Special New Book Pre-order Incentive!

The new Confident Parents, Confident Kids book is a unique full color, fully illustrated parenting book that walks parents through the big feelings that accompany each age and stage of development and how they can best support their child through it all. It offers guidance on the temperaments, or emotional tendencies, our children are born with that may differ from parents’ own tendencies. How can a parent support a child who is fearful of new people and situations? Or how can a parent best keep a child safe who dives head first into any new experience? 

This book responds to a whole host of big questions that have been posed by parents over the years with solutions tied to a solid research base so that parents can respond in ways that not only show their love and demonstrate their authentic values but also, manage their own big feelings with emotional intelligence. 

For the month of July, the first three individuals to pre-order the book will also get a one-on-one coaching session with author, Jennifer Miller. This one-hour coaching session — to be held in October, 2019 right before the release of the book — will focus on whatever you most want to focus on related to your parenting challenges. Jennifer will provide support and resources as well as helping you set a small experiment to try out a best practice at home right away.

Here’s what some have said about receiving coaching from Jennifer Miller:

Jennifer has a wonderful ability to listen, reflect, and clarify the issues in families.  She has both a great understanding of the mind eye of children and the challenges of parents as they work to raise well-balanced kids. She helped us to reflect on the behavior we want to model, developing useful tools for stressful situations, and creating real world plans for problem solving.  The process involved a great deal of self reflection and appreciation of what assumptions, beliefs, habits we bring to parenting based on our own experiences.  We are still working to understand the unique people our children are and adjust our parenting styles to fit their individual needs.”

“I was growing distant from my son. He was pushing me away and I was frequently angry with him wanting to be more involved. Jennifer helped me prioritize cultivating trust between us and he opened up to me about problems he was having I was totally unaware of. I’m relieved to be able to help him.”

“My daughter was struggling with frustration tantrums in school and the teachers telling me she was disruptive. Jennifer taught me some strategies to help her expand her emotional vocabulary. At parent-teacher conferences, her teacher told me they noticed that my daughter was able to calm down quicker and articulate what she was feeling. They didn’t know what I had been working on at home.”

To take advantage of this incentive, please send a screen shot of your proof of purchase to confidentparentsconfidentkids@gmail.com with the subject line: “incentive.” The first three to pre-order will receive a confirmation and set of times/dates to schedule a coaching session with Jennifer Miller.

Pre-order “Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — From Toddlers to Teenagers!”

Family Fighting this Summer? Use the Peace Rose…

“What do I do about my siblings fighting constantly?” I heard one Mom lamenting at a recent meeting. “Should I let them handle it? Should I intervene? I want to help them learn conflict management skills but I’m not sure how to respond.” Certainly, this is a common issue in family life. The reality is — fights happen. So then, how can we prepare ourselves and our children for them so that we can ensure no harm is done and our relationships strengthen and grow because of the way we respond to conflict?

This summer, I learned about a preschool that uses a Peace Rose to help build children’s skills. The application for families is easy to see. It can work for any age, preschool and up, between children or even between a parent and a child. Here’s how a Peace Rose can be used to help your children learn and practice valuable conflict management skills.

First, make a tissue paper rose. This can be an excellent rainy day project. Instructions on how to make one follow this article. (You can buy a silk rose too but there will be greater investment and concern for a rose that has been carefully constructed by your children.)

Second, make or find an unbreakable (yes, this is important!) vase. One can be constructed out of a decorated frozen concentrate juice can or empty milk carton. Or if you have a plastic vase that’s sturdy, that could do the job.

Third, play act the process with your kids. Here’s how it might go. A parent might say:

We are fighting over a toy and I feel upset about it. I don’t want to fight.

That parent picks up the Family Peace Rose. She might say:

When I hand it to sister Addison, what I am communicating to her is “Let’s work this out together.”

Your children would then follow each of the following steps. Be sure and post the printable version of the steps (at the end of the article) so that they can follow along with you and after practice, use it as a guide to do on their own. Or if you have young children, play act and practice several times so that they get in the habit of the routine.

Step One. Breathe in the sweet smell.

Ask both children to “breathe” in the beautiful sweet scent of the rose (even if imagined) giving them the chance to take a deep breath. Make sure you are in a comfortable, private location to talk.

Step Two. Take turns communicating feelings and the problem.

Use this simple I-messages structure to ensure that your children are communicating with one another in an assertive, not aggressive way. This helps the individual take responsibility for their own role and their feelings while avoiding blaming language like “you did…” (which closes down the mind and ears of the other).

Here’s how it might sound as you play act it out:

I feel frustrated and angry when you take my toy because I feel like you don’t care that I was playing with it. How do you feel?

