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Speak Up for Your Children

I realize that first, you need to be connected with your children in a very special way in order for them to even share important things.  So, for me, I have been working really hard to establish this authentic connection from day one with both my son & daughter.  Well, my efforts, time & energy has been paying off!  Whether it has to do with friends, peers, teachers, coaches, family members or specific situations that occur in daily life, I have been thrilled to know that my kids feel safe & comfortable teliing me just about anything.  What a gift!
Recently it came to my attention that a particular book that was assigned to my son, a seventh grader, in a class book club, was filled with sexual content, references to under-age drinking, in additon to the fact that the content was making him uneasy and uncomfortable.  My son shared with me that the book had a lot of "inappropriate" stuff and he didn't want to read it.  So, I began reading through the book and felt quite shocked at the fact that a middle school could allow this to be distributed to twelve and thirteen year-old students.  Not to mention the fact that the main character is a ninth grade freshman girl who soon into the beginning of the book, is date-raped by a classmate!  The clincher was that the students, my son and a few other "strong" readers were assigned to read and discuss the book chapter by chapter with little to no guidance or support from the teacher. 
I chose to call my son's ELA teacher to discuss this matter, share my son's feelings and attempt to understand her thoughts on the subject.  Truthfully, she was a bit surprised by my reaction to the book, as she assured me that it has been used with students in seventh grade for several years prior.  After speaking with her, she suggested I call the head of the ELA department in our district to share my concerns. 
So, that's exactly what I did!  This time the conversation was more enlightening and productive.  I was quite pleased with her response, as a mother herself she appreciated the fact that I was advocating for my child and questioning something that felt wrong.  She was surprised when she learned of the book I was referring to, having read it before she knew first-hand about the "mature" content and AGREED that it was NOT suitable for kids in middle school to be reading, especially on their own without ongoing teacher support.  How refreshing to deal with someone so receptive and willing to learn from this example in order to improve future book selections. 
We talked about having a letter for the parents with a listing of all the books being distributed to the students in each grade so they would have an opportunity, if they chose, to peruse and gather insights about the content in which their child will be exposed to during the course of the school year.  She even added that certain books will have a "mature content" label to caution parents ahead of time about specific books that may raise concerns or sensitive issues among students.  VICTORY!  I was SO happy and satisfied with the outcome of this situation.  The credit belongs to my courageous son, who feels comfortable sharing just about anything with me.  I made sure to let him know about my conversations pertaing to this book and thanked him for being honest and forthcoming in order to create necessary change. 
The goal was to RAISE consciousness and together, my son and I succeeded in doing so! 
As a parent, the goal is also to help our children trust us with important information knowing that we will believe them and support them unconditionally in all sitautions.  My son knows he can count on me to listen and take action.  However, their are times where it's significant to empower our kids to speak up for themselves.  This example helps to model for children that we're not just telling them to speak up, but WE are doing so as well, whether it's related to their lives or our own, ACTIONS speak! 

Our Children Have Many Gifts to Give Us!

Everyone, including children, possesses a wealth of ideas, talents, skills and interests that they can share.  Some choose to give through singing a song, writing a poem, painting a picture, offering vegetables or flowers grown in their garden, baking cookies or a pie, or simply keeping someone company and sharing a personal story.  We are ALL capable of giving of ourselves - time, energy, attention, affection, listening.  Lending a helpful hand, doing an extra chore or a heartfelt hug can be quite endearing and appreciated. Modeling these gestures and sincere acts of kindness in your home daily will create a deeper understanding for kids of your family’s values, including unconditional love, mutual respect, compassion and cooperation. 

Children of all ages enjoy being engaged in things that interest them, so allow them to explore their creativity and imagination.  Give them the gift of support and acceptance when they are learning to express themselves.  Try NOT to manipulate or critique their ideas, rather encourage their individuality and offer genuine praise for all their efforts, even the smallest ones!  Children continually present their playful spirits, laughter, inquisitiveness, honesty, affection and humor.  If you are able to receive and recognize these gifts, your kids will grow up knowing what powerful givers they are and learn to appreciate the feeling of intrinsic, or internal rewards of bringing others joy!  Inevitably, they will be building their self-esteem in the process.

