Monthly Archives: June 2013

Sunday Morning Shout Out


tipsHappy end of the school year and happy summer! , As parents and students alike, we have waited so long for this time. All in all, I know most parents really enjoy these special days of vacation with their children.  Yet speaking from the parent domain, I have come to realize many parents I know, myself included, angst a little bit to about these lazy, hazy days of summer before us. For some of us with smaller children at home, alongside our school age children, it means a vast change in dynamics in the household.

Stay at home mama or papa’s time (and patience) are vied for between multiple parties. Diverse needs to be met and fulfilled, as naps are squeezed in between swim lessons and rides to friends’ houses.  For work-at home parents in these situations, they must figure out how to best see to their children’s needs, while getting her their work done in the home setting.  For mamas and papa who work full-time, there are also many different needs to fulfill for children in terms of day care; getting children to summer activities; having quality time with their children;  and assuaging the parental guilt that many working parents feel ,when it comes to balancing work demands versus family demands.

I believe that some of these intense feelings, for parents in all situations, stems from the struggle between wanting to wallow in unstructured, summer time versus the hated child exclamation, “ I am bored,” with a capital “B.” What is a parent to do?  I offer this which is a summation of my own personal experiences and suggestions I found on-line.

1)     Accept the fact there is going to be a time in which everyone readjusts and regroups to the new dynamic and routine of summer.  For many years, I felt like the worst mother on the planet for the palpable sense of uneasiness at the start of holiday breaks and summer vacations. Now I see it for what it is, a dynamic system, the family system, adjusting to meet the needs of its many members. Every year we go through this and every year we readjust. Sticking to a routine, but having some flexibility seems to ease the feeling and help it pass.

2)     Gage what your family would like to do this summer. One site on line talked about coming up with summer “bucket lists” of sorts, another called them wish lists. While maybe you can’t trudge off to Disney or Europe, you probably can fulfill your 10 year-old’ s desire  to campout in the backyard, or your eight year-old’s desire to build a fairy house. This will help stave off those end of summer feelings of not doing what you wanted to during the summer or having someone feel like their need were overlooked or unmet.

3)     Take advantage of all the free or low cost events in your community. Many communities offer free concerts; hold summer festivals; or feature great parks, creeks, lakes, hiking spots, historical buildings, etc. that can be enjoyed. There is so much to see close to home!

4)     Take part in your local library’s summer reading programs. As we know, it is so important to keep our children reading during the summer months. Many libraries offer special incentives and prizes, along with great activities to encourage reading among young people. A good book is such a place of respite for both child and parent, alike.

5)     Insist your child unplugs or limits their electronics during the summer. Our children need to get outside. If you do not have firm limits already, now is the time to establish them. With set boundaries, everyday won’t be an argument around usage.

6)     Get cooking. Have your children pick out some new recipes to try. What a wonderful way for busy families, in busy households to connect. What a great way to instill healthy eating and learn about new foods!

7)     Let your kids get creative. Break out the boxes, glitter, and paint. Your children will have a ball! Do it outside and don’t fret about the mess! Think of it as your own open air school of painting/ art center.

8)     Pick and choose what works best for you and your family. Summer has so much to offer.  But use yes as a seasoning, so summer doesn’t get too hectic or overwhelming for everyone.

9)     Take a break and get away if affordable or possible. Camping is good, affordable fun! So are the cousins’ houses or grandma and grandpa’s.

10)  Let your child try a new hobby or sport. With the additional time that exists in summer, compared to the often harried school year, take advantage of community sports programs or recreational program that are offered. These short term programs can help a child discover new interests, passions, and talents.

11)  Savor the days. Readjust, slow down, and enjoy the summer days before you and the children that go with them. Before you know it, it will be time to get the children off to school again. Make memories; laugh with them; play with them; read to them; and try to also  “just be,” some of the time.

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To Hold Back Or Not To Hold Back…A Parental Dilemma


Image Source: comm332

Image Source: comm332

This is the most difficult decision to make academically and socially for every student.  If your student isn’t coping with the workload, pressing them on to higher grades can exacerbate the problem.  Unable to cope with an even bigger workload, they will fall further behind and be afflicted by stress and a lack of confidence.  However, psychological studies suggest that holding them back a grade may have damaging long-term effects on both their social and academic lives.

According to the National Association of School Psychologists, keeping students back a grade has few long-term benefits and has a deleterious effect on their social and academic performance.  While students may initially show academic improvement, the impetus of their academic growth peters out after a year or two and they academic success suffers in the long run with poorer performances in reading, math and language skills with the greatest detriment to reading.

