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How to Handle Your Spring Allergies


Spring Allergies

Spring is beautiful, but it’s also a key time of year for seasonal allergies. As plants release pollen, millions of people with hay feverstart to sniffle and sneeze.

There’s no cure but you can take steps to curb springtime allergies, from medication to household habits.
The biggest spring allergy trigger is pollen. Trees, grasses, and weeds release these tiny grains into the air to fertilize other plants. When they get into the nose of someone who’s allergic, they send the body’s defenses haywire.

The immune system mistakenly sees the pollen as a danger and releases antibodies that attack the allergens. That leads to the release of chemicals called histamines into the blood. Histamines trigger the runny nose, itchy eyes, and other symptoms that are all too familiar if you have allergies.

Pollen can travel for miles, so it’s not just about the plants in your neighborhood.

Triggers include:


Box elder

Grasses and weeds:

Perennial rye
Sweet vernal

Pollen counts tend to be particularly high on breezy days when the wind picks up these sneeze-inducing grains and carries them through the air. Rainy days, on the other hand, wash away the allergens.
You may have:                                                                                                                          Runny nose
Watery eyes
Itchy eyes and nose
Dark circles under the eyes

Start with your regular doctor. She may refer you to an allergist for tests.

The allergy specialist may give you a skin test, which involves either a pricking the surface of the skin with a tiny amount of allergen (prick test), or injecting a tiny sample of a diluted allergen under the skin of your arm or back. If you’re allergic to the substance, a small red bump (called a wheal or hive) will form. Sometimes, you may get a blood test.
Over-the-Counter and Prescription Allergy Treatments
There are many medicines that can ease the symptoms of allergies. They include:

Antihistamines reduce sneezing, sniffling, and itching by lowering the amount of histamine in your body.



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5 ways to help your child focus


Many young kids have trouble sitting still and staying focused. But as students get more homework, they need to be able to stick with a task and finish it.

Here are some ways to help your child stay focused:

  1. Get the ya-yas out first

    Moving the body motivates the brain. Try having your child walk or bike to school, play outside after school, do chores around the house, or play on a sports team. Make sure your child has had a chance to run, walk, or jump around before sitting down to homework.

  2. Turn off screens and cell phones

    Before your kid tackles homework or does anything that takes concentration, turn off the television. Or if others are watching it, make sure your child is far enough away that he can’t be distracted by it. Also, shut down or move him away from the computer, and if your child has a cell phone, make sure that’s off too.

  3. Make a to-do list

    Having a lot of chores and homework assignments can be overwhelming for kids. Help your child focus on getting things done by making a list — together — of everything he needs to do for the day or week. Then let him cross off each task as he finishes it.

  4. Use signals

    Try to avoid conversations when your child is working. To cut out distracting talk altogether, you and your child can even come up with a few basic signals. For example, when you point to his work, that means he needs to go back to what he was doing. Or when you raise your hand, that means he should stop what he’s doing and get to work. For some kids, it helps to just lay a hand on their shoulder to bring them back into focus.

  5. Take breathers.

    During homework time, make sure your child takes a few breaks. After working for 10 or 20 minutes (depending on his age), have him get up and move around, get a drink, and then go back to work. But don’t let him get involved in something else during the break. Just make that time a relaxing few minutes.





How to teach your child to behave in a restaurant

By Joyce Lollar


All the etiquette gaffes you may let slide at home after a long day – slumping, slurping, spilling – take on an exaggerated significance when you’re eating in public. But you needn’t resign yourself to hot dogs at home every night. Just take the time to pick your restaurant wisely and prepare your child. And remember that if he doesn’t learn table manners at home first, he won’t be able to use them in a restaurant.

A few tips on how to survive a meal out with your child:

Give a preview. Before you head out, explain where you’re going (“Macaroni Joe’s”), what you’ll be eating (“seafood – you can have fried shrimp!”), and the manners you expect: sitting up straight in a chair, napkin in the lap, using a fork and knife, inside voice, and so on. Most of them will be the same ones you’ve taught at home, but you’ll be enforcing them more rigorously for the sake of the other diners.

Pick the right spot. You’ll have a much easier time of it if you choose a restaurant that suits your child’s age and maturity level. If your child is under 4 or just generally wiggly, you’ll probably want to stick to family-style restaurants that offer wide booths, crayons, kids’ menus, and a forgiving serving staff.

Older kids may be able to handle more sedate establishments, but unless your child is unusually calm and quiet, you’ll probably want to avoid the wine-glass-and-cloth-napkin joints until he’s at least 10. Otherwise, you may spend your evening worrying about what the other patrons are thinking rather than savoring the meal.

Explain the inside voice. Tell your child that people don’t like loud noises when they’re eating, so he’ll have to use his “inside voice.” But don’t be surprised if you have to remind him about this during the meal. Just do it calmly and move on.

Prepare for restlessness. Even in casual restaurants, it may be tough for your child to keep still for a long time – about 45 minutes is the max for a child up to about age 5. Bring small snacks in case the food takes a while to come, carry crayons with you, and be ready to take him on a walk outside the restaurant.

If all else fails, leave. Try not to get angry if, after all your preparation, your child is disruptive. Instead, call for the check and carry-out boxes, and finish the meal at home or in a nearby park, somewhere where your child can run around.

“If you’re so busy correcting your child that you aren’t enjoying your meal, it’s time to do something else,” says Pamela Gould, author of Feeding the Kids: The Flexible, No-Battles, Healthy Eating System for the Whole Family.

By age 4, many kids can:

sit for up to 45 minutes in a restaurant if they have crayons and paper or other quiet toys to entertain them
eat politely at casual restaurants, with preparation beforehand and prompting from parents during the meal
By age 8, many kids can:

sit for an hour or more in a restaurant
eat politely in casual restaurants without prompting from parents
join in adult conversations at restaurants
try a bite of unfamiliar food






The Creative Learner and How They Think


Many schools expect all children to learn at the same pace, but not all kids learn the same way. This article explores the way creative children think to other kids and gives tips on what you can do to help them get along at school while still nourishing their creative abilities.

How Creative Minds Work
Understanding How Creative Learners Think
People with high creative abilities think “outside the box.” If you try to teach a creative thinker how a multimedia projector works, he will already be thinking about how to build a better one.

These kids are not all geniuses nor do they have everything right, but they possess a special gift: the gift of creation. That innovative spirit of exploring new boundaries and breaking the rules is what has driven great ideas and inspirational inventions for companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Google and many others throughout history. One man with an idea brought us to the invention of the light bulb, the toaster, the radio and the iPhone.

Nourishing a Creative Mind
It’s true that kids must follow rules. The school environment is not always conducive to creativity, so teach your child that a time will come when she is out on her own and can choose what to do and how to do it. At home, you can encourage creativity by applying these five ideas.

Ask your child to come up with unique ideas or plan a family vacation. Tasks like this encourage kids to use their independent thinking skills. He must decide on details such as the distance you will travel, where you will stay, how much you should budget and which sights you will see. This will stimulate his creative mind and help him feel involved and important.
Assign “extension work” for homework assignments. Creative students have a need to expand their thinking to new dimensions. Urge your child to do something that adds to the assignment with a new and innovative idea. For example, if she is told to assemble an insect collection, ask her to write a paragraph explaining the process and offering improvements that might make the assignment better. Who knows? If it’s good enough, you might even share it with your child’s teacher, who may incorporate it into future requirements.
Encourage creative students to become entrepreneurs. As adults, many will be, so this is valuable practice. Inspire him to coordinate and run a yard sale or start some sort of business. Many kids sell on Amazon, Etsy or eBay (with their parents help) selling things they create. Your child can conceive ideas for advertising and other strategies. This project will give your child a sense of importance and increase his skills in business.
Foster her interest in technology. This pastime for many creative thinkers helps them expand on their innate tendency to create. For instance, Steve Jobs attended a few months at Harvard but dropped out because it didn’t let him create things the way he wanted to. He was the ultimate creative student who couldn’t conform to the standards of a school, and yet he built a company that is known as a leader in innovative, forward thinking.
Teach him social skills. Many creative people have some trouble connecting with others. The term “moody artist” is not too far from reality. Those blessed with an abundance of creative ability forget sometimes that not everyone thinks the same way. Remind your child that it’s okay to be different, but that he should try to get along in the world the best he can.
Be Understanding, Encouraging and Supportive
Sometimes schools stifle creativity. Teaching courses in a systematic, overly organized fashion can bore the creative student. The use of technology such as multimedia and smart devices has helped this process immensely, encouraging creative kids to apply their ideas to schoolwork and beyond.

However, for the most part, school can be unavoidable in the minds of ultra-creative people who just want to run with their ideas. Patience is the key. Communicate with your child that you understand her thinking, but that she needs an education to move forward. Then she can do whatever she wants.

It is important to find a balance between asking your child to conform to school expectations and allowing some freedom to break away and find his own voice. Look into gifted and talented programs in your school or seek information on magnet schools, which seek to implement creative learning methods.






Boy-Girl Twins: 5 Things Parents Need to Know
By Christina Baglivi Tinglof


Out of all the twin types, boy-girl or opposite-sex twins have always been the most fascinating to me. After all, they get all the benefits of the twin bond without all the pressure. They have a play mate and confidant but by nature of their opposite sex, travel in different social circles and usually have vastly different interests and hobbies. It makes for a great life-long friend minus the comparisons and competition that same-sex twins sometimes come up against.

But like all relationships, boy-girl twins can have their ups and downs, too. Heredity and nature dictate that the two will develop at different rates from the moment of conception with the female twin almost always taking the lead. (According to scientists, although boy-girl twins may appear to be the same size at birth, inside the girl is developing at a much faster rate.) This can present a few challenges especially during the first few years of school. So if you have young boy-girl twins in the house, here are a few points you should keep in mind. But remember, these are just generalities based on research. Your twins may be the exception to the rule and defy them all.

Male and female twins reach fine and gross motor skills at different times.
As a rule of thumb, females grasp fine motor skills—those talents that involve small muscle coordination and dexterity—sooner than males. (Think shoe tying, buttoning clothes, even holding a crayon.) Males, on the other hand, usually master large muscle control and therefore reach gross motor skills earlier than females. (Think walking, jumping, ball throwing.) Therefore, no need to worry if your son walks months sooner than his cotwin sister or that your toddler daughter has mastered the art of dressing herself while her brother struggles greatly at first.

boy-girl twins huggingLittle girls usually surpass their cotwin brothers academically.
Research indicates that on average, boys lag academically behind girls during the early primary school years. It doesn’t mean that little girls are more intelligent, however. It just suggests that girls “get it” a bit sooner than boys but boys usually catch up and sometimes surpass their sisters by middle school. So what does that mean to your opposite-sex twins? If your female twin outperforms her male cotwin scholastically it could have a negative impact on his self-esteem, especially if they share a classroom where the differences may be more readily noticed by others and perhaps commented on. If you find yourself in this situation, you may want to separate your twins allowing each to develop at his and her own pace in his or her own preferred learning style.

Girl twins sometimes socially dominate their cotwin brothers.

Walk in any kindergarten classroom and you’ll see it—a little girl who is definitely in charge of the room! She is a social butterfly—the Queen Bee—who seems to be in everybody’s business (whether they want her there or not) directing her classmates in all matters. Since girls mature sooner than boys and are more verbal at an earlier age, it’s a natural fit. Personally, I like a girl with spunk but if she has a cotwin brother who continues to take a back seat to her bossiness and even seems to enjoy it (for instance, if he constantly allows her to do everything for him from tying his shoes to pouring him a glass of milk), it could have negative implications on both further down the road. The female twin may get a distorted view of all boys, thinking they are inept and helpless, while the male twin may begin to assume all girls are intrusive and headstrong.

Try to keep your boy-girl twins’ relationship balanced by stepping in before the passive twin becomes dependent and the dominant twin becomes the constant care giver. It helps if you encourage your twins to be independent and to do for themselves.

Boy-girl twins become aware of their sexual differences sooner than same-sex twins or singletons.
Due to their close physical proximity (shared bedroom, shared bath time and so forth), opposite-sex twins realize they have different “parts” sooner than either same-sex twins or single-born children with older siblings. This can cause some interesting (and dare I say) funny questions about their dissimilar bodies, all a bit sooner than perhaps you’re personally comfortable discussing. As kids are a curious bunch, there’s really no way around this so be prepared with some simple and short answers.

Puberty for boy-girl twins can be years apart.
The onset of puberty for girls hits somewhere between ages 10 to 14. The average for boys, on the other hand, happens between ages 12 to 16. Adolescence, therefore, can be years apart for some twins. And their physical and emotional experiences during this time couldn’t be more different either! So imagine, for example, if your female twin hits puberty full-force at age 12 while her brother still has a high-pitched voice and not a pubic hair to be found! Twins who were once a close-knit pair may experience a temporary “break-up” in the early teen years as she matures physically, emotionally, and socially much faster leaving her brother left wondering what in the heck happened to his sister.

Yet this, too, will pass. By the second half of high school, most boys have caught up or even surpassed their cotwin sisters in height. Socially they’re on a more even playing field as well. So much so that many boy-girl twins have a much greater understanding and sympathy of the opposite sex than their single-born friends. Once again, the relationship between boy-girl twins is able to blossom, grow, and mature marking the way for a socially happy adulthood.





Engage and Motivate Your Students After Holiday Break



But motivation can also be necessary after some breaks as it is very difficult to re-charge after long periods of rest and relaxation. Though it may seem that holidays are created for rest, when they come to an end you feel as if a squeezed lemon and there are hardly any strengths to continue education. Winter holidays are extremely bright and memorable as there are numerous festivities held during them, but the task of each teacher is to revive students and involve them into educational process engaged and motivated. Here are some suggestions how a teacher can increase students’ motivation after a winter break and make studying more productive. 1. Use engaging material It is natural that studying will be interesting only if it is well-organized. It is impossible to engage students if you always use the same learning materials and approaches. The more various teaching methods and ways you will offer to the students, the more inspiring education will seem for them. Never stick to a standard procedure as each of us gets fed up with the same routine and wishes to have some diversity and engaging materials can play their role. Such materials can also be something to look forward to. If you reward your students with some exclusive tasks like movies, treats or free home-assignment pass, they will be more involved in learning. 2. Praise students for their achievements Each person appreciates when his efforts are recognized by other people. And even if not everything is performed perfectly, students require praise in order not to lower their hands the next time. Praise is a mysterious thing that promotes positive emotions and good mood that reflect the desire to study. Teachers can not only give excellent grades but also write positive notes to parents, organize awards for good achievements, let students avoid some tests or exams etc. 3. Divide classroom chores among students Though it may seem that doing jobs has nothing to do with motivation, it is not the truth. Offering your students to join classroom activities you make them closer to yourself as well as teach them organization. In addition, they will be able to show their interests and skills. A teacher can offer his students such classroom jobs: Write posts for a class blog; Make up a calendar and update it each month; Have a music pause during the break; Take care of a class pet; Invite and interview people of different professions; Perform standard classroom jobs like being on duty, cleaning, watering flowers etc. Some of these tasks can improve the whole classroom, atmosphere as well as keep students busy. 4. Share some control and power There is nothing more pleasant for students than being empowered by a teacher to control other students. Taking ownership students have more desire to be empowered for the next time and it can be a perfect encouragement for them to study better and confirm their suitability. 5. Offer more examples related to students’ lives Children and teenagers are tired of customary examples offered in the text books. It is much more interesting to remember a bright example from our everyday life than recollect everything written in the book. Memorable events and impressions stick in our mind for a longer period of time and that is the main reason why a good example from life can be much more productive than thousands of learned by heart rules. 6. Set short-term goals to be easily achieved It is important to work without long-term objectives but not all of them are possible to implement in life. That is the reason why numerous short-term goals that are more likely to achieve should be set regularly. You can make up a list of several goals the achievement of which will bring you to the desirable aim and guarantee you better-motivated students. 7. Promote self-development Teachers should take care of their pupils not only in the school building but also encourage them to the development outside the school. If your kids would read much and learn much new at home, these children will succeed in studying and it will be much easier for them to fulfill any task (also read 10 habits of highly effective students). Teachers can also offer students self-evaluation forms to fill in and by doing so they will realize that they lack one or another skill and pay attention to its development. 8. Reward any positive behavior inside and outside the classroom Not only studying itself shows how developed a personality is. Numerous activities and efforts outside the classroom should be also marked by the teacher to set an example for other pupils. Either these are extracurricular activities or some services for other people – all of them can encourage other pupils to make a try and start doing something useful. Such positive behavior can be rewarded with class trips or visits to the museum, theater, cinema, but an immediate reward for good activities must be given obligatory. 9. Stick to a school schedule Though it may seem that routine can’t be motivating, it is impossible to achieve anything significant without a detailed plan. School schedule is a very important thing as students must know what awaits them next. Being aware of the challenges that wait for them in future and realizing that they are capable of coping with them students will feel more motivated to finish the studying year and concentrate on their education better. Winter break is a perfect time to rest before a new semester. It is not a long-term period but it makes students so relaxed because of numerous festivities that they lose a sense of reality and desire to continue education. That is why it is incredibly important for a teacher to motivate students to study well. Moreover, this motivation should be with a long perspective for it to be enough till the end of the studying year as the most difficult period always comes at the end. Following these tips each teacher can ease lives of students and make educational process more productive.



Holiday housecleaning: Age-appropriate lists let kids get involved


Make getting ready for the holidays at your house a family affair by getting everyone involved. Here are some tips, listed according to age, so your children can pitch in and learn some life skills at the same time.

Toddlers (under 3)
Do a color game. Tell the kids to look for everything white. Pick it up and put it away, then report back to Mom. Then tell them to look for everything green, pick it up, put it away then come and report back. It works like a charm for little ones, and it helps them learn colors.
Folding towels or napkins and helping to put them away
Sorting laundry by colors and throwing sorted clothes in the washer
Helping to set the table
Put toys away (with lots of guidance, encouragement and help)
Push buttons to begin dishwasher or laundry cycles
Wipe a mirror or cabinet with a cleaning cloth
Give them a dusting cloth and tell them to wipe all tables

Preschoolers (ages 3-5)
Use a sorting game. Tell the kids to pick up everything you can wear on your body. Next, anything you can eat with. Next, anything that you can play with. It’s like a scavenger hunt!
Make cleaning fun by putting double-stick tape on the bottom of little sock feet to pick up those messy Christmas tree pine needles and glitter from ornaments.
Get your laundry basket and walk around the house. Anything that is not in its place, add it to your basket! Now the trick is, kids have to separate stuff from the basket and put it back where it belongs before they can do anything else.
Wipe nose prints from pets on glass doors
Make bed
Clean up toys (with lots of encouragement, help, a game or song)
Sorting laundry, helping to switch it from washer to dryer, folding and putting away
Setting the table
Sweeping the floor (they need help with the dustpan part)
Spray and wipe mirrors, cabinets, doors, doorknobs with a cleaning cloth
Help empty trashcans
Feed and water pets

Primary (ages 6-8)
Use dryer sheets to clean baseboards
Have kids put aprons with deep pockets on while they are helping cleaning the house. This way, while they are in a room cleaning, they don’t have to leave the room to put one little thing away and get distracted by the mess in the other room.
Laundry (with supervision)
Setting and clearing the table
Unload and load the dishwasher
Sweeping and mopping (still help with that blasted dustpan). Swiffer is good here, too.
Simple food prep and cooking simple items with supervision
Help with yard work such as raking leaves
Wiping down bathrooms with eco-friendly wipes
Getting the mail
Putting groceries away

Tweens (ages 9-12)

Cooking simple meals
Raking leaves
Putting garbage cans on the curb (and bring them back to the garage)

Meal planning and cooking
Help watch younger kids
Pulling out couches and tables to vacuum behind or under to prepare for holiday tree
Vacuum under couch cushions
Vacuum mattresses before putting on fresh sheets
Pulling out all holiday decorations from attic
Clean out refrigerator and microwave





7 Secrets of Highly Happy Kids:

1. They eat on time.
I know what you’re thinking; that’s too simple to be a real parenting strategy. Think again. Have you ever been so hungry that you just wanted to scream? That’s how kids feel when they miss a snack or have to wait two hours past their normal mealtime to participate in some super-fancy family dinner.
Eating at regular intervals refuels their growing brains and bodies and keeps hunger under control. When kids are calm and satisfied, they experience greater happiness.
2. They get consistent sleep.
I know, I know, some kids are better sleepers than others. While that’s certainly the truth, it isn’t an excuse for poor sleep habits. Kids need to learn how to sleep. It’s up to us to teach them. When they are completely exhausted, they are cranky. When they are well-rested and ready to embrace the day, they are happier. Make sleep (and a consistent bedtime) a priority.
3. They play without instructions.
Unstructured playtime appears to be a lost art these days. It used to be that kids made their own fun. Today, kids are over-scheduled, dialed in and in awe of toys that essentially do the playing for them. Sure, those garbage trucks with all of the bells and whistles are neat, but be sure to mix in some wooden trucks and building blocks. And, please, take a look at the busy schedule and find some time where your kids can just play each day. Play is good for the soul.
4. They are allowed to express emotions.
Kids yell when they’re mad. They cry when they’re sad. They might even stomp their feet and run around in circles when they’re not sure what to feel. And sometimes, if you’re really lucky, they do all of that in the middle of aisle 9 at your friendly neighborhood Target store. Let them. Kids need to express their emotions. While adults know to call a friend to vent when the going gets tough, kids are a bit more primitive. Shushing them and publicly shaming them doesn’t help. Let them vent in their own little way and then offer to help. Enduring a public temper tantrum might feel overwhelming in the moment, but it’s better than a lifetime of internalizing negative emotions that could lead to eating issues, depression or other emotional problems for your child.
5. They get to make choices.
Kids have very little control over their lives. They are constantly being told where to go, what to do and what to eat. A little bit of control goes a long way toward feeling happy. Let your kids choose their outfits. Allow them to choose the dinner menu one night per week. Ask them what classes they want to take. Give them the opportunity to make some decisions and watch them smile in return.
6. They feel heard.
Kids are intuitive. Even toddlers can tell when parents are tuning them out or answering on autopilot. When kids feel like their parents truly listen to them (about everything from Lightning McQueen’s best race to what they learned in school), they feel more connected. This increases their self-confidence and increases their overall happiness. Listen when your children speak. It’s the best way to build an open and honest relationship with your child and it makes your child happy.
Are you still with me? Because this last one is important.
7. They experience unconditional love.
Kids mess up. You tell them not to jump off the couch over and over again, but they do it anyway. And then they cry. Because childhood is largely based on trial and error, and sometimes kids just need to take chances. Forgive them. Love them anyway.
When kids know that their parents love and support them no matter what, they are more likely to take healthy risks. They are confident and secure in their decisions. They learn that sometimes people make mistakes, but there is always a chance to right a wrong.
When children know that their parents will always be there for them, for better or for worse, they are happy.



Your kids, too? Practical advice when kids have too much stuff.


I wrote “My Kids Have Too Much Stuff” last month as a conversation-starter, and was it ever. The response was a resounding, collective AMEN. Clearly, I’m not the only one buried in junky toy clutter that the kids don’t even appreciate. You, readers, asked the same question with which I’ve been wrestling. What do we do about it? Here are a few solutions. Join me.
1. Stop buying it. Of course, right? We know this, and the issue in my previous article was mostly the little stuff that other people bestow on our kids. But in the hurry of filling Christmas stockings, or the excitement of vacation gift shops, sometimes it’s the parents who allow the plastic trinkets in. Say no. If you choose to do Christmas stockings (and we do), try some of these terrific no-junk stocking stuffer ideas. Personalized notepads, fancy pens, simple jewelry and book lights (for dim winter evenings in the car or in bed) have all been big hits in our house.
2. Lead by example. Why are plastic goody bags so prevalent at birthday parties? Because children are accustomed to getting them, and parent hosts feel obligated. It’s just the thing to do. But rare is the parent who truly likes giving them out or taking them home, and rare is the child who enjoys the bag for more than five minutes. Simply don’t give one out at all. I promise you won’t become an outcast, and you just might become an inspiration. Or, if you like, try a simpler take-home: a craft made at the party, a jump rope, Mad Libs, a book, bubbles, or a baked good in a ribbon-tied baggie.

3. Say “just one.” One of the issues I noted in my previous article is what I’ll call the Sticker Problem: “One gets stuck proudly on a shirt. A strip of eight winds up in a discarded heap on the floor of my car.” Your child may think you monstrously unfair if you always say no to every single freebie offered. (Unless you can master the whole miming-no-to-the-other-adult-over-child’s-head skill. My children, 9 years and counting, still don’t know our grocery store bakery will give them a free cookie every visit. Shhh.) But even if you don’t want to always say no, do set limits. Allow the child to choose one sticker, one prize, one bookmark, and say no thank you to the giver for more than that. It’s amazing how often a child is offered a handful when one is enough.
4. Be gracious. If you’re saying no or “just one,” remember that the dentist, the librarian, and the neighbor are all just trying to be kind, and temper your response accordingly. Teach your child by example that sometimes accepting an item with grace and gratitude, even one that is junk or not your taste, can be an act of kindness and politeness. I won’t say no to anything gifted to my children by our 89-year-old church friend, because it gives her great joy to shop for and bestow these little items. (It doesn’t mean the items have to stay in our house, but we’ll get to that.)
5. Talk to relatives. Sure, be gracious, but know that the grandparents don’t want to give your children things that you are going to try to get out of the house as soon as possible. You just have to be frank, and this conversation may wisely extend beyond “disposable toys” to the question of regular gift-giving occasions. Talk about the values you are trying to foster with fewer toys. Talk about your space limitations. Talk about the gift of experiences and other non-toy gifts, like these.  Keep in mind –and share during these conversations — what you most remember about your own grandparents. Was it toys they gave you, or was it something like playing board games or cooking with them?

6. Get creative. Traditions needn’t stay if they don’t make sense anymore. Between me and my four siblings, we have 17 children. At Christmas, that could mean massive amounts of shopping, expense, and an overwhelming opening of presents, when all the kids want to do is open a couple gifts, then run off and play with their cousins. So now, we draw niece and nephew names, according to how many children we have. (I have three, so I buy for three.) We no longer do adult sibling gifts. And at home, we have jettisoned making wish lists in December, since that usually means paging through a Toys R Us ad and wanting everything. Instead, year-round, when the kids pine for a toy, we say “let’s put it on your wish list.” And we do. Don’t be afraid to rethink.
7. You drop it, you lose it. Bouncy balls, whistles, plastic animals, you name it – if it was on my floor, I always nagged the kids to pick it up. I wanted them to appreciate their stuff, and I wanted them to be responsible, tidy people without expecting Mom the Maid to clean up after them. All noble ideas, but there’s a new rule: if it’s a junk toy, and it gets abandoned, I confiscate it. I finally realized I had been allocating the same amount of nagging energy to two-cent baubles on the floor as I was to a winter coat or backpack on the floor. It isn’t worth it. I still don’t want to throw all these things straight into trash, mainlining them to landfills, but I’m removing them from circulation once they become tripping hazards. So what, then, do I do with it all?
8. Start a junk toy bag. These disposable toys are worthless floating here and there around our homes, but in sum they might actually have some value. Every time you pick one up, drop it in a central location – naturally, one out of little people’s sight. Readers of my original “stuff” article had worthy suggestions to consider: Give the items to a teacher who uses them as little prizes. Give all those stickers to a preschool class for the writing center. Donate trinket toys to Operation Christmas Child, which assembles shoe boxes of small toys and other items to international children in need. (I know what you’re thinking, because I did too: Don’t these children deserve better than junky toys if our First World kids do? Well, yes, but at least they, with much less stuff filling their homes, are likely to have more appreciation for these little trinkets. Of course, donated toys should not have been used; select the ones that never made it out of a goodie bag.) Save a collection as a vacation toy bag to pop out on a tedious road trip or plane ride. None of these ideas prevent these toys from being manufactured, but they do at least make their manufacture a little more worthwhile by extending their useful life. And, mercifully, they’re off the floor.

9. Consider exceptions. Sometimes the junk toys are items that your child has bought with his or her own carefully saved money. After all, junk toys are inexpensive, so they are natural purchases for a child just learning to save and spend money. Consider treating these like your child’s “real” toys, and letting him or her keep those, as long as they take care of them. Without as many plastic freebies around the house to dilute the value of these bona fide earned items, the hope is that they will be more treasured.
10. Talk about quality. Eventually one of these kazoos or wind-up toys will break, usually sooner rather than later. These toys are not made for longevity, and that’s worth discussing with your child. Would they rather have a bunch of cheap toys that break right away, or wait for a well-built toy that will last? Why do companies even make such worthless toys? Where was this toy made, and how did it travel all the way here? (And was the shipping time for the toy perhaps longer than the time the child owned it before it broke?) What happens to all those toys after they break and get thrown in the trash? When you begin to ask the questions, so will the children.
It may be an uphill battle, fellow parents, but let’s do it. We’ve got nothing to lose but the junk.



Curb Your Teen’s Bad Behavior with Discipline that Works


Bad behavior doesn’t end when your child graduates from diapers — or even from middle school. In fact, the teen years can bring some of the toughest discipline challenges parents have to face.
Sulking, arguing, lying, and rebelling are just a few of the ways teens misbehave. There’s a good explanation for these bad behaviors. As teens become more independent, they still lack the emotional maturity they need to make informed, thoughtful decisions. The parts of the brain that control decision making and impulse control haven’t fully developed. The combination of autonomy and immaturity can lead to risky teen behaviors, like drinking, smoking, and having unprotected sex.

You want your children to do the right things, but disciplining teens isn’t easy. When they talk back, you can’t just put them in a time-out like you did when they were toddlers. Effective parenting of teens requires smarter, stronger discipline strategies.
The goal of discipline is to gain more control over your kids — without being too controlling.

Set Clear Rules
Tweens and teens push boundaries to see how their parents will respond. It’s important to establish clear rules, and to have consequences for breaking those rules. For example, the punishment for breaking curfew might be that your teen has to stay home the next weekend.
You’ll get less resistance if you involve your kids in designing their own consequences. Just don’t forget that you still have the final say.

Put It in Writing
So that there can be no misunderstandings, create a formal list of house rules, or type up a behavior contract that you and your teen sign. Post the list or contract on the fridge or in another central location where your kids won’t be able to miss it.
Examples of clear rules include: “Curfew is 8 p.m. on weekdays, 10 p.m. on weekends, and no going out until homework is finished.” Spell out the consequences, too: “Anyone who breaks one of these rules loses television for a day.” If your kids do fall out of line, all you have to do is point to the list.

Teens are master negotiators and manipulators. They’re adept at spotting any sign of parental weakness. When you waffle and give in to their pleas for leniency, they are going to expect the same response every time they misbehave or break a rule.
Being consistent about teen discipline also means that both parents need to be on the same page. If one parent always says “yes” and the other always says “no,” your teen is going to know exactly which parent to ask.

While you’re being firm, don’t forget to also be fair and understanding. A little empathy goes a long way when disciplining teens.

Know Which Rules Are Important to You
You want to be consistent, but not harsh. It’s OK to give in about the small stuff once in a while, provided that it isn’t something dangerous.
For example, purple hair might not appeal to you, but it probably won’t hurt your teen. Drug and alcohol use, on the other hand, are non-negotiable.

Be a Good Role Model
If the rule is “No swearing in the house” and you curse like a sailor, you’re giving your teen a free pass to do the same. The best way to encourage positive teen behaviors is to walk the talk yourself.

Teach Responsibility
An important part of parenting teenagers is to teach them how to make decisions. Kids need to learn that whatever choices they make — good or bad — have consequences. Sit down and talk about some of the dangerous and long-term consequences that risky behaviors can have, including drug abuse, pregnancy, smoking, and drunk driving.
Know that no matter how well you prepare your kids, they’re going to make some mistakes. The important thing is to show them how to learn from those mistakes.

Stay Involved
One of the best ways to prevent teen bad behavior is to know what your kids are up to. You don’t need to spy on your teens or listen in on their phone conversations — you just need to be an involved and interested parent. Ask what your kids are doing when they go out with friends. Know who they hang out with and where they go.
Being an involved parent also means watching for any warning signs that your teen is in trouble. These signs include: skipping school, losing or gaining a lot of weight quickly, having trouble sleeping, spending more time alone, getting into trouble with the law, or talking about committing suicide. If you see any of these changes in your teen, enlist the help of a doctor or therapist right away.

To Read More click on link above.







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How to Give Your Teen Constructive Criticism

By Amy Morin, LCSW


When you say, “You shouldn’t do that,” to a teenager, your feedback is likely to be met with an eye roll. By the time kids turn into teens, they don’t think they need much help from adults—especially their parents.
But, just because your teen doesn’t appreciate your words of wisdom, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t offer your advice. Constructive criticism can be essential to your teen’s well-being.
Your teen needs to know how to improve his social skills.

He’ll need guidance on steps he could take to be healthier. He’ll need your advice on how he can improve his chances of success. There are many reasons why you should give your teen constructive criticism.
Why Constructive Criticism Is Important
It’s important for your teen to be able to hear constructive criticism without automatically becoming defensive or argumentative. His future boss, college professors, and partner will likely give him constructive criticism from time to time. Being able to hear those words—and apply them—could help him become a better person.
But before he can take that advice, he’ll have to be open to listening to it. Then, he’ll need to be able to evaluate that advice and be open to changing his behavior.
Every time you give your teen constructive criticism, you give him an opportunity to grow and change. You also give him an opportunity to practice handling feedback from others.

Critiquing your teen’s performance, whether you’re giving feedback on how he filled out his job application, or you’re telling him what you noticed during his baseball game, is important.
Pointing out mistakes in a gentle manner can help your teen see that mistakes aren’t something he should be ashamed of.

Instead, you can use it as an opportunity to show him how to bounce back from failure by turning his mistakes into a learning opportunity.
Constructive Feedback vs. Setting Limits
If you’re offering constructive feedback, view your role as a guide. Point out what your teen did well, while adding what she could do better next time.
Remember that constructive criticism is your opinion. It’s different from addressing a broken rule or a serious violation. Instead, it’s about offering advice about how your teen could improve.
Suggesting your teen tuck in his shirt before he heads out to a dance is constructive criticism. Grounding him for missing his curfew is about setting limits.
Start With a Positive Relationship
Have you ever received criticism from a boss whom you didn’t respect? Can you recall a time during your adolescence when an adult you didn’t admire offered you unsolicited advice?
If you don’t trust the person giving you feedback, you won’t listen to what that person has to say. Rather than thinking about how to apply their feedback to your life, you’ll invest your energy into thinking why this person’s advice doesn’t matter.
So before you give your teen constructive criticism, make sure you have a healthy relationship.

If your teen respects you, he’ll have respect for your opinion.
But even if you aren’t on the best of terms, make sure you still set healthy limits and follow through with consequences when necessary. As you work to build your relationship, you can start offering more feedback about the little things.
Address the Behavior, Not the Person
Keep your comments focused on what your teen does, not who she is. So instead of saying, “You always dress like a slob,” try, “Wearing your pajamas pants out in public might send the wrong message to people about how you feel about yourself.”
Point out the behavior that concerns you and say why you are concerned.
Don’t attack her and avoid bringing up more than one issue at a time.
Be Kind, But Direct
Resist using sarcasm or teasing your teen about her choices. Express your concern in a kind, but clear manner.
So rather than hint around that her dress is too tight, be up front about your concern. You can still be kind and gentle, while also using direct communication.
Use a neutral tone of voice and try to use “I” statements rather than “You” statements. Instead of saying, “You don’t ever manage to get your homework done at a reasonable hour,” say, “I think it would be a good idea to establish a schedule for yourself so you can get your homework done earlier in the evening.”
Listen to Your Teen’s Opinion
After you’ve expressed your concern, ask your teen for his opinion. Ask questions like, “Do you think that could be a problem for you at some point?”
Don’t be surprised if your teen doesn’t see things the same way you do. Your years of wisdom will give you a different perspective and he’s likely to insist you don’t understand what it takes to be a teen in today’s world.
But showing a willingness to listen to your teen can go a long way toward encouraging your teen to listen to you.
Mistakes to Avoid
Your teen will be more likely to listen to your constructive criticism if you avoid these common communication mistakes:
Don’t draw comparisons. Saying things like, “You should do your homework right after school like your brother does,” will likely lead to a defensive reaction from your teen. Treat your teen like the individual that she is and avoid drawing unfair comparisons to other people.
Skip the lecture. The longer your lecture, the higher the likelihood that your teen will tune you out. Keep your advice crisp and actionable. A few sentences will work best.
Avoid being overly critical. Being too harsh on your teen will cause you to lose credibility.
Don’t use backhanded compliments. It’s important to praise your teen, but avoid using backhanded compliments. Saying things like, “I’m so happy you made your bed today. If only you could do that all the time,” will frustrate your teen.
Remember there’s more than one way to do things. Don’t get caught up thinking your way is the best way to do everything. Your teen will likely find her own way of doing a lot of tasks and she’ll find something that works best for her.
Don’t nag. If your teen doesn’t listen to your advice the first time, he’s not likely to listen the second time either. Make your opinion known, but don’t nag.
How to Deal with Your Teen’s Reaction
There will likely to be times when your teen responds to your feedback with anger. Whether he argues that you’re wrong or he insists, “I know Mom!” don’t get into a power struggle.
Underneath his frustration and irritability may be some shame or embarrassment. And he may need some time to calm down before he’s ready to think about your advice.
Ignoring an eye roll or simply walking away when your teen says, “You don’t understand. That’s not how this works,” could be the best option.
Then, you can address the issue at a later time. Say something like, “Whenever I offer you advice on how to improve your driving, you insist you already know everything I tell you. I’m concerned that you aren’t listening to me and you won’t learn how to become a better driver.”
Acknowledge that it’s tough to hear feedback sometimes. Say, “I don’t like it when my boss points out my mistakes. And sometimes I get angry. But, listening to his advice helps me do my job better.”
If your teen really isn’t listening, at some point, you’ll need to decide if you need to press the issue or let it go. If it’s a serious issue, you may need to instill consequences if your teen’s behavior doesn’t change. If it’s a minor issue, you might have to learn how to live with it.


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Kids and the Holiday Season


Just when you thought you were in the clear with Halloween over, here comes the gauntlet of holidays. After Halloween parents are on guard since many opportunities will be popping up for kids to get their hands on sugary sweets. From Thanksgiving and Hanukah to Christmas and New Years, the end of year holiday season is fraught with parties and celebrations that almost always include cakes, candy, ice cream and pies. Letting your kids partake in the festive season is fine as long as you keep a careful watch on their eating habits to avoid cavities and tooth decay that can result from eating too many sugary foods.
It’s easy to get carried away during the holiday season. With so many parties and events taking place it’s hard to turn any invitation down. Kids are especially at risk since they will have plenty of opportunities in school, sports clubs and social groups to have holiday parties that include tasty treats. Starting with Thanksgiving and all the delicious pies that are served and running through New Years, this time of year rarely has a week go by where a party or celebration isn’t taking place. While it is fun to be part of the festive spirit it is also wise to celebrate in moderation. Telling your kids about the dangers of consuming too much cake, candy and cookies is a smart move as a parent. You don’t want to make the holidays a downer, but reminding children about the pain of cavities and tooth decay can be enough for them to curb their sweet tooth come the holiday season.
Reinforce Brushing Habits
If your children are young, now is a good time to remind them of the benefits of good oral hygiene. During this period kids will often come home from school with party bags full of Christmas cookies and other sweet treats and while you don’t want to spoil the fun you do need to be careful about their teeth. Even if you’ve covered proper brushing, flossing and rinsing before, now is a good time to reinforce those habits and spot check when your kids are brushing to make sure they are doing it right. This is not the time when you want kids skipping a brushing or forgetting to floss. Without being too stern try to gently remind your children that brushing and flossing regularly is the best way to avoid a trip to the dentist.





Anger Management for Kids and Parents


Handling children’s anger can be puzzling, draining, and distressing for adults. In fact, one of the major problems in dealing with anger in children is the angry feelings that are often stirred up in us. It has been said that we as parents, teachers, counselors, and administrators need to remind ourselves that we were not always taught how to deal with anger as a fact of life during our own childhood. We were led to believe that to be angry was to be bad, and we were often made to feel guilty for expressing anger.
It will be easier to deal with children’s anger if we get rid of this notion. Our goal is not to repress or destroy angry feelings in children–or in ourselves–but rather to accept the feelings and to help channel and direct them to constructive ends.
Parents and teachers must allow children to feel all their feelings. Adult skills can then be directed toward showing children acceptable ways of expressing their feelings. Strong feelings cannot be denied, and angry outbursts should not always be viewed as a sign of serious problems; they should be recognized and treated with respect.
To respond effectively to overly aggressive behavior in children we need to have some ideas about what may have triggered an outburst. Anger may be a defense to avoid painful feelings; it may be associated with failure, low self-esteem, and feelings of isolation; or it may be related to anxiety about situations over which the child has no control.
Angry defiance may also be associated with feelings of dependency, and anger may be associated with sadness and depression. In childhood, anger and sadness are very close to one another, and it is important to remember that much of what an adult experiences as sadness is expressed by a child as anger.
Before we look at specific ways to manage aggressive and angry outbursts, several points should be highlighted:
We should distinguish between anger and aggression. Anger is a temporary emotional state caused by frustration; aggression is often an attempt to hurt a person or to destroy property.
Anger and aggression do not have to be dirty words. In other words, in looking at aggressive behavior in children, we must be careful to distinguish between behavior that indicates emotional problems and behavior that is normal.
In dealing with angry children, our actions should be motivated by the need to protect and to reach, not by a desire to punish. Parents and teachers should show a child that they accept his or her feelings, while suggesting other ways to express the feelings. An adult might say, for example, “Let me tell you what some children would do in a situation like this…” It is not enough to tell children what behaviors we find unacceptable. We must teach them acceptable ways of coping. Also, ways must be found to communicate what we expect of them. Contrary to popular opinion, punishment is not the most effective way to communicate to children what we expect of them.

Responding to the Angry Child
Some of the following suggestions for dealing with the angry child were taken from The Aggressive Child by Fritz Redl and David Wineman. They should be considered helpful ideas and not be seen as a “bag of tricks.”
Catch the child being good. Tell the child what behaviors please you. Respond to positive efforts and reinforce good behavior. An observing and sensitive parent will find countless opportunities during the day to make such comments as “I like the way you come in for dinner without being reminded”; “I appreciate your hanging up your clothes even though you were in a hurry to get out to play”; “You were really patient while I was on the phone”; “I’m glad you shared your snack with your sister”; “I like the way you’re able to think of others”; and “Thank you for telling the truth about what really happened.”
Similarly, teachers can positively reinforce good behavior with statements like “I know it was difficult for you to wait your turn, and I’m pleased that you could do it”; “Thanks for sitting in your seat quietly”; “You were thoughtful in offering to help Johnny with his spelling”; “You worked hard on that project, and I admire your effort.”

Deliberately ignore inappropriate behavior that can be tolerated. This doesn’t mean that you should ignore the child, just the behavior. The “ignoring” has to be planned and consistent. Even though this behavior may be tolerated, the child must recognize that it is inappropriate.

Provide physical outlets and other alternatives. It is important for children to have opportunities for physical exercise and movement, both at home and at school.

Manipulate the surroundings. Aggressive behavior can be encouraged by placing children in tough, tempting situations. We should try to plan the surroundings so that certain things are less apt to happen. Stop a “problem” activity and substitute, temporarily, a more desirable one. Sometimes rules and regulations, as well as physical space, may be too confining.

Use closeness and touching. Move physically closer to the child to curb his or her angry impulse. Young children are often calmed by having an adult come close by and express interest in the child’s activities. Children naturally try to involve adults in what they are doing, and the adult is often annoyed at being bothered. Very young children (and children who are emotionally deprived) seem to need much more adult involvement in their interests. A child about to use a toy or tool in a destructive way is sometimes easily stopped by an adult who expresses interest in having it shown to him. An outburst from an older child struggling with a difficult reading selection can be prevented by a caring adult who moves near the child to say, “Show me which words are giving you trouble.”

Be ready to show affection. Sometimes all that is needed for any angry child to regain control is a sudden hug or other impulsive show of affection. Children with serious emotional problems, however, may have trouble accepting affection.

Ease tension through humor. Kidding the child out of a temper tantrum or outburst offers the child an opportunity to “save face.” However, it is important to distinguish between face-saving humor and sarcasm, teasing, or ridicule.

Appeal directly to the child. Tell him or her how you feel and ask for consideration. For example, a parent or a teacher may gain a child’s cooperation by saying, “I know that noise you’re making doesn’t usually bother me, but today I’ve got a headache, so could you find something else you’d enjoy doing?”

Explain situations. Help the child understand the cause of a stressed situation. We often fail to realize how easily young children can begin to react properly once they understand the cause of their frustration.

Use physical restraint. Occasionally a child may lose control so completely that he has to be physically restrained or removed from the scene to prevent him from hurting himself or others. This may also “save face” for the child. Physical restraint or removal from the scene should not be viewed by the child as punishment but as a means of saying, “You can’t do that.” In such situations, an adult cannot afford to lose his or her temper and unfriendly remarks by other children should not be tolerated.

Encourage children to see their strengths as well as their weaknesses. Help them to see that they can reach their goals.

Use promises and rewards. Promises of future pleasure can be used both to start and to stop behavior. This approach should not be compared with bribery. We must know what the child likes–what brings him pleasure–and we must deliver on our promises.

Say “NO!” Limits should be clearly explained and enforced. Children should be free to function within those limits.

Tell the child that you accept his or her angry feelings, but offer other suggestions for expressing them. Teach children to put their angry feelings into words, rather than fists.

Build a positive self-image. Encourage children to see themselves as valued and valuable people.

Use punishment cautiously. There is a fine line between punishment that is hostile toward a child and punishment that is educational. DO NOT use physical punishment.  Use time-out instead.

Model appropriate behavior. Parents and teachers should be aware of the powerful influence of their actions on a child’s or group’s behavior.

Teach children to express themselves verbally. Talking helps a child have control and thus reduces acting out behavior. Encourage the child to say, for example, “I don’t like your taking my pencil. I don’t feel like sharing just now.”

The Role of Discipline
Good discipline includes creating an atmosphere of quiet firmness, clarity, and conscientiousness, while using reasoning. Bad discipline involves punishment which is unduly harsh and inappropriate, and it is often associated with verbal ridicule and attacks on the child’s integrity.
As one fourth-grade teacher put it: “One of the most important goals we strive for as parents, educators, and mental health professionals is to help children develop respect for themselves and others.” While arriving at this goal takes years of patient practice, it is a vital process in which parents, teachers, and all caring adults can play a crucial and exciting role. In order to accomplish this, we must see children as worthy human beings and be sincere in dealing with them.
Adapted from “The Aggressive Child” by Luleen S. Anderson, PhD published by the Children’s Bureau, ACYF, DHEW. (Reprinting permission unnecessary.)








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Raising Kids Who Love to Learn


Life with my 2- and 4-year-old boys is rarely quiet. So when the house suddenly grew very still one afternoon, my first thought was “Uh-oh.” I dropped the shirt I was folding and made my way toward their bedroom, envisioning fresh crayon marks on the wall, pillow stuffing strewn about, or cookies mashed into the rug.

What I saw when I peeked in on them was a complete surprise: There they sat on the floor, two grass-stained, disheveled boys, their blond heads bent intently over . . . books. I tiptoed away and whispered a small “thank you” to the parenting gods. Maybe all those hours spent reading everything from The Poky Little Puppy to Pokemon books were actually paying off.

Most parents read to their young kids, which helps encourage imagination, language, and an early love of learning. But not all children remain curious and inquisitive into adolescence. Alarmingly, studies have found that from third grade on, a child’s enjoyment of learning drops continuously — a phenomenon some researchers blame on the increasing focus on grades and report cards as kids get older. Younger children, on the other hand, learn for the sheer joy of it.
You can do a lot now to help your child maintain this healthy attitude throughout school. Follow our simple strategies to teach the value of learning and nurture the kind of kid who will find algebra and biology an exciting challenge rather than a chore. Make learning child’s play. To captivate a young mind, let your child do what comes naturally: play. “It allows kids to experiment with everything from attitudes and ideas to shapes and colors — all in the name of fun,” says Richard Ryan, Ph.D., a psychology professor at the University of Rochester, in New York.


All children start out with an instinct to explore and discover. Multipurpose toys like blocks, crayons, paints, dress-up clothes, stuffed animals, and action figures capitalize on that instinct. “The best learning toys are the ones that can be used in endless ways,” says Lucy Calkins, Ph.D., a professor of curriculum and teaching at Columbia University’s Teachers College, in New York City. Stash playthings in storage containers, and pull out only a few at a time. That way, your child won’t tire of them as quickly or get overstimulated. “When you put out less, children tend to do more with their toys,” explains Dr. Calkins, who cowrote Raising Lifelong Learners (Perseus Press, 1998).
Share Your Passion
Talk to your child about interesting things you’ve learned, whether the subject is sports, science, art, or cooking, suggests Deborah Stipek, Ph.D., dean of Stanford University’s School of Education, in California, and coauthor of Motivated Minds: Raising Children to Love Learning (Owl Books, 2001). “If you read an intriguing article or watched an educational program, tell your kids about it.” Explain in simple terms what happened and why you found it so interesting. Your kids will sense your fascination even if they can’t fully understand the topic. And you’ll be sending the message that learning doesn’t end with childhood.
Surround Her with Books
Harvard University researchers have found that consistent access to books can increase a child’s motivation to read. What’s more, a U.S. Department of Education study reveals that the most proficient readers tend to be kids whose homes are stocked with many different types of reading materials, such as newspapers, magazines, books, and encyclopedias. To foster your child’s affection for reading, keep books within easy reach — by the kitchen table, next to her bed, in a basket by the couch, and in the car. Let your toddler flip through old issues of magazines, even if she ends up tearing the pages. Set aside a special time to read together each day. Talk about the story and ask your child what she thinks is going to happen next. Active participation boosts her understanding and keeps reading fun.
Build on Your Child’s Natural Interests
If he goes through a dinosaur phase, visit a natural history museum, take out library books about prehistoric times, or buy a model T-Rex that you can assemble together. Or maybe he loves bugs, trains, or outer space. “Don’t be disappointed or worried if he isn’t into the same thing as the kid down the street,” Dr. Stipek says. “Tapping into his unique fascinations will keep the spark for learning alive.”
A University of Chicago study of exceptionally high-achieving athletes and artists found that the common denominator among these gifted individuals was their having parents who early on recognized the child’s interest and provided as much support and encouragement as they could. “That’s our job as parents; children point the way, and we help them clear a path,” says Raymond Wlodkowski, Ph.D., coauthor of Creating Highly Motivating Classrooms for All Students (Jossey-Bass, 2000).
You can tap into your child’s interests even when he’s a baby. “More learning will take place if you give your infant time to see, touch, or taste the objects that he’s already interested in, rather than move him on quickly to another toy or activity,” says Claire Lerner, Ph.D., a child-development expert at Zero To Three, in Washington, D.C.
Know When To Back Off
After interviewing hundreds of parents, Dr. Ryan and his colleagues found that those who have the most motivated children didn’t micromanage or pressure their kids. “They aren’t the type to jump in and say, ‘You’re doing that wrong; let me do it for you,’ ” he says. “Instead, they let their children figure things out for themselves, while still showing their support.” By overcoming challenges on her own — whether a jigsaw puzzle or a math problem — your child gains a sense of competence, something that all enthusiastic learners share, Dr. Stipek adds. Her research found that middle-school kids enjoy subjects more as their competence increases. “You’re more likely to want to do the activities you feel you’re good at.”
Ask the Right Questions
Your child probably fires dozens of questions at you every day. But turning things around and posing some to him can fuel his excitement for learning. For instance, asking, “Why do you think the birds always come back to that same spot in the backyard?” can spark a conversation that introduces a variety of interesting concepts.
But beware of turning your child’s life into a pop quiz. “Some parents make the mistake of asking kids to display their knowledge,” Dr. Calkins says. “They’ll ask, ‘What color is this?’ even though it’s obvious that their child knows it’s green. If you want your child to stay excited about learning, it’s much better to engage him in an active inquiry than to ask him to spit out routine knowledge.”
And when you ask about his day, be specific (“Did the guinea pig in your classroom have babies yet?”) rather than too general (“How was school?”). “Everyday talking is essential to learning,” Dr. Calkins says. “Kids need to be able to take the hubbub of their lives and spin it into narratives if they’re going to become capable readers and writers.”
If you don’t know the answer, look it up. If your child is curious about something, take the time to explain it to her. But if you don’t have a clue either, it’s perfectly all right to say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.” Turn to a dictionary, an encyclopedia, or the Internet, and do some detective work together. “You’re showing her not only how to find more information but also how thrilling it can be to learn new things,” Dr. Stipek says.
Avoid Rewards
Numerous studies suggest that offering kids a prize for doing something, whether it’s reading a book or completing homework, can actually undermine their pleasure in the activity. Why? The focus shifts from the learning process to the reward, says Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards (Houghton Mifflin, 1999). Without the sticker, the ice cream, or another treat, the child no longer wants to do the activity, even if it was something she used to truly enjoy. “Kids learn best when they’re able to act on their natural curiosity about the world,” Kohn says. “Rewards and prizes tend to undermine that.”
Focus on the Process, Not the Outcome
“Many parents are too achievement-oriented and focused on the future,” Dr. Wlodkowski says. It’s an easy trap to fall into: You worry about how your toddler will do in preschool, and when she’s a preschooler, you wonder if she’s cut out for kindergarten. Though it’s natural to want to prepare your child for what’s ahead, you may unwittingly push her to learn too much too quickly, or place too much emphasis on her accomplishments. “If your goal is to foster a love of learning, it’s far better to take an interest in what your child is doing rather than how well she’s doing it,” Kohn says. “Your continued interest in her activities is the best motivator of all.”