Unfortunately, some parents do fail to recognize that these contributions are worthy and that they need to be made willingly, by their children.  Many adults are fixed on their own agenda of what, when and how kids should contribute. We were all taught when we were children ourselves that certain words or behaviors were thought to be appropriate or acceptable.  Unintentionally, even unknowingly, some parents pass along these same traditions, or pattern of beliefs and thoughts, to their own families today.  The result of this negative thinking may cause a child to become discouraged and lose their natural desire to give freely.  Instead, by noticing your child’s spontaneous actions, acts of thoughtfulness and kindness, you affirm that gifts are not only items bought with money, rather, gems to be valued and grateful for, just like them!

Here are some ideas for you to try with your family that do NOT cost any money:

  • Invite everyone in your family to write or illustrate the gifts they have to give/share.
  • Compile pages, bind and give it a title, like, Family Gifts from the Heart. This is a great reminder that ALL members of your family have something valuable to contribute and later reflect upon.
  • Use colored construction paper and cut into strips. Each member of your family can then write down what they have to give. Connect the strips to create a chain & hang as decoration.
  • Make a collage of photos from family trips or special events – add captions with anecdotes.
  • Create gift certificates. They can be for your time, a meal, an outing – “Day with Mom or Dad.”
  • Create a coupon – good for doing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom or walk/feed the dog.
  • Write heartfelt thank you notes and send to loved ones. For those in your home, fill a jar!

 

 

Smart & Gifted Kids...They Can be Funny Too!

It was the beginning of fourth grade and my son, Liam, age 9, had always been described by his teachers as a “model” student. By this I mean well-behaved, participatory, kind, friendly and hardworking. As a former elementary school teacher myself, I could appreciate the boys and girls in my classes who had a thirst for knowledge, were respectful and cooperative. Just like adults who earn a reputation within their family, at their workplace or in the local community, their actions and behaviors are noted, judged and expected. Children also earn a reputation, sometimes as early on as infancy, when they’re fussy or reluctant sleepers, they are labeled. As kids begin school, this happens more and more frequently. Teachers and parents, alike, treat kids accordingly. Holding high expectations can be wonderful and often times people, in general, rise to the occasion.  He shared with tears, shame and confusion the fact that he learned his lesson, he would NEVER again say something funny or try to stand out in class for fear that he will get in trouble and tarnish his “reputation” as a model student.  “Smart kids don’t behave this way,” he said. I hugged him tightly and offered my congratulations for being so brave, courageous, humorous and authentic.  Liam is a gifted student among many others things like a great athlete, creative artist, imaginative writer, compassionate friend, son and brother.  He has a silly side and loves to tell jokes and make people laugh.  Fast forward several months, another similar situation occurred and I decided then to schedule a meeting with Liam, his teacher and myself.  I spoke to my son about the importance of speaking up for himself and letting his teacher know how he’s been feeling (with my support).  Perhaps hearing her perspective would be equally helpful. He agreed.  When we arrived at the school, I asked my son to wait in the hallway so that I could briefly explain why we were meeting and assure Liam that it was safe to share his feelings with his teacher.  She was surprised, yet open to talking with Liam and anxious to hear what was wrong. The conversation went very well and I truly commend this woman for accepting Liam’s story with humility.  Let’s help parents advocate for their kids and bring more awareness to the fact that these stereotypes exist in schools as well as homes.  Otherwise, children will continue to carry with them the shame, confusion and reluctance to be their authentic selves, at all costs, into adulthood and on to yet another generation.

 

 

 

He shared with tears, shame and

confusion the fact that he learned his

lesson, he would NEVER again say

something funny or try to stand out in

class for fear that he will get in trouble

and tarnish his “reputation” as a model

student.

“Smart kids don’t behave this way,” he

said. I hugged him tightly and offered my

congratulations for being so brave,

courageous, humorous and authentic.

Liam is a gifted student among many

others things like a great athlete, creative

artist, imaginative writer, compassionate

friend, son and brother.

He has a silly side and loves to tell jokes

and make people laugh.

Fast forward several months, another

similar situation occurred and I decided

then to schedule a meeting with Liam, his

teacher and myself.

I spoke to my son about the importance

of speaking up for himself and letting his

teacher know how he’s been feeling (with

my support).

Perhaps hearing her perspective would be

equally helpful. He agreed.

