make the other players laugh.

Living Sculptures
Divide the children up into pairs. One person gets to be the clay, and the other person gets to be the sculptor. The sculptor molds the clay into any shape they want to (without hurting the clay). Faces can be arranged into odd expressions, arms and legs can be bent and arranged, and heads can be turned or tipped. When all the sculptors are finished with their creations, they get to put their sculptures on display. The pairs get to switch places after the exhibit.

Nursery Rhyme Game
Divide the players into teams. The leader assigns a nursery rhyme to each team. The teams take turns acting out their nursery rhymes. Whichever team guesses the nursery rhyme correctly gets to act out the next one. Continue for as many nursery rhymes as you can think of.

About the Author: Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom who is the author of the Creative Homemaking Recipe of the Week Club Cookbook, a cookbook containing more than 250 quick easy dinner ideas. For recipes, tips to organize your home, home decorating, crafts, frugal living, and family fun, visit Creative Homemaking.

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Is it Spying or Just Good Parenting?

Is it spying or just good parenting? Monitoring kids and their cell phone activity.
We have all heard a lot about keeping our kids safe on their cell phones – monitor their activities, check out what they are looking at, and keeping tabs on who they are talking to and texting with on their phones.

The question is: When does it cross the line and become a total invasion of their privacy?

I know if my parents had wanted to read every note I wrote to a friend (yes, I am of the generation before cell phones and texting where we used to pass written notes in class and write letters to distant friends) I would have been furious! If they had followed me around to see what I was up to every minute of the day, I would have gone bonkers! If they had listened in on every (or any for that matter) phone conversation I had, I would have blown a gasket for sure. Was I doing anything wrong? No, but that doesn’t mean I wanted my parents to see or hear everything! I am sure there were things that they would have found not appropriate, but that is all part of the growing process for kids.

Why is it that different for our kids and their means of communication? Reading all their texts? Checking their browsing history?

In most ways, it is not. Kids should have some privacy.

Many have concerns that all the technology today has made it a more dangerous place for our kids. The thought is that it has made it easier for them to fall victim to bullying, abuse, or worse because communication tools are at their fingertips at all times and there is little escape. Perhaps there is some truth to this. However, in a lot of ways, technology had made the world safer for our kids.

I remember receiving prank phone calls that were quite upsetting. I was in grade 7. There was no call display, no *69 to call the last number that called you – nothing! It got so bad that we had to involve the police and put a tracer on our phone. The next time this boy called, we left the phone off the hook and a couple of hours later, the police and the phone company were able to trace the call. I’m sure this boy had no idea his call could even be traced. Kids don’t make these kinds of calls now because they would be caught in an instant due to the current technology. Technology has made it harder for those who would bully or harass to remain anonymous.

Talk to your kids
If you are monitoring your kids phones, make sure they know it. If they know you are checking their interactions and activities, they may be less likely to get into mischief – at least on their own phones where they know they are being watched! Some say that letting our kids know you are checking in them may encourage them to be sneaky and just figure out a way around the snooping. But I think it is still better to be honest with your kids than sneaking around and spying on them. Imagine the trust that would be broken if they found out (and eventually, they will find out!).

I think it is better to have conversations well before your child gets a cell phone, and continuing the conversation over time in order to give them the tools they need to help keep themselves safe.

Your kids also need to know they can always come to you with any concerns or problems (and that you would not punish them or take their phone away from them as punishment).

Does your child even need a cell phone?

Maybe the question to ask if you are really worried about your child’s cell phone use is does your child even need a cell phone? Not want, but need?

Ultimately it really depends on the parent, the child, their age and maturity level, and a host of other factors. If you don’t think they can handle having a phone without constant snooping on your part, maybe they are not ready for the responsibility of a cell phone. Do they really need one?

Hopefully you will ensure that your kids will use their technology responsibly and won’t feel the need to spy on them…. Well, not too much anyways. 😉

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The Importance of Teaching Your Kids About Money

We raise or kids the best we can. We teach them what we think they will need to know to be good people and be self-sufficient. One thing we need to be sure they have an understanding of is personal finance, and it’s never too early to start the lesson.

