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Archive for the ‘parenting’ Category

What to Know While Your Baby Grows

Becoming a mother is one of the most amazing experiences you can have. Your child will change you and shape your life in ways that you cannot yet imagine. Here are five important things to remember during your pregnancy.

  1. Do research, but don’t go overboard. Learning about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting is good, but overloading on information might cause undue stress and worry. Know when to say when.
  2. Trust your instincts. Having moments of nervousness or self-doubt while you are pregnant is common and completely normal. Trust your instincts and your doctor.
  3. Ask for or accept help. It’s okay to ask for help. Many people will want to help you. If you want their help, accept it.
  4. Take a first-time parents class. Use this opportunity to ask questions, practice breathing techniques, develop a birth plan, network with other new parents and much more.
  5. Assemble a dream team. When you’re about five months into your pregnancy, start thinking about who you want on your “baby team,” both while you’re pregnant and after you’ve given birth. For example, find a good pediatrician. Consider recommendations from trusted friends and family members, and do your own research, too.

Five Fun Ways to Limit Screen Time for Your Preschooler

Guest Post
by Amber O’Brien, on-site owner of The Goddard School located in Forest Hill, MD

I am an onsite owner of a Goddard School, an education-based franchise preschool, and my faculty and I recently noticed that one of the three-year-old students had become increasingly tired in the morning and started having frequent meltdowns in the classroom. She had also become more difficult to wake after naptime. Communication between the parents and the teachers produced the reasons for the child’s change of behavior. The parents revealed that they had recently started giving an iPad to their daughter at bedtime and were letting her put herself to sleep. We explained the negative effects of too much screen time, especially at night, and encouraged the parents not to hand their child a device at bedtime.

In our increasingly technological world, devices are here to stay. Set boundaries and limits now so Preschool Computerdevices become teaching tools instead of detracting from precious interactions with family members. The introduction of smaller devices creates more opportunities to increase children’s screen time and a greater temptation for tired parents to hand their children a device. In parenting, the easy thing is often not the best thing, and we must always think about the long-term results of our choices.

As a parent of three teenage children, I know firsthand how difficult it is to stop devices from slowly creeping into our home life. My advice is to set boundaries now, because when your children are older and have cell phones, it will become increasingly difficult to monitor how much they use their devices. Habits children learn as preschoolers can pay dividends long into the future. Setting boundaries that you and your spouse both agree on and providing many fun and enriching alternative activities may be the key to a happy home where the children are not overtired and healthy relationships can grow.

You may be thinking to yourself, “I already know that too much screen time is not healthy, but what I need is some practical help. How can I limit my child’s screen time, and what are some fun activities we can do with our preschooler at home?” I believe the answer is balance. At The Goddard School, we provide a variety of interactions for the children so screen time does not distract them from other fun and stimulating activities. Consistency between the home and school is very important, and the expert and professional teachers in our classroom environments can teach us all a lot.

  1. Limit your child to only 15 minutes of screen time.

    Students at The Goddard School receive a limited amount of screen time. The tablets and computers in the classroom are teaching tools and only contain educational apps and games. Since students must take turns in the classroom, the students quickly learn that they cannot use the computer or tablet for more than 15 minutes.I suggest setting your phone timer for 15 minutes. When the timer goes off, or a few minutes before it goes off, remind your child that he or she should be finishing the game. Setting a 15-minute limit teaches your child that individuals are in control of electronic devices and not the other way around. Remember that these educational games are great teaching tools, but they should never replace the human interaction of snuggle time at night, and you shouldn’t use them to end a tantrum or to babysit a child.

  2. Make bedtime the most special time of the day.

    Not only was using the tablet depriving the above-mentioned three-year-old of enough sleep at night, but it also deprived her of precious snuggle time and the experience of sharing books with a parent. While educational games are a wonderful supplement for helping your child learn basic skills, they can never replace the joy of sharing a funny or touching book.Studies have recently shown that the blue light on computer screens interferes with the melatonin that helps people drift off to sleep. A sleep-deprived child is not a happy child. According to Charles Czeisler from the Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Division of Sleep Medicine, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, Massachusetts, “Children become hyperactive rather than sleepy when they don’t get enough sleep, and have difficulty focusing attention, so sleep deficiency may be mistaken for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).”1

    Ensuring that your child has enough sleep will give him or her a better chance for a more successful day with better behavior. Spend a little extra time at night to ensure that your child receives a warm relaxing bath, a chance to debrief and lots of snuggle time, which may help encourage a happier morning the following day. Make bath time fun with lots of bath toys and foam letters, and make story time special by asking questions and use different voices as you read to your preschooler.

