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Getting Ready For School…Already!

Summers always go by so quickly, and this one is no exception. It is hard for me to believe that some schools are starting in just three weeks. Growing up in Chicago, we went back to school the Tuesday after Labor day…every single year. So school in mid-August seems wrong! But it is what it is, and so to get ready, here are a few ideas. It is not too early to begin planning for your children’s return to school. One idea is to transition your kids slowly from their summer schedule to their school hours and routines. For two weeks before school starts, have your kids go to bed and wake up at the times they will for school. For the same weeks, eat meals at the times they will on school days. Their little bodies take time to adjust to new a new schedule. QjUzMzQwM0RBRjFFQjlDMTBCNkU6YmUxZjNiNWM5YjVmZGViM2Q0YjZhNGQ1 Some children are nervous about being left alone at school and will have a difficult time saying good-bye. Remember that a short good-bye is better than a long one. When leaving your child at school on the first day, or when you say good-bye at the school bus stop, give your child a hug and a kiss and say “Have fun at school! You can tell me all about it when you get home”. And then just walk away with a wave and a smile. If you are confident and excited about saying good-bye, then your child will have the same positive feelings, and will have a great start to their school day. Some children are also nervous about meeting new people. Before school begins, practice with your children what it will be like to meet their new teacher and new classmates. Teach your children to listen carefully to their teacher so that they learn the classroom rules and the teacher’s expectations. Encourage your kids to introduce themselves to at least one child who was not in their classroom last year. Talk about how most children are nervous, and that it is a kind thing to reach out to a new student who might not know anyone. Children (and parents) want to feel confident and prepared when they start a new school year. Buy school supplies while the local stores are fully stocked. Take the kids with so they can try on a new backpack, and allow them to select their own school materials. Pack all the supplies into the backpack when you get home, and you both will be ready for the first day. If your child is going to walk or ride their bike to school, practice the route with your child at least twice before the first day of school. If biking, teach your child to walk their bikes through all intersections, to bike in a single file, and to always wear their helmet. Explain that they are not allowed to pass another biker, as this will force them into traffic. For the children who walk to school, see if you can find a walking buddy. It’s always safer and more fun to walk with someone else. And of course, if you drive children to school, always make sure every child is properly buckled every time! Mornings are often a hectic time, and we often feel stressed by trying to get out of the house on time. To make mornings easier, make lunches the night before, leaving only the refrigerated items to be packed in the morning. Have each child lay out their clothes, including shoes, the night before, and have them put their backpacks by the front door. Doing some preparation the night before can make a much smoother morning, and have everyone leaving the house happy and calm. To keep track of everyone’s schedules, post a family event calendar in a public place preferably near the telephone. Use magnets to attach the calendar to the refrigerator, or just hang it on the wall. Assign a different marker color to each family member, and write events in the corresponding color for each person. A bulletin board in the kitchen is also be very helpful to post school lunches, sports schedules, and notes that must go back to school. Take time every night to discuss the next day’s schedule and make sure all items are ready. Whether your children have had a good day or a bad day at school, they want to tell their parents about it when they get home. It is important that all children are able to talk about anything and everything with their parents. We encourage our kids to talk when we show them that we are good listeners. What we hear from our children is often more important than what we say to our children. To be a good listener, be willing to listen to all stories, do not interrupt while they are talking, and do not yell if they tell us something we don’t like. We need to listen to our children the same way we want them to listen to us. Listening to our children shows that we value them, and think what they have to say is important. Enjoy the rest of your summer, and good luck in the upcoming school year!

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Out With The Old, In With The New