I overheard a conversation recently while standing in line that had me shaking my head. It was between a young university student and her friends.
“I’m essentially fiscally independent from my parents.”
“Wait, who pays for your car?”
“Oh, well, my dad is paying for my car, and my cell phone, but that’s all.”

How is this fiscal independence? Further conversation revealed that this young woman was also not paying her own tuition. If she thinks she is paying her own way, how will she manage when she really has to do it? This young woman was studying to be a doctor. I sure hope she understands medicine better than she understands finance!

Start Early

One way to start teaching your child about finances is by giving them an allowance – even very young children can start to learn about money. Make the amount reasonable for their age and let them decide how to spend the money, but once the allowance is gone, it’s gone until the next time. They will learn they need to save more in order to buy something else. This gives your child actual money to learn about and handle.

You can also teach them the value of money by comparing what different amounts of money can buy. Take your child shopping with you and compare the prices of two similar items and talk about why the cost may be different.

When they are a bit older, show your child how much money comes in each month, and how much goes out through the family expenses. How much is left? What happens to that money? If there isn’t anything left, then what?

The point is, get them to understand basic household finances. This will help equip them for the day when they will be on their own and need to be responsible for their own fiscal situation. These lessons can last a lifetime.

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Should We Have Another Baby?

Deciding whether to expand your family by one more — whether this would be your second child or your sixth — is one of the most significant decisions you will make in your lifetime. There is no crystal ball to show the consequences of your decision in the future. A great number of variables come into play here, and the answer to the question, “How many children?” is vastly different for every family.

The questions to ask yourself
The key to making this decision is to ask the right questions, and to take the time to search your soul and figure out the answers. There are no “right” answers here, because we are all very different human beings.

Why do I want another child?
Reasons may run the gamut from wanting a sibling for your child, to simply loving to raise children. Consider what you know of yourself, your view of family life, your own upbringing & the countless reasons of the heart. If it’s the amazing experiences of pregnancy and childbirth you miss, remember that your commitment only begins with these and continues long after the baby’s arrival. If you’re considering another child due to pressure from your parents, in-laws, other relations or friends, tune their voices out for a bit and listen only to those of yourself and your mate. This decision must come from the two people who know your situation best, and who will have to live the day-to-day realities of another child.

How will another baby change our economic position? Are we willing to make that change? You’ll note that the question is not, “Can we afford another baby?” The issue runs deeper than that, because many families are more than willing to make the necessary financial compromises. You need to be realistic: Adding a child does add expenses. But “economics” addresses resources beyond the strictly financial. You also need to consider your time, your patience, and your attention & all essentials that will have to be divvied up among more than one child. Most people find that there’s plenty to go around because of one related, easily renewable resource: love.

How will life change, and are we ready for that change?
Since you already have a baby, you know how much time a new baby demands in his first few years. A second (or third or ninth) is no different and will tug at your hours along with his siblings. While you shouldn’t base a major life decision on the next 24 months, you do need to remember that one year follows another: each year builds on the one previous. So make a realistic assessment of how this will change your lives both now and in the future that follows.

How will a new baby affect the lives of your other children?
Babies have an effect on the whole house, not just mom and dad. How a new sibling will affect the child you do have isn’t a reason to have (or not have) more children, but the unique characteristics of the child you already have should factor in to your decision.

Are you and your partner on the same page?
The two of you must discuss your thoughts about another baby and come to an agreement, one way or the other, that both can be happy with.

Is this a question of when? Perhaps you know that you want another child, but you’re not certain if now is the right time. Here are some points to consider:

  • The impact of pregnancy. Studies demonstrate that waiting at least 18 months between pregnancies gives you the best odds for a healthy pregnancy, delivery and baby. This isn’t a guarantee, of course, and many women who have babies 10 months apart have normal pregnancies and healthy babies. Generally speaking, however, ample time between pregnancies gives your body a chance to recover fully.
  • §The waiting time for adoption. Depending on the situation under which you adopt, a long period may elapse between when you first make your decision and when your new baby actually joins your family.
  • The age gap issue. How far apart in age should your children be? No perfect answer there either… I’ve experienced both sides of the issue: My first three children are all two years apart, and then there was an eight-year gap before my fourth child arrived. I can clearly see that both situations have advantages. The bottom line is that the personalities of your children and your family patterns will have more to do with their short- and long-term relationships than anything as simple as the number of months or years that separate their birthdays.
  • The biological clock and fertility issues. In today’s world, many couples are starting their families later in life. If pregnancy is your route to your next baby, you’ll certainly want to investigate the factors involved in conception. While women can have babies in their forties (my son Coleton arrived when I was 41), fertility rates drop dramatically after the age of 35. Achieving pregnancy (and finally meeting that new family addition) may take longer than you expect.