Parenting Advice For The 20-Something Years


From pregnancy on, parents often keep a stack of bedside reading full of advice on raising children — survival tips from the terrible toddler years through annoying adolescence. Los Angeles comedy writer Gail Parent figured she’d be done with all that once her kids turned the magical age of 21.
“Because I didn’t tell my parents anything bad or negative,” she says. “I let them be very peaceful about me when I was an adult. But I had told my kids to tell me everything when they were young.”
And so they did — and kept doing it even after leaving home. At that point, Parent was no longer sure how to respond. Now that they were adults, where was the line between friendly advice and unwanted intrusion? There was no manual on parenting for the 20-something years, so in what appears to be part of a budding trend, Parent decided to create one. Her co-author, Pasadena, Calif., psychotherapist Susan Ende, says all their peers were grappling with the same thing.
“All I had to do was say, ‘I’m writing a book called How to Raise Your Adult Children,’ and somebody would say, ‘I’ve got a problem,’ ” Ende says.


The hottest topics? Money — and kids moving back home. That trend was well under way even before the recession, which has since forced record numbers of job-seeking and penny-pinching college grads back to their parents’ nest. Deserved or not, such “boomerang kids” have acquired a reputation as lazy slackers.
“When we first started this book, we thought it was all the kids’ problem,” says Parent.
But Parent says she soon discovered a lot of baby boomer parents are quite the enablers. She heard stories of them accompanying their kids to college class registration and negotiating grades with professors.
“I heard a parent saying on her cell phone, ‘No, your father is not going to write your term paper for you!’ ”
Parent admits to some micromanaging herself, but says it’s no wonder kids today can’t make decisions on their own. And no wonder they feel entitled to move back home, rent free. Ende says parents may be happy to help, especially in this down economy.
“But parents have a difficult time setting time limits,” she says. “Saying, ‘You have to obey my rules because it’s my house.’ And, ‘My money is my money, and you don’t get to decide that I’m supposed to give it to you.’ ”
Others take a more sympathetic view.
“Should we just cast them loose at age 18 or 22 and say, ‘You’re on your own, and we’re not going to help you anymore?’ ” asks Jeffrey Jensen Arnett of Clark University. Arnett is an expert on delayed adulthood, and his own parenting book on 20-somethings is due out next year. He says social norms are changing, and the 20s are a tough decade for both generations.
All I had to do was say, ‘I’m writing a book called How to Raise Your Adult Children,’ and somebody would say, ‘I’ve got a problem.’
Psychotherapist Susan Ende
“A lot of parents say, ‘Gosh, when I was 23 …’ ” and note that they were already set on their career path and even had children, Arnett says. “They look at their children, and they see them nowhere near that, and they feel like their children are not making it. But that’s not true.”
Arnett says young adults today typically change jobs seven times before age 30 — yes, often quitting ones their parents find perfectly good. And with the average age of marriage continuing to rise, a life partner may still be nowhere in sight.
“There’s a great deal of comfort for parents just in learning that that today is perfectly normal,” he says. “Thirty really is the new 20.”
The message for parents in both of these books: It’s OK to let go.”You won’t lose your child,” Ende says. “You’ll just get a better version of them.”
A true adult.




Kid Fitness “When Your Want Exercise”


Some children just aren’t into sports, but that shouldn’t mean they have to be glued to the tube. Creative kid fitness, experts tell WebMD, may be as simple as a walk in the park. Help your sedentary son or daughter discover the benefits and joys of physical activity with these 12 tips.
Kid Fitness Tip #1: Think outside the playing field.
Not everyone is drawn to organized sports such as soccer or baseball. Look for other activities your child will enjoy — like dancing, rock climbing, swimming, or martial arts. And have patience — it may take some trial and error before your kid finds the right fit.
“It’s probably time to explore another option when your child is no longer having fun,” says Eric Small, MD, a specialist in pediatric/adolescent sports medicine and author of Kids & Sports. “Keep trying different ideas until something clicks. It’s important to get non-athletic kids motivated and moving so they can enjoy a lifelong habit of physical activity.”


To read more, go to link above.




How to Talk to Your Child About Being Distracted and Unfocused By The Understood Team


At a Glance
Kids with learning and attention issues can have trouble focusing on assignments and starting projects.
Try to find out what’s especially distracting for your child so you can help him avoid those distractions.
You and your child’s teacher can put together a checklist for your child to make sure he brings home the materials he needs.
Kids with certain learning or attention issues can have trouble staying focused on schoolwork or might get easily distracted. It can be hard to know how to approach the topic with your child in a positive and productive way. To help, explore the common challenges and suggested conversation starters below.
Trouble Staying Focused
What you can say: “I know you try hard to pay attention in class but you get distracted. What helps you stay focused?”
Tip: It might help your child to stay focused if the teacher comes over and touches his shoulder when she wants him to pay attention.
What you can say: “What helps you stay focused when you’re doing homework?”
Tip: Your child may do well with a quiet, orderly space to do his homework. Or listening to music might help him concentrate.
What you can say: “What things (noises, people) distract you the most?”
Tip: It might be better for your child to be seated away from loud or distracting classmates in school. Talk to your child’s teacher about this possibility.
Trouble Starting Projects and Shifting Between Activities
What you can say: “Remember that big science project you did last year? You started late and had to give up some fun activities so you could finish it. What do you think would help you start projects sooner?”
Tip: To avoid procrastination, you might want to start going over project instructions with your child as soon as a project is assigned. Talk about where he anticipates he might need help from you or clarification from the teacher.
What you can say: “The pirate ship you’re building looks awesome—you’re following those instructions really well. But you sure get upset when I tell you it’s time to stop playing and do your homework. Let’s figure out how to make the switch from play to work go better.”
Tip: Help your child find “pause points” in a game or project to save his work and set it aside for later. You can also try making eye contact with him each time you issue a warning to switch gears.
Trouble With Complicated Directions
Your child might say: “Mom, when you give me so many directions in a row I can’t remember them all!”
Tip: You might want to ask your child to do no more than two things in a row, and make eye contact when you ask. You can also write clear to-do lists for home and school.
Trouble Keeping Track of Assignments and Staying Organized
What you can say: “I know you have a lot to remember when you’re doing your homework and assignments. And we both get upset when you leave work to the last minute or you forget your book or instructions. Let’s try to come up with a system that works for you.”
Tip: There are several things that might help:
Help your child clean out his backpack every afternoon so he has only the materials he needs for his assignments.
Mark upcoming due dates on the family wall calendar and review it every few days.
Ask your child’s teacher to help you put together a simple checklist to tape to the top of your child’s desk. This can help to make sure he brings home the materials he needs.
Sometimes it’s hard to know how it’s going for your child at school. To get a better idea, explore these questions to ask your child. If your child has ADHD, take a look at expert tips on how to help him with behavior issues.
Key Takeaways
Asking your child questions can help you figure out what’s distracting him.
If your child has trouble following directions, try giving him only a few directions at a time.
Talking to your child can help you come up with a system to organize his homework assignments.





Kids – Trail Riding Tips


Here are some get-started tips to help keep he/ her safe on the trail – and you from becoming unduly worried. (For more information on being a horse parent, pick up The Parent’s Guide to Horseback Riding, by Jessica Jahiel, PhD;
At Home
Invest in safety gear. The right safety gear is critical for riders under 18 years old. Besides the basics – riding pants, boots, and long-sleeved shirt – get your daughter an ASTM-approved, SEI-certified riding helmet. Make sure she wears it when riding and while working around her horse on the ground. Also invest in gloves, reflective materials, and a cell phone/cell-phone holder.
Invest in trail tack. Make sure your daughter rides in tack made for trail riding, rather than other equine disciplines. Note that trail-specific saddles tend to be lighter weight than all-purpose Western saddles, which will help your daughter wrangle the saddle on her own. This, in turn, will help her build confidence in her self-sufficiency. Make sure her tack fits, with the help of her trainer/instructor. (See below.)
Find a trainer/instructor. Now it’s time to find a certified trainer/instructor in your area. He or she should evaluate your daughter’s horsemanship skills, as well as her horse’s training, to see what needs to be done before the duo is ready to hit the trail. If you were successful with a trainer/instructor in your own riding, start with him or her, and go from there.
Discuss instruction plans. Make sure the instructor plans to teach your daughter to handle her horse on the ground and under saddle in a round pen/arena. Make sure the basics will be covered, including lateral flexion, vertical flexion, sidepassing, and the basic gaits. Your daughter should learn how to desensitize her horse to negative stimuli (anything that spooks or upsets him) and sensitize him to positive stimuli (such as verbal, leg, and rein cues, and shifting body weight).
Focus on spook control. Your daughter needs to learn ahead of time how to handle a spook on the trail. The self-confidence she gains as she hones her horsemanship skills will help; her horse will sense her confidence and learn to trust her. Also consider spook-control clinics offered at local horse expos.
Back off. This may be difficult, but once you’ve put your daughter in an instructor’s hands, step back. Watch the lessons if you can, but avoid micromanaging them. Save all questions for the end the session, and respect the instructor’s point of view.
On the Trail
Here are some tips to consider, once your daughter believes she’s ready to hit the trail.
Make sure she’s ready. Every person is an individual; 10 years old may seem too young to start into trail riding for some horse folks, but not to others. Play it by ear, and see how your daughter progresses. Ask her instructor for guidance.
Make sure you’re comfortable. When your daughter’s instructor is confident your daughter is ready for her first trail ride, make sure you’re comfortable with the decision. If you’re not, have an honest discussion with her instructor. He or she should be glad to go over your concerns.
Use the buddy system. Your daughter’s instructor should go along on the first two or three trail rides. You should go along, too, if you wish. Then, make sure she always rides with others. It’s never safe to trail ride alone.
Keep groups small. That said, ask your daughter to ride only in small groups of six riders or less, unless you or another adult is supervising (such as during organized trail rides); large groups bunched together can create a wreck. Ask each rider to give the others enough space, so if one horse spooks, his rider has enough room to recover without jeopardizing the safety of the others.
Find out where she’s going. When your daughter goes on an unsupervised trail ride with others, find out where they’re going and when they plan to be back. Make sure she has a cell phone with charged batteries.
Trainer/clinician J.F. Sheppard specializes in responsible training for trail horses, and safe horsemanship for trail riders. He’s certified under top Paint Horse trainer William T. Lawrence. In his 50s and afflicted with osteoarthritis, he continues to actively ride and train. The southern Oregon resident can be reached at





Fun Fourth of July Activities for Kids


Hold a Fourth of July Bike Parade
The Fourth of July involves lots of pageantry. The celebrations are big, the decorations are vibrant, and the enthusiasm is through the roof. With that in mind, gather the kids on your block and their bicycles. Provide red, white and blue balloons, streamers, glitter and construction paper and let them decorate their bikes, then stage a parade up and down the block.
Prepare for a Fourth of July Party
If you’re having a cookout, barbecue or even a fancy Independence Day shindig, get the kids involved. Have them make easy and stylish patriotic napkin holders to adorn the picnic tables or paper wind streamers to decorate your yard. The simple projects will keep them entertained for hours, while you’re busy preparing everything else.
Another simple way to make your patriotic party kid-friendly is to have them choose some of the food! We all know how picky some of our little eaters can be, so have them come along when you go grocery shopping for the big day. Each child can select one or two items they’d like at the barbeque and then help mommy prepare it. Keep with the theme by saying the food has to be red or blue (lots of strawberries and blueberries please!)
Learn 12 Tricks to Fix a Picky Eater »
Play Patriotic Party Games
Early July is a perfect time to plan some outdoor fun. Set up a relay race, a water balloon fight (the teams can be the Americans and the British!) or a pie-eating contest in the backyard that relatives of all ages can take part in. Check out this website for more family-fun ideas like “Red, White and Blue Tag”.
Bake Red, White and Blue Treats
Sugar cookies are as American as apple pie, and a delicious dessert. This recipe for sugar cookie bars gets kids in the kitchen cooking. It’s simple, and the finished product is a great canvas for children to decorate in a patriotic theme. Red, white and blue sprinkles are in abundance this time of year, and you can find them in fun shapes like stars. Ideal for an afternoon snack or a party treat, these bars will go fast, so be sure to make plenty.
Make Balloon Fireworks
Fireworks are an important part of Fourth of July festivities, but this firework confetti balloon craft is an indoor activity that’s creative, simple and will elicit giggles and squeals from the youngest revelers. Your short shopping list will include balloons, confetti, a funnel and some sharpened pencils.
Learn about the Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence is the quintessential American document. If you can’t travel to see the real parchment in Washington, D.C., teach your kids about who signed the Declaration, why and some important facts about the signers. Share this printable with kids to get you started. Print out a copy of the Declaration and explain to them what it means — you can also use this helpful site that has translated the words into a kid-friendly version.
Create a Patriotic Wreath
Show off your American pride during the Fourth of July by making this colorful, eye-catching patriotic wreath. It’s an easy craft to get kids involved with. Each child can make his or her own, or work as a team to create one big one.
Tune In
If you’re looking for a fun and creative way to teach your children about America and what it means to be an American, look no further than your TV! “Liberty’s Kids” is an entertaining yet educational TV series about the American Revolution that kids will love. If you’re more into a family move night check out favorites like “Ben and Me”, “Johnny Tremain”, “1776” and “Drums Along the Mohawk.” Older kids may appreciate the HBO series all about John Adams. Once you’ve picked the movie, grab your red, white and blue-colored popcorn and enjoy.
Interact with Revolutionary Heroes
To help educate your children on our country’s history, check out the website for Liberty’s Kids, the popular kids’ TV series. It’s extremely interactive and lets kids explore each important historical date, person and event of the American Revolution. Remember, the Fourth of July is a special time to celebrate our country — it’s essential that our kids understand where we come from and why we’re a free country.
Learn About the Flag
One of the most important symbols of the Fourth of July holiday is the flag. Teach your kids about why it’s so important with these 12 Fun Flag Day Activities for Kids »



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Spending Time in Nature for Your Health — How Outdoor Activities Improve Wellbeing – by Jared Newnam


Many adults enjoy the serenity of spending time in nature as a way to escape the stress and craziness of everyday life. Not only can fresh air and natural scenery have a positive impact on adults, outdoor activities for children can also improve the overall quality of kids’ lives.
Dr. Susanne Preston, a Clinical Mental Health Counseling instructor at South University, Virginia Beach says being outside and spending time in nature is good for a person’s mental health, as it allows them to de-stress.
“The fresh air and sunlight have the largest benefits,” Preston says. “For example, with increased exposure to natural sunlight, incidents of seasonal affective disorder decrease. When individuals are exposed to natural sunlight, the vitamin D in their skin helps to elevate their moods.”
“Research has shown that spending time in nature has been associated with decreased levels of mental illness, with the strongest links to reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety, in addition to increased self esteem,” Preston says.

“Spending time outdoors is also linked to positive effects on physical health, most notably obesity,” she adds.
Preston recommends outdoor activities like taking walks around the park or neighborhood, yoga, and meditation as healthy, relaxing ways to get some fresh air.
Reasons to Spend Time in Nature
The July 2010 edition of the Harvard Health Letter lists five good reasons to get outdoors and spend time in nature:
Your vitamin D levels rise. Sunlight hitting the skin begins a process that leads to the creation and activation of vitamin D. Studies suggest that this vitamin helps fight certain conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to depression and heart attacks. Limited sun exposure (don’t overdo it), supplemented with vitamin D pills if necessary, is a good regiment.
You’ll get more exercise. If you make getting outside a goal, that should mean less time in front of the television and computer and more time walking and doing other things that put the body in motion.
You’ll be happier. Light tends to elevate people’s mood, and there’s usually more light available outside than in. Physical activity has been shown to help people relax and cheer up, so if being outside replaces inactive pursuits with active ones, it might also mean more smiles.
Your concentration will improve. Children with ADHD seem to focus better after being outdoors. It might be a stretch to say that applies to adults, but if you have trouble concentrating, outdoor activity may help.
You may heal faster. In one study, people recovering from spinal surgery experienced less pain and stress and took fewer pain medications when they were exposed to natural light. An older study showed that the view out the window (trees vs. a brick wall) helped recovery in the hospital.
Benefits of Outdoor Activities for Children
Robyn Bjorrnson, executive assistant at the Children and Nature Network, says in general, children spend a lot less time outdoors than they used to.
She says this lack of time spent playing outside in the fresh air can be harmful to a child’s wellbeing.
“It damages physical and mental health, contributing to nature-deficit disorder, which is the term used to describe the human costs of alienation from nature.”
Spending time in natural surroundings stimulates children’s creativity.
Bjorrnson says there are many positive health benefits associated with outdoor activities for children.
“Children who regularly experience nature play are healthier, happier, and test better in school,” Bjorrnson says. “Studies indicate that direct exposure to nature can relieve the symptoms of attention-deficit disorders, improve resistance to stress and depression, increase self-esteem, stimulate cognitive development and creativity, as well as reduce myopia and lower child obesity.”
Preston agrees that outdoor activities for children offer countless benefits for kids’ overall wellbeing.
“Spending time in natural surroundings stimulates children’s creativity,” Preston says. “Spending time outdoors also encourages children to actively play, which is good for them, rather than spend time focused on electronic media, television, and video games.”
Exploring nature is a great way for a family to spend time together and enjoy some healthy activities, Bjorrnson says.
“Hiking, walking, beach play, camping, birding, tree climbing, fishing, gardening, sailing, are just a few of the endless ways to enjoy nature,” Bjorrnson says. “And there are more ways in your own backyard or neighborhood.”
Though it can be challenging for parents to convince their children that spending time outdoors can be just as much fun as playing video games and watching television, Bjorrnson says it is important to make outdoor time a priority.







Is Your Baby Fussy? Frustrated? Toddler need help calming?


Some child experts think that growing up in our fast paced world could be a direct cause to children becoming easily frustrated. Things are not as simple as they were 40 years ago. With so many choices, activities, and technologies, it’s no wonder that young children can become frustrated with every-day things.
One of your goals as a parent is to help your child through any (or at least most) bumps in the road. Your baby or toddler may cry or throw tantrums to express frustration. Some causes may be:

Loud noises
Overwhelmingly busy environment
Being denied something she wants
Toys that are hard to handle or play with
Inability to complete a task
Not getting what s/he needs
Having/Needing to do something s/he doesn’t want to do
Here are some ways to help your child from getting frustrated and how to calm her down if she is upset:
Create some quiet/down time. You can take Baby into a separate room and try to calm him or her down without distractions. If she is yelling or not, try using a soothing, low voice. If you scream or yell back, Baby will feed on this and only become more frustrated.
Use a soothing tone of voice and facial expressions. If you deny her something she wants, you probably have a good reason for it. Explain in a calm and reasonable voice to Baby why she can’t have what she wants. She may not understand the words, but your body language and tone of voice will be enough for her for now.
Choose age-appropriate toys. Toys that prove to be difficult to use can be very frustrating. He’s ready to play, but it proves difficult! Perhaps the ball is too large to grip or perhaps he’s not able to take the toy with him. Try putting yourself in Baby’s position to see if a toy is potentially frustrating. Toys that are good for young children are usually thin and tube-like with small spheres on them. They are easy to grip and play with.
Support and Encouragement. Baby may try to do something and unfortunately, fail. If s/he does, be there and give comfort! If it is something you can help your baby accomplish, by all means, do so! Your baby needs to feel that s/he had a success with the task. Remember to give praise once the task is completed, as well as when task is attempted. However, be sure not to try and take over – it is easy to do. Baby needs to feel he did most of the work.
Check your mental list, and tick! Sometimes, you may not know what your child needs or wants. Your baby will express this by crying. Make a mental check-list of all the things she has gotten or still needs (food, burping, changing, etc). Start eliminating items from the list and you will probably happen upon what she needs. As for a toddler, she or he may be able to communicate with you what it is she needs. (Thanks to baby sign language, this gets easier, too!)
Make mundane activities fun! Some young children loathe everyday things, like taking baths or riding in cars. These two activities are pretty much inevitable. There are things that you can do to make the activity more fun. Buying new toys and unveiling them at bath-time may distract her enough so she forgets she hates baths. Perhaps bringing her favorite DVD or CD in the car would reduce stress and anxiety of rides. If someone else is in the car with you two, they could try to entertain her.

Everyone gets frustrated from time to time, but most of the time we don’t need to be! Using these solutions should give you and Baby confidence in each other and a greater peace of mind.


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Bedtime Reading for Children


Bedtime stories play an important role in your child’s development. Not only do bedtime stories create an opportunity for parents to bond with their kids, but reading to a little one at the same time night after night can help them establish a healthy sleep routine. Child psychologists also point to the cognitive benefits for young people who are raised with bedtime stories, including higher-than-average literacy rates and an emotional connection to reading.
This guide to bedtime stories will include some of the most cherished bedtime stories available for children today; our list will include printed books you can request from your local library or order from web-based retailers, as well as some beloved favorites that are available in user-friendly online versions. But first, let’s look at some expert tips for effective bedtime story reading.
Tips for Parents
No child is too young for a bedtime story. Many experts encourage parents to begin reading to their children while they are newborns, and continue throughout their childhood; the 2016 Time to Read Survey noted that bedtime reading can benefit children as old as 11 years of age. Regardless of how old your child is, age-appropriate reading material is crucial. Readings for toddlers and preschoolers should utilize a fairly straightforward vocabulary, and also include pictures or illustrations. As your child advances into elementary school and begins learning to read, chapter books may be more effective.
Here are a few more tips for parents who plan to read bedtime stories to their kids:
Read slowly. This is especially important for young listeners and children who have not yet learned to read. If the story contains words the child doesn’t know, take a minute during the initial readings and explain the definitions.
Involve your child in the reading. Swap out character names for your children’s names and allow them to be part of the story. Draw parallels between your child’s life and the world of the story in order to drive home important messages.
Be dramatic. Emphasize emotional moments by reading them in an appropriate tone, and use distinct voices for different characters. This will enhance your child’s personal involvement in the story, and enhance their imagination.
Clearly define the characters’ roles. To help your child develop a sense of right and wrong, you should make sure they understand the difference(s) between the heroes and the villains of each story.
Read each story more than once. Your child probably won’t grasp everything about a story during the first bedtime session, so read it more than once — if possible, on consecutive nights.
Don’t read the same story too often. Your child will most likely favor certain stories to others, but avoid reading the same volume night after night for long periods of time. After a few readings, their imaginative connection to the story will begin to diminish. If your child insists on hearing an old favorite for the twentieth time, then suggest reading something new that night and then switching back to the preferred story the next night.
Don’t be afraid to improvise. Rather than reading from a book, you can make up a story that allows your child to be more involved — and even dictate the narrative a bit. offers a list of effective ‘story starters’ for bedtime ad-libbers.
The Best Bedtime Stories Available Online
Bedtime stories have evolved over the years and today, parents across the country are turning to websites and video channels to find suitable reading material for their children. The following list includes dozens of bedtime tales you can find online; some are offered in a text-only format, while others are presented in an animated format. Like the previous list, this one is ranked by age of the reading audience. A link to the current web page is included with each entry.
Beginning Readers (Birth to Age 3)
Small Bird’s Adventure by Wesley van Eden, Nick Mulgrew and Jennifer Jacobs: This illustrated tale aimed at very young readers follows Small Bird after he escapes his cage and tries to return home to his owner, known affectionately as ‘Giant’.
Clever Pig by Joshua Morgan, Nathalie Koenig and Lee-Ann Knowles: Clever Pig searches for his carrot snacks before bedtime in this fun story with adorable barnyard illustrations.
Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes: This video adapted from a 2004 Caldecott Medal Winner features adorable characters and striking pencil-shade illustrations.
Londi the Dreaming Girl by Lauren Holliday and Nathalie Koenig: Londi a spacy little girl ponders the mysteries of the universe on her way to fetch water in this imaginative tale of friendship and family.
The Best Thing Ever by Melissa Fagan, Lauren Nel and Stefania Origgi: A resourceful young boy named Muzi determined to build the greatest thing the world has ever seen is at the heart of this charming illustrated story.
The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen: This easy-to-read online version of the classic Danish fairy tale is geared toward exceptionally young listeners.
The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen: Another H.C. Andersen favorite, this fairy tale follows a young ‘duckling’ who is tormented by his companions until he makes a startling discovery. An uplifting story that inspires self-confidence in kids of all ages.
Little Sock and the Tiny Creatures by Lili Probart, Jon Keevy and Chani Coetzee: Little Sock is separated from the other dirty clothes in this illustrated adventure, and makes his way back to the laundry basket with the help of some household critters.
The Owl and the Lion: Lion has been bullying the other jungle animals for too long, and Owl decides to stand up to him in this fun story with a message of kindness and tolerance. You and your kids can follow along with subtitles and electronic narration.
The Giant Turnip: Gorgeous watercolor illustrations highlight this tale of a farmer who strives to grow the biggest turnip ever and his family’s efforts to pull the enormous vegetable out of the ground.
Nighty Night Circus: This lively, textless animated video follows a group of animals as they prepare for bed. The clip comes from Fox & Sheep, a popular nighttime app for kids and parents.
Intermediate Readers (Ages 4 to 6)
Escape at Bedtime by Robert Louis Stevenson: Children leave their bed and discover a magical world in their backyard garden in this beautiful poem from Robert Louis Stevenson.
The Three Golden Apples by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Inspired by classic Greek mythology, this kid-friendly version of the Hercules story follows the heroic strongman as he rescues three magical apples from the garden of Hesperides.
The Three Little Pigs: This animated retelling of a children’s classic follows three pigs determined to build houses of their own and the mean-spirited wolf who attempts to foil their plans.
Riquet with the Tuft by Charles Perrault: Taken from a 17th century tale by the French storytelling master, this story of a homely-yet-witty young man still resonates with children today, thanks to its uplifting message and memorable characters.
Aladdin and the Magic Lamp: The most famous of tales from the classic Arabian Nights collection, this story follows a young beggar whose luck changes for better and worse after rubbing a magic lamp and meeting a genie.
Pied Piper of Hamelin: The good people of Hamelin turn to a mysterious flutist to solve their infestation problem in this animated rendition of the iconic fairy tale.
Little Red Riding Hood: The classic tale of survival and trickery comes to life in this kid-friendly animated version, in which the titular girl outwits a hungry wolf on the way to her grandmother’s house.
The Moon and the Cap by Noni: This illustrated tale with universal appeal follows a young boy who attempts to retrieve his missing cap and finds it in the unlikeliest of places.
Searching for the Spirit of Spring: Inspired by an African folk tale, this illustrated story charms young readers with its hopeful message of kindness and generosity.
The Fisherman and His Wife by the Brothers Grimm: A talking fish spells trouble for a greedy fisherman and his equally conniving spouse in this timeless fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.
Down the Memory Lane with Nash by Uma Bala Devarakonda: Young Nash and his dog Toby learn about his grandmother’s childhood in this lovely tale of family and tradition.
The Elephant in the Room by Sam Wilson: Striking visuals drive this imaginative story of young Lindi and her best friend, an enormous elephant that may or may not be real.
Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories: Charming audiences since it debuted in 1992, this Showtime series features classic children’s stories presented by actress Shelley Long. Dozens of full-length episodes are available on DailyMotion.
When I Grow Up by Michele Fry, Simone van der Spuy and Jennifer Jacobs: Eye-catching illustrations and an inspiring theme propel this story of a young girl whose career aspirations include becoming an astronaut, a doctor and a winning soccer player.
The Nestlings by Arthur Scott Bailey: The brave Jolly Robin is forced to leave his nest for the first time in this heartwarming tale of survival and love. The online version features a few original illustrations from the original publication, which first appeared in 1917.
Experienced Readers (Ages 7 and Older)
A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear: Introduce your kids to the mad brilliance of Edward Lear with this poetry collection that features absurdist verses and imaginative drawings by the author himself.
East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Featuring original illustrations, this rendition of a classic Norwegian folk tale transports kids to a world of talking bears, troll princesses and magical apples.
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Aesop: This colorful retelling of the classic fable follows two mice one city dwelling, the other not so much as they experience what life is like for the other.
Dreamlands: a Bedtime Book by Stephan Smith: This colorfully animated bedtime story whisks young viewers to a magical realm where flowers are as tall as skyscrapers and even the oranges need to sleep.
Graça’s Dream by Melissa Fagan: A heartwarming story of tolerance and perseverance, this tale follows a woman named Graça as she attempts to bring literacy to her small Mozambican village.
The Stones of Plouvenic by Katharine Pyle: Adapted from a French folk tale, this playful story teaches children that the most valuable treasure can often be found in the least likely of places.
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter: This online retelling of the classic critter tale from 1902 features original illustrations by Beatrix Potter.
The White Stone Canoe by Hamilton Wright Mabie, Edward Everett Hale and William Byron Forbush: This haunting tale for kids 7 and up follows a young Native American chief who searches for his lost love in the spiritual afterlife.
Children’s Bedtime Stories by Gordon Dioxide: This collection of 20 fantastical tales come from the creative mind of Gordon Dioxide, who has also produced read-along videos for his stories.
Wildlife in a City Pond by Ashish Kothari: Featuring original illustrations by Sangeetha Kadur, this eco-minded tale follows a young boy as he explores the flora and fauna found in the park near his home.
The Dragon’s Eggs by Jade Matre: This kid-friendly fantasy follows brave little Luca as he combs an abandoned castle for dragon’s eggs and learns a valuable lesson about preservation in the process.
Island of the Nine Whirlpools by Edith Nesbit: Adapted from a story by celebrated children’s author Edith Nesbit, this fairy tale has it all: wicked witches, mystical castles and a dashing hero rescuing a kidnapped princess.
The Best Bedtime Stories Available in Print
Next, let’s look at some of the most popular bedtime story books that are exclusively available in print. The books are listed in order of appropriate reading audience, beginning with the youngest. Each entry features a link to that title’s most popular Goodreads review page.
Beginning Readers (Birth to Age 3)
Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker: Designed for readers up to age three, Big Fat Hen features colorful illustrations and a memorable nursery rhyme narrative that helps children learn to count.
The Everything Book by Denise Fleming: This comprehensive favorite teaches young listeners about shapes, colors, seasons and other basic concepts. The Everything Book is geared toward kids between one and four years of age.
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault: This illustrated tale from 1989 offers a fun, high-spirited way for kids to learn the letters of the alphabet. Caldecott honoree Lois Ehlert provided the vivid illustrations.
Otto Goes to Bed by Todd Parr: Colorful, oddball illustrations and fun verses highlight this story of a young dog who must go to bed, whether he wants to or not. This title is geared toward infants and toddlers.
Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton: Children will love the brightly colored illustrations and playful rhymes found in this quirky classic, while parents will appreciate the positive message that bedtime is important — and fun.
More More More Said the Baby by Vera Williams: This Caldecott Honor Book chronicles a snuggly day in the life of three toddlers. The easy prose, vibrant illustrations and diversity-friendly message make More More a perfect read for any of preschool age or younger.
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram: This heartwarming tale explores the bond between Big Nutbrown Hare and his son, Little Nutbrown Hare. The book — which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015 — was followed by four sequels.
Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman: A beloved bedtime choice since it first appeared in 1960, this illustrated story follows a baby bird as he searches for his mother and meets a handful of other animals along the way.
Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann: It’s bedtime for all of the animals at the zoo, but one sneaky primate has decided to tag along as the night watchman makes his rounds. Easy verses and playful illustrations highlight make Good Night, Gorilla a great choice for toddlers and preschoolers.
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: Considered one of the greatest bedtime stories of all time, this classic boasts a lovely narrative and iconic illustrations by Clement Hurd. Goodnight Moon celebrates the 70th anniversary of its original publication in 2017; a three-dimensional rendition is also available on YouTube.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: First published in 1969, this beloved tale features striking collage-style illustrations and finger-sized cutouts that allow children to physically participate in the story. If your kids enjoy this one, check out the other titles from author and illustrator Eric Carle; his 50-year career includes a bibliography of more than 70 titles.
One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss: Clever rhymes and memorable illustrations highlight this beginner’s book from Dr. Seuss, which has entertained young kids for nearly 50 years. This title is ideal for teaching kids the basics of colors and counting.
Corduroy by Don Freeman: Corduroy features a lovable teddy bear searching for a missing button after his residence — a popular toy store — has closed for the night. Vibrant illustrations and a positive message have endeared young readers to this book since its original publication in 1968.
Where’s Spot by Eric Hill: This fun, flip-back classic about an inquisitive canine and his critter pals has been a bedtime favorite since it first appeared in 1980. Spot was also featured in a series of animated shows that appeared on the BBC between 1987 and 2000.
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: The Snowy Day received the Caldecott Medal in 1963, and has since become a treasured classic among toddlers and preschoolers. The colorful vintage illustrations are fun for adults, too.
The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey: This collection of seven original volumes chronicles the adventures of Curious George — a mischievous monkey — and his guardian, the Man in the Yellow Hat. Each story features iconic illustrations and playful, uplifting storylines perfect for pre-K children.
The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson: A 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, this evocative story features gorgeous black-and-white illustrations and an uplifting message about the meaning of home. The dreamy verses will have your kids slumbering in no time.
The Paddington Bear series by Michael Bond: The 20 volumes in this imaginative series follow the title character — a teddy bear abandoned at a train station — as he travels the world and makes friends wherever he goes.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff: Clever illustrations highlight this ‘what if’ story that examines the ramifications of feeding uninvited houseguests. This title was followed by If You Give a Moose a Muffin, which follows a similar story arc; both books were illustrated by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond.
The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel: This award-winning six-book series explores the illustrated adventures of the two title amphibians. Each book contains multiple stories that lead to lessons about sharing, self-discipline, the merits of hard work and other important concepts.
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: This 1960 classic offers the perfect entry point into the idiosyncratic world of Dr. Seuss. Memorable verses and iconic illustrations have made Green Eggs and Ham one of the top English-language children’s bestsellers of all time.
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: Another memorable beginner’s book from Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat spins a surreal tale about a mischievous feline that entertains a pair of children for the afternoon. Roughly 10 million copies have been printed since its original publication in 1957, and the book has been translated into more than a dozen different languages.
Three Little Dreams by Thomas Aquinas Maguire: A boy atop a dragon, a magical star and a bird riding a paper airplane complete the trio of fantastic tales featured in this wordless picture book.
Love You Forever by Robert Munsch: This heartwarming, pastel-colored mini-epic examines how much a parent loves their child over the course of their lives. Expect a few tears during readings of Love You Forever, which was originally published in 1986.
Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas: Geared toward young elementary-age children, this 46-page tale follows three young dragons and the Good Knight guardian who tucks them in and reads them bedtime stories every night. This title features lovely illustrations by Jennifer Plecas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: A perfect choice for holiday bedtime readings, this Dr. Seuss favorite teaches valuable lessons about the importance of family, community and a sense of belonging. The animated TV special has also become a yuletide institution.
Intermediate Readers (Ages 4 to 6)
Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne: First published in the 1920s, these two novels have become perennial bedtime favorites and the characters have cemented their place in pop culture. The dreamy tales center around Winnie, a honey-craving teddy bear, and the other animals living in the magical Hundred Acre Wood.
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: First appearing in 1964, this eco-friendly classic traces the complex — and rewarding — relationship between a boy and his favorite tree over the course of their respective lives.
The Arrival by Shaun Tan: This uplifting picture book chronicles the journey of an elderly immigrant who leaves his family to create a better life for them in a new home. Gorgeous illustrations and a profound message elevate The Arrival, which is an ideal tool for teaching tolerance to young elementary schoolers.
The Arthur books by Marc Brown: Since the late mid-70s, Marc Brown has entertained children across the globe with his stories about Arthur, a bespectacled aardvark who attends an elementary school with his animal friends. The books in this extensive series boast playful illustrations while tackling some of the issues faced by today’s young people.
The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole: Led by the lovable Ms. Frizzle — a science teacher with an other-worldly teaching style — the Magic School Bus books take readers on fascinating scientific journeys. Some of the most memorable exploits involve trips inside the human body, into space and deep within the earth’s core.
The Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstein: The Berenstain Bear family — Papa, Mama, Brother and Sister — have delighted young people since the 1960s. Each book in this vast series addresses typical family problems with playful, often funny plotlines and iconic illustrations.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: This 1963 game-changer follows a young boy whose nighttime journey transports him to a magical realm populated by strange — yet friendly — monsters. Where the Wild Things Are received a Caldecott Medal in 1964.
Horton Hears a Who! By Dr. Seuss: Horton — a lovable elephant — gets to the bottom of a strange noise in this 1954 illustrated classic from Dr. Seuss. The story emphasizes concepts like kindness, empathy and the importance of community.
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss: One of Dr. Seuss’s most socially conscious works, The Lorax tells the tale of a strange mustachioed creature who appears to warn mankind about the environmental dangers of deforestation and urbanization.
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss: This tribute to the joys and mysteries of adult life has been cherished by both kids and grown-ups since it first appeared in 1990. This was the last book published in Dr. Seuss’s lifetime.
Experienced Readers (Ages 7 and Older)
Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein: The idiosyncratic poetry of Shel Silverstein is on full display in this pair of verse collections that have charmed children for generations. Both titles are often available in boxed sets.
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: This 1908 classic chronicles the adventures of Mr. Toad, Rat, Badger and the other beastly denizens of England’s Thames Valley. The Wind in the Willows went on to inspire several film and stage adaptations.
Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll: Alice’s adventures with the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and Wonderland’s other residents have stirred the imaginations of young readers for more than 150 years. Classic illustrations help drive home the absurd, memorable stories featured in these two novels.
James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl: This vivid, imaginative tale chronicles the adventures of James and his insect friends aboard the titular oversized fruit. Their exciting journey is ideal for older kids, while the fantastic imagery will delight young listeners.
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: This funny account of one boy’s rough day at home and school ends with a positive message about appreciating what you have and not dwelling on negative experiences. The book features wonderful illustrations by Ray Cruz.
Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard: The kindly Ms. Nelson has disappeared from her rowdy grade-school classroom, only to be replaced by the strict Viola Swamp. Complete with a surprise ending, this title offers important lessons about the consequences of good — and bad — behavior.
Matilda by Roald Dahl: Featuring memorable illustrations by Quentin Blake, this bedtime and classroom favorite from 1988 follows the intelligent and resourceful Matilda as she navigates a challenging childhood populated with memorable supporting characters.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: This classic tale of perseverance follows young Charlie Bucket as he travels through Wonka Land, a magical candy factory presided over by an enigmatic host. The story is charming, dreamy and harrowing in equal measure — an ideal bedtime choice for older elementary students. Several sequels followed.
Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Classic illustrations by Garth Williams highlight this touching story of a pig named Arnold and his friend Charlotte, a spider with a few little ones on the way. Get the tissues ready.
Heidi by Johanna Spyri: Heidi tells the exciting tale of a plucky Swiss orphan who goes to live with her grumpy grandfather, and then must find her way back to him after she is kidnapped by a sinister governess. The timeless message and beautiful prose still feel fresh today, more than 130 years since the novel’s original publication.
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: This story of the four March sisters and their determined matriarch has been cherished by little girls since it first appeared in 1868. Younger readers might struggle with the old-fashioned prose, but the book is quite suitable for ages 8 and up.
The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary: Beginning with Ramona & Beezus in 1955, this seven-book series follows spunky Ramona Quimby and her sister Beezus throughout their childhood. Along the way, each book tackles the importance of family and the unbreakable bond between siblings of any age.
Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: A Newbery Honor winner, this 1990 coming-of-age story follows young Opal and her closest companion, an ugly mutt named for the titular grocery store where she first encounters him.
The Fudge series by Judy Blume: This four-book series follows 9-year-old Peter Hatcher and his rambunctious two-year-old brother, Fudge, whose escapades keep getting Peter into trouble.
Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: Written from the perspective of Black Beauty — a colt who is raised in the English countryside — this 1877 classic was one of the first stories to address the important issue of animal welfare. Later illustrated versions have cemented this book as a bedtime favorite for all ages.
The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Ms. Wilder’s autobiographical accounts of rural life in the 19th century have charmed readers for generations. The vivid stories in this nine-book series give parents an opportunity to draw parallels between the past and present.
The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol: Let your kids exercise their brains with this fun, compelling series about a young gumshoe who solves neighborhood mysteries. Each chapter features a hidden solution at the end, giving listeners the chance to crack the case on their own before the answer is revealed.
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: This 1972 classic follows the Tuck family, who attempt to live a normal acceptance after being granted eternal life from a magical spring. The book is still popular in today’s classrooms, as well as during bedtimes.
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: In this powerful story from 1911, orphaned Mary Lennox travels to live with a distant relative in a countryside manor and soon learns her new home is filled with mysteries. The lengthy tale is ideal for nightly readings with older children.
A Wrinkle in Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle: Winner of numerous awards including the 1963 Newbery Medal this four-part science fiction saga follows a young girl searching for her missing father, a scientist with a mysterious past.




Ten Ways to Strengthen Your Father-Son Relationship


The father-son relationship can be complex. Fathers and sons with widely different interests can find it hard to relate to one another. Sometimes dads and sons feel competitive against one another. Sometimes their male tendencies to not communicate feelings are compounded as both want a better father-son relationship but neither one quite knows how to go about it.
As I have watched my own relationships with my sons, thought about my relationship with my own father, and observed many fathers and sons interact with one another over the years, I have identified some key elements to creating and building a strong father-son relationship.

1. Recognize that sons are influenced by their fathers. Whether we know it or not, our sons learn about being a man primarily by watching their fathers. A father’s influence on his son’s personal development is often unseen but nonetheless real. As a young man watches his father interact with his mother, he learns about respect (or disrespect), about how men and women interact and about how men should deal with conflict and differences. As he watches his dad interact with other men, he will learn how men talk, how they relate with one another and how they deal with masculine issues. Understanding that a father’s influence on his son is unmatched will help dad think more deeply about his relationship with his son and take that relationship more seriously.
2. Develop common interests. This is a lesson I learned from my own dad. My dad was a law enforcement officer during my growing up years and he worked a lot of shift work.

Dad was a man’s man in many ways. He played a lot of sports and enjoyed time with his friends (what little he had other than at work). I was more of a bookworm, was uncoordinated growing up and hated playing sports and physical education at school. He worked really hard to make me like sports and pushed me into things like Little League baseball, but I would have rather been sitting under a tree reading.

But one thing we both came to love was camping, and we found some real commonality in the woods setting up a tent or cooking over a fire. When we started to maximize our time together outdoors and spend time together doing something we both enjoyed, our relationship grew.
3. Don’t be afraid of a little boisterous play. My boys, especially when they were young, loved anything that was active and rough. A little wrestling in the backyard seemed to go a long way. It seems like with boys, this little bit of wild behavior is a bonding experience. You have to keep them safe, but you can take some very small and calculated risks to give them a more physical experience. Later in life, this may translate into activities like rock climbing, skateboarding and ice hockey.
4. Get involved in father-son activities. In our family, I found myself getting closest to my sons as we enjoyed Boy Scouting together. We camped, hiked, worked on merit badges and advancement and just generally liked being together. I was the scoutmaster for my two younger sons and so we have quality time together with them and their friends and me every week and one weekend a month. Consider registering your son as a Boy Scout and then get involved as an adult Scouter volunteer.

These structured experiences create opportunities to grow closer.
5. Take on a big project. There is something magical to a boy about being involved in something bigger than himself. That is one reason I enjoy working with my sons on their Eagle Scout projects. But these big, visible projects can really help a father and son bond. For my dad and me, it was rebuilding a couple of car engines and putting vehicles back in operation. Some dads and sons build planter boxes, landscape a backyard, build a vacation cabin or head off on a big summer biking vacation. Whatever it is, a bigger than life project done together can create a bond that will last a long time and make memories you will talk about together for decades.
6. Listen to your sons. Men seem in general to struggle with effective communication.
I find that I always have a tendency to listen for just a minute or two before I decide what the problem is and then I go about creating a fix. Starting from the earliest ages of our sons to listen to them without judgment and without trying to fix things too soon will go a long way to building a lasting relationship. Look for opportunities to be with your sons when you can just listen. Fishing together, going to a sporting event, or taking a road trip can all be effective ways to create a listening environment. Then commit to spending only 25% of the time talking and spend the rest in an active listening mode.
7. Don’t be afraid of the big talk. Take the time to teach your sons about sex and relationships. Being open to having these conversations will help your sons develop better attitudes about sex and girls in general. With the ever-increasing presence of sex in the media, on the computer and in conversations with their friends, you will find your relationship not as strong as it could be if you avoid talking about these difficult subjects and let them develop their attitudes about sex and relationships from other sources who may not share your values.
8. Focus on the positives. Our children are bombarded with negative messages all around them. Just watching commercials on television will create a sense of inadequacy in our sons. They probably are not quite as strong, they may not have six pack abs or be quite as good looking as the guys they see on television. As fathers, we need to catch them doing things right and communicate our approval. We should create positive ways to celebrate their accomplishments. Feeding them constant reinforcement will help build relationships of trust and overcome this constant barrage of negativism that they confront daily.
9. Make one on one time. We need to make time for individual relationships with each child. So make sure that you program some one on one time with your sons. My youngest son loves basketball, and we spent many hours shooting hoops in the driveway in the evenings after dinner.
My oldest son loved debate in high school, so I learned enough to be a debate judge and went with him to speech and debate tournaments all over the state. Some of our best memories were sitting together in a high school or on the bus going to and from debate events.
10. Focus on the spiritual. Helping a son be grounded spiritually is an important role for a father. Whatever your faith tradition, help you son understand the deeper meaning of life. If you don’t have a faith tradition, help him reach for his inner self and try to have a perspective that will help him look at things deeper than on the surface. As a young man gets in tune with nature, God and himself, he will have a pattern in his life that will help him endure hardship and thrive personally. Fathers can have these conversations with their sons in a natural way as they share thoughts and feelings about life, manhood and spiritual things.
Focusing on our sons, spending positive time together and talking about life lessons, scattered with a large dose of quiet and engaged listening, will help fathers and sons develop nurturing and meaningful relationships and help our sons form attitudes which will allow them to develop into men in the richest sense of that term.



The Importance of Self-Worth

The dictionary defines self-worth as “the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person.” However, there are many ways for a person to value themselves and assess their worth as a human being, and some of these are more psychologically beneficial than others. In this article, we discuss the value of true self-worth, how to build this type of self-worth and why so many of us lack a feeling of worthiness.
Self-Worth vs. Self-Esteem
Although, self-worth is often used as a synonym for “self-esteem,” Dr. Lisa Firestone believes that self-worth should be less about measuring yourself based on external actions and more about valuing your inherent worth as a person. In other words, self-worth is about who you are, not about what you do.

Dr. Kristin Neff argues that there is a problem with society’s focus on high self-esteem. The problem is that this focus involves measuring oneself against others, rather than paying attention to one’s intrinsic value. “Our competitive culture tells us we need to be special and above average to feel good about ourselves, but we can’t all be above average at the same time,” says Dr. Neff. In this sense, searching for self-worth by constantly comparing ourselves to others means to always be fighting a losing battle. As Dr. Neff says, “There is always someone richer, more attractive, or successful than we are. And even when we do manage to feel self-esteem for one golden moment, we can’t hold on to it. Our sense of self-worth bounces around like a ping-pong ball, rising and falling in lock-step with our latest success or failure.”
Furthermore, studies now show that basing one’s self-worth on external factors is actually harmful to one’s mental health. One study at the University of Michigan found that college students who base their self-worth on external sources (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) reported more stress, anger, academic problems and relationship conflicts. They also had higher levels of alcohol and drug use, as well as more symptoms of eating disorders. The same study found that students who based their self-worth on internal sources, not only felt better, they also received higher grades and were less likely to use drugs and alcohol or to develop eating disorders.
Although real accomplishments are important to acknowledge as you build your sense of self, your self-worth should also take in to account the unique qualities that make you you. As mindfulness expert, Dr. Donna Rockwell points out, we are all unique and that, in and of itself, gives each of us inherent value.  According to Dr. Firestone, “We shouldn’t be rating ourselves, we should just be ourselves.”
How to Build Self-Worth
The first step in building self-worth is to stop comparing yourself to others and evaluating your every move; in other words, you need to challenge your critical inner voice. The critical inner voice is like a nasty coach in our heads that constantly nags us with destructive thoughts towards ourselves or others. This internalized dialogue of critical thoughts or “inner voices” undermines our sense of self-worth and even leads to self-destructive or maladaptive behaviors, which make us feel even worse about ourselves. As Dr. Lisa Firestone explained in her article “7 Reasons Most People Are Afraid of Love:”
We all have a “critical inner voice,” which acts like a cruel coach inside our heads that tells us we are worthless or undeserving of happiness. This coach is shaped from painful childhood experiences and critical attitudes we were exposed to early in life as well as feelings our parents had about themselves. While these attitudes can be hurtful, over time, they have become engrained in us. As adults, we may fail to see them as an enemy, instead accepting their destructive point of view as our own.
However, we can challenge the inner critic and begin to see ourselves for who we really are, rather than taking on its negative point of view about ourselves. We can differentiate from the ways we were seen in our family of origin and begin to understand and appreciate our own feelings, thoughts, desires and values.
Read about 4 Steps to Conquer Your Inner Critic
A true sense of self-worth can also be fostered by practicing self-compassion.  Developed by Dr. Kristin Neff, self-compassion is the practice of treating yourself with the same kindness and compassion as you would treat a friend. This involves taking on what Dr. Dan Siegel describes as the “COAL” attitude, which means being Curious, Open, Accepting and Loving toward yourself and your experiences rather than being self-critical. There are three steps to practicing self-compassion:
1) Acknowledge and notice your suffering.
2) Be kind and caring in response to suffering.
3) Remember that imperfection is part of the human experience and something we all share.
Adding meaning to your life, by taking part in activities that you feel are important, is another great way to build self-worth. Helping others, for example, offers a huge boost to your sense of self-worth. Generosity is good for you, both physically and mentally, and studies now show that volunteering has a very positive affect on how people feel about themselves.  Other studies have found that religion correlates with a higher sense of self-worth in adolescents. People find meaning in many different ways; think about the activities and interests that feel meaningful to you personally and pursue those activities to build a more positive feeling of self-worth. Researcher Dr. Jennifer Crocker suggests that you find “a goal that is bigger than the self.” As Dr. Robert Firestone says, “Investing energy in transcendent goals and activities that extend beyond one’s self interest, for example, contributing to a humanitarian cause or trying, in some way, to improve the lot of future generations, helps build self-esteem.”
Acting on principles, in ways that you respect, is another important quality to foster as you develop a higher level of self-worth. “Make a concerted effort to maintain personal integrity in your life by insisting that your actions correspond to your words,” suggests Dr. Robert Firestone. When our actions do not match our words, we are more vulnerable to attacks from our critical inner voice and less likely to respect ourselves.
By challenging your critical inner voice and stopping comparing yourself to others, you can begin to get a feeling for your own self-worth. By pursuing activities that are meaningful to you and acting in line with your own personal beliefs, you can develop your sense of yourself as a worthwhile person in the world even further.






