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Archive for June, 2010

Ask the Expert: Battling Siblings

I’m the mother of two daughters, ages seven and eight and a half, who fight constantly.  My husband and I differ about how to find out who is wrong and who should be punished.  Help!

One of the most frustrating and least useful things to do when children are fighting is to attempt to dispense justice.  Typically, older children hit harder and younger children scream louder.  Older ones are more clever and devious; young ones cry foul sooner than is necessary.  Boys threaten, while girls provoke more often.  Trying to decide who is wrong when you weren’t there tempts children to distort the evidence.  So try to catch your children being good and make a big deal out of it.  Real physical or emotional abuse is pretty rare in well-functioning families but needs to be dealt with by giving children a cooling-off period – then reviewing the family rules.

Fun in the Sun – How to Protect Your Family

Babies under 6 months:

The two main recommendations from the AAP to prevent sunburn are to avoid sun exposure, and dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. However, when adequate clothing and shade are not available, parents can apply a minimal amount of sunscreen with at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor) to small areas, such as the infant’s face and the back of the hands. If an infant gets sunburn, apply cold compresses to the affected area.

For All Other Children:

  • The first, and best, line of defense against the sun is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that block 99-100% of ultraviolet rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
  • Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours – between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • On both sunny and cloudy days use a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater that protects against UVB and UVA rays.
  • Be sure to apply enough sunscreen – about one ounce per sitting for a young adult.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
  • Use extra caution near water and sand (and even snow!) as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.

Source:  http://www.aap.org/advocacy/releases/summertips.cfm

Encouraging Good Behavior in Public

Fostering respect and manners as well as establishing expectations, limits and consequences is a good preparation strategy for any public outing.  Setting examples of good public behavior is vital.

Parents should take advantage of teachable moments and be sure to reinforce the rules they have set.  Children need clear expectations and consequences explained to them on a consistent basis.  Prepare for positive outings by planning ahead.  Parents can help to prevent bad behavior by avoiding major disruptions in their child’s normal routine and schedule.  Make sure trips to the mall, market or your friend’s house do not cause children to skip a snack, meal or nap.

When your child exhibits good behavior, be sure to acknowledge it with a ‘thank you.’  Praise for a job well done goes a long way.  Positive reinforcement instills pride and motivates children to make good behavior a habit.  Resorting to bribes teaches children to value material rewards over intrinsic satisfaction.  Your encouragement and praise will more often be incentive enough and build your child’s self confidence.  Applied on a daily basis, these lessons can help your little one develop into a much friendlier companion, guest and citizen at home as well as in public.

The Evolution of the Role of Fathers

Dr. Kyle Pruett AAs I look back on my experiences as a father across a few decades, it is evident that the role of fathers and expectations in society has significantly changed.  More men today are physically and emotionally engaged with their children than before the industrial revolution, especially the younger ones. Co-parenting is the expectation among most newly marrying couples; the women want the help, and the men want to be closer to their kids than they were to their fathers. With support from women and society, increasingly active fathering is crossing many social and economic barriers.

And this is quite a good thing – for the men, the women, but most especially their children. Most men figure parenting out on the job (just like women) but they do it best when they don’t try to mother (which of course they really can’t) – comforting, disciplining, problem-solving, rough-housing, teasing in their own fashion. The science to date reassures these men – and maybe more importantly their spouses – that children respond positively to these differences, wind up able to manage and enjoy life better when they have a positively engaged dad or trusted fathering figure in their lives – the earlier the better.

Enjoy fatherhood — and know you are making a world of a difference.

The Birth of a New Sibling – What to Do?

Nothing unsettles the lives of children quite like the birth of a sibling: special event for parents = profound disruption of familial bliss for children. Some children take it in stride, but the majority may not. Having a sibling forces children to share the wealth in an important and healthy adaptation to living in the real world. Here are a few ideas about how to ease the pain, and promote the joy:

  • ‘Me, myself and I’ – The mantra of toddler-hood reminds us that 18 to 24 months finds most kids falling short of being able to participate in the care of a younger sibling. They have just begun to take care of their own business, so looking after someone else’s (with whom you have to share mom and dad) is annoying to say the least.
  • By 48 months: Children are able to feel some ownership of a new baby – rocking, diapering, comforting, and playing with a baby are possible, if not always high on their list of fun things to do. They own enough familial territory by now that they can afford to share.
  • A younger sibling often adores an older sibling. Teach your older one (don’t ignore the boys) to be tender and gentle when holding or feeding the baby. This is great training for future intimacy and competent parenting.
  • Preserve time alone with your older children several times a week. They may no longer be the ‘only,’ but they are the still the ‘first,’ and certain privileges pertain, along with new responsibilities!
  • Don’t underestimate how your own experience as a sibling -in a particular birth order – affects your perception of your children’s experience. You may be off by a mile in your evaluation of your child’s jealousy of a new baby if you are the baby in your own family, or the first-born.Keep the dialogue open with your children about the shape of their sibling relationships and you will learn a lot.