What’s in your heart?
If you’ve thoroughly examined all the issues involved in adding another baby to your family, and your heart and soul continue to have an empty spot that craves another child (or conversely, the doubt and fear are overwhelming), then perhaps you already have your answer.

 

This article is a copyrighted excerpt from Gentle Toddler Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2006)

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Bullying – When the Teacher is the Bully

There is a lot of talk about bullying these days — and thank goodness there is! I have been heading up our local Pink T-Shirt Day campaign (www.pinktshirtday.ca) for the past several years in an effort to get people talking about bullying and to teach kids skills for helping to deal with things when they encounter bullying. I will be sure to talk about some of these skills in other posts as they are so very important.

One of the things we tell our children is to talk to a teacher when they feel they are being bullied or see someone else being bullied at school. But what do you do when the bully is one of the teachers?

When the Bully is the Teacher

Now, before anyone gets too excited, I do know that the majority of teachers are wonderful and have the best interests of their students at heart. However, a new friend of mine was relaying a story about when she was is school, and I realized as the story progressed that her teacher had bullied her. This really got me thinking! Looking back, I can also remember several times in my school days when kids were bullied by teachers. I really remember one boy in my class who really went through so much one year in school because our teacher really picked on him. I was young, naive, and it never would have occurred to me to tell my parents or another teacher what was happening. I doubt this little boy did either.

I know kids will often complain about their teachers, but there is a big difference between a teacher being firm, expecting the kids to pay attention, and insisting that there work be done and handed in on time, and a teacher who ridicules, taunts, or continually chastises a child. We need to be sure we really understand what is behind the complaints.

Understanding Bullying

As parents, we can help our children by letting them know that it is not ok for anyone to treat them or anyone else in a manner that feels like bullying. Make sure they know that bullying can be a combination of many different things. According to www.bullying.org, bullying is doing, saying or acting in a way that hurts someone else or makes him or her feel bad on purpose. Make sure they understand that it is not ok for a teacher or any adult to call them names, tell them they are stupid, or push them around. Make sure your kids know that they can tell you or another adult they trust if they feel their teacher is a bully.

Dealing with Bullies

So, what do we do if our child comes to us and we realize that the bully is one of their teachers? I would suggest (after you’ve had some time to calm down — I know my initial reaction would be to freak out and want to slap someone up side the head, but this would be neither appropriate or productive) talk to a few of the other parents you know and see if they have heard similar complaints from their child. Call the school and set up a meeting with the principal (and ask other parents to join you if they have the same concern) and possibly the teacher in question. Calmly and objectively tell them what your child has told you. If the principal doesn’t want take any action, or you are not satisfied with their suggested resolution, you may wish to take your concerns to the school board.

That’s my opinion, anyway. What would you do? Let me know

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Winter Time Fun with Kids!

Winter is the time of year when many of us, due to inclement weather, are forced to stay inside. If you have kids underfoot during this time of year, you are all likely to suffer a bout of cabin fever. If the winter season has left you feeling a bit down, here are a few activities to brighten your mood, and lift your spirits!

Let’s go skating!

Your little ones may be too young to ice skate, but they can enjoy an afternoon of skating right in your own home. Just slip some socks onto your child’s feet and find a non-carpeted floor. Turn on some holiday music and “skate” around the floor together. (Someone has also suggested tying coloring books to the child’s feet and “skate” on the carpeting, but I would stick to the non-carpeted method! Also, this could be a unique way to clean the floor, too!)

Match the pictures!

Find some holiday stickers. Place two identical stickers on the left and right sides of an index card and then cut the card in half, in a jig-jag form. Use a highlighter to highlight the edges. Do this with a variety of stickers. Have your child match the stickers and line up the two halves of the index cards.

Play in the snow!

