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Ten Tips for First-Time Parents

20120920_goddard_CA_0016Being a new parent is an exciting, life-changing experience, but it can also be scary. After all, nobody is born knowing how to be Supermom or Superdad. Here are ten helpful tips for first-time parents:

  1. Don’t panic. Babies cry, spit up and vomit, which is usually normal. Even if you’re worried, panicking will not help because babies can pick up on anxiety, and it can upset them.
  2. Be gentle but realistic. Supporting your newborn’s head when you hold him and washing him gently when you give him a bath are important practices. However, if your baby’s head isn’t fully supported for a second or if he gets some water in his eyes, he should be okay.
  3. Get close. Hold your baby close to your skin. Skin-to-skin contact is calming and soothing both parent and baby – really!
  4. Sleep when your baby sleeps. Your baby’s sleep patterns might be erratic for the first few weeks, so sleep when you can. If you have a partner, take turns getting up to tend to him.
  5. Avoid scheduled activities. At least at first. As your baby adjusts to a regular routine, your schedule will become more regular, too.
  6. Accept help when it’s offered. You can’t do everything yourself, and that’s okay. If a friend or family member offers to help you, ask him or her to do whatever will help you the most.
  7. Go outside. If you become a little stir-crazy, take your baby for a walk. If you can, let somebody you trust watch your infant while you get some fresh air.
  8. Take care of yourself. Eat properly, drink lots of water and sleep as much as you can. Taking care of yourself will help you maintain the energy you need to take care of your baby.
  9. Skip less important chores. Leave clean clothes in the laundry basket, don’t worry about the dust bunnies under the furniture and/or have cereal and toast for dinner occasionally. It’s okay to relax your standards a bit while you adjust to your baby’s arrival.
  10. Set limits with visitors. This means insisting that your visitors wash their hands before holding your baby or asking loved ones who are ill not to visit until they’re better. Also, let your friends and relatives know which days will work best and how much or how little time you have for a visit.

Stay Active

As parents, our main goal is to keep our children happy and healthy. One challenge, especially with enticing gadgets, is getting our children to keep active and understand the importance of exercise. Creating good habits early helps
9children maintain and form positive habits later. We want to teach our children to turn off the TV, put down the electronic devices and go outside to use their energy and imagination.

Here are some ideas of what you and your child can do together to stay active:

  • Go for a walk in the park or in your neighborhood and have a scavenger hunt (look for a pine cone, a red bird, etc.);
  • Use sidewalk chalk to create a hopscotch court and teach your child to play the game;
  • Find a new park or playground to explore;
  • Walk your dog or play fetch with your dog as a family;
  • Plant flowers together in a garden;
  • Visit a local zoo or museum;
  • Go outside and play with a bouncy ball;
  • Teach your child to ride a tricycle;
  • Have a family room dance party;
  • Set up a small inflatable pool in your backyard;
  • Play Simon Says, and make sure Simon includes plenty of jumping and other active movements.

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Feeling Important, Respected, Accepted, Included and Secure

Children need to feel important, which means they need to feel that they have value, they are useful, they have power and they are somebody special. The following are examples of how parents can help develop or diminish a child’s sense of importance.

Being Overprotective – Parents may diminish children’s sense of power by limiting them too much. Children need to experiment and try new things. We need to encourage their curiosity, experimentation and desire for adventure instead of saying no too often.

Being Excessively Permissive – However, if you never or rarely say no or if you try to satisfy all of your children’s desires, they could develop a false sense of entitlement and unrealistic expectations, which will hurt them in the future as they discover the realities of life. Distinguish between wants and needs. When you say no to something a child wants, you should still honor the five critical needs.

Talking Too Much and Not Listening – We talk, we lecture, we give advice, we tell children how to feel and what to think and we overpower them with words when we should listen and pay more attention to what they say, think and feel. Give your children your undivided attention, even when you only have a few minutes.

Making All the Decisions – When parents make all the decisions and solve all their children’s problems, children miss an opportunity to increase their self-confidence and develop good judgment and decision-making skills.  Asking their opinions and listening to their answers contributes to their sense of importance. Let your children make small, age-appropriate decisions, such as what to wear, what vegetable to eat with dinner, what board game to play and what color collar the family pet should wear, etc.

If we provide constructive, meaningful ways to make children feel important, they will not need to engage in inappropriate destructive activities to convince themselves and others that they are important.

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

Click here to read article one in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Respect

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project

Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

 Feeling Respected, Important, Accepted, Included and Secure

One of children’s critical emotional needs is to feel respected. For children to feel respected, adults need to be courteous, thoughtful, attentive and civil to them. As individuals, they deserve the same courtesy and consideration as others. Children learn about respect by being treated respectfully and by observing their parents and other adults treating one another with consideration.

When adults don’t treat children with respect, it can lower children’s self-esteem and cause them to rebel and act disrespectfully toward others.

Their parents’ opinions, values, attitudes and actions matter to children. Children have some of the same needs as adults, and what we say and how we say it affects them.