I feel frustrated when you have the toy I want to play with.

Step Three. Generate ideas. Now it’s time to share ideas. How can you work it out? Can you take turns? Can you play together? Should you set a timer for the toy? Do you want to both play with something else and put that toy away?

Step Four. Try it out. If the children find an idea they can both agree to try, then let them go and try it. If they try it out and it doesn’t work, then get the rose out again and generate another idea that might work for both.

Step Five. Reflect. If they have resumed playing and seemed to have resolved the issue, to deepen the learning a parent can ask when you are cleaning up, “How did it work out?” “Was the idea successful?” “Would you want to try the Family Peace Rose again?” “What would you do differently next time?” This step helps children realize that they have gone through a problem-solving process. It helps them think through how they have done it and how they could use it in the future. If they have learned a new skill or process through the experience, the reflection will help them internalize and remember it for future instances.

Leave the Family Peace Rose in its vase in a playroom or main family room so that it can be easily accessed at any time by your children. Adopt this simple practice in your home and see how it helps family members better communicate with one another and work through problems. You might find your children working through their conflicts on their own while practicing critical skills that can last a lifetime!

Here’s the printable version of the Family Peace Rose Problem-Solving Process.

Here are simple instructions from Very Well Family on How to Make a Tissue Paper Flower.

Special thanks to Rachel Choquette Kemper and the Kennedy Heights Montessori Center for this great idea!

Originally published September 13, 2018.

The Benefits, Opportunities, and Challenges of Summertime Playdates

“Mom, can I have a playdate with Tommy?” my son asks excitedly. Why do I feel ancient when I recall that playdates didn’t exist when I was a young girl? But in truth, kids were sent outside to play with their neighborhood friends or siblings and certainly, parents didn’t travel anywhere beyond their street to assist their child in connecting with friends. Our evolution to playdates represents our growing recognition of our children’s social needs.

More than ever, parents realize that play is the vocation of childhood. It’s the central vehicle for learning – a catalyst for kids’ physical, cognitive, social and emotional development. In play, a child is in control of the world he creates, his only limitation being his imagination.

Developmental Psychologist Lev Vygotsky wrote, “In play, a child is always above his average age, above his daily behavior; in play, it is as though he were a head taller than himself.” Children have the ability and urge to create highly advanced pretend play scenarios, both with others and on their own.

In social play, kids practice cooperation, negotiation, inclusion, communication, flexibility and diversity appreciation. In solo play, children can grow their sense of identity and also practice perspective taking abilities as they pretend to be another person.

Pretend play also can serve a significant role in a children’s mental health and sense of well-being. They are able to face the most feared obstacles with the courage of a true hero whether it’s confronting monsters or villains, weapons or diseases, and even injury or death. Through play, they can conquer these fears and show their strength and resilience.

Social and solo play not only contribute to developing kids’ social and emotional life skills but they also contribute to academics. Often imaginative play will include counting (math), categorizing (science) and storytelling (language) among many other cognitive essentials for school-age children. And there is just no such thing as growing too old to play. When adults are creative or engage in any art form, there is play at work.

And if those aren’t enough benefits to convince you that playdates are valuable, here’s yet another, not to be underestimated. Playdates can provide a powerful parent support network. When my son was an infant, toddler and then, preschooler, a group of Moms formed a regular weekly playdate rotation in which Moms attended and enjoyed coffee and conversation while the little ones played. This became an invaluable source of support for our parenting as we discussed challenges, found commonalities and learned from one another differing ways each of us were addressing those challenges.

In the full schedule-laden school-age years, parents can cooperate or take shifts hosting each other for playdates on free summer days or on weekends. This offers a period of time free for the parents who are not on point to host. And when it’s your turn to host, you can create a safe, caring environment conducive to play.

In addition to the many benefits of play for your child, there are some questions that could be asked related to planning and hosting playdates. Some of these may include:

  • How should a playdate be initiated? Do I wait for my child to ask or seek out friends for my child?
  • If I am hosting, should I have ground rules and if so, how should I communicate them?
  • What if the other child I am hosting makes poor choices? How do I handle a discipline issue with another family’s child?
  • If I am sending my child to another person’s house for a playdate, are there questions I should ask in advance? How well do I need to know the friend’s family? How do I make sure it’s safe?
  • Are there rules or discussions I should have with my own child before going to someone else’s house?

All of these important questions and some added tips will be responded to in the following playdate suggestions.

Follow your Child’s Lead.

Who knows why we are particularly attracted to another person and seek out their friendship? Perhaps it has to do with our developmental needs. But it’s impossible to truly predict which peers our child will gravitate toward. So follow their lead! Who does your child talk about at home? That’s a perfect place to begin.