When we arrived at the school, I asked

my son to wait in the hallway so that I

could briefly explain why we were

meeting and assure Liam that it was safe

to share his feelings with his teacher.

She was surprised, yet open to talking

with Liam and anxious to hear what was

wrong. The conversation went very well

and I truly commend this woman for

accepting Liam’s story with humility.

Let’s help parents advocate for their kids

and bring more awareness to the fact that

these stereotypes exist in schools as well

as homes.

Otherwise, children will continue to carry

with them the shame, confusion and

reluctance to be their authentic selves, at

all costs, into adulthood and on to yet

another generation.

 

Erika Stroh,

He shared with tears, shame and

confusion the fact that he learned his

lesson, he would NEVER again say

something funny or try to stand out in

class for fear that he will get in trouble

and tarnish his “reputation” as a model

student.

“Smart kids don’t behave this way,” he

said. I hugged him tightly and offered my

congratulations for being so brave,

courageous, humorous and authentic.

Liam is a gifted student among many

others things like a great athlete, creative

artist, imaginative writer, compassionate

friend, son and brother.

He has a silly side and loves to tell jokes

and make people laugh.

Fast forward several months, another

similar situation occurred and I decided

then to schedule a meeting with Liam, his

teacher and myself.

I spoke to my son about the importance

of speaking up for himself and letting his

teacher know how he’s been feeling (with

my support).

Perhaps hearing her perspective would be

equally helpful. He agreed.

When we arrived at the school, I asked

my son to wait in the hallway so that I

could briefly explain why we were

meeting and assure Liam that it was safe

to share his feelings with his teacher.

She was surprised, yet open to talking

with Liam and anxious to hear what was

wrong. The conversation went very well

and I truly commend this woman for

accepting Liam’s story with humility.

Let’s help parents advocate for their kids

and bring more awareness to the fact that

these stereotypes exist in schools as well

as homes.

Otherwise, children will continue to carry

with them the shame, confusion and

reluctance to be their authentic selves, at

all costs, into adulthood and on to yet

another generation.

 

Erika Stroh,

He shared with tears, shame and

confusion the fact that he learned his

lesson, he would NEVER again say

something funny or try to stand out in

class for fear that he will get in trouble

and tarnish his “reputation” as a model

student.

“Smart kids don’t behave this way,” he

said. I hugged him tightly and offered my

congratulations for being so brave,

courageous, humorous and authentic.

Liam is a gifted student among many

others things like a great athlete, creative

artist, imaginative writer, compassionate

friend, son and brother.

He has a silly side and loves to tell jokes

and make people laugh.

Fast forward several months, another

similar situation occurred and I decided

then to schedule a meeting with Liam, his

teacher and myself.

I spoke to my son about the importance

of speaking up for himself and letting his

teacher know how he’s been feeling (with

my support).

Perhaps hearing her perspective would be

equally helpful. He agreed.

When we arrived at the school, I asked

my son to wait in the hallway so that I

could briefly explain why we were

meeting and assure Liam that it was safe

to share his feelings with his teacher.

She was surprised, yet open to talking

with Liam and anxious to hear what was

wrong. The conversation went very well

and I truly commend this woman for

accepting Liam’s story with humility.

Let’s help parents advocate for their kids

and bring more awareness to the fact that

these stereotypes exist in schools as well

as homes.

Otherwise, children will continue to carry

with them the shame, confusion and

reluctance to be their authentic selves, at

all costs, into adulthood and on to yet

another generation.

 

Erika Stroh,

PEACE IN FUNNY

He shared with tears, shame and

confusion the fact that he learned his

lesson, he would NEVER again say

something funny or try to stand out in

class for fear that he will get in trouble

and tarnish his “reputation” as a model

student.

“Smart kids don’t behave this way,” he

said. I hugged him tightly and offered my

congratulations for being so brave,

courageous, humorous and authentic.

Liam is a gifted student among many

others things like a great athlete, creative

artist, imaginative writer, compassionate

friend, son and brother.

He has a silly side and loves to tell jokes

and make people laugh.

Fast forward several months, another

similar situation occurred and I decided

then to schedule a meeting with Liam, his

teacher and myself.

I spoke to my son about the importance

of speaking up for himself and letting his

teacher know how he’s been feeling (with

my support).

