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Archive for October, 2015

Five Ways to Encourage Children to Help with Chores

Motivating children to help out around the house can be challenging. Here are five ways to encourage them to lend a hand.

  1. Start your child young. Ask your child to help out as soon as she is able to. Making chores a normal part of home life as early as possible can foster helpful behavior.
  2. Keep tasks small. Break up larger tasks into smaller, more manageable ones. For example, instead of asking your child to help clear the table, ask him to bring each plate over to the sink. Remember to keep each task age appropriate.
  3. Establish a routine. Being consistent can help your child adjust to assisting you with household duties. If you make helping out a regular part of your child’s routine, then she is more likely to do her chores without being asked.
  4. Offer praise. Phrases like “good job” and “you’re so helpful” can be excellent motivators. Try saying, “I can never fold the towels as nicely as you do,” which can make your child feel important and needed. This may inspire him to make it his mission to fold the towels.
  5. Make chores fun. Have a contest to see who can dust the shelves the fastest or who can dry more dishes. You could also put on music and dance around while you clean. The key is to make work enjoyable.

Ten Ways to Balance Work and Family

If you’re a working parent, achieving and maintaining a healthy work-family balance can be challenging. Here are ten tips to help you balance your work life with your personal one.

  1. Set limits. If you want to see every one of your child’s soccer games and have dinner with your family every night, make those your priorities, no matter what happens at work.
  2. Focus on work when you’re at work. Try to limit non-work-related activities, such as socializing or long lunches. Get your work done so you can leave the office on time.10-26-15
  3. Work from home if you can. Working remotely every now and then allows you to be there for your child and complete your job responsibilities.
  4. Keep a family calendar. Maintaining an organized record of your family’s comings and goings can help you and your family be efficient and ensure your schedules run smoothly.
  5. Adjust your hours. If your company offers flextime and you can adopt a more flexible schedule, do so. If your company doesn’t offer flextime, have a discussion with your supervisor or manager about how a more flexible schedule would help your productivity. After all, a happy employee is a productive employee.
  6. Create a support system. If you’re fortunate enough to have relatives or friends who offer to watch your child while you’re at work, accept their help.
  7. Schedule some “me time.” Taking some time for yourself can help you to refocus so you can be a better parent. Use the time to read, relax or get some exercise.
  8. Plan ahead. Pack lunches or your child’s school bag the night before so you can have some extra family time in the morning. You could also make an extra-large amount of a particular dish over the weekend and serve it for dinner throughout the week so you don’t have to cook.
  9. Stay in touch. A gesture as small as a phone call or text message to your child during the day can let him know you’re thinking about him. You could also drop a note in his backpack or lunch box.
  10. Explore childcare options. Whether you’re interested in a preschool or daycare, a quality childcare program is worth investigating. Research different childcare providers and take your child to visit a few of them to see which one is the best fit.

Five Ways to Help Your Child Cope with Disappointment

Disappointments happen to everyone, and there is no way to avoid all of them. Here are five ways to help your child cope with disappointment.

  1. Be there, but give him space. Children react to disappointment differently. Depending on Girlwhether your child is extroverted or introverted, he might want a hug and a pat on the back, or he might want to be left alone for a little while. Wait until he comes to you to comfort him.
  2. Turn a negative into a positive. Reframing a setback in a positive light can help to alleviate your child’s disappointment. Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work” (Elkhorne, 1967, p. 52). Looking at a mistake or disappointment as a learning experience can benefit your child’s development.
  3. Try to take your child’s mind off it. Suggest an activity that your child enjoys to help cheer her up. You could also suggest going on an outing. If these don’t appeal to her, let her know that the offers are on the table if she changes her mind.
  4. Set a good example. If your child sees you handle disappointment with dignity, he might, too. Taking responsibility when you make mistakes shows your child that you’re okay and that disappointment happens to everybody.
  5. Watch what you say. Try not to downplay your child’s disappointment or say something like, “That’s life.” Instead, ask your child questions about how she’s feeling or about what happened. Offer to talk through it if she wants.