Plan a Simpler Summer with Kids


Summertime approaches! Just the idea of it makes me smile. The word evokes memories of my childhood — carefree days with no agenda. I long to give my children the same happy memories of summer.
You know the chant: No more papers, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks? Since I happen to be my children’s teacher, I’m more than happy to wipe some dirty looks off my own face, to kick off my shoes, lie in the hammock, and drink cool beverages poolside. As summer vacation approaches, I look forward to a lessening of my work load and to being more “plain old mom.”
However, all moms, regardless of their schooling choices know that summer with kids is not all bare feet, carefree days spent lazing in a lounge chair. The kids are on vacation, too!
And so thoughts may trickle in like, “What am I going to do with the kids all day long?”
The truth is that boredom can drive any man, woman or child toward mischief, wreaking havoc on the household. All the more so when the weather is hot and neighborhood friends have dispersed on vacations.
The remedy? Plan some simple summer fun into every day that gives structure and intentionality as well as leaves room for those lazy poolside moments.

After fifteen years of motherhood, I’ve found that routines help us all to stay on a even keel. And summer lends itself to some very cool routines.
Here are a few:
1. Read some great books.
No matter your child’s reading skill, summer is the ideal time to practice reading and reading comprehension. Consider instituting a daily time of reading in your home. Kids can curl up with a good book and take a trip in their imaginations. Older kids can read on their own while younger ones might “read pictures” or be read to by you or an older sibling. Discuss the books together and see if you can help your children make connections to real life.
Make the online slots library your friend this season. Participate in summer reading programs where kids earn incentives or institute your own reading club at home.
And be sure to jump into some family read alouds. Kids of all ages love to hear a great story in community. I’ve had certain husbands and teenage sons stop in their tracks to listen to a rousing rendition of Old Yeller.

2. Cook together.
Schedule a cooking lesson a few times per week where you encourage your children to help out in the kitchen, stirring batter, setting the table, making a salad. It doesn’t have to be dinner; breakfasts, snacks and lunches are low-key moments to spend some time in the kitchen together.
Encourage your children to help you with the meal planning by asking them about their favorite meals and side dishes.
Do yourself a favor and teach each person to clean up after himself.

3. Get outside.
Fresh air and exercise is great for every member of the family. It’s especially helpful in using up pent-up energy.
Plan for time spent at the pool, beach, or park each week. Make after dinner walks a nightly family ritual. Work in the garden or wash the car together. Consider dining (or breakfasting) al fresco to enjoy the great outdoors a little more.
Last year I packed a suitcase-full of ideas into an ebook, titled The Summer Survival Guide  This manual for moms includes a range of ideas and activities to enjoy with children from toddler to 12. It is 180 pages of book and film recommendations, craft ideas, recipes, and loads of activities to help give structure and a taste of fun to your summer daze. (Note from Kara: we used the Summer Survival Guide last year and had a great time with it!  We”re looking forward to more fun this year.)


Keep Teens Engaged

How to Keep Your Teen Interested (and Engaged) in High School at Home

I found this to be good for parents who home school are send their children to public or private school.  Pre Teens and Teenagers need to stay engaged.


Create a Framework and Let Your Teens Follow Their Interests
Let your teens have a say in what they study, and they’ll be a lot more likely to engage and excel in their work. As a parent, you can decide on subjects and expected outcomes, but we should certainly let them help choose textbooks, videos, projects, and field trips based on their own interests.
Learning world history? Invite your teens to choose a few movies and books to accompany their lessons. American literature? Ask your students to choose novels and short stories to include in their studies.
Schedule Activities Outside the Home
Another great way to make learning fun and interesting for teens is to take advantage of extracurricular opportunities within your community. Book clubs, classes, volunteering, sports, and youth groups will all offer your teen a chance to interact with their peers while learning and growing.
They will build relationships and become more independent while pursuing their interests, and it’s a nice change of pace from all that book work that comes with upper-level classes.




Talking to Your Kids About Drugs


Kids taking drugs is a big problem.
Today’s children are exposed to many substances that were around when you were young — marijuana, among them — and others that were not recognized as a means of getting high, including household products like aerosols and over-the-counter and prescription drugs tucked in the medicine cabinet or a drawer.
You can play a huge role in steering them away from the lure of drugs. Talking with your children is one of the most powerful ways of ensuring they remain drug-free. It should not just be a formal, sit-down conversation; in fact, discussing the dangers of taking drugs should be part of an ongoing dialogue if you want the message to stick.
Tips for Talking to Your Kids About Drugs
It’s never too early or too late to begin talking with your children about drugs. Here are 11 tips to help you get started:

1. Sneak it in whenever you can. Try talking to your kids about drugs before school, on the way to rehearsal or practice, or after dinner.
2. Start conversation flowing by bringing up a recent drug- or alcohol-related incident in your community or family. Or if you and your child see a group of kids drinking or smoking, use the moment to talk about the negative effects of alcohol, tobacco, and drugs.
3. Provide age-appropriate information. Here’s a suggestion from Talking With Kids About Tough Issues, a national campaign by Children Now and the Kaiser Family Foundation: When your 6- or 7-year-old is brushing his teeth, say: “There are lots of things we do to keep our bodies healthy, like brushing our teeth. But there are also things we shouldn’t do because they hurt our bodies, like smoking or taking medicines when we are not sick.” Or, if you’re watching TV with your 8-year-old and marijuana is mentioned on a program or ad, you can say something like, “Do you know what marijuana is? It’s a bad drug that can hurt your body.”

4. Establish a clear, no-nonsense family position on drugs. Talking With Kids About Tough Issues suggests the following: “We don’t allow any drug use, and children in this family are not allowed to drink alcohol. The only time you can take any drugs is when the doctor or Mom or Dad gives you medicine when you’re sick. We made this rule because we love you very much and we know that drugs can hurt your body and make you very sick. Some may even kill you. Do you have any questions?”

5. Repeat the message. Answer your children’s questions about drugs as often as they ask them. Initiate conversations about drugs with your children whenever you can.
6. Listen to your kids. If you listen when they speak, your children will feel more comfortable talking with you and are more likely to stay drug-free.
7. Set a good example. Children often follow their parents’ examples. If you pop open a beer after a tough day at the office, they’re likely to emulate you. Try to offer guests nonalcoholic drinks in addition to wine and liquor. Don’t take pills, even aspirin, indiscriminately.

8. Encourage choice. Allow children the freedom to make their own choices when appropriate. As they become more skilled at doing so, you’ll feel more secure in their ability to make the right decision about drugs.
9. Provide children with weapons against peer pressure. Peer pressure plays a big role in the decision your child will make about taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Talk with them about what a good friend is and isn’t. Role-play ways in which your child can refuse to go along with his friends. Praise him if he comes up with good responses. Offer some suggestions if he does not.
10. Build self-esteem. Kids who feel good about themselves are much less likely than other kids to turn to illegal substances to get high. To help build self-esteem, assign your children jobs they can accomplish, praise them for accomplishments, and spend quality time with them. And say “I love you” as much as you can.
11. If you suspect a problem, seek help. If your child becomes withdrawn, loses weight, starts doing poorly in school, turns extremely moody, has glassy eyes, shows more than the usual adolescent difficulty getting out of bed in the morning — or if the drugs in your medicine cabinet seem to be disappearing — talk with your child immediately.


The Overprotective Mom



Our top tips for de-stressing and relaxing


Below are our top recommendations for simple things you can do to de-stress and relax. In this site, we’ll go into further detail about the best options out there for getting the most out of your relaxation time.
Meditation is one of the most effective things you can do for yourself in terms of having some ‘alone’ time and clearing out your head. Meditation is simple to learn, and anyone and everyone can do it. Take a look at this great meditation for beginners tutorial.
Although getting some exercise may feel like the last thing you’ll want to do when you’re stressed out, you’d be surprised as to how much good it can do you! Even a short 30 minute walk around the block can help you to relieve stress and tension from your body. Take a look at this awesome 15 minute de-stress workout.
It’s crucial that every now and then, you organize some time out of your everyday life – whether that be from work, the family or studies – and have some pampering time. Pampering time can be anything from a relaxing spa facial through to a full body massage. There are plenty of beauty salons that can also offer packages for a full few hours of total pampering and relaxation. Take a look at The Finishing Touch‘s spa package deals here.
Have some ‘alone’ time
Aside from going out to get pampered, you can enjoy some alone time doing many different things. Take a personal day off work, skip a day of class (get someone to take notes for you obviously) and/or drop the kids off at a family member’s place. Take this time to enjoy being alone! Go and see the latest movie you’ve been dying to see, run a hot bubbly bath or sit out in the sunshine with a good book – the options are truly endless!



Tips:  Staying On A Budget


Try these seven ways to stay on budget:
Always shop with a list — even for the small stuff.
Use a budgeting smartphone app.
Log expenses every day.
Share your financial goals.
Only spend dollars you can see.
Refurbish and recycle.
Reward yourself without spending money


Here are 15 tips for staying on track with your monthly budget.
1. Pay your savings “bill” first.
Treat saving as an obligation, and if you have direct deposit, have a set amount funneled directly to savings from each paycheck.
2. Know your income.
Know how much the earners in your household make in a week, month, and year.
This may not be easy for seasonal workers or self-employed people.
If this is you, underestimate your income by a small percentage to give yourself a margin of safety.
Knowing what you make is the first step for setting goals and knowing what you can afford.
3. Give yourself a weekly allowance.
Just as you may give kids an allowance on the stipulation that once it’s gone, it’s gone, you and your partner should do the same.
Spend your last dollar on Wednesday’s lunch out at work?
Brown bag it till next week.
4. Keep receipts and review them weekly.
Knowing what you spend is the flip side of knowing what you make.
Collect receipts from your pocket or purse every night and save them. Then, review spending weekly.
You may be surprised at what you learn about your spending habits.
5. Balance your checkbook.
While you’re at it, see if you qualify for overdraft protection from your bank or credit union. If so, sign up.
Even if a small monthly fee is involved, it’s nothing compared to the $35 or so you’ll be assessed if you bounce a check.
6. Plan meals and shop ahead.
Eating out is a huge expense. Avoid running out of food by planning every meal and shopping weekly.
Warehouse stores like Costco can be a double-edged sword. You can really save on things you use frequently, but there are plenty of temptations for impulse buys, too.
Know your propensity for giving into temptation and plan your shopping destinations accordingly.
7. Give yourself permission for the occasional treat.
Life shouldn’t be all frugality.
If you never allow yourself a little splurge, resentment builds up, and you could end up in a frustration-fueled spending spree that will leave you feeling even worse.
It’s okay to treat yourself occasionally.
8. If you’re ambitious, make a spreadsheet for your regular purchases.
In this spreadsheet, list items you buy most often, along with the cheapest price you’ve found.
Look at sales circulars online to help you learn where you’ll get this week’s items at the best price.
If you have time to go to multiple stores, you can tailor your list accordingly.
9. Set goals.
Financial goals may be anything from paying off a credit card to buying a house, but you’re more likely to reach them if you define them.
Everyone wants to be financially better off, but you won’t get there unless you know exactly what “better off” means to you personally.
10. Get your tax withholding right.
If your withholding is too small, you’ll owe taxes in April.
If it’s too large, you’re essentially giving the government an interest-free loan all year.
Go over your tax withholding forms whenever you have a life change like a partner’s new job, a marriage, divorce, or the addition of a new family member.
11. Build an emergency fund.
Shoot for enough to keep your family going for six months in the event of a financial catastrophe.
Even if you don’t reach this goal, you’ll be glad you set aside money when the car overheats or your child breaks his arm.
Remember that any emergency fund is better than none.
12. Eliminate or reduce expensive vices.
Go to and calculate how much you can save in a year by quitting smoking.
Most people save at least a couple thousand dollars a year by kicking the habit.
Alcohol is expensive, too. Those mixed drinks every Friday after work can really add up.
13. Identify necessary expenses and overestimate them.
Food, electricity, water, transportation, and insurance are the main necessities.
When budgeting, overestimate by 10 percent to give yourself a safety margin.
14. Involve the whole family.
Children can help you create shopping lists and clip coupons, and your teenager may be open to the idea of a part-time job to help pay for clothing, movies, and all those other teen expenses.
A budget works best when everyone is on board with it.
15. Use software and / or apps to help you. has a free personal finance app for iOS and Android that was a Google Play “Best Apps of 2012” recipient, and that PC Magazine lauded as the “easiest way to track all your accounts on the fly.”
Apps eliminate most or all of the paperwork involved with keeping up with expenses and are always up to date.
Having a monthly budget helps you both short and long term. Learning to manage money is a skill you build through knowledge and consistent practice.
The benefits are substantial: Less worry about bills, reduced expenses, and the ability to afford more things you really need and want.




Trying to help families get out of debt.  It takes dedication.


The Minimalism Family Challenge.


How to pay off your debt.



6 Things I Understand About Being a Parent Now That I Am One

By Neely Steinberg


There are many aspects of parenthood I don’t think I ever could have understood fully until I became a parent. In the last nine months, I’ve learned about empathy, patience, and sacrifice. I’ve tapped into feelings I never knew existed. I’ve begun to see the other side of important societal topics. I am grappling with learning how to let go of my incessant need for control. I’ve become “that mom” I always joked about pre-baby.
Below are just a few of the things I am now beginning to understand about parenthood.
1. An indescribable feeling of love for your child
For years, I kept hearing and reading about the sheer love one feels for their child. It’s hard to imagine how that kind of love feels; the only way you can truly understand it is to experience it. I’m not sure I felt this emotion at the very beginning, but it began to wash over me gradually as the weeks turned into months. And then, suddenly it seemed, the feeling hit me, like an all-consuming, thunderous wave crashing against a shoreline. Boom!
I was very anxious before our daughter arrived. My life is over. What if I stink at this being a mom thing? Am I going to have any time for my dating coaching business, which I’ve spent the last 3 years building? What if I don’t feel a connection with her? What if I resent motherhood? And that’s just a sampling of the worries that filled my mind pre-baby.
There are days when I feel exhausted and like I’m the main character in my own personal version of Groundhog’s Day. I look out before me at the stretch of the next 18 years and think to myself, Oh my God, how am I going to do this day in, day out? But then I am pulled back into the moment by a coo or a squeal or a laugh (or a poop) and back into my child’s eyes, her gummy smile piercing my heart. And I am suddenly reminded of how blessed I am to have this tiny human being in my life.
2. Mom guilt
Ah, mom guilt — always heard about it, never quite understood it. Until, that is, the second my child left my womb. And so began what feels like a persistent merry-go-round of guilt. Am I doing it right? Am I making the right choices? Am I screwing her up for life if I do or don’t do x, y, and z? The countless baby and mom blogs and endless media articles on parenting don’t exactly help assuage mom guilt; in fact, they often feed it. Unfortunately, mom guilt doesn’t appear to be a passing stage of motherhood. I’ve polled several of my mom friends with older children and all of them have said, “No, Neely, mom guilt never ends.”
3. Breastfeeding in public
I can now fully appreciate this contentious debate. Before I became a mom, I thought it a bit weird to be whipping out your boobs in public or even in front of friends and family. When I had our daughter, I decided I wanted to give breastfeeding a shot. Consequently, all modesty went out the window (I hated those dang nursing covers). I began to see breastfeeding as a natural, beautiful way of nourishing my child. Frankly, I didn’t have the energy to care about who was looking and what they were thinking.
4. Hey, want to hear all about my kid?
Several years ago, when I was single, I met a few friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, for lunch. All of them had kids. If I were to tell you that nails on a chalkboard would have been a more pleasant experience, I would not be exaggerating. That lunch was two hours of talking about other people’s kids and the minutiae of parenthood: the latest baby devices; the sworn-by techniques to soothe an upset baby; the bowel habits of little ones; the “kids say the darndest things” stories. Of course, I couldn’t relate to any of the conversation, leaving me to grin and bear it for what seemed like eternity. The experience was one big, gigantic reminder of my single status and my aging ovaries.
I never used to understand how people could talk about their kids incessantly. Yes, we get it: Your kid is hilarious; your baby is the cutest baby in the world. I used to tell myself I’d never be that person. But now that I’m a mom, I can see how one becomes totally consumed by their child or children, and how the conversation between a bunch of fairly new moms can become singularly focused on kid stuff.
I do find myself veering into this territory. It’s not that I don’t have anything else going on in my life (I run a dating coaching business, after all!), but I find myself yearning to share stories of my daughter (her birth, the milestones, the doctor’s visits, her eating habits; you name it!). It’s also nice to be able to chat with and relate to other moms, because, you know, that whole “am-I-doing-it-right-mom-guilt” thing. See #2.
5. The movie Parenthood
Parenthood has been one of my favorite movies since it came out in 1989. But what does a person without kids (or a person who has not assumed a primary caregiver role) really know about parenthood? I’m not sure one can fully appreciate the film and it’s many plot lines until he or she becomes a parent.
When our daughter was born, somehow her arm was broken during delivery. It was terrifying. From the very first moments of knowing her, I felt fear and worry. As I was lying in the hospital bed recuperating from my c-section, my mind wandered to Parenthood. There’s a poignant scene near the end of the film when Frank (Jason Robards’ character) is talking about his youngest son Larry, the black sheep of the family, to his oldest son Gil (played by Steve Martin).
When speaking of the worry a parent feels for his or her kid, no matter the age of that kid, he remarks: “You know, it’s not like that all ends when you’re eighteen, or twenty-one, or forty-one, or sixty-one. It never ends. There is no ‘end zone.’ You never cross the goal lines, spike the ball, and do your touchdown dance. Never.”
Here was this beautiful being who I’d now be worrying about for the rest of my life. I don’t think I ever fully understood what Frank was talking about until I became a parent.
6. How much you can finally appreciate your own mom (and/or dad)
Like many mother-daughter relationships, my mom and I have had our ups and downs. Now that I’ve become a mom, I’m starting to develop more of an appreciation for and acknowledgement of her struggles and sacrifices. Perhaps that’s one of life’s cruel ironies; you finally begin to understand and relate to your parents when they’re in the last chapter of their lives and you’re knee-deep in helping this tiny creature begin her first. Parenthood is an unrelenting, isolating, and often thankless job (I see that now). Moms (and dads!) are doing the best they can. They don’t always get it right. They let their children down. They make things up as they go along. It can take becoming a parent to gain this wisdom, to begin to let go of the anger and disappointment from our youth.





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Mom Relax! – Taking Care of Yourself on a Dime
Mom relax! It’s hard being a stay at home mom, and every mom needs a little me time. Find your favorite frugal idea for relaxing and taking some time for yourself. Go ahead mom, you deserve it!


Do you remember that old Calgon commercial where the mom seems so overwhelmed and then she calls out, “Calgon, take me away!” The very next shot is of the mom soaking in a nice warm tub of sudsy water, a look of sheer peace on her face. Calgon may be a thing of the past these days, but the idea behind the commercial hasn’t gone away.

Every stay at home mom needs to take a moment to relax and just pamper herself. Mom relax! This is especially true for the busy stay at home mom who juggles everything!

Being a mother is a full time job and you never really get paid vacation time or sick leave. You are always on the job and expected to perform at 100%. Or at least that’s the perception that many moms have.

In actuality, women are much too hard on themselves. We need a new kind of Calgon called “Mom Relax.” It would allow us to take that important 20-30 minute break and pamper ourselves.

But how? And won’t that cost money? Where will you find the time?

Yes. I can hear the litany of questions already, but shhh… now is mom relax time. In fact, I want you to imagine that you are making special gift cards for yourself that start with the words, “Have mom relax…” followed by some free stuff for mom to spoil herself with!

Bubble Baths
Card number one should say, “Have mom relax in a hot bath.” It is a proven fact that a long, hot bath has the power to sooth the mind and release muscle tension. Scented votives and a nice cup of tea or glass of wine can really set the tone, helping you to unwind after a long day.

Go all out and add your favorite bubble bath, too! If you really enjoy this type of relaxation, a frugal way to save on bath soap is to ask for it from your family for Christmas or birthdays. Many bath fragrance stores will run sales that include free stuff for mom around Mother’s Day, so remind your loved ones to keep an eye out for them.

Book Reading
Card number two should say, “Have mom relax with a good book.” Are you an avid reader, but don’t have the time to keep up with it as much as you like?

Then make time! Set aside a few minutes every evening that is just for you and let your friends/family know you operate under a strict “Do Not Disturb” mindset once the reading begins. This is a great chance to pamper yourself with something you love, but you’re also setting an example for your children regarding the importance of reading!

Worried about the cost of books? Interested in a reading program that offers free stuff for mom? Then go to your local library and get a library card. That way you can check out all the books your heart desires and then return them on their due date.

If you are really into reading, look up the Paperback Swap. It’s a free website where you can sign up and earn credits sharing your books with others.

Card number three might read, “Have mom relax with a dose of exercise.” Exercise is a great way to forget your troubles or unwind built up stress. That doesn’t mean you have to join a gym, though. Bike riding, swimming, a short walk-these are all ways to get your body moving. Get together with a friend and share exercise DVDs!

Friend Time
“Have mom relax with a good friend,” is what your next card might say. Friends keep us sane. They listen to our troubles and allow us to vent without judgment. Sometimes it’s just nice to chat with another adult! Go to lunch or take a walk together.

How often does a mom relax with the gift of sleep during the day? Not often enough. Let your hubby or a friend watch your kids and take a nap. You deserve it!

Pamper Yourself
When looking for free stuff for mom to pamper herself with, think about your feet and how tired they get from running around. Did you know a simple foot soak of hot water and Epson salts can do wonders for you? Try a home facial or paraffin wax treatment for your hands and nails.

Scrap Booking
This time honored tradition can definitely help a mom relax. Putting together the pictures of your life, organizing them just so-it’s a very satisfying feeling and helps you remember all the amazing things you love about your family. If scrap booking isn’t your thing, choose a different hobby and take some time to work on that.

Watch a Girl Movie
Lock the door. Dim the lights. Turn on that movie your husband would never watch and is a little inappropriate for your kids. Let your mind turn to goo as you enjoy the movie you’ve been wanting to see for months. Want to make it even better? Call up your best friend and watch it with her!

There are so many ways a mom can relax and get in “me time.” What’s important is actually taking the time to do it!

More Tips:



How to Make Marriage Work (After Having Kids)


Am I an expert? No. Do Nick and I still have issues? Yes. But we are keenly aware of how important our relationship is to the health and well-being of our family as a whole, so we have always made us a priority. Here’s how.

Before Nick and I decided to have Nora, he said, out of the blue one day, “I think we should have another baby. It will ruin our relationship, but I think we should do it.” I laughed, of course, but then I started thinking. Would having two kids ruin our relationship? Was it really a foregone conclusion? And why is it such a cliché that kids kill marriages? Is it because…it’s true? A while back, while researching a story on the subject, I spoke with John Jacobs, M.D., a New York City couples therapist and author of All You Need is Love and Other Lies About Marriage. He said, “Couples often think that children solidify a marriage but the truth is they are a serious threat. The transition from couplehood to parenthood marks one of the greatest stressors on the life of a marriage.” While that stress may dwindle over the years, it never completely goes away. And, says Jacobs, the wear and tear kids inflict on marriages is at an all-time high, thanks, in part, to helicopter parenting. “We’ve become a society that is hyper-focused on the emotional well-being of our children,” he says. “Sometimes too focused.” It makes sense: The more time you spend on your kids, the less time you have to focus on the well-being of your spouse—and the well-being of your marriage.
Well, Nora is now three and while her arrival slowed us down a bit in the beginning, it certainly hasn’t knocked us out. In fact, we’re probably in better shape now than ever. We go on dates, we talk, we have a rich social life, we laugh a lot and have fun together, we even wait until the kids go to sleep so we can dine a deux many nights. I always thought that was just about us being food obsessed/selfish (we like talking to each other without having to spell every other word and we like to eat without stopping to clean up spilled milk or wipe butts), but it turns out we’re on to something. “The paradox is that the number one thing you can do for your children is to have a good marriage,” says Jacobs. But how do we do it? How do we take care of our children, take care of ourselves, and connect as a couple? Lord knows there are days when just getting your brood to bedtime in one piece is a feat. Well, in honor of the upcoming “holiday,” I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite bits of advice—the little, somewhat un-PC-but-totally-doable things that keep my marriage going. Am I an expert? No. Do Nick and I still have issues? Yes. But we are keenly aware of how important our relationship is to the health and wellbeing of our family as a whole so we have always made us a priority. Here, in no particular order, 16 pieces of marriage advice I remind myself of as often as necessary…
1. At the end of a long day (or even a short one), remember that sex and wine can solve a lot. Never underestimate the power of either, particularly when combined.
2. Don’t set the romance expectations too high on a day-to-day basis. Simply sitting on the same couch while watching TV (instead of, say, across the room from each other) counts as quality time. Bonus points if the couch isn’t super long so that your bodies are actually touching in some way.
3. If it is at all within your power, live near family, particularly family that doesn’t have a very full social calendar, and lean on them. Free babysitters are, well, priceless.
4. That said, also groom a babysitter that you love and trust. Pay her well.
5. Two words (a phrase I don’t particularly like but the concept is essential): Date Night.
6. When you do go out, try to talk about things other than your children. If you must, stick to non-controversial topics like how cute they are, not whether you should get her in dance this year or how to handle his lithsp. The point of getting out is to remind yourselves that you’re more than just parents. Talking about something other than the minutiae of child-rearing is a good way to do that.
7. Never feel guilty sticking your kids in front of the TV if it’s for A. a hot shower. B. to make them a healthy and delicious dinner. C. sex. None of that stuff takes long enough for their brains to start rotting. (Sorry, babe.)
8. Go out without each other, too. Almost as important as date night is friend night. You can’t be each other’s only outlet, so find some other ones. Having a life outside of your family will make you a better wife and a better mother and a better person. For me it’s book club, dinner with friends, volunteering with LLS, etc.
9. Fantasize about your future together. This could be about the summer home you want to buy out east (that you will likely never be able to afford) or that trip to Italy you want to take someday, or, um, being empty nesters. Yes, Nick and I have occasionally discussed how great it will be when our kids are happily and healthily grown and we can do whatever the #&@! we want.
10. Maintain a little mystery by…limiting bathroom occupancy to one. (Or, I should say, one adult. If anyone knows how to keep your kids out of the bathroom when you’re in there, let me know!)
11. For every house/child/finance-related question or comment you e-mail or text each other, write one that is just plain funny or flirty. Nick and I text each other a lot and having a laugh-out-loud-worthy exchange with him reminds me why we fell in love—and that we still are. That’s important.
12. Sit down to a home-cooked meal (as often as possible) that doesn’t involve any of the following: texting, tweeting, an “I love my husband” status update (gag), Bravo, kids, talk about kids, chicken nuggets leftover from kids. You don’t always have to shell out date night money to have a date night.
13. Never let yourself get too hungry. You know how with kids you always need a stash of crackers and cheese sticks on you at all times? Well, parents can have low blood sugar moments, too, so best to throw a few snacks in your purse for your purposes. I can’t tell you how many of my fights with Nick end with one of saying, “sorry, I was just hungry.”
14. Try to fight about only the thing you’re fighting about and stop yourself from dredging up all the other crap that really isn’t bothering you at the moment but somehow starts spewing from your mouth regardless. Not productive. Also, just saying “I’m sorry” has magical powers. You have a limited amount of time together once kids are in the picture and spending it bickering is no fun at all.
15. Occasionally you just need to walk away without saying the thing you really want to say. Some annoyances (like the closet door being left open always or the kitchen counters never being cleaned even when someone says “go to bed, I’ll clean it all up”) just aren’t worth bringing up. Everyone is trying really hard, this whole parenthood thing ain’t always easy and no one’s perfect. Not even you.
16. Create a bedtime routine for your kids from day one and stick to it so that they know how to, how do I put this, go the $@#!% to sleep. The only way to have a relationship outside of your kids is to have time away from them.
OK, that’s all the wisdom I have for now. Please note that these are the things that work for us, I’m not saying they will do the trick for any relationship. We all need to figure out for ourselves what we need to keep our marriages nourished and then figure out how to get as much of those things as possible. I would love to hear what works for you!






Coping When Your Spouse is Unemployed


Unemployment rates high on the list, along with death and divorce, as one of life’s top stress-inducing events. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources and guidance for those coping with their own unemployment. But what about the rest of the family? Unemployment impacts spouses and children, too.
Joe’s wife JoAnn says she feels a combination of sympathy and anger towards her jobless husband.
“I don’t know what to say to him when I come home from my own job and he’s obviously had another rough day of dead-end leads. The house is a mess and he’s lying on the couch in his underwear,” she explains. “I know he’s had a rough day, but can’t he make himself useful while he’s waiting for callbacks?”
A Delicate Balance
Unemployment places strain on a marital relationship for obvious reasons. Aside from the financial burden unemployment places on a household, a spouse who continues to work faces his or her own issues in dealing with a displaced, depressed family breadwinner. A wife whose “secondary” job is now a couple’s only source of income may suddenly shoulder the burden of paying the bills. Not only that, but she must also play the role of counselor and cheerleader to a traumatized, demoralized husband.
A woman in this situation walks a fine line between compassionate helpmate and tough-talking coach. If you happen to have a “caretaker” personality, you may have to watch a tendency to give your spouse unspoken permission to stay stuck in self-pity and inaction. Push too hard and you risk coming off as cold and uncaring.
Anticipate What’s Coming
As soon as possible after a job loss, you and your husband should sit down together and strategize not only the job hunt, but ways you can head off (or at least minimize) conflicts that come with unemployment stress.
The days ahead aren’t going to be easy. Put your heads together to come up with a “plan of attack” — because that’s exactly what you’ll need to handle the pressures that can undermine a marriage in these tough circumstances.
Marriage and Family Survival Plan
First, practice an attitude that treats unemployment as a temporary — and manageable — situation. The repeated rejection that goes with a job search is hard, but the odds are that a new job will eventually surface if you both remain focused and deliberate in your quest. Keep a healthy perspective. Be open to what God might be trying to teach you both through this experience.
If you still have children at home, be open and honest with them about your situation. Communicate realistically, but optimistically, about the future. (It’s not the end of the world!) Plan regular times together as a family to discuss feelings, finances, priorities and how everyone can pitch in to ease stress at home. Explain that everyone will have to sacrifice (temporary cuts in allowances, cutting back on clothes shopping, etc.) for awhile until Dad finds a new job. Remind children that you’re in this together — and together you’ll come through this, better and stronger for the adversity you’ve experienced, and perhaps with newfound compassion for others in similar circumstances.
Insist on at least one night a week when you can schedule time alone or with your own friends. Help your husband understand that the time you spend on yourself will help you be a better spouse when you’re together — because it will. Even in the best of times it’s good to cultivate your own hobbies and interests.
Remind yourself and your spouse to take this one day at a time. Help your husband avoid catastrophic thinking (I’ll never find work!). Be positive in your attitudes and pray together every day for God’s provision — for your physical, emotional and material needs, and for your relationship. And keep talking! Deliberate communication mitigates the effects of depression and helps boost bruised self-esteem.
Accept that you’ll have good days and bad days. On the good days, discuss what makes them good and brainstorm ways to keep up positive energy (going to bed at a reasonable hour, rising together, morning exercise, prayer time, etc.). Maintain a routine as much as possible. Be mutually accountable, setting a daily agenda for both of you: job interviews, personal appointments, chores around the house, etc.
Unemployment can make people want to withdraw — but avoid becoming socially isolated. Continue to attend church and keep up social commitments during the week. Share what you’re going through with friends. You need support now more than ever — and contrary to what you might think, friends will be honored by your desire to confide in them.
Plan activities together that will help you let off steam. Many big-city zoos and museums have occasional “free” days. Get outside in the fresh air, take a bike ride, have a picnic. Plan a time where you agree to put aside job worries and focus only on having fun.
Your spouse is facing a tough time, but you are, too. Pray to God for the energy, compassion, patience and insight to get you through this challenging season. And remember: like all the seasons that make up a life, this too shall pass!





The Secret To Being Yourself


Do you sometimes feel like you’re not good at anything? That everyone around you seems to have more talent than you? 
You’re not alone; this happens to many of us!

Life gets busy and it’s easy to put yourself on the back burner. And by the way, what does being yourself even mean? Especially when your days are filled with changing diapers, preparing meals, endless piles of laundry, maybe going off to work.
I have come to realize that one of the most crippling mistakes we can make is to try to be someone we’re not. It’s what happens when being yourself comes second to pleasing others or sometimes simply not recognizing what you’re good at. (It’s far more common that you’d think!)

This sounds like a no-brainer concept, but so many of us do it, often without realizing it.
We try to fit into a “mold” of an ideal image, maybe because of pressure from others, but often it’s something we do to ourselves. The problem is that we waste so much time, energy, and life on something we weren’t meant to do or be.

Let me be clear; I’m not talking about trying to improve yourself. Just like me, you probably want to be a better wife, mom, daughter, friend, etc. There’s always going to be something we can learn or an area we can do better in, but those are things you should work on while being yourself.
We each have our own talents, whether we recognize what they are or not. Your gift might be similar to a friend’s or it might be completely different. The key is to find out what you love doing, what you thrive on. Then do more of that and less of the things that make you spin your wheels.
I spent years trying to be someone I wasn’t. I thought people would like me or I’d fit in better if I did certain things. Yep, the ol’ peer pressure. Fortunately, I never got into ‘bad’ stuff, but I wasted so much time because I didn’t know who I was.
While I’m still learning every day, I know who I am now. I’m a dearly loved daughter of Jesus. I’m a beloved wife and mom. I love to write, organize, bake, and spend time with friends and family. And I love to reach out to other women, especially moms in need of encouragement.
As I’ve learned more about myself, I’ve also discovered a simple secret that’s been incredibly freeing.
When it comes to being yourself, it’s just as important to figure out who you aren’t, as it is to discover who you are.

Far from limiting yourself, when you acknowledge who you’re not, it gives you the freedom to be the person you are meant to be.
Me? I love to write. Even as a little girl, I’d spend hours writing novels. But when I got older, I lost sight of that love. I tried to do other things that didn’t come as naturally, like crafting, DIY projects, and even photography.
Admittedly, I don’t have a crafty bone in my body. But as I’ve honed in on who I am and who I’m not, it’s helped my focus. That’s why I’ve stopped sharing craft posts here at Living Well Mom. It’s just not me.
Dear friends, don’t make the mistake of trying to a live a certain way because you’re “supposed” to. When you give yourself permission to be you, instead of someone else, you open the door to living life as you’re meant to live!



Are You in a Codependent Relationship?


Do find yourself making lots of sacrifices for your partner’s happiness, but not getting much in return? If that kind of one-sided pattern sounds like yours, you don’t have to feel trapped. There are lots of ways to change a codependent relationship and get your life back on an even keel.

What Is a Codependent Relationship?
The first step in getting things back on track is to understand the meaning of a codependent relationship. Experts say it’s a pattern of behavior in which you find yourself dependent on approval from someone else for your self-worth and identity.
One key sign is when your sense of purpose in life wraps around making extreme sacrifices to satisfy your partner’s needs.
“Codependent relationships signify a degree of unhealthy clinginess, where one person doesn’t have self-sufficiency or autonomy,” says Scott Wetzler, PhD, psychology division chief at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “One or both parties depend on their loved ones for fulfillment.”

Anyone can become codependent. Some research suggests that people who have parents who emotionally abused or neglected them in their teens are more likely to enter codependent relationships.
“These kids are often taught to subvert their own needs to please a difficult parent, and it sets them up for a long-standing pattern of trying to get love and care from a difficult person,” says Shawn Burn, PhD, a psychology professor at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo.
“They’re often replaying a childhood pattern filled with development gaps,” Wetzler says.
How to Know You’re in a Codependent Relationship
Watch out for these signs that you might be in a codependent relationship:
Are you unable to find satisfaction in your life outside of a specific person?
Do you recognize unhealthy behaviors in your partner but stay with him or her in spite of them?
Are you giving support to your partner at the cost of your own mental, emotional, and physical health?
“Individuals can also assume they are in a codependent relationship if people around them have given them feedback that they are too dependent on their partner or if they have a desire, at times, for more independence but feel an even stronger conflict when they attempt to separate in any way,” says psychologist Seth Meyers.
“They’ll feel anxiety more consistently than any other emotion in the relationship,” Meyers says, “and they’ll spend a great deal of time and energy either trying to change their partner or … trying to conform to their partner’s wishes.”

Impact of a Codependent Relationship

Giving up your own needs and identity to meet the needs of a partner has unhealthy short-term and long-term consequences.
“You can become burned out, exhausted, and begin to neglect other important relationships,” Burn says. “And if you’re the enabler in a codependent relationship — meaning you promote the other person’s dysfunctions — you can prevent them from learning common and needed life lessons.”

How to Change a Codependent Relationship
Breaking up isn’t necessarily the best or only solution. To repair a codependent relationship, it’s important to set boundaries and find happiness as an individual, says psychologist Misty Hook, PhD.
She recommends that partners talk about and set relationship goals that satisfy them both.

“It’s also important to spend time with relatives, friends, and family to broaden the circle of support,” she says. “Find hobbies of your own. Try separating for certain periods of time to create a healthy dependence on one another.”
But do keep in mind that your actions may unintentionally worsen a codependent relationship, Wetzler says.
“Sometimes people delude themselves into thinking they are helping a codependent partner by continuing to cater to his or her anxiety,” he says. “But ask if you are truly helping or simply fostering that negativity




How Kids Make and Keep Friends
Why childhood friendships are important


Having best friends, playing with other children on the playground and going to birthday parties and sleepovers are routine activities for most kids. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that “making friends is one of the most important missions of middle childhood — a social skill that will endure throughout their lives.”
Unfortunately, some children struggle socially and have trouble making and keeping friends.

This is not to say that your child needs to be a “social butterfly” and be well-liked by every kid at school. In fact, a shy or quiet child may just have one or two good friends and be very happy.
But it can be a problem if your child doesn’t have any friends or is never invited over to play with other children — especially if he seems anxious about this.
Young Kids Making Friends
When do kids begin to make friends? Even toddlers seem to play together and have friends, but group play doesn’t usually evolve until age three. Until then, most infants and younger toddlers simply play by themselves next to each other in parallel play.
Once they begin playing together regularly as preschoolers, kids are more likely to make regular friends. Keep in mind that the kids your younger child considers “friends” will likely change very often. Even younger school-age children, until they are 10 to 12 years old, may have a new best friend every few months.






New dad: Tips to help manage stress
Becoming a new dad can bring joy — and stress. Find out how to deal with the difficulties of parenthood and develop a rewarding relationship with your newborn.
By Mayo Clinic Staff

Becoming a father can be an exciting and overwhelming experience. As a new dad, however, you can take steps to prepare for the emotions and challenges of fatherhood and connect with your newly expanded family. Understand how to make your transition to fatherhood less stressful and more fulfilling.

Recognize sources of stress

No one said taking care of a newborn would be easy. As a new dad, you might worry about:






Trade School vs. College: Which Should I Choose?


Benefits of College
For a student whose family can afford to provide the experience, college can be a valuable part of a young adult’s life. College degrees carry prestige, lifelong friendships, and entrée into excellent professional circles. Whether pursuing a liberal arts undergraduate education or working toward a science degree, today’s college student meets interesting professors, joins clubs and organizations and takes internships at innovative companies. With the right strategy in place to deal with the high cost of attending college—the national average cost of a four-year public school is now $112,000—a student can enjoyably pursue an undergraduate degree.
Trade School: Specialties and Demand
Where college prepares a young adult for a largely cerebral career, a trade school provides thorough education in a trade that can provide excellent earnings for a lifetime, such as plumbing, automotive mechanics, or HVAC.
Trade schools fulfill a vital function, providing the services we depend on in a complex society. Cars break down. Furnaces stop working. Toilets clog. No amount of doctoral research is going to get your remodeled house wired for electricity, for example. We need people skilled in practical trades.
Benefits of Trade School
Trade school students usually complete their entire education in half the time college students do. This gives the trade school graduate a two-year head start on earnings and career advancement. This is only one of several benefits of trade school:
Job Security—India and other countries have enjoyed our nation’s habit of outsourcing jobs to other lands; trades are never outsourced overseas, because you cannot send your car to the Far East for an oil change, nor can your toilet get packed up for a trip to Eastern Europe to get unclogged
Educational Cost—The College Affordability and Transparency Center (CATC) shows automotive technology programs can cost as little as $1,902 or as much as $40,000; even the most expensive trade school’s program, though, can be a mere fraction of the cost of a college degree
What Trade School and College Have in Common
Trade schools and colleges struggle with drop-outs, and with students taking too long to graduate. If you drag out college an extra year by switching majors, dropping classes or failing a subject, you add huge amounts of debt. If you drop out, you have the debt but not the degree. In trade school, you may face long hours, demanding teachers, and challenging projects. Trade schools often have less of a campus-like atmosphere, requiring significant personal motivation.
With either education, you will likely get a job. Trade schools offer certifications in specific skills that are immediately marketable for entry-level work. From there, you take more coursework and pass specific exams for additional certifications, increasing your value. College graduates get hired, sure, but it’s also true that some do not end up working in their field of study, as they sometimes resort to taking any job in order to pay student loans.



What to Do When Your Depressed Teen Refuses Help


Question: How do I deal with my teen who appears to be suffering from depression? Although she seems miserable she refuses to get help. How can I help her?
Answer: Unfortunately this is often the case. A depressed teen usually doesn’t realize this is the reason for changes in how she is feeling or acting.

Part of the disorder is not thinking clearly enough to see what’s really going on, and feeling too lousy to deal with it even if you do.
There are a number of effective approaches to easing a teen into taking the first steps in facing their depression and getting the help they need. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. Start with the method that seems to best fit your teens’ personality and problems. If that doesn’t work, try another.
In helping your teen get the help she needs proceed with gentle but firm persuasion. These varied approaches have all been effective in helping depressed teens to move forward:
Talk in specific terms about the signs and changes you’ve seen in her that concern you and that point to depression.
Discuss how having untreated depression can negatively impact her.
Make a compassionate deal – for example, tell her that if she’ll agree to an evaluation with a therapist specializing in teen depression, you’ll treat her to a hot fudge sundae, or whatever motivates her.

Attempt to empathize with the pain she is feeling. For example, discuss that while you can’t know how she’s feeling, outwardly she seems unhappy.
Reassure her that being depressed is a common medical condition that she can’t control and should never feel ashamed about.
Write down and give her a list of the positive qualities you know she has that will help her to heal.

Openly acknowledge that getting help takes courage.
Reward her for any steps she’s willing to take to deal with her depression.
Constantly let her know that you’re in this with her- that you’ll do whatever it takes to help and support her for as long as she needs you to do so.
Repeat as often as possible, “I’m really concerned about you, I really want to help, and I’m here for you.”
Offer to help her develop a list of questions she would ask a professional about depression.
Express to your teen that she doesn’t have to continue to suffer.
Most of these approaches can be facilitated through direct discussion or e-mails, texts, pictures; whatever it takes to help your teen find the inner resources to take this first step. Do not allow yourself to get discouraged. Do not give up. Teen depression is very serious and treatment is necessary in order to heal.






What Is a Healthy Relationship?

Talking to Your Children About Relationships


Part of being a teenager is exploring new relationships. This is exciting for teens, but can be scary for parents, who don’t want to see their kids get hurt. Relationships can be supportive and help people learn more about themselves. They can also be difficult, frustrating, and even unhealthy. Your teen needs your help learning about the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships.
Share your values.
You can help your teen understand what it means to be in a healthy relationship. By talking to your teen about respect, healthy relationships, and what your teen wants out of his/her relationships, you can help your teen stay away from or get out of an unhealthy relationship.
Talk with your teen about what you want for him or her:
“I want you to have a boyfriend/girlfriend who respects you.”
“I want you to have a boyfriend/girlfriend you feel really comfortable being around.”
“I want you to enjoy your relationship with your boyfriend/girlfriend and enjoy fulfilling and healthy relationships with other people who care for you.”

Ask about what’s important to your teen.
Here are some questions you can ask your teen to get started talking about relationships:
What would your ideal relationship be like?
What are you looking for in a boyfriend/girlfriend?
What comes to your mind when you think of real love?
What do you think an abuse relationship would look and feel like?
Do you know anyone who has a healthy relationship? What about an unhealthy relationship? Why do you think their relationship is healthy/unhealthy?
By sharing your values and listening to what’s important to your teen, you can help your teen think about what she or he really wants in a relationship.

Here are some resources to help you talk with your teen about healthy vs. unhealthy relationships:
What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like
It’s Time to Start the Conversation
Love Is Respect: Healthy Relationships
Am I in a Healthy Relationship?
Bullying + peer pressure

It is important for your teen to also understand what a healthy friendship looks like, especially during adolescence when peer pressure and bullying are common. In fact, almost thirty percent of U.S. students in grades 6-12 experience bullying. Here are some resources to help you talk to your teen about peer pressure and bullying:
How to Talk About Bullying
Dealing With Peer Pressure
Peer Pressure





5 Pitfalls to Avoid When Grandparents Babysit


Moms and dads love the idea of having grandparents babysit because they are people that they truly trust without a doubt (hopefully). But sometimes the reality of grandparents babysitting is different from the concept, right? When your mother is taking care of your child, it can raise emotional and logistical issues. Steer clear of these five pitfalls to avoid when grandparents babysit.
Unspoken Rules for Grandparents Babysitting
Sometimes it’s hard to lay down the law with your own parent. But speaking up at the beginning of a babysitting session or a regular child care arrangement will ensure its success.
Make sure the grandparents know when you want your children to eat and sleep and your rules about television, junk food, outings and appropriate discipline. After once coming home to a child with an unexpected haircut, I always say “no haircuts or tattoos” before I leave kids in the care of grandparent babysitters.
You might even want to write down your expectations.

Try to limit your rules to the things that your feel most strongly about or that have to do with safety. Too many guidelines will be hard for caregivers to remember and may make them feel that you don’t trust their judgment.
Micromanaging Grandparent Babysitters
Now that you’ve agreed on the rules, let go. Have faith that your parents or parents-in-law will respect the boundaries you’ve set and live up to your expectations.
If you come home and the kids’ clothes are a mess or toys were put away in the wrong places, think twice before speaking up. Just because the grandparents cared for your children differently than you would have doesn’t mean they’re wrong.
Certainly, if you nitpick the way that they babysit, you’re likely to build up resentments and make it less enjoyable for them to watch your children. The next thing you know, you’ll have an angry grandparent on your hands and a scramble to find new child care.
Taking Advantage of Grandparent Babysitters
There’s nothing as comforting as leaving your children with the people who love them as desperately as you do. So you want to make sure grandparent babysitters are happy and will return for repeat sessions.
If you are fortunate enough to have a grandparent nearby who wants to regularly watch your children, discuss the terms for babysitting ahead of time. Address questions like:
Will you pay the grandparent for child care?
How much notice should you each give in the event of a cancellation?
What if the child or grandparent gets sick?
Who organizes activities and pays for classes or outings?
If grandparents are providing daily child care, paying them puts the relationship on a more professional level and stresses that it’s a serious commitment. That’s what you want if you’re working while grandparents are babysitting. Last-minute cancellations could jeopardize your career — and there are other ways to save money.
Remember to discuss the financial implications of paying grandparents for babysitting, such as having to pay the nanny tax. It may make more sense for you to pay for groceries, gas, outings or vacations than to fork over cash.
Working Out Your Relationship Through the Kids
Our parents know how to push our buttons — they installed them. And sometimes we can get under their skin too.
But the last thing you want is to put your children in the middle of a decades-old power struggle with your father. When you interact with the grandparents as babysitters, treat them just as you would treat any responsible adult entrusted with the care of your children.
That means no subtle insults or digs. No references to past arguments. Basically, avoid any sentence that begins, “You always…” or “You never…” or “I hate it when you…”.
If you have an especially difficult relationship with a parent (or parent-in-law) you might want to reconsider using that person as a caregiver. It may simply be too complicated.
Leaving Them in the Lurch
Your parents and parents-in-law may know your children very well. But kids change quickly, and it can be hard to keep up if you don’t live with them.
Before you leave children with grandparents, make sure to update them on anything going on that may affect your child’s mood or health. This includes things such as:
Trouble sleeping or signs of an oncoming cold
Having skipped a meal or snack — grandparents may not make the connection between a cranky child and a hungry one
Recently developed fears, such as of dogs, loud noises or certain stories
The onset of separation anxiety
An attachment to a blanket or stuffed animal, especially if needed for sleep
Trouble in school or arguments with siblings or friends that may be bothering the child
Of course, make sure to leave enough clean clothes, diapers, any needed medicines and emergency contact information. Think of it this way: you don’t want your mother rummaging through your closets in search of an item. Who knows what she might find!



Teaching Kids Respect – 6 Controversial Tips


You are at a restaurant. A woman sitting at the next table snapped her fingers and yelled at the waiter,
“Hey, you brought the wrong dish. You’re such a bad waiter. Now go and get me the right dish. NOW.”
What would you think of this person?
I don’t know about you, but I would think that she’s being very rude and disrespectful. Why does she think that she has the right to talk down to him like that?
Most people I know would not do such a thing to others, whether it’s their friends or someone they don’t know. However, some of them feel completely entitled to talk to their children that way. A mother would snap at her son,
“Hey, I told you not to do this. You’re such a bad boy. Now go and take a time-out. NOW.”
See the irony? Why is there such a big difference in how we treat others compared to how we treat our children?
Tips On Teaching Kids Respect
The following methods may be surprising to some parents, but the fact is that we cannot teach respect by being disrespectful to our children. Here are 6 things we can do to teach our kids respect.
1. Stay Calm
The other day, my daughter was eating cookies and she wanted to go into my room. Crumbs came out of her mouth as she took every bite. I told her not to go into my room with the cookies. I repeated that request at every step she took on the 14-step staircase. I said it one more time when she was at my door. She ignored it and entered my room with cookies in her hands and crumbs on my floor.
I was angry. I exploded and yelled, “Didn’t you hear that I asked you not to come in with cookies?”
She looked at me, turned around and left my room.
So what is the lesson?
That yelling, and only yelling, works with kids who don’t listen, right?