If you live in an area where you get snow and you are feeling adventurous, bundle up your child and head outdoors for some snow building! You don’t have to build the traditional snowman — be creative! Try to build an animal or a house! Let your child decide what to build and then jump right in and get to work! Be sure to have a camera on hand for the finished product! Who knows? This might be a fantastic time to get that perfect holiday picture for those holiday cards you send.

Make your own cards!

You don’t have to rush out to your nearest card shop for the best holiday cards in town. Gather up some art materials, such as wrapping paper, construction paper, ribbons, bows, glitter, crayons, stickers, and more, and let your child create a personal holiday card. Help them prepare it, for mailing to that special relative or friend.

Make a holiday video!

Videotape your child while asking him or her a variety of questions. “What is your favorite holiday song?” “What is your favorite holiday food?” “What would be the best present you would like to get this year?” “How do you make holiday cookies?” You can come up with your own assortment of questions. You will be surprised and tickled by the response. This videotape would make a great gift for that out-of-town relative who does not often get the chance to see your child! What a precious keepsake, too. Imagine looking at the tape again in ten or twenty years!

Build a snowman….inside!

Grab some cotton balls and some construction paper and glue and let your child make a snowman on paper. Older children can add beads for the nose, eyes, mouth, and buttons.

Have an indoor picnic!

If you traditionally decorate your home for the holidays, spend an evening in the family room and spread out a blanket on the floor. Pack a picnic basket and enjoy the holiday spirit.

Get up and move!

I am not telling you to pack your bags! I am only telling you to re-energize yourself and get some of that excess energy out of your kids by turning on some holiday music and dancing to the beat. My three boys love to do stretching exercises with me to music. We will also do jumping jacks, run in place, and play Follow the Leader, to the beat of the music.

Wrap it up!

Too many presents to wrap and not enough time? Have your child help you wrap the gifts! (Just be sure none of the gifts you are wrapping are for your child!) My boys love to place bows on the packages and attach the gift cards. They even enjoy putting stickers on the packages. For more fun, buy plain paper and let your child decorate the paper with crayons, markers, stickers, etc., and see the joy on his or her face as you wrap gifts in the paper your child has designed!

It’s cookie time!

While making that holiday assortment of cookies, cakes, and pies, let your child sit close-by and make his or her own “treats” with Play-Doh. Your child can imitate what you are making and come up with some pretty fascinating treats, too! (Just make sure they do not eat the treats they made!)

Wintertime can be a fun time! Just look around you. There are plenty of things to do. Sometimes, you might get lucky enough and find the temperature rising to a place where you and your child can comfortably dash outside. But, once those cold winter winds come around again, just enjoy the precious time you and your child will have together. These days come around only once. Be creative. Let your child have some input as to what he or she wants to do. Sometimes, they can be much more creative than we can!

Have a beautiful and blessed holiday season!

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master’s in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12. Ann currently owns and operates ANZ Publications, a publications business specializing in family-riented projects. Her most recent project includes a very unique medical and dental records binder….a great way to keep track of a child’s complete medical history from birth through adolescence. Visit the site at http://www.anzpublications.com. ANZ is an acronym, by the way, for her son’s Alec, Noah, and Zach. It is pronounced as “Ann’s,” for her first name, but spelled as such to include the boys! Her website showcases her new book.

When Kids Cooperate

By Rae Pica

Given a choice, preschoolers prefer cooperative activities to competitive ones. Indeed, Scott Scheer, an associate professor at Ohio State University, contends humans actually have a “cooperative imperative” – a desire to work with others toward mutual goals that can run the spectrum from conceiving a child to sending a rocket to the moon.

In fact, using MRI technology to determine the effects of both competition and cooperation, scientists at Emory University recently found that when people collaborate, the brain sends out pleasure responses. Alfie Kohn, in No Contest: The Case Against Competition, identifies a great deal of research demonstrating cooperation’s positive effects on both social and emotional development.

He says cooperation:

  • is more conducive to psychological health.
  • leads to friendlier feelings among participants.
  • promotes a feeling of being in control of one’s life.
  • increases self-esteem.
  • results in greater sensitivity and trust toward others.
  • increases motivation.