More disturbing than the impact on academic performance is the resultant behavioral problems which students who are held back are more likely to display. Behavioral issues increase in intensity as students approach adolescence and there is a higher dropout rate among students who have been held back a grade.

Experts recommend that the best course of action is to provide students with extra tutors, additional academic assistance and added moral support as they struggle to catch up academically. It may also not be up to the parent as to whether students are able to graduate or not. Many school districts enforce grade repetitions in cases where students have not performed well academically.

If your student is showing signs of struggling academically, it’s time to take the right steps to remedy the situation. Get their teacher to highlight the specific problems they have and which areas they need help with. Use the summer to help them to catch up and learn the social and academic skills that they need to overcome their academic stumbling blocks. Getting a tutor is a great way to ensure that they are taught the skills they need to succeed and the confidence to do a better job in the coming academic year.

It’s imperative that you and your student take responsibility for their academic future. While most teachers are more than happy to keep you up to date on progress and warn you when your student is in danger of failing a grade, they often have too many students to help each one individually.  Many parents and students have also reported positive results from staying back a grade.  Students who need to mature a little socially or find their footing academically can benefit from an additional year.  If this is the route you are taking, be sure to pay special attention to your student’s social development and confidence level.

(Note: This post was originally posted on 5/28/2013 at the TutorDoctor Corp blog.)

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Making Your Child’s Summer Safer: Preventing Abductions


Summer is a time when everyone tends to relax, take trips, visit more public places and have more free time.  Summer tends to be a special time when time with family and cherished memories are created.  However, it is also a time when parents and caregivers need to be as vigilant as ever about the safety of their children.  This is especially true since the free time that is the result of children being out of school is not something most parents get from their employer.  Thus many children are left at home alone for more time while the parent works in the summer months. While the movie series ‘Home Alone‘ was a comedy, the reality of home alone can be a true horror flic if care is not taken.

The Center For Missing And Exploited Children found in a study that most abductions occur during the hours of 2:00 -7:00 p.m., a time when many children are alone in their home as their parents are at work or running errands.   The Centers most comprehensive statistics are from 1999 where it found there were 800,000 attempted abductions that year. Luckily, more than 80% of the children were able to get away because they ran, kicked, screamed, and in some cases, a bystander intervened.

As a parent/caregiver the question becomes what can we do to help protect our children and help them protect their selves? Some of the tips we have collected for the home include:

  • Make sure your child is mature enough to stay home alone.  Ages range from 12 to 15 for this. If there is more than one child you will need to adjust this especially if you expect the older child to watch and manage a younger sibling.
  • Teach the child their full name, address, and home telephone number. Make sure they know your full name.
  • Make sure children who are left alone know their surroundings.
  • Take them on a tour of their neighborhood, point out safe houses where trusted adults are well-known.
  • Map out a route for your children if they need to walk somewhere.
  • Leave the child a list of phone numbers they can quickly access and call in an emergency.
  • Role play a scary situation or intruder in the house with your child. Talk through what they can do and practice it. Situations can include a strange phone calls, someone lurking about, fire in the house, falls, cuts, pool accidents and calling 911.
  • Give the child enough tasks and entertainment options so they stay in the house while you are gone. Provide rewards when appropriate.
  • Teach them how to use door and window locks.
  • Call your child a couple of times through the day.
  • Teach them how to answer the door or avoid answering the door if someone they do not know should come to the house.
  • Talk to your child and make sure you know how the day went and if there was anything strange that happened. Listen well and remember to ask lots of questions. Sometimes the smallest oddity can give you a clue that something is not right.
  • If you can mix-up your schedule so you don’t always leave or return at the same time.

If you know a family member, friend or neighbor who has children that are left alone it can be a great help if you offer to periodically check in with the children or go past the house to make sure everything is fine.  You might also create a code word that you both know so the child isn’t tempted to go with a stranger who has a convincing story. However, know that most abductions and crimes against children, tweens and teens are committed within 1/2 mile of the home and by someone they know and usually trust.

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Adam’s Lessons


 “How to Complain”

One of the most effective tools in life that one can possess would be the ability of how to properly complain to their superior. Some people are amazing at complaining, but there is a method to this seemingly simple trait to actually make your voiced opinions heard by management in which they won’t get upset with you for being bitter about your job.

Let’s look a little bit deeper into complaining and some basic analysis. I like to consider people who simply complain whiners. These are the people who just seem to want something to complain about and just can’t seem to be happy about anything in their employment. These are the anchors of the team, and I’m not speaking of anchors that keep a ship docked or steady, I’m speaking in the metaphorical sense of when the mafia will throw you into the water with an actual anchor tied to your ankles so that you can’t swim (aka Cement Shoes) . These strict complainers are the people that make everything more difficult by decreasing morale, depleting productivity and destroying any form of empowerment instilled by the company. These are the dangerous employees, and even one is enough to start tearing apart your team. So how can we correct the “Negative Nancy” group and what is the proper way to complain?