    Don’t allow a TV in your child’s room, and take away all devices before bath and story time. Bedtime should be a time to unwind and slowly prepare for a deep refreshing sleep.

  3. Create an imaginative play area in your home.

    At The Goddard School, the students have so many fun, hands-on activities available that they are excited to start the next activity when their tablet or computer time ends. Look around your child’s classroom and take mental notes. Try to include similar materials and activities in an accessible area of your home to encourage your child’s imaginative play.Collect costumes, clothing and accessories your child can use to play dress-up. Create a play kitchen where your child can imitate you as you prepare dinner. Include clean boxes, containers and utensils from your kitchen. Add an easel and art supplies to a craft area. You could also create areas with a cash register so your child can learn about money, matching sets of cards for playing memory games to increase concentration, coloring books, clay or kinetic sand.

    Provide bins with different types of manipulatives, such as puzzles, LEGO, Lincoln Logs and other building materials. I would often give my children old magazines and child-safe scissors, and then I would watch as they happily cut out pictures and letters while developing their fine motor skills. Just as your child’s teachers put out different centers each day, take out new items and put away other items to pique your child’s interest. The more non-electronic activities you have available, the easier it will be for your child to hand over the tablet or turn off the TV.  If an adult comes down to the child’s level and plays with the child, the chances of a tantrum-free transition increases.

  4. Make meal times meaningful.

    Meal times should be about more than putting nutrients in our bodies. They should also be a time to reconnect with our family members and talk about one another’s days. At The Goddard School, teachers sit at the table with the children and eat with them. The children are encouraged to wait until everyone has their food, and they learn good table manners from watching their teachers.Make sure you read the daily activity report and use this information to ask your child about his or her day. Ask about the book that the teacher read, the fun outdoor activity or the messy process art activity. By asking questions about your child’s day, your child simultaneously learns lifetime lessons about communicating and extends the learning of the school day. Some families have each member describe a high and a low for the day. This enriching exercise helps all the family members learn to listen and share the successes and challenges of their days. I often ask my family, “What was something good that happened today?” I want my children to realize that each day has some good in it.

    At meal times, turn off all TVs, cell phones and other devices and give all of your attention to one another.

  5. Use physical touch and exercise.

    Preschoolers need touch and fun physical interactions with the people who love them. Children, like adults, receive and perceive love partly through physical touch and quality time.For our monthly icebreaker at our last PTO meeting in January, I asked the parents to describe their favorite non-electronic activity to do with their preschoolers. Parents smiled while describing playing hide and go seek and tickle monster with their children. One parent has set up tunnels to create an obstacle course in the basement, and the entire family goes downstairs to run races and play together.

    Children love to dance, so try putting on some dance music and dancing together as a family after dinner every night. Try playing a variety of musical genres as we do at school. The children’s favorites include “Let It Go” from Frozen, the dance song “I Like to Move It” and, of course, the chicken dance and the hokey pokey. A fun game of freeze dance, where everyone freezes when the music stops, teaches concentration and produces lots of giggles and smiles.

    Play classic games, such as duck, duck, goose; ring around the rosy; and London Bridge. All of these games include physical touch and whole body movement, and they provide valuable social interactions.

One of our most important goals as parents is to build healthy, close relationships with our children that will last a lifetime. We want our children to have more memories of reading bedtime stories and playing hide and go seek with us and fewer memories of us texting on our cell phones. Show your child that you are in control of all media and devices, provide alternate activities and choose to set boundaries, especially for meal times and bedtime.

 

1 Czeisler, C. (May 23, 2013). Perspective: Casting light on sleep deficiency. Nature, 497, S13. doi:10.1038/497S13a

Diving into Dad Duties: Five Tips For New Dads

Fatherhood is a profound, wonderful journey full of moments that you will cherish for a lifetime. Here are five tips for dads who are new to the experience.