Get to Know the Other Child and his Family.

So you want to create opportunities outside of camp, extracurriculars or school for Tommy and your son to play since he talks about him frequently? But perhaps you don’t know Tommy or his parents. Instead of scheduling a first playdate, schedule a family meet-up. “We’re going bowling this weekend, would your family like to join us?” Or it may be easier to identify a school activity – a summer festival perhaps? – where parents are invited and seek out Tommy and his family to have an initial conversation. Introduce yourselves and express a desire for a playdate. You’ve then laid the groundwork for the new relationship between your family and theirs. After all, if another family is going to trust you to care for their child, they need to get to know you – and vice versa. It absolutely takes a village!

Talk to your Child before the Playdate about Ground Rules
(including playing with one another, not on screens!)

You want to prepare your child for a fun, successful playdate and you don’t want to have to do a lot of supervising and managing during the playdate if you don’t have to. So why not discuss ahead of time the rules that make the most sense? I always begin a conversation about rules by setting the stage and asking, “I’ll bet you are excited to have Tommy over. I’m so glad! What rules do we need to think about for the time he’s here so that you both can stay safe and have a great time?” And then, let him consider or offer options. Write them down to demonstrate that it’s official and important (and to refer back to if you need to do so during the playdate). Be sure to keep rules brief and frame them in the positive. What do you want them to do versus not to do? So one might be, “Keep play safe.” Discuss what that means. Climbing on furniture or more physical play may not be safe. If tempted, then maybe a good solution would be to play outside if the weather permits. Others may include: staying in certain play areas or living spaces (and avoid others); inside voices are the best to use; or bathroom time is for one child at a time.

Reserve Screen Time for Times Other Than When Friends Are Over

Yes, screen time could take over an entire playdate. Indeed, kids will want to play video games with one another or watch a movie. But plenty of screen time takes place when kids are home without friends there. I’ve noticed that children who are used to many hours of screen time take a little longer to figure out what to play when screens aren’t available. But all of those wonderful benefits of pretend and engage in social play are not fully realized if children are on screens during their playdates. Our rule is “Friends are more important than screens.” And we put away devices before they come. If asked, we share that’s it’s our rule to promote more fun, creative playtime. We leave out costumes, art supplies, legos and other imaginative toys (see resource at the end for more ideas!). My son at ten-years-old now only requires blankets and pillows since fort-making has become his latest pastime with his pals. I’ve also placed some differently sized cardboard boxes, scissors, markers and tape out and have been amazed by what my son and his friends have made. Create a ready environment for play together and children will forget about their need for screens and reap all of the benefits of their social play together.

Partner with your Child to Communicate Rules to his Friend.

You’ve already discussed safety rules with your child. Welcome your child’s friend in and express your happiness that he’s there to play. Get out the rules you discussed and briefly talk about them. Let the friend know that he can come to you if he’s hurt or feels unsafe or for any reason. And then send them off to have fun!

What If Poor Choices Are Made by Another Person’s Child?

If it’s a minor issue or breakage of your rules, offer first that every family has different rules. You might say to both children, “Tommy’s family likely has different rules at his house and so is just learning about our rules. At our house, we don’t play rough enough that things break. We choose to go outside. Let’s work together to clean up or repair the broken item. Then, you can choose – You can continue to play your game outside or pick a different, less-rough game inside.”

If it’s a major issue, in other words, a child is harmed, then calling the other parents makes sense. But placing blame will not build bridges with that other family so if you need to make the phone call, consider how you’ll create a safe space for discussion. Instead of saying, “Your child hit my child. Come get him.”, you might instead say, “We value Tommy’s friendship. There was some hitting today at our house. It may be a good time to just take a break and calm down since both kids are upset. Then, maybe we can try again another time. For today though, could you please come get Tommy?” In that circumstance, you’ve done your best to keep all safe while preserving the relationship. Either the other family or you can make the choice going forward whether it’s important to offer second chances and try another playdate.

Set the Stage for Sending Your Child to Another’s Home:

Ask about House Rules in Advance.

If you have a playdate set with another family, simply ask what their house rules are. If any particular rule is particularly important, they’ll communicate that to you and you’ll be able to discuss it with your child in advance.

Trust Your Gut.

Your gut is yours and your child’s very own internal safety device. Teach them to use it! Since children are learning about their feelings and developing a language to express them, they may more readily be able to identify physical signs of discomfort first. Their tummy may feel nauseous. Practice doing gut checks. If you see an image in the media that is disturbing, ask how their tummy feels. Make the connection between that icky feeling not only as a sign of discomfort but as a sign of danger and to get out of the situation. If children are taught to trust that feeling, they will become more likely to leave a high-risk circumstance. Let them know if they feel unsafe at another child’s house to find a caring adult and ask to call home. Have an easy plan at the ready so that your child knows how to get in touch with you.