Fun with Fitness

Yoga BAn effective fitness program includes activities that promote physical activity in ways that are creative and fun, is clear and easy to implement, incorporates fun materials, includes opportunities to enhance personal and social skills, and integrates into other life experiences.

At the preschool level, there are a number of fun and exciting ways to introduce health and fitness at home. There are basic motor skill development areas to concentrate on such as running, jumping, hopping, galloping, side sliding, and leaping. There are also basic object control skills, which commonly use a ball such as rolling, throwing, catching, dribbling, kicking, and striking. Experiences with music and movement can enhance spatial awareness, basic body identification, loco-motor and non loco-motor skills, rhythm skills, motor memory, creativity, problem solving, language and listening skills, role-playing, social interactions, and self esteem.

Try these fun music and movement activities at home with your child:

The Freeze

Dance to the beat of your favorite music.  When you hear FREEZE, stop and pose like a status.  Then start the music again.

Shake My Sillies Out

I’ve got to shake, shake shake my sillies out…

I’ve got to wiggle, wiggle, wiggly my waggles out…

I’ve got to clap, clap, clap my crazies out…

I’ve got to jump, jump, jump my jiggles out…

I’ve got to yawn, yawn, yawn my sleepies out…

I’ve got to stretch, stretch, stretch my stretchies out…

Body Talk

To music of your choice:

Move your eyebrows up and down, move your nose like a bunny, move your cheeks like a frog, move your mouth like a fish, move your tongue like a lizard, move your arms like a gorilla!

Stay-cations: Affordable Family Fun

Stay-cations may not only provide a more frugal family vacation, they may also provide an opportunity to create and experience a higher level of bonding with your children.

Upsides to stay-cations include nominal packing as well as minimal airplane or car ride entertainment.   Stay-cations, however, provide the challenge of getting into vacation mode when the remnants of your day-to-day life are all around – planning ahead is the key.

Fun, frugal stay-cations include:

  • Go on nature walks, hikes and bike rides.  Collect rocks to paint.
  • Organize day trips to zoos and/or museums.  Create a family scrapbook to commemorate your experiences.
  • Choose a miniature golf outing and enjoy a little healthy competition.
  • Plan a family mini-spa day.  Prepare a healthy lunch from your vegetable garden.
  • Go camping in your own backyard.  Don’t forget flashlight tag and S’mores!
  • Plan and prepare yummy goodies and enjoy a picnic together in a local park.
  • Rainy day stay-cations are fun too!
    • Play board games
    • Assemble jigsaw puzzles
    • Watch family movies

Child Care Prep Tips for Parents-to-Be

Expectant parents have a lot on their minds from shopping for playpens, to stocking up on diapers, to baby proofing the house. They also have to make a decision about child care. If both parents are going back to work after the baby’s arrival, one thing that must be added to the checklist is finding high-quality child care.

Start Early
The best time to begin researching child care providers for your infant is before your child is born. It might sound a little silly to begin your search so early, but there are a few good reasons to do so. Many families reserve their children’s spots early on, creating long waiting lists at many child care providers. A mom-to-be who waits until the last trimester may encounter some restriction in going out and taking a tour, especially if she needs bed rest. The sooner you find a provider that you are comfortable with, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the time with your newborn.

Another factor to consider is location. You may feel more comfortable having a child care provider close to home, but you’ll need to think about whether this creates problems with picking your child up on time after work due to traffic. You could also choose a location closer to your work, but this could create problems if you ever work from home. If you choose to breast feed, it is more practical to pick a location near your workplace, this way you may be able to go to your baby and nurse. Find out the designated area for breast feeding and if there is a quiet place where you can do this. A few other questions to ask is which parent will be primarily responsible for dropping off and picking up your child, or will you share that role. If you’re sharing the role perhaps you should find a child care provider that is centrally located.

Health & Safety
There is nothing more important than your child’s safety, and when it comes to health and safety there is no question too big or small. Find out if proper hand washing techniques are being utilized. Go ahead and ask about diapering procedures, and whether the location is cleaned every day by a professional. Be clear about any illness policy that determines when children are too ill to attend. Take a tour and see for yourself if the environment is clean and inviting. With all of the concern over immunizations these days, it’s important to ask if the school requires a medical screen and updated immunizations in order to enroll a child, and if the teachers have to provide a medical screen as well.

Director and Teacher Qualifications
You’ll certainly want to find out if the school employs teachers with education and experience in Early Childhood Education. Don’t assume that the school requires ongoing teacher training and development, ask about their plans for ongoing professional development. Make sure to inquire whether teachers are required to have first aid/CPR training. It’s important to know if children are supervised by sight and sound at all times and if the group sizes are small. Smaller group sizes and low teacher-to-child ratios ensure better supervision and safety. These ratios vary from state to state, so inquire about regulations.