Perhaps hearing her perspective would be

equally helpful. He agreed.

When we arrived at the school, I asked

my son to wait in the hallway so that I

could briefly explain why we were

meeting and assure Liam that it was safe

to share his feelings with his teacher.

She was surprised, yet open to talking

with Liam and anxious to hear what was

wrong. The conversation went very well

and I truly commend this woman for

accepting Liam’s story with humility.

Let’s help parents advocate for their kids

and bring more awareness to the fact that

these stereotypes exist in schools as well

as homes.

Otherwise, children will continue to carry

with them the shame, confusion and

reluctance to be their authentic selves, at

all costs, into adulthood and on to yet

another generation.

 

Erika Stroh,

However, what happens when a child, in

this case Liam, decides to “break out of

his shell” just a little and say something

he thought was amusing in class?

I’ll tell you what happened, he was

publicly scolded, embarrassed in front of

his classmates and decided in that very

moment that he would never again “try to

be funny.”

His teacher said that she was very

disappointed in him and was surprised to

hear such a thing come from “his” mouth!

By the way, the principal announced over

the loudspeaker that a car was illegally

parked and needed to be moved. Liam

said, “Oh, that’s my car.” He came home

that day and told me what had happened.

Update: Nurturing Sibling Relationships by Teaching Mediation, Communication & Conflict Resolution Skills

This is a follow-up to a blog I wrote seven months ago...NOW,  I am able to reflect back to see if there has been progress and/or changes in my kids' relationship with one another & the way they work to resolve conflicts. I am thrilled to report that their communication skills have continued to develop & improve! Just yesterday morning they had a disagreement during breakfast & before it escalated I stepped in to remind them of a few simple things to help resolve the issue & address their unique perspectives & feelings. I do NOT believe that this was a case of "sibling rivalry," rather a matter of miscommunication & misunderstanding between two people (who happen to care about one another). They took turns sharing their side of the story & were able to get to the root of the conflict. The part that remains tricky, or a less obvious form of communication, is the fact that body language, tone & added comments or remarks during attempts to rectify or apologize is equally hurtful & Unproductive! So, my daughter decided to get up & walk away to create space & time to think about things before continuing the conversation with her brother. I approached her to see if she needed a hug or to talk (she took me up on BOTH). We spoke for a bit, she expressed her frustrations & then felt more relaxed & ready to move on.
My son waited patiently, finished his breakfast & began by apologizing to his sister for "his" part in the conflict. It is always helpful & necessary to take responsibility for YOUR part, however big or small, in a conflict. This is how we can teach our kids to be accountable for their words & behavior. When my kids were younger, I would use the analogy of story characters. Each character contributes, whether it be in a positive or negative way, they can recognize their role & how it may affect the plot (or conflict). My part,
as their mother was small, yet necessary. It is my JOB to reinforce healthy dialogue & stay true to the standards of treating one another with respect! Teaching, modeling & nurturing listening/communication skills are ESSENTIAL for our children at ALL ages & stages!
My (now) twelve year old son & nine year old daughter are fully capable of expressing themselves not only to each other, their parents & family members, but also when speaking with their peers, friends, teachers, coaches and so on. The GIFT in our relationship has been that they can share with me when I've done or said something to upset them, embarrass them or hurt their feelings (unknowingly & unintentionally of course). As parents, we want to embrace this kind of open, honest feedback from our kids. This will surely encourage them to feel comfortable sharing many more things as they continue to grow & experience a variety of people & situations.

 

Share Stories, Photos & Traditions - Keep Your Family History Alive!

As I was driving my eight-year old daughter to school the other day, I shared with her the fact that it would’ve been my grandfather’s ninety-third birthday, if he were still alive.  He died four years ago & had only been a part of my children’s lives for a relatively short period of time.  My son is eleven now & even he has only brief memories of his great-grandfather, or “GG” as he was called.  He lived in Florida since I was a teenager & had been coming to visit several times a year since the birth of my children.  We videotaped our times together as a family here in our home or at my son’s sporting events & even interviewed him about his life so we could all gain a more intimate & personal perspective of this very special man, the patriarch of our family.  I highly recommend taking lots of photos & videos so you’ll never forget special times, people & the sound of a loved ones’ voice.