If Trouble, Tell a Caring Adult.

To prevent abusive situations, it’s helpful to get to know the other family first. But also, you can coach your child to find safety in an unsafe situation. If your child feels unsafe, she needs to learn to “look for the helpers,” as Mr. Rogers wisely advised. Abuse usually takes place when two are alone together. Though a perpetrator can and often does rationalize his behavior, there is also a clear sense that it’s not acceptable to others. So if your child knows to find a trusted, caring adult to help, they can remove themselves from the dangerous situation. This teaching is in opposition to the old “stranger danger” counsel kids used to be taught. If your child is afraid of strangers, he won’t seek the help he needs. Instead, work on finding a helper. Practice. Can you find a helper when you are at the store together? Ask your child, “Who would you go to?” Talk about it with your child when you encounter another lost child, witness a fire, or see any kind of dangerous situation. If you feel scared, look for a helper! If the person you are with is scaring you, look for a helper!

Discuss a Way to Get in Touch with You.

Send along your name and number in your child’s backpack or even pin it on their clothing so that they can get ahold of you if they need to. Practice making a phone call to you if they have not used the phone. If it’s a first playdate, keep the timeframe short as a trial run so that you gain more trust with the family and the environment.

Though it takes a bit of effort on the part of parents, children will certainly benefit from friend playtime. Look for ways you can connect with other parents too and you’ll reap some of the supportive benefits of growing relationships in your community!

Extra Resource:

Printable Playthings to Stir the Imagination (Many of Which Are Ready Household Objects)

Adapted from original article titled “All About Playdates” published March 8, 2018.

Grab the Bonus!!! Pre-order Today…

The countdown is on…

(yes, literally – check out my site for the countdown box!) to the publication date of Confident Parents, Confident Kids: Raising Emotional Intelligence In Ourselves and Our Kids — from Toddlers to Teenagers! In collaboration with the publisher — Quarto Knows/Fair Winds Press — we are able to provide bonus materials if you pre-order now.

When I surveyed parents about what they most wanted to learn about, they said, “we want to learn about our big feelings.” And when I asked which specific big feelings, they answered, “anxiety!” They wanted to know how we teach our children and teens to deal with anxiety and how we best deal with our own. So that’s precisely what I choose to put into the bonus material. Actionable tips ALL ABOUT ANXIETY – YOUR OWN AND YOUR KIDS! 

Place your order for the book today. Then, send your proof of purchase (a screenshot works!) to Quarto at the following address: confidentparentskids@quarto.com and they’ll send you the bonus material within a day or less!

Want to know more about the book?

It answers the questions:
 How do we raise a confident kid? And how can we become confident that our parenting is preparing our child for success? 
Our confidence develops from understanding and having mastery over our emotions — and helping our children do the same. Like learning to play a musical instrument, we can fine-tune our ability to skillfully react to those big feelings that naturally arise from our child’s constant growth and changes, moving from chaos to harmony. We want our children to trust that they can conquer any challenge with hard work and persistence; that they can love boundlessly; that they will find their unique sense of purpose; and they will act wisely in a complex world. This book shows you how.
In it, you’ll learn:
  • The myths we’ve been told about emotions, how they shape our choices, and how we can reshape our parenting decisions in better alignment with our deepest values.
  • How to identify the temperaments your child was born with so you can support those tendencies rather than fight them.
  • How to align your biggest hopes and dreams for your kids with specific skills that can be practiced, along with new research to support those powerful connections.
  • About each age and stage — from babies to toddlers, to preschoolers, to school age, middle school and high schoolers — your child or teen goes through and the range of learning opportunities available.
  • How to identify and manage those big emotions (that only the parenting process can bring out in us!) and how to model emotional intelligence for your children.
  • How to alter challenging patterns we fall into to turnaround even our toughest moments into teachable ones.

This book represents the latest translation from science to everyday practice with countless small, simple ways in which we can promote the most critical social and emotional skills in our children to help reach our hopes and dreams today and for their future.

#parenting #parentingtips #SEL #mindfulness

 

Summer Scrapes, Cuts, and Bruises: How to Offer First Aid with Emotional Intelligence


“Are you okay?” I asked as E made a beeline from the outdoors in straight to the upstairs bathroom and shut the door. “No,” he uttered angrily coming out and showing me bloody elbows and knees and scraps up and down the side of his body. It was his first day out of school. And I truly cannot recall one first day out of school when the weather was beautiful and he was free to run outside that he didn’t wind up with at least one scraped knee. Yes, tis the season for “boo-boos”. And for some children, they’ll deal with more serious injuries this summer like concussions, sprains, or fractures.

