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Showing posts tagged with: kids

“The Value of Empathy”

At 5:30 every weekday morning I head to my local YMCA to work out. Each morning I am greeted with this “Empathy” sign. And I smile every time I see it. Empathy: what a great value, what a great skill. Empathy: the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and see things the way they see things. Empathy: a trait that successful adults have and that we need to teach our children. Being empathetic means that we understand people’s views besides our own, helps us to be kinder to other people, and gives us the ability to be open-minded, friendly, and considerate. Empathy: a skill that will greatly increase the communication we have with our kids. When we can put ourselves in our children’s shoes, and try to see things the way they see things, it makes it a lot easier for us to connect with our kids and to have healthy conversations. (Plus, we need to remember that they are kids, and that they express themselves the only way they know how. Is it immature, and frustrating, and annoying sometimes? Sure – because they’re kids!) So how do we teach empathy? By being empathetic! By saying things like “I understand”, “that makes sense”, “I can see you are frustrated”, and “it's okay to feel that way”. We also can teach empathy by being polite to the homeless man on the street, by donating our gently used clothing to those less fortunate, and by having people of different races, nationalities, and ages in our friend circle. When we respond with empathy to our children, when we truly listen to our children, we are letting them know we understand; we are letting them know that it's okay to say what they said; we are letting them know that their feelings are valid and accepted. Our responding with empathy makes our children feel heard and understood. And when they have expressed their feelings and opinions, when they feel heard and understood, they are able to then listen to us and to move on from the topic they are feeling stuck on. When you display empathy to your children, to friends, and to strangers, you will naturally be teaching your children to be empathetic and kind. When you display empathy to your children, they will start to be empathetic and kind to you and to others. And isn't that a goal of parenting?

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“The Best Kept Secret of Parenting”

Moms and Dads, listen closely because I have something to tell you. Please promise not to tell anyone because this is a secret that I bet no one else has ever told you. Are you ready? Here goes: we don’t like everything about our kids. Yeah, I said it. I am a Family Coach, a special education teacher, and the mother of an adult son and daughter. I have been working with children for several decades and I love kids of all ages, babies through adults. So I know what I am talking about when I tell you that we don’t like everything about our kids. Now don’t get me wrong. We love our kids, we are proud of our kids, we are thrilled with our kids, we want nothing but the best for our kids, and (most of the time) we wouldn’t trade them for anyone else. But let’s be honest. Our children have a few traits that we don’t like. Some of our kids have traits that we don’t like because they remind of their other parent, and we had hoped our kids wouldn’t get that trait. Some of our kids that traits that we don’t like because they remind us of ourselves. And again, we had hoped our kids wouldn’t get that trait. My husband and I had one child who didn’t talk a lot (just like Dad), and that was occasionally frustrating to both of us. We also had one child who talked a lot (just like Mom) and that too was sometimes frustrating to us. Some parents like to go to bed early but their young child is a night owl who is still wide awake at 9:00 pm. Some parents love to read but their children just don’t get the pleasure of losing themselves in a good book. Some parents are gourmet cooks who have children whose favorite food is macaroni and cheese...everyday. Some of our kids are louder than we had hoped for, some are more introverted than we had expected, and some truly thrive in a messy room while we love bins and baskets. I believe most parents have had the experience of saying to themselves, “I wish my kid didn’t do that” or “I wish my kid would do that”. Now think about your partner. Do you like everything about him or her? Most likely you have thought “I wish he enjoyed this more” or “I wish she enjoyed that less”. (Fill in your own blanks. I am not getting in the middle of that one!) It doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner, it just means you are being realistic. Most likely you recognized these differences early in your relationship, but fell in love anyways. Remember that you are not raising a clone, you are raising an individual. Appreciate the differences between you and your child, and enjoy watching your young child grow into a real person, with their own opinions, their own interests, and their own personality traits. To me, that is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent. Actually, now that I think about it, I don’t mind if you share this secret with other parents. Just don’t share it with your kids. They deserve to be loved, and liked, by us just the way they are. They don’t need to change; they just need to be themselves. Because they are perfect just the way they are.

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It’s January, and Time for a New (Paper) Calendar!