She didn’t listen to me because she couldn’t listen to me. I was not in front of her, making eye contact and ensuring she was paying attention to what I said.
Instead, I just sat at my desk and shouted my command, while she was fully immersed in tasting the yummy cookies. Any leftover focus was spent on making sure she didn’t fall down the stairs. She simply couldn’t pay any attention to me until she entered the room and saw me.
However, from my perspective, I thought she heard everything I said but ignored me. I thought she was purposely disrespecting me and my request. So I was angry. My emotion took over. Instead of looking into why she acted that way, I yelled at her.
I was being disrespectful to her.
I was shouting to her from another room not caring whether I was interrupting what she was doing or not. And when she didn’t meet my expectation, I acted rude towards her. I showed her that I only cared about my own needs. I showed her that when you were frustrated, you could be rude and disrespectful.
That was definitely the wrong message.
I was not being a good role model in having empathy, respect and self-control.
Granted, there are often situations where kids really do outrageous or disrespectful things, but it could be because they don’t know any better at that age or they miss the cue. That’s where we, the parents, come in to teach them. But how can we teach children to be respectful using disrespectful manner?
To teach respect, first we need to stay calm and stay in control. Identify if this is a real “disrespect” situation, a misunderstanding or simply because the child hasn’t learned the proper response in such a situation.
2. Identify The Cause For Disrespect
When genuinely being disrespected, we should pay attention to the circumstance instead of going off on the child, “You are being disrespectful!”
Ask your child why they act that way.
Last weekend, my almost 4.5 year-old finally achieved a major “milestone”. She called me a bad mom. She had never called me that before as we had never called her a bad girl. So she didn’t learn to say that until she heard her friends say it recently.
For most parents, that is a very disrespectful thing for a child to say. Justifiably, many of them become upset or angry. They would reply, “How dare you! You are not allowed to talk to me that way. I’m your mother/father!”
These parents are upset. They are called names and they are hurt.
But what is the child’s intention when she says that?
Kids usually say that because they are angry. Someone, and it’s usually you, hurt them. So, out of instinct, they want to hurt you back.
It is usually not malicious because kids (and grownups) cannot think straight when they are angry. They just reflexively want to fight back to protect themselves and in this case, they use hurtful words to do so.
I asked my daughter, “Why did you say that? Was it because you were angry?” She nodded.
“Were you angry because I didn’t let you have <X>?” She nodded again. I nodded sympathetically, too. With my acknowledgement, I could see her seething anger start to dissipate.
“Well, I understand you are upset. But that doesn’t mean I am a bad mom. If other kids are mad at you for something you have done, does it make you a bad girl?” She shook her head determinedly.
“OK, then you are not a bad girl because other people are upset. So I am not a bad mom because you are angry, right?” She nodded slowly like she was trying to absorb my words.
At that point, I went on to address her needs. She was angry because her needs were not met. I asked her to think of other ways to get what she needed instead of calling me names. I explained to her that hurting others that way doesn’t help reduce her anger or solve her problem.
By naming and narrating my child’s emotions, I helped her understand where her anger came from, taught her vocabularies to describe her emotions and gave her tools to solve problems. I also showed her that in conflict situations, you could still stay clam, keep a clear head and respond respectfully.
Disagreement can take place without being disrespectful.
Isn’t this much better than screaming, “How dare you!” which only addresses the parent’s own needs to feel respected?

3. Show Them How It Is Done
What better way to teach a behavior than modeling the behavior you want to teach?
Show them how to respect by respecting them. I don’t mean calling them sir or madam, or bowing to them. Just treat your child as a person in the same way you treat other grownups.
For example, respect their preferences.
I’ve heard a father yell at his son for eating the inside of a pie first before the crust because that was the wrong way to eat a pie. True story.
It is ridiculous how some parents want to have complete control over their child’s behavior and preferences. Most of us are not this extreme but we still do some variations of preference policing. But if you want your child to respect you, start with respecting their choices.
Everyone has their own preferences. As much as I want my little one to be a mini-me and like exactly the same things I do, she is not. My child has her own liking. If I don’t like what she wants, I will explain my rationale. But ultimately, she has to learn to make decisions for herself. As long as her choice is not a danger to safety or health, is not (too) financially consuming and does not hurt others, I honor it.
That is why I let her make her own choices in things such as her own outfits. She often ends up going to her preschool wearing mismatched socks, pajamas under dresses, a shirt under/over a dress, etc.

Every person has the right to think independently and like different things. That should include children.
When children’s differences are accepted, they feel heard and respected. They see first-hand how to treat others who have different opinions. They learn that they should respect people despite their differences.
This understanding and tolerance for differences will become especially important when the teenage years come. That’s when everything Mom and Dad say will sound stupid to them and you want your child to know how to tolerate and still respect you!

4. Kind And Firm Discipline
Discipline means to teach or to train, not to punish. It doesn’t have to be punitive. In fact, positive discipline is a lot more effective and longer lasting than punitive strategies.
If we discipline using a menacing or stern tone when our kids have done something wrong, we are showing them how to be cruel and harsh to those who make mistakes.
Who doesn’t make mistakes?
Imagine if you make a silly mistake at work and the boss talks down to you in a demeaning way. That must feel really lousy, right? Would any of us therefore have more respect for this boss?
The same with children, being harsh or using punitive punishment will not earn us respect.
But positive discipline is not the same as being “soft” or permissive. One can be firm and kind at the same time when disciplining. Setting firm boundaries and sticking to them are the keys to successful discipline.

5. Give Them Reasons To Respect
Parenting is one of the hardest jobs in the world. Parents spend so much effort, time and money to care for their little ones. Their entire lives changed and started to revolve around their children the moment they were born. It is only natural that we expect their respect.
But little children don’t understand all this. And to be fair, they didn’t ask us to do all this! We ourselves decided to take on these responsibilities.
If we don’t respect them but at the same time expect them to respect us, that is just hypocritical. Think about a chain smoker telling his child not to smoke.
Respect cannot be demanded. It can only be earned. So, earn it! Give your child reasons to respect you by being a good role model, modeling good behavior such as being respectful to everyone, including our children.

6. Apologize When You Screw Up
Not that I’m saying I’m never harsh to my child. As mentioned, I do sometimes shout when I’m at my wit’s end. So I get it. I understand the occasional outbursts in the heat of the moment, especially when we’re dead tired doing all sorts of grownup stuff, like working, housekeeping, and what else, parenting.
Despite that, I will never use it as the default way to treat my child, nor will I justify doing so is OK or necessary.
When I did lose it, I would give myself a time-out to calm down. Afterwards, I explained to her why I was so upset before. I taught her that having emotions was normal, but shouting was not OK. I felt guilty and I said sorry to her.
A mature, respectful grownup accepts responsibility and apologizes when he or she makes mistakes.
Final Thought
Treating children disrespectfully will just make them lose their respect for us (think about the mean boss example). If you’re lucky and your kids are not the stubborn type, you may get temporary compliance out of them, which may seem like respect.
But it is not.
Years later, when they’re all grown up, you may wonder why your kids don’t have respect for you anymore. They probably never had. They were only being compliant when they were kids. And you have modeled the disrespectful way well since their childhood.
Admittedly, I sometimes wondered if I should just go the “easy” route to save myself some time and frustration after telling my daughter not to make a mess a gazillion times. But every time I was tempted to take such a shortcut, I reminded myself how I hated it when I was treated like that as a child and how it would only earn me disrespect.
“Who says parenting is easy?” With this thought, I took a deep breath, recomposed myself and explained the gazillion-first time why it was not OK for her to do that.



Dividing childcare and housework duties with your partner


Can two parents really divide the responsibilities of home and family equally? If you’re willing to spend time talking about what each family member needs (as well as what needs to be done around the house), you may come pretty close. Use the tips below to begin figuring out who should do what.
Work together
Everybody in the family benefits when parents work together to maintain home and hearth. Men are more involved in childcare these days, which helps them develop a strong bond with their kids. Children also benefit from positive role models: They see that men and women both are important to family life.
Chores and housework are unavoidable, and there may not be an ideal division of labor. But when parents cooperate, communicate fairly, and work together, everybody comes out ahead.
Rethink your goals
How does a modern couple maintain balance at home – get dinner on the table, do laundry, feed and bathe the kids – and still have some time for each other and themselves?
Before answering that question, think about what exactly you both want and need. Rather than aiming for a straight 50-50 division of labor, try to find a way to simply balance the load and keep both of you feeling happy, productive, and appreciated.
List your responsibilities
Keep a one-week log of everything you do around the house and for the family. Have your partner do the same. Then compare lists.

How do you each feel about the items on your list?
Do you want to change anything?
Is there any task you intensely dislike?
Can you swap it for another chore?
This exercise can be eye-opening: Don’t be surprised if one person’s list is very long and the other’s isn’t. With lists in hand, try reassigning responsibilities and finding compromises. Maybe you can agree to take turns doing the especially difficult tasks.
And stay flexible even after you’ve divided up the chores in a way that’s mutually agreeable. Be willing to help each other out when you can, or even swap chores once in a while to get a feel for what your partner does.
List your baby’s needs
You both need to adjust to the idea of doing things on your baby’s schedule rather than your own. Start talking about the division of labor before your baby arrives. Make a list of all the tasks involved in caring for a baby, from diapering to choosing childcare.
If you’re having trouble coming up with a list, consult friends and family members who have recently become parents. Talk about how you should split up these new tasks (and whether you should divide the chores you did before the baby differently).
In the early days of a newborn’s life, for example, many couples find that because Mom spends hours breastfeeding, Dad ends up on diaper duty the minute he walks in the door.

It’s crucial that you tell each other what you want and need. Try to express yourself clearly and specifically, without blame.
For example, when you need help, tell your partner exactly what you want (“Can you play with the baby so I can cook dinner?”), rather than how you may feel at the moment. (“I have to do everything around here!”) If you fight over household responsibilities, set aside some time – when you’re both calm – to figure out what the real problem is and how to find a solution. Make a schedule
There’s so much to do with a new baby in the house, on top of all the other household chores that just don’t go away. But with a little planning and communication, you can tackle the new responsibilities together.
What jobs do you like to do? What jobs do you hate? Are you a morning person? A night owl?
With your preferences in mind, you and your partner can make a schedule of household responsibilities. Maybe one of you can take morning breakfast duty and the other can do the evening bath. Or try days on and off: One of you cooks dinner and cleans up on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the other takes Mondays and Wednesdays – and you order takeout on Fridays.
Take turns sleeping in on the weekends or getting up with the baby in the middle of the night.

And keep talking about these arrangements so that you can be flexible and make changes if necessary. Maintaining an open dialogue helps you deal with situations as they arise.
Who was up all night with the baby or who’s not feeling well? Who just pulled an all-nighter to meet a deadline? Figure out who has the energy and ability to take care of things, and switch nights or chores.
Once you realize all these tasks are up for negotiation, you’ll be amazed at how much saner life gets.
Shed traditional expectations
To truly share the load, you and your partner may have to do a little soul searching to examine your own motives and fears.
It’s easy to fall back on safe (but limiting) traditional roles. But doing so can leave one parent feeling resentful and the other left out in the cold.
As a mother, do you say you want your partner to take an equal role in childrearing and then feel threatened by his involvement? As a father, do you want to be involved but feel clueless with no role model and a hovering partner? Try talking to each other about these feelings so you can move past them.
And even if your family does fall into traditional patterns – for example, one parent works more hours outside the home than the other and takes on fewer household and child responsibilities as a result – it’s still important to discuss that decision and make sure that you both feel good about it. If one parent resents the other’s involvement (or lack of it), everyone, including your baby, suffers.
Share baby time
A new father often feels left out of the mother-infant bond and unsure of his new role. If he feels he has nothing to contribute, he might not pitch in as much at home. Everyone loses in this situation.
One solution: paternity leave. New dads may be eligible for paid leave, partially paid time off, or unpaid time off. Or they may be able to use vacation time. If you can swing it, having Dad take time off can help you start figuring out together how to be a family.
Keep in mind that paternity leave doesn’t have to be taken immediately after the baby is born, and that you might need more help after the first month or so, when the baby is awake for longer stretches during the day.

Make room for two experts
Mothers and fathers have different parenting styles, and these differences are important gifts for each child. But parents sometimes have a hard time respecting and valuing those differences.
Rather than criticize your mate about how he dresses the baby, simply accept and respect that he dresses, bathes, or feeds her differently than you do. If you constantly criticize your partner’s efforts, he’ll be more reluctant to help with the baby.
Consider hiring help
It’s a luxury that only a few can afford. But if you can afford to hire someone to clean the house once a week or twice a month, it can really make a difference. Rather than cleaning the bathroom, you can read to or play with your baby and spend time with your partner.
Take advantage of technology
Dishwashers and washing machines saved time for early generations. For us, there’s a whole new crop of gadgets and services that can free up our time to spend with family.
Here are a few examples: If you work outside the home, see if you can telecommute some days. This will save you commuting time and stress. Sign up to pay your bills online or try online grocery delivery if it’s available in your area. Get more high-tech time-saving ideas.







10 Ways to Teach Kids About Diversity


Tip #1: Examine Your Own Cultural Beliefs
The best way to teach your child about cultural diversity is to let them see you as accepting and tolerant. Our children imitate us, so in order to teach our children about cultural diversity, we as parents need to figure out what our beliefs are about this topic.
Ask yourself: How open are you to people from other cultures or races?

The goal is to introduce our children to the different ways people live. We do not want to cloud their judgment and give them biases, so if you do admittedly have any prejudices, you will need to resolve (or reserve) those so that your child will be open to new experiences and new people.
Tip #2: Purchase a Globe or a World Map
A great place to start is by having a globe or a world map available in your home. We have a large and colorful map which is framed and hanging in our family room. When something globally newsworthy happens, the kids can go right to the map and physically see that area of the world. This allows them opportunities to ask questions, engage in discussion, and creates teachable moments for the whole family.
Tip #3: Sample Cuisine From Other Countries
My family lives near a major university, so we have been very fortunate to meet families from all over the world, including China, India, Germany, and Spain. One year, our community organized an “Intercontinental Cuisine” dinner where everyone signed on to bring dishes from their country. Over 100 people dined on sushi, curries, Wiener Schnitzel, paella, and more. There was music playing from these different cultures as well. Some of us even got an instant foreign language lesson from some of the language professors who attended.
Thankfully, you don’t have to have access to a university to accomplish this. Simply reach out to folks in your town, or maybe one of your child’s friends comes from a different country, and have a pot luck. This is a delicious way to introduce kids to new cultures.
Tip #4: Encourage Questions
If your child has questions about differences in physical characteristics or cultural practices, discuss them openly. This teaches your child that it’s okay to notice differences, and more importantly, it teaches him that it’s good to talk about them. Learning to appreciate all kinds of differences—not just racial and cultural but differences in socioeconomic levels, gender, and even disabilities is an important skill in today’s diverse society.
Tip #5: Recommended Books on Culture, Race, and Disability
David’s Drawings by Cathryn Falwell
Perfect for: Ages 7 – 10
What it’s about: One wintry morning, David, a shy African-American boy, spies a beautiful tree on his way to school. Before class begins, he gets a paper and pencil and draws its trunk and bare branches. Soon, his schoolmates look on and make suggestions. In this gentle and appealing story, a boy figures out how to stay true to his own artistic vision while allowing his friends to express their own creativity.
Black, White, Just Right! by Marguerite W. Davol
Perfect for: Ages 2-5
What it’s about: A mixed-race child celebrates the rich inclusiveness of her life in a joyful picture book. Mama’s face is chestnut brown, Papa’s face turns pink in the sun, the child’s a little dark, a little light, and “Just right!”
Stinky the Bulldog by Jackie Valent
Perfect for: 3 and under
What it’s about: Stinky is a lovable little bulldog who moves to a new neighborhood. The mama bulldog teaches Stinky a valuable lesson in not judging others in this colorful picture book..
Special People, Special Ways by Arlene Maguire
Perfect for: Grade 2 and up
Special People, Special Ways presents a positive image of persons with disabilities. It shares the message that even though each of us may have something different about us, we share many commonalities. Coupled with colorful illustrations, the book conveys the message that although painful at times, being different can also be wonderful.
My Sister is Special by Larry Jansen
Perfect for: 3 and up
What it’s about: A little boy learns compassion and patience as he cares for his little sister, who has Down’s Syndrome.
Tip #6: Use Various Cultures to Inspire Holiday Decorations
When you are decorating your home for the holidays, consider using various cultures as inspiration.  For example, you could incorporate a piñata filled with Christmas candy in your celebration or let your kids paint chopsticks that you can use as colorful ornaments on your tree. Get your kids involved and see what ideas they can come up with. This also provides an opportunity to do some simple research on how other countries and cultures celebrate the holiday season.
Tip #7: Encourage Kids to Correspond with International Pen Pals
Find out about pen pals for your kids in other countries. Have kids pick a pen pal and start writing to or emailing them. Kids who build up relationships with people in other countries will end up being more globally aware. With the prevalence of email and social media these days, this is easier than ever. My kids’ school has had great success with this in years past using Kid World Citizen, a great resource to locate international pen pals.
Tip #8: Attend Cultural Events
Most communities have free and low-cost cultural events hosted at places of worship, community centers, schools, and other organizations. Explore the calendar of events in your area to find kid-friendly events including interfaith gatherings, cultural festivals, art exhibits from foreign countries, and other activities.
Tip #9: Watch Movies That Introduce New Places
Watching movies that introduce new places to your children is a great way to raise their global awareness. Movies like Jungle Book, Dumbo, Aladdin, and Around the World in 80 Days, are wonderful kid-friendly films that let them get a peek at other cultures.
Tip # 10: Take a Stand Against Cultural Insensitivity
If you want your children to grow up without prejudice and with cross-cultural understanding, you can’t show tolerance for racism or cultural insensitivity yourself. If someone says a rude comment or inappropriate joke — speak up and let your child know that this isn’t acceptable.  Kids need to understand that no matter where we are, people really are essentially the same. They have the same emotions, the same desires, and the same concerns. Teaching this to your kids now can keep them from fostering prejudice and help them grow into thoughtful, open-minded adults.



Developing Healthy Problem-Solving


Schedule a time to talk as a group. Facing and overcoming family problems can seem impossible. When you work together, however, resolving family differences becomes more feasible. The first step towards resolution is agreeing that there is a problem in the first place. Then, once tempers are moderately cooled, everyone needs to plan to come together and devise a strategy to resolve the problem.
Schedule a meeting at a time that is mostly convenient for everyone. Make everyone aware of the purpose of the meeting and that you want them to arrive with suggestions and solutions at the ready.
Be mindful that young children may be a hindrance to a family meeting. Huddle them in a separate room if you expect tempers to flair or sensitive information to be discussed.

Therapists often suggest holding regular family meetings. This tactic enables family members to bring issues out in the open before resentments develop. Talking with your family on a regular basis can improve communication and the bond that you share.

Focus on the issue at hand. When disagreements occur, people have a tendency to bring up any and every unresolved issue they have ever encountered with the other parties. This impedes conflict resolution and blurs the point of the discussion.
Strive to uncover what is actually important about the current problem. Building a case or bringing up old misdeeds will not assist you in resolving this issue.

Have everyone state what they truly mean. Direct communication is essential to effective conflict resolution. Each party should use “I” statements to clearly state your needs, wants, and concerns.
Remember, you are aiming to de-escalate the conflict and work towards a solution. Using “I” statements allows everyone to express themselves while showing respect for the others listening. Making an “I” statements allows each person to take ownership for what they are feeling, and suggest a remedy for the problem at the same time.
Examples of “I” statements include: “I am worried that our family is falling apart. I would like us to work things out.” or “I get scared when Dad drinks a lot because he starts yelling. I wish he could stop drinking”.

Listen without interrupting:

Validate and show respect for each person’s point of view. Validation pertains to showing another that you recognize, value, and accept his thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.  Of course, your own opinions may differ greatly, but using validation demonstrates that you see the other as a human, worthy of integrity and respect.
Validate your family members by saying something like “I’m really glad you felt comfortable enough to share this with me” or “I appreciate your willingness to work towards a solution”.

To read more go to the link above.



Teaching Your Child the Art of Happiness


For many parents, raising happy children is the holy grail of parenting success. But too often, we think happiness is about those fleeting moments of getting what you want. Lasting happiness is actually much more complicated, but much more rewarding. And yes, you can dramatically increase your child’s chances of being happy, just by the way you raise him or her.
What makes a happy child who grows into a happy adult? Since happiness is a by-product of emotional health, this whole website is about helping you raise a happy child, from meeting your infant’s need to be soothed, to helping your child develop optimism. But let’s talk specifically about what makes humans happy.

What do you need to be happy? A winning lottery ticket?
The latest research on happiness gives us surprising answers. Happiness turns out to be less a result of luck and external circumstance than a product of our own mental, emotional, and physical habits, which create the body chemistry that determines our happiness level.

We all know that some of us tend to be more upbeat than others. Part of this is inborn, just the fate of our genes that give us a happier mood. But much of our mood is habit.
It may seem odd to have happiness referred to as a habit. But it’s likely that by the time we’re adults, we have settled into the habit of often being happy, or the habit of being largely unhappy.
Happiness is closely linked to three kinds of habits:
How we think and feel about the world, and therefore perceive our experiences.
Certain actions or habits, such as regular exercise, eating healthfully, meditating, connecting with other people, even — proven in study after study — regularly smiling and laughing!
Character traits such as self-control, industry, fairness, caring about others, citizenship, wisdom, courage, leadership, and honesty.
In practice, these character traits are just habits; tendencies to act in certain ways when confronted with certain kinds of situations. And certainly it makes sense that the more we exhibit these traits, the better our lives work and the better we feel about ourselves, so the happier we are.
Some of the habits that create happiness are visible, the ways Grandma told us we ought to live: work hard, value relationships with other people, keep our bodies healthy, manage our money responsibly, contribute to our community.
Others are more personal habits of self management that insulate us from unhappiness and create joy in our lives, such as managing our moods and cultivating optimism. But once we make such habits part of our lives, they become automatic and serve a protective function.
How can you help your child begin to develop the habits that lead to happiness?
1. Teach your child constructive habits to manage his mind and thoughts to create happiness:
Managing our moods, positive self-talk, cultivating optimism, celebrating life, practicing gratitude, and appreciating our connected-ness to each other and the entire universe. Build these into your life together so you model them regularly, talk about using them, and your child will copy you.
2. Teach your child the self-management habits that create happiness:

Regular exercise, healthy eating, and meditation are all highly correlated with happiness levels. But you and your child may have your own, more personal strategies; for many people music is an immediate mood lifter, for others a walk in nature always works.
3. Cultivate fun.
The old saying that laughter is the best medicine turns out to be true. The more we laugh, the happier we are! It actually changes our body chemistry. So the next time you and your child want to shake off the doldrums, how about a Marx brothers movie?
And here’s a wonderful tool: smiling makes us happier, even when we initially force it. The feedback from our facial muscles informs us that we’re happy, and immediately improves our mood. Not to mention the moods of those around us– so that feedback loop uplifts everyone.
4. Help him learn how to manage his moods.
Most people don’t know that they can choose to let bad moods go and consciously change their moods. But practice in doing this can really make us happier. Of course, we aren’t talking about denial. The first step is always to acknowledge the upset feelings, and let ourselves feel them. So with your child, simply empathizing with her upset feelings will help them start to evaporate.
But there are times when we just stay in a bad mood, rather than nurturing ourselves through the upset, or choosing to change it. That’s just a habit that our brain has gotten into. If you can practice monitoring your own moods and shifting them, through acknowledging the feelings, allowing yourself to feel the emotions, correcting any negative thoughts that are giving rise to the emotions, and nurturing yourself, you’ll be re-wiring your brain. And as you practice this and get better at it, you can teach these skills to your child.
Of course, the hard part is choosing to change a bad mood. While you’re in it, it’s hard to take constructive action to change things. You don’t have to go from desolate to cheerful. Just find a way to help yourself feel slightly better. That empowers you to actually face what’s upsetting you, and try to solve it. Sometimes just changing our the way we’re thinking about a situation really shifts things. So, instead of “How can he be nasty to me like that, with all I do for him?!” you might try
“It’s normal for children to get angry at their parents. He’s struggling right now, and he needs me to try to understand him.”
How to help your child with her moods? Sometime when she’s in a good mood, talk with her about strategies for getting into a better mood: what works for her? Share what works for you. Then, when she’s in a bad mood, start by empathizing. After she’s had some time to feel her upset, ask her if she wants help to change her mood. Even if she’s able to choose a better mood only one out of ten times initially, she’ll soon start to notice how much better her life works when she does it.
5. Model positive self- talk.
We all need a cheerleader to help us over life’s many hurdles. Who says we can’t be our own? In fact, who better? Research shows that happy people give themselves ongoing reassurance, acknowledgment, praise and pep talks.
6. Cultivate optimism…
…it inoculates against unhappiness. It’s true that some of us are born more optimistic than others, but we can all cultivate it. Click here for “How you can help your child become more Optimistic”.
7. Help your child find joy in everyday things.
Studies show that people who notice the small miracles of daily life, and allow themselves to be touched by them, are happier. Daily life overflows with joyful occurrences: The show of the setting sun, no less astonishing for its daily repetition. The warmth of connection with the man at the newsstand who recognizes you and your child. The joy of finding a new book by a favorite author at the library. A letter from Grandma. The first crocuses of spring.
As Albert Einstein said,
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”
Children learn by our example what’s important in life.
8. Support your child to prioritize relationships.
Research shows that people who are happiest have more people in their lives, and deeper relationships with those people. Teach your child that while relationships take work, they’re worth it.
9. Help your child develop gratitude.

“We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” — Frederick Keonig
Many people think they can’t be grateful until they’re happy, meaning until they have something to be grateful for. But look closely and you’ll find that it’s the opposite: people are happy because they are grateful. People who describe themselves as consciously cultivating gratefulness are rated as happier by those who know them, as well as by themselves.
Children don’t have a context for life, so they don’t know whether they are lucky or unlucky, only that their friend Brendon has more expensive sneakers. But there are many ways to help children learn to cultivate gratitude, which is the opposite of taking everything for granted. (Hint: Think modeling, not lecturing).
10. Counteract the message that happiness can be bought.
As parents, we need to remember that we are not the only ones teaching our children about life. They get the constant media message that the goal of life is more money and more things. Ultimately, what we model and what we tell them will matter more, but we need to confront those destructive messages directly.
11. Leave room for grief.
Life is full of joy, but even for the happiest person it is also full of loss and pain, and we have daily reasons to grieve, large and small. Acknowledging our sad feelings isn’t focusing on the negative, it’s opening ourselves to the full range of being human. Accepting those uncomfortable sad feelings actually deepens our ability to take joy in our lives. Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean repressing our feelings. It means acknowledging and honoring our feelings, and then letting them go.
12. Help your child learn the joy of contribution.
Research shows that the pride of contributing to the betterment of society makes us happier, and it will make our children happier too. Our job as parents is to find ways for them to make a positive difference in the world so they can enjoy and learn from this experience.
“Happiness is a by-product of character. In people who are developing a strong character, there is a dramatically higher level of happiness than in those who live to chase after the next good time.”  -Pat Holt and Grace Ketterman, MD

Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids



Dysfunctional Family

A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members of the family occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is normal. Dysfunctional families are primarily a result of co-dependent adults, and may also be affected by addictions, such as alcohol and substance abuse. Other origins include untreated mental illness, and parents emulating or over-correcting their own dysfunctional parents. In some cases, a “child-like” parent will allow the dominant parent to abuse their children.

Types Of Dysfunctional Families
The following are some examples of patterns that frequently occur in dysfunctional families.
One or both parents have addictions or compulsions (e.g., drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, gambling, overworking, and/or overeating) that have strong influences on family members.
One or both parents use the threat or application of physical violence as the primary means of control. Children may have to witness violence, may be forced to participate in punishing siblings, or may live in fear of explosive outbursts.
One or both parents exploit the children and treat them as possessions whose primary purpose is to respond to the physical and/or emotional needs of adults (e.g., protecting a parent or cheering up one who is depressed).
One or both parents are unable to provide, or threaten to withdraw, financial or basic physical care for their children. Similarly, one or both parents fail to provide their children with adequate emotional support.
One or both parents exert a strong authoritarian control over the children. Often these families rigidly adhere to a particular belief (religious, political, financial, personal). Compliance with role expectations and with rules is expected without any flexibility.
There is a great deal of variability in how often dysfunctional interactions and behaviors occur in families, and in the kinds and the severity of their dysfunction. However, when patterns like the above are the norm rather than the exception, they systematically foster abuse and/or neglect. Children may:
Be forced to take sides in conflicts between parents.
Experience “reality shifting” in which what is said contradicts what is actually happening (e.g., a parent may deny something happened that the child actually observed, for example, when a parent describes a disastrous holiday dinner as a “good time”).
Be ignored, discounted, or criticized for their feelings and thoughts.
Have parents that are inappropriately intrusive, overly involved and protective.
Have parents that are inappropriately distant and uninvolved with their children.
Have excessive structure and demands placed on their time, choice of friends, or behavior; or conversely, receive no guidelines or structure.
Experience rejection or preferential treatment.
Be restricted from full and direct communication with other family members.
Be allowed or encouraged to use drugs or alcohol.
Be locked out of the house.
Be slapped, hit, scratched, punched, or kicked.
Resulting Problems
Abuse and neglect inhibit the development of children’s trust in the world, in others, and in themselves. Later as adults, these people may find it difficult to trust the behaviors and words of others, their own judgements and actions, or their own senses of selfworth. Not surprisingly, they may experience problems in their academic work, their relationships, and in their very identities.
In common with other people, abused and neglected family members often struggle to interpret their families as “normal.” The more they have to accommodate to make the situation seem normal (e.g., “No, I wasn’t beaten, I was just spanked. My father isn’t violent, it’s just his way”), the greater is their likelihood of misinterpreting themselves and developing negative self concepts (e.g., “I had it coming; I’m a rotten kid”).
Making Changes
Sometimes we continue in our roles because we are waiting for our parents to give us “permission”; to change. But that permission can come only from you. Like most people, parents in dysfunctional families often feel threatened by changes in their children. As a result, they may thwart your efforts to change and insist that you “change back.” That’s why it’s so important for you to trust your own perceptions and feelings. Change begins with you. Some specific things you can do include:
Identify painful or difficult experiences that happened during your childhood.
Make a list of your behaviors, beliefs, etc. that you would like to change.
Next to each item on the list, write down the behavior, belief, etc. that you would like to do/have instead.
Pick one item on your list and begin practicing the alternate behavior or belief. Choose the easiest item first.
Once you are able to do the alternate behavior more often than the original, pick another item on the list and practice changing it, too.
In addition to working on your own, you might find it helpful to work with a group of people with similar experiences and/or with a professional counselor.
Special Considerations
As you make changes, keep in mind the following:
Stop trying to be perfect. In addition, don’t try to make your family perfect.
Realize that you are not in control of other people’s lives. You do not have the power to make others change.
Don’t try to win the old struggles – you can’t win.
Set clear limits – e.g., if you do not plan on visiting your parents for a holiday, say “no,” not “be.”
Identify what you would like to have happen. Recognize that when you stop behaving the way you used to, even for a short time, there may be adverse reactions from your family or friends. Anticipate what the reactions will be (e.g., tears, yelling, other intimidating responses) and decide how you will respond.
Final Note
Don’t become discouraged if you find yourself slipping back into old patterns of behavior. Changes may be slow and gradual; however, as you continue to practice new and healthier behaviors, they will begin to become part of your day to day living.







Stress Management For Parents


Parenting can be very stressful. Whether you are a stay at home parent or a working parent, a single parent or a married parent, mother or father, parent of one child or several children; remaining cool, calm and full of energy can help get you through the day. Below are some simple stress management tips and relaxation exercises that have proven useful to adults whether or not they are a parent. By taking a moment to consider which stress management tools will work for you and then putting them into practice immediately will help to provide the stress management approach you are looking for and the stress relief you deserve.

How do we get so tense?
When we are worried, anxious, hurried or harried our body begins to feel tense. Actually, this is a natural reaction. Our body is preparing us for flight or fight. Our body has been given the signal to prepare to respond to a threat. If a real physical danger were present, we would be able to protect ourselves by attack or retreat. When the emergency was over, an “all clear signal” would be given and our body would relax and return to its normal state.
In our modern existence, our mind is often bothered by many things. We call this stress. Constant mental stress keeps our body in constant tension which itself becomes a form of stress. We can handle stress by learning to cope with thoughts and events so they no longer are stressful. We can also learn to relax. When we practice relaxation, we are giving the “all clear signal.” As we become better at giving the signal we are able to trigger the relaxation response so our body will return to its normal state.
Chronic tension affects each of us differently. Depending on the person it can cause sleep disturbance, increased or decreased appetite, headaches, stomach aches, poor concentration or irritability. Some diseases may be caused by or made worse by chronic tension. Also, our immune system can be weakened. thus, making us more susceptible to colds and other infections.
Our section titled 52 Proven Ways to Reduce Stress gives some tips on coping. This section will help you learn Three Proven Ways to Relax. The are: (1) Progressive Relaxation, (2) Deep Breathing, and (3) Pleasant Images.
Use of positive mental images can be useful. Many parents have benefited from listening to a relaxation CD or MP3 such as Being a Happy Effective Parent.
Progressive Relaxation
We will start with your feet and lower legs. Tighten those muscles just as hard as you can. Feel the tension. Then gradually release the tension. Let your feet and lower leg muscles relax just a little bit at a time. Repeat this with your upper leg and hip muscles. Again, experience first the tension and then the gradual relaxation as you slowly release all the tension.
Next, tense the muscles in your hands and lower arms. Make a fist. Tighten them as tight as you can. Then gradually let them relax. With each muscle group, the relaxation feels good. As you relax one group at a time your whole being will begin to feel relaxed, calm and peaceful. Repeat the tension and then gradual relaxation with your upper arms and shoulders. Remember to tense and hold before relaxing.
Next, tighten your stomach muscles. Hold the tension and then gradually release. Then, move to your chest muscles. Take a deep breath. Hold it while tensing your chest muscles. Gradually let out your breath while gradually letting go of the tension in your chest muscles.
As you have now progressively relaxed most of your major muscle groups, you may feel a tingly sensation. You will find that your breathing has become slower and deeper. You are now relaxed.
Try to practice on a daily basis. When you have followed the above for about 10 to 15 sessions, try it without tensing the muscles. See if you can just relax one muscle group at a time while breathing slowly and deeply.
Relaxation and Stress Management Program – Imagery Relaxation and Success Rehearsal is a CD/MP3 audio program that is great for general relaxation training.
Deep Breathing
When we are tense, our breathing is often shallow and rapid. If fact, most of us do not breathe properly, tense or not. Improper breathing robs us of oxygen which purifies our body as well as helps our body produce energy. Fortunately, learning to breathe properly is not difficult. Find a comfortable place to lie down. Place your hands on your abdomen just below your ribs. Begin breathing slowly and deeply. If you are breathing properly, you will feel the expansion in the abdominal area before your rib cage expands. Spend 5 to 10 minutes several times a day practicing your deep breathing. You will notice that as you become more proficient, your breathing will improve during your normal activities.
How to take a mental vacation.
When we think about things that are upsetting, our body tenses up. This is because the lower centers of our brain, which regulate body functions, does not distinguish between real images and those which are imagined. If you think about being in an uncomfortable situation, your body will begin to respond as if you were in that situation. Since you have probably had lots of experience thinking about things that cause tension, you actually have all the skills necessary to do just the opposite. Imagine something that makes you feel good.
To prepare for your mental vacation, relax your muscles and take a few deep breaths. Then close your eyes and imagine you are someplace you enjoy. It could be the beach or the mountains or enjoying a favorite activity. Try to fully experience this imagined event. See the sights. Hear the sounds. Feel the air. Smell the smells. Tune in to the sense of well-being. At first, you should allow 10 to 15 minutes for this exercise. As you become more adept you will find that you can feel like you have been on a long vacation or just come back from a good time in just a few moments.
Some other ways to feel relaxed
Listening to music is very relaxing. Reading can be rewarding for many. Enjoying a hobby can make life more fun. Research has shown that exercising several times a week (even just a walk) can reduce stress and tension. Research has also found that regular church attendance and daily prayer result in lower blood pressure and better coping.
Avoid too much caffeine or alcohol. Both of these are thought to be relaxing but they can actually make things worse. Avoid watching the news before going to bed. Try to take one day at a time. Look for the good things that happen each day and be thankful. Reach out and touch someone. Giving IS better than receiving. Be forgiving. Don’t hold grudges. No one is perfect. We all make mistakes. As you learn to forgive others, use a little on yourself. Tomorrow is another day.
Remember the AA serenity prayer:
Grant me the courage to change the things I can change.
The ability to accept the things I cannot change.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
52 Proven Stress Reducers
1. Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning. The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.
2. Prepare for the morning the evening before. Set the breakfast table, make lunches, put out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.
3. Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up the laundry, when library books are due, etc. (“The palest ink is better than the most retentive memory.”-Old Chinese Proverb)
4. Doing nothing which, after being done, leads you to tell a lie.
5. Make duplicates of all keys. Bury a house key in a secret spot in the garden and carry a duplicate car key in your wallet, apart from your key ring.
6. Practice preventive maintenance. your car, appliances, home and relationships will be less likely to break down/fall apart “at the worst possible moment.”
7. Be prepared to wait. A paperback can make a wait in a post office line almost pleasant.
8. Procrastination is stressful Whatever you want to do tomorrow, do today; whatever you want to do today, do it now.
9. Plan ahead. Don’t let the gas tank get below one-quarter full. Keep a well-stocked emergency shelf of home staples. Don’t wait until you’re down to your last bus token or postage stamp to buy more, etc.
10. Don’t put up with something that doesn’t work right. If your alarm clock, wallet, shoe laces, windshield wipers, whatever are a constant aggravation, get them fixed or get new ones.
11. Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. Plan to arrive at an airport one hour before domestic departures.
Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. Plan to arrive at an airport one hour before domestic departures.
12. Eliminate (or restrict) the amount of caffeine in your diet.
13. Always set up contingency plans, “just in case.” (“If for some reason either of us is delayed, here’s what we’ll do..” Or, “If we get split up in the shopping center, here’s where we’ll meet.”)
14. Relax your standards. The world will not end if the grass doesn’t get mowed this weekend.
15. Pollyanna-Power! For every one thing that goes wrong, there are probably 10 or 50 or 100 blessings. Count’em!
16. Ask questions. Taking a few moments to repeat back directions, what someone expects of you, etc., can save hours. (The old “the hurrieder I go, the behinder I get,” idea).
17. Say “No!.” Saying “no” to extra projects, social activities, and invitations you know you don’t have the time or energy for takes practice, self-respect, and a belief that everyone, everyday, needs quiet time to relax and be alone.
18. Unplug your phone. Want to take a long bath, meditate, sleep, or read without interruption? Drum up the courage to temporarily disconnect. (The possibility of there being a terrible emergency in the next hour or so is almost nil). Or use an answering machine.
19. Turn needs into preferences. Our basic physical needs translate into food, water, and keeping warm. Everything else is a preference. Don’t get attached to preferences.
20. Simplify, simplify, simplify…
21. Make friends with non-worriers. Nothing can get you into the habit or worrying faster than associating with chronic worrywarts.
22. Get up and stretch periodically if your job requires that you sit for extended periods.
23. Wear earplugs. If you need to find quiet at home, pop in some earplugs.
24. Get enough sleep. If necessary, use an alarm clock to remind you to go to bed.
25. Create order out of chaos. Organize your home and workspace so that you always know exactly where things are. Put things away where they belong and you won’t have to go through the stress of losing things.
26. When feeling stressed, most people tend to breathe in short, shallow breaths. When you breathe like this, stale air is not expelled, oxidation of the tissues is incomplete and muscle tension frequently results. Check your breathing throughout the day and before, during and after high pressure situations. If you find your stomach muscles are knotted and your breathing is shallow, relax all your muscles and take several deep, slow breaths. Note how, when you’re relaxed, both your abdomen and chest expand when you breathe.
27. Writing your thoughts and feelings down (in a journal, or a paper to be thrown away) can help you clarify things and can give you a renewed perspective.
28. Try the following yoga technique whenever you feel the need to relax. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth to the count of 15 or for as long as you can. Concentrate on the long sighing sound and feel the tension dissolve. Repeat 10 times.
29. Inoculate yourself against a feared event. For example, before speaking in public, take time to go over every part of the experience in your mind. Imagine what you’ll wear, what the audience will look like, how you will present your talk, what the questions will be and how you will answer them, etc. Visualize the experience the way you would have it be. You’ll likely find that when the time comes to make the actual presentation, it will be “old hat’ and much of your anxiety will have fled.
30. When the stress of having to get a job done gets in the way of getting the job done, diversion (a voluntary change in activity and/or environment) may be just what you need.
31. Talk it out. Discussing your problems with a trusted friend can help clear your mind of confusion so you can concentrate on problem solving.
32. One of the most obvious ways to avoid unnecessary stress is to select an environment (work, home,
leisure) which is in line with your personal needs and desires. If you hate desk jobs, don’t accept a job which requires that you sit at a desk all day. If you hate to talk politics, don’t associate with people who love to talk politics, etc.
33. Learn to live one day at a time.
34. Every day, do something you really enjoy.
35. Add an ounce of love to everything you do.
36. Take a hot bath or shower (or a cool one in the summertime) to relieve tension.
37. Do something for somebody else. Make a meal for someone who is in need.
38. Focus on understanding rather than on being understood; on loving rather than on being loved.
39. Do something that will improve your appearance. Looking better can help you feel better.
40. Schedule a realistic day. Avoid the tendency to schedule back-to-back appointments. Allow time between appointments for a breathing spell.
41. Become more flexible. Some things are worth not doing perfectly and some issues are well to compromise upon.
42. Eliminate destructive self-talk; “I’m too old to…,” “I’m too fat to…,” etc.
43. Use your weekend time for a change of pace. If your work week is slow and patterned, make sure there is action and time for spontaneity built into your weekends. If your work week is fast-paced and full of people and deadlines, seek peace and solitude during your days off. Feel as if you are not accomplishing anything at work? Tackle a job on the weekend which you can finish to your satisfaction.
44. “Worry about the pennies and the dollars will take of themselves.” That’s another way of saying: take care of the todays as best you can and the yesterdays and the tomorrows will take care of themselves.
45. Do one thing at a time. When you are with someone, be with that person and with no one or anything else. When you are busy with a project, concentrate on doing that project and forget about everything else you have to do.
46. Allow yourself time-everyday-for privacy, quiet, and introspection.
47. If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day and get it over with. Then, the rest of your day will be free of anxiety.
48. Learn to delegate responsibility to capable others.
49. Don’t forget to take a lunch break. Try to get away from your desk or work area in body and mind, even if it’s just for 15 or 20 minutes.
50. Forget about counting to 10. Count to 1,000 before doing something or saying anything that could make matters worse.
51. Have a forgiving view of events and people. Accept the fact that we live in an imperfect world.
52. Have an optimistic view of the world. Believe that most people are doing the best they can.





Little jewel in many states within the US and Internationally

When your love one has mental illness.  “A Community within the Community”  Clubhouses are located all over the United States.  They are free to persons who have been diagnosed with a mental illness.

Clubhouses – Mental Wellness



First Clubhouse
History: Fountain House (New York, New York)

Fountain House successfully addresses the devastating impact of serious mental illness. We were founded in New York City in 1948 with the belief that people living with mental illness can be active participants in their own and each other’s recovery. Each year, over 1,300 members come to Fountain House to contribute their talents, learn new skills, access opportunities and forge new friendships.
Fountain House creates a culture that transforms lives. Our members, in partnership with staff, operate employment, education, housing and wellness programs. They perform all activities, including advocacy, administrative support, building maintenance and food preparation that keep our community going. Members hold jobs, graduate from schools, develop social networks and experience fewer hospitalizations and improved overall health. Increased fulfillment, sense of purpose, and stability inevitably follow.
Fountain House has inspired the creation of hundreds of similar programs in 34 countries that serve more than 100,000 people annually. In 2014, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation recognized our global reach and the efficacy of our evidence-based model with the prestigious Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize.

Clubhouses are a powerful demonstration of the fact that people with mental illness can and do lead normal, productive lives.

Clubhouses are local community centers that provide members with opportunities to build long-term relationships that, in turn, support them in obtaining employment, education and housing, including::
a work-ordered day in which the talents and abilities of members are recognized and utilized within the Clubhouse;  participation in consensus-based decision making regarding all important matters relating to the running of the Clubhouse; opportunities to obtain paid employment in the local labor market through a Clubhouse-created Transitional Employment Program. In addition, members participate in Clubhouse-supported and independent programs;
assistance in accessing community-based educational resources;
access to crisis intervention services when needed; evening/weekend social and recreational events; and
assistance in securing and sustaining safe, decent and affordable housing.

Find out where a Clubhouse is near you:




Giving Up On Perfect


When my daughter was four months old, I began a new job. Because I’d been laid off shortly before delivering Annalyn and was scraping the bottom of the budget barrel, I was relieved and ready to start right away.
But first I had to find someone to take care of my tiny baby while I went to work.

Thankfully, we quickly found a babysitter who became an extended family member and made my transition to work seamless. But while I felt secure in my daughter’s care and was thankful to have a job, I still missed that sweet face during the day!

I know many of you feel called to be stay-at-home moms. I’ve had several friends share that when they worked, they felt guilty for spending so much time away from their family. And when you’re feeling that pull from home, but unable to leave your job – for financial reasons or otherwise – I can only imagine how frustrating it must be.

That wasn’t the case for me, though. I enjoy working and did not necessarily feel that staying home with my daughter was the right choice for our family. I’ll admit, though, that at that point it was an easy choice when faced with bills that well outweighed one salary.
Nevertheless, the tension I felt when I thought of my baby girl as I sat in my cubicle wasn’t borne of guilt or regret. It simply stemmed from missing her while we were apart.

To be honest, I’d forgotten about that time until my friend Sarah e-mailed me. She’d just returned to her job – that she loves – after her maternity leave, and she wanted to know how to deal with missing her baby. Since my days are currently filled with hour upon hour of in-my-face, on-my-lap, talking-without-ceasing quality time with my darling girl, it took me a moment to truly remember how it felt back then.

But I do remember. And even if you love your job, it’s HARD.

My way to cope was to fill my desk space with photos of Annalyn. Some framed, some taped, some on my computer screen – I surrounded myself with her little face. I also was fortunate enough to spend many lunch breaks with Annalyn and Mark, which really helped me. (And, I’ll be honest, thinking of how hard it was to listen to her cry during bouts of teething or time changes kind of took the edge off, too.)

It’s been a few months since my friend asked me about this, so she’s probably figured out her own coping mechanisms for making it through the day without baby snuggles. But I can’t imagine she’s the only person dealing with the issue of missing her kids while she’s at work.




Teaching Your Child About Peers With Special Needs
Disability awareness, compassion, and making friends in the classroom


According to her mother, 8-year-old J. is “really sweet and loves attention.” She goes to her friend’s house, does horseback riding, and likes to play board games. She also has cerebral palsy, and is non-verbal and non-ambulatory. She uses augmentative communication boards to communicate and a wheelchair for mobility. At her public school, J. has a one-on-one aide and spends time both in and out of her third grade classroom.

Disabilities cover a wide range. Some are obvious — such as a child with a physical disability who uses a wheelchair or a child with a visual impairment who uses a cane to navigate when walking. Other disabilities may be more “hidden” — for example, children who have learning disabilities or autism spectrum disorder .

Chances are that at some point your child will have a classmate with a disability. Just as you guided your very young child when he or she began to befriend others, you can encourage your child to learn about and be a friend to children who have disabilities.
Basic ideas to share with your child
No two people are the same — some differences are just more noticeable.
A disability is only one characteristic of a person. People have many facets: likes and dislikes, strengths and challenges.
Children with disabilities are like all children in that they want friends, respect and to be included.
Children can be born disabled or become disabled from an accident or illness. You can’t “catch” a disability from someone else.
Just because someone has a physical disability (when a part or parts of the body do not work well) does not mean they necessarily have a cognitive (or thinking) disability.
Children with disabilities can do many of the things your child does, but it might take them longer. They may need assistance or adaptive equipment to help them.
Try to use clear, respectful language when talking about someone with disabilities. For a younger child, keep explanations simple, such as, “She uses a wheelchair because a part of her body does not work as well as it could.”
Reinforce with your child that name calling — even if meant as a joke — is always unacceptable as it hurts people’s feelings.

Special needs at school
While each child learns differently and at his or her own pace, children with disabilities may need extra school support or accommodations. Many children with special needs attend public schools; others may go to private or other schools. If your child has a classmate with special needs, he or she may notice certain things.
Special teachers may come into the classroom to work one-on-one with the student.
Sometimes students will leave the room for a part of the day for individualized attention.
Accommodations may be present in the classroom. For example, a teacher may wear a microphone so that a student with a hearing impairment can hear better in school.
Getting to know children with disabilities
Paradoxically, when it comes to approaching someone with a disability, children may be better at it than their parents because they are less inhibited. Some adults — especially those without previous exposure to people with disabilities — may be more timid. Worried about appearing intrusive or insensitive, they may not know what to say or do.
“The other kids are great,” J.’s mom says, “They are very direct, which is good. They like her and want to interact with her.”
However, if your child (or you, for that matter) is unsure about approaching a child with a disability, here are some helpful tips:
Most parents of children with disabilities would prefer that other adults ask them about their child directly, rather than avoiding them. A smile or friendly “Hello!” is an easy icebreaker.
Even if a child doesn’t talk, there are still activities the children can do together, such as play board games or arts and crafts.
If your child wants to have a play date with a child with a disability or invite him or her to a birthday party, encourage it. Call the other parent and say simply, “How can we make this work?”
Share any concerns with the other parent. Parents of children with disabilities will often be happy to facilitate a successful play date or outing.
Extra effort goes a long way. For instance, learning simple signs so that you can better communicate with a child who is deaf (and uses sign language) will be much appreciated.
Learning more about disabilities
Reading or learning about a disability is a great way to further understand a child’s experiences. It may also help dispel any questions you or your child may have.
Your local library and librarian can be a great resource for finding age-appropriate books and materials.
Read picture books with younger children and discuss them afterward.
Chapter books with characters who have special needs are appropriate for older readers. Ask your child about the book when he or she is done — maybe you’ll be intrigued and read it yourself.
Some audio-visual materials have positive portrayals of children with disabilities. “Sesame Street,” for example, routinely includes children with disabilities in their episodes.
Websites with age-appropriate explanations and activities can be interesting and fun to explore.
Disability-awareness programs in schools
Find out if your child’s school offers any disability-awareness curriculum. These types of programs teach children about different disabilities, often through engaging activities and guest speakers. Consider volunteering if they need parent volunteers — it can be a wonderful experience for both you and the students.
Helpful Links
Kids’ Quest, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh bibliography on children’s books about disabilities





Chores and Allowance: Should Parents Pay Kids for Chores?

Should parents pay kids an allowance based on doing chores? Paying kids for chores is one of the most hotly debated parenting topics out there, especially at a time where everyone is more concerned about their finances.
The logic behind tying allowances to chores is that since grown-ups get paid to do their jobs, we should pay kids to do their jobs—in this case, everyday household chores.  If they don’t do their jobs, the children don’t get paid, therefore teaching them that a good work ethic shall be rewarded and that a bad work ethic will get you nothing.  Paying kids for doing chores around the house is preparing them for the real world and life as an adult outside the family.