When children are given the chance to work together toward a solution or common goal – whether creating a game or building a human pyramid – they know they each contribute to the success of the venture. Each child realizes he or she plays a vital role in the outcome, and each accepts the responsibility of fulfilling that role. They also learn to become tolerant of others’ ideas and to accept the similarities and differences of other children.

Furthermore, cooperative activities seldom cause the feelings of inferiority that can result from the comparisons made during competition. On the contrary, because cooperative and noncompetitive activities lead to a greater chance for success, they generate greater confidence in children.

Unlike competition, which research shows can foster antisocial behavior, cooperation has been determined to promote prosocial behaviors. Steve Grineski, author of Cooperative Learning in Physical Education, says the social skills needed for cooperative learning include:

  • listening to others
  • resolving conflict
  • supporting and encouraging others
  • taking turns
  • expressing enjoyment in the success of others
  • demonstrating the ability to criticize ideas, not individuals.

Nature or Nurture?

Is the drive to compete human nature, as is commonly believed; or is it learned?

One study indicates gender identify, which is typically established by the age of 3, plays a role in whether children are naturally cooperative or competitive. Preschool girls, according to the study, are cooperative, caring, and supportive of one another when learning new movement skills. They aren’t interested in competing or succeeding at someone else’s expense and actually seem to learn less efficiently when competition is introduced.

Preschool boys, on the other hand, are interested in how well they perform and in how their abilities compare to those of their classmates. However, the study further indicates the differences in the boys’ and girls’ behavior may indeed be dictated by society and culture, as Asian preschoolers of both genders tended to be cooperative and supportive.

An essay by Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times supports this latter contention. Kristof tells a hilarious story about trying to teach the game of musical chairs to a group of five-year-old Japanese children, who kept politely stepping out of the way so others could sit in their chairs. This would certainly seem to indicate that “dog-eat-dog” is taught in some societies — and not taught in others.

About Cooperative Games

Terry Orlick, author of The Second Cooperative Sports and Games Book, has long been a proponent of cooperative games. He writes that games can be “a beautiful way to bring people together. However, if you distort children’s play by rewarding excessive competition, physical aggression against others, cheating, and unfair play, you distort children’s lives.” On the other hand, about cooperative games, he says the concept is simple: “People play with one another rather than against one another; they play to overcome challenges, not to overcome other people; and they are freed by the very structure of the games to enjoy the play experience itself. No player need find himself or herself a bench warmer nursing a bruised self-image. Since the games are designed so that cooperation among payers is necessary to achieve the objective(s) of the game, children play together for common ends rather than against one another for mutually exclusive ends. In the process, they learn in a fun way how to become more considerate of one another, more aware of how other people are feeling, and more willing to operate in one another’s best interests.”

Rae Pica is a children’s movement specialist and the author of Your Active Child: How to Boost Physical, Emotional, and Cognitive Development through Age-Appropriate Activity (McGraw-Hill, 2003). You can visit Rae at www.movingandlearning.com.

Is Mothering Wearing You Out?

By Margaret Paul, Ph.D

I always wanted to have children and I was completely thrilled when I had my first child. Nothing, however, prepares a mother for what it’s like to be responsible for a child 24/7.

Before my son was born, I had time – time to read, to be creative, to spend time with friends, to take long baths, to spend time with my husband, to breathe.Suddenly there was no time for me. And, of course, after two more children, having any time for me became even more challenging.

That’s when I started getting sick. Not sick in the way you could name it – just sick in the way of being fatigued all the time. As much as I loved being a mother as well as continuing my practice as a psychotherapist, I was wearing out. Something had to change.

The real problem was in knowing how to take care of my children and myself, instead of just taking care of my children. I had been brought up to be a caretaker, which meant that everyone’s needs came before mine. That was really what was wearing me out. Not only that, but putting their needs before mine was creating children with entitlement issues – the more I put myself aside for them, the more they demanded and felt entitled to my time and attention.

Unfortunately, I didn’t discover this problem until my children were adolescents. By that time I was headed for serious illness. My immune system was shutting down and various doctors said I that if I didn’t change my lifestyle, I would end up with cancer or something equally serious.