My daughter comes home from school and says she have a book report due in three weeks. I make a note on my laptop or phone as a reminder. Two weeks later, I ask her about the assignment and she says “I forgot”. My phone beeps with a reminder that it is garbage collection day. I see that my kid has not hauled the garbage cans out to the curb. When I talk with him to find out why, he says “I forgot”. My daughter’s soccer practice changes and I adjust the time in my phone. One week later my husband is late to a game, asks me why I didn’t let him know, and I say “I forgot”. (No, of course this never happened to me.) Balancing a family’s schedule is challenging to say the least. There are family activities, school schedules, holiday events, athletic practices and games, music lessons and performances, play dates, birthday parties, business travel, and weekend plans. And those all-important date nights. Usually one parent takes on the responsibility of maintaining the family calendar, but they usually do it electronically. While it is helpful to have someone who is responsible, it is more helpful when every family member sees the whole schedule. Having a large paper (or white board) calendar in your kitchen or family room helps to keep everyone aware of everyone's schedule. A shared paper calendar teaches children time management, allows them to see for themselves why parents sometimes need to say “no”, and encourages them to take on more responsibility for their own time and decisions. A shared paper calendar reduces disagreements and arguments and frustrated feelings. And a shared paper calendar makes you feel more like a team, all on the same page…literally. Now when my son asks me if I can drive him somewhere, I tell him to check the calendar and see if I am available or already booked doing something else. He can now see for himself if I am able to say “yes”, and will not feel annoyed with me if I say “no”. Now when my tween asks if she can join the robotics team, we can look at the calendar together and see if the training schedule will fit in with her already scheduled activities. She will no longer feel that I am just being mean by saying “no”. She can see for herself if time will allow her to join, and will understand if she needs to turn down the opportunity. Now when my teen tells me on a Tuesday that he wants to go to a party Saturday night (and he is given permission to go), he can write it on the calendar for all to see. He can also see that when he notifies us at least 3 days in advance, as is our family rule, we are more likely to say “Yes”. So go buy a large size desk calendar and one marker, in different colors, for each family member. Hang the calendar where everyone can see it, and store the markers nearby. Write down everyone’s activities and tasks, the everyday ones as well as all the new things that pop up. And then remember to look at it every day. It’s going to help, I promise.

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“Happy Holidays from My Family to Yours”

The holidays are here! Hopefully they will be filled with fun times: visiting with families and friends, presents, sharing with those less fortunate, good food. But they are also filled with your children - school is on vacation! Don't try to stay busy with your kids every minute, as a relaxed schedule is nice for two weeks. So just have fun. Bake cookies, go to the park, visit Santa at the mall, and have play dates with friends. Go out in the cold one night to look at the stars and look for your breath. Stay in pajamas later than usual, hang out at home and play, and make breakfast for dinner. Watch movies at home and in a movie theater, go to a museum, and laugh a lot. Teach your children that every family celebrates different holidays in different ways, and that is what makes this season so special. Every child should be taught to appreciate diversity, and to value our differences. Make writing thank you notes a part of your holiday traditions also. Teach them how to write a polite note, and insist they write the note within one week of receiving the gift (or risk losing it!) Your teens are thrilled to be on vacation. Hopefully they have just finished the stress of finals, and can't wait to do nothing for the next 2 weeks. They don't want or expect to be entertained by you. In fact, some teens don't want to spend any time with you! They want to schedule their own activities, make their own plans, and just have you agree to all their requests. Sleeping late and allowing them more time to play computer games and text their friends is fine. They need unscheduled time with fewer expectations and less pressure. But they also still need supervision and enforcement of the same health and safety rules. Maybe they can stay out late on a week night - but you still need to know where they are and who they are with. And, finally, at every age, take lots of pictures! They are only this age once. Thank you for allowing me to join you on your parenting journey. I look forward to seeing what 2019 will bring to us all.

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“Why Your Kids Need to Fail”