So how do you manage your own big feelings when your child is in pain? These circumstances test our emotional intelligence because of the mounting emotions we’ll have to confront. After all, we are reacting to our child’s upset which may be expressed in inconsolable crying, yelling and anger (that could be directed at us), or running away and hiding. We have to cope with our empathy as they endure pain which can be no small feat as we desire their suffering to go away as quickly as possible. We may get squeamish at the sight of blood or have a sense of disgust or revulsion as we view their injury. We may also fear greater internal injuries that we cannot detect on our own so that we have to deal with anxiety and feelings of incompetence when we don’t know what to do.

This seemed an important day for me to consider how we can respond in ways that support our children, acknowledge their big feelings, and deal with our own in constructive ways. Here are a few well-considered tips.

Prepare.

Before your child comes to you with her first scraped knee, make it a start of summer ritual to stock up on first aid supplies. I carry band-aids in my purse everywhere I go. And I’ve helped out other parents in the grocery store, in the park. When a child needs a band-aid, they really need one. Don’t mess with feeling helpless and unprepared. My favorite supplies to keep on hand are: band-aids of all sizes, foaming anti-bacterial solution (it goes on fast and easy), cut strips of clean, soft t-shirts (thank you for this, Mema) to use to clean wounds or as flexible wraps, surgical tape so that it doesn’t hurt badly when you remove it (drug stores have this), ice packs, and popsicles. It’s nice to have a ritual that if you get injured, a cold popsicle always helps a child feel better. 

Why does this all help with your emotional intelligence, you ask? Because you have no control over when and where injuries take place, this will help you feel more competent and ready so that you can take action and not feel helpless.

Clear your schedule.

Injuries, even if just a scraped knee, take your time and attention. A work conference call, a haircut appointment, or a lunch date cannot compare – in the big scheme of things – to taking care of your hurting child when they need you. Time pressures wear away at our patience and add a layer of anxiety to an already charged moment. So remove the time commitment so that you can focus your attention on your child.

Remember to breathe.

There’s typically a time when a parent is sitting and waiting. Whether a child is crying hysterically or shut inside her room or turned away and refusing treatment, there’s waiting time involved with children’s hurts. Use those times to deep breathe. This will prepare your mind and body to respond in the way you most want to respond — with empathy and compassion.

Acknowledge and accept feelings.

It can be tempting – particularly in a sports’ setting – to utter words like, “you’re fine,” “power through,” or “stay in the game,” when you are not sure the degree to which your child is genuinely hurt though you see him crying or wincing in pain. After all, it’s likely this is how you were coached or parented as a kid so it can become a reflexive response. In addition, you may have a hidden (or not-so-hidden) fear that acknowledging a child’s feelings might encourage the child to seek sympathy or over-emphasize their hurts. In fact, that is a fallacy. The opposite is true. When we ignore or downplay our children’s feelings, they come back stronger in order to get your attention. Their upset wasn’t good enough the first time so in order to prove it to you, they have to up the emotional ante. 

Use your own inner coach in these situations. Breathe first and think “what’s my best response?” Then, acknowledge and accept what they are expressing or what you are observing they are feeling. “It looks like you are really hurt. I’m here to help.” This simple comforting statement will offer your child acceptance. You understand. And you are there for them.

Manage your own reactions. 

If you are indeed feeling disgusted or appalled or terrified by a child’s injury, there’s no way to bury those big feelings nor should you be expected to. But become aware of your big feelings and do something about them. Put your hand on your heart and attempt to slow it down. Stepping aside and taking a few deep breaths or intentionally relaxing your tense body before addressing a crying child can help you respond in a more effective, calming manner which, in turn, will better support your child through the pain.

Wait for consent to treat.

Your child may just refuse to have a wound cleaned for fear it will cause additional pain, as mine did. After you’ve let your child know that it’s necessary to clean it first or it can get infected, you may need to give him time. No need to nag, insist, or force the issue. Being compassionately clear that you cannot move on until you treat the wound is enough. Eventually, your child will consent. Bravery takes time. Be sure and allow your child the time he needs to agree to treat his wound. Of course, in an emergency, you would indeed rush to treat and not offer a choice. But with everyday cuts and scrapes, it gives a child a chance to practice self-management skills, caring for and giving permission with their own body, and handling their emotions with courage if we allow for it.

When in doubt, check it out.

Perhaps you’ve treated the scraps but you see bruising emerging which could indicate an internal injury. When in doubt, check it out. Call your pediatrician triage line and talk with the nurse on call. If you don’t, you risk greater problems down the line so why not take care of it on the day of the injury? If you have questions you might want to research first, check out the site, Kids Health: https://kidshealth.org.