How often do you remember to talk to your children about the loved ones who are no longer living?  Do you have photos in your home of yourself as a child or of family members that are deceased?  Have you shared favorite moments & occasions with your spouse & kids, or even the memories that were not so pleasant?  I’m often reminded of just how “present” kids are, as they live in the “here & now.”  It’s easy enough to overlook the people in our lives who are not with us on a daily basis, calling or texting – the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality.  Clearly, it’s even more challenging to create connections for our kids with special people from our past, our ancestors, when they are no longer alive.  Yet, knowing where we come from - our family of origin – can be crucial in terms of relating to our heritage, culture, ethnicity & belief system.  Questions are answered on a deeper level when we can trace our personal history.  Future relationships will be healthier & more productive if we know & accept ourselves first. 

So, in addition to creating authentic traditions today with your family, as your kids are growing up, there are countless customs, habitual behaviors, even recipes that may have been passed down from generation to generation.  It can be quite symbolic to enlighten yourself & your children by researching your past.  Imagine the many things you & your spouse could discover & learn about each other along the way!  In order to have understanding, compassion & empathy for one another as partners in parenting, it is beneficial for you to share your thoughts & feelings about the past.  Sometimes pain & trauma may surface, but also healing & awakening – as deeper connections evolve in the process. 

When you become a mother or father, you are exposed to the world in a very unique way. Your child becomes a reflection of who you are – exhibiting both positive & negative qualities.  As they grow & develop their own attributes, you can admire their autonomy & independence, yet know that they will always share our genes & character traits in one way or another.  You influence your children immensely, as your parents influenced you as a child (and probably still do). What a gift for you now to share stories of those past events & people who influenced you throughout your life, who unfortunately never had the opportunity to meet your children.  Don’t underestimate the power of storytelling!

Parenting is complex & the past clearly affects who we are today & therefore how we raise our children. I believe that we have a responsibility to ourselves & our kids to shed light on the past with love & compassion for those who came before us while creating a future that represents our current values.

Co-Parenting

(Webster’s definition: Cooperative: willing to work with others.)

Parents who are eager to foster cooperation between themselves, with their children & other caregivers will only succeed if done so willingly.  By this I mean, all people, big & small, NEED to be made to feel appreciated, capable, respected & genuinely helpful.

Children & adults share the same desire to work collaboratively - only when their thoughts, feelings & opinions matter & when they can participate in the decision-making & problem-solving process.

Co-Parenting refers to the collective group of adults responsible for raising & caring for a child on a regular basis. This may include mothers, fathers, grandparents, extended family members, nannies, even teachers, coaches, & the media, to some degree. 

Consider the following questions:

Who decides what is best for a child?  Who or what influences the parenting decisions you make?

How is your child affected by the multiple, sometimes inconsistent messages they receive daily? 

Have you ever felt like your authority is “weak” & the “other” parent holds all the power?

If you asked your son/daughter who is the “boss” in your home, what would they say?  Why do you think this is the case? Have you created this situation unknowingly?

How often do you discuss issues relating to your child, such as friends, school, behavior, physical/emotional development, setting limits, discipline, nutrition, chores and so on with spouse?

Is it okay to disagree on child rearing practices?  How do you usually handle this type of conflict?

Why is it important for kids to live with consistency, continuity & clarity when it comes to rules, routines, expectations & behavior?

Wouldn’t it be beneficial for everyone involved in raising your child to make the time to discuss important issues, share multiple perspectives, observations & ideas about parenting – without criticism & judgment –  in the best interest of your child’s well-being at heart?!

Communication is KEY!  Listening to one another is KEY!  Open-mind thinking is KEY!

Parenting cooperatively is essential for modeling productive, healthy, loving relationships for your children.  Learn to break the cycles from previous generations. Dysfunctional attitudes & behavior may prevent you from trusting your own instincts, creating unique family values & traditions, while honoring your spouse & kids todayWork together, encourage & support each other in your genuine efforts to make lasting changes, achieve harmony & aspire to parent from the heart!