As I said before, proper complaining is an art as well as a science; you can be graceful with you complaining while being factual and precise if you follow the proper formula. I love to have meetings with my managers every other week. Growing up under a creative problem solver; my father, can really open your eyes into how to manage issues and correct problems before they grow too large. It is from the bit of his work that I had the pleasure of being involved with that I was able to learn firsthand how to have a meeting with people of all different backgrounds and discuss alternative approaches into how to solve problems, and this is exactly what must be done when you have a complaint. Complaining is really just a nuisance unless you can then establish solutions to these problems. My philosophy is that if I’m going to complain, I’m also going to have some solutions to offer. This not only impresses the people above you, but it also takes care of most of the problem for them, at least if they appreciate your solution enough to actually implement it. (Beware: Some managers use the tactic of taking the solution and making it their own by sitting on it a bit or changing it a bit and saying that it was their idea.)

So that’s really it, the key to complaining is to have solutions ready to solve the problems you’re having, it makes you look better, and shows that you have the ability to grow in your career and assist in larger decision making. But what about those co-workers who complain redundantly? There must be a way to mold them into effective problem solvers, right? Well it’s a bit of an uphill battle, as it usually is when dealing with a pessimist, but my approach to these types of workers is to confront them when they begin to complain, not in a confrontational manner, but in such a way that makes them either vocalize their solution or will get them to actually think about the situation and come up with a solution that could make sense. Once you do this there are a few roads that can be taken; there is the potential that they will actually come up with a solution, there is also the outcome of them realizing that they sound ridiculous in their complaining when they realize the solution is by correcting what they are doing, or they will become enraged and begin to complain about you. Regardless of any of these outcomes I would say that they are all better than what was happening before.

Remember that big problems typically started off small.  The best way to solve them are to break them down and work on small aspects of the problem. Do this with an end state in mind and know that it will take time to get to a final solution. Crucial when solving workplace or group problems is communication and enlisting support.

So now your problem is to find a problem, whine a bit and then start to work on it!

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Dealing With Bad Grades


Student FAs the school year ends, report cards are due and for many students and parents, this is not a happy time. If your child has received bad grades or put in a disappointing performance, you want them to know that they are loved and supported while instilling in them the understanding that they need to do better academically.

Your natural inclination to get angry at bad grades is understandable, but your efforts in dealing with the problem should not serve to weaken already fragile self-esteem. Here are some ways in which you can deal with bad grades effectively while helping to bolster self-confidence which will help to ensure a better performance in the next academic year.

Find out what went wrong
Your child’s may not be the best source of information here. If you get frustrated by their lack of participation in the conversation about their grades, then turn to other trusted sources. It’s not that your students don’t want to talk about their grades, but their lack of input may be because they genuinely don’t know why they aren’t doing well academically. Speaking with their teachers is a great way to find the culprit.

The natural inclination of children is to blame the teacher for their poor performance, but this is rarely the case. Instead look at the time they spent studying, their study methods, their grasp of the material and their ability to communicate their thoughts. Ask the teacher to show you examples of their work and why they got the marks they did. You may find that your student hasn’t learned effective study methods or that they are not adept at written responses.

Get a Tutor
Tutors are the panacea to a number of issues. They can identify the missing blocks in your child’s knowledge base and rebuild the foundations so that they are better able to cope with next year’s academic load. Tutors can also help to identify the reasons why students are not performing well and they can work with your student to improve performance.

Tutors can teach good study skills so that students know how much time to set aside for studying and methods of studying that suit their learning style. Tutors can present information in a way that suits your child’s learning style and they can help your student to communicate their ideas effectively so that the teacher understands their response to questions better.

Tutors can help identify learning disabilities or other issues that your student may have. In-home tutors provide one-on-one teaching without the pressures of the classroom which helps to build confidence in your students.

Group effort
Don’t just yell at your students about their performance and punish them for bad grades. Instead, find out why they are not doing well. If they simply aren’t working hard enough, then work with them and their teachers to create study schedules and teach time management skills that will improve their study habits.

If they have gaps in their knowledge base or are simply not grasping the concepts, get a tutor or spend time with them over the summer to help them to catch up and feel more confident.