Distract! And offer comfort.

Throw a bag together before leaving for the doctor with some favorite books or card games. Joke books, Seek and Finds, “Would You Rather,” and other puzzle books can be helpful. For young children, pack favorite comfort items like a beloved stuffed friend, blanket and book. And yes, for school age and up, this is the ideal time to use handheld media to help your child through a tough time. Waiting while a child is in pain can be challenging so have some distractions on hand to help get through those time periods.

Children learn to self-soothe by first, watching how we help them feel better. So after the wounds have been cleaned and bandaids carefully placed, how can you offer a quiet, soothing activity in which they can return to feeling better? Can they snuggle up with a bear, pillow, or blanket? Can you read a comforting storybook together? This will help both you and your child transition back to feeling better.

Tell the story.

Reflect together with loved ones on the surrounding events and recount how the injury happened including the feelings’ journey you’re child took. “I felt so hurt, then scared, then relieved.” This offers your child invaluable practice with discussing the difficult pains in life to help learn the lessons involved, process the feelings experienced, and also solidify the memory that he endured pain and survived.

Fortunately, my son was back up and running outside the very next day and though he had moments of pain, he was healing quickly. Summer injuries can test our patience and ability to show compassion at a time when our child most needs it. But with a little forethought, you’ll get through feeling competent, modeling ways to react to the pain that maximize your ability to support your child and help all feel better.

* This article was authentically researched by the author as she endured a basketball bouncing full force into her nose mere days before publication experiencing her own injury offering greater empathy for her son and challenging her once again to react with emotional intelligence. Ouch! 

In Youth Connections Magazine… “Decisions, Decisions… How Can We Prepare Our Children to Make Responsible Choices?”

For the Youth Connections Magazine’s summer issue, we are discussing how you promote responsible decision-making skills in our children and teens. The article offers some guidance on children’s developing sense of what to base their choices on, how parents can support that development along with specific age/stage tips for promoting this essential life skill. Here’s how it begins…

“Decisions, Decisions…How Can We Prepare Our Children to Make Responsible Choices?”

“I don’t like playing anymore, but all my friends are joining the team again,” relays my eleven-year-old son, Ethan, voicing his debate over whether to commit to another season of baseball. He has played for a number of years cultivating valuable friendships along the way. But, as he’s grown, the coaches, parents, and kids alike have become more competitive. And so too has the pressure. Ethan has enjoyed the game less as the emphasis on performance has increased. This spring, he was faced with the challenging decision: Do I continue to do something I’ve always done because my friends expect me to or do I follow my interests and motivation?

Children are at the very beginning stages of developing decision-making skills. They grow from basing decisions on chance with games like “Rock, Paper, Scissors” or “Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe” to weighing pros and cons like whether to rejoin a baseball team that’s grown stressful. Then, in the teen years, youth face tempting risks like whether to follow peer pressure to try alcohol despite the fact that most parents — as confirmed in a recent survey of Montana parents — disapprove of underage drinking. Children will increasingly have to decide when to accommodate friends, when to assert their needs, when to show care for others, and when and how they should think ahead about consequences that might result from their actions.

Young children rely on adults to establish and enforce the rules. Their central concern focuses on their own safety and secure attachment to their parents and educators. But, by the age of nine, children move to the next stage of moral development in which the care of others and their social relationships takes priority. This is also a time when children begin inventing their own rules among their peers through games. They weigh social values when decision making like belonging to a friend group, contributing to a team, or meeting parent and teacher expectations.

Read the full article here! 

Also, do check out the https://parentingmontana.org site which contains guidance for each age/stage around hot topic issues like dealing with anger, bullying, making friends, managing homework, dealing with stress and more.

Reflecting on the School Year’s End

Creating a Thoughtful Transition Into Summer

The pace of activities and anticipation of summer can add to a sense of frenzy in these final school days. Children are excited about vacations and swimming. Parents are ready to shed the early morning commute to school and the pressures of homework duty. It’s tempting to race blindly forward into the sunshine without looking back. But there is significant value in taking a moment to reflect on the growth of the past year – friendships, academic progress, and newly developed interests.

Children may be sad to leave their teacher, their friends and the predictability of the school routine. They may worry about the loss of the stability and consistency that school provides over the summer and all of the unknowns of the anticipated next school year. There are some small, simple steps you can take to ease the transition and also deepen the lessons of the year through reflection. Here are a few suggestions.