But there is a hole in that argument: Unless it is their profession to do so, adults- parents- don’t get paid for doing things around the house like taking out the trash, making beds, and washing dishes.  These things are just good life skills, tasks that need to be done day to day whether you are a child or a grown up.
Teach your kids other important life skills! Take our Online Parenting Course
Why Parents Should Not Pay Kids an Allowance for Chores
Parents do need to teach their kids financial responsibility and that money is earned, not just doled out once a week.  Still, many child-development experts agree that tying a child’s allowance to chores can be a slippery slope.  Here’s why.
Keeping Up the House Is a Team Effort- for the Whole Family
Susie Walton, master instructor at Peace In Your Home who has taught the Redirecting Children’s Behavior course since 1991, advises to keep chores and allowances totally separate.
“Allowance is one thing.  When it comes to chores, life skills, responsibilities—that’s a whole different venue,” says Walton.  “Say to your kids, chores is what we do to keep the family going.  We all live in a house here.  These are things we do together.  We do it as team.”
Furthermore, what happens when those chores don’t get done?  If Billy doesn’t feel like feeding the dog one day, he may think to himself, “That’s fine; Dad will just take it out of my allowance.”  But beyond docking Bill’s pay, who is going to feed the dog?  And what message are you sending about personal responsibility?
Walton says, “When kids aren’t doing a chore, you don’t say, ‘Well, there goes your allowance’. You’re going to sit them down and ask what’s going on.  ‘We’re a team.  We’re a family.  How can we make this work for all of us, because we’re not willing to let the dog go unfed.’”
“How Much Will I Get for Doing This?”
As children get older, what they are capable of contributing around the house will increase.  For every new duty you introduce, or even for small favors, you might find your child asking, “How much will you give me?”  You shouldn’t have to negotiate “wages” for responsibilities that are shared or for things that just need to get done.
By paying children for chores with an allowance, you may be teaching your kids the value of work, but you’ll also be sending the message that work isn’t worth doing unless they’re getting paid for it.  Suppose you’re giving your son an allowance for mowing the lawn, but then your neighbor offers him slightly more for mowing his lawn. Does that mean your son should stop mowing your family’s lawn and mow the neighbor’s instead?
As your children grow and mature, they may find other avenues to earn money for themselves—babysitting, after school jobs, even birthday money.  The fact that they may have outside sources of money should not excuse them from having to do their basic household duties.  By keeping chores and allowances separate, parents can avoid this conflict altogether.
When Is It Okay for Parents Pay for Chores?
There are times when it would make sense to pay kids for chores.  Most financial and child-development experts agree across the board that it’s a fine idea to pay children money for extra jobs that are outside their normal set of chores, such as washing windows, washing the car or helping to clean out the garage — especially if the child is saving for a big item.
Says Walton, “If a kid wants to buy something that’s a bit more expensive and that might take a while for him to save up for with the allowance he’s getting, you can make a list of optional jobs he can do to earn a quick $2 here and there.  So when he wants that bigger thing of Legos that costs more than he has, you can just refer him to that list to help him along.”
Offering odd jobs that are outside the list of normal everyday must-do tasks can give opportunities for children and teens to earn a little more money aside from their regular allowance.  This may even foster an entrepreneurial spirit to think outside of the box to earn money.
Family Dollars and Sense
For parents who are concerned that their children won’t learn the value of a dollar if the allowance isn’t tied to household chores, note that there are still plenty of money management skills to be learned from a straight allowance (meaning a set amount of money given weekly or monthly, not dependent on chores). Depending on the age, kids can be made responsible for paying for their own toys, snacks, mall excursions—even cell phone/texting bills.  Some parents even require that kids set aside a percentage of their allowance toward savings.
“I really like having my own money,” says Kevin, 9.  “It’s up to me if I want to buy the cheap toy now, or save and get the better toy.” And that’s a good lesson to learn at 9 years old.
No matter which allowance route you take in parenthood,  kids will feel empowered by being able to handle their own money.
by Pamela Laney




Home Alone for the Holidays


If you find yourself facing Christmas alone, December can be the longest month of all.  If someone is missing from the celebrations this year, if a family member has been sick, or money worries are keeping you up at night it’s easy to want to echo the Grinch’s sentiment — “I must find a way to keep Christmas from coming!”

There are some years when Christmas is more than we can do.  But more often, going into hibernation for a month isn’t a realistic plan.  Christmas is coming, with or without our permission.  So how do you face the season when it doesn’t look the way it used to?

If your circumstances have changes, remember that your plans and even your traditions can change too. This can be hard to explain to other family members, but stick to your guns.  If there is an event, even a family dinner that you’re already dreading politely decline.  The best part of being an adult is being self-determinant.  There are few things that are mandatory — like paying taxes and making sure your kids eat — but there are fewer than you might think.  This is supposed to be your season too, take back some control if you need to.

Rearranging Christmas can take many forms.  Find the one that’s right for you.  It could mean having a quiet Christmas at your house this year.  It might mean buying a new set of ornaments for the tree if you’re not up to opening up the memory-packed boxes from last year.  It could mean going to a restaurant for Christmas dinner, skipping the whole thing and heading somewhere warm.  It really is up to you.

If Christmas is looking unfamiliar this year, if the house is unnaturally quiet there are things you can do to enjoy the season, even if you find yourself alone.  Try one of these ideas:

Decorate the house. Even if you’re the only one who’s going to see it, take the time to decorate your home. You don’t have to put everything up, or drag all the boxes out of the basement.  It doesn’t have to look just last like year.  Put up a Christmas tree or hang some lights.  Bring some Christmas into your line of sight, even if it’s just something small.  One of the hardest things about spending Christmas alone is the feeling that everyone else is having a great time and you’ve been excluded. Make sure you’re not excluding yourself.

Plan something special. There’s nothing worse than hearing everyone else’s excitement over the upcoming holidays and having nothing to look forward to yourself.  Plan a treat for yourself, something really special.  It doesn’t have to be Christmas-y at all, just make sure you’ve got something to look forward to.  Not only will it add to your holiday, but it’ll give you a great answer to that dreaded question “so what are you doing for Christmas?”

Be around other people. Sitting around the house by yourself on Christmas Day is incredibly hard. Find people to be with. If you have friends that are alone this Christmas, host a dinner at your house. If you’d like to help out somewhere there are always soup kitchens and charities that need people on Christmas Day. Whatever you decide to do make sure you have someone to say “Merry Christmas” to.

Give yourself some quiet time. Sometimes the reason we’re alone at Christmas is a sad one. If this is you this season, give yourself the time and the permission to feel sad. Scale back on your activities.  If there are some traditions you cannot face this year, remember that you can politely excuse yourself.  Christmas has a way of turning the world into fantasy where everyone is supposed to be happy and everything is wonderful. Resist the urge to fake a smile all through the month of December.

It can be tempting to skip the season altogether, to say “there will be no Christmas in this house this year”. I  urge you not to do that. Christmas gets all glammed up, but at the heart of it all, it celebrates a very quiet moment. You can pass up on the extras of Christmas, but don’t miss the promise of the season.

Christmas began with a little baby in a stable.  It started with two parents who were tired from a long journey and caught off guard that the baby would choose this particular moment to be born.  It wasn’t glamorous, and it wasn’t shiny but it did mark the moment that hope came to the world.  (If you’re rusty on the details, you can read the Christmas story from the book of Luke.)

Whatever your circumstances this December, remember that what we’re celebrating here is hope. If you’re not able to wrap your arms around the noise of the season, then just wrap your fingers around that simple truth.  Christmas is Christmas because Jesus came down.  He came so that whatever we’ve done and whatever has been done to us can be redeemed.  He came to pick up the pieces — or as it says in the Bible, he came “to make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).  In Psalm 34 it says that he “is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”



14 Things Your Daughter-in-Law Wants to Tell You
“Good mamas want their kids to have good marriages.”



Something happens the moment a bride says, “I do.” Not only does she get a husband, but in most cases, a mother-in-law as well.
Bonds between some daughters- and mothers-in-law are sometimes compared to the close friendship that Ruth and Naomi enjoyed (Ruth 1:16). But far too many women describe this relationship as fragile, tense, and even competitive.
Recently I asked some friends a few simple questions about in-laws. I was amazed by the number of replies I received about mothers-in-law. I also was surprised by the depth of their emotion.
One woman told me about her in-laws’ first visit, more than two decades ago. Her memories are still painful. As a new bride, she served a festive Thanksgiving meal of turkey, chestnut stuffing, canned cranberry sauce … “the whole nine yards.” When the family sat down for dinner, the new bride was quite pleased about how everything had turned out. Until … the topic turned to how many turkey dinners the in-laws had eaten in the last two months and how much better homemade cranberry sauce is than the canned version. Then the mother-in-law asked, “What are these lumpy bits in the stuffing?”

I received a three-page response from another daughter-in-law about an overnight visit from her mother- and sister-in-law. At one point, the mother-in-law was lying on the couch with a migraine as she directed her own daughter to clean the house. The young girl complained that everything was already clean. “I felt like the worst wife and housekeeper in the world,” my friend wrote.

Another woman poured her heart out to me. Although she and her husband have been married for more than three decades, she still feels that, no matter what she does, she will never measure up to the standards of her mother-in-law. “I simply wish that she would accept me for who I am.”

And then I finally read an encouraging response: “My mother-in-law is a gem! She loves Jesus with her whole heart and that is what makes her so valuable. … She is thoughtful and generous.”
From these and other stories, I realized that daughters-in-laws want to say a lot! Here’s a selection from their answers to my question,

“What do you wish you could tell your mother-in-law?”
1. Cut the apron strings to your son.
“Know that your input is no longer the primary influence in your son’s life.”
“Understand the leaving and cleaving part of Scripture (Genesis 2:24). Love unconditionally but also understand your correct place in the relationship with your child.”
“Don’t expect your son to do what you want him to do anymore. Expect and encourage him to consult with his wife.”
“Encourage your son to build, develop, and define his marriage role. Don’t fight for position by grasping and grabbing for your son’s time and emotions.  Good mamas want their kids to have good marriages.”
2. Pray for your daughter-in-law.
“Hope and pray that the marriage of your son will be successful. Don’t sit in the background and hope for your daughter-in-law to fail.”
“Rather than question or criticize your daughter-in-law, bring issues to God and pray.”
“Ask God to show you how to love your daughter-in-law as your own daughter.”
3. Talk with your daughter-in-law about hard things.
“If you are a family, act like one. Families fight, they discuss their issues and that’s how they get resolved. This can be done lovingly and constructively. It doesn’t have to be a he said/she said/you said situation. Tiptoeing around the problems and acting like they don’t exist doesn’t help anyone, it only hurts everyone in the long run.”
“Ask your daughter-in-law to let you know if/when you offend her. Remember that Satan wants to destroy your relationship.”
4. Compliment your daughter-in-law; never criticize.
“Honor your daughter-in-law in the presence of your son. Compliment your daughter-in-law; never criticize.”
“Make an effort to applaud, praise, and thank your daughter-in-law. Tell her how much you appreciate her positive influence on your son and why you think she’s a good mother.”
5. Only give advice when asked.
“Do not volunteer information unless asked.”
“Be quick to encourage; don’t question, criticize, or give unsolicited advice.”
“Be aware that sometimes a mother-in-law’s desire to be helpful can be heard by the daughter-in-law as a threat or criticism.”
6. Your daughter-in-law may be different from you. Accept her for who she is.
“Realize that your daughter-in-law wasn’t raised the same way you raised your son and maybe doesn’t have the same standards you have. … Try to understand her mindset and the way her family operated.”
“Do not try to change her into who you would like her to be.”
“A good mother-in-law doesn’t make the wife feel like she doesn’t measure up, or give the impression that she wishes her son would have made a ‘better’ choice.  A good mother-in-law encourages, accepts, and loves unconditionally.”
7. Do not put expectations on your daughter-in-law.
“Do not say things like, ‘You’ll be here for Christmas, won’t you?’ “
“Do not have expectations for visits, phone calls, etc.”
8. Remember that your son has always had faults.
“Your child was not perfect before she married him.”
“You love your son, so does your daughter-in-law. Every change that you see in your son is not her doing.”
9. Accept the goals your son and daughter-in-law have for their lives.
“Be interested in the things your daughter-in-law and her family are doing even though you don’t agree with them (i.e., homeschooling, international travel, etc.).  Show some interest in the things that are most important to them … even if you think they are making wacky decisions.”
“If we don’t do or say things the way you would, just love us anyway.”
“Allow your daughter-in-law to disagree and know that it isn’t something personal.  Don’t be offended if a daughter-in-law does not share your tastes, dreams, and values.”
10. Try to understand.
“Remember that all good relationships take work and a willingness to seek understanding.”
“Do not assume that you know why ‘she said that’ or ‘she did that.’ Particularly if your assumptions tend to assign negative or mean motivations.”
“Ask questions to understand. Don’t tell your daughter-in-law how things should be.”
11. Allow your son and daughter-in-law to make mistakes.
“Respect the decisions of your son and daughter-in-law, even if you don’t agree with them. Know that if their decision is a mistake, it will be a learning opportunity for them.”
“We all mess up sometimes, but your daughter-in-law really does want to get along with you.”
“Look for positives to applaud even though you see room for improvement.”
12. Cultivate a relationship with your daughter-in-law.
“Let her know the qualities you see in her as a person apart from being a wife and mom. … Realize that it takes time for your daughter-in-law to feel like you are a mom to her. Start out as a friend and let the mom role take place over time.”
“Tell your daughter-in-law about decisions you faced as a mother of infants, toddlers, teenagers, young adults, etc.  Talk about more than superficial things.”
“When you call your son, and your daughter-in-law answers the phone, visit with her before asking for your son.”
“Spend time alone with your daughter-in-law doing things you both enjoy. It encourages her when you ask her to go shopping and then ask her opinion about a purchase. Show your daughter-in-law that you truly appreciate her input and enjoy being with her.”
“Develop a true friendship with your daughter-in-law.”
“Get to know your daughter-in-law for the person God created her to be.  Then, come alongside her to mentor, encourage, and build a relationship so that if/when you need to give loving input or direction, it is not taken as meddling.”
13. Think the best of your daughter-in-law.
“I wish I could tell my mother-in-law that I know that I’m not perfect; I don’t expect her to be perfect; but let’s both try to assume that the other is doing the best she can.  The comment that she may hear that sounds rude to her, or the action that may come across as hurtful (like a missed birthday card) is usually the dumb stumble of an imperfect person (me).  I often feel that every action is interpreted in the worst light as a personal affront against her.”
“If your son and daughter-in-law can’t do something you want them to do, realize that it’s not because they are angry with you or don’t love you … it has nothing to do with you at all.  Do not analyze and try to figure out what you did wrong.”
“Know that your son is in good hands and that your daughter-in-law is grateful for all that you taught him in the earlier years.”
14. Take the initiative to connect with your son and daughter-in-law.
“I wish I could tell my mother-in-law to come visit us more often rather than expecting us to travel during this busy time in our lives.  She and my father-in-law are retired and have nothing else to do. As long as they are healthy and can travel, wouldn’t it make more sense for them to come to us rather than us loading up four busy people who have jobs, school, extracurricular activities, etc.? Come be a part of our lives.”
“Offer to take care of the grandkids so your daughter-in-law can have a day to herself.”
“I wish my mother-in-law would spend more time with the grandkids. I don’t want to always be the one asking. I would love it if she’d call and say, ‘Can I keep the kids on Saturday?’ … I personally want the kids to know their grandparents well.”
Okay, mothers-in-law, there’s the list. What are we going to do about it?


Just a few ideas – Unique Creative Christmas Idea

I’m always trying to find ways to decorate on a shoestring budget. Don’t throw away old Christmas items just re-invent it.  Kids are your best creative talent.  Give them a challenge.   “Here’s the items try to reinvent…this is a lot of family fun”.   Merry Christmas!



How to Survive the Holidays Without Going Broke


The holidays come at the same time every year, yet the cost of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can be overwhelming. Many families become stressed out and anxious during this time of eating, baking, and gift giving. Christmas in particular is a holiday that tends to be quite pricey. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can reduce your stress during the holiday season and, more importantly, reduce your expenses.

First off, create a reasonable budget. While you shouldn’t skimp on Christmas, you also shouldn’t go into debt. While many families choose to get holiday loans or put Christmas presents on credit cards, it’s a much better choice in the long-term to simply reduce your overall spending. When the holidays end, they should end. You shouldn’t be paying for your Christmas gifts months after you’ve given them.

Make a list of each person you need to get a gift for. Evaluate how much you have to spend and how much you can afford to get each person. The first way you can cut your gift-giving expenses is to shop the sales throughout the year. You can also use coupons as a way to reduce your expenses. If you’re crafty, consider hand making gifts, cards, and wrapping paper. The cost of knitting five sweaters, for example, is going to be about the equivalent of purchasing one at the store.

Finally, double up on gifts whenever possible. Give family gifts when you can instead of giving a gift to each individual family member. For example, instead of giving each of your nieces a personalized gift, consider getting something the entire family can enjoy.

Next, consider potlucks instead of a one person host for holiday dinners. If each person brings a side dish or a main course, the cost of the meal will be considerably lower than if one person was responsible for purchasing everything. An even less expensive alternative would be to skip Christmas dinner and have a casual afternoon family get-together instead of the traditional dinner.

Finally, shop early for decorations and don’t be afraid to scour local thrift shops. Many families get rid of their extra holiday trees, decorations, and ornaments when they move. Others simply choose to downsize their homes and give the excess items to thrift stores. This is a great way for you to get inexpensive ornaments, stockings, and even Christmas lights.

No matter what your holiday budget is this year, remember that the important thing is spending time with your family and enjoying one another’s company. While traditions and gifts can be important, it’s even more important to build special memories together that your family members will remember for years to come. This is something you can do no matter how big or small your holiday budget may be.





Teens Talk About Family




Why You Must Have Time Alone


Carving out a little solitude can make a world of difference. So go ahead—give yourself a break.
It’s that moment. I’ve finished checking homework, handing out backpacks, rummaging for baseball caps, finding car keys, bestowing kisses. The door slams shut for the last time, and I’m alone. Glad as I will be to have my family reconvene under this roof hours from now, I treasure this early-morning solitude, this small nest of time inhabited only by me. Soon I’ll be up and out the door myself, but for these next sacred minutes, I will sit on the window seat, coffee in hand, and watch the sky.

Solitude is the soul’s holiday, an opportunity to stop doing for others and to surprise and delight ourselves instead. When we are hungry, we get the signal right away, and we pay attention. Thirst is sneakier. By the time our bodies send us in search of water, we are already dehydrated. The same holds true in our thirst for solitude. By the time I begin to crave a vacation alone on a desert island, chances are my emotional well has already run dry. And so I’ve learned to create little islands of solitude in my daily life.

We need to have some downtime:

It’s a challenge to let ourselves slow down. As Thomas Moore, author of Care of the Soul, says, “We seem to have a complex about busyness in our culture. Most of us do have time in our days that we could devote to simple relaxation, but we convince ourselves that we don’t.” It seems there is always something that needs doing, always someone who needs our attention. “Unfortunately,” Moore says, “we don’t get a lot of support in this culture for doing nothing. If we aren’t accomplishing something, we feel that we’re wasting time.”

Many of us feel compelled to measure our success in terms of acquisition and accomplishment. But even women who are unwilling to buy into such a narrow definition of success may feel uncomfortable with the idea of claiming time just for themselves, with no agenda whatsoever. Often when we find ourselves with an empty hour, we spend that time doing chores or attending to our relationships.

If no one’s around, we’ll reach for the phone—or the TV remote or even the vacuum cleaner. We avoid ourselves because we’re afraid of what we might find: a forlorn, flawed someone who’s missing out on life’s party. But solitude and isolation do not go hand in hand. We can retreat from the world for a time without being renounced by it.

Watching my 3-year-old neighbor play outside her house, I marvel at her contentment and self-sufficiency. She is completely absorbed as she plants twigs in an empty flowerpot and chatters to her doll. She’s enjoying her own good company—a knack that, somewhere along the line, so many of us lose.

You get these things when alone:

If we are always focused on external stimulation, or even on our relationships, we miss opportunities for inner growth and renewal. Here’s why it’s important to insist on time alone:

We’re more creative alone. Pulitzer prize–winning writer John Updike, author of 51 books, attributes his astonishing productivity to a schedule that honors empty time. “Ideally,” he explains, “much of my day should be, in a strict sense, idle, for it is often in idle moments that real inspiration comes.”

Solitude can cure what ails you. Several years ago, my best friend became concerned when her left arm and hand went numb. Her doctor proposed a series of tests to rule out a brain tumor, among other possibilities. But first, he suggested, she should spend three days alone, meditating and reflecting on her life. Although she was skeptical, she went to an empty cabin in the woods for the weekend and simply listened to her body, attuning herself to her inner wisdom. “I had been refusing to see that my marriage was really over,” she explained afterward. “I had three children and no money, and I was terrified. But after that weekend alone, I knew the truth. And the numbness eventually went away.”

In solitude, we see more clearly. “We live in an extremely externalized culture,” Moore says. “We are constantly pulled outside ourselves—by other people, by the media, by the demands of daily life. Nothing in our culture or in our education teaches us how to go inward, how to steady the mind and calm our attention. As a consequence, we tend to devote very little time to the life of the soul, the life of the spirit.” We need to balance the pace and intensity of modern life with periods of what poet May Sarton has called “open time, with no obligations except toward the inner world and what is going on there.” Alone—in moments of prayer or meditation, or simply in stillness—we breathe more deeply, see more fully, hear more keenly. We notice more, and in the process, we return to what is sacred.
Read more:







Back to Work After Maternity Leave


Returning to your job after having a baby can be a major upheaval for you and your little one. There are new schedules to adjust to, caregivers to get to know, and complex emotions to face as you’ll suddenly be apart for lengthy stretches during the day. It’s enough to stress out any new mom.
But the way you tackle these challenges will impact how well your infant copes. “Babies are very in tune with their mother’s feelings,” says Lee Beers, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at Children’s National Medical Center, in Washington, D.C. “If your child senses that you’re calm and comfortable, he’ll likely react more positively to the changes in his routine.” Dr. Beers, a mother of two young kids, speaks from experience. She and other pediatricians share their strategies for making a seamless return to work.

Plan Ahead
During the first few weeks, you’ll be figuring out how to juggle your job and your new-mom responsibilities. Being organized is essential for keeping all those balls in the air. “If you handle the logistical issues — who’s doing what and when in the household — it helps you deal better with the emotional part,” says Dr. Beers. Make a weekly schedule of dinners, chores, and baby care (whose turn is it to soothe your crying child in the middle of the night?). Try to keep your baby on a regular routine of naps, meals, bath, and bedtime so she starts to anticipate what comes next.
Building a cushion into the morning rush is crucial. “About a week before you return, try out your new schedule,” advises Abby Geltemeyer, M.D., assistant professor of pediatrics at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston and a mother of four. “See whether you have enough time to get the diaper bag packed, the bottles ready, and your baby changed, dressed, and dropped off.” If not, this is your chance to make adjustments.

Start Pumping
If you plan to continue nursing, you should begin freezing milk several weeks before your return to build up a healthy supply for daytime feedings. You’ll also want to get your baby used to drinking from a bottle: Most experts advise introducing it when he’s 2 to 4 weeks old. Make sure you use low-flow nipples, which are designed to function much like yours, so they’ll feel more familiar to your child.

Find out ahead of time if and where you can pump on the job. It might even be worth investing in a second machine that you leave at work. “I kept one pump at home and rented a hospital-grade model for the office,” says Dr. Beers. She also invested in a special bag to steam-sterilize the attachments in the microwave at the end of the day.
Even if you choose not to pump at work, there’s no need to wean your baby. You can breastfeed in the mornings and evenings, and your milk supply will gradually adjust so that you don’t become engorged during the day.

More Transition Advice
Soften the Separation
Although a 3-month-old is too young to experience classic separation anxiety, many mothers notice that their infant tends to become fussier when her environment changes. To help your baby adjust more quickly to her new child-care arrangement, spend short periods away from her before you go back. “This helps her learn that it’s perfectly normal for other people to take care of her too,” says Dr. Beers.
Start your baby in child care (or have your mom or a sitter begin on-the-job training) several days to a week before you return. This will help your child get familiar with the routine and reduce your worries about her first day without you. Pack an item of your clothing, which carries your comforting smell. Rachel Plotnick, M.D., a pediatrician at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and a mother of two, adds that it’s often easier for new moms to restart work midweek; that way you’ll only have a few days to wait until the weekend.

Anticipate Snafus
No matter how foolproof your work and child-care arrangement may seem, there will almost certainly be times when things don’t go smoothly. Babies and sitters get sick. Day-care centers may close for a maintenance day. Your boss might need you to stay after hours to complete a project. So you’ll want to have a backup plan (or two) in place. Line up alternative caregivers — your partner? a neighbor? your MIL? — and ask about your child-care provider’s sick-kid policy. And look for emergency child-care resources in your area.
It may sound like a lot of legwork, but the rewards for thorough preparation will pay off: Your baby will be well cared for, you’ll be more content (and productive) at your job, and, best of all, you and your child can enjoy a happy reunion at the end of every day.





8 Things Babies Feel In The Womb


Pregnancy is truly a marvelous phase and it does make you experience a lot many things, which you may have never known before. It’s not just exciting for you, but for the baby as well.

Wondering, how can the baby know what’s happening in there? Well, you might have not known but there are a certain things which your baby learns in the womb only. Though he acquires most of his skills after birth, but you will be surprised to know of the things that a baby learns in womb itself.

Today, we have got for you the list of those things which your baby gets to learn in the womb. So, have a look at these and see what all your baby masters while waiting for his life to begin in the outside world.
1. Your baby can feel stress
Sounds amazing, isn’t it? Doctors and health experts have stated that babies develop the art of sensing stress while they are in the womb. If you are anxious or stressed, your baby will feel it too and respond to the same by touching its face with left hand. This is an act of protecting oneself. This shows that the baby is making an effort to hide away from stress, which clearly proves the theory that babies learn to feel stress in the womb. Now you know why you are constantly advised to keep stress at bay. You may end up transmitting the same to your baby as well. So, stay away from stress.
2. Your baby can sense taste
Yes, your baby masters this art in the womb only. The food which you eat during pregnancy appears in amniotic fluid, which surrounds your baby. The fetus can sense the different tastes and this development generally happens in the 20th week of pregnancy.  Make sure whatever you eat is healthy and tasty too.


3. Your baby can feel emotions
As your baby reaches its 36th week in the womb, it starts developing facial expressions. The baby will have a wrinkled nose, frowns and even a downturned mouth. When in happiness, the baby can even smile and show expressions reflecting relaxation.


4. Your baby can sense & respond to music
As per the studies conducted, babies understand the language of music and they often respond to it by making some movements in the womb. Whether you sing them a lullaby, a nursery rhyme or any random song; it will have an impact on baby’s mood in the womb. Music relaxes the baby and even soothes its heartbeat. Sing as much songs as you can and get to communicate with your baby using the language of music.


5. Your baby can cry
So you thought this happens only after birth? Well, it’s certainly not the case. Studies have shown that babies shed silent tears when in womb. You can hear their sobs using the ultrasound microphone in the third trimester.


6. Your baby can feel you
Yes, the baby can certainly feel you. It can sense your happiness, sudden burst of emotions and sadness too. And interestingly, the baby in the womb also reacts as per your mood. If you are happy, the baby also stays relaxed and makes happy movements. But any hint of sadness can affect your baby’s body functioning.


7. Your baby can memorize songs & rhymes
If you listen to any particular song or sing a rhyme or song very often during your third trimester, it stays in your baby’s memory.  As you know, baby’s brain starts basic functioning in the womb and it retains memories that are constant.


8. Your baby can develop hand-mouth coordination
Your baby starts sucking its fingers in the third trimester. This is a sign of hand-mouth coordination. It certainly comes as a blissful scene for parents who witness the baby sucking its thumb via ultrasound.









Family Financial Stress
Are You in Financial Stress? Here are 10 Ways to Beat Your Money Worries

Before money stress beats you, beat it with these ten simple tricks that you can do in a flash.
Do you often wake up in the middle of the night with goosebumps because of money problems? And anxiety is eating you up from the inside because you’re falling behind on your mortgage and your career is going nowhere? It’s financial stress and it’s getting the better of you. But you can fight back!
First, you need to know what is causing your financial stress. So let’s take a look at four common reasons when people think they’re helplessly mired and slowly sinking in in the money quicksand. Then we’ll tackle ten simple solutions on how to get you out of that mud and that sinking feeling of helplessness.
Causes of Financial Stress
Financial stress can go from wreaking havoc on your wallet to ruining your health if you’re not careful. WebMD even listed finances as a common stressor that can trigger long-term diseases and bust your budget even more. As with any problem, the first step is to know the enemy so you can fight it. What is causing your financial stress? The obvious answer may be money, but, surprisingly, not quite so, or at least, not in its black-and-white context.
Expenses are greater than income: You spend more than what you are earning. You’re maxing out your credit, taking payday loans for trivial things, or taking some cookies from your retirement fund. It’s a spending habit that turns into an addiction.
Living paycheck to paycheck: You count the days by 15s hoping you’ll make it to the next. Even your toilet paper is replenished every payday because you always totally wipe out your salary paying off expenses and debts.
Debt: The feeling of being indebted can be terrible. You may even feel shame or disgrace that often destroys relationships between friends and family members. Paying it up off a big chunk of your salary over a long period can make you feel like that rat in the wheel.
Lack of financial plan: You feel you’ve lost control of your finances because, to start with, you don’t have a goal or financial anchor. You sit there in your dingy that floats aimlessly in the middle of an ocean of spending.
Get Rich Schemes Won’t Solve Your Money Stress
You might think that unless you’re unemployed or in need of emergency cash, having more money solves your problem outright. But often, the more money we have the higher our financial stress. Not to say this it is always the case, but the truth is we have an insatiable thirst for more things that money can buy.
Read more:  Energy Tips for the Boomerang Household
If you think billionaires are just happily singing Kumbaya every day, you can’t be farther from the truth. Many of them are also stressed out than you’d think especially during economic downturns. The more you have the more you can lose, after all.
The real key to dealing with financial stress is to change your behaviour towards money. Spend smarter, invest more and save some.

Fight Financial Stress With These 10 Tips
We have met the enemy and he is us, so goes the popular quote from the classic comic Pogo. In many ways, you are your biggest obstacle to getting rid of financial stress. The following advice will help transform you from enemy to best buddy.
There is power in words and in the language that you use. Don’t say negative or wishy-washy things like if only you have more money or that you need to stop buying things. Put force and specifics into your thoughts. Say, “I’ll only buy things that I really need to save for my retirement;” or “I will find another income.” Indeed if you’re seriously looking for another income source, you can earn extra income while you keep your day job.
It’s amazing how simply changing your financial perspective can result in drastic improvements. For example, instead of using the formula, INCOME + LESS EXPENSES = SAVINGS; change it to INCOME + SAVINGS = EXPENSES and watch your money grow. It takes discipline to stick to the second formula, but by changing your view, you’ve made the first step.
Believe that you can solve your money problem. There are people who have been in worse financial straits than you, and they’re able to get out of their dilemma. Hopelessness is the idea of losing control over the situation; believe that you still have control over your finances and you start bringing in hope back into your home.
Think of the other great things that you have. Your health maybe. Your family. A great kid. Steady job. Great friends. Solve the things that you can today, and be at peace with those that you can’t for the meantime and life will suddenly be more bearable.
Plan for tomorrow but live in the present. Worrying too much about tomorrow is as unhealthy as living in the past. We all can plan so much to safeguard our future; beyond that, you may be shortchanging the present. Play with the kids or take an afternoon walk with your partner. Sometimes, it’s also nice to stop and smell the flowers.
Read more:  I Need a Loan ASAP – 5 Things You Need to Know
A bad credit doesn’t mean you’ve failed. It only means you’re caught unprepared. Even some of the most successful people today have, at one point in their lives, failed miserably in their credit. It is what you do after the setback that defines your success.
When you find yourself worrying about the same things every minute, it’s time to jump into that gym or yoga suit. Exercise or join a mediation class to ease out the worries. Keep your mind healthy and your body fit, in fact, even more when problems strike. You’re better armed and focused to solve problems when you are healthy.
There are financial coaches or specialists who can help people solve their money problems. You can also talk to a family member or close friend and ask for financial assistance if you believe this is to your best interest.
The ideal ratio is to limit your debt payment below 40% of your salary. Work out a plan with a financial coach or a professional friend on how to pay up your debts. Identify unnecessary expenses that you can reallocate to debt payment. The faster you can pay all your debts, the better.
Save or invest at least 10% of your income. This holds true even if you’re paying off debts. Do away with impulsive buying. Cut the credit for the meantime and put the money instead on investments. If debts give you the blues, savings and investments are your stimulants.
To beat money stress you must first identify what is causing it. Likewise, you must realize that having more money is not the real solution; rather it’s changing your perspective about money that will help you recover from financial stress. Lastly, by following our ten financial stress-busters above YOU CAN BEAT FINANCIAL STRESS!




How to stop saying Yes when you want to say No.

Source: Chantalle Blikman

“Live your life for you not for anyone else. Don’t let the fear of being judged, rejected or disliked stop you from being yourself” ~Sonya Parker
I am a sucker for saying yes.

Sometimes I even find myself thinking “no, no, no, no” and then I blurt out “yes.”
Why is it so difficult to say the word “no”? It’s just a word, right?
After feeling trapped for some time by my excessive urge to be agreeable, it got me thinking.
I asked myself why it was so important for me to please everyone, to the point that I would feel resentful and stressed because of it.
I realized I was afraid of saying no because my biggest fear is rejection. I was afraid that every time I did this, I would disappoint someone, make them angry, hurt their feelings, or appear unkind or rude.
Having people think negatively of me is the ultimate rejection. Whether they say what they think of me, out loud or not, does not matter to me. It is the thought that they look down on me.
And so I realized exactly why I found it so difficult to say no.
I realize this is not just a challenge that I face, but one that many people go through every day. It’s a heavy burden to carry because with the urge to say yes also comes a lack of self-confidence and self-value.
If, like me, you’re having trouble saying no, this may help.
Saying No Doesn’t Mean You’re a Bad Person
Saying no doesn’t mean that you are being rude, selfish, or unkind. These are all unhelpful beliefs that make it hard to say no.
Learning where these beliefs have come from is a great way to learn to let go of them.
Did you ever wonder why it was so easy to say no when you were a little kid and why it has become so difficult now? What happened?
Well, as children, we learned that saying no was impolite or inappropriate.
If you said no to your mom, dad, teacher, uncle, grandparents, and so on, you were most certainly considered to be being rude, and you would have probably been told off for it.
Saying no was off limits, and yes was the polite and likable thing to say.
Now that we are all adults, we are more mature and capable of making our own choices, as well as knowing the difference between wrong and right. Therefore, no shouldn’t be an off limits word, but rather something that we decide on ourselves, based on our own discretion.
But sadly, we hold onto our childhood beliefs and we continue to associate no with being dislikeable, bad mannered, unkind, or selfish. We worry that if we say no, we will feel humiliated, guilty, or ashamed, and will end up being alone, rejected, or abandoned.
Knowing Your Value
The second step to learning to say no is realizing that you are valuable and choosing your own opinion about yourself over others.
I have learned that if you live your life depending on other people’s approval, you will never feel free and truly happy.
If you depend on other people’s approval, what you are basically saying is “Their opinion of me is more important than my opinion about myself.”
If your opinion of yourself is actually quite low, remember that:
Your problems do not define you.
It’s okay to make mistakes—nobody is perfect, and everybody does things that they regret; this is what makes us human.
What makes a person great is not their looks or achievements, but their willingness to love others, be humble, and grow as a person.
You are unique, valuable, and important. No one else in this world can offer what you can.
Is It Really Worth It?
The third step to learning to say no is deciding if saying yes is really worth it.
After committing to something, doubt eventually sets in and you may begin to think of ways you can get out of it.
And if you don’t have any good excuses, you then have to decide if you are going to tell the truth or come up with a lie.
Think about the anguish, stress, and resentment that saying yes has caused you. Wouldn’t it be so much easier and straightforward to just say no in the first place?
I remember this one time that I said yes to something and then later felt so bad about it that I ended up lying my way out of it. I still feel bad that I lied.
My boss called me one day and was asked if I could work the following Saturday. As usual, I blurted out a polite “Yes, of course, that’s no problem at all.” I actually had plans with my boyfriend, which I was really looking forward to.
Later, I found myself feeling absolutely terrible about having said yes and I wished that I had just had the guts to say no from the beginning.
Dreading the idea of having to work that day, I called my boss back with the best excuse I could think of. I told her that I had completely forgotten that it was my dad’s birthday that Saturday and that we had a family get-together (which was certainly not the case).
Looking back, I realize that it really isn’t worth it to say yes when you don’t want to. I have a right to say no and shouldn’t be afraid of letting other people down at the cost of my own happiness.
If you have also decided that it’s worth it to you, and want to learn to say no, try these simple yet effective tips for doing so with confidence.
Helpful Tips for Saying No
Be direct, such as “no, I can’t” or “no, I don’t want to.”
Don’t apologize and give all sorts of reasons.
Don’t lie. Lying will most likely lead to guilt—and remember, this is what you are trying to avoid feeling.
Remember that it is better to say no now than be resentful later.
Be polite, such as “Thanks for asking.”
Practice saying no. Imagine a scenario and then practice saying no either by yourself or with a friend. This will get you feeling a lot more comfortable with saying no.
Don’t say “I’ll think about it” if you don’t want to do it. This will just prolong the situation and make you feel even more stressed.
Remember that your self-worth does not depend on how much you do for other people.
Learning to say no has been one of the best things I have done for myself. Not only has it challenged me to overcome my fear of rejection, it has helped me to feel in control.
I don’t feel trapped, resentful, or guilty anymore. Instead, I feel empowered and free.
If you want that same feeling of freedom and empowerment, then take control, challenge yourself, and learn to say no.
Frustrated guy image via Shutterstock

About Chantalle Blikman
Chantalle Gerber is a writer and co-founder of Want2discover. Visit her website for more great articles on self-improvement and how to live a fulfilling and happy life. Be sure to download a copy of her Free Ebook: 15 Simple Steps Towards Happiness and Success.
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What to Do When Your Child Refuses to Put On Winter Clothes


Many people—kids and adults—find putting on winter clothes to be a pain. But sensory processing issues can make it a real misery. Kids who are hypersensitive or who are tactile defensive may literally scream if they put on clothes that don’t feel right. The clothes might be too tight, too bulky, too itchy or too hot. And that can make everyday life difficult for the whole family.
Getting your child with sensory processing issues to wear winter clothes isn’t impossible. But it can take time, compromise and some creativity. The strategies you use will depend on your child’s age and his particular challenges and sensitivities. But giving him choices and some sense of control is key. Here are some tips to consider:
Buy sweaters and sweatshirts with loose collars. (If your child prefers his clothes to be close to his skin, do the opposite and get tighter-fitting items or even turtlenecks.)

Settle on hoodies instead of a coat. Hooded sweatshirts are a great compromise item because they can be layered over T-shirts and worn unzipped. If your child doesn’t mind warmth or weight, buy some extra-fleecy ones.

Remove all tags. That goes for hats, mittens, scarves, sweaters—coats, too. Even if a tag is touching a layer of clothing rather than skin, it can be annoying to some kids. Also, consider buying socks with no inner seams.

Practice wearing winter clothes. Get kids used to winter clothes by having them wear them for short periods before it gets cold.
Experiment with fabrics. Some kids might tolerate fleece, for example, where they couldn’t handle wool or down.
Stock up on soft clothes. If you find an item your child is comfortable in, buy a few in larger sizes. Hand-me downs and thrift-store clothes are good options, too.

Dress in layers. If your child prefers T-shirts or other light clothing, dress him in layers that he can peel off indoors.

Shop together. Have your grade-schooler or middle-schooler try on everything from sweaters to gloves to coats. The more say he has, the more buy-in you’re likely to get—and the fewer returns you’ll have to make.

Let your child choose. The night before, have your child pick out what he wants to wear, and lay it out for the morning. Let younger kids choose between two or three options.

Put summer clothes away. When it’s time for long pants and boots, pack up the shorts and flip-flops and put them away. “Out of sight, out of mind” may really work here.

Keep warm clothing at school. For young kids, have the teacher hold on to a sweater, sweatshirt or extra coat. Older kids can keep spares in their locker or backpack. Even if they don’t manage to dress warmly enough in the morning, they have the option to add some layers during the day or on the way home.

Leave extra time. Set your alarm for 10 minutes earlier to leave more time for getting dressed and wrangling with outerwear.
Create a to-wear list. Hang a picture chart or written list of outerwear in your child’s room or near the coat closet. This will help him keep track of what he needs to put on before leaving the house.
Negotiate with older kids. Having your child be part of the solution may be worth giving up some ground. For instance, you might give up on the scarf and mittens if he agrees to the coat and hat.
At some point, you may find that it’s not worth the tantrums, arguments or frustration to insist that your child wear proper winter clothes. So do your best to let it go.

As he gets older, you won’t be able to control what he puts on—or keeps on. The best you can do is provide options and be sensitive to his needs. And then, if it gets too cold, he may opt to wear warmer clothes on his own!





Reactive Attachment Disorder
Adopted children have often experienced a great deal of change and transition in their lives. Some may have even experienced serious hardships such as abuse or neglect. A small percentage of these kids can develop attachment disorders such as reactive attachment disorder (RAD) or disinhibited social engagement disorder (DSED). Read on to find out the signs and symptoms of these disorders and the steps to take if you suspect your adopted child suffers from one.
What are reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder?
Reactive attachment disorder and the related disinhibited social engagement disorder are rare but serious disorders that can afflict children who have failed to form normal, developmentally appropriate attachments to a caregiver. RAD causes children to become emotionally withdrawn toward adult caregivers, and children with DSED demonstrate a lack of inhibition when it comes to interacting with unfamiliar adults.
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What causes reactive attachment disorders?
Both disorders can result when a child experiences extreme trauma, neglect, or abuse and fails to form a connection to a primary caregiver. In the case of adopted children, RAD or DSED can occur in children adopted from poorly run orphanages or institutions, children raised in refugee camps, and children who have experienced neglect or abuse at the hands of their own parents or foster parents. Children who have been moved between so many different homes that they have given up trying to bond with the person caring for them can also be affected.
How common are reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder?
Both disorders are uncommon in the general population though slightly more common in high-risk populations such as adoptees from foster care, institutions, refugee camps, and those with known histories of neglect. According to the DMS-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s classification and diagnostic tool, the frequency of RAD in these high-risk populations is less than ten percent while DSED is about twenty percent.
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What are the symptoms of reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder?
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) describes children with RAD as demonstrating “a consistent pattern of inhibited, emotionally withdrawn behavior toward adult caregivers” and “a persistent social and emotional disturbance.” This manifests itself “as social withdrawal and very shallow emotional responses,” says Sean Paul, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist in Gainesville, Florida. In other words, when a RAD child is distressed, she will not seek comfort from a caregiver and may respond negatively to warmth that is given. These signs may be easier to see in an infant, says Kali Miller, Ph.D, a psychologist at Corinthia Counseling Center in Portland, Oregon. “With an infant, you will notice right away that there is a lack of reciprocity, or that when you hold the child, she is extremely rigid or limp.”
DSED is defined in the DSM as “a pattern of behavior in which a child actively approaches and interacts with unfamiliar adults in an impulsive, incautious, and overfamiliar way.” Children with DSED “approach unfamiliar adults without hesitation and may seek comfort from perfect strangers, instead of turning to their new attachment figure for comfort,” Dr. Paul says.
At what age can a child be diagnosed?
According to the DSM the symptoms must be evident before the age of 5 but after a child has a developmental age of at least 9 months. “With the older adopted children [who may have either RAD or DSED but have never been diagnosed], it can be a little trickier because they do what we call ‘honeymooning,'” Dr. Miller says. “These kids are survivors and since their first instinct is to survive, they seem to transition very smoothly often.” But, Dr. Miller says, weeks or months later, when the adopted parents attempt to increase the level of affection with the child through a hug or saying “I love you,” the child begins to withdraw and pull back. “These children have had so many broken connections so many disruptions in attachment that they just don’t want to do this again.”I’m worried that my adopted child may have a reactive attachment disorder. What should I do?
“I tell parents to trust their gut,” Dr. Miller says. “If something doesn’t seem right, then there is no harm in doing a consultation with someone who knows about attachment,” she says, ideally a psychologist or pediatrician who has experience with RAD or DSED. Experience with the disorder is key, Dr. Miller says. “Some pediatricians are fantastic about recognizing RAD and making appropriate referrals, but in my experience, many say it is just a stage or that the child is merely transitioning. They are not understanding that time is not going to heal what is going on with these kids.”


How To Calm An Over Active Toddler


Do you have an overactive toddler on your hands? If you’re woken up at 5am every morning (and not by the alarm!), see havoc caused each dinnertime or feel you’re eternally on the lookout for hazards as she races through the house at record speed, then you’ll know having an overactive toddler can be hard work.
We know children come in all shapes and sizes, personalities and energy levels, but if you feel that your child needs to slow down, were’s how, with the help of parenting expert Dr Miriam Stoppard.

Are you green with envy when your friend boasts about her toddler sleeping until 7am, while your toddler beats the sunrise with her early morning wake-up calls? Maybe shift your expectations a little, says Miriam. “The person it’s ‘early’ for is the parent – to your tot there’s nothing abnormal about it.”
However, if you do revisit what you think is too early for them to rise and still struggle with 4am starts, there’s plenty you can do to encourage her to stay in bed a little longer.

Tips to slow her down
“As soon as you think she’s ready, explain to her why you’d like her to try and stay in bed and invest in a special alarm clock that shows when it’s an acceptable time to come and see you,” advises Miriam Stoppard.

“Involving her in the timing of things brings her into the solution you’re aiming for. Let her know she can get out of bed, but needs to stay in her room until the clock changes,” says Miriam Stoppard.
Make sure she realises that if she does wake up early, she’s allowed to play with her toys and read her books. You could set up a system each morning that when the clock says she can come into your bedroom, she tells you what she’s been doing (or you ask her). Being interested will encourage her to repeat this behaviour.

What to do if your toddler’s a mid-morning terror
If other toddlers you know like to lie down for a mid-morning nap at 11am but your child is wide awake and still full of energy (with no signs of a nap anytime soon!) you’re bound to be at your wits end, but these tips can help.

Tips to slow her down
Take a look at your morning routine. If you’re expecting your toddler to go from energetic playtime indoors or in the garden, straight to quiet time, this might be why she isn’t keen. “Introduce some calm, quiet activities like story reading cuddled up on the sofa or doing a jigsaw together,” health visitor Maggie Fisher says.
“Or try ‘watching the teddy’ – lie your toddler down with her favourite soft toy on her tummy. Then ask her to breathe slowly so her tummy rises and falls, moving the toys at the same time. This deep breathing should slow her down. Play some soothing music as well,” says Maggie Fisher.

Take a look at how you’re spending time with her too, as sometimes the playtime might not be as active as it needs to be to tire her out. “Being out in the fresh air stimulates the production of melatonin, a natural sedative, and could help your toddler sleep better,” advises Maggie.

What to do if your toddler won’t settle at lunchtime
If there’s more food on the floor than in your child’s mouth and if she likes to throw it around rather than eat it, mealtimes can be stressful for parents of unsettled eaters. However, the key is to remember that the transition from morning playtime, napping and mealtime isn’t always instant – or easy – for toddlers.
“There’s no reason why we should expect a small child to observe adult mealtime etiquette. It’s a lot to ask of such a small person,” says Miriam Stoppard.
Tips to slow her down
“The best way to help your tot calm down at mealtimes is for you to eat together as a family,” says Miriam Stoppard. “If you’re at the table with your child, she won’t feel the need to misbehave to get your attention.”
“If she still doesn’t sit and eat with you, it’s time to introduce a warning system,” says Miriam. “You can tell her you’ll count to five and if she’s not sitting still then she’ll have to leave the table and go on the naughty step. Give her one more chance after the first count, but then timplement the move,” explains Miriam.
What to do if your toddler doesn’t wind down
If your toddler has been bouncing around the house all day and still won’t settle, this could means she’s heading into overtired territory. When this happens, a child’s brain is less likely to recognise when to chill out. The result? Lot’s of tears. “When a child won’t settle at the end of the day, she’s not used up enough energy during the day,” says Miriam.
Tips to slow her down
The best way to soothe her into a relaxing state of mind is a good bedtime story. “Bath, pyjamas on, a story, and then straight into bed. You can use a soft reading light or even music,” says Miriam. “But then you leave! I find calling out and clumping downstairs can help – toddlers like to hear that you’re still around while they settle.”
It can be really disturbing for a child if another parent who may have come home late from work wakes them up. Of course whoever isn’t the main carer will want to kiss them goodnight but make sure you adjust to your toddler’s schedule, not the other way round as it isn’t fair.
Is it ADHD?
If your child really won’t slow down for a second, it can feel like there’s a problem. Could it be ADHD?
“When a child’s behaviour is out of control and she doesn’t have the ability to turn-take or share, has trouble making friends, or flits from one activity to another, then we need to see if there might be a problem,” says Andrea Bilbow, chief executive of ADDISS, the National Attention Deficit Disorder Information and Support Service.

“However, ADHD is far more complex than just energetic behaviour,” explains Andrea. “It’s about poor organisational skills, poor short-term memory and an inability to regulate emotion and behaviour.”
Essentially, if a child is communicative and has the ability to concentrate, whether or not she chooses to, she’s unlikely to have ADHD.





“Within you, there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.” ~Hermann Hesse

Source:  By Angela Marchesani “5-ways-to-find-your-center-when-life-feels-overwhelming”
We’ve all had moments when life’s demands left us feeling stressed and scattered. In these moments, it’s helpful to have some simple tools to help us gain composure and come back to our center.
Let me paint a picture for you of a scene from my daily life at its most overwhelming.
On a recent Tuesday, I drafted my evening’s “to-do” list, which contained the following items: Go clothes shopping for my son, get groceries, cook up some dog food, cook dinner, give my son a bath, put laundry away, walk the dog, and prepare for a workshop that I was to present that weekend.

Like most working parents, I have to fit a lot of tasks into a brief period of time on weeknight evenings.
Clearly all of those items weren’t going to get accomplished. But I felt compelled to try.

And then, mid-afternoon, a feeling of illness began to creep over me, starting with a headache and progressing into nausea and profound fatigue. By the time I got home, I had revised my list, and whittled it down to: Bathe my son.
I felt incapable of anything else.
Still, even with a truncated list, my evening became chaotic very quickly. Our newly-acquired dog was dripping blood all over the house, including the white slipcover. She was not sick—she was in heat.

As I tried to attend to the mess, my son called to me from the kitchen. He held his cupped hand out to me, and proudly exclaimed, “I caught it so it wouldn’t fall on the kitchen floor!”
I will allow you to draw your own conclusions about what his hand held, but I’ll give you a hint: He’s potty training.

In the mean time, my head was throbbing, my stomach was retching, dishes from the previous day were piled up in the sink, laundry from the week sat haphazardly on my bedroom chair, and the workshop I was to present in four days had not been planned or prepared for. Not to mention, I had a hungry child and dog to attend to.
Sometimes, when external factors like these seem overwhelming, we feel unable to remove ourselves from the situation long enough to gain perspective and compose ourselves in order to move forward.

Very often, these external factors become internalized, and our minds start reeling. “I’ll never get it all done, my life is spiraling out of control, I can’t get myself together…” The internal loop can be loud, persistent, and ultimately paralyzing. And once it begins, it is hard to stop.

On this night, I felt so overwhelmed that I thought I would either cry or pass out. The only coping mechanism that came to mind was, “Sleep!” Given my sickness, this was probably quite appropriate. But I had things to do—real-life obligations that I could not avoid.
So what do you do in those moments when life must go on? What about the times you can’t defer your duties in favor of your bed?
I can tell you what I do.

For me, the key to feeling grounded is mind-body integration. And while a yoga class might be helpful toward this end, it’s hardly feasible in those everyday moments when life feels overwhelming.
I need simple, applicable strategies to help me feel centered.
Over years of working as a mental health professional and practicing these strategies for myself, I have found a handful of mind-body techniques that are really useful to employ when you’re having “one of those days.” Implement them during times of stress to help you find your center.

1. Three-Count Breath.
One way to help the body relax and restore its basic functioning is to steady your breath. Start in this way: Inhale for three counts. Hold for three counts. Exhale for three counts. After a few rounds of that, attempt to prolong the counts so that your breathing can slow and return to normal. This process can be helpful in less than a minute.

2. Stop Sign Visualization.
Those negative, looping thoughts that are spiraling out of control in your mind? They don’t serve you. There’s no time to listen to them, anyway: You have very important things to do!
So, to move forward without letting your thoughts drag you down, try this: For each self-defeating thought that pops up (“I’ll never get it all done!” and so on), visualize a large, red stop sign in your mind and think, “Stop.”
Try to drop the rest of the thought. This takes practice, because those thoughts have a lot of “psychic inertia” and that’s why they need a “Stop Sign.” Use it liberally.

3. Mantra/Affirmation.
Used alone or in conjunction with the Stop Sign Visualization, a simple mantra can be an effective tool.
Consider a few affirming phrases to repeat during these moments. It should be something that rings true to you and can reassure you. For example, “I can manage,” “This will pass,” “There is no emergency,” or “It will all get done.” Experiment with the right mantra for yourself, and repeat it often.

4. “5-5-5”
This technique is often recommended for people in dissociative episodes, but is useful and applicable during times of everyday stress as well. The purpose is to generate an awareness of your sensory experience so that you can feel more grounded in your body.
It’s very simple. Name the things you are experiencing for each of the senses: Identify five things you can see, five things you can feel, five things you can hear, and five things you can smell. For taste, a sip of cold water is often enough to bring awareness to the body.