  1. Master the art of diapering. Diapering is part of Fatherhood 101. Changing a diaper is a simple Get%20Set%20Girl%20and%20Father_jpgway to help keep your baby happy while bonding with your baby.
  2. Work as a team to handle baby duties. You and your spouse are a team, so try to share all the responsibilities. Make sure to help out when your partner is tired or busy.
  3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. When you’re part of a team, communication is key. If you’re going to be late coming home from work, call your partner. If you’re not sure how to handle a baby-related task, ask someone. Opening the lines of communication can work wonders.
  4. Be patient. Fatherhood isn’t an exact science, so remember that becoming the best dad you can be takes time. Enjoy those moments when you’re still figuring things out and remember to laugh.
  5. Take care of yourself. Being a good dad means being there for your child. Make sure you are staying healthy and avoiding unnecessary risks. Exercise, watch your diet and drive carefully.

Playful Parenting: Fun Activities for Newborns

Like all children, babies learn best by having fun. Here are some simple, play-based activities you can do with your infant to help him or her develop motor and learning skills.

  • Encourage tummy time. Tummy time is good exercise and allows your baby to practiceInfant_jpg
    moving. Lie your baby on her stomach and put one or two colorful toys in front of her or around her;
  • Read. Besides being an excellent bonding activity, reading to your newborn also prepares him for reading on his own and introduces him to shapes, letters and colors;
  • Talk to your baby. Simply chatting to your baby about whatever you’re doing keeps her entertained and helps to establish a foundation for language development;
  • Play with toys. Playing with age-appropriate toys helps your newborn exercise his sense of touch. Babies especially enjoy toys with different textures, such as crinkly fabric, satin and velvet.

Five Ways to Stay Happy and Healthy During Your Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a profound experience. It gives you nine months to bond with your baby and grow emotionally. Here are five ways to stay healthy and happy during that time.

  1. Exercise. Take a walk or practice simple yoga poses. Being active causes the body to release endorphins, which can boost your mood and energy levels. Be sure to consult your doctor before engaging in any new activities.
  2. Stock up on sleep. To make sleeping on your side more comfortable, try using a body pillow.
  3. Visit the dentist. Keeping your teeth clean and healthy can help prevent harmful bacteria from entering your bloodstream and decrease the risk of premature labor.
  4. Have small, healthy snacks. While you are eating for two, your body only needs about 300 extra calories a day. This varies from person to person, of course, and you should check with your doctor to find out exactly what you need. That being said, healthy snacks such as fruit, yogurt or whole wheat toast can provide the calorie boost you need. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  5. Relax. Whether you enjoy reading, watching TV or meditating, finding healthy ways to relax is important. Sitting and taking deep breaths can help you unwind.

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Secure

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

Feeling Secure, Included, Respected, Important and Accepted

According to Dr. Newmark, the fifth critical emotional need of children is the need to feel secure. Helping children feel secure means creating a positive environment where people care about one another and show it, express themselves, listen to others, accept differences, resolve conflicts constructively, provide structure and rules so that children to feel safe and protected and give children opportunities to participate in their own growth and the evolution of their family.

These important elements contribute to children’s sense of security:

  • Their Parents’ Relationship – When parents bicker, treat each other without respect and rarely show affection for each other, children experience anxiety and insecurity. If couples treated each other with the five emotional needs in mind, they would be better role models for their children.
  • A Caring, Affectionate Environment – Ob­serving affection between their parents and receiving affection from them is very important to children’s sense of security. The beginning and ending of the day, week, month and year present opportunities for regular demonstrations of affection toward your children. Remember to take care of yourself, too.
  • Traditions and Rituals – Establishing traditions and rituals for family celebrations and participating in family activities give children a sense of stability and security.
  • Their Parents’ Anxiety – Overprotective and excessively controlling parents often produce insecure, uptight, anxious children who carry some of these hang-ups and anxieties into adulthood.
  • Discipline – Children need structure to feel secure. Establish rules and consequences together. Avoid creating ambiguous expectations, implementing too many rules, creating inappropriate or excessive consequences, being inconsistent with the consequences and using physical punishment.
  • Self-Discipline – Encourage self-discipline so your children develop it. Allow your children to explore and experience the consequences of their actions. This way, they learn to anticipate negative consequences and exercise self-control to avoid them. If their parents are too controlling, children don’t have this opportunity.