Yes, they do. Our children need to fail, so they learn that they can come back from failure. So they learn that failure is simply the first try. We love our kids so much. We work for, and hope for, their happiness. We do not want them to experience sadness, failure, or disappointment. We want them only to experience success and joy, and we do not want their tender psyches to ever take a hit. And, let’s be honest, happy children are easier children. Happy children do not complain (as much), whine (as often), or require as much time and attention. But failure is a real part of real life. There is no way to avoid sadness, disappointment, and unhappiness. These things, even if painful at the moment, teach children responsibility, resiliency, and independence. These things prepare our children for a successful adulthood, when they are responsible for their own actions and their own feelings. Our job is to teach them today, so they can do it for themselves tomorrow. Toddlers Parents of toddlers watch their children closely on the playground to make sure everyone is safe and having fun. Parents of toddlers supervise their older children to make sure the toddler is not being verbally teased and is being given their fair turn. But sometimes toddlers are bored, sometimes they are teased, and sometimes not every child plays fairly. If we immediately intervene every time we feel our toddler is unhappy, how will our toddler learn to speak up for themselves? We do need to immediately intervene in every kind of safety issue, and we do need to teach our toddler how to express themselves. But we don’t need to “rescue’ them from every moment of unhappiness. Kids Parents call the coach to explain that their child had a headache and that’s why the kid did not do their best at the competitive tryout. Parents call the teacher to explain that they had a family event and that is why their child was too tired to study when they get a low grade on a test. But these calls and excuses do not help our kids understand the truth. Did they not make the team because they did not try their hardest? Did they fail the test because they did not study hard enough? Motivation comes from within, and learning the hard way is sometimes the best lesson. How will our kids learn to do their best when we allow them to get away with a poor effort? We do need to empathize when they are disappointed, and we need to teach them how to handle it when they are sad. But we don’t need to fix every disappointment. Teens Parents log in to their teen’s school web site to monitor every homework assignment and every quiz score. Parents continue to feel it is their responsibility to get their teen to school on time in the morning. But this close and careful supervision does not help our teen learn to be responsible and independent. Teens need to learn the natural consequences of being late to school and of not turning in their homework. Our teens will be in college soon, and will not have their parents around to protect them from their own mistakes. Parents must make sure that their teen knows how to handle disappointment and failure when we are not there to help them. So empathize when your children fail; share stories of your own failures; give them a hug if they need one; help them express their feelings with words. But do let them fail.

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“Taming the Homework Monster…at Every Age”

An Overview of Homework Homework can be difficult for families. Many kids don’t like it and many parents are challenged by how to help. ▪Homework is beneficial to students, as it reinforces lessons learned at school. ▪Homework should be a review of school work, not an introduction of new material. ▪Homework helps children to learn responsibility, time management, and confidence. ▪Homework needs to be completed first. Then your child can watch TV, call a friend, or play a video game. Toddlers and Homework No, toddlers do not yet have homework but they certainly can disrupt their older siblings who do! ▪While your kids are doing their homework, toddlers can be occupied with a simple art project, a quiet game, stories, or even a quiet DVD. Your school age kids will be distracted by a toddler who is running around, crying, or grabbing at papers and books. ▪Your toddler does not have to be perfectly quiet (no classroom is perfectly quiet), but we can begin teaching toddlers that “homework time is quiet time”. Not only will your older kids benefit, but when your toddler becomes a kid with homework, some lessons will have already been taught. Kids and Homework There are three important steps to supporting your kids’ success with their homework: ▪Homework Station: Choose a spot in your home where your kids will do their homework every night. This is the same spot where your children should put their backpack when they get home from school. Having a set spot reduces the amount of time spent every night debating where homework will be done. ▪Homework Kit: Find a small box or tote and fill it with school tools, such as pencils, pens, sharpener, scissors, eraser, crayons, paper and any other items that your kids need to complete their homework. Keep this kit in your child’s homework station. This reduces the amount of time spent every night first looking for a pencil…and then a sharpener…and then an eraser. ▪Homework Time: Choose a time daily that your child will do their homework. The time will vary for each child on each day, and will be based on other activities such as sports and music lessons, but should be planned in advance. Consistency is important! This reduces the amount of time spent every night debating when homework will be started. Teens and Homework Computers should be kept in public places, not in a teen’s bedroom. It is not possible to monitor your teen’s computer activities from behind a closed door. It is appropriate to supervise your teen’s homework and grades, but as they get older, our supervision needs to be reduced. Teens need to handle their schoolwork well because they are motivated to do so – not because we demand it. You are not going to college with them, so really begin backing off, especially the last two years of high school. Some valuable things to tell your teens: ▪We will allow you to handle your schoolwork on your own as long as things are going well. If your grades drop, or we get calls from teachers, then we need to get more involved. ▪We expect you to complete your homework before checking Facebook, going on You-Tube, or chatting with friends. ▪The expectation is that you will do your best. We expect no grade lower then a __ (fill in the blank with reasonable expectations). ▪You need to turn off both your computer and your cell phone at least 30 minutes before bed. (Collect them both from your teen if you do not trust them to keep them off at bedtime.) ▪We love you, we support you, and we will help if we can. But we cannot force you to do your best, and so will allow you to experience the negative consequences if you make bad choices about your homework. Homework Assistance at Every Age Remember that it is your kid’s assignment, not yours. You already went to school – now it’s their turn. ▪Offer support to get your child started on their assignments. Sit with younger children while they do the first problem, and then walk away. With older children, review each assignment with them, make sure they know what is expected, and then walk away. ▪Allow your child to achieve their own success, and to experience their own failure. ▪Expect your child to do their best, not to be perfect. ▪Be willing to help your kids when they request it, but do not allow them to be rude to you. Tell your kids, “I will help you, but if you are rude, I will walk away.” And then follow through! ▪Focusing mainly on grades encourages your child to cheat, or at least to accept cheating as acceptable and normal. Focus on learning, not on grades.