5. Core Rooting.
Take a moment to stand with your feet a little wider than hip-width apart. Visualize your body as a tree, with your torso representing the trunk and your feet representing the roots. Focus your attention on your core and scan down your legs until you reach your feet.
Notice the ground beneath your feet. Feel the strength of your body. You are not “scattered” anymore; you are right here.
When you are able to center yourself in times of distress, you will find that you work more efficiently, relate to others more easily, and feel an improvement in your physical health. Each of the above techniques can be employed anywhere and any time, in just a minute or two.

Experiment with one or all and see what feels right for you.
Life can get hectic, but these simple tools can bring you back to center so that you can enjoy it.





Top 10 Health Benefits of Joining Boy/Girl Scouts


The Boys and Girls Scouts of America are highly influential organizations for the American youth, with thousands of troupes nationwide, collectively including around 5 million members, not counting all of the parents and volunteers involved in the organizations. These two national organizations pride themselves on teaching their members positive values, community involvement, and encouraging physical fitness and personal growth. Although there are countless benefits of joining Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, this is our list of the top 10 health benefits of taking part in one of these groups:

  • Independence – Away from the safety of their parents, young boys and girls will find their roles within their troupes and learn to become independent. In both programs, boys and girls are given various tasks, and through this activity they gain a sense of independence. They are responsible for their own actions and for doing their part for the troupe. Learning these skills at a young age set a strong foundation for a healthy, happy future in which these boys and girls are able to handle themselves.
  • Nature appreciation – With all of the summer camps available for Girl Scouts and all of the camping trips the Boy Scouts take, a boy or girl scout is bound to be exposed to their fair share of the natural world. Out in the mountains or down by the lake, the air is much cleaner. A 2013 study found that exposure to clean air decreases the risk of respiratory health problems. Learning an appreciation for nature through the activities the scouts partake in on camping trips make you more likely to go out into nature more often and therefore reap these respiratory health benefits.
  • Physical fitnessHiking and trekking trips that Boy and Girl Scouts perform help their members to increase their physical fitness and gain an appreciation for moving their bodies. Hiking gets you moving and gets blood pumping through your whole body. Your heart beat rises as you exert yourself, strengthening your heart and increasing blood flow to your muscles.  As you move up the mountain or across the field, your body spends the energy you have fed it in the form of calories. This helps you to maintain a healthy body weight and to become stronger and more agile.
  • Mental fitness – Through many of the activities in Boy and Girl scouts, children learn valuable problem solving skills and are able to exercise them. When selling cookies, Girl Scouts may use quick mental math to figure out how much customers owe them. When on hiking trips, Boy Scouts may be required to use nothing but a compass to get back to base camp and have to rely on memory and observational skills. These practices build your mental strength, which will benefit you in all areas of life and reduce the stress you experience in school, work, and personal issues for years to come.
  • Psychological health – Among your fellow members, faced with tasks of varying difficulties, as a scout you gain emotional stability in the form of courage, trust, empathy, and self confidence. These elements of psychological health allow you to see yourself and others in a healthy, clear way and allows for you to build fulfilling relationships.
  • Support system – Participating in numerous activities and projects with the same troop year after year creates a strong bond between the members. The friends these children make in their scouts troupes will become a lifelong support system for them. Getting to know children that come from different backgrounds or schools (those who didn’t previously know them) allows kids to take on different roles and find themselves in the most honest way possible. In the end, their fellow scouts know them better than anyone else and love them for who they truly are.
  • Sparks ambition – Incorporated into many of the activities in the scouts’ programs is a little healthy competition. The children learn their strengths and how to play upon them, and gain a sense of ambition that will help them for years to come. Without ambition, the psyche is unhealthy and individuals may sink into depression and have a decreased sense of self-worth.
  • Expands the mind – Befriending and learning about lots of different people exposes you to tons of alternative perspectives that may differ from your own. Learning to get past differences and to accept others’ opinions breaks open the walls of narrow minds and pushes people out of their comfort zones. Younger boys and girls may learn life lessons from older boys and girls that they test out in their own worlds. All of this new information helps scouts to approach the universe in a healthier, less aggressive, more accepting way.
  • Conflict resolution – In a group consisting almost entirely of peers, Boy and Girl Scouts must solve problems between one another themselves. Allowing them to grow healthy, and develop understanding  and friendships free of emotional dependency that will support their psychological health for years to come.
  • Teamwork – In large groups of boys or girls of similar age acting toward a common goal, whether it be in a sports game or in a community service project, children must learn valuable teamwork skills. Initially, these children may struggle with the release of control that comes with working in groups, but in the end will find that leaning on others can actually be ultimately beneficial. Teamwork can be rather humbling, which contributes to a healthy self image.




Teens Talk about Family


Strengthen Your Family Bond


Very Well


Written by: By Denise Witmer

Happy families have strong family bonds. As the leaders of the family unit, parents have to be responsible for strengthening and protecting these bonds. It doesn’t happen naturally in our hectic day-to-day lives.

10 Ways to Strengthen the Family Bond

You can create this firm foundation by committing to these ten essential practices that will strengthen your family’s relationships.

#1 – Schedule in family time.
When you have teens, you will need to take a look at everyone’s schedule.

Try to make a regular night, maybe once a week, when the entire family gets together for a fun activity. By keeping it on a regular schedule, everyone will know that they need to keep that night clear for family times.
If you are going to plan a day trip, try to do it at least one month in advance. Post it on the family calendar and make sure that adults and teens are aware of the plan so they don’t make other plans.

#2 – Eat meals together as much as possible.
Studies have shown that eating meals together helps reinforce communication. Choose a few nights during the week when you expect everyone to gather around the dinner table. Don’t allow phones or other electronics, either. Just eat a meal and have a conversation together.
If you unable to get together as a family for dinner because of busy schedules, try breakfast.

#3 – Do family responsibilities together.
Make cleaning your home or caring for the yard a responsibility of the whole family.
Parenting Tip of the Day
These parenting tips will make each day a little easier than the last

Create a list of chores and have everyone sign up. Set up a time when everyone can tackle their chore at the same time.
If your teens need a little more flexibility, give them a deadline to have their chore completed.

#4 – Create a family mission statement.
It may seem a little corny or too business-like, but it works.

A family mission statement can remind every family member about your core values or what you love most about each other. It is simple and fun to develop as a family (it’s a great project for family night).
Place your mission statement in a predominant place in your home. Read it and talk about it often.

#5 – Have family meetings.
Family meetings are a good time for everyone to check in with each other, air grievances or discuss future plans (like a vacation!). These can be scheduled events or you can make them impromptu and allow any member of the family to call a meeting if they feel the need.
Start each of these meetings by reading your family mission statement. If you have a large family, you might also want to begin by asking if anyone has something for the ‘agenda.’ Write down what everyone wants to talk about and go through them one-by-one.

#6 – Encourage support for each other.
Family support is important and you can build this bond that will last your kids a lifetime, even when they’re your age and after you’re gone.

Encourage everyone to learn about things that are important to everyone else and to support each other through good and bad times.
Share when something goes well at work. Ask your teen how her test went. Commiserate when your son’s team loses a game. Celebrate good grades and reward good behavior by doing something special together.

#7 – Take time out for yourself.
Parenting is a huge responsibility that you are required to fulfill every day. Even the Department of Labor requires companies to give employees two 10-minute breaks during a work day. Shouldn’t you do the same?
The reality is that you will be a better parent when you take some time just for you. Take a break and read a chapter in a book, go to the salon or play a round of golf. Do something you enjoy, even if only for a few minutes.

#8 – Volunteer together.
Giving your time to make someone else’s life better is always a powerful learning experience. Learning important life lessons together will strengthen the relationship you have with your children.
Spending a day at the local food bank or a weekend building a home for charity will be valuable experiences you can share throughout your life. Volunteering is a positive experience and it’s a good idea to demonstrate that with teens.

#9 – Become involved in your teen’s interests.
You don’t have to be the coach, but you can help out with a fundraiser or be in charge of snacks for the bus on an away game night. Ask where you can help, it will show your teen you care about what they are interested in.

#10 – Join something with other families.
Whether this is within your community or your church, being with other families will strengthen your own family bonds.






How to share marriage responsibilities


In order to be successful and stable, a couple must share an equal level of authority. Opinions and desires must be equally accounted for. Although it is not easy, I would like to discuss some ideas on how to share equal responsibility in marriage.

Oftentimes, I have been asked the following question, “Who is the boss in your home?” In my opinion, there is a simple answer: Each spouse is a boss. The bottom line is that we should ask this question, “Is the couple’s relationship based on power, authority or shared responsibility focused on providing direction to all members of the family?”

In order to be successful and stable, a couple must share an equal level of authority. Opinions and desires must be equally accounted for. Although it is not easy, I would like to discuss some ideas on how to share equal responsibility in the marriage. For example, nowadays, some couples discuss important matters in order to make serious decisions. They treat each other with respect, firmly believing that both of them have a common right to share their opinions and make decisions that affect the home.

The beauty of this is that having the same level of responsibility enables each spouse to feel valued, loved and respected. Both spouses are equally grounded, and they go hand in hand as they walk through the pathway of life. The following are some advantages of sharing the same responsibilities and authority in the home:

Both spouses can make decisions; therefore, both spouses share equal responsibility.
Both spouses feel appreciated.
Their communication is enhanced.
Love grows and deepens within the marriage as each spouse takes into consideration the opinions, desires and thoughts from each other.
Self-esteem within the couple also increases.
Both parents set a good example for their children as they share responsibilities.
Children see their parents talking instead of arguing when they need to make a decision
Parents can teach their daughters that their voice is important in a relationship.
It teaches boys to respect girls so that they can do the same in their marriage when they grow up.
If you would like to see this in your home, the following are some ideas that you could apply:

Having open and sincere conversations with each other allows a couple to communicate their opinions and thoughts.
When there seems to be a lack of understanding, it is a good idea to look for articles or books that address the topic on how to communicate your feelings.

Role-playing is a great way to practice how to put these ideas into perspective. For example, discuss whether to buy a puppy or not. Counsel together to discuss your decision and reflect on your choices.

Learning to yield is an excellent way to develop maturity as we share responsibilities. For instance, in a marriage we need to have the attitude of thinking “win-win” in order to decide what is best for the family.

Remember that when a man shares responsibilities with his wife, he is indeed demonstrating self-confidence and how much he loves his wife. Husbands and wives that do this demonstrate humility and maturity and this will strengthen their family.



Parenting Tips: Why moms need to take time for themselves


By Sarah Lindenfeld Hall
As a mom, it’s taken me a long time to realize just how important it is to take time for myself.

I’ve been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom (briefly) and, now, a part-time work-from-home mom. There’s a lot on my plate, juggling the lives and schedules of my girls, along with my own work and household responsibilities. It’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day requirements. And it’s easy to think that that solo trip to the grocery store is actually “me time,” which is about all that I made time for for a long time.

But about a year ago, I decided enough was enough. I couldn’t remember the last book I read. I hadn’t been to the doctor since my younger daughter was born. I was out of shape. It had been eight months since I even made time to get my hair cut.

Parenting Tip: Why ‘me time’ is so important for moms

So I started running with a neighborhood group. I picked up a book. I made those doctor’s appointments. I got my hair cut. In other words, I decided what I wanted to do for myself and did it. I can’t tell you how much happier I am and how much more energy I have for my family.

There have been no lazy spa days or weekends away with girlfriends. But I’ve made some incremental changes. And that, says Gabriella Johr, a mom of two in Raleigh and licensed clinical psychologist with Orenstein Solutions, is what all moms need to do.

You’re not being selfish when you take 20 minutes out of a day to read a book or make a healthy lunch for yourself instead of grabbing your kid’s leftover peanut butter and jelly sandwich and Goldfish crackers, she says.

“In order to be a good parent, you have to take care of yourself too,” Johr tells me.

Johr shares some tips to help make that “me time” actually happen in my video interview with her. Check the box above for more information from Johr. And stay tuned next Wednesday for another tip.





Kids Sleep Basics


During Daylight saving time, we spring forward and fall back an hour.

In 2016, Daylight saving time began on March 13 and ends on November 6.

Start of Daylight Saving Time
Daylight saving times begins in the Spring, when people in most parts of the United States move their clocks forward an hour, moving an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. But the United States isn’t the only country that moves their clocks.

Seventy other countries observe daylight saving, although they begin and end at different times.
Most parents welcome the start of daylight saving time so that their children can spend more time playing outside in the evening.
The main downside to this ‘spring forward’ is that it can interfere with your children’s sleep schedules. Although adults can usually quickly adapt to a new wake up and sleep time, especially if they are already a little sleep deprived, it can be more difficult for younger children.
After moving the clocks ahead an hour, children who were used to going to bed when it was dark at 7 or 8 pm, will now essentially be going to bed at 6 or 7 pm, while it may still be light outside.
End of Daylight Saving Time
Daylight saving times ends in late Fall, when people in most parts of the United States move their clocks backward an hour
The end of daylight saving time seems less useful to many people.

By moving the clocks back an hour, now all of a sudden, it is getting dark much earlier.
After moving the clocks back an hour, children who were used to going to bed when it was dark at 8 pm and waking up at 7 am, will now be wanting (or ready) to go to bed at 7 pm, and while that may be okay, they also will be ready to wake up at 6 am.

Younger children’s sleep schedules are more tied to their internal clocks and when they feel tired or are used to going to sleep, and not to what time a clock says it is.
Get Your Kids Ready for Daylight Saving Time
The usual recommendation to get ready for the start of Daylight saving time is to gradually get your child used to his new bedtime. So, even before daylight saving time begins, instead of an 8 pm bedtime, you might put your child to bed 5-15 minutes earlier every few days. This way, by the time you move your clock forward an hour, your child is already used to going to bed at the ‘earlier’ time.
It can also help to wake your child up at the same time each day. So instead of letting your child sleep in after moving the clocks forward, wake him up at the same time he usually wakes up (even if it is really an hour earlier).
Also keep nap times regular and at the same adjusted time that he usually takes them.
Many parents make the mistake of letting their children sleep in the day after daylight saving time begins.

And it is tempting to do this so your child doesn’t become sleep deprived. But then your child will likely not be able to go to bed on time the next night and it will just take longer to get back on schedule.
If you didn’t make a gradual adjustment to your child’s bedtime, you might try to wake him up an hour earlier on the day before daylight saving time begins. Then he will likely be more sleepy that night, and you can put him to sleep an hour earlier. That way he won’t actually lose an hours sleep the morning of daylight saving time as you wake him up at his usual wake up time.
For older children and adults who do end up losing sleep and feeling sleep deprived, a short nap in the early afternoon on the day after daylight saving time begins might be helpful.
If you have an infant that is an early riser, waking up at 5am despite your best intentions, a shift forward can actually be helpful.
For most other children, as they are already not getting enough sleep, making an easy adjustment through the start of daylight saving time is important.
And you can do a similar gradual adjustment at the end of Daylight saving time. Gradually get your child used to his new bedtime, so that even before Daylight saving time ends, instead of an 8pm bedtime, you might put your child to bed 5-15 minutes later every few days. This way, by the time you move your clock back an hour, your child is already used to going to bed at the ‘earlier’ time.
Also keep in mind that the start and end of daylight saving time are good chances to get caught up on safety measures around the house, such as changing the batteries in your smoke detectors and cleaning out your medicine cabinets.






Raising Kids Tip of the Day


Help your kids problem-solve when appropriate, but don’t always solve their problems for them. Some issues definitely require adult intervention, but others only require good advice. Resist the urge to hand your child a solution. Instead, ask him if he needs your help deciding what to do and then share your views.

Ask for your child’s opinion. Kids develop opinions very early; ask them what they are, ask them why, listen to their responses. It doesn’t mean you have to give in to those opinions, just that you should respect them.



Tips for Raising Responsible Teens
Raising teenagers isn’t easy, but teaching basic responsibility is key.

Part of the job as a parent of a teenager is to teach them responsibility. In addition to an ever-competitive school environment, teens today have a lot to deal with, including a wide variety of peer pressure, bullying both in person and on social media, dating violence, drugs and alcohol. So how do parents wade through it all and help their teens grow into responsible adults? Here are a few key things

Send a clear message to your teen about what it means to be responsible. Talk to him about what you consider responsible behavior. Tell them about responsibilities you have, both at home and at work, to illustrate why these things are important.
Model being a responsible adult. When you act responsibly, your teen will be watching and learning, even if you’re not entirely aware of it. The same is true if you are acting irresponsibly.
Develop reasonable expectations of your teen. For instance, just because his peers have part-time jobs, or his older siblings did at his age, doesn’t mean he’s ready for one. While everyone needs to learn from his mistakes don’t set your teen up for failure. Keep the lines of communication open about expectations.
Help your teen set goals and having him learn to work for the things he wants will make him value them even more. Whether it’s earning money to buy a car, or earning privileges like dating,  Among these lessons are how to try, how to focus, how to win, how to lose and how to be responsible for the actions they have taken to work toward the goal.
Teach your teenager essential life skills by giving them small responsibilities and building on them. Before giving your teen any responsibility, complete the chore with them the first time, then make them responsible for the task from that point forward. Even simple things like taking out the garbage or washing the car should be demonstrated the first time or two.

Show your teen that you trust in their abilities to be responsible by holding them accountable for their chores and schoolwork. Give your teen everything they need to complete their tasks, including reasonable reminders, and then expect them to do it on their own. Praise them when they complete the task and use logical consequences when they don’t.
Use fair and firm discipline. Try not to be reactive and pile on punishment, or your teen may never have the chance to make responsible decisions because they are too busy being grounded.
Allow your teen to make mistakes. When your teen has a problem that you are not directly involved in and allow them to fix it themselves. Give advice at these times, but try not to take over or give direction. If they make a mistake, pick them up and show them how to try again.
Respect their choices. As much as we wish our teens would always listen to our advice, we have to allow them to make their own choices. Responsible adults are confident in their decision-making skills partly because they have grown up in a family where there was this kind of respect.




Teens Talk About Family



Top ten tips for a happier family

1. Balancing work and home life

It’s not easy balancing your work and home life, but how you manage it can make quite a difference to your relationship with your family. Having a balance between work and home – being able to work in a way which fits around family commitments and isn’t restricted to the 9 to 5 – boosts self-esteem as you’re not always worrying about neglecting your responsibilities in any area, making you feel more in control of your life. Your family will be happier to see more of you, and you’ll have a life away from home.
2. Look after yourself

Parents often spend all their time looking after everyone else in the family and forget about themselves. If you don’t look after yourself, you can end up feeling miserable and resentful, and you won’t be able to give your children the support they need. Admit to yourself that you actually have feelings and needs of your own. It’s not selfish to treat yourself once in a while! It doesn’t have to be expensive – but putting aside some time to do just what YOU want to do, even if it’s only 10 minutes a day – is so important.

3. Discipline

Rather than thinking of discipline as a punishment, you should use it as a way of teaching your children how to meet their needs without hurting or offending anyone. While you may be angry, it can help to keep calm and teach your child how he or she could have handled the situation differently, and how he or she can go about it differently next time. This way is both more positive and more constructive.
4.Setting Boundaries
We often use boundaries to protect children from harm or danger. But it is important that you try to explain why boundaries are there, rather than issuing orders – for instance, if you pull them away from an open fire explain why. Children may be reluctant to follow instructions if parents command them. However, an explanation as to why the instructions are important will help your child understand, and therefore cooperate.
5. Communication
Communication is important – during both the good and the tough times. Children often find it hard to put their feelings into words and just knowing that their parents are listening can be enough. Talk about yourself – not just about your problems but about your daily life. If they feel included in the things you do they are more likely to see the value of including you in the things they do.
6. Quality Time
Try to organize some time together as a family a few times a week – perhaps three meals a week you could sit down to eat as a family. This will give you all a chance to connect and talk about the important issues, as well as the more fun topics. Ask your children to help you with the chores or to run errands. They may protest but they will feel included in your life rather than being an outsider.
7. Joint Decisions

With older children, it is normal for them to test the limits of boundaries to see what they can get away with. You may need to adapt boundaries as children grow into teens – it can even help to involve your child in the negotiation of new boundaries. Too many restrictions will be hard to keep on top of, so it is a good idea to work out which boundaries are really important to you, such as the ones for your children’s safety, and which boundaries are not worth fighting about. With fewer restrictions, your children will appreciate that the boundaries you do set are serious.
8. Comforting

It is important for a family to be there for each other through the hard times, as well as the good times. If there is a family tragedy, or a family member has a problem, pulling together can really help. Your children will need your help at this time, and it is important to be open and communicate with them. They will need reassurance and explanation, and will react differently depending on their ages. It can also help to talk to someone impartial.
9. Be flexible

More than anything, children just want to spend time with their parents. It can be lots of fun to make time for an impromptu game or an unscheduled trip to the park, as well as being something that you and your children will remember fondly. It’s good to have a routine, but it’s not the end of the world if it’s interrupted from time to time for spontaneous fun and games. For busy families, it can be useful to schedule in a few hours every now and then for a lazy afternoon together.
10. Spend quality time with your partner

It can be difficult to find time for you and your partner once you have children, but it is important to make time for each other. After all, children learn about relationships from their parents. Make sure you communicate with them frequently about all the day to day matters, as well as just things you enjoy talking about. Try to organize time that you can spend with each other, whether it’s going out for a meal, or just relaxing in front of the TV together.



The Effects of Academic Parental Pressure on Kids


Why Parents Pressure Kids
Parents can be well-intentioned in wanting their kids to do well in school, but they are often too heavily influenced by a culture of academic intensity, says They see the booming test prep industry and feel pressure of their own to make sure their teen achieves a high score on the SAT. At many schools, parents can track their child’s progress online and access their grades on tests, quizzes and homework assignments, creating a situation where they have so much information, they can start to obsess over every single score. Of course, there are the looming fears surrounding college admission. Parents are all too aware it’s much more difficult to get into college in today’s world. By ramping up the academic pressure, they’re hoping to spare their children the disappointment and feelings of failure that may come along with not getting admitted to college. “Rejection can be heart-breaking and devastating. Especially for high-achieving students who spent countless hours studying and preparing for assignments, exams and projects,” note experts with

Stress and Anxiety
Unfortunately, many kids collapse under too much parental pressure. Sleep deprivation, eating disorders, excessive worrying, cheating, burnout, loss of interest in hobbies or withdrawing from friends and family can all be consequences of excess pressure. Stress and anxiety can manifest physically, too. “Anxiety can present differently in children than in adults. While adults are typically able to identify and express when they feel anxious, children may just complain of physical symptoms or not say anything at all,” Jason Schiffman, M.D., resident physician at the Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at UCLA, explains. Kids feeling overwhelmed about school performance may have stomachaches, diarrhea, headaches and rashes. Younger children may experience nightmares or refuse to go to school.

Poor Self-Image
In a school culture full of standardized tests and sometimes upward of four to five hours of homework per night, it’s no wonder so many parents feel compelled to hover and monitor their children’s academic lives. The consequences of this can be profoundly negative, a study published in the Journal of Child and Family studies found. Researchers found that children of parents who put pressure on them by “over-managing” their lives at school ended up having higher levels of depression, decreased satisfaction with life and lower levels of autonomy and competence. The researchers concluded that though the parents in the study believed they were being supportive, ultimately this extremely involved parenting style undermined their children’s developing sense of self and confidence.

Reducing Pressure: What Parents Can Do
If you find you’re putting undue pressure on your kids to achieve academically, try to remember it’s your job to keep their stress levels under control. If they seem overwhelmed, don’t shy away from talking to their pediatrician or a counselor who specializes in teen or family issues. Remember to nurture your child’s strengths — so she thinks science is boring and can’t seem to earn above a B, but loves to draw. That’s okay! Try to be accepting and sign her up for an art class. Setting realistic expectations is also important. Unless your child is the rare student who truly loves every subject, it’s not reasonable — or healthy — to require As across the board. Also, give your child the chance to relax. Just like adults, kids need periods of “check-out” time in order to alleviate tension and reduce stress.








Our Journey from Subdivision to Townhouse to Log Cabin in the Woods


I always thought I’d move out of the city when  children joined my life.  I just didn’t realize what a huge difference it would make to my son – or myself.
I grew up in a rural community – in a subdivision, mind you, but in a district where only 20,000 people lived along a narrow strip of land stretching 70 miles along the rocky coast.  Bears visited our backyard regularly, and we spent our weekends in the mountains, exploring abandoned logging camps and old First Nations villages, hiking to extinct volcanic craters, and riding dirt bikes in the empty lots down the street.  We learned all the native edible and medicinal plants, the names of all the trees towering above, and which wild birds like which sorts of native berries.  We fished, rode motorbikes, and got dirty.  In other words, we spent most of our waking hours outside.

When my son was born in 2003 and we ended up in a townhouse on a busy road in the city, all those amazing childhood experiences came flooding back – and I realized, sadly, that his life was going to be very different.  His school days would be interrupted by sirens and construction projects, he’d have to sidestep doggy doo (and other nasties) every time he went for a walk in the forest, and he’d never really know the joys of silence.  For his own memories’ sake, I wanted him to know a summer day where all you can hear is crickets, the rustling of the wind in dry, tall grass, and the distant hum of a float plane buzzing to some far flung island.  The chance of experiencing any of that living in a townhouse?  Nada.

I loved so many things about our city, nestled between sea and mountain, but getting my little guy out into ‘nature’ was an more of an effort than I was able to pull off most days.  During my maternity leave, we’d hop on the bus and spend our days in the forest (with him on my back in a carrier) but once I went back to work, there just never seemed to be enough time.  Moving closer to the nature was out of the question – real estate in our part of the world is crazy at best – the average home price at the time was somewhere around $800K.  Decent townhouses closer to the forest on a quiet street?  About $600K.  So it was either noisy townhouse or the alternative – moving – and  I struggled with it every single day.
It was when he got a little older and I’d find him entranced by the comings and goings of ants and wood bugs that I decided that this child was born to be in the country.  He just oozed it.  His first word wasn’t ‘cat’ or ‘juice’, but ‘moon’.  So I started planning for a very different life… a life somewhere quieter where he could become who he was meant to be, without distraction.

Now, we could have moved anywhere, but it was important that my guy be close to his grandparents.  In other words, our choice was pretty simple – we moved back to my hometown, only a 40 minute ferry ride, but what felt like a world, away.  It was 2008, and I had no idea how I was going to make it work, but I’d been building my skill set for years and studying everything I could get my hands on that had anything to do with rural living, homesteading and the transition from city to country living.  Was I terrified?  Um… yeah.  But terror slowly turned to ‘I can do this!’, and we never looked back.
So here we are, just over 4 years later, well ensconced into a new/old life in the forest.  My son attends a Waldorf School surrounded by trees and streams, and right across a quiet country road from the beach.  He gets to see his grandparents pretty much every day – something I never experienced in my own childhood – and spends his non-school time listening to the wind in the trees, collecting and studying bugs and other critters, and communing with our flock of 20 chickens (17 hens and three roosters, to be exact).  And now that we’ve been here awhile, the benefits of the move are becoming clearer every single day.

The Benefits
First off, please know that I’m no child development expert and I can’t tell you conclusively that living in the country is any ‘better’ than living in the city, as they both clearly have their pros and cons, but there are a few things I’ve observed over the past 4 years that I think are worth noting:

Room to Run – This one goes without saying.  Children need to move and run and stretch their limbs in order for their physical and mental capacities to develop in a healthy way, and that’s pretty difficult in a 1000 square foot apartment with a tiny rooftop deck.  They don’t need a lot of space, but the simple joy of being able to move freely when the impulse strikes is a real treat to watch.  If my son wants to run across the yard on all fours, he can do that – without crashing into anything or stepping into anyone else’s space (but chicken poop, maybe).

Quiet for the Imagination – A big reason why we decided on Waldorf Education, and moved to a rural community, was this – the preservation, and development of, my child’s imagination.  Not that imagination can’t develop in the city, of course – some of our most brilliant people were raised in urban environments – but there’s something about quiet, being in nature, that just invites creative thinking and problem-solving, especially for children who are sensitive.  With the challenges we’re facing in the world, we need creative people, unencumbered by rigid or stunted thought processes and the distraction of 24/7 noise.

Exposure to the Natural World – As you know, our planet is in somewhat of a crisis on the environmental front.  Species extinctions, systemic pollution, habitat loss… our children need to be connected to the natural world now more than ever.  If they don’t feel like they’re a part of the world around them, how can we expect them to care about it?  So your child spending quiet, extended time in nature benefits us all, and will for generations.  I simply can’t see how my son would care anywhere near as much about the creatures of the world and its natural systems as he does if he didn’t get to see and feel and touch them every day.

No Billboards or In-Your-Face Marketing – This one is HUGE for me – there simply isn’t anywhere near the bombardment of visual marketing as there is in the city, where every surface is covered with images talking our children into ‘needing’ things they don’t really need at all, and doing things they really have no business doing.  Think about the effects of mainstream media and marketing on children, and then imagine what it would be like to not have that in your child’s face every day.  It’s liberating, and so much better because kids are left alone to be just that – kids.

Time to be Together – I’m blessed to work from home, and I’m incredibly busy with my business, but I’m able to spend a lot more time with my son than I did when we lived in the city and I worked in an office, mostly by nature of the fact that we aren’t spending hours in traffic every day, nor are we signed up for umpteen lessons and activities.  It’s been incredibly freeing, and rewarding, to be able to spend time with him – even when I’m working and serving clients and he’s just hanging out with the chickens or drawing pictures of trolls and eagles.  Child development expert Gordon Neufeld talks extensively about the importance of children being ‘attached’ to their caregivers and not their peers – it’s much easier to do this when you can actually spend a lot of time together.

Of course, as with anything worth exploring, there are downsides, but in our experience, the great things that have come from our move out of the city far outweigh the negatives, which are, well, pretty much non-existent.  Sure sometimes it’s a struggle to get everything done, the power goes out a lot, and we don’t have any neighbors at all, let alone with children, so spontaneous play with other kids is sort of out of the question, but even with all that, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.








What are the effects of ‘middle child syndrome’?


When you’ve got three kids in a family, as a parent you’re outnumbered and as a kid chances are you might get lost in the middle. But what does all that say about your personality? Stacy DeBroff, founder of, shares some tips on parenting three.
Sibling birth order and rivalry

We know parents have a huge impact on our personality development, but so do our brothers and sisters. Statistics show we spend 33% of our free time with our siblings, more than anyone else! Now studies show that birth order and sibling relationships contribute to personality traits, self-esteem, and even ambition.
Birth order personalities

Oldest kids tend to emerge strong confident leaders. For example, almost all of the U.S. Presidents were either the first-born child or the first-born son in their families. And, all but two of the first astronauts sent into space were first-borns. The oldest child or the firstborn is always going to be the most anticipated and exciting for the parent. Parents are nervous and making a trial run of their parenting skills. Every first is something new and exciting to celebrate. Plus, the baby gets full parental time and attention. However, as a child gets older frustrations can develop as oldest children tend to have more parental restrictions than younger siblings. Older children also may have the added responsibility of taking care of their younger brothers or sisters.

Adding second and third children greatly impacts the family structure, and a middle child is created. Yes, the “Middle Child Syndrome” is very real. Middle kids bemoan their fate as being ignored and often grow resentful of all the parental attention given to the oldest and the baby of the family, and feel short-shifted. Three kids triangulate sibling relationships, with one child at any given point feeling like the odd man out from the chumminess of the other two.
Parents tend to be much more easy-going, less anxious, and less demanding with second and third children. Thus many middle children grow up with a more relaxed attitude towards life than their older siblings; though they have to compete for family attention against the milestones set by the oldest, and growing up in their shadow. Middle children have to try a little harder to “be heard” or get noticed. The middle child usually has to fight harder for the attention of their parents and therefore crave the family spotlight. They may feel that they do not get as much praise as the older children for simple firsts like tying a shoe or riding a bike. Those things just become expected.

The baby of the family basks in the sentimentality of being the last child, and are basically spoiled rotten. The youngest children tend to be most affectionate, and more sophisticated than their peers without older siblings to show them the ropes.

Having a third child also means a changed parenting style. Here you must move from one-on-one to a zone defense. You no longer have one parent per child and everyone gets less individual time and attention. You have to double-up and the logistics get more complex.

With three kids comes three times the chaos! Older children have to become more independent, which often involves being more adventuresome and more destructive. Suddenly you are feeding the baby and have sofa divers on your hands! Older siblings grow closer and develop as collaborators and co-conspirators.

A triangulation of sibling relationships occurs with three kids, which can often mean an odd man out. As allegiances switch, give your attention to the excluded child of the moment — whisk them off for an adventure and ice cream helps!


An especially charged topic among parents is favoritism. Favoritism is a word no parent would like to use, even if in most cases it is somewhat inevitable. As a parent, you find yourself drawn to a child who is most like you — traits that you can identify with and deeply empathize with as you experience them yourself.

But, siblings are like hawks when it comes to clues of favoring, and as parents we have endless capacity to love all our children uniquely. So you need to celebrate what you love about each, and absolutely curb yourself from ever saying that one child is more loved. It often helps to remind ourselves that we have endless capacity to love our children uniquely.

Sibling rivalry

Lastly, sibling rivalry is unavoidable, especially as a family grows. Although we would all like our children to just get along, we know it is an impossibility. The key is for parents to take a neutral position in sibling feuds to avoid the constant role of referee.

Reduce sibling fighting by staying as uninvolved as possible. One more person yelling does not make the situation less stressful. Also institute a “no-fault” policy. Make it a family rule that as long as no one gets hurt, no tattling is allowed, and both kids go to their rooms no matter who started it.

Also, in order to avoid sibling wars, never compare your children. Whether your child is the first born, middle, or youngest it is important to treat their accomplishments individually. It’s natural for kids to compare themselves to their siblings and peers, and your challenge as a parent is to minimize sibling conflict, not aggravate it further. Your child will quickly pick up any comparisons you make and despair at any shortcomings of her own. As a result, she may start making judgments about herself in relation to her siblings and peers that mirror your opinions.

In order to give your children confidence in their own abilities, sign them up for different activities to give them the chance to shine individually and have the opportunity to make separate friends. Never confide in one child that she is better or more talented than her sibling. Praise your children for supporting, teaching, or cheering each other on.

My husband Ron, an only child, recently asked me when our kids Kyle and Brooks, ages 13 and 12, would stop fighting with other, and I assured him things were going well and it should be much better in a decade if all continues to go as planned!

In conclusion, having three children can affect all aspects of a family life. However, children don’t need to live out the negative stereotypes that exist about birth order and personalities. This is a classic case of forewarned is forearmed. Now that we know how much siblings impact each, parents can counter the negative effects of birth order.




Handling Kids’ Privacy: I’d Read My Child’s Diary, Would You?

I might be a hypocrite, even after being furious that my grandmother read mine, but I would still read my daughter’s diary.

I have written a diary since I was in the first grade. Although back then, it was a composition notebook decorated with Lisa Frank stickers. And my family has always known that I kept one. My brother never snooped. My parents turned a blind eye. Heck, even the dog didn’t sniff it.
But then there was my New York Italian grandmother. She lived in the apartment above our house—specifically, above my room—and being nosy came as natural to her as breathing.
When I was 19 years old, I brought my first serious boyfriend home to meet my family, and I brought my diary with me. On that night, she took it upon herself to read my journal while we were out at dinner. My college journal. So you can imagine the stories that were in that juicy little nugget.
When we arrived back home, I walked in the door to find the entire family sitting at the kitchen table with my journal propped in the middle like a bad construction paper centerpiece at Thanksgiving. It was lying next to the Entenmann’s coffee cake and pot of Earl Grey tea.
They all stared at us in the doorway until my grandmother stood up, grabbed the book and declared, “You’ve had sex. Real unmarried sex!” Her hands smacking the book against the table like a scene out of a John Grisham movie.
I was horrified, humiliated and embarrassed beyond belief. And I swore, right then and there on my parents’ linoleum floor that when I became a mother, I would never read my daughter’s journal.
But the truth is, I am a mother now to a 7-year-old daughter—and I would totally read her journal.
Of course, I want us always to have the kind of relationship we have now, one that is open and honest. But I’m also not naïve to the fact that teenage years are quite different from elementary school years. I’m not sure if I was faced with a teenager that I could resist the temptation to know what was happening beyond what she tells me. I’m not saying that I would put it in the middle of the kitchen table with my entire family sitting around it—although I do still love Entenmann’s and Earl Grey tea—but I can say that if I know it’s there on the desk or in a drawer that I would consider taking a peek.
Do I hate myself a bit for thinking I’d read her diary? Yes.
Am I hypocrite? Yes.
But it’s the truth. I wish I could say that I’ll trust my teenage daughter completely, but I know what I did at her age and that thought petrifies me.
The one good thing is there’s comfort in numbers. I’m not the only one who admits they would read their child’s diary. I posed the question on Facebook and was surprised by just how many mothers felt it was their right to read.
Tabitha, a mother of three daughters and one son, ages 7-12, from Georgia, stands by her belief: “I would read my daughter’s journal. There’s no such thing as privacy while I’m paying the bills. I will have access to phones, laptops, tablets, and journals.”
Although Tabitha felt strongly, others were open to the idea but hadn’t yet peeked. Kellie, a mother of three daughters and one son, ages 10-26, from Washington, isn’t ruling out the possibility someday: “I’m not going to say I would never read my daughter’s diary because if there’s one thing I’ve learned after raising two to adulthood and working on two more, raising kids is unpredictable and a wild ride. All I can say is, as of this month, I have not, nor do I have plans to, read my daughter’s journal.”
What was interesting to me was the large number of mothers who will monitor their children’s social media accounts but won’t read their journals. Many believed that social media is a public outlet, and therefore, open to viewing, whereas a journal is private property.
Micki, a mother of two, from Illinois, was one of those mothers until she saw her teenage daughter indulging in risky behavior and keeping actions from her. Then her daughter’s journal became a way of saving her child. “I found that she desperately needed help as she was suicidal and indulging in very risky behavior. I thought we had a great relationship, but there were things that she hid very well. Luckily, we got her into therapy and turned her life around. She’s an amazing woman, and she not only forgave me for snooping but thanked me for loving her enough to take the risk of losing her trust in order to save her from herself.”
At the end of the day, parenting is about protecting our children and being their advocate. I can’t imagine reading my daughter’s journal without a good reason, but I feel no qualms about cracking open that book if I suspect or am concerned about dangerous behavior.
Or, maybe a better plan is to talk to my daughter’s first-grade teacher and put a stop to this whole “being able to write” thing. That seems like a perfect way to avoid all this. Then we can all just sit around the kitchen table with mouths full of Entenmann’s and talk about My Little Ponies until she’s 16. Sigh, if only that were really possible.





4 Questions to Ask if Your Child is Struggling in School

Figuring out why your child is struggling in school may seem like an overwhelming task, but asking these few questions can help you get started.

As a parent, your child’s educational experience and performance are very important to you. When your student struggles in school, you may feel helpless or frustrated. No matter your kid’s age or grade level, it is important to support your child in overcoming his or her difficulties. This can seem like an overwhelming task, but by asking a few questions you can begin to understand the scope of your kiddo’s struggles in school. Here are a few questions to ask:
1. Which class or assignment is causing the most difficulty?
The first step you should take when your child is struggling academically is to determine which subject or assignment he’s struggling with. You can ask him directly, or you can ask his teachers about the patterns they have observed in your child’s performance. Oftentimes, if a student is struggling in one course, he may feel overwhelmed or discouraged, which can cause a ripple effect in his performance in other courses. By identifying the root cause and developing a course of action to address the problem, you can help your child improve other grades—and his confidence.

2. Is your child in an appropriate course level?
If your student is struggling in a course that is based on placement, such as math or English, ask her teacher about whether or not the course is an appropriate level for your child. If your student is enrolled in a course without proper placement, it’s possible that the material is either too advanced or too easy. If course material is too advanced, it may be in your child’s best interest to take a lower level or more introductory course to ease her into the material. If the course is too basic, she may not feel challenged or engaged, which can also cause her performance to suffer.

3. What are your child’s study habits?
Evaluate your student’s study habits. If you don’t regularly check on his study time, ask him directly how much time he’s committing to studying each week. Ask how he studies and in what environment. Is he using textbooks, reviewing course notes or studying with a partner? If you find that he’s not spending enough time studying or isn’t using all of the resources available, try coaching him into improving his study skills. To ensure he’ll be responsive and actually enlist your help, the conversation must come from a place of kindness and support, rather than frustration, disappointment or anger.

4. Is it possible that a disability is affecting performance?
If your student continues to struggle with performing many of the same tasks, assignments or subjects, you might want to see if her performance is being hindered by an underlying learning disability. Generally, students with a learning disability may have difficulty processing certain information; however, other types of disorders, such as ADD or ADHD, can also have negative effects on school performance. Many students with disabilities are very successful in their courses with the proper educational resources and support. However, without adequate support services, a learning disability can feel impossible for a child to overcome on her own. The first step in identifying a disability is to consult with a principal or a doctor about evaluating your child. All public schools are required to have resources to help evaluate and support students with disabilities.



Family Friendly Fun for Fall with Pumpkins


Set up starting and finish lines and have the children race to see who can get their smallish pumpkin over the finish line. Only feet can be used to push pumpkins along. There can be no kicking; if any kicking is observed, that child goes back to their starting line. This would also be a good team relay race.
Divide  children into two or more teams.
Have a start line and turnaround line, 20 ft apart.
The first child in each line rolls a pumpkin from the start line, to the turn-around line and back.
The next person does the same, etc. The first team to have everyone play wins!
PUMPKIN & BROOM RACE (Can be played in  outdoors or gym!)
This is a simple race but since pumpkins are not smooth balls and refuse to roll in straight lines, you’ll need plenty of room! You need medium pumpkins and sturdy sticks (or brooms); Use one pumpkin and stick/broom for each team.
The racers line up on the starting line with the pumpkins turned on their sides.
On the signal, the racers use the stick to roll the pumpkins to the finish line.
Younger players may want to use their hands instead of the stick.
If you want to play this as teams, make it a relay race.
When playing inside use smaller pumpkins.
Line up into 2 teams.
The first person passes the pumpkin OVER his/her head to the next person in line.
The next person passes the pumpkin UNDER his/her legs to the next person, and so on.
When you get to the end of the line the last person runs up to the front and starts it all over again.
Whoever has the first person that was in line at the beginning of the game— in the back of the line WINS.
Ten pieces of white paper
Five pieces of yellow paper
Five pieces of orange paper
A crayon
1. Draw ten white pumpkins, five yellow pumpkins, and five orange pumpkins. (Or adjust the numbers to reflect the number of your group)
2. Cut out all the pumpkins.
3. Decorate each pumpkin with a funny face.
4. Write the “number 1” on the backs of the white pumpkins.
5. Write the “number 5” on the backs of the yellow pumpkins.
6. Write the “number 10” on the backs of the orange pumpkins.
7. Hide all of the pumpkins.
8. Kids try to find as many pumpkins as they can before the leader says “Stop!”
Players  add up the numbers on their collected pumpkins. The player with the most points wins! This can also be played in teams.
Supplies: 3 small pumpkins, 30 empty 2 liter clear soda bottles (less if your group is smaller!), a bag of gravel or pebbles placed in bottom of bottles
Ask parents to save empty, clean 2 liter soda bottles for your game.
Add about a cup of sand or pebbles in each bottle so they will stand without falling over.
Divide kids into several teams of 3-8 kids each…line up and take turn at bowling!
The small pumpkins are the bowling balls. If it’s for a party- consider prizes.
The kids that get a Strike receive another turn to bowl a strike. If they  bowl another strike, they receive a prize. When using prizes BE SURE EVERYONE GETS SOMETHING for playing!
PUMPKIN HUNT – While the kids are out of the room – hide paper or small gourd pumpkins around the room. Challenge kids to find them all! When they have found all pumpkins you can serve a special snack or give each child a ‘goodie’.
PUMPKIN BOCCE BALL- Object of Game: Roll a pumpkin closest to the big pumpkin. You need a large pumpkin. Also purchase several miniature or round sugar pumpkins. To play: Place the big pumpkin several feet away. Give each player a small pumpkin. Each player rolls (No tossing or throwing) their pumpkin and tries to be the closest to the big pumpkin. The player closest wins …

Carve out a pumpkin (Do NOT make it a Jack-O-Lantern); line the inside with plastic or aluminum foil. Make the top opening large. Option is to use small plastic pumpkins which are quicker and not messy!
•To play the game—place the pumpkins a couple feet away.
Give each player about ten pennies…and try to get them in!
Each time one gets in–a point is earned… (You could also use a plastic Halloween pumpkin container)
PUMPKIN RACE (Like the above Pumpkin Race– but using sticks instead of brooms)
Can be played in a yard, garage or even inside using small pumpkins!
This is a simple race but since pumpkins are not  smooth balls and refuse to roll in nice straight lines, you will need plenty of room!
You need two large pumpkins and two sturdy sticks.
The racers, line up on the starting line with the pumpkins turned on their sides.
On the signal, the racers use the stick to roll the pumpkins to the finish line.
Younger players may want to use their hands instead of the stick.
If you want to play this as teams, make it a relay race.
CHALLENGE THE KIDS with how many words they can come up with letters in the word ‘PUMPKIN’ ? This can be an individual challenge, or two or three kids teamed together.
(Nip, pup, ink, pink, mink, in, pin, kin, pun, nun, pump, up, nip, )
Place children in a circle.
Start some music and pass a mini pumpkin from one person to another.
When the music stops-the person holding the pumpkin is out.
The last one left keeps the pumpkin!
Line up three large pumpkins with stems, to form a ring toss.
Use embroidery hoops or make hoops with rope and duct tape.
Mark a throwing line on the floor and take turns trying to ring a pumpkin stem.
Variation: Try to ring an entire large pumpkin with a hula hoop!
Do you have Mr. Potato Head game pieces???! The kids can have some Fall fun using them with small pumpkins!
Using a smallish to medium sized pumpkin, poke some holes where the eyes, nose and mouth would be (include hat and ears). Have the children decorate “Mr. Pumpkin Head” using Mr. Potato Head pieces.


Pumpkin seeds, small paper bag and small pumpkins
Show the children a small bag of pumpkin seeds and explain that you believe these are magic pumpkin seeds.
Take the children outside to the playground (or your yard) where they toss the seeds onto the ground. Have them make up a few magic words, if they want.
The next day, before children go outside–gather the seeds and put small pumpkins in their place.
Take the children outside and delight them with the ‘magical’ pumpkins that have grown.
If you have enough pumpkins, the children can take the pumpkins home and/or first decorate and paint them to add to theme of your space.
Idea adapted from
1. Instead of Simon Says, play ‘THE PUMPKIN SAYS…’
2. Instead of Duck-Duck-Goose—‘Play APPLE-APPLE-PUMPKIN’
3. Play ‘PASS THE PUMPKIN’  like Hot Potato. Use a tiny pumpkin…
4. Instead of playing Pin the tail on the Donkey—PLAY ‘PUT THE STEM ON THE PUMPKIN’
Number the bottom of the small gourds that look like miniature pumpkins and float them in water for the children to choose one for small prizes.
Number and line up 5 small baskets or containers; have children stand 3 feet (or farther depending on ages) in front of the first container and toss seeds into them in sequence. Small prizes can be given for each container seeds get in.
This is like a regular cake walk except instead of numbers, place pictures of several fall items on the floor for the children to walk; call out the names of the items instead of numbers. Award the child that lands on the picture of a pumpkin—a small/miniature pumpkin! Use fall themed music such as “Turkey In The Straw” or “Jimmy Cracked Corn”.
Idea***Have a PUMPKIN SEED SPITTING CONTEST OUTSIDE! Clean seeds, dry, save and then play…

Large pumpkin
Bathroom or science class scale
Slips of paper
Have children write their estimates of the pumpkin’s weight on a slip of paper. Kids write their names on the paper, fold them, and place in a box. At the end of the time-frame, weigh the pumpkin and award a prize or the pumpkin to the child with the closest guess.
Start this about two weeks before Halloween
1 small pumpkin for each child or experiment
Cotton Batting
Mustard, Watercress or birdseed
Cut the top off the pumpkin and and clean out the seeds.
Paint a face on the pumpkin. (If it is Halloween project–if it is for Fall/Autumn, leave natural)
Fill the pumpkin with cotton and spray with water.
Sprinkle the seeds on the batting.
Keep the batting moist, and seeds will sprout in about 2 weeks or sooner….just in time for Halloween!
You can quickly make pumpkin seeds in your microwave. The shells are edible — and a good source of fiber. You can also use this method with other seeds such as acorn squash and butternut squash.
1 cup pumpkin seeds, 1 Tbsp. Olive oil or butter, Salt, seasoned salt, garlic /onion powder or other seasonings to your choice.
Rinse pumpkin seeds. Remove all the pulp. Drain the seeds and discard the pulp. Spread out on paper towel on a cookie sheet and dry them over-night. Place butter or Olive Oil l in a microwave-safe, baking dish.
Microwave on high about 7 to 8 minutes or until seeds are toasted a light golden color. Be sure to stir every 2 minutes as they are cooking. When done, sprinkle with your choice of seasonings. Coat evenly. Cool them before eating or storing. They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 months or refrigerate up to 1 year.
If you like your toasted pumpkin seeds extra-salty, soak them overnight in a solution of 1/4 cup salt to 2 cups of water. Dry an additional day, and follow the above directions.

Fill a large clear storage container or aquarium with water. (If the weather is warm, you can do it outside). Have children make predictions of what will happen and graph the predictions. Do the experiments to determine if they were right or not.
Make it interesting and get a few pumpkin sizes.
You may hear predictions that the smaller pumpkins will float and the large will sink. (Pumpkins float)
Talk about why they float… If older kids know the answers… have them run the activity. The pumpkin (and watermelon) will float because its mass is less than the mass of water it displaces. This is due primarily because the inside of the pumpkin and melon are hollow. It is mostly air, which has a much lower mass than water.
Prepare the experiment by cutting two pie pumpkins in half. (This will give you four halves.)
Place each pumpkin half in a plastic bag that is mostly closed (the environment needs to be moist, yet allow some fresh air to enter).

Set one bag in a sunny spot, one in a shady spot, one in the refrigerator, and one in a location of the students’ choosing.
Ask kids to predict which pumpkin will grow the most mold over the course of the experiment.
Set aside time each day for students to examine the pumpkin halves and record their observations.
Then ask students: Where is the best place to keep a jack-o-lantern in order to keep it from spoiling?
Some say that coating the inside of the emptied/carved pumpkin with petroleum jelly (Vaseline) should help preserve and keep the pumpkin from shriveling/getting moldy.
Trying various methods myself–the pumpkins that stayed freshest the longest were those sprayed with “Clorox Cleanup” (or a mixture of bleach and water).

Spray the bleach and water inside of the pumpkin daily. Killing off mold spores with a bleach solution helps preserve the pumpkin. If your pumpkin starts to look as if it needs rehydration– (wilting or caving in)– fill a large container with cold water and 2 or 3 tablespoons of bleach. Good results should be achieved when soaked overnight.
Pumpkins kept outdoors in very cool weather should last a week without any treatment…
Cooking and making playdough is also science. Liquid that turn to a solid is science. See the Pumpkin Play Dough recipes in the below ‘Arts and Crafts’ section of this page.
From Our Little Nature Nest comes this wonderful pumpkin seed mosaic art! Jenn from the site explains it best! She says…”You can use any large seeds like those from a pie pumpkin, or hard squash that you may have from cooking this fall.

Dying them is simple. All you need is dried pumpkin seeds, food coloring, and vinegar. Place 1/4 to 1/2 cup water in small cups. Add a TBS of vinegar, and several drops of food coloring to the cups. Allow the dried seeds to soak in the colored water for 2 to 4 hours, then remove them from the water & allow them to dry over night. You then have a colorful, natural, free, craft item. You can make mosaics or necklaces with them. Some will dye a solid color & others will be speckled. Use a nice heavy paper like poster board or card stock to glue the mosaics to.”


