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Showing posts tagged with: parenting

“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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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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Eleven Steps to Calmer Parenting

Parenting is the toughest job in the world, but also the most rewarding. The journey is long, and how we approach each day makes a huge difference in how we feel. Remaining calm is good for our own mental health but also a wonderful lesson to our children. Children often act the way their parents act. So take a deep breath, remember that this stage will soon be over, and demonstrate a sense of calm and control. The calmer you are, the calmer your children will be. Take care of yourself. It’s hard to take care of your children, your partner, and your home when you haven’t first taken care of yourself. In order to be the best parent you can be, you need to make sure that you are feeling as good as you can. So exercise, eat right, say “no” when you want to, and don’t feel guilty. Your children deserve a happy and healthy parent. Stop trying to be perfect. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, so stop aiming for that. Just be the best parent you can be; allow yourself to make mistakes and show your children that striving to do your best is always the goal. Sleep in one weekend morning. When I had young children, Sunday was the morning I could sleep in. This simply meant I did not have to be the first adult out of bed at the first sound of a kid’s voice. Having an extra 20 minutes in bed alone was a weekly luxury that helped start my Sunday in a calm mood, and actually made the whole week better because I knew my morning was coming. And Saturday morning was Dad’s turn. Give yourself a 10 minute time-out. When you arrive home from work, your children are excited to see you and have a lot of things to share. Give each one a quick hug, then go into your room alone for 10 minutes. Change your clothes, breathe deeply, and transition from “employee” to “parent”. This short break will rejuvenate you for the rest of your busy evening. Your kids won’t like it, but you will, and they will learn to accept it. Stick to a schedule. Having a regular time to wake up, leave for school, get home from work, eat dinner, and put the kids to bed makes the day go much more smoothly. Being consistent with your schedule eliminates a lot of decision making, and contributes to a calmer household. Have date nights. You chose your partner for a reason, but it is sometimes difficult to remember why during the chaos of raising kids. But one day the kids will be grown, and you two will be alone again. Keep your relationship fresh with a weekly or monthly date night. Just a simple movie and dinner with adult conversation is a wonderful treat. Stay connected to your friends. You spend a lot of time setting up play dates for your kids. Well, set some up for yourself. You deserve to have fun too. Be yourself. Of course you are a parent, but you are still you, complete with emotions, hopes, and ideas. Parent the way you want, not how your mother-in-law expects. Allow your children to see your true feelings and your silly side. Don’t let the title of “Parent” make you into a new person, just a more special one. Take a deep breath. Not everything is an emergency. Some things can wait. So just take a deep breath and enjoy this roller coast ride of parenting. Enjoy the highs but don’t get too low with the lows. Things will always get better. Don’t yell. Just tell. When our kids yell at us, we feel tense. When we yell at out kids, we feel worse. It is much easier for people, including your children, to listen to a firm but calm voice than to a yelling voice. You want your kids to listen to your words rather than to focus on your anger. Laugh more. What your kid is doing might not be funny to you, but it sure is funny to everyone else. So go ahead and laugh more. It can’t hurt, and it might just make you a calmer parent.

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The True Goal of Parenting

Life of a Child I write this week with such a heavy heart. I am very saddened by the latest mass shooting in Florida. (The lastest? How terrible that I have to say that.) Seventeen more people have been killed at a school, including 14 children. A school - where moms and dads send their children every day, counting on the adults there to teach them, to care for them, and to keep them safe. School shootings just feel especially wrong, and especially scary. During these tough times, as we struggle with our own emotions, and with how to answer our children's questions, it is especially important to remember the true goal of parenting: To raise a successful adult. To raise an adult who is kind and considerate and honest and giving and thoughtful and who looks out for their fellow citizens. And the time to start these lessons is today. Now. No matter your child's age. Let's all agree today to teach our children to be kind, to be an upstander, to sit next to the friend-less child at lunch, to invite the lonely child for a play date, to think of other's feelings. Let's role model being polite to the homeless person we pass on the street, to take cookies to meet the new neighbor, to offer a hand when a friend needs help. There is a lot of work to be done in this country to protect our kids and ourselves. I feel a little helpless to bring about change. But there is one thing I can do: I can teach my kids to be successful adults. I can connect with every child I come in contact with so no child feels alone. I can look out for kids who might need my help. I can be a person of love and calm and acceptance. And I can ask you to please do the same.