Back to School Summer is almost halfway over, and the kids are getting a little bored (maybe you are too?). So here is a fun activity for this week: Start sorting through all the art work, paperwork, binders, and school supplies that has accumulated over the past school year. You know, the stuff that is sitting on desktops, kitchen counters, and bedroom floors that you have been looking at and not knowing what to do with. Start by sorting all the items into separate piles of books, school supplies, and papers. Put the books your younger children will use later onto one bookshelf. Throw out the nubby pencils with broken erasers, the dried-out markers, and the dull scissors. Put the good supplies in a bag to be sorted and distributed into next year’s supply boxes. And now for the mountain of papers… Find a box or a large envelope and label it with your child’s name, grade, and year. (Trust me, you will have a hard time remembering the year your child was in each grade!) Now, start looking at each piece of paper, and keep your very favorite ones. No, they can’t all be your favorite ones. The printout where your kindergartner circled all the words that start with the letter T? You can let that one go. The paper where your child listed everything they love about their family? Yeah, that’s a keeper. The math sheet where your third grader got every answer right? You can probably let that one go. The spelling test where your child spelled most words incorrectly, but the misspellings are really funny? Another keeper! If you create one box for each child for each grade, including the preschool years, by the time they graduate elementary and middle school you will have…a lot of boxes! And all the boxes will be put into your attic, or your garage, or your closet, where they will stay until you finally notice them again. Like I did last summer, when I moved from my home of 28 years, and where I had stored my children’s school papers for two decades. I happily opened my daughter’s Kindergarten box, sorted through it, and kept a total of 3 papers. I then asked her if she wanted to see the rest. Her response was a hearty laugh. So into the recycle bin it went. Then I opened her box of 7th grade papers, and quickly realized that 7th papers are not nearly as cute as Kindergarten papers. (No offense to any seventh grade parents reading this!) With my daughter’s permission, the entire box went into the bin without a single one being kept. One treasure I found was a thin box with over 2 dozen large drawings made by my children. I had not seen some of them in over 20 years. Pulling out my cell phone, I took a photo of each one. And then yes, into the recycle bin it went. It felt a little funny to do that, but I have now looked at those photos more times than I ever looked at the actual drawings. I realized that, like you, I kept the school work and art projects with the expectation that I would want to see them again, and that my children would want to see them again. The lesson I learned was that while it WAS fun to see some of them again, I had kept way too many and really did not need to see ALL of them again. And I also learned that my adult children had zero interest in seeing them. You and your future adult children may be different, but my advice is that “less is more”.

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Are You Looking for Balance?

scale Look at the scale. See the middle part, the fulcrum? The scale cannot work if the fulcrum is broken. Now recognize that parents are the fulcrum, and that your family will not work, nothing will be balanced, if the parent is not strong and healthy. On airplanes, we are told to put on our oxygen mask first, and then our children's. This is true in our homes too: we need to take care of ourselves first, to make ourselves strong, and then we can have a strong, happy family. Being a parent is very hard work, and can lead to us feeling unsettled and stressed. But that only contributes to our kids feeling the same way, which then increases our stress! Our level of balance we experience changes from day to day, but following some of the tips below can help us to feel more balanced. Have a calmer morning: Follow the same routine every day (when possible!) Before your kids wake up, exercise or shower or have a cup of coffee. Pack your lunches and backpacks, and lay out clothes the night before. Expect your children to do as much as they can to help. Keep breakfast simple, and use the time to talk. Have a more relaxed evening: Give everyone in your family time to relax and unwind. Make easy, fast dinners during the work week. Stick to a consistent schedule of homework, stories, and bedtime. Put the kids to bed early, so you have time alone with your partner. Remember to have fun: Being able to laugh often is a great skill. Be willing to play like a child, and to be silly. Plan "Fun Time" into your family's busy schedule. Your child is this age only once; enjoy it while you can.. Let go of guilt: Recognize that guilt does not accomplish anything. Do things to help you feel good about yourself. Recognize and appreciate that your kids are healthy and happy. Give yourself a pat on the back for all you do.

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Your Favorite Traditions…With Joy

Holiday Newsletter Photo As we head into our final week of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your five most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition.) We all have our favorite things from our childhood that we want to continue with our kids, and some we feel obligated to continue. But now you are the parent and you get to decide what your holiday traditions will be. The truth is that we can't do everything and we can't have everything that we want (or think we want). I see families being stressed and anxious and bothered by the holidays, and unable to fully enjoy this time of year. I would like to see families enjoying the holiday season with anticipation, excitement, and joy; not with dread, exhaustion, and high expectations. Look at the difference between “need to” vs. “want to”. When you hear yourself saying “I need to do mail holiday cards”, stop and ask yourself if you need to or if you want to. If you truly need to, then either do it yourself or get others to help. But if you don’t NEED to, if you really WANT to, then do it with joy. Let’s teach our children that the holidays are a time to be together, to connect, to enjoy each other. If we demonstrate that the holidays are stressful and filled with pressure trying to fit everything in, that is the lesson they will take with them into their adulthood. Let’s teach our kids the true meaning of the holidays: peace and love and fun and excitement. So go ahead and write a letter to Santa, light the candles together, pull a tag from the Giving Tree, or go to a movie. Enjoy your five most favorite traditions. But do them all with joy and love, and let go of the rest. My family joins me in wishing you and yours a memorable (and fun) holiday season and a happy, healthy 2017.