5 1/2 cups flour
2 cups salt
8 teaspoons cream of tartar
3/4 cup oil
1 (1 1/12 ounces) container pumpkin pie spice
Orange food coloring (2 parts yellow, 1 part red)
4 cups water
Combine dry ingredients in a non-stick pan.
Add oil, water, food coloring and stir until smooth.
Cook and stir over medium heat until all lumps disappear.
Knead the dough on a floured surface until it’s smooth.
Store in an airtight container.
Dough will keep in a plastic bag for about a week…and it smells wonderful!
Image source: Pepper paints
2 cups flour
1 cup salt
2 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup water
Mix together and knead until smooth.
Of course you can purchase the spice–but you can also make your own!
4 tablespoons ground cinnamon and 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
4 teaspoons ground ginger
3 teaspoons ground allspice
In a small bowl, combine all ingredients and mix well. Store in air tight container.
Cut the top off of a small pumpkin.
Clean and carve the pumpkin.
Sprinkle pumpkin pie spice on the inside of the lid and cut a small hole in the top to make a chimney.
Light a votive candle and set inside. Replace the lid.
Results are a pumpkin pie scented votive!
Directions most often seen…
1. Starting with a lunch size paper bag– crumble-up some paper and stuff the lunch bag.
2. Tie the top with string leaving about 2 inches of space at top.
3. Paint the bottom portion with orange tempera paint and the top brown (for the stem).
Copy a leaf pattern on green paper, felt or foam — cut it out–glue or staple it to base of stem.

Optional but nice: Wrap green or brown pipe cleaners around the pumpkin stem for vines. (Give the pipe cleaner vine a curly look by spiraling it around a pencil and then twisting it onto the stem. You can make a jack-o-lantern by painting or drawing a face on your orange paper bag.
I prefer to make these by first painting the paper bag orange. Have the kids open the bag  and place it on their hand (like a puppet) They will be able to then paint all sides.
Leave the top 1- to 2-inches of the bag brown.
While you are waiting for the paint to dry, cut a couple of leaf shapes out of green felt, craft foam, or construction paper…and proceed from there. (Barb)
Images: Thanks to  (image with pipe cleaner vines) and Kaboose
Buy several small, real pumpkins.
Cut them in half.
Have children dip the pumpkin halves into paint to make prints.
Peel the paper wrapping off an orange Crayon.
Place a textured item such as plastic bubble wrap or a dish mat UNDER a large piece of white construction paper.
Rub with the side of the crayon over the entire paper to create a pumpkin’s bumpy surface. Continue with your project.

6″ Styrofoam Ball
18″ Square of Fall Fabric
2 Green Pipe Cleaners
2′ Raffia
Rubber Band
Use a serrated knife to slice the end off a Styrofoam ball so it will stand flat without rolling.
Wrap the ball with fabric, gathering the ends at the top of the ball. Secure fabric with a rubber  band.
Twist two pipe cleaners together. Wrap it around the rubber banded fabric and twist to keep in place.
Twirl ends around a pencil. Finish off the pumpkin with a raffia bow.
Would be cute grouped together in a bowl on a tray…and…each one only takes about 10 minutes to make! Source: Cindy of Pittsburg PA.
Take a strip of orange construction paper about 3 inches wide
fold into an accordion about 3 inches square.
When all folded– cut the shape of a pumpkin leaving the side with the fold NOT cut.
When you open you will have a chain of pumpkins.



Keeping Your Child Busy During Fall Break


  1.  Arts and Crafts. After the dull and boring color of winter, spring is all about colors and new life as we see the flowers blooming again. This can inspire and bring out the creative side of a person and so this is a good opportunity to do some craft works with your kids. There are a lot of Spring Craft ideas that you can check online for inspiration. You can decorate an Easter egg with your kids, make paper flowers, learn paper folding, basic drawing skills, and many more. Designate a wall for your kids art work. This will inspire them to create more masterpieces. Remember to rotate often as a reward for their work.
  2. Go out on a Picnic. Families just stayed indoors most of the time during the winter season to keep them warm and so people are eager to go out and enjoy the sun when Spring arrives. Take this time with your kids to go to a nearby park for a picnic. Pack some healthy foods, blanket, and toys and enjoy a day at the park, under the sun with your kids. Kids can freely run around and do activities like kite flying, digging in the sand area, and exercise on the play equipment. It might be a good idea to invite a friend for each child in case your kids tend to bicker like ours.
  3.  Check out activities in Community Centers. Your nearby community center may be offering different classes that your kids can try while on vacation. Check out the activities lined up for the month like concerts, shows and the like that you and your kids can attend. Most families never know about the free shows and festivals that happen around their town. It’s amazing what you can find with a little research.
  4. Indoor Fun. If you are looking for a fun and education way to spend time with your kids on Spring Break, take them to museums, the planetarium and even the local library. There are a lot of good museums that are free or low cost. Kids really don’t get a chance to see dino bones, giant art work or great pieces of sculpture in person. These types of trips may just inspire your child to learn more about what they’ve seen.
  5. Organize a Party. Invite your kids’ friends over for a small party. Some great party ideas include:
    • Spa Party –Buy supplies from a local store and invite the moms too so they can give their child the pampering that they deserve after working hard in school.
    • Pajama or Sleepover Party –Kids love to spend the night with their friends because this is something that they don’t normally do on ordinary days. Prepare popcorn, DVD of their favorite movies for one exciting night that the kids will surely enjoy.
    • Gaming Party – Bring out those video consoles and invite friends over for a video game contest. Keep them off the couch with dancing or sports games.
    •   Pool Party – Barbecue, inflatable, water toys and more. I am sure the kids missed dipping in the pool during the cold winter months so they will really fell excited over a pool party.

With a little creativity and research, who says you need to go out of town to get all these fun? These are just a few ideas that parents can do with their kids to make their vacation exciting, productive and memorable too.



The Overbooked Child
Are we pushing our kids too hard? More and more children, like adults, are involved in far too many activities.


The perfect picture of a balanced childhood, one in which our kids go to school, do a little homework and play fort, is a myth for many youngsters. More and more children, like adults, are involved in far too many activities.
Nine-year-old Kevin* was anxious, having trouble sleeping and complaining that he was tired all the time. A medical exam revealed no physical problems, so the pediatrician suggested his mother talk to a psychologist. When we met, I asked about Kevin’s schedule. His mother told me that, in addition to school, he was involved in three team sports, church activities, scouts and had piano lessons twice a week. Finding nothing else to explain the child’s symptoms, I suggested his stressful schedule might be the cause.
His mother looked at me as though I were crazy. “Give me a break,” she said. “Kevin doesn’t have any stress. He loves everything he’s doing.” She, too, was under pressure. She worked full-time, and because her husband’s job required him to travel, she was responsible for most of the household chores and child care. Yet despite her own grueling schedule, she had enrolled Kevin in a dizzying number of extracurricular activities. “My parents never did anything with me,” she explained. “So I want Kevin to know I’m there for him. No matter what it takes, he’s going to have a good childhood.”
But Kevin wasn’t having a good childhood. He was overscheduled and on the brink of clinical depression. When I talked to him on his own, he confided that he missed playing with his friends in the neighborhood. They used to ride bikes, have water-balloon fights and build forts out of cardboard boxes. Now there wasn’t time for those activities. “I really like being in sports and everything,” he said. “But not all that much.”

Kevin is not unusual. Millions of children across America feel overwhelmed and pressured. Alvin Rosenfeld, M.D., a child psychiatrist and author of The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap, believes that enrolling children in too many activities is a nationwide problem. “Overscheduling our children is not only a widespread phenomenon, it’s how we parent today,” he says. “Parents feel remiss that they’re not being good parents if their kids aren’t in all kinds of activities. Children are under pressure to achieve, to be competitive. I know sixth-graders who are already working on their resume’s so they’ll have an edge when they apply for college.”

Other child experts echo Rosenfeld’s concerns. Andre Aelion Brooks, author and former New York Times journalist, was one of the first to call attention to the overscheduled child. For her book Children of Fast-Track Parents she interviewed 80 mental health professionals and educators, in addition to 60 parents and some 100 children. Brooks concluded that exposing children to extracurricular activities too early is not necessarily a good idea. Some children are not able to function well with so many responsibilities and can develop stress disorders.

“Middle-class children in America are so overscheduled that they have almost no ‘nothing time.’ They have no time to call on their own resources and be creative. Creativity is making something out of nothing, and it takes time for that to happen,” says Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D., a developmental and clinical psychologist and professor at The Wright Institute in Berkeley, California. “In our efforts to produce Renaissance children who are competitive in all areas, we squelch creativity.”

Early-childhood-education specialist Peggy Patten, M.A., agrees and notes that children today have many wonderful opportunities, but they need time to explore things in depth. When they are involved in too many different things, they sacrifice breadth for depth.
“Many children today don’t have time to breathe. Parents think their kids will grow up and remember all the wonderful activities they were involved in,” adds Melanie Coughlin, M.A., a licensed marriage and family therapist and adjunct professor at California’s Pepperdine University. Coughlin, who counsels parents and children in private practice, thinks children “will remember how exhausted they were and how their parents were constantly yelling at them to hurry up and get ready for the next activity.”
Stress: Is It Always a Bad Thing?

Stress is a natural response that occurs when we are threatened or overwhelmed. Imagine you are on safari and an elephant charges you at full speed. Your body would react with what has been called the “fight-flight” response. Your heart rate shoots up, adrenaline floods your bloodstream, your muscles tense and you learn that you can run a lot faster than you thought. Such an experience would be intensely stressful, but your body’s response would be normal and might even save your life.




Work-life balance: Tips to reclaim control


When your work life and personal life are out of balance, your stress level is likely to soar. Use these practical strategies to restore harmony.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
There was a time when the boundaries between work and home were fairly clear. Today, however, work is likely to invade your personal life — and maintaining work-life balance is no simple task.
This might be especially true if you’re concerned about losing your job due to restructuring, layoffs or other factors. Technology that enables constant connection to work can eat into time at home. Work-life balance can be especially difficult for parents of young children; almost 60 percent of employed first-time mothers in the United States return to work within 12 weeks after childbirth.
Still, work-life balance isn’t out of reach. Start by evaluating your relationship to work. Then apply specific strategies to help you strike a healthier balance.
Married to your work? Consider the cost
It can be tempting to rack up hours at work, especially if you’re trying to earn a promotion or manage an ever-increasing workload — or simply keeping your head above water. If you’re spending most of your time working, though, your home life will take a hit.
Consider the consequences of poor work-life balance:
• Fatigue. When you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly might suffer — which could take a toll on your professional reputation or lead to dangerous or costly mistakes.
• Poor health. Stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can worsen the symptoms you experience from any medical condition. Stress also puts you at risk of substance abuse.
• Lost time with friends and loved ones. If you’re working too much, you might miss important family events or milestones. This can leave you feeling left out and might harm relationships with your loved ones. It’s also difficult to nurture friendships if you’re always working.
• Increased expectations. If you regularly work extra hours, you might be given more responsibility — which could lead to additional concerns and challenges.
Strike a better work-life balance
As long as you’re working, juggling the demands of career and personal life will probably be an ongoing challenge. But if you can learn both to set limits and look after yourself, you can achieve the work-life balance that’s best for you:
Setting limits
You can’t manufacture time. If you don’t set limits, then work or other obligations can leave you with no time for the activities and relationships you enjoy. Consider these ideas:
• Track your time. Pay attention to your daily tasks, including work-related and personal activities. Decide what’s necessary and what satisfies you the most.
• Manage your time. Cut or delegate activities you don’t enjoy or can’t handle — or share your concerns and possible solutions with your employer or others. Organize household tasks efficiently, such as running errands in batches or doing a load of laundry every day; don’t save all the laundry for your day off. Do what needs to be done and let the rest go.
• Make a list. Put family events on a weekly calendar, and keep a daily to-do list at home and at work. Having a plan helps you maintain focus. When you don’t have a plan, it’s easy to be sucked into the plans and priorities of others.
• Learn to say no. Whether it’s a co-worker asking you to spearhead an extra project or your child’s teacher asking you to organize a class party, remember that it’s OK to respectfully say no. When you quit accepting tasks out of guilt or a false sense of obligation, you’ll have more time for activities that are meaningful to you.
• Leave work at work. With the technology to connect to anyone at any time from virtually anywhere, there might be no boundary between work and home — unless you create it. Make a conscious decision to separate work time from personal time.
• Reduce email access. Check emails no more than three times a day — late morning, early afternoon and late in the day. If you access email first thing in the morning, you tend to focus on and respond to other people’s issues rather than being proactive about your own needs.
• Take advantage of your options. Ask your employer about flex hours, a compressed workweek, job sharing, telecommuting or other scheduling flexibility. The more control you have over your hours, the less stressed you’re likely to be.
• Try to shorten commitments and minimize interruptions. Most people can sustain a maximum level of concentration for no more than 90 minutes. After that, the ability to retain information decreases dramatically. When interrupted during a task, you need double or triple the time of the interruption to regain full concentration on your task.
Caring for yourself
A healthy lifestyle is essential to coping with stress and to achieving work-life balance. Try to:
• Eat a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet — which emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables and lean protein — enhances the ability to retain knowledge as well as stamina and well-being.
• Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep increases stress. It’s also important to avoid using personal electronic devices, such as tablets, just before bedtime. The blue light emitted by these devices decreases your level of melatonin, the hormone associated with sleep.
• Make time for fun and relaxation. Set aside time each day for an activity that you enjoy, such as practicing yoga or reading. Better yet, discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.
• Volunteer. It’s important not to over-schedule yourself. But research indicates that volunteering can contribute to a greater sense of work-life balance. Selective volunteering might lower your levels of burnout and stress and boost your emotional and social well-being.
• Bolster your support system. At work, join forces with co-workers who can cover for you — and vice versa — when family conflicts arise. At home, enlist trusted friends and loved ones to pitch in with child care or household responsibilities when you need to work overtime or travel.
Know when to seek professional help
Everyone needs help from time to time. If your life feels too chaotic to manage and you’re spinning your wheels worrying about it, talk with a professional — such as a counselor or other mental health provider. If your employer offers an employee assistance program, take advantage of available services.
Remember, striking a healthy work-life balance isn’t a one-shot deal. Creating work-life balance is a continuous process as your family, interests and work life change. Periodically examine your priorities — and make changes, if necessary — to make sure you’re keeping on track.



7 Helpful Tips For Dealing With Moody Children


1. Nurture Your Child:

How you bring up your child makes a lot of difference.

No matter how busy you are, it is important to spend quality time with your child.

Children feel secured with parental attention. Ideally, both the parents should spend quality time with him.

2. Allow Him To Express Himself:

Your home should be the place where your child can express himself without any fear. Sometimes children get moody, as they do not know what to do. Children adopt a passive behavior to showcase their displeasure.

3. Encourage Positive Behavior:

It is important that both of you, mother and father, sit together to come up with methods of expression for your child. You can bring to his attention that instead of sulking, he can communicate the problem with his parents.

Let him know clearly that you or your partner will not respond to his negative behavior.

4. Stay Calm:

Make sure you do not overreact when your child is being moody. This will only give him more power to show bad behavior.

The best thing you can do is ignore him. If you stop acknowledging  behavior, he will stop acting that way.

5. Keep Stress Level Low At Home:

As a parent, you should keep stress at minimum at home. Children get affected the most in stressful situations. When they are affected due to a stressful time at home, children become moody and anxious.

Anger stresses out children very easily. Make sure you avoid anger even when you dealing with your moody child.

6. Ensure Proper Nutrition:

You need to ensure your child is in proper health. He must get all the essential nutrients. Multi vitamin supplements ensure he gets everything his body needs. B vitamins are known particularly to uplift moods. Essential fatty acids available from fish oil can also be effective in this case.

7. Schedule Time To Complain:

Allot a special time just for complaining. Tell your young one that during this time, he can talk about things that bother him. If the time is over, ask him to continue with his complaint list the next day. When there is a complaining slot, your son will have to think of the things he wants to complain about. The method, eventually, will reduce his habit of complaining and whining.

A moody child can be difficult to manage, but you can always devise good strategies to handle his temper tantrums. We hope the strategies discussed above help you deal with moody children better. Do let us know in the comment box below if you have better ideas to handle children mood swings.





Making Friends: What to Do When Your Child Can’t


With songs, sitcoms, dramas, and movies galore celebrating friendship, it’s clear society places a high premium on friends. As a result, parents often grow concerned when their child just doesn’t seem to fit in — or worse — fits in with the wrong crowd.

But parents shouldn’t fret just because their child is not the most popular kid in the class or the life of the party, experts say.

“My rule of thumb when working with kids is that I don’t get too concerned about kids who have a friend or a couple of friends, but there are some kids who, for whatever reason, have no friends, and that can be problematic,” explains Jonathan Poghyly, PhD, a child psychologist at Children’s Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. “If a child has at least one friend, there is a frame of reference and a forum in which to practice friendship.”

Parents may start to notice that their child is starting to develop a pattern in regard to friends and friendship starting at the age of 3 or 4, says Charles Sophy, a Beverly Hills, Calif.-based psychiatrist. “If you are hearing from teachers, caregivers, or coaches that your child is a loner on the playground, doesn’t share well, gets rejected when he or she tries to join a group and/or is aggressive, it may be something to look into,” he says.

According to Sophy, the first step is to look at your child’s situation from several angles. “Is he sleeping? Is he eating well enough? Is he getting his work done at school? Is he being stimulated in an age-appropriate manner? Does he exercise and get out socially?”

The answers to these questions can be telling and may help point parents in the right direction, he explains. For example, lack of sleep may result in irritability and lack of energy for socialization.

“You also have to look at yourself as a parent,” he says. “Do you model good behavior? Do you have friends? Do you enjoy friends and go out? Do you have group play dates where moms and dads hang out while the kids play?” These types of behavior will encourage and motivate your children to value friends and friendships.

Is Anxiety to Blame?

Another possible reason that your child has difficulty forming friendships may be anxiety, Sophy suggests.

“If the child has anxiety, you can work around it and they can do better,” he says. For example, arrive early at birthday parties, since anxious kids often do better when they get there first as opposed to having to work themselves into a group, he says.

Parents should not be too pushy with their children regarding friends, Poghyly says. “It’s a bone of contention between parents and kids when parents say ‘why don’t you try to make new friends’ and the kid may have a pull-back response,” he says. Instead, try to support your child in pursuing sports or other activities and clubs where he or she can meet people and make friends, he advises.

In addition, “if parents observe the way their children interact with peers, they can provide feedback in a supportive way,” Poghyly says. For example, you might say “it looks like so-and-so was angry when she left. What happened? Is there another way you could have handled that situation?'”

Sometimes the Wrong Crowd Is Worse Than No Crowd at All

Oftentimes parents grow concerned when their children fall into the wrong crowd or begin spending time with a child they just don’t approve of.

But “the more you verbalize or show that you don’t like their friends, the more they will like them,” Sophy warns. “Parents really need to ask themselves what it is that they don’t like about a particular friend or group of friends,” he says.

“You don’t want to become too confrontational so the child becomes defensive about friendships and choices,” Poghyly agrees. But “if there is already a precedent where the parents are comfortable telling kids what values are accepted, then this is a smooth process as kids have pretty much adopted their parents’ value system,” he says.

You can also limit the number of outings you allow your child to participate in that involve kids you don’t approve of, he says, and invite them over to your house instead. This way, “parents can open up a dialogue about what they were observing such as, ‘Did you notice how much he was bragging?,’ and use actual observation and examples to open up a dialogue about why they don’t like this friend or group of friends.”



How to Know When to Give Your Child Space


For the first year of your child’s life, he or she is with you constantly, being carried, fed, rocked, cradled, changed and soothed by you. So it can feel a little unsettling when, a year or two later, you have to start allowing your child a bit of freedom and independence. Ultimately, relinquishing some control is beneficial to your child’s development. To understand when it’s best to give your little one space, keep the following ideas in mind:

1. Allow your child time to deal with emotions before asking him or her to discuss them. Whenever you sense something is wrong with your child, you probably want to talk about it. But just because you’re ready for some dialogue, that doesn’t mean your kid is. If something’s amiss, give your child a little bit of time to process his or her emotions before you swoop in with conversation. Kids often need to work things out in their own minds — whether thinking it through or writing about it in a journal — before going to a parent or other adult for help.

2. Provide space for your child to develop decision-making skills and resourcefulness. Let your child know you respect his or her choices by giving him or her autonomy to make smaller, less consequential decisions. For instance, allow your youngster to choose his or her own outfit for the day — without intervening [source: Thompson]. You can guide your child to smart choices, but don’t make every single decision for him or her.

3. Don’t give your child carte blanche. While you don’t want to micromanage your little one, you also don’t want to allow him or her to engage in activities that are physically or emotionally harmful. Remember that you’re still the parent, and the basic rules you’ve set for your child are always in place.

4. How you give your child space now can affect how he or she will deal with stress down the road. An adult who goes for a run when angry or takes a hot bath when upset is probably a person whose parents taught him or her how to deal with negative emotions in a positive, appropriate way [source: Kurcinka]. To pass this skill on to your child, focus on showing him or her how to remain calm during a stressful situation. This method tends to encourage more effective coping skills than forced timeouts.

As your child grows older, he or she will need additional space. Keep reading to find out more.

Tween Space

Forget the post-college years as a time when people seek to find themselves. Tweenhood, when a child is between the ages of 8 and 12, is when real self-discovery begins. Tweens are set on exploring who they are and who they’ll grow up to be. And as youngsters seek greater independence, they naturally desire to spend more time away from mom and dad. Here’s where it can get a little scary: Space no longer just implies alone time for your child in his or her room; it may mean letting him or her do things outside your supervision.

Here are some pointers parents can use in learning to balance freedom and boundaries for tweens:

1. Understand that it’s natural for your child to want to start differentiating him or herself from you. This may mean your tween finds you embarrassing to be around in public. It may feel hurtful, but it’s completely normal.

2. Find casual ways to communicate with your tween. You may find that your child isn’t as eager to have conversations with you as he or she once was. However, you don’t want to give your kid so much space that you’re no longer in the loop. To keep communications open, try not to make talking a big deal. Bring discussion topics up casually while shopping or playing video games with your child.

3. Put your child through test runs. Before you start letting your tween out of the house with his or her friends, start testing whether he or she is ready to be out in the world without you. One way to do this is to wait in the parking lot while your child is allowed to go purchase some items at the grocery store [source: Estes].

4. Put safety first. Just because your tween is ready to burst into the world headfirst doesn’t mean he or she is an adult. Tweens are still children, and they’re still at risk out in the world. Make sure you always know where your child is and who he or she is with. Also be certain your tween is aware of basic safety rules, like not talking to strangers and knowing who to contact for help during an emergency.

When Tweens Shouldn’t Be on Their Own

Even if your child is on the verge of becoming a teenager, he or she shouldn’t always be given the space to go out alone with friends [source: Estes]. Keep the reins tight if he or she:

  • Does not follow safety rules
  • Is susceptible to negative peer pressure
  • Has not been successful at completing test runs alone

To read more go to link above.












When can I start to exercise after giving birth?


It depends on how fit you were when you had your baby, and how straightforward your labour was.

If you did regular exercise up until the end of your pregnancy, and your baby’s birth went smoothly, you can do some light exercise and stretching soon after the birth .

You should take up exercise more gradually if you:

  • didn’t exercise regularly before or during pregnancy
  • had an assisted birth
  • experienced complications in labour
  • had a caesarean
  • are having problems with leaking wee

However, you can begin exercising pelvic floor and lower tummy muscles as soon as you feel ready. Pelvic floor exercises are essential to protect against leaking wee (stress incontinence) after birth . It is important to strengthen these before you begin to do lots of tummy muscle work or sit-ups, or you may find that you begin to leak during exercise.

When you feel up to it, you can take your baby out for walks in the pushchair. Getting out and about will help to lift your mood and exercise your body gently-

As your strength returns, you can expand your walking routine by speeding up and taking longer walks. If you feel tired, don’t overdo things. Pace yourself and rest when you need to (ACPWH 2010).

Why should I wait to exercise after the birth?

If you had back pain or pelvic pain when you were pregnant, talk to your GP or a physiotherapist before you exercise.

If you had a caesarean, it will take a while to recover from your baby’s birth. Think of the first six weeks or so as the healing phase. You may be feeling very tired, so don’t do too much, too soon. Try to wait until after your postnatal check, at between six weeks and eight weeks after the birth, before taking up exercise other than walking.

Leaking a little wee when you cough, sneeze or laugh is common after having a baby. It can be hard not to leak when you’re doing exercise, too. That’s why you should start strengthening your pelvic floor before returning to exercise (Dumoulin and Hay-Smith 2010).

You should avoid swimming until you have had your postnatal check and have had seven days without any postnatal bleeding or discharge (lochia). This is to prevent infection . You may need to wait longer if you had a caesarean or stitches. Your health visitor will be able to tell you when it is safe for you to start swimming.

It’s best not to do sit-ups and aerobic exercise, such as running, aerobics or tennis, until your pelvic floor has recovered. Vigorous exercise can put a big strain on your pelvic floor muscles and may cause you to leak wee.

Pregnancy hormones can also affect your joints for up to six months after childbirth. So be careful not to do too much high-impact activity too soon, if you are not used to this type of exercise.

How can I lose weight after having a baby?

Eating a healthy, balanced diet, and taking regular exercise, will give you the best chance of returning to a healthy weight after having a baby. This approach will help your baby weight to fall off gradually and safely, and will increase the chance of the weight staying off. The important thing is to develop good habits that you can keep up.

Breastfeeding your baby may help you to lose weight, if you also eat healthily and exercise. Breastfeeding burns up to 330 calories a day .

Remember that your body needs time to recover from labour and birth. Give yourself plenty of time to get back in shape, and don’t despair if the weight doesn’t fall off immediately.

When you are ready to exercise again, check out our postnatal exercise videos for new mums.




Children’s Allowances: How Much Is Enough?


Six out of 10 parents give their children an allowance. If you choose to do the same, the next question is, how much? The answer will depend in large part on your child’s age, ability to handle money, and your financial situation. Here are four ways you can figure it out.

1. Set Allowance by Formula

Some people suggest giving a child 50 cents for each year of age. By this method, a 7-year-old would get $3.50 per week. Others suggest a dollar per year, in which case a 7-year-old would receive $7.

2. Set Allowance by Budget

You might consider how much you spend on your child to determine the amount of the allowance. “Look at the space of a week and how much you spend on miscellaneous things your child wants or needs,” suggests James Sears, MD, a pediatrician in Southern California. This method takes into account your child’s needs as well as what you can afford, as long as you are currently spending within your budget.

This approach gives you a ready response when your child asks for a toy or piece of candy. “If they don’t have any money, if it’s already spent, they know they can’t get what they want,” says Sears. It might take a few excursions for the message to get through, however, so be sure to stick with the plan.

3. Let Your Child Suggest the Allowance

You could start by asking your child what amount works for her. “Let your kids make a proposal about what they want to spend money on and submit it to you,” suggests parenting expert Jim Fay, author of Millionaire Babies or Bankrupt Brats: Love and Logic Solutions to Teaching Kids About Money. Use your child’s proposal to determine what purchases match your values and what amount fits your budget.

“The key is, there should never be enough allowance for children to have everything they want,” says Fay. “That prepares them for the real world of adults.”

About one-third of parents exchange allowance for household chores, though many experts recommend keeping the two separate. “Kids have chores to do because they’re part of the family,” says Sears. If chores are tied to an allowance, your child could expect to get paid any time he takes out the trash or carries a dish to the sink.

What Allowance Should Cover

In general, school-aged children are too young to manage a budget for clothes or other essentials. However, choosing when to buy candy or games is good training for young kids. They may be unhappy but they won’t be harmed when they run out of funds for these purchases.

As your child gets older, you can increase the amount of allowance to cover more things, like movie tickets. By the tween years, your child may be ready to manage a clothing budget.

Teach Children to Save

Commercials and pop-up ads can fill your child’s head with ways to spend money. It’s up to you to teach her how to save. Fay suggests that 10% of a child’s allowance go into savings. At first, you can encourage your child to save up for small ticket items, like a $3 pack of cards. As your child gets older, he can set his sights on things that take longer to save for.

Kristin Johnson and her husband instituted a “Spend, Share, Save” policy for their sons’ money. One third of any money her kids receive is theirs to spend, one third goes to the charity of their choice, and one third goes into savings. “We have no input on the spend choices, guide/encourage the share choices, and have full veto on the save choices,” says Johnson.

If Your Child Wants More Money

What if you are giving your child an allowance that meets your budget and beliefs but your child wants more? This is a good time to talk to your child about earning additional money. Fay suggests keeping a list of ‘parents’ chores’ on the refrigerator. “You don’t get paid for chores, but if you want to do your parents’ chores, you can bid on it.”

The Johnsons encouraged their children to earn money outside of the home, starting with lemonade stands when they were young. Now that they’re bigger, the kids are walking the neighbors’ dogs, mowing lawns, and shoveling driveways. “It’s worked out really well,” says Johnson.

Be Clear and Consistent

Make sure your child understands what his or her allowance covers. Be sure to hand it out on the same day every week. If your child runs out of money mid-week and wants a toy or piece of candy, tell her she can buy it when she gets her next allowance. “The most important thing is, when it’s gone, it’s gone,” says Fay.





Five Anxiety-Lowering Strategies for Children


The worst part of anxiety is having anxiety about the anxiety, itself. The metaphor of a snowball being rolled down a hill of is one I use to illustrate how unchecked anxiety rapidly grows. Children can learn to cope with anxiety by learning two crucial skills: Calming Down and Solving Problems. As I wrote in my book, 10 Days to a Less Defiant Child (link is external), escalating anxiety in children can be espressed as defiant behavior. Knowing how to help your child manage his or her anxiety can go a long way in helping them behave better. As a follow up to one of my recent blogs, below are five more of the techniques that I use in my practice with children and their parents to help children manage anxiety:

  • Breathing with them. One way to help your child control anxiety is to encourage slow, deep breathing. You can help your child practice this by getting her to imagine the air going in through her nose, down the windpipe, and into the belly. There are wonderful apps and You Tube videos that you can search for that show how to do this diaphramatic breathing (I present it as “belly breathing” for kids). I also show kids a picture of a saber tooth tiger and explain how our fight or flight mechanism in current day works the same as if we were seeing a saber tooth a long time ago. Another way to relax is to alternately tense and relax muscles.
  • Helping children get rid of ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts). I have children draw ants (the insect version) to make this exercise fun. Then I help them talk about, write, or draw ants with negative thoughts next to them. Typical ANTS may be: “Nothing ever goes my way,” “I’m a loser because everyone else thinks I am,” or “I’m a failure.” By changing the unhelpful thoughts to more helpful and positive thoughts, for example, saying or thinking, “If I keep practicing, I’ll get better,” or “Even if I make a mistake, I can learn and do better the next time,” the child’s anxiety levels will be reduced.
  • Using exposure strategies. In my practice I use a strategy called Introceptive Exposure. For example, for a child who reports shortness of breath due to anxiety, I may have a child sit with his parent and hold his breath. The goal is for the child to learn that the physical symptoms can be experienced without the anxiety and panic. Following the spirit of exposure being far better for helping anxiety than avoidance, it is imperative that parents stay loving and firm in encouraging their children to confront and work through their fears.
  • Guiding the child with calming visualizations. Help your child to imagine a relaxing place and to notice the calm feelings in his body. Or, have him imagine a container (such as a big box or a safe) to put his worries in so they are not running wild in his mind and bothering him when he needs or wants to be doing other things.
  • Encouraging the child to make a “things that went right today” list at the end of the school day. This helps children prone to anxiety to develop an optimistic cognitive style. This can be made into a Success Journal.



Discipline – Be Clear, Be Firm, Be Consistent
 by: Helen Williams


Children learn best by being given clear, firm and consistent direction from parents who are clear, firm and consistent in their approach.

How to Discipline Children by Being Clear:

Firstly find and maintain clarity within yourself and then follow through on simple, clear instructions. Clarify for your self what being clear means.

It is about being plain, obvious, and understandable in a clear, short sentence that explains exactly what you mean.

It isn’t about maybe this or maybe that.

Often parents have no idea that they chop and change their minds within minutes. To become clear about your own patterns of behavior, observe yourself and ask for your partner’s help in this.

“We are going to tidy up your toys in five minutes”, is clear and direct. Follow this with,

“Please help me tidy up your toys now” and it means just that.

Be firm with yourself about this. It doesn’t mean soon, or later, but now.

I have seen parents give out this simple instruction, then become distracted themselves by a television program, conversation or magazine. What their children observe is parents saying one thing and doing another and this gives a much distorted message. Multiplied over many times each day, is it any wonder that children cease to follow simple instructions?

How to Discipline Children by Being Firm:

Firstly find and maintain firmness for yourself and then follow through with firm clear directions in a firm, clear tone.

Clarify for your self what being firm means.

To be firm is to be certain, definite, and determined. It is also being loving, kind and calm.

It means saying no and meaning no, or saying yes and meaning yes and sticking to it. It’s about now being now. How often does your no become perhaps, later, maybe giving in, next time, soon, or alright then? This is a very common fault in how to discipline children and again it leads to numerous mixed messages for children.

Resolve within yourself and with your partner’s help to ascertain how often you are both easily swayed into changing your decisions. Are you allowing your children to manipulate you? Imagine how simple your life will become when you are clear and firm within yourself.

It is every child’s right to KNOW they can trust their parent’s boundaries. So firstly, become firm with your own boundaries and then apply this to your parenting discipline.

“It is bedtime, (bath time, meal time) in five minutes” is a clear direction. Now follow through on this.

Giving the direction in a calm, clear, firm tone of voice helps your children to understand that you mean what you say. Being firm is about being in control of both yourself and the situation.

How to Discipline Children by Being Consistent:

Firstly find and maintain consistency for yourself and then follow through with a firm, clear, consistent approach.

Clarify for yourself what being consistent means.

To be consistent is to be reliable, dependable and constant.

These words immediately convey comfort don’t they?

Let’s look at the opposite of being consistent. Contradictory, unpredictable, changeable. That’s definitely lacking in comfort and safety.

So how do you want to be seen by your children?

To begin with it can seem quite time consuming to concentrate on clear, firm, consistent guidelines. Be aware that this is very true. It takes concentrated effort and time to change old habits to new ones, but if you maintain consistency, you will be very surprised how quickly new patterns of behavior are formed.

Parenting Discipline In Summary: With parenting discipline we are teaching our children how to have self control, self discipline and to become self reliant, so they are able to make good choices for themselves.

The only way children can learn to do this is by being given the opportunities for this learning.

This means not over protecting them, or doing everything for them, but maximizing their opportunities to learn through personal experience and observation, even when this means making mistakes.

Can you see the opportunities here to change some of your own patterns of behavior into superior ones?

Clear, firm, consistent parenting is quality parenting. You learn to trust your own responses and your children are surrounded by your loving constancy.

This is the recipe for creating a happy, well adjusted family.
















How to Find a Hobby for Your Child


Thirty-odd years ago, almost every kid in my neighborhood had some sort of hobby. Collecting and trading baseball cards was a popular pastime (one that’s making a strong comeback today), as were coin and stamp collecting. One of my friends was into photography (he’s now a photographer), another was into building radios (he’s now an electrical engineer).

Hobbies benefit children in numerous ways. Because they are expressions of personal accomplishment and a means of self-discovery, hobbies help build self-esteem.

Hobbies are educational tools, as well. For example, a child who becomes interested in rocketry — one of the most popular hobbies, by the way — learns about propulsion and aerodynamics. By working on hobbies, children learn to set goals, make decisions, and solve all sorts of problems. Finally, hobbies often mature into lifelong interests, even careers.

If all of that sounds good, and you’d like to help your child develop and sustain a hobby interest, try these suggestions:

Set a good example. Scott Harris, a hobby shop buyer and hobby workshop leader in Gastonia, North Carolina, finds that children with hobbies tend to have parents with hobbies.

Be prepared to sacrifice space. Your child will need work space for his or her hobby projects. Designate a particular room, a corner of the basement, part of the garage, or similar area. Regardless of where you set up the space, your child should be able to walk away from the hobby and come back to it later. The work space should also allow for plenty of paint spills, scratches, and other hobby-related accidents — the inevitable by-products of creative activity.

Provide some guidance. “Nothing will kill a child’s enthusiasm for a hobby quicker than lots of frustration during the learning stage,” cautions hobby expert Harris. Help your child get off to a good start by demonstrating how to closely follow a set of directions, and how to handle sometimes-delicate hobby materials with proper care.

Limit television watching. Since 1955, when it became a fixture in America’s households, television has come to dominate the spare time of the American child. By age 15, the average child has spent more time watching television than sitting in a classroom. Let’s face it, it’s impossible to work on a hobby and watch TV (or play video games) at the same time.

For want of spare time, a hobby may never develop. But find a hobby, and a talent may be born, a life enriched.




Help! My Baby Won’t Sleep!


Remember when you used to lay down, close your eyes, and just sleep? Remember when Saturdays meant you could sleep in? Remember when you were woken up by an alarm clock rather than a crying baby?

When baby doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps, and while it is natural for young infants to wake frequently during the night, an older baby who’s up all night can really start to wear down his parents. If your baby just isn’t sleeping through the night, you’re probably beginning to feel pretty desperate. You want to know Why won’t my baby sleep? and, most importantly, How can I get my baby to sleep?

There are many reasons why a baby won’t sleep, but when your baby is blind you have even more issues to consider. We’ve compiled five reasons why a baby might not sleep. Some of these problems are experienced by all babies, some are specific to blind babies. Following each sleep problem is a sleep solution, including ideas on how you may overcome your baby’s sleep problem.

Each baby is different and what works for one may not work for another. Pick a solution that seems to best fit your situation and give it a week trial. If it doesn’t work, move on to another. We know you’ll find something that works!

Sleep Problems and Solutions

Sleep Problem #1: You rock and sing your baby to sleep and he goes down within five minutes. But for how long? He’s up again in an hour and you pick him up, rock him, and sing until he falls asleep again. An hour later, he’s up! And on it goes all night.

The problem with this scenario, according to experts, is that your baby has not learned the skill of putting himself to sleep. We all wake up now and then throughout the night as we move between different levels of sleep. The difference with most adults, however, is that we can simply roll over and go back to sleep. Babies who have always been put to sleep may not develop the skills necessary to put themselves back to sleep once they’ve woken in the middle of the night.

Sleep Solutions: Your baby needs to learn how to comfort himself and put himself back to sleep. You may think that falling asleep is something that comes naturally to babies, but really they need to be taught how to do this on their own. You can begin slowly by introducing a soft toy or blankie during cuddle time. Later, when you put your baby in his crib, give him the soft toy or blankie. The hope is that the toy will remind him of pleasant comforting times with you and when he awakes he will find the toy, snuggle it, and drift back to sleep.

Another technique is to lay down with your baby in a bigger bed that fits both of you. Your baby can snuggle up to you and drift off on his own, eventually without you having to sing or rock him. You can get up after he’s asleep. The next step would be to get up just before he’s fallen asleep. Then try laying him down, kissing his head, and sitting next to the bed. Eventually you should be able to lay your child down and walk away.

Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferCreate a soothing environment with sweet, soft lullaby music. Only play the lullabies at bedtime so your baby associates the songs with going to bed.

Sleep Problem #2: Sometimes your baby goes down for a nap in the middle of the day and just won’t wake up. Other times she’s up all night and wants to play. The problem here may be that your baby has little or no light perception and cannot differentiate between day and night.

Sleep Solutions: It’s important to teach your blind baby the cues that indicate a shift from day to night. This means that you will want to establish a pretty strict night time routine so she will understand that the evening hours have begun. Besides following a simple schedule (dinner, bath, bedtime story, etc), also choose special night time songs, night time story books, and night time toys that only come out during the evening hours. Then, when you begin to sing one of these night time songs, for example, your baby will know that it’s getting late and almost time for bed.

Another good practice is to point out night time sounds to your baby. I like to take Ivan outside in the early evening hours so we can listen to the crickets chirping. He finds the sound very soothing and it helps calm him and transition him into the night time routine. Plus, as he gets older, he’ll be able to identify the sounds of crickets as an evening sound.


Sleep Problem #3: Maybe you have a mellow baby or maybe your baby is delayed in some of his gross motor skills. Either way, if your baby is passive most of the day and doesn’t spend much energy he may not be ready for bed at the appointed hour.

Sleep Solutions: Try to motivate your child during the day. Stay active, go to the park, and introduce as much vestibular stimulation as your baby will handle (vestibular stimulation is anything that gets the body moving through space, like swinging or sliding or just rough housing with dad). In other words, try to tire the little guy out during the day!

Little babies that don’t get as much activity as they should may also feel aches in their muscles at night, a sort of “restless leg syndrome” kind of feeling because they haven’t been using their muscles enough throughout the day. Try massaging your babies legs and arms before bed. Right after the bath is a nice time to snuggle up in a heap of warm, dry towels and massage your little baby into relaxation. What a perfect transition to bedtime!

Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferA relaxing pre-bed routine can help your baby learn that it’s bedtime and get ready to go to sleep. A warm bath scented with lavender has been shown to ease stress and prep the body for sleep.

Sleep Problem #4: No matter how tired she may be, your baby just loves to get up and play! The problem here may be that your baby craves interaction and wants to have fun all night.

Sleep Solutions: Many of the solutions above will help in this scenario, like establishing a night time routine and relaxing your baby before bed with a nice massage. But the most important thing to remember with an overly interactive baby is to be consistent! Don’t give in to your baby’s desire to play and make sure all of your baby’s caregivers are on the same page. It can be hard to ignore the sweet little smiles and hilarious little laughs bubbling out of your baby at 2 am, but whatever you do, don’t play! This just reinforces to your baby that if you’re cute enough, mom and dad will play with you at night.

Also, if your child has little or no light perception, night time play can confuse them as to whether it’s day or night. You need to consistently act like it’s night even if everyone in the house is awake. This means keeping very few lights on, speaking in hushed tones, and singing only those songs reserved for the night time routine. You may feel desperate, but if you remain consistent, your baby should get the hint eventually and understand that no matter how adorable they are, you just won’t play with them at night.


Sleep Problem #5: When people ask how your baby sleeps, your answer is that he sleeps wonderfully at 1 pm and terribly at 1 am. If your baby takes long afternoon naps but then has difficulty sleeping at night you may need to take drastic measures.

Sleep Solutions: I know those long afternoon naps are a great time to get the housework done, but many blind babies just can’t be allowed to nap during the day. Period. It came as quite a shock to us when our Vision Specialist told us that she never knew a blind toddler who could manage a day time nap and still sleep well at night. Aren’t babies supposed to take naps? They are, but when you figure that your baby isn’t sleeping more than four hours at night, a nice two hour nap during the day still only gets him to a total of six hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period, and that just isn’t enough for proper brain development. If skipping the nap means ten hours at night, it has to be done.

This advice has made the biggest difference in Ivan’s sleep patterns. Ivan went from four to six broken hours of sleep a night to ten to twelve uninterrupted hours in less than a week. We played around with new sleep schedules and found that Ivan can handle one half hour nap around 2 pm. He wakes up chipper and ready for the rest of the day and sleeps well at night. We have also incorporated many of the other sleep solutions into our routine (Ivan especially enjoys the massage), but the reduced day time nap has definitely had the most impact.

Whether sighted or blind, it’s important that your baby gets enough sleep. Hopefully these tips will bring peace to your night time routine.

Sleep Tip!

Golden OfferIf sleeping at home is a problem then sleeping while traveling may be almost impossible! Bring as many of your regular bedtime items with you (like your lullaby CDs and bedtime lotion) and get a nice comfortable travel crib too.












How to keep an active toddler occupied indoors

Baby Center



Bad weather, infection outbreaks, and working from home are just some of the reasons that can make you stay indoors with your little one. Keeping your energetic toddler busy indoors is no easy task, especially if he has a short attention span and quickly becomes disinterested in his toys. Here are some useful tips and ideas to keep you both entertained indoors.

Get organized

It helps to have a schedule. It’s best to include fun learning activities and games in this schedule. Make time at the end of each week to plan the following week’s activities. Once you take into account eating, bathing, napping and sleeping, you’ll probably be left with three to five hours a day of activity time.

Plan a good mix of physical activities and learning games. You can choose from indoor sports to arts and crafts, to letting your toddler watch some television, but not too much, for pure entertainment. Plan your activities around the time your child is most energetic, for example, after an afternoon nap.

Establishing a routine with your toddler is important. A routine gives him a sense of structure. The predictability of a routine also reduces temper tantrums and crankiness in kids. Many mothers say that sticking to a routine also helps them to organise their day better. If you have a maid, nanny or family member taking care of your child, then ensure that they follow your routine. Instead of roaming around aimlessly, your toddler will have fun and when busy won’t have any time to get up to mischief!

Physical activities

Channel your toddler’s energy by getting him involved in these fun physical activities.

Indoor sports
You don’t have to go outside to teach your toddler games like cricket, badminton, basketball, bowling and so on. Make space in the living room or dining area and play with your toddler. You may like to buy reasonably priced kits for sports like cricket at the market.

Indoor games

Hide and seek, peek-a-boo, tag, catch, or jump rope are simple ways to get your toddler running around the house. Or you could look at what games are great for your toddler now. Try playing in different rooms around your home to keep the game interesting.

Helping with household chores
Make housework fun for your toddler. Ask him to pass clothes pegs while you hang your laundry, set the mats for dinner, put back the dishes or dust the table. Clap and praise him every time he does a good job. This will encourage him to keep doing it and you’ll get your chores done faster!

Turn up the volume (not too loud, of course) and let your toddler dance to his favourite tunes. If you have more than one child then you can make it a competition for extra fun.

Obstacle course
You can build an obstacle course for your toddler using cushions, chairs, buckets or whatever you have. Then race with your baby to the finish.


Blow up a few balloons and teach your toddler how to throw them around or play balloon tennis. Balloons are safer than balls as they are less likely to break stuff around the house. If a balloon bursts, make sure to throw the shreds away immediately. Swallowing them could choke your toddler.

Learning activities

Make learning fun with the following activities:

Building blocks
Most building blocks have letters or numbers on them and come in different colors. You can teach your toddler the alphabet or how to count while he has fun playing with the blocks.

Flash cards
You can make these at home or buy them from the market. Usually one side of the card has a letter on it and the other side a picture of something beginning with that letter. For example, if one side of the card has the letter A then the other side could be a picture of an apple.

Some experts say that flashcards are an excellent way to remember information. Besides the alphabet, you could teach your toddler numbers or colors and so on.

Reading books together
Introduce your toddler to nursery rhymes and stories by getting him interested in books. Read aloud and encourage him to copy you.

Get your toddler busy with puzzles. Show him how to do one and watch him complete a puzzle on his own.

Creative activities

Let your toddler get creative with the following activities:

Drawing and coloring
Most children love to draw and make a mess. You can use coloring books, though plain pieces of paper work just as well. Be careful your toddler doesn’t chew his crayons or color pencils.

Try all kinds of painting methods to keep your toddler involved. You can try finger or hand painting. Cut vegetables like bhindi or potatoes, dip them in paint and stamp them on paper to create fun shapes.

There are a number of crafts that you can get your toddler involved in. Making puppets, bead necklaces, paper planes and boats, and cardboard cut outs are just some of them. Make sure he doesn’t play with scissors or swallow anything.

Teach your toddler how to cook and make a roti or try recipes for cakes, cookies or simple dishes that he enjoys eating.

Playing musical instruments
Let your budding rock star make music with a toy piano or guitar. Make your own drum set using two sticks and empty buckets or vessels. Turn them upside down and let your toddler loose. You may want to keep some ear plugs handy!

What activities can my toddler do without my supervision?

Whatever the activity, most toddlers require constant supervision. Your toddler can lose interest quickly in a game or activity if you aren’t there to encourage him.

Once a routine is set, your toddler may start to play independently for longer periods of time. Some toddlers can spend hours coloring, dancing or playing with toys. Try different activities and see what keeps him interested for long periods of time.

Once you know what activity holds your toddler’s attention, get him to do it when you need time to get some work finished.















Raising Good Decision Makers: Helping Kids Learn to Make Decisions


By Linda Morgan

Then there were my children. My daughter always knew just what to buy with her spending money. One day a game, another time a puzzle, and on occasion, a fluffy stuffed animal. My son? Thoughtful, analytical, an astute observer of people and places — and utterly unable to choose between the truck and the Legos. We’d often leave the store in tears (him) and sheer frustration (me) and with a sadly empty shopping bag.

OK, you’re thinking, so he can’t make a decision. Big deal.

Well, yes, big deal. Learning to be a decision maker is a lifelong skill that, according to Bellevue College parenting coach Jennifer Watanabe, can’t begin too early. “We are presented with choices every part of every day,” says Watanabe. “Am I going to get up now or in five minutes? Should I have breakfast or work out?”

As kids mature, so do their options. Soon it’s not the vanilla or strawberry ice cream they’re considering, but which classmates to befriend, which courses to take and whether they should down that shot of tequila.

“Decision making is crucial because the decisions your children make dictate the path that their lives take,” writes psychologist Jim Taylor, Ph.D., in Psychology Today. “They need to judge the risks and rewards of their decisions in the short run and the long term.”

They also need to hone their decision-making skills when the stakes are reasonably low. The red dress or the pink one? The crayons or the paints? World peace won’t be resting on these dilemmas any time soon. “Childhood is the time when it’s safe to make choices, to try on personas and even make mistakes,” says Shannon Price, a family therapist at Seattle Full Circle Counseling. “When we get to do this early, we get to know ourselves better.”

‘Maximizers’ & ‘satisficers’

Barry Schwartz, a Swarthmore psychology professor who wrote the book The Paradox of Choice, is an expert in the science of decision making. He talks about “maximizers” — people who strive to always make the best decision and carefully scrutinize every possible option, and “satisficers” —those who don’t need to investigate each alternative and are happy with “good enough.”

Since there are always more — sometimes infinite — options, since it takes huge blocks of time to constantly chase after the “best,” and since there’s probably something even better coming around the bend, Schwartz roots for the satisficers. They’re just happier, he contends.

He thinks kids should be satisficers, too. “The single most important thing parents can do is cultivate in their kids that ‘good enough’ is almost always good enough,” he says. He knows that concept doesn’t come easily for most parents. As he says, “I’ve never heard a parent say, ‘I only want the good enough for my kids.’”

We all know maximizer parents — maybe you’re one of them. They can’t buy a stroller without looking at every single one (umbrella? Jogging? Ultralight?). Heck, they won’t choose a diaper bag without examining every diaper bag in the universe, and they certainly won’t select a piano teacher before vetting piano teachers everywhere, even if that means driving their child 10 miles away for lessons. (OK, that was me.)

“If you model ‘only the best will do,’ you teach your child the same lesson,” says Schwartz. “Kids learn more by watching how their parents act than by listening to what they say.”

So how can we help our kids learn to be good decision makers? Maybe even better decision makers than we are?

We can start by making sure our expectations for them are developmentally appropriate, says Susan Ruby, an Edmonds mental health counselor. “Let’s say you’re taking your 4-year-old into Target,” says Ruby. “He gets quickly overwhelmed and distracted. You ask him to make a decision about a toy, and he has a meltdown.”

That’s because kids don’t always do well in busy, chaotic surroundings, she says. And they certainly can’t be expected to make reasoned, thoughtful decisions amid the fracas and the frenzy. “They’re exposed to stimuli they aren’t used to and can’t process,” says Ruby.

Along with thinking about settings and surroundings, Ruby suggests parents evaluate their own approach — verbal and physical — when asking their kids to make a decision. “Get down to their level,” Ruby says. “Sit at the table, make sure your presentation is nonreactive, and be calm, friendly and engaging.”

Too much eye contact can be stressful for a child, she says. “Kids have a hard time engaging with you and making a decision at the same time. They can’t do both.”

Kids learn how to make decisions by making lots of them, says Schwartz. Parents can keep those choices manageable by limiting the selection. “Too many options exceed what a 5- or 6-year-old can handle,” he says. ‘”What do you want for lunch?’ can turn into an hour-long conversation. They end up making choices for the wrong reasons.”