Children need freedom as much as they need control. Being too protective can result in intimidated or rebellious children. Our goals are to protect them so they don’t suffer from their im­pulses and inexperience and to give them enough freedom to grow into confident, self-reliant, thoughtful, independent, caring and civic-minded individuals. Growing up in a positive and stable environment contributes to a child’s sense of security.

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs 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: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

Click here to read article four in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Included

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

Feeling Included, Respected, Important,  Accepted and Secure

Feeling included is the fourth critical emotional need of children. They need to feel like they belong, they are a part of things, they are connected to other people and they have a sense of community. Children join cliques, clubs and teams to satisfy their need to belong.

People who do things together feel closer to one another. Family activities offer a way to become closer, have fun, learn and contribute to the happiness of others. Identifying strongly with the family unit makes children more resistant to negative outside influences and more open to positive role models within the family. Obviously, we can’t include children in everything, but we need to make a conscious effort to include our children when we decide on family activities. This way, the activities will that appeal to everyone. Regularly repeated activities can become traditions that further satisfy a child’s need to feel included and secure.

Including children in your work life has multiple benefits. Describe your work environment, your job duties, your co-workers and your feelings about your work and your fellow workers. If possible, take them to work and encourage them to ask questions and give their opinions. If you work at home or have your own business, introduce them to clients and co-workers and let them do some work for you and with you.

Communication is another key tool for helping children feel included.  Parent-child communications are often brief, dull or haphazard.  Consequently, despite their best intentions, caring parents may have little understanding of what their children are thinking or feeling. Meanwhile, children often feel misunderstood and puzzled by their parents’ actions and frustrated by what they feel are attempts to control and overprotect them. The challenge for parents is to move from sporadic, brief interchanges to a sustained and substantive dialogue. Family meetings and feedback sessions provide the settings and contexts for this dialogue to happen. These sessions should take place at a regular time. Let everyone share their thoughts and feelings and discuss how everyone feels the family is doing, how individuals are doing and what your family could be doing differently and better. Make a conscious decision to include children in choices, discussions and decisions in their everyday lives.

Next time we’ll address the need to feel secure.

Did your parents read to you every night or begin and end each day with a warm hug?

If you’ve divorced, do you ever say bad things about your children’s other parent? Are you cordial to each other in your children’s presence? Have you explained what happened without blaming the other parent and emphasized that the divorce was not the children’s fault?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs 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: Feeling Respected.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

Click here to read article three in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted.”

How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Accepted

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

Feeling Accepted, Respected, Important, Included and Secure

The third critical emotional need of children is to feel accepted. Accepting children means listening to them, trying to understand them and accepting their right to their own viewpoints, feelings, desires, opinions, concerns and ideas. If you condemn or ridicule children’s feelings or opinions, they may feel that something is wrong with them. When they feel that way, they are less likely to listen to you and let you influence them.

Children can feel rejected when their parents do the following:

  • Overreact or respond emotionally;
  • Try to suppress the child’s feelings;
  • Be overly critical.

Parents can help their child feel accepted by doing the following:

  • Accepting the child’s desires and discussing them amicably;
  • Understanding that feelings aren’t right or wrong and the child has a right to them. Parents should not try to talk a child out of his or her feelings;
  • Remembering not to sweat the small stuff;
  • Catching your child doing something right and praising the child for it.

Acceptance is not permissiveness. It doesn’t mean giving children free license to act in any way they wish. Remember the distinction between wants and needs. You never will be able to satisfy all of your child’s wants, and it would not be good for your child if you did. On the other hand, as parents, we must make every possible effort to satisfy our children’s critical emotional needs. Accept your children as people in their own right and act accordingly.

Consider the following:

Did your family do much together when you were growing up? Were you sent to your room when your parents had company? Were you protected from a truth that everyone knew but no one discussed?

Do you ask your child’s opinion on important things or ask how your child feels after a big family argument or event, such as a remarriage? Do you let your child listen to you and your spouse discuss anything significant?

Satisfying children’s five critical emotional needs 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.”

Click here to read article two in this series, “How to Raise Emotionally Healthy Children: Feeling Important.”

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.
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