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8 Steps to Prepare for School

. Yikes! Here in California, some kids are already back to school. But if you are lucky/unlucky enough to still have some summer vacation left, here are some strategies for easing into the new school year. Transition slowly from your summer schedule to your school hours and routines. One week before school starts, figure out your child’s school schedule. Have your kids go to bed and wake up in the morning at the times they will for school, and try to eat breakfast and dinner at the times they will on school days. Some children are nervous about being left alone at school and will have a difficult time saying good-bye. Always 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!” 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. Buy school supplies now while the local stores are fully stocked and having sales. Buy a sturdy backpack that is large enough to hold your child’s items, but not so big that your child cannot wear it comfortably. And when you do go shopping, take the kids with you. Let them try on the backpack to make sure it fits, and allow them to select their own school materials. Some children, especially those going to a new school, are nervous about meeting new people. So before the school year begins, practice with your children what it will be like to meet their new teacher and new classmates. Explain that the first day of school is a good day for making a new friend. Tell your child 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. If your child is going to walk or ride their bike to school, you should practice the route with your child at least two times before the first day of school. If biking, teach your child to walk their bikes through all intersections and to bike in a single file. For the children who walk to school, see if you can find a walking buddy. If you walk are that buddy, look for other children and parents who live close to you and will also be walking the same path. And of course, if you drive children to school, always make sure every child is properly buckled every time! Before the first day of school, set up a homework station at home. This will be the spot where your child does their homework every night, and also the spot where they keep a homework kit in this station. Buy a small plastic tote, and fill it with an assortment of school supplies, such as pens, pencils, a sharpener, paper, and markers. Then at homework time, your child goes to their station and has all needed suplies. This allows them to be organized and not to waste any time looking for what they need when they start their homework. And don’t forget to set up a small basket for yourself where you can keep school forms, lunch orders, and any items that need to be returned to school. 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 put their backpacks by the front door. Many parents find themselves needing to call out to their children several times before the kids actually get up. Decide with your children if they want you to wake them (once!) or if they want an alarm clock. Stick with whatever you choose together, but then make it your child’s responsibility to be up on time. To help with keeping track of everyone’s schedules, post a family event calendar in a public place. 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 very helpful to post school lunch options, 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. Here’s to the beginning of a great school year!

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Mid-Summer Reminders

Toddlers * Leave your cell phone next to your child's car seat in the back as a reminder. * Use sunscreen and play in the shade as much as possible * Provide calm breaks during their long day of playing. * Try to be indoors during the hottest hours of the day. * Touch the slide for heat before allowing your toddler to slide down. * Do not leave your toddler alone near water even for a minute. Kids * Insist on sunscreen( when you can) and offer a hat. * Do not call your child a “swimmer” until she truly can swim. * Summer is a great time to learn a new skill – including different chores. * Make a list of fun at-home activities, writing each on an index card. When your kid says “I am bored", tell him to go choose an index card. * Allow them be lazy sometimes – it is summer vacation. In fact, schedule some unscheduled time. Lying in the grass is a good activity at every age. * Try to be patient – they will be going back to school soon. Teens * Encourage sunscreen. * Remind your younger teen to let you know when they change locations. * Summer is a great time for our teens to get their first job, to earn their own money, and to be taught financial skills. * Allow your teen to sleep late sometimes – it is summer vacation. While our teens still need limits, rules, and structure, we can also be a little more flexible and relaxed. * Try to enjoy having them around – some will be heading off to college, and you will miss them.