For instance, don’t cart your first-grader to the store to pick out school clothes unless you narrow the items down to two or three, he says. “Otherwise, she’ll either make no decision or choose whatever leaps out at her. And that will probably be whatever’s glitziest.”

But for the littlest kids, choices — even a small list of them — can be challenging. Asking a 3-year-old, “Would you like the hot dog or the grilled cheese?” is not as simple as it sounds.

“Very young kids are building a language base,” says Ruby. “They have to figure out what word is appropriate at the same time they are deciding what to eat.”











What to do when your child doesn’t want to talk to you about dating


Last Friday was the first time our 14 year-old son didn’t want to talk to me about girls.

He was going to a school dance—his first as a ninth grader at a new school. I was headed with our two daughters to speak at a Mother/Daughter retreat. Since I didn’t have a chance to see him after school, I called him on our drive up the mountains.

I asked him what he was going to wear. He didn’t really know but named a few possible shirts (my daughters would have had their “outfits” picked out a week ahead).

I asked him if he was going to ask a girl to dance. He said he didn’t know.

Trying to help my son think ahead about different scenarios, I named a few girls from his middle school who were now at his high school.

He sighed and responded, “Mom, I don’t want to talk to my 48 year-old mom about who I’m going to dance with.”

I answered, “Well, first off, I’m 45 and not 48.” We both chuckled and I continued, “And I totally get that. Have a great time at the dance. I’ll be praying for you.” And we hung up a few minutes later.

Last week he talked to me about flirting. Two weeks ago he talked to me about how to handle a girl who likes him and keeps texting him. And next week he might feel comfortable talking to me about girls at school.

But not this week.

And that’s OK. It’s normal. And because of our Sticky Faith research, I’m not freaking out.

When he actually starts dating someone, I hope he wants to talk to me. But if he doesn’t want to talk to me or my husband, he’s got a team of amazing men to talk to. Because of Sticky Faith’s research showing how important it is that young people feel supported by five adults,  Dave and I have been extra intentional in connecting Nathan with five amazing men—who range in age from 39 to 72. Nathan knows he can talk to any of them about what he’s feeling, especially when those feelings aren’t something he wants to talk about with mom or dad.

If you’re a parent, what can you do this month to connect your child with at least one amazing adult so that when (not if, but when) they don’t want to talk to you about something important, they still have someone they can go to?

If you’re a youth leader, how can you help the families in your church develop those types of relationships?

Our kids might not talk to us about anything. And our kids’ friends don’t know any more than them. That’s why I’m so grateful for adults who serve as listening ears to our kids—just when they need them the most.








Should Kids Call Stepparents “Mom” and “Dad”?

by Amanda M.


Figuring out how a stepparent fits into kids’ lives is hard. Circle of Moms members wonder about everything from whether step-parents should come to school meetings to how involved in everyday decision-making they should be. More frequently, though, the discussion turns to whether or not kids should call stepparents “Mom” or “Dad.” If you, your kids, or your spouse are dealing with this question, here are four approaches to consider.

1. Give Kids a Say

My husband, Jon, is a stepparent to our two oldest children. From the moment he stepped into their lives seven years ago, they chose to call him by his first name. Making it their choice just seemed like the best way to handle it. Even as their half-brother toddles around our house yelling “Daddy” at the top of his lungs, the other two have remained resolute in their decision.

Letting her three children decide what they wanted to call her husband seemed logical to Circle of Moms member Laurie M, too.  She is one of many members who feel that children should make their own choice based on their comfort level instead of insisting that they use “Mom” and “Dad.”

2. Relationships Matter

JoAnn M.’s opinion is that what her three stepsons call her doesn’t matter.  “The term they use to describe me is just that, a word,” she says. “The fact that they call me by my first name is unimportant, as long as we enjoy a good relationship.”

Sometimes it’s the other relationships in kids’ lives that cinch what they call their stepparents. My children still have their biological father as a part of their lives, so the term “Dad” was already taken.

For member Alicia Y. the word wasn’t connected to anyone else. She never met her biological father, so her stepfather has “always been ‘Dad.’”  Many Circle of Moms members say that when the biological parent isn’t in the picture, the decision to use “Mom” and “Dad” isn’t as difficult as it is when there a multiple parents who need a name.

3. Be Respectful

When multiple parents are involved, there are multiple opinions and points of view.  Mom Annie N. isn’t just worried about what her kids call their stepmother, she’s troubled by what they call her. Her kids have started calling their stepmother “Mom” and Annie by her first name.

There may be debate about what to call stepparents, but Circle of Moms members were very clear about this one. “They should not call you by your first name, it is disrespectful,” says mother of three, Carla B.

Respect is a recurrent theme when it comes to deciding on monikers, but members don’t always agree as to whom kids should be showing that respect.

Some feel that allowing a child to call a stepparent  “Mom” or “Dad” is disrespectful to their biological parent. Julie L. argues that “showing a child that we respect the other parent’s feelings is an important lesson” even if that parent is unlikable.

Others argue that stepparents who step up to fill the parenting void left by a biological parent have earned the respect bestowed by the terms “Mom” and “Dad.”  As JoAnn puts it, “the words ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ carry a unique and special meaning.”

4. Flexibility is the Name of the Game

Step family expert Ron Deal says all of these things kids’ feelings, relationships, and respect play a role in what he calls “the Name Game.”  He explains that kids typically choose a name that is indicative of the emotional connection they have with a stepparent. That name may change as the children get older or as the relationship with their stepparent or biological parent changes.

Case in point: over the years, my middle son has changed what he calls my husband. When I was “Mommy,” he was “Jon-ny.” When I was “Mom-o,” he was “Jon-o.”  Now he simply lumps us together as “my parents.”  To me, that means we’ve





Make time for your partner


How much time do you spend with your partner during the week? How much time is enough to keep you connected? In this busy, chaotic world of daily activities, tasks and schedules, it is easy to forget that the person you chose to spend your life with is the person who can make your days brighter and the road ahead easier to travel. For most couples, the key to improving your relationship is to make it a priority to spend more time together.

Men and women see time differently in relationships. For many men, just spending time together is “enough.” Not so for women. Women are typically looking for the magical moments during the time spent together to feel heard, loved and sexy. This basic difference means that relationships can struggle when it comes to how time is spent together and its value to the overall relationship. Men are looking for the fun, the laughter, the humor, the sex. Women are looking for all these things, plus connection.

When asked on surveys “How much time do you spend with your partner each day?” many couples answer, “Little to none.” Couples commiserate about their lack of time for one another, saying they look forward to a time when things slow down. That time never comes, but there is an inherent understanding that intentions are good. Being busy is so much a part of our culture that it is no longer considered impolite to hang up on your spouse to take another call. Many couples say that finding even one hour alone with their partner is impossible.

So, what does this mean for the success of your relationship? Research suggests that it means trouble. According to a study by the Creighton Center for Marriage and Family, time is one of three problematic issues for couples in the first five years of marriage (the others are sex and money). Who has time to be in a relationship anymore?

Here’s an example of the typical relationship that many couples share:

Melissa wakes up to find that Drew has already left for work. She takes the kids to school, then leaves Drew a message on his cell phone reminding him of a task he had agreed to do. They exchange kid-focused text messages during the day. Drew calls after a stressful meeting, but Melissa is with the kids. The family reunites at the end of the day, but evenings involve shuttling kids to activities. Dinner is on the run. After getting the kids to bed, Melissa and Drew sit together in the same room, but focus on different activities. The most time they spend talking together is in the bathroom getting ready for bed! By the time their heads hit the pillow, the only thing they want is sleep, so intimacy has to wait for another day.

You may think to yourself, “That’s not us!” But it probably is, to some degree. This is the race we are all running.

So, what can be done? How can couples live a busy life, but find time to stay connected? Scientific research says that it is the small, positive moments that matter in keeping relationships satisfied. The day doesn’t have to be full of fireworks, but it must have moments of connection – something that can seem difficult when time is scarce. For relationships to last, couples need to find the time (and space) to put their relationship first.

You’ve heard of suggested date nights. Many couples consider time away without the kids, but are too busy to ever schedule it. The relationship gets whatever time is left after tasks, work schedules and kids. This leads to conflict, and research suggests that a great deal of relationship conflict is a result of one person not feeling important to the other. Time together can change that.

There is a saying: “It’s not the quantity of time that you spend with someone that matters, it’s the quality of the time.” While I agree with the general concept, I do have one question: How can you have any quality time with your partner if there is no quantity of time? Building “couple’s time” into your schedule can result in huge changes in how happy you are in your relationship. Consider conflict: How can you regulate conflict with your partner if there is no time to discuss it? If there is no opportunity to share the experiences of the day with each other and to reconnect on a deeper level, then relationship conflict increases and satisfaction decreases.






How To Create a Healthy, Adult Relationship With Mom and Dad


The problem is as old as time. It’s the stuff of which Greek myths, novels and screen plays are made. I’m referring to the love/hate relationship between parents and their adult daughters. Our Mistake: We continue to insist that our parents meet our emotional needs, while granting us our independence. Their Mistake: They unwittingly attempt to preserve the same relationship they had with us when we were little girls, yet can’t understand why we don’t just “grow up”!

The Good News: In the vast majority of cases, parent/adult daughter relationships can be greatly improved, and here’s how:

Step I: Get Your Own House in Order

  • Acknowledge that you are different from your parents and that it is OK.
  • If you haven’t already done so, begin to separate emotionally from your parents. Take the risk of defining yourself, and stop trying to win their approval.
  • Accept that your parents aren’t perfect (and neither are you).
  • Take responsibility for who you are today. Acknowledge what was troublesome about your growing up experience, accept it, and move on.
  • Realize that your parents are a product of their own growing up and life experiences.
  • Know that as an adult you are entitled to your own choices, opinions and decisions, even if they turn out to be mistakes. How else can you learn?
  • Understand that today you have the power to influence your relationship with your parents, even though you’re still “the kid.”

Step II: Avoid the Same Old Traps: Do Something Different

  • Stop trying to change your parents. Instead, think about how you can change your behavior so as to create better interactions with them.
  • Although you can’t change Mom and Dad, you can establish limits with them. You can let them know if they have overstepped your boundaries. Be clear about what is acceptable or unacceptable when they are dealing with you in the future.
  • Avoid old, toxic topics that are never resolved, and which only bring you pain.
  • Gently remind your parents that you are an adult now, capable of making your own decisions — and sometimes those decisions may be wrong.
  • Develop and enjoy interests and activities together, where you can participate as equals.
  • When issues come between you, treat them as problems external to you both, not as character flaws or as a battle to be won.
  • Do not expect Mom and Dad to do things for you, such as pick up your dry-cleaning or take care of the kids. This is part of the old parent/child relationship.
  • Refrain from asking for their advice unless you really want it.
  • Notice and acknowledge the good things they have done, and continue to do for you. Thank them for these things.
  • Even if relations are strained, try to remain in contact, if only through notes, e-mail or voicemail.

And If the Best-Laid Plans Don’t Work

In rare cases even these steps won’t be enough. The pain you experience as a result of continued contact with your parents may be greater than any benefit you receive. In such instances it is OK to say enough is enough. No relationship is worth sacrificing your personal sense of well-being.

Ultimately it is to your advantage to work on developing a healthy relationship with your parents. Upbeat interactions with Mom and Dad can add a wonderful dimension to your life. And at the end of the day, it is rewarding to feel good about the kind of daughter you’ve been.




How Dads Affect Their Daughters into Adulthood by Linda Nielsen


Conversations about the importance of fathers usually revolve around sons: how boys benefit from having a positive male role model, a consistent disciplinarian, and a high-energy roughhousing partner on their way to pursuing career and family success in adulthood. But as recent research shows, fathers also affect the lives of their young adult daughters in intriguing and occasionally surprising ways.

In exploring this area, uppermost on the minds of many is a young woman’s academic and vocational path—how her relationship with her father influences her academic performance and, as a consequence, her career success and financial well-being. As you might guess, daughters whose fathers have been actively engaged throughout childhood in promoting their academic or athletic achievements and encouraging their self-reliance and assertiveness are more likely to graduate from college and to enter the higher paying, more demanding jobs traditionally held by males. This helps explain why girls who have no brothers are overly represented among the world’s political leaders: they tend to receive more encouragement from their fathers to be high achievers. Even college and professional female athletes often credit their fathers for helping them to become tenacious, self-disciplined, ambitious, and successful.

Interestingly, too, when female college students were asked what they would do if their fathers disapproved of their career plans, the overwhelming majority said they would not change their plans. But the daughters who communicated the most comfortably and had the closest relationships with their fathers were more willing to reconsider their plans if their fathers disapproved.

Today’s fathers also seem to be having a greater impact on their daughters’ academic and career choices than fathers in previous generations. For example, women who were born in the 1970s are three times more likely than those born at the beginning of the twentieth century to work in the same field as their fathers—a finding that researchers have attributed not just to society’s changing gender roles but also to daughters receiving more mentoring from their fathers.

Another question on many people’s minds is: how does a father influence his daughter’s romantic life—who she dates, when she starts having sex, and the quality of her relationships with men? Not surprisingly, a girl who has a secure, supportive, communicative relationship with her father is less likely to get pregnant as a teenager and less likely to become sexually active in her early teens. This, in turn, leads to waiting longer to get married and to have children—largely because she is focused on achieving her educational goals first.

The well-fathered daughter is also the most likely to have relationships with men that are emotionally intimate and fulfilling. During the college years, these daughters are more likely than poorly-fathered women to turn to their boyfriends for emotional comfort and support and they are less likely to be “talked into” having sex. As a consequence of having made wiser decisions in regard to sex and dating, these daughters generally have more satisfying, more long-lasting marriages. What is surprising is not that fathers have such an impact on their daughters’ relationships with men, but that they generally have more impact than mothers do.

Their better relationships with men may also be related to the fact that well-fathered daughters are less likely to become clinically depressed or to develop eating disorders. They are also less dissatisfied with their appearance and their body weight. As a consequence of having better emotional and mental health, these young women are more apt to have the kinds of skills and attitudes that lead to more fulfilling relationships with men.

An emerging body of research suggests one more way that dads may shape their daughters’ mental health and relationships in adulthood: scholars have found an intriguing link between the way daughters deal with stress as adults and the kind of relationships they had with their dads during childhood. For example, undergraduate women who did not have good relationships with their fathers had lower than normal cortisol levels. And people with low cortisol levels tend to be overly sensitive and overly reactive when confronted with stress. Indeed, the low cortisol daughters were more likely than the higher cortisol daughters (who had the better relationships with their dads) to describe their relationships with men in stressful terms of rejection, unpredictability or coercion.

Given the benefits a woman gains from communicating well with her father and feeling close to him, their relationship and communication matter a great deal. Yet both sons and daughters generally say they feel closer to their mothers and find it easier to talk to her, especially about anything personal. This is probably due to the widely held belief that children—but daughters especially—are “supposed” to talk more about personal issues with their mothers than with their fathers.

Furthermore, daughters tend to withhold more personal information than sons do from their fathers. Compared to sons, daughters are also more uncomfortable arguing with their dads, and take longer to get over these disagreements than when they argue with their moms. Most daughters also wish their fathers had talked with them more about sex and relationships, even though they admit that the conversations would probably have been uncomfortable at first. Considering the benefits of being able to talk comfortably with their fathers, these findings are discouraging.

So how can fathers and daughters forge a close, positive relationship? Some research suggests certain turning points or significant events can draw them closer. Both fathers and daughters said in one study that participating in activities together, especially athletic activities, while she was growing up made them closer. Some daughters also mentioned working with their dads or vacationing alone with him. Her leaving for college, getting married, and having children often deepened their relationship and made it less stressful—largely because the daughter gained a better understanding of her father’s perspective and because he began treating her more like an adult.

In sum, fathers have a far-reaching influence on their daughters’ lives—both negative and positive. Many still seem to believe that daughters should spend the most time and share the most personal information with their mothers, but women miss out if they neglect the bond they have with their fathers. And while fathers may find it easier to relate to and connect with their sons, they should make the effort to build a close relationship with their daughters, too.









Coaching Our Children

What Parents Need to Know About Meal Time

Dena Cabrera Psy. D., CEDS


Raising children can result in life’s greatest joys and accomplishments. We love and cherish our children’s quirks and successes. We love to watch them develop their own personalities and evolve over time. We try to provide nurture and guidance as best as we can. Protecting them becomes an instinctive behavior. However, being a parent also comes with a great deal of stress and responsibilities that most are not typically prepared to face. As children start to develop and go through that dreaded puberty stage, parents have to start learning how to navigate through all of the inevitable hormonal changes. Having a child with an eating disorder can add significant conflicts to what is already an exasperating time.

Meal time can especially become a tornado of emotions and conflicts when dealing with an eating disorder. Parents are often dealing with how to balance being a supportive and understanding parent while trying to ensure that their child is fueling their growing bodies. It can become a battle with life revolving around the desperation of keeping their child alive forcing the parent to act as the food police. Here are a few tips to avoid taking on that role and maintain a supportive stance:

Consistency: Make time with your child mandatory. Add it to your regular calendar and treat that time like any appointment. At the same time, it is important that it be flexible around the inevitable snags. Discuss ahead of time that the family’s priority is to stick to the schedule, though there will be times that they would need to adjust the activities for unexpected events.

Meal planning: Begin with creating the week’s meal plan based on what you worked on with the dietician. Allow your child to identify one or two meals that they would like to have. Process any struggles that your child may have. It will be important to learn how to appropriately validate their current fears but foster a sense of hope and encouragement to work through these fears a little at a time. Remind them of what their goals are with facing these fears.

Shopping: Create a grocery list for the week. Discuss their thoughts and emotions around going to the grocery store. Create a game plan if they become overwhelmed at the store. Commit to following through with the game plan. If you decide not to follow through, you are reinforcing that they are not safe with you.

Meal prep: Give your child a role when cooking based on what you and their dietician discussed. Some kids may have difficulty handling food. Until they can work their way to that stage, they can assist in getting the pots and pans out or reading the recipe directions. Establishing a relaxing atmosphere may reassure your child that you are supporting them in making progress in facing their struggles.

Meal time: Make sure that everyone in the family is present for the meals as often as possible. Struggling with any type of disorders can create a sense of disconnection with others. Bringing the family together during meals fosters family bonding and acceptance.

What are safe topics of conversation around meal time?

Keep the conversation light and directed away from what’s on the plate. Attention placed on the food can trigger fear and preoccupation regarding what is going into the child’s body and prompt eating disorder fears. Reducing irrational fears around food takes time and work with a therapist and dietician. Therefore, stirring conversations towards other topics may help support your child in completing their food. Games are a frequent source of distractions commonly used in treatment centers.

The family is the most important element in combating eating disorders among children and adolescents. They are the front lines and have one of the most difficult jobs. However, when brought together as a united front, they can offer the best chance of success. Family therapy is a vital component to supporting a child in recovery from an eating disorder.

Model behavior

Model and Inspire a Positive Relationship with Food:  Our children are watching, so it’s important to model balance, variety and moderation in our approach to food.  Children will follow our lead.  Focus on creating balanced meals. Participate in moderate exercise. Engage in regular family activities that do not revolve around food and/or exercise. Commit to meal planning and eating together regularly.

Accepting limits

Your child is going to struggle with avoiding eating disorder behaviors. The longer they have engaged in their behaviors the tougher it will be to replace their old way of managing their negative thoughts and emotions with healthier coping skills. It is important for parents to accept that their child may have certain limits at the beginning. For some children, going to the grocery store may be a major struggle. Forcing them to go when they are not ready can lead to avoidable defiant behaviors or panic attacks.


Normalize: Try to maintain a regular pattern as much as possible. Assist your child in making their plates if they start to become overwhelmed. Provide reminders and encouragement to complete their exchanges and elect to add a little more if they desire. This is typical for a special get together, so it is important to normalize it. They can still follow their hunger fullness cues. Avoid providing any attention if they do not complete 100% their meal that day.

Game plan:  Create a plan ahead of time for situations when your child becomes too overwhelmed.  Knowing that their parents will honor and validate their need to leave if necessary may reassure them that they don’t have to feel trapped and escalate to a panic attack.




7 Tips for Improving Your Tween’s Bad Grades

With a Little Work, Your Child’s Bad Grades Can Be Improved

Very Well


7 Tips That Can Make a Difference and Improve Bad Grades

Review Homework. The best way to know if your child is struggling is to review his homework from time to time. By doing so, you might be able to identify a problem before it becomes serious. Bring this up with your teen and discuss it with their teacher if necessary.

You can also take the opportunity to coach your child and help answer questions he might have. In addition, consider making flash cards with your child to help him prepare for quizzes or tests.

Make Studying Fun. Let’s face it, most kids don’t love homework. But helping your child attend to his studies is important. Try to make homework enjoyable by providing snacks while he’s studying, encouraging him, or even keeping him company while he pushes through his assignments.

Consider doing something together when his homework is comGiving him something to look forward to can help him focus on his studies in order to complete them.

Contact His Teachers. If your child isn’t doing well at school, you need to make contact with his teachers.

  • Ask for a parent/teacher conference, either by phone or in person. Go over his homework, tests and quizzes and ask for specific advice and suggestions on what you might do to help your child.
  • If you think a teacher isn’t supporting your child at school or helping to answer questions your child might have, it may be worth your while to contact the school guidance counselor.
  • Keep track of any conversations you have with your child’s teacher, including emails, in order to give the counselor a complete picture of your child’s problem.

Hire a Tutor. Tutors really do work and they can help improve your child’s bad grades. Some tutors work for free, others are fee-based, usually by the hour.

To find a tutor, contact your child’s school for recommendations or ask other parents for the names of tutors they’ve used. Sometimes teachers also offer after school assistance, for students who are struggling.

Be Optimistic. Parents can stress their children out and that can severely impact your child’s performance at school. Try not to place too much pressure on your child to succeed.

Let him know that you have faith in his abilities and that you know he’s trying his best. Offer positive encouragement and let him know that you’re there to help him every step of the way.

Find Out What’s Going On. Sometimes grades suffer when something is going wrong in life.

Find out if your child is dealing with bullying, rejection at school or some other issue, such as puberty. You may find that once that problem has been resolved, your child’s grades improve.

Set Goals. Children need goals just like parents do and by helping your child set goals, you’re giving them something specific to work towards.

  • Sit down with your tween and discuss where his grades should be at the end of the semester or quarter.
  • Set realistic goals that are actually achievable. Understand their ability and set smaller milestones to help them feel good.
  • Be sure you and your child review the goals periodically.
  • Don’t forget to celebrate once a goal has been reached!



Bonding With Your Unborn Baby

Story by: Bellybelly  (Great site for those expecting)


Every pregnancy and every pregnant woman is unique. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ when it comes to emotions during pregnancy. While some women may feel an instant connection to their unborn child from the moment they pee on the stick, for others it can take until the birth (or even after the birth) for that connection to truly take hold. It may not be something that many pregnant women discuss openly, but in fact a lot of women do struggle to bond with their babies during pregnancy. If this is your first pregnancy, those first rushes from inside your uterus can be hard to identify as your baby’s movements. If you have experienced loss before, you may find it hard to think positively about the pregnancy, and may subconsciously be delaying bonding as a form of self protection. Or, perhaps, you are simply bonding with your baby in your own time. Pregnancy can be a daunting time, and you may feel so overwhelmed with the pregnancy and impending motherhood that you feel simply unable to bond with your baby just yet. As you grow closer to your due date, you may feel worried that you do not yet feel that connection with your baby. –

Bonding With Your Unborn Baby Here are some things you can try to help you bond with your bump: Baby Bonding Tip #1: Use Your Voice When your baby is born, she will recognize your voice and turn towards you whenever she hears it. She will remember your voice because she has spent months listening to you give presentations at work, natter to your mum on the phone, and belt out tunes like, “R-E-S-P-E-C-T!” in the shower. Spend some time each day talking to your baby, telling her about the things you will do together, and how you are feeling that day. You may find that your baby responds to the sound of your voice, and begins kicking and nudging you as you talk. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your bump, trying singing instead. Baby Bonding Tip #2: Nudge Back For now, your baby’s only method of communication is bumps, kicks and nudges. You have probably noticed that your baby becomes particularly active when you sit down to rest. Play with your baby by responding to her movements, gently poke back when she nudges you, and see what she does. You can also rub your belly in the area you feel movements. Baby Bonding Tip #3: Get Snap Happy One thing that makes bonding seem difficult during pregnancy, is that you have no idea what your baby look likes. Though she is growing inside you right now, she can feel like a total stranger. If you were given scan pictures at your hospital appointment, spend time looking at these photos each day. Frame a photograph to keep by your desk at work, set it as the lock screen on your smartphone, and stick it on your fridge. – See more at:\




What Makes a Family Strong and Successful?
Advocates for Youth – Source:

There are at least five “L’s” which contribute to strong family relationships.

Learning—Families are where we learn values, skills, and behavior. Strong families manage and control their learning experiences. They establish a pattern of home life. They select appropriate television programs. They guide their children into the world outside the home. They do not let social forces rule their family life. They involve themselves in neighborhood, school, government, church, and business in ways that support their family values. Strong families teach by example and learn through experience as they explain and execute their values.

Loyalty—Strong families have a sense of loyalty and devotion toward family members. The family sticks together. They stand by each other during times of trouble. They stand up for each other when attacked by someone outside the family. Loyalty builds through sickness and health, want and good fortune, failure and success, and all the things the family faces. The family is a place of shelter for individual family members. In times of personal success or defeat, the family becomes a cheering section or a mourning bench. They also learn a sense of give and take in the family, which helps prepare them for the necessary negotiations in other relationships.

Love is at the heart of the family. All humans have the need to love and to be loved; the family is normally the place where love is expressed. Love is the close personal blending of physical and mental togetherness. It includes privacy, intimacy, sharing, belonging, and caring. The atmosphere of real love is one of honesty, understanding, patience, and forgiveness. Such love does not happen automatically; it requires constant daily effort by each family member. Loving families share activities and express a great deal of gratitude for one another. Love takes time, affection, and a positive attitude.

Laughter is good family medicine. Humor is an escape valve for family tension. Through laughter we learn to see ourselves honestly and objectively. Building a strong family is serious business, but if taken too seriously, family life can become very tense. Laughter balances our efforts and gives us a realistic view of things. To be helpful, family laughter must be positive in nature. Laughing together builds up a family. Laughing at each other divides a family. Families that learn to use laughter in a positive way can release tensions, gain a clearer view, and bond relationships.

Leadership is essential. Family members, usually the adults, must assume responsibility for leading the family. If no one accepts this vital role, the family will weaken. Each family needs its own special set of rules and guidelines. These rules are based on the family members’ greatest understanding of one another, not forces. The guidelines pass along from the adults to the children by example, with firmness and fairness. Strong families can work together to establish their way of life, allowing children to have a voice in decision making and enforcing rules. However, in the initial stages and in times of crisis, adult family members must get the family to work together.

Life Patterns of Strong Families

In studies conducted in the United States and around the world several characteristics of strong families were found. These qualities are:

Commitment. Members of strong families are devoted to the well-being and happiness of the other members. They value family unity. Commitment serves as a firm foundation for strong family relationships. This means that:

  • the family comes first.
  • work responsibilities come second.
  • each family member is precious.
  • bad times do not destroy relationships.
  • there is sexual faithfulness to the marriage partner.
  • forgiveness is readily available.
  • priorities must be established.
  • some sacrifices must be made.
  • some common goals must be shared.
  • traditions are established and cherished.
  • love is conditional.

Appreciation. Members of strong families show and talk about their appreciation for one another. Along with our need for love, our most important human need is the need for appreciation. Some of why we work so hard in life is not so much motivation by money, power, or position; it is the desire to feel appreciated. And appreciation is vital in healthy families. Each family member’s self-esteem is enhanced when he or she feels appreciated. Appreciation helps motivate all members to continue to behave positively toward one another. Appreciation in families means:

  • looking for the positive instead of the negative.
  • treating family members like our best friends.
  • showing love in small ways every day.
  • expressing lots of appropriate affection.
  • saying, “I Love You” a lot.
  • praising the accomplishments and strengths of family members.
  • gracefully receiving compliments as well as giving them.
  • creating a positive environment in the home.
  • remembering (even if you need a list) and celebrating birthdays and special occasions.

Communication. Members of strong families work at developing good communication skills and spend a lot of time talking with each other. They talk about the small, trivial things as well as the deep, important issues of life. Communication is the lifeblood of relationships. It is the way that love and other emotions are expressed. Relationships are played out in the context of communication. We cannot help but communicate, and it is largely up to us whether the communication in our families will be effective or ineffective. Effective communication means:

  • being open and honest, yet kind.
  • listening carefully, without distraction.
  • checking the meaning of messages which are not clear.
  • avoiding “mind-reading.”
  • walking a mile in the other person’s shoes.
  • trusting one another.
  • avoiding criticizing, evaluating, and acting superior.
  • dealing with one issue at a time.
  • dealing with specifics rather than generalities.
  • attacking the problem, not each other .
  • having an understanding attitude.

Time together. Strong families spend time—quality time in large quantities—with each other. Some families may say, “We don’t spend much time together as a whole family, but what little time we are together is quality time.” The studies on strong families indicate that both quality and quantity are necessary for good relationship formation and maintenance. A lot of time together filled with bickering and arguing won’t make for a strong family. Neither will small pieces of high-quality activity. Nurturing family relationships takes a lot of good times. Family memories are built around family activities, time spent together. Family time spent together:

  • helps eliminate isolation, loneliness, and alienation.
  • helps the family develop an identity—a group unity and a sense of their place in history.
  • helps avoid the “fizzle and die” of some marriage relationships.
  • enhances the communication process.
  • allows opportunity to build on other family strengths.

But what exactly are families to do when they are together? The answer is just about anything. They can share:

  • Mealtimes
  • House and yard chores
  • Picnics
  • Camping
  • Outdoor sports
  • Walking or hiking
  • Indoor recreation, such as jigsaw puzzles, table games, or a favorite video
  • Bowling or to the movies
  • Religious services
  • Scouting or 4-H activities
  • School activities
  • Special events like holidays and birthdays

Spiritual wellness. Whether they attend formal religious services or ceremonies or not, strong family members have a sense of a greater good or power in life, and that belief gives them strength and purpose. Spirituality is described by some as a force that helps us reach beyond ourselves and become a part of something larger than ourselves. Spirituality normally encompasses our better nature, the aspects of our lives which are most noble. Most people believe human beings have a spiritual dimension within them. Regardless of the way we describe our spirituality, we need to acknowledge and nurture our spiritual side. For many, spiritual principles help provide the answers to life’s most perplexing questions, “What is life about?” and “Why am I here?” The spiritual dimension in families provides many possible benefits. Spirituality:

  • helps family members maintain a positive outlook on life.
  • provides guidelines for living.
  • provides a sense of freedom and peace.
  • offers support from people who share in a belief system.
  • provides meaningful tradition and ritual.
  • provides a spiritual heritage.
  • provides an expression of character in everyday living.
  • gives an awareness of a divine presence in life.
  • helps families cope during times of trouble.
  • encourages a sense of awe and reverence for life itself.

Coping ability. Members of strong families are able to view stress or crisis as an opportunity to grow and learn. They have good coping skills. A history of problem-solving increases our confidence that we can deal with most things that comes our way. A variety of coping strategies have been found in strong families, including the following:

  • The ability to find something positive, in any situation and to focus on that positive element. Counselors refer to this as “reframing.” It is the ability to see the rose rather than the thorns. A positive perspective allows us to cope with bad situations without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Family members unite and pull together when things get tough. No one individual within the family has to bear the total responsibility for resolving the situation. By sharing the responsibility, every family member can focus on the things he or she can do to help solve the problem.
  • Strong families get outside help when needed. While many problems or crises can be resolved within the family, strong families are smart enough to know when they are in over their heads. They are not hesitant to seek the assistance of outside resources, such as their church or synagogue, friends, neighbors, extended family, or helping professionals. Some crises seem so overwhelming that it takes a person from outside the family to help put things into perspective, to help the family get their lives back to manageable proportions.

Many families rely on their spiritual resources to get them through times of crises. Spiritual beliefs can help sustain people in times of trouble by providing a philosophy of life, by giving perspective, and by providing hope, comfort, and a sense of peace.

Open channels of communication make problem-solving easier. Crises are times of change and uncertainty, and family members may feel angry, anxious, fearful, depressed, or guilty. Effective communication allows members to express their feelings freely, which is an important part of surviving the crisis.

Flexibility is another important strategy that strong families use to help get through crisis situations. Strong families bend, change, and adapt, and when the storm is over they are still intact.  Source:




How to cope when  a love one has serious mental illness.

American Psychological Association


How mental illnesses can affect family and friends

It’s difficult to be diagnosed with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and major depressive disorder. It’s also difficult when a loved one is experiencing one of these diseases. When a person is living with a serious mental illness, the whole family may be affected.

Emotional upheaval

Serious mental illnesses often have a biological component. They are not the result of bad parenting, and they probably couldn’t have been prevented by anything that you, as a friend or family member, might have done differently. Even still, after the diagnosis it’s normal to feel a range of powerful — and often unpleasant — emotions.

It’s not abnormal to feel ashamed, or hurt, or embarrassed by a family member whose behaviors can be difficult to understand and deal with. Many people also feel anger at the circumstances and even at the person who has been diagnosed. And though it may not be logical, parents often engage in some degree of self-blame. Such feelings of shame and anger may also go hand-in-hand with feelings of guilt. Grief is also common.

If you are the parent of someone diagnosed with a serious mental illness

Parents, in particular, often have to readjust their hopes or expectations for the future when their child develops a serious mental illness. In the process, you may grieve for the future you thought your child would have. These feelings, though difficult, are totally normal.

Just as it’s important to maintain your own health as you care for a loved one with mental illness, it’s also important to preserve relationships with other family members, including your spouse or partner. If you have a child (whether a minor or an adult) with a serious mental illness, you may find yourself focusing less attention on your other children. Healthy siblings may feel anxiety and frustration at the extra responsibilities they are expected to take on. Try to regularly set aside a little one-on-one time with your other children. Tell them how much you appreciate their help.

Clear, honest communication is crucial for all family members. For example, don’t be afraid to ask both your ill and healthy children how they feel about the changes to the family. Keeping a line of communication open will help things go more smoothly — both at the time of a new diagnosis, and well into the future.

If you are the partner of someone diagnosed with a serious mental illness

Relationships can be wonderful but challenging under the best of circumstances. When one partner has a serious mental illness, the situation can become even more complex. Many times, the partner without a diagnosed disorder will assume more responsibilities, at least for the short term. For a person who is already worried about what is happening with his or her partner, having to spend more time maintaining the household or taking care of the children can be especially hard.

It is important for the couple to keep in mind that most people diagnosed with a serious mental illness improve over time, and that a partner’s attitude and behavior can make an important contribution to recovery. It helps to maintain an accepting and positive attitude, while holding realistic expectations for the partner with serious mental illness. Participating in specialized family therapy for serious mental illnesses can be very useful.

Finding support

As you adjust to the emotions and stresses of loving someone with a serious mental illness, it’s important to identify sources of support. Often, some of the best support comes from others who are in your shoes. Consider joining a family support group to meet others experiencing similar challenges. To find such a group, ask at your local hospitals or community mental health agency, or contact your local chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Participating in family programs, in which you participate in education and treatment sessions with your loved one, can also be beneficial. Family-led programs, many led by trained instructors who themselves have a relative with mental illness, can help families learn how to cope. Furthermore, research has shown that family-based programs can also improve well-being for many people with serious mental illnesses.

When you discover a loved one is ill, it’s often hard to focus your attention on anything else. But it’s important to take care of your own needs. Try to eat healthy meals, get some exercise and get enough sleep. Making time to do things you enjoy will help you keep your stress levels in check. You’ll be better able to support your loved one if you take steps to maintain your own physical and mental health.

Serious mental illnesses often present logistical challenges as well as emotional ones. Your family member may not be able to work, at least temporarily. You may need to help your loved one locate affordable housing, secure transportation to and from appointments, or figure out how to pay for and pick up medications. Ask your relative’s doctors and mental health professionals if they know of any social services available in your community that may be able to help with these types of day-to-day activities. When possible, reach out to other friends and family members to help ease your responsibilities. You might be surprised how happy they are to lend a hand — if you let them.

It’s normal for the family dynamic to change when one family member is diagnosed with a serious mental illness. It will probably take some time to accept those changes and establish a new routine. It helps to remember that people with serious mental illnesses can live rich, fulfilling lives — and so can you.









What Is Important For Family

Family – the word so often heard, but its importance so less understood! In dictionary terms, a family comprises ‘parents and their children, considered as a group, whether dwelling together or not’. A family can be viewed in concise as well as broad terms. An immediate family (concise) of a person comprises of his/ her parents, siblings, wife/ husband, children and grandparents. While viewing in totally, we can also add relatives to the above listing. After knowing as to what exactly is a family, we can now move further to discussing what is important for the family as well as how and why the family is important for us.

What is Important for Family
There are set guidelines as to what a family considers important and what must be done by a person, being a family member. But, there are certain basic things that are considered important for making a happy family. The first and the foremost thing that is important in a family is love. Infact, the whole concept of a family, of the caring and sharing we undertake here, is based on love only. Family members are concerned about each other’s well being only because they love each other.
Without love, a family would cease to exist. Then, there is trust, understanding and devotion that make a family what it is. If you do not have such feeling towards your family members, the family will never ever be a group of closely-bonded people; rather it would be a group of individuals living together just because they have no other choice. Last, but not the least, the happiness of a family is based on cooperation by its members. In absence of the same, you can hardly expect your family to be a place where you get peace and comfort.
How & Why is Family Important
Often people have wondered how, or rather why, is a family important for an individual. This question has especially been put up by people who are living alone, away from their family. The simple answer to the question is that a family plays a very important role in shaping up the personality as well as the life of an individual. A family full of loving and caring members can make your life heaven, while an abusive family can make you see hell on earth. Leaving aside the exceptions, family acts as a safe cocoon for an individual, where he can find love when the whole world has rejected him.
Family members are amongst those few people in this present-day world, who will genuinely feel for you and worry about you. They will always be there for you, to fall back upon, when you have been disillusioned with the outside world. Though at times it feels that they are interfering too much in your life, it’s only because they care for you. They accept you with your mistakes and weaknesses and still love you. You will never ever be able to find a substitute for the love of a mother, a father, a wife, a child or a sibling. Those who are able to understand this, lead a secure life & those who don’t, remain disenchanted with life forever!




‘I Like Daddy Better!’: 5 Ways to Cope When a Child Favors a Parent

I should have seen it coming. For months, my 3-year-old son had been asking my husband to do crafts with him, give him baths, read him stories, and play his favorite board game. He waited eagerly each night for my husband to get home from work and asked, “Where’s Daddy?” whenever my husband left the house. As parents go, I was definitely second choice.

When he insisted one night that my husband put him to bed (one of my favorite rituals as a parent), I braced myself and asked, in what I hoped was a casual way, “Why do you want Daddy to put you to bed instead of Mommy?”

He looked up at me from under his long eyelashes and said matter-of-factly, “Because I like Daddy better.”

Ouch. I’ve always been prone to mom guilt, so his guileless confession sent my mind racing. Was it because I’d recently begun working more? Was I focusing too much on his older siblings? Or was it just another (mostly) harmless curveball tossed by my busy, emotional, and sometimes confusing 3-year-old?

I needed answers stat—so I turned to psychologist and parent educator Dr. Erica Reischer, author of the forthcoming book “What Great Parents Do.”

First things first: Is it normal for a young child to favor Mom or Dad? Thankfully, yes. “This is very normal and very common,” Dr. Reischer assures me. “The issue comes up in a lot of families I see.”

For parents experiencing this favoritism dynamic, Dr. Reischer suggests to first assess the situation: Is the favoritism an occasional issue? Or is there a daily struggle with a child who prefers either Mommy or Daddy?

If it’s the latter, Dr. Reischer suggests examining your big-picture relationship with your child.

“Everyone in a parenting role needs a warm, supportive relationship with the child,” she says. “This type of favoritism may be mirroring something in the relationship—not spending enough time together, not being hands-on enough in parenting, maybe a good cop/bad cop dynamic among Mom and Dad.”

Why do young children express favoritism? They’re simply figuring out how to navigate relationships. “As I always say, they’re little scientists, just watching to see how we work,” Dr. Reischer says. “They wonder ‘What happens if I do this?'”

If you’ve ever experienced this dynamic, whether as the preferred parent or the rejected one, consider Dr Reischer’s five tips to deal with the situation to get your relationship back on track:

1. Never respond in a negative way.

“But I want Daddy to put me to bed!” your child shrieks. You may feel rejected, but resist the urge to snap at her or withdraw emotionally. “Kids are candid—they don’t edit,” Dr. Reischer says. Refusing to edit yourself will only make both of you feel worse. Additionally, don’t dwell on the situation—if she asks you to play a game, the worst thing to say is, “Well, you didn’t want me to play yesterday!”

2. React with empathy.

You may not like what your child is saying, but you should validate it anyway. “If your child says, ‘I want Daddy!’ you can say calmly, ‘I hear that you want Daddy, and I know that you love Daddy,'” Dr. Reischer says. Even if you can’t (or choose not to) honor his request, it’s important that he feels heard.

3. Ensure each parent strikes a balance between work and fun.

Perhaps you take your child grocery shopping, make her sandwich, and brush her teeth—then your partner walks in the door and it’s non-stop playtime. For everyone’s sake, it’s important that each parent take on a mix of “fun” and “work.” As Dr. Reischer points out, “The child may just want who they perceive is easier—the parent who gives them one more story or dessert.”

4. Formulate a predictable schedule.

If a struggle ensues regularly when your child prefers Mom or Dad for certain activities, you can combat it with a regular schedule. Kids thrive on structure, and if you and your partner alternate nightly bathtime duty, your child will get to know the routine. Rather than “Daddy can’t give me a bath because Mommy is being mean,” the situation becomes “Mommy’s giving me my bath tonight because it’s Monday.”

5. Above all, focus on love and respect.

Feeling like the least favorite parent can sting, but it’s vital to respond with kindness, respect, and love no matter what your child says. “You want to maintain a loving connection,” Dr. Reischer says. “That’s what unconditional love means: I love you no matter what, even if I don’t like your behavior.”







Sutter Health


Being the parent or guardian of a preteen or teen is not as scary as it sounds! Most of the time they are struggling to be independent and to fit in at school, at home, and with friends. Keep in mind that helping your preteen or teen to become an adult takes time, patience, and a commitment. There is no such thing as an instant adult!

There are two things to remember: preteens and teens need lots of love. They need a caring adult to help shape their moral compass and give them support during these difficult transitional years.

Tips for Parents and Guardian

  • Let your child know that you love him or her no matter what. Preteens and teens need a trusting and loving relationship with a parent or other adult to feel safe and secure.
  • Talk to your preteen or teen – listen to his or her ideas and opinions, and do things together.
  • Get to know your child’s friends and learn what they do in school; it helps you understand your preteen or teen even better.
  • Show you care by chaperoning a trip.
  • Join a parent group or support group where you and other parents can discuss parenting issues.
  • Attend all parent-teacher conferences at school.
  • Go to your child’s athletic events and school musicals.
  • Answer your child’s questions about health risks.
  • Teach your child to respect himself or herself and others.
  • Challenge your preteen to discover his or her own incredible potential.
  • Show your preteen or teen that you are proud of his or her accomplishments, both large and small.

For more information please go to :



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10 Tips for Parenting Your Pre-teen


How to stay close as kids move into adolescence

We asked some experts for tips to help you keep the channels of communication open between you and your pre-teen—and have a smoother transition into the teen years.

1. Don’t feel rejected by their newfound independence. It’s appropriate for kids this age to start turning away from their parents and relying more and more on friends, but parents can take their pre-teen’s withdrawal as rejection. “All too often parents personalize some of the distance that occurs and misinterpret it as a willful refusal or maybe oppositional behavior,” says Catherine Steiner-Adair, a Harvard psychologist, schools consultant, and author of The Big Disconnect.

Beware of trying to force information out of a resistant tween. “This is a time when children really start to have secrets from us,” says Steiner-Adair, “and parents who have a low tolerance for that transition — they want to know everything — can alienate their children by being too inquisitive.”

2. Set aside special time with your child. It’s often tough to get pre-teens to open up and talk. Laura Kirmayer, a clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute, suggests establishing a special period of one-on-one time once or twice a week that you spend with your tween, where you’re providing undivided attention ,and you’re not working or texting at the same time,

In doing this you’re not only improving your relationship, you’re also teaching interpersonal skills that are going to be crucial in the future. “That quality time is really key,” Kirmayer says, “and it’s something that we might overlook because our kids might be saying they don’t want it and be pulling away. And we might unintentionally collude with that tendency.”

3. Try the indirect approach. When they were younger you could ask direct questions. How was school? How did you do on the test? Now, the direct approach — carpet-bombing them with questions about school and their day — doesn’t work. Suddenly that feels overwhelming and intrusive. And it’s going to backfire.

If anything, says Kirmayer, you have to take the opposite approach and position yourself as mostly just a listener: “If you actually just sit down, without questions, and just listen, you’re more likely to get the information about your child’s life that you’re wanting.” Kirmayer says this approach gives kids the message that “this is a place where they can come and talk, and they have permission to say anything that they’re thinking or feeling.” Sometimes you’ll be able to help and give advice—but don’t try to step in and solve all their problems. Other times you’ll just be there to empathize with how hard it is to deal with whatever they’re going through.

4. Don’t be overly judgmental. “At this age your children are watching you very astutely to hear how judgmental you are,” advises Steiner-Adair. “They are taking their cues on how you talk about other people’s children, especially children that get into trouble — how that girl dresses, or that boy has good manners or bad manners. And they are watching and deciding whether you are harsh or critical or judgmental.”

She gives the example of the parent who says, “‘I can’t believe she posted this picture on Facebook! If we were her parents we’d be mortified.’ Or ‘I can’t believe he sent that YouTube video around!’ They are commenting on behaviors that need commenting on, but the intensity and the rigidity of their judgment is what backfires.”

Related: How Using Social Media Affects Teenagers

5. Watch what they watch with them. Beginning in middle school, watching the stuff that your child wants to watch with him and being able to laugh at it and talk about it is an important way to connect and to be able to discuss subjects that would otherwise be taboo. “Don’t get too intense in how you critique the values,” says Steiner-Adair.

It’s our job as parents, she adds, to help both boys and girls recognize how the media instills the gender code — the barrage of cultural messages that tell kids what it “means” to be a boy or a girl—and to help them identify when something crosses the line from teasing to mean. But tread lightly and use humor.

6. Don’t be afraid to start conversations about sex and drugs. The unfortunate reality is that kids are starting to experiment with drugs and alcohol as early as 9 or 10. And according to Kirmayer, “Sexual development is a big part of this age, and it’s when we first start to see eating disorders arise, so these are key years for us to be building a strong foundation and giving them developmentally appropriate information.” Kirmayer suggests providing your tween with information and resources without the pressure of a big “talk.”







Gifted Children Challenging Authority

Source: Life Organizers

Having a gifted child can be as equally frustrating as it is rewarding. The most common reason for head-butting between parent and child is just differences in the way that you think. It can be difficult trying to communicate with your child when you don’t understand how they think. Here are some tips for managing the communication clash between you and your gifted child.

My son and I had just finished up a particularly aggressive exercise in mathematics one homeschooling day some years ago and he was still hyped when I handed him his next assignment. Naively, I thought it would be a cake-walk for him…a basic language arts practice sheet of context clues. Boy was I WRONG!!

It wasn’t the assignment that started the intellectual wrestling match – but the directions! “Mom, these directions don’t make any sense!” was the first thing he bellowed. My response only triggered more rapid-fire questions from him. Instantly, three sentences of publisher instructions turned into a thirty-minute discourse delivered with bewilderment and a near threat of banishment of privileges for the rest of the day!  To read more go to



Parenting a Shy Child

Recently I read this article in a book about children who are shy.  The book stated that shyness can be painful, but it do have it’s benefits.  If your child is shy they are least likely to act aggressively or criminally.    They do have some issues when it comes to making friends quickly, because it takes them a little longer to warm up.

You should never force a shy child to perform. Don’t answer questions for a shy child.  Don’t take over for a shy child when he/she could do it himself/herself.

Tips for Parenting Shy Children


Bright Horizons

A few tips for parents and caregivers on how to help shy children:

  • Instead of seeing your child as just a shy kid, recognize and value the whole child and his or her strengths, feelings, and interests.
  • Absolutely avoid negative labeling. Shy behavior shouldn’t define the child. Once a child bears the labels, “shy, fearful, or timid,” it’s hard to overcome. Some of the qualities that accompany what is thought of as shyness are very positive. Careful, mindful, or cautious are more positive terms and characteristics.
  • Respect the child’s nervousness and anxiety as “normal,” and don’t try and minimize it or overreact to it. Address your child’s concern by saying, “Sometimes, we all feel nervous and are afraid of looking silly, not making friends, etc…”
  • Don’t simply protect the child from new people and new situations. Instead of treating the child as fragile or vulnerable, recognize that some children simply need a little more time to check out the situation from a distance and enter it at their own pace. Shy older children may need your help understanding what they can do to fit in.
  • Role playing and pretend play serves as rehearsal and can help shy or timid children approach new people and situations with less anxiety.
  • Set up social situations with known children and adults, extended family or friends, or very small groups to help children practice social skills in a safe setting.
  • Schedule playdates to help shy children practice their social skills and make new friends.
  • Set small, achievable goals for toddlers and preschoolers approaching new situations and help school-age children set their own goals.

With acceptance, support, and gentle coaching, children born with a tendency toward shyness can succeed at anything



The New Latchkey Kids

On Monday and Friday afternoons, 9-year-old Joey would sling a backpack across his shoulder and walk five blocks from his grade school to his home. The fourth-grader carefully opened the front door and locked it behind him. He made a snack, then switched on the TV as he waited the three hours for his mom to get off work. Sometimes he got scared being by himself.

“I felt so guilty,” says his mother, Rachel Brandon, a single mom whose son’s after-school program shuttered due to lack of funding two years ago (both her name and Joey’s have been changed to protect their privacy). But with a sitter beyond her budget and no one else to watch him, she had no other options. “Never did I think I’d be leaving a 9-year-old home alone.”

One consequence of the nation’s economic struggle is the toll it’s taken on kids during the critical hours after school. As parents scramble to find work — often taking jobs that entail long hours and odd shifts — their affordable child-care solutions are disappearing. Government cutbacks have slashed scores of after-school programs and reduced the financial assistance for others, leaving families unable to find or afford alternative arrangements.

Quietly, a new generation of latchkey kids has emerged. One in 25 kindergartners through fifth-graders care for themselves after school, according to America After 3PM, a survey released last year by the Afterschool Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization, and JC Penney Afterschool. Overall, the number of self-supervised children has jumped to 15.1 million nationwide, a 6 percent increase since 2004. And, amazingly, it affects all income levels. The Afterschool Alliance reports that more than half of these kids come from middle- or upper-class households.

“A few years ago many of these families wouldn’t have dreamed of letting their kids wait in an empty house,” says Jennifer Rinehart, vice president of policy and research for Afterschool Alliance. “But in today’s economy they often have no choice.”

Brandon remembers being horrified when she received the letter informing her that three of the six after-school programs in her small Iowa town of nearly 27,000 were shutting down — including Joey’s. She couldn’t afford $10 per hour for a babysitter, and the remaining programs in town were already filled. So she cobbled together a complicated care schedule. On Tuesdays Joey stays at school for a free mentoring program. Thursdays he goes to a tutor. School dismisses at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday, and he rides the bus to a day-care center. But on Mondays and Fridays he’s on his own.

“Every day I have to stop and think, ‘Now where is he today?'” Brandon says. “It’s exhausting. And not being 100 percent sure he is safe and okay…” Her words trail off as her voice breaks.

On the days Joey is unattended, Brandon has instructed him not to answer the door or leave the house. One afternoon she called to check on him and got no answer. She flew out of her office and drove around the neighborhood, weeping. “I thought, ‘What kind of a mom am I?'” she recalls. When she finally found him at a friend’s house, she didn’t know whether to scold him or to hug him.






















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