Getting a third party opinion is not a bad idea either. You shouldn’t base your decision solely on that, but getting input from friends and family definitely helps in making a decision. To get a real sense of what the typical day is like at the child care provider, you should also make it a point to visit during hours of operation. Plan ahead by asking about other classrooms as well so that you can see the program that your child will attend as he/she grows.

Blended Families

A “blended family” is formed when one or both members of a couple have children from previous relationships and combine households.  They are becoming increasingly common and at least one-third of all children in the United States will become a part of a blended or step family before they reach age 18.

Blended families should consider the following to help navigate obstacles they may encounter while trying to raise responsible, thoughtful, cooperative children.

Emotional Extremes

Children thrive on consistency and routine so it’s not surprising that the change of becoming a part of a blended family may be very unsettling to them. It’s normal for children experiencing this type of transition to have intense feelings of anger; sadness, grief, disappointment, insecurity, guilt and worry. As extreme and frustrating as they may be, it’s important to accept and support your child’s feelings. Listen to them and convey acceptance, concern and empathy rather than suggestions or judgment. Assure them that their feelings are normal and understandable. If you’re dismissive it is likely to intensify their negative feelings. Be patient and expect set-backs along the way – even when things appear to be going well. Lifestyle changes, holidays and events can drain children’s coping resources and trigger upset emotions.

Space and Privacy

Territory battles can become an issue when children need to share a room. Ensure children have an allocated area of the room just for them.  Consider using dividers, curtains or the creative arrangement of furniture to make a more comfortable, personal place. Provide each child with a box or drawer to keep their special belongings that is off limits to others. It’s important that family members respect each other’s privacy.

Rules and Roles

Couples should openly discuss their parenting values to encourage a consistent approach. Discuss what your behavior expectations are and find reasonable compromises for any areas where you and your partner differ. Decide on clear family rules and stick to them. As children get older you may need to make age-appropriate revisions. It’s important to maintain a united front when it comes to boundaries, rules and discipline. Rules should be consistently and fairly applied to all children in the family.

Quality Time

Feelings of jealousy are almost to be expected when families merge. Children can become envious of the relationships you are forming with the new members of your family. Maintain a close relationship with your child by regularly spending time alone with them. Simple activities like going for a walk or a ride in the car together can create an opportunity to reconnect. This individual attention will help support them through this difficult transition.

Problem Solving

To avoid simmering resentment, frustration, hurt feelings and bickering, arrange regular family meetings. This is a great way for parents to make sure that everyone is on the same page as far as rules and expectations while also allowing children to feel that they are being heard and included. Everyone should be given equal opportunity to respectfully discuss their opinions. Focus on developing practical strategies together to avoid problems in the future.

Children in blended families may at first be resistant to many of the new changes occurring. However, most blended families work through these growing pains successfully. Positive attitudes, mutual respect, open communication and lots of love and patience are all important ingredients in the recipe for a healthy blended family.


Excerpt from Me, Myself and I

With a lot of  focus on accelerated learning, parents may be tempted to do too much of a good thing, jettisoning playful games and enjoyable family events in favor of  boring early learning programs.  As with adults, too much input from the outside can cause children to tune out.

Young children have a fierce drive to learn, and they are thrilled with their new discoveries.  This is a wonderful time to strengthen the foundation for a child’s lifelong love of learning.  They key is to do it in a way that respects and responds to each child’s interests, pace and temperament, and not to some external need to keep up with the Joneses or their kids.

One well-documented trait of children who do well in school is that they love to learn.  Activities that build love of learning are money in the bank for a child’s educational success.  You don’t want to squelch that drive to learn by substituting joyless, skill-pushing memory activities for real exploration, discovery and learning.

So what do you do?  Follow your child’s cues.  Other than fatigue, cues are all emotional.  Children show interest or disinterest, curiosity or frustration, boredom or enjoyment, impatience or pleasure, anger or delight.  Pay attention to your child’s moods and heed his cues.  Sometimes parents find this hard to do.  If you are engaged in some activity you think is really worthwhile, it’s easy to push the envelope until your child seriously wants out.  There is no gain in this.  Much better to move on to something else or just give things a rest when your child begins to show disinterest or fatigue.  You know all the signs.  No one is as expert as you at reading your child.

Art - Painting Girl C

For young children, the best learning is filled with a blend of wonder, giggles, excitement, interest, concentration, a touch of manageable frustration, concerted effort and laughter – all signs of the most positive emotional states.  Lessons learned and achievements mastered in these states are gilt-edged in three ways:

  • The child learns something new.
  • The child learns more about how to learn.
  • The child enjoys learning.