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What Is Anxiety? And How Can I Help?

anxious girl An increasing number of phone calls and emails I receive are from parents expressing concern that their child is exhibiting anxiety. They are questioning if their child is okay, and if more professional help is needed. To help answer some of your questions, here are notes from a talk I recently gave a local elementary school on the topic of anxiety: Most peo,ple, of all ages occasionally have feelings of anxiety, or stress. A small amount of anxiety is normal and can even motivate us to stay alert, to be focused, and to be aware. Most anxious kids (and adults) are worried about what MIGHT happen — that something will go wrong, or feeling like danger is just around the corner. Anxiety is felt physically, emotionally, and in the way people view the world around them. Anxiety disorders are among the most common mental health conditions. And the most commonly diagnosed anxiety disorder is Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Children with GAD might worry excessively, be very hard on themselves, strive for perfection, seek constant approval or reassurance, have trouble concentrating, experience sleeping problems, and be irritable. Children and teens may also have physical symptoms such as headaches, stomachaches, or muscle tension. It might cause them to miss school, be late to school, or to avoid social activities. It is common for children and teens to avoid talking about how they feel, because they're worried that others (especially their parents) might not understand. They may fear being judged or being considered weak. And the less they talk with someone who can help, the worse they feel. It is very difficult to know when our children are dealing with typical, normal stress, or when perhaps our child is dealing with an Anxiety Disorder. If you feel that your child’s level of anxiety is lasting a long time, is out of proportion to their real situation, and is affecting your child and family on a daily basis, then I would recommend consulting with your pediatrician. The goal is to manage anxiety, not to eliminate it. Don’t avoid situations just because they make your child anxious. We can’t remove what makes our child feel anxious, but we can teach them what to do when they feel anxious. Respect but don’t enforce, your child’s anxiety. “I understand that you are nervous about the doctor’s visit. But I will be with you and we will do this together.” Learn and teach deep breathing and relaxation techniques. Massage, sound machines, and counting to 10 can help in stressful moments, and when your child feels their anxiety building. Pay attention to how you respond to and handle your own stress. It’s not fair to put your personal adult stress on your children. Share your own stories of how you overcame your own anxieties. Be aware of what stress we are putting on our kids. Have reasonable expectations for your children, and remember what it’s like to be a kid. They can’t be perfect – because there’s no such thing as perfection. Respond with empathy – consider their view. They need to feel heard and understood before they can be ready to listen themselves. “It is hard to speak in front of your class; that can be scary. So let’s practice together so you can feel more confident tomorrow.” Ask open ended questions. “What do you think your test will be like?” is a more supportive question than “Are you worried about your test?”. And finally, be calm, be loving, be patient, and be a good listener. Your kids aren’t misbehaving when they are feeling very anxious; they are simply still learning to navigate their lives. And some kids need a little more help, or a little more time. Have any questions? Please feel free to email or call me.

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Time to Enjoy YOUR Holiday Traditions

holiday card (2) As we head into our final weeks of holiday preparation, I want you to identify your most favorite holiday traditions. Opening one present on Christmas Eve? Lighting the candles together on Hanukkah? Having a family dinner on Christmas Day? (Going to a movie on Christmas morning with my kids is my favorite tradition which we will again do this year.) 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 you and your family 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, fun, and safe holiday season and a happy, healthy 2018.