Mediation for Siblings – An Ongoing Process & Commitment to Healthy Relationships

Despite the fact that I coach parents for a living and have taught children & adults of all ages to communicate, cooperate & resolve conflicts peacefully for over fifteen years, my two children, ages 8 & 11, disagree, argue & instigate one another daily.   Of course some days are better than others, but I can assure you that I have been working since the day my daughter joined our family to address the delicate needs & feelings of both children, particularly my son, who did NOT choose to become a brother!

Sibling rivalry is NOT inevitable!  My children have been raised to be heard, understood, acknowledged & respected since the day they were born.  Our only real “rule” in our home is mutual respect.  This simply means to be courteous & compassionate while being mindful of others people’s feelings.  Our actions affect others, not only in our home environment, but everywhere we go.  We have explained & modeled that with freedom comes responsibility.  This certainly applies to everyone, everywhere, however, sometimes one’s freedom can infringe upon someone else’s freedom and vice-versa.

Lately, the most common place where hostility arises seems to be at mealtimes.  We take pride in the fact that we do sit down together as a family to eat & connect.  However, this is also a time when my son & daughter enjoy being VERY silly, even a bit loud at times!  They’ve explained to my husband and I that all day in school they are disciplined, well-behaved, cooperative and quiet.  Therefore, this is a time & place where they feel comfortable showing the more immature side or age-appropriate side of themselves.  This, they clearly have in common!  There’s even something heartwarming about their authentic connection, as siblings, to create such comfort, sense of ease and humor together. 

My son & daughter care deeply for each other & have become friends as they find themselves having more in common as they grow older.  This doesn’t mean that they don’t have their differences & disagreements – particularly when you share parents, a home & living space?!  But, this isn’t justification for physical roughness or harsh language when interacting with one another.  They can be quite playful, laugh & enjoy time together – BUT, name-calling, yelling, hitting, slapping or any other form of aggressive behavior is simply NOT tolerated, nor has it ever been a problem in their relationship. They know internally & have been taught to listen to their inner voice (gut) which lets them know if/when they’ve gone too far, hurt someone’s feelings or physically hurt someone.  This instinct is way more powerful than any punishment we could impose – this intrinsic motivation to treat others in a kind & gentle way nurtures their sense of compassion for themselves, others & consideration for their own along with other people’s feelings & perspectives. THIS is what makes them unique, thoughtful & caring individuals!  We are so proud of their constant efforts & understand that this labor of love is a work in progress!

 So, for sure, they have been given the tools & consistent reminders for healthy, productive & mutually respectful listening, communication & conflict resolution throughout their lives.  But, among the countless responsibilities we have as parents, these skills MUST be reinforced over & over again.  That’s okay & it makes perfect sense considering ALL  kids are growing, changing, maturing & SO then are their capabilities, interests & awareness.  If we see our children, even from a very young age as little people, with qualities that can be nurtured with proper time, persistence & patience we will help support healthy habits that will create a beautiful foundation for the rest of their lives!   

Parenting Resolutions for the New Year!

 As the New Year begins we naturally look forward to better times with our family, pledging to make changes to improve our lives. Our aspirations for a better future motivates us to optimistically move forward, yet we soon find ourselves repeating the same old unwanted thoughts, behaviors and attitudes wondering why it is so difficult to make the changes we desire.  Determination alone doesn’t help when it comes to parenting – it is only when we take action toward learning new approaches, understanding how to meet the changing needs of our children and developing our communication, cooperation and implementation of such strategies each day - that will genuinely make a difference and create lasting positive change!

Try these 13 daily reminders to help get you started:

1. Wake up every day and choose a small thing you can do to show your children that they are your top priority. You may want to tell them directly, send them a text, call them during the day, leave a note in their lunch or on their pillow or help them with something important to them.

2. Set aside at least 10 minutes of one on one time with each of your children, where you make eye contact, and give them your undivided attention. Even with multiple children, this is less than an hour of your time each day.  Take their lead and engage in something fun together.

3. Have at least one meal a day with your children where you all sit down together and chat. Share your day with your children, focusing on positive experiences, and how you overcame negativity during the day.  Be a good listener – sit back and observe – listen to understand!

4. Consciously listen to what your children are telling you, reflecting back what is important to them without criticizing them. Know the names of their friends, teachers, favorite band, book, food and so on. Support them in their dreams and hopes for the future, even if they are not the dreams you may have for them. They are unique – show respect for your son/daughter as an individual!