It’s not easy to start to attend to yourself when you’ve always put others’ needs before your own. Yet for me it felt like a life-and-death situation. I had always been afraid that if I said “no” to my husband and children, I would discover that they really didn’t care about me. I was afraid to find out that they wouldn’t support me in learning to take care of myself. Yet I finally reached the point where I was willing to lose them rather than continue to lose myself and my health.

It was at this point that I began to develop a strong spiritual connection, and Spirit eventually guided me toward a self-healing process which we now call Inner Bonding. (For a free Inner Bonding course, see www.innerbonding.com). It was through practicing the six steps of this powerful process that I was able to start taking care of myself while I was working and taking care of my family, and my health gradually returned.

I had always had enormous compassion for others but generally lacked compassion for myself. My challenge was to turn my eyes inward to my own feelings and needs instead of always being tuned in just to others’ feelings and needs. I needed to learn to treat myself as well as I treated others. I needed to learn to stand up for myself when my family demanded that I take care of them to the detriment of myself. I needed to learn to have the courage to withstand their anger when I didn’t do just what they wanted me to do. I needed to learn to stand in my truth regarding what was loving to myself and others instead of trying to control their love with my compliance. It’s been a long and sometimes painful road, but one with great rewards.

In a session with Renee, one of my clients, she told me that she was struggling with this same issue. She was exhausted most of the time, and often felt depressed. She told me of a recent incident that had happened with her nine-year old daughter, Sarah. Renee had told Sarah that she wanted to watch a particular TV program at 8:00 that night, so Renee wanted to make sure that Sarah didn’t need anything from her after 8:00. When 8:00 came around after Renee had been spending time with Sarah, Renee said she was going to watch her TV program. Sarah said, “Mom, so the TV program is more important than I am.” Renee got confused by this, bought into the guilt, and gave into Sarah, thereby enabling Sarah’s already strong entitlement issues. Then Renee felt even more exhausted and depressed.

What Renee needed to say to Sarah was, “Honey, it is you who is being selfish in not caring about what is important to me and just wanting me to do what you want. I need you to care about me like I care about you.” Then she needed to watch her program, thus taking care of herself and at the same time role-modeling personal responsibility rather than enabling Sarah’s entitlement issue by giving herself up.

Learning to take care of ourselves is essential for our own health and the health of our family.

 

Margaret Paul, Ph.D. is the best-selling author and co-author of eight books, including “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By You?”, “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By My Kids?”, “Healing Your Aloneness”,”Inner Bonding”, and “Do I Have To Give Up Me To Be Loved By God?” Visit her web site for a FREE Inner Bonding course: http://www.innerbonding.com or mailto:margaret@innerbonding.com

Grading Your Child’s Friends

By Ron Huxley, LMFT

Peer Grading is a parenting tool that parents use to grade their child’s friends to protect them from negative influences. As children mature they become more other-centered versus parent-centered. They are more heavily influenced by the peer group and its culture than that of their parents. The believe that parents cannot understand what they are experiencing as teens and pre-teens. If some ways this is true. Today’s adolescent experiences more “adult-like” influences and decisions then most parents did when they were their child’s age. Today’s adolescent is faced with making decisions around sex, drugs, and antisocial behavior much earlier then ever before. But, parents also have a better perspective on right and wrong then do their children, regardless of what their child might believe.

This tool is used primarily as a protection for children. It is not meant to be a judgmental instrument to increase the parent-child gap. It may be necessary for parents to not disclose this tool to their children simply because they might misconstrue what parents are trying to do. Parents are simply looking at their child’s peers to determine how powerful and how positive or negative an influence that child is to their own child. An “A” grade would include peers who demonstrates behavior consistent with parents own set of values and behaviors. They are children that parents have a lot of knowledge about and have observed their behavior in a lot of diverse situations. They have shown that they do well in school, respect adults, participate in their community, and resist negative influences themselves. Consequently, they are peers with whom parents allow their children to have a lot of freedom and less supervision when with them. “B” grade peers are children with whom parents have little knowledge about. They appear to solid children with good social values and appropriate behavior but have not been observed acting in many different situations. Consequently, parents allow less freedom and provide more supervision than “A” grade children. “C” grade peers are children with whom parents have never or rarely observed their values and behaviors or parents are a little unsure about their type of influence on their children. More interaction, under parental supervision is necessary. “D” grade peers are children who have demonstrated a negative influence on a parent’s child and with whom their child is allowed little, if any interaction, unless closely supervised. “F” grade peers are children with whom parents do not allow any interaction with what-so-ever. These are peers who have openly displayed antisocial behavior and are engaging in behavior that is not consistent with parents own values.