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My Favorite Holiday

Thanksgiving Photo I love Thanksgiving. I call it the "F" holiday: fall, family, friends, food, football, and fun. I love that there are no gifts, only those of being together and connecting. I love cold mornings and cool days. I love the smell of roasting turkey. As a child, I loved getting together with my extended family. Now, my family and I love hosting friends at our home who are missing their families. Come on, it's a great holiday! Thanksgiving is a day when you don't have to worry about what your kids eat. Serve every dish family style, and let your kids choose what they want to eat. Maybe you have a kid who will not eat turkey, stuffing, OR mashed potatoes. (I know, weird, right?) So you can also serve macaroni and cheese, and not just to your child, but as another side dish for every guest to enjoy. And encourage your kids to put black olives on their fingertips and eat them one at a time. (I know, weird, right?) Encourage, but don't force, your child to eat. Let this be a relaxing meal, for you and for them. Thanksgiving is the holiday I use to begin teaching children about charity, about sharing with those less fortunate, about thinking of others before themselves. So this week, 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. I hope you and your family have a very Happy Thanksgiving, and a fun long weekend. Perhaps I will see you at the San Francisco Zoo the Friday after. That is where my kids and I always go on the busiest shopping day of the year. We like walking in fresh air and being together more than fighting crowds and being consumers. Whatever you do, it's a chance to create some family memories, so just have fun together. Enjoy!

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Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home

Learning Is Fun photo Four Academic Lessons to Teach at Home Every parent wants their child to have a successful school year. Here are four lessons we can teach our kids at home, so they are better prepared for the lessons they learn at school. Teach Your Children to be Organized When children feel organized, are confident that they know what to do, and have all their needed materials, their confidence go up, and so does the quality of their work. Prepare a checklist of things your child needs to bring to and from school every day. Put a copy by the door at home and one in his backpack. Check often to see if your child is remembering the items on the list. Create a system with your child for recording their homework assignments. Even young children can use a planner or calendar. Pack backpacks at night. Gym clothes, notes for the teacher, school books, and homework can be packed in the evening, leaving just a lunchbox to be added in the morning. Design a plan for how kids will remember to turn in their completed assignments. Many kids do their homework, but fail to turn it in. A separate "Homework Binder" might help. Teach Your Children to Manage Their Time Wisely Some homework assignments are due in one week, two weeks, or longer. Teach your kids how to complete those assignments without waiting until the last minute. Record all assignments on a calendar by breaking it down into small pieces. For a book report, the steps might be: choose the book, read the book, write the outline, create the cover page, type and print the report, put all the parts together. Add "Work on book report" to the list of nightly assignments. Plan how much time is needed for homework each night. Completing the toughest assignment first might work for some kids, while others will wait until after dinner for a parent to help with that one. Use the "First this, and then that" method. "First you complete your homework and get your backpack ready for tomorrow, and then you can watch TV." Teach Your Children How to Focus While many teens do their homework in a sea of distractions, we need to limit the distractions that our younger kids experience. Give your child a snack when they get home from school. It is hard to focus when hungry. Keep the computer in a public place, and restrict the use of email or games while doing their work. You do not need to keep a constant vigil; you do need to check often. If they do make the choice to break the rule, then they will lose the use of the computer for fun that night. Find a quiet place with few distractions for a homework station. Playful siblings and the TV can be huge distractions, and so the homework station should be fairly quiet. Teach Your Children How to Enjoy School Our children have many years of school ahead of them, and many get burned out at a young age. The goal of school is to learn to love learning, not to get straight A’s. It is our job to promote a healthy, fun, and encouraging attitude towards school. Praise the effort, not the result. Hang some of their work on the fridge, and sometimes hang a paper with mistakes. Ask your child to tell you one thing about school each day; they don’t have to share every detail. Remember that it is your child’s assignment, not yours. Allow your kids to do their own work, supplying help when they ask for it. It’s okay if they make mistakes. Volunteer at the school when possible, go to Back-to-School night, get to know the teachers and students, and support the school’s policies and rules.

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