5. Notice what you do and say in front of your youngsters. Keep the adult conversations separate and out of earshot.  It is necessary to change the way you deal with anger or respond to upsetting situations. If you want to teach your children how to behave calmly and rationally, then be a good example!

6. Exchange Discipline for Discussion. When you are tempted to punish, find ways of discussing what happened and how changes can be made. Avoid taking sides between siblings, rather mediate, encouraging your children to express their feelings and acknowledge the feelings of others while remaining neutral.  Guide them, without fixing the problem, to a peaceful resolution!

7. Choose to be a "yes" parent rather than a "no" parent. When you are tempted to say no, find a creative, yet authentic way to say “yes.” For instance, “Yes, I will take you to the movies this weekend but I can’t take you right now. Yes you may have that toy/ gadget. Place it on your Christmas/ birthday wish list. Help me work out a plan to save the money to buy you what you want. Yes, I will come to watch one of your sport's games, dance performance or take you to a movie next week, let’s put it on the calendar - now.”

8. Make the decision to no longer act impulsively by hitting/smacking your children when you are angry, placing them in timeout or yelling at them. Remove yourself from the situation and calm down before discussing your feelings with your children. Violence will only create more violence!

9. Play with your children every day. Laugh, tell jokes, discover a new board game. Let them see the fun, silly side of you.  Be sure to share stories and photos from your childhood as well!

10. Teach them about life by living the way you want them to be in the world. Chat when driving in the car about friendships or people in general. Brainstorm together the many ways to solve problems, think creatively, and think “out of the box.” Model how perseverance and patience in the face of adversity can lead to success. Remind them about the many historical figures/leaders possessed these qualities!

11. Help your child know who he/she is by describing their character traits. Like, kind, caring, a good friend, trustworthy, helpful, diligent, responsible, and so on. Taking ownership of these attributes will help to build esteem and confidence and will protect him/her from bullies.

12. Find ways to keep peace and calm in your home by rushing less, waking up earlier, speaking quietly, planning ahead, clarifying roles/responsibilities and making time for relaxation, playing music, reading together - so your children know home is a safe, reliable place where they can relax, unwind, invite guests and connect with loved ones! 

13. Hugging your children daily not only demonstrates that you love them but releases positive hormones protecting them against illness, reducing stress and making them feel secure. Loving affection and cuddles are especially important at the end of the day, particularly at bedtime!

 

How Can You Nurture A Growing Family?

 

                Unless you are an only child, like me, you probably experienced many emotions while growing up with siblings. What kind of relationships did you have with your siblings?  What kind of relationship would you like for your children to have?  Our own family experiences influence our expectations about sibling relationships. The vision you may have for your family may be different from that of your spouse or partner. Consideration for each others background, culture and values will play an important role in setting realistic goals for your family together.  The best way to prepare for your family’s future is by exploring your past.  For example, the people, experiences and traditions in your childhood as well as the emotions linked to them, can really shed some light on the unique vision you and your spouse may have for your own children and the relationships they will have with one another.

            Helping children learn how to make the most of their relationships with their siblings not only helps you get through the day, it’s an invaluable investment in your family’s future.  Rather than to assume “sibling rivalry” is inevitable, you may choose to embrace the countless and unique opportunities brothers and sisters have to cooperate and develop healthy, lifelong relationships.  I would best describe my experience in raising a son and daughter as a “work in progress” as it continues to provide a safe, loving environment in which they practice becoming more mindful of other people’s feelings and how their actions affect one another.

            It is important to accept the fact that bringing another child into the family will stimulate a variety of emotions for everyone, particularly your existing child. I can clearly see now more than ever before that my first child has been deeply affected by the presence of his sibling since the day she was born.  Allowing him to express his feelings, at the appropriate times, no matter how difficult it may be to hear, has helped us all to understand and deepen the relationships in our family. There are never “wrong” feelings, however the words we use when we respond to them can be hurtful, even damaging to our children. Communicating with compassion and understanding in addition to listening with love and acceptance will authenticate your efforts to validate each other, live in the moment and honor the spirit of the whole family. Acknowledge the uncertainty during this joyous and challenging time so you can fully embrace this new addition to your family, together, one moment at a time.