For example saying, “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t have time right now,” is as quick and easy as saying, “Can’t you see I’m busy? Stop bothering me!” With children, a simple act of courtesy can go a long way.

If we want our children to grow up feeling respected and treating others with respect, we need to do the following:

  • avoid being sarcastic, belittling children or yelling at them. We need to keep our anger and impatience to a minimum;
  • avoid lying;
  • listen more and talk less;
  • give fewer commands and more suggestions and requests;
  • say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘excuse me’ and ‘I’m sorry’ to our children;
  • become conscious of our mistakes, be willing to admit them and be ready to correct our behavior.

Displaying these behaviors as parents will help us cultivate our values in our children.

In the next blog article in this series, Dr. Newmark will discuss children’s need to feel important. Until then, consider the following.

When you were a child, did adults constantly interrupt you before you could finish your thoughts?

If your toddler is feeding herself and getting food on her bib and clothes, do you grab the spoon and yell, “Stop that. You’re making a big mess. Here, I’ll feed you,” or do you put your arm around her and say, “Isn’t that great? You’re trying to feed yourself.”

Satisfying a child’s five critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure, will enable them to become self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

Click here to read the introductory post in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!

by Dr. Gerald Newmark
The Children’s Project
Developing Emotionally Healthy Children, Families, Schools and Communities

Everyone, including babies, toddlers, teenagers, parents and grandparents, has similar emotional needs. Meeting your child’s needs in childhood provides the foundation for success in school, work, relationships, marriage and life.

In his book How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Meeting the Five Critical Needs of Children…and Parents Too!, Dr. Gerald Newmark shows parents and teachers how to nourish children’s emotional health at home and at school. The book helps parents and teachers recognize and satisfy children’s critical emotional needs, which are to feel respected, important, accepted, included and secure. Parents and teachers can benefit from this process, too.

In the coming weeks, we will share a series of articles on this blog with tips, activities and more information about meeting each of these five emotional needs. We’ll also address hurtful and helpful behaviors and how to become an effective parent. These simple, powerful ideas can enhance the lives of children, parents and families.

The goal is to raise self-confident, independent, responsible, thinking, caring and civic-minded individuals.

In the next article in this series, Dr. Newmark will discuss children’s need to feel respected. Until then, consider the following.

When you were a child and someone asked you a question, did your mother or father ever jump in and answer it for you?

Have you ever interrupted a conversation with your child to answer the phone, and then found yourself saying to your child, “Don’t be rude. Can’t you see I’m talking?”

Picky Eater Dinner Options

Macaroni and Cheese Muffins

If your children love macaroni and cheese, try this new twist on one of their favorite meals. Use your family’s favorite types of milk and cheese to tailor this to their liking. This makes about 12 muffins.

For the muffins

  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup whole wheat or all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 5 cups milk (whichever your family typically uses)
  • 1½ pound sharp cheddar cheese, either grated or pre-shredded (you can substitute your choice of cheese)
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp ground pepper

For the topping

  • 4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup panko bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan with butter or spray it with a butter spray, then dust it with flour, tapping out the excess flour. Cook macaroni according to package directions. Drain the pasta, saving one cup of the cooking water for later.  In a saucepan, melt the butter and stir in the flour. Stir constantly until the mixture is lightly browned. Slowly add the milk and raise the heat to bring the sauce to a boil. Reduce the heat and allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about three minutes. Add the cheeses, salt and pepper to the sauce mixture and stir it until it is smooth.  Remove the sauce from the heat and add the macaroni. Stir it until the cheese sauce coats all the noodles. Cover the mixture to keep it warm.  For the topping, combine the melted butter, bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese.  Fill each muffin cup with the macaroni mixture, and then sprinkle each with the topping. Bake the muffins for about 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Let the muffin pan cool completely, and then refrigerate the whole pan for up to 24 hours.  When you are ready to serve your macaroni muffins, just reheat them in a 350 °F oven or the microwave.  For added nutrition, you can add some ground flax seed, chopped broccoli or finely sliced carrots.


Ham or Turkey and Cheese Croissants

You can serve this simple dinner recipe with a side salad or mixed vegetables.

  • 1 can of croissant rolls
  • Deli ham or turkey slices
  • Shredded or sliced cheese

Open the container of croissant rolls and separate them. Layer each croissant with a slice of ham or turkey and your cheese of choice. Roll up the croissants and bake them as instructed on the packaging.  These also make great after-school snacks and easy lunches.


Superhero Green Power Juice

In a hurry? This sweet green juice has lots of vitamins and makes a good pre-practice dinner or a great breakfast. Use a blender or juicer to combine the ingredients into a quick, healthy meal.

  • 1 handful kale
  • 1 handful spinach
  • 1 pear, cut into small pieces
  • 1 apple, cored and sliced into small pieces
  • 1 medium banana
  • 1 cup strawberries or raspberries
  • Juice from 1 lemon (or ½ an unpeeled lemon if you are using a juicer)

If your children have a strong aversion to anything green, you can use more strawberries or raspberries or add some blueberries.