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Nine Ways to Handle Sibling Rivalry

Or how to keep my sanity while my kids are fighting. Our kids fight over toys, candy, electronics, bed times, and when one is chewing too loudly or taking up too much space in the car. They fight for our attention, to get the other in trouble, because they're bored, and because it's fun. (Not for us certainly, but sometime for them.) Here are some ways to keep our cool and to reduce the number of fights. • If there is no blood, just ignore the fight! Children argue to get their parents’ attention. If you run to them at every yell or complaint, you have taught them that arguing with their sibling gets your attention. If one child is being hurt, then of course you must intervene immediately. But one kid yelling at or pushing the other does not require an immediate parental intervention. • Accept sibling rivalry as a normal and expected part of family life. Most children fight with their siblings. It is not a sign of a bigger problem or of family dysfunction. It does not mean they will grow up hating each other or with twisted psyches. Didn’t you fight with your siblings? • Avoid comparing one child to another. Your children are individuals; allow them to express themselves in their own way. Just because one kid accomplishes something does not mean her sibling is capable of doing the same. And just because you are angry or annoyed with one child does not mean you should express those irritated emotions to all your children. • Respect each child’s need to be away from his siblings. Kids need time to play alone without including their siblings every time. Each child should be allowed to have certain items that he doesn’t have to share. It is also okay for a child to NOT include his siblings in play dates. • Make sure that you are not playing favorites among your kids. Give each child a turn to sit next to you in a restaurant or while reading stories. Also, don’t always assume the bigger child is the aggressor and the little child is the victim. It could be the other way around! • Spend one-on-one time with each child every day. Even if it is just 5 minutes with each kid! • Do not take sides. Listen to both of their stories or tell them both to take a break. Do not discipline one over the other unless you saw the entire incident. • Teach them how to resolve the issue themselves. This is an opportunity to teach conflict resolution, negotiation, problem solving, and other important life skills. You can start the ball rolling by giving them a choice, such as, “I will give you 5 minutes to decide which show to watch, but if you can’t agree, then the TV will be turned off.” Let them know that you trust them to resolve the issue themselves. • Accept all feelings but not all actions. You can tell your kids “It’s okay to disagree with your siblings or to feel annoyed with them, but I expect you to use your words to resolve things. In our family, it is not okay to hit.” And finally, remember that the relationships your children have with each other will be the longest of their lives. They might be fighting now, but they won't be doing that forever.

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March For Our Lives

This past Saturday, I joined over 1.5 million fellow Americans in the "March For Our Lives" protests organized mainly by teens around the country. These teens were asking for common sense gun control laws including stricter background checks, an age limit of 21 to purchase a gun, and a ban on bump stocks and semi-automatic weapons. And we were there to support them. The tens of thousands of people marching with me in San Jose were of every color, every age, every nationality, every gender, and included both gun owners and those who would never consider owning a gun. (I think you know which one I am.) As we marched in a light but steady rain, we discussed politics, every aspect of gun control, and what can be done to keep our kids safe. We chatted with each other and with strangers. Everyone was polite, friendly, and motivated to help bring about change. And while I felt determined and proud to be marching, I also felt so sad. My children now aged 33 and 29, did not have active shooter drills in their classrooms. They were not taught how to barricade their classroom doors. They were not scared to go to school in the morning. And while I taught my children about stranger danger, to lock the front door, and to be aware while walking alone, I did not have to discuss mass shootings with them. And I'm sad that so many young parents and young children are now having these conversations. So how do we talk about this with our children? Pre-schoolers don't need to be told about these adult issues. Make sure you are not discussing them or listening to the news with your children present. And go to all the marches you want. They will love being in a parade. Younger elementary school kids are being taught in school to hide under their desk and to be quiet during a drill, but they don't need to totally understand why. Just call it a Safety Drill, just like a Fire Drill. Older elementary kids can be told that there was a shooting in a school, but we don't have to share every detail. Explain that now all students, in every school, are practicing what to do if something like that happened in their school. (But we don't think it will.) And our middle and high school kids already know the news and the details, so use this as a teachable moment in time to discuss it with them. Ask what they think. Ask their opinions. Ask about how it feels at school or if kids are talking about it. And encourage them to look for their voice to be heard. What do you think? How do you feel? And what are you saying to your children? Please share your thoughts and ideas, so we can all learn from each other. This is tough.

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