In Reflection…

Retell the defining moments.
I began asking last night, as my son and I anticipated the last day of school, questions about his year. What was the most surprising thing that happened? Did you make a new friend? When did you feel embarrassed? What made you belly laugh? What were you most proud of learning? These simple questions elicited a range of stories. I could tell my son loved thinking back on the significant moments of the past year. And you can promote reflection on learning by asking questions about specific subjects and what your daughter knew at the beginning of the school year, how she progressed and where she is ending the year in her knowledge and experience. These reflections help children think more about their own thinking (metacognition) and learning processes which, in turn, will help them when they return to school in the Fall feeling a sense of capability, motivation, and persistence. At a family dinner, bedtime, or on a road trip drive, ask some reflective questions and spend time together thinking about the many defining moments of this past school year.

Work together with your child on a thoughtful card or letter for her teacher.
End of the year gifts or flowers for a teacher are one traditional way to show appreciation. But consider instead of or in addition to a gift, sitting down with your child to write a letter together about what you appreciate about that teacher and the past school year. Talk about it a bit before launching into writing. “What were some of your favorite activities you remember from this year? Why is your teacher so special? Do you remember a time when your teacher was especially kind?” are all questions you might ask before putting words to paper. My son was so excited each day as we moved toward the final day that he rarely sat down. So instead of a letter, I wrote some prompts for him to consider and he easily contributed to this meaningful appreciation of his teacher (see picture). Writing down what you appreciate about the teacher and the school year with your child can serve the dual purpose of a valued keepsake for the teacher and a helpful reflection for your child on her year.

Create a temporary museum using artifacts of learning.
You likely have a pile, a bin or a busting-at-the-seams binder (as we do!) of school work from the past year. Before recycling or filing away, why not use the accumulated papers as evidence of learning and growth and a tangible way to reflect on that progress? Use your home as a museum. Place the school work in the order of the school year starting in the fall. Line them up across chairs, the couch and on end tables for display. Walk around as a family and talk about what you notice particularly when you note positive developments. With a little support from you, your kids may be excited to put together the museum themselves. With multiple children, use different rooms of the house and you may have a full academic museum for an evening.

Create a time capsule.
A terrific early summer activity might be to generate a time capsule in memory of this past school year. Work with your child to find and decorate a shoe box or other container and mark with the name of the child and dates of the school year. Now ask your child to consider their older self. What if he came across this time capsule hidden in the attic years later? What items would help him remember the unique attributes of this past school year?

Transitioning into Summer…

Talk about your routine “lite.”
Though you may be eager to relinquish the rigor of the daily school routine, children still thrive with some sense of predictability. So talk about changes in your routine while your family is together. Consider your morning, bedtime and meal times and other transitions in the day. How will things stay the same? How will things change? Having this discussion can help set expectations for the summer and also provide that sense of stability children can thrive on through routines.

Consider instituting quiet time or reading hour.
Sure, you may be gone some days during a typical quiet time. But consider assigning a particular time of day to serve as a quiet time whenever you are around the house. After lunch seems to work well for our family. Turn off devices and media. Haul out blankets and books. You could include snacks. But it should be a time when all in the household “power down” and take it easy. Set the expectation for this at the beginning of summer and kids will assume it’s part of their summer routine.

Brainstorm a list of favorite summertime activities.
Grab a poster board or newsprint and brainstorm together a list of favorite activities you want to be sure and get in over the summer. Separate into “at home” and “out.” Make sure there are some ideas that can be done as solo play. Hang it on the refrigerator or somewhere you can refer to it throughout the summer. This serves as a terrific way to anticipate the fun of summer and can be an invaluable support for pointing to when your child comes to you bored and unsure of how to spend his/her time.

Discuss summer screen time boundaries.

When I speak with parents who are anticipating summertime, this seems to be their biggest concern. “Feels like a power struggle every day of the summer,” one parent told me. So establish rules around screens from the outset. Involve your child. Do the summer activity brainstorm first and then consider what they might not get to do if they spend hours a day on screens. Learn more about ways to limit screen time by learning together. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for this two and under, two-years-old to five, only one hour. For five-year-olds and up, they recommend two hours a day of sedentary screen time, no more.

In Anticipation of the Next Level in the Fall…

Catch a glimpse of next year.
While you are able with school staff still around, wander past next year’s classroom with your child. See if you might catch next year’s teacher in the hallway just to say hello. Perhaps talk with a student who has just ended the next level and ask about highlights from the year. Teachers are likely talking with students about their next step. And your child might be harboring worries about the great unknown ahead. Stepping into the new environment and even making a brief connection with the teacher can go a long way toward allaying fears and preparing for a smooth transition.

Great is the art of beginning, but greater the art is of ending.

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Happy School Year’s End and Summer’s Beginning to You and Your Family!

Adapted, Originally published on June 1, 2017.