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My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving Photo I love Thanksgiving. I call it the "F" holiday: family, friends, food, fun, football. I love that there are no gifts, only those of being together and connecting. I love fall, another "F". I love the smell of roasting turkey. I love having 3 football games on the same day. As a child, I loved getting together with my extended family and as an adult, I love gathering friends at my home who are missing their families. Come on, it's a great holiday! This year, the upcoming holiday feels a little off. Many of us are still recovering from last week's election. Whether your candidate won or lost, it was a stressful and never-ending campaign season. And it has been a long week filled with disheartening news of attacks, protests, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I have received many calls from many parents wondering how to calm their worried and confused children. As I said in a Facebook post last week, " I hope we can all join together and do what is needed to keep our kids, all our kids, safe and secure, now and in the future." Let's reassure our kids that they are safe, that we are strong, and that we will do whatever is needed to take care of them, to protect them, and to love them. Listen to their concerns, answer their questions, and keep your own political conversations to a minimum while in front of your little kids. You know they are listening to everything you say. Every year I recommend that parents use the Thanksgiving holiday to begin teaching their children about charity, about sharing with those less fortunate, about thinking of others before themselves. So please, especially this year, go grocery shopping with your kids. Let them fill the cart with canned goods and a turkey, and then drive directly to a homeless shelter or food bank. Have your children experience the joy of giving. What a valuable lesson to teach your kids - one that they can carry into adulthood. My family joins me in wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving. As Ellen says, "be kind to each other".

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The Value of Consequences

newsletter201405 I'm driving on the freeway and I see the same rule posted every few feet: 65 MPH. It is posted often so every driver sees and knows the rule. Every driver also understands the consequence for breaking the rule: a speeding ticket complete with loss of time and money. I know that it is my choice to follow the rule or break the rule. If I choose to follow the rule, I do not get a speeding ticket. If I choose to break the rule, I do get a speeding ticket. So while I’ll probably feel angry and disappointed with the ticket, I have only myself to blame. I knew the rule and the consequence, but I made my choice. And hopefully, the next time I drive on the freeway, I will make a better choice. The most valuable life lessons we can teach our children is that everything they do is a choice, and every choice they make has a consequence. I want children to grow up understanding that when they make a bad choice they get a bad consequence, and when they make a good choice then make a good consequence. Despite the fact that the ability to stop, think, and make good choices is not fully developed until about age 25, it is our job as parents to begin teaching this concept to our young children. And I do this through teaching children that their choices have consequences. When our children break a rule or do something that is not ok, and we send them to their room or take away a toy or ground them without letting them know in advance that that might happen, we are not giving them the chance to make the right choice. We are simply punishing them without their understanding of what might occur. My pre-schooler throws his ball in the house. I say “If you throw the ball in the house again, I will take it away until tomorrow.” My child then throws the ball, and so I take it away. He might cry and he might whine and he might complain. But I simply say “I told you what would happen if you threw the ball. You chose to throw the ball, and so you lost it until tomorrow.” My teenager asks, “Can I go to a movie Friday night?” I say “Yes, but you need to be home by 10 o'clock. If you are not home by 10 o'clock, then you will not be able to go out Saturday night.” My daughter then comes home at 10:30, and so I tell her she is grounded for Saturday night. She might yell and she might whine and she might complain. But I simply say, “I told you what would happen if you were late. You chose to come home late, and so I hope next time you make a better choice.” Having the ability to make good choices is what separates successful adults from unsuccessful ones. So let’s all start teaching our kids today, no matter their age, to make the right choice. Remember that people, including children, learn by making mistakes. They learn by making the wrong choice, by facing the negative consequences of their choice, and then having the chance to make a better choice the next time. So set a rule, state the consequence, and follow through. This really does work!

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