 Tips for Parents : After the Arrival of a New Baby

v   Make time for you and your older child to spend together without baby. This is the key to ensuring that they feel loved and valued in a familiar setting.

v   Encourage family and friends to pay extra, close attention to older child.  Continue to treat your child as an individual with love and compassion.  Often referring to them as the “big brother” or “big sister” depletes their unique identity and implies a new responsibility and role in the family.

v  Plan activities and help create situations where your child will be successful.  You will need to reinforce their confidence and assist them in developing individual abilities and strengths.

v  Demonstrate how to touch and play gently with the baby while offering opportunities for your child to nurture their sibling and comfort them when crying, feeding, bathing or simply sharing affection with hugs and kisses.  In turn, the baby will be nurturing the older child in many ways too!

Parenting Through a Crisis - Consider a Kids' Perspective

 

As things progress on Long Island in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, power is being restored, homes are being cleaned and communities are gradually getting back to “business as usual.” Schools were closed, some for a longer period of time than others and children of all ages were given a “mini-vacation” from tests, homework and rigorous daily schedules including after-school activities, clubs and athletic teams. 

Many families were forced to evacuate their homes and stay with extended family members, friends or in hotels temporarily.  Those who remained in their homes may have lost power, heat and hot water creating quite an uncomfortable situation for everyone.  Clearly, this was not a pleasant time, for some more than others a life-changing event, for sure!

So, how are children affected during such times of turmoil and uncertainty?  Are parents equipped to help their kids understand what is happening and assure them of their safety in a calm, rational and compassionate way?  Do moms and dads recognize the importance of acknowledging their child’s perspective and feelings?  Is it possible to create valuable learning opportunities for growth, strength and connection within families during these stressful times? 

Having two school-age children of my own as well as years of experience working as a teacher and parent educator/coach, I feel passionate about addressing the needs, concerns and well-being of all kids, particularly during our most recent crisis situation.  My eleven-year old son and eight-year old daughter are always enlightening me about how the world appears from their point of view. Adults often forget or are too far removed from childhood to appreciate a child’s innocence or naïve approach to everyday life.  They are living “in the moment” and are taking things as they come, for the most part. Without a lifetime of past traumas or negative experiences and the unforeseen future that lies ahead, kids typically focus on the “here and now,” a precious reminder for us all to remain “present” and grateful for each moment. 

Most of all, I feel that all children, no matter how young or old, deserve to be respected and acknowledged every day.  In such cases as natural disasters or other states of emergency, we can educate our kids and keep them informed, in an age-appropriate manner, without creating panic or unnecessary stress.  Actually, the more aware they are of what’s going on or what may potentially happen in addition to some practical things we can all do in preparation, the more we encourage cooperation, trust, maturity, understanding and compassion.  Fearing the unknown is always counter-productive, for kids and adults alike, so be honest and trust your children to be responsible and they will likely rise to the occasion, even surpass your expectations!

Lastly, consider how their world has been turned upside-down too.  Particularly, as with Hurricane Sandy, the loss of power meant no electronic devices, television, computers or video games, something kids today aren’t quite used to!  This certainly can be a blessing in disguise, however a real challenge for kids who otherwise rely on these heavily for recreation.  I can imagine the irritability in homes where families simply did not know how to pass the time any other way.  Additionally, without access or connection to peers and friends, children get bored and crave social interaction that was ultimately impossible for days, even weeks for some.  What about the large number of kids that have been displaced - sent to neighboring schools, temporarily? Imagine how this would feel – leaving a familiar place where you go to learn and socialize with your friends in addition to the countless teachers and faculty who would ordinarily  be there to assist you during this difficult time.  Don’t forget the fact that Halloween was “officially” postponed by authorities and that’s not easy to explain to kids or seemingly fair!

So, take the time to reflect on how you as parents and families responded to the recent storm with regards to your children’s position and feelings.  Were there teachable moments where you offered dialogue to help your kids understand what was going on?  Do you think you were a positive role model demonstrating behaviors and attitudes that were respectful, compassionate and productive? How might you have handled situations better, differently or with more sensitivity?  Perhaps this may prompt you to seek some help and support so that you can learn ways to becoming more mindful and conscious in your parenting every day.  It is never too late to gain a better understanding of your child’s perspective and show them that you genuinely care about their needs and feelings in all situations. 

 

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