“I’m a Different Butterfly” – Expanding Empathy and Social Awareness through Summer Reading

There’s a new children’s book that explores what questions arise in an individual about their own self-perception and how others react when one looks different than others. I’m a Different Butterfly was written for ages 4-8 and is the story of Lulu Noire, a black butterfly who feels unsure at first about looking different from other butterflies but comes to realize, through interactions with other animals, that she is beautiful the way she is. This playful book offers opportunities to explore issues with young children of friendship and of learning from and embracing differences.

Author Sherri Oliver cares deeply about teaching young children how to relate to and form friendships with others even if they may look different than those around them. Sherri is a former child care program director for a nonprofit serving children and families and has a B.A. in Communications from Howard University.

She also created a discussion for families to pair with her book to enhance the opportunity for reflection. Some of those questions include:

  • How would you feel if others expressed that they didn’t like you because they feel you are different than them?
  • Say… “Nature made me, me.” Say it again… “Nature made me, me.” What does this mean to you?
  • What does it mean to appreciate others?
  • How are you and your best friend different? (Best friends can be another child, imaginary, pets, a grandparent, etc.)
  • How are you and your best friend the same?

What books are on your children’s summer reading list that stretch their thinking about how they might learn from and connect with others who look, sound, or live differently than they do? Reading can offer an important opportunity to build social awareness, empathy, and sensitivity in your child.

Check out this great new children’s book – I’m a Different Butterfly – and the helpful discussion guide to add to your summer reading list!

Here are also a few other related children’s book recommendations:

One Day, So Many Ways
By Laura Hall, Illustrated by Loris Lora

Discover what daily life is like for kids all around the world! Meet children from over 40 countries and explore the differences and similarities between their daily routines. Over 24 hours, follow a wide variety of children as they wake up, eat, go to school, play, talk, learn, and go about their everyday routine in this stunning retro-style illustrated picture book. Gorgeous illustrations! This book is a must have. Published by Quarto Group

 

The Skin You Live In

By Michael Tyler, Illustrated by David Lee Csicsko

With the ease and simplicity of a nursery rhyme, this lively story delivers an important message of social acceptance to young readers. Themes associated with child development and social harmony, such as friendship, acceptance, self-esteem, and diversity are promoted in simple and straightforward prose. Vivid illustrations of children’s activities include a wide range of cultures.

We Are Family

By Patricia Hegarty, Illustrated by Ryan Wheatcroft

Through illness and health, in celebration and disappointment, families stick together. Some families are made up of many people, and some are much smaller. Sometimes family members look like each other, and sometimes they don’t! But even though every family is different, the love is all the same. Illustrations many varied types of families.

 

Starting Today — Mindful Parenting for High Needs Kids


Does your child learn differently than other students at school whether or not he or she has been labeled ADHD, dyslexic, gifted, or dealing with auditory processing disorder? Or are you regularly challenged at home by behaviors that seem confusing or frustrating to you? Is your child easily upset by loud noises, rough textures, or spices and tastes beyond their standard fare? If so, there are likely numerous talks in the Mindful Parenting for High Needs Kids online conference that could provide support for you starting today!

Jennifer Miller of CPCK will speak with Jason and Cecelia Hilkey, conference organizers as well as parenting experts, on Friday, May 17th about a favorite topic: food! But instead of sharing recipes, we’ll share ideas for how you can create a calm, positive environment at mealtimes in which children want to stay and connect and want to try new foods. We’ll discuss how you can raise a child who has healthy habits around eating together.

Check out the short video below on “Creating an Enjoyable Family Dinner” to give you a “taste” of what we’ll be touching on but be sure to catch our discussion too on Friday since they’ll be so much more! 

To join, sign up here! 

Creating an Enjoyable Family Dinner

Free Online — Mindful Parenting with High Needs Kids


Once again, parenting and child development experts Cecilia and Jason Hilkey are hosting a 5-day online event THIS WEEK from Thursday, May 16th through Monday, May 20th. The line-up of speakers and their expertise is remarkable. I’ll be talking with Cecilia and Jason about food and how food impacts our children’s social and emotional development! In my experience, every child has his or her sensitivities. And these can become challenges in family life. Learn how to support your child bolstering their development and strengthening their social and emotional skills.

This conference is for you if:

  • You have a highly sensitive or special needs child in your family (or you teach one);
  • You want expert advice to guide your child to make friends, stay motivated, do their best and yet feel loved by you no matter what;
  • You want to use connection and understanding to help your child manage their feelings and behaviors (rather than threats or bribes); and
  • You are curious about when to have healthy boundaries and when to let things slide.

Join tens of thousands of other parents, professionals, researchers, and authors sharing the science of parenting. Get practical tools to make everyday family life easier. Join me! Sign up here!

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