It is important to remember that these grades are not life long brands. A child’s peers can change grades after they have demonstrated more appropriate social behavior. They can also drop in grades based on their decisions and actions. The higher the grade the less supervision and the more freedom a parent’s allows their child to have with him or her. It may be insightful for parents to ask themselves: “How would other parents grade my child as a peer?” Additionally, peer grading has nothing to do with a peers race or economic background. While they might affect opportunities, they have nothing to do with values or behaviors. It is simply a tool to help parents protect their child from negative influences by controlling the amount and type of interaction with other children who may have a negative impact on their own children.

 

Ron Huxley is a licensed child and family therapist and the founder of thewww.parentingtoolbox.com and www.angertoolbox.com websites. Get a “Parents Guide to Surviving the Holidays” ebook now or join one of his many newsletters athttp://parentingtoolbox.com/join.html

Dealing with Unwanted Parenting Advice

By Elizabeth Pantley
Author of Gentle Baby Care

“Help! I’m getting so frustrated with the endless stream of advice I get from my mother-in-law and brother! No matter what I do, I’m doing it wrong. I love them both, but how do I get them to stop dispensing all this unwanted advice?”

Just as your baby is an important part of your life, he is also important to others. People who care about your baby are bonded to you and your child in a special way that invites their counsel. Knowing this may give you a reason to handle the interference gently, in a way that leaves everyone’s feelings intact.

Regardless of the advice, it is your baby, and in the end, you will raise your child the way that you think best. So it’s rarely worth creating a war over a well-meaning person’s comments. You can respond to unwanted advice in a variety of ways:

Listen first
It’s natural to be defensive if you feel that someone is judging you; but chances are you are not being criticized; rather, the other person is sharing what they feel to be valuable insight. Try to listen – you may just learn something valuable.

Disregard
If you know that there is no convincing the other person to change her mind, simply smile, nod, and make a non-committal response, such as, “Interesting!” Then go about your own business…your way.

Agree
You might find one part of the advice that you agree with. If you can, provide wholehearted agreement on that topic.

Pick your battles
If your mother-in-law insists that Baby wear a hat on your walk to the park, go ahead and pop one on his head. This won’t have any long-term effects except that of placating her. However, don’t capitulate on issues that are important to you or the health or well-being of your child.

Steer clear of the topic
If your brother is pressuring you to let your baby cry to sleep, but you would never do that, then don’t complain to him about your baby getting you up five times the night before. If he brings up the topic, then distraction is definitely in order, such as, “Would you like a cup of coffee?”

Educate yourself
Knowledge is power; protect yourself and your sanity by reading up on your parenting choices. Rely on the confidence that you are doing your best for your baby.

Educate the other person
If your “teacher” is imparting information that you know to be outdated or wrong, share what you’ve learned on the topic. You may be able to open the other person’s mind. Refer to a study, book, or report that you have read.

Quote a doctor
Many people accept a point of view if a professional has validated it. If your own pediatrician agrees with your position, say, “My doctor said to wait until she’s at least six months before starting solids.” If your own doctor doesn’t back your view on that issue, then refer to another doctor – perhaps the author of a baby care book.

Be vague
You can avoid confrontation with an elusive response. For example, if your sister asks if you’ve started potty training yet (but you are many months away from even starting the process), you can answer with, “We’re moving in that direction.”

Ask for advice!
Your friendly counselor is possibly an expert on a few issues that you can agree on. Search out these points and invite guidance. She’ll be happy that she is helping you, and you’ll be happy you have a way to avoid a showdown about topics that you don’t agree on.

Memorize a standard response
Here’s a comment that can be said in response to almost any piece of advice: “This may not be the right way for you, but it’s the right way for me.”

Be honest
Try being honest about your feelings. Pick a time free of distractions and choose your words carefully, such as, “I know how much you love Harry, and I’m glad you spend so much time with him. I know you think you’re helping me when you give me advice about this, but I’m comfortable with my own approach, and I’d really appreciate if you’d understand that.”