References

Elkhorne, J. L. (1967, March). Edison: The Fabulous Drone. 73, 46(3), 52.

Language and Literacy Series: Reclaiming the Joy of Reading in the Age of Distraction

Susan Magsamen is the Senior Vice President of Early Learning at global learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt She is a member of the Educational Advisory Board for The Goddard School and senior advisor to The Science of Learning Institute and Brain Science Institute at Johns Hopkins University. This piece was originally published on HMH’s blog

My own love of reading was cultivated in an era with fewer distractions than today. At that time, all of our play was physical and concrete – we played with hands-on toys and games, we rode bicycles and played outside (which held opportunities for all sorts of mischief). I recall putting on plays, having visceral experiences with art supplies, some television, and boys readinglots of books. Reading offered both privacy and companionship, an opportunity to focus and contemplate, but also indulge the imagination.

I realize now that there was a special kind of innocence wrapped up in these memories. During my own childhood, distraction was the murmur of the radio or television, or the sight of something fleeting that simply “caught your eye.” Things are different today. Adults and children are caught in a blizzard of digital noise streaming from various devices that constantly compete for our attention, disrupting our focus. There is no doubt that this new reality has impacted the way we read and engage with books.

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist best known for spotlighting emotional intelligence, has noted that the deluge of distractions can have far-reaching effects. Speaking to KQED’s Forum, he explained “because attention is under siege more than it has ever been in human history, [and] we have more distractions than ever before, we have to be more focused on cultivating the skills of attention.”

According to Goleman, the neural circuitry that registers attention in the prefrontal cortex of the brain is identical to the circuits that govern executive functioning, which includes the ability to manage distressing emotions and to feel empathy.

Medical research has identified clinical conditions that may interfere with a child’s ability to focus, but to tackle real-world distractions, there are things we can do at home and in the classroom to minimize the noise and create an environment conducive to experiencing the magic of reading.

With this in mind, what can we do to foster a love of reading in our children that stems simply from the sheer pleasure and joy that a great story provides?

Here are five easy ways to create a distraction-free reading zone for kids.

  1. Create a Dedicated Reading Space: Create a reading environment free of clutter. The fewer objects that can capture your child’s attention, the better.
  2. Get Comfy: Have a comfortable chair or cushion for children and adult readers to sit on. The physical comfort helps kids relax their bodies, which in turn facilitates attention and focus.
  3. Start a Reading Ritual: Ritualize the opportunity to read. For very young children, the ritual of a bedtime story is the enchanting portico that leads to more reading. Consecrating the event early on acknowledges that reading time is special, even as children get older and read on their own. Having a special hat to wear or a pillow to sit on just for reading designates that reading time is distinct from other activities.
  4. Take Time to Share: Give your child ample opportunity to share what they have read. Remember, a joy shared is doubled! Ask some simple questions about your child’s reading experience to encourage engagement: Who was your favorite character? What did you like about the story? How did the book make you feel?
  5. Be a Reading Role Model: Model a love of reading. Whether you show your kids the stack of books on your night table, or point out how much you love to read the newspaper with your morning coffee, highlighting the ways that reading enriches your life will help them understand the importance and enjoyment of literacy.

It is important for adults to find some quiet space amidst the distractions as well. I heard a story the other day that offered a vivid reminder of this concept: A four-year-old girl learned how to make the color green in school, mixing yellow and blue paints to create a series of green hues. With carbonated excitement, she couldn’t wait to show her father. But when he came home, he was concentrating on his cell phone. He finished a call and then began to text. The child’s efforts to capture his attention were futile until, with her art work in one hand, she gave a good, hard tug on the leg of his pants. Her father then looked down and said, “Sara, what are you doing down there?” To which she replied, “Daddy, I live down here.”

To create an environment that is conducive to concentration, young children need our undivided attention. By finding and nurturing those simple moments of focus, we can enjoy “living” in our children’s worlds and be present as they share in ours.