Taming the Sweet Tooth in Children

Children love sweet treats. Children have more taste buds than adults and are more sensitive toThe Goddard School sweet flavors, which may be why they crave sweets more. How can we help them avoid overindulging with all the birthday celebrations, holidays and treats available?

One way to minimize the allure of and desire for sweets is to serve dessert with dinner. This makes dessert seem like part of the meal, not something children have to work for by eating foods they haven’t tried yet or don’t like. They may grab the dessert first, but over time, they will learn that the other, healthier foods on their plate are the ones that provide them with more nutritional value and energy.  Let your children decide when they’ve had enough; they may start out overeating, but they will quickly learn that too much sugar makes their stomachs hurt and can lead to headaches, hyperactivity and tiredness. Let your children know that they can and will have more sweets another time, so they don’t feel like they’ll never have a chance to have this “bad” food again.

Make sure that your children mostly eat healthy, good-for-you foods that help bodies grow, and the rest can be fun foods, like sweets and salty snacks. Children can grasp this concept, and it helps them make decisions about what to eat.

As parents, instead of describing sugary foods as bad, we can explain to children that these foods have very little nutritional value and won’t help them grow healthy bodies. If we see sweets as an occasional pleasure that won’t offer us a lasting boost in energy instead of as something forbidden, we may be healthier for it.

Planning and Organizing – Critical Thinking Skills

Some children are naturally organized, but messy children can learn organization skills. Whether The Goddard Schoolyour children are messy or neat, the executive function skills of planning and organizing will help them accomplish goals, complete tasks at school and enjoy success in life.

You can help your children develop their abilities to plan and organize. Below are a few tips to get you started.

  • Conduct weekly family meetings and discuss your family’s schedule, upcoming events and goals. Let your children help with the planning. You can hold these meetings during meals;
  • Keep a family calendar visible. Use it every day so your child becomes accustomed to the household schedules and routines;
  • Teach your child how to break down tasks. For example, when he is cleaning up his toys, ask your child to put all the dinosaurs away, then all the trucks, etc.;
  • Make a chore chart and have everyone in the family mark off jobs as they complete them;
  • Talk about events, such as trips and errands, before they happen. Before you go to the grocery store, make a shopping list with your children. At the store, ask them to help you collect the items;
  • Read stories together and talk about what happened first, next and last;
  • Play games that involve following directions and rules.

Make planning and organizing fun for your child and some of your child’s skills may rub off on you!

Preventing Bullying from an Early Age

To ensure our children treat others fairly and speak up when they see a peer being bullied, we should start teaching them these behaviors while they are young and build on their natural ability to show empathy. Empathy, a key tool in dealing with and preventing bullying, shows up as early as the toddler years (picture a toddler offering a hug or a stuffed animal to a friend who feels sad).

Recently, a Harris poll found that two-thirds of parents worry about their young children being bullied. This result should inspire us to have deeper conversations on this subject and develop new and creative ways to educate and inform our youngsters about what bullying really is, how they can prevent it and how to find the appropriate channels for reporting it if or when it occurs.

Bullying Versus Typical Behavior

Bullying differs from typical day-to-day conflicts. Toddlers are starting to explore their independence and using their new vocabulary to assert it. If a peer tries to play with a toy they want, the back-and-forth “mine!” game begins. This is typical toddler behavior. Bullying involves behavior that is aggressive, intentional and intended to intimidate a specific peer. Determining what is bullying and what normal behavior is for toddlers is difficult because young children are still learning right from wrong and acceptable play behavior.

Fostering Empathy and Teaching Children to Speak Up

As parents, our duty is to foster empathy in our children. We can pay close attention to small acts of kindness our children display, praise them for being considerate and encourage them to speak up when someone is being mistreated. Since bullying is fueled by silence, we can help stop it by teaching our children to treat others kindly and speak up at appropriate times.

Supporting Your Child’s Friendships

The Goddard SchoolWhen children outgrow the ‘mine’ stage and begin to share with others and make friends, these new friends will occasionally argue over a toy or game. As parents, we are often tempted to solve the problem for our children or talk with the other child’s parent. While this may calm things down for the moment, it does not help our children learn the give and take of a friendship.

Help children learn to solve problems themselves with the following proven steps.

  1. Talk about the situation to help your child understand the other child’s point of view. “I guess Kyle wants a turn, too.”
  2. Stay calm and let your child know that hitting, grabbing and shoving hurt other people. “You hurt me when you grab the toy, and I don’t like that.”
  3. Model sharing for your child and congratulate your child when he takes turns or shares a toy. “Wow, you guys are having fun. I like watching you play together!”
  4. Be nearby. Watch and guide the children as they solve conflicts. Once the children resolve the conflict, step in and praise the children. Having an adult close by puts the children on their best behavior, and developing good social skills leads to fun and enjoyable play dates with friends.
  5. Don’t overwhelm your child with play dates. Hold your first play dates with friends your child feels comfortable with and have several activities ready. During the play date, let the children choose which activity to do.
  6. Have bedtime talks and read stories. Talk about the friendships your child is building and read books on friendship. Children learn how others cope in social situations through stories.
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