Find a mediator
If the situation is putting a strain on your relationship with the advice-giver, you may want to ask another person to step in for you.

Search out like-minded friends
Join a support group or on-line club with people who share your parenting philosophies. Talking with others who are raising their babies in a way that is similar to your own can give you the strength to face people who don’t understand your viewpoints.

This article is an excerpt from Gentle Baby Care by Elizabeth Pantley. (McGraw-Hill, 2003)
Reprinted with permission.

Grow a Successful Child

by Colleen Langenfeld

As parents, we all want to grow happy, healthy children. Unfortunately, parenting does not come with a guarantee, but there are some practical guidelines we can follow that will point our children in the right direction. Here are the suggestions our family has used in our continuing goal of raising six confident, competent adults (four children and two parents!).

We’re in this for the long haul.

As a parent, we are given a long-time perspective just by giving birth. The future stretches out l-o-n-g and fearful in front of us. But kids have no such perspective. Teaching them about cause and effect, in other words, consequences, can help them understand that their thoughts, words and actions, big and small, have meaning and future impact.

We’re in this together.

Children are astonishingly selfish, but often not intentionally so. It’s just the human condition. Part of parenting is to provide them with opportunities to be around others who are different than they are. Encouraging them (and participating with them) to help others will show them that we all must get along with each other and it’s not necessary for us all to be the same. The ability to make and maintain friendships is not just fun, it’s vital.

Stability.

Everyone needs stability…not to be confused with a rut! Stability means you can generally count on the people and situations around you, while understanding that life doesn’t hand out guarantees. Stability usually comes from the parents, who can only provide as much stability as they currently have themselves. In other words, if your marriage is on shaky ground, it’s going to be very difficult to provide the stability your children need. That is why it’s often said that the best thing a man can do for his kids is to love their mother. And vice versa.

Life is hard.

This is a fact and our children need to hear it from us first. However, it’s a difficult fact and if we as adults are struggling with this reality, we’re going to find it impossible to share it with our kids. The funny thing is, though, that children can often receive difficult facts easier than we can. All of our children are bright and observant in their own ways, so the truth is that they already know a lot about how life works; they just need help articulating and integrating it. That’s where we come in as parents. Provide your children with fascinating stories of inspiring people who have overcome great obstacles and made a difference in our world. After all, it’s easy to FEEL life is bad; the challenge is to DECIDE that life is good!

Control.

Once we get hold of the truth that life is difficult, the issue of control takes on new meaning. How much control do we really have over our lives? What does that control look like? Often, these are personal questions to be wrestled with, but psychiatrists generally tell us that an internal locus of control is necessary for healthy mental and emotional development. That means that we need to believe we are able to exert a certain amount of control over our lives. This leads us to….

Tools.

As parents, we can introduce a variety of tools to our children as they grow. We exercise control over our lives and build a bright future for ourselves to the extent that we believe such a thing is possible. A strong grounding in the tools available to do that will take our children a long way. Goal-setting, life planning, self-discipline, high expectations, and spiritual development are all effective tools that require practice and guidance to be the life-long habits that will benefit our children the most.

The Five R’s.

We all know about the importance of academics in our children’s future. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic (math) along with other academics will give our children a strong foundation for the future. However, if we stop there we’ve only developed part of a human being. Respect and responsibility go hand in hand with academics to raise a child who is not only smart, but also able to work productively and happily with the people around him and honestly like himself, too.

Balance.

Ideally, life shouldn’t be too hard or too easy. Ideally. As parents, we can sometimes structure the microcosm of our homes to fill out those places our children need to work on. Appropriate challenges are vital to growing in maturity, but the overwhelmed child stops growing and quits. As long as your children know you are watching over them constantly and that you genuinely care for them, they will usually handle life’s jostling amazingly well. Teach them to study hard, work hard, play hard and rest hard. Raising our children will always have its share of frustrating obstacles and exhilarating peaks. It’s the one job that we cannot go back and do over, so the stakes are high. And the rewards…fantastic!

Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and creative resources to working moms who want the most out of their homes, families and careers at http://www.paintedgold.com . Sign up for our free newsletter and get an online Creativity Toolkit as our gift to you!