Your student will be just as upset with their grades as you are. Most of them will be feeling overwhelmed and they need support and guidance. Find the root causes of the problems, then work with your student, tutor and teacher to map out a plan for the coming academic year that will help them to cope better. Just knowing that they have a plan and your support will help them to gain the confidence they need to do well. Try to always include the student in plans that deal with their academic shortcomings; they are far more likely to participate in a solution that they have been a part of.

Note: Entry was adapted from the 6/24/2013 TutorDoctor Corp. blog post.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Do you cheer change and the passing of time in life or does it depend on the events?  This end of school year/early summer has hit me hard. I feel like I am being emotionally walloped watching our youngest girl finish kindergarten and our oldest, third grade.  (This is coupled by the fact that our youngest is turning two next week and that I just watched my father turn 70 years-old.)  I guess it means one of two things, that time passes way too quickly or that two years of extreme sleep deprivation makes alien abduction seem more than a remote possibility.  I was abducted 25 two minutes ago!

Perhaps I am feeling the weight of my personal estrogen load. It has surpassed my carbon one. All the clichés, truisms, sayings, what have you, about the passing of time have more truth to them than I ever realized or thought I’d feel. But I guess I never approached middle age before either.

It has been a year of so many highs, joined with a few lows.  The first full day of school passed; the first homework was completed; and first friendships took hold. First shoes were tied; first teeth fell out; and first sleepovers occurred. Both girls made their public speaking debut in their 4-H clubs, with ( I must say) incredible results.  Our third grader began to devour books.  The Ancient Greek gods and goddesses became regular guests in our home as Rick Riordan and his Olympians series shared our dinner table, van rides, and many moments that were quiet before it.  Just a few weeks ago, our oldest wanted to wear a certain shirt because it reminded her of the tunic that her favorite goddess in the book series wore.  Ahh yes, the mouth of babes.

This year we were introduced to the common core standards and experienced a sharp rise in homework. We had our first “existential” crisis with school with both girls, over different issues.  It seems fatigue and the sense of being pushed too hard was probably the culprit.  There was the strange cough and fever around Christmas and the walking pneumonia around spring break.  The joys of little children with imperfect personal hygiene, all assembled in one building….

We watched them grow. The physical growth spurts came and went during the year.  -More clichés about growing overnight the reality.  We saw a new maturity in both girls and an expanding of  their unique personalities.  Our girl who wanted to be a horse trainer, now wants to be a writer.  Our youngest now wants to be an illustrator and a scientist.  Ask me about snails and I will tell you one funny little story.

So I take pause, but try to find humor in these profound moments and days of the end of the school year and the start of summer.  However, the lump in my throat, as I regard my children and my life these days, gets in the way.  Fortunately the joy of these sweet things is a comfort.

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Raising A Happy Middle Child


We’ve all heard about middle child syndrome which is said to affect children in a negative way. Middle children have to compete with the accomplishments of their older siblings while vying for attention from their younger rivals. Middle children can be overlooked and may become competitive, demanding and lack self-esteem. Being the middle child isn’t all bad; middle children tend to be more flexible, independent and generous. You can avoid the negative pitfalls of raising a middle child with a few simple actions.

Pay attention
With your oldest having benefitted from being the only child and your youngest with the most needs, it really is easy to forget about the middle child. Ensure that you take some time out each day that is devoted solely to her. Read a story together, do homework together, chat about their day or go for coffee – just a couple of minutes a day that belong only to them will help them feel important and part of the family.

While family activities take central stage, both you and your partner should make time each month to spend with each child.  Anna Charles has three children and a busy professional life so she finds it difficult to always stay in touch with what’s going on from day to day. Instead, she takes one of her children out to breakfast every Sunday morning. The kids love this special tradition and will even refuse sleep overs to ensure that they don’t miss their Sunday breakfast with mom. Once every three weeks, they get to feel special and she gets to catch up with everything that’s happening in their lives. And then of course there are pancakes!

Everything is equal all the time
It’s natural that you will have more of a rapport with one or two of your children. Children have different personalities and you are abound to have more in common with one of them. Take care to always treat the children equally and fairly. Dole out attention and affection equally among the children and never compare them to each other. Remember that each child develops at their own speed, so don’t say things like; “Why can’t you be more like your sister?” or “Your brother could do that when he was 12.”

Peacemaker
Thanks to their flexibility and independence, your middle child is often called upon to referee between other siblings, but this isn’t fair. You are the one who needs to bridge the (often big) gap between the youngest and oldest siblings. Teach them ways in which to resolve their own conflicts so that the middle child isn’t continuously being called in on both sides of the argument.

Your middle child can have all the advantages that come with their birth order without any of the disadvantages if you make the effort to remain fair and impartial.

Note: Adapted from a 6/21/2013 post on the Tutor Doctor Corp. blog.

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