Monthly Archives: November 2015

Sunday Morning Shout Out


Sports BanquetA few weekends ago “The New York Times” re ran a great column in their “Motherlode” feature.  In Lisa Hefferman’s column “Our Push for ‘Passion’, and Why It Harms Kids,” Hefferman discusses one of today’s parenting trends, finding your child’s passion.  While best intentions may drive this and it may seem innocent, this modern parenting quest has many potential negative consequences.

Are parents charged with finding their child’s passion?  The best intentioned parent wants their child to find things they are good at and enjoy.  From cheer and hockey, to soccer and dance, we all like seeing our kids do things they enjoy.  We feel pride over their routines, goals, recitals, etc.  This is all so very good and normal.  Yet like many things in childhood and society today, this normal event has become supercharged.  While childhood is a time of exploration, many of today’s parents are looking for a hobby, an instrument, a sport to define their child and give both their child and them purpose, status, etc.  It seems this goes right with the adult sense of being overly busy, as the definition of normal, purposeful, and routine.

As adults, it seem like our “crazy busy” is lamentable, but a crutch that makes us okay in our peers eyes.  If our children aren’t into 25 activities and are allowed to enjoy a slow childhood at home, they are more the exception and sadly the oddball for many.  It also seems like we are often hoping to help our children through their childhood, by defining a piece of who they are early in life.  There’s no doubt that a sense of self, talent, efficacy helps one thrive, but are we the ones who should define this or should it be our children?  While society at large may drive this force, there’s no doubt that visions of college applications years down the road are also part of this phenomenon.  We are told colleges accept students with “passion”.  If they begin at four years-old, we may think we are helping them and ourselves with their collegiate future.

The columnist’s stance and mine are that this is harmful more than helpful for several reasons.  When children work at their “passion” six days a week after school, what about other interests that go undiscovered?  If we have decide soccer is it for them, what about their natural curiosity in bugs, guitar, designing costumes, doing art, etc. etc?  Their time is spoken for because of their “passion,” leaving little room or time for what may be other interests and life’s truer passions.  This drive for passion is expensive and consumes time.  Children naturally have interest in many different things.  If we are to get all the equipment, pay for all the lessons, send them to all the camps for their “passion,” we spend whole lot money on things that can be better spent.  How about saving for college, their future, and our future with some of this money?

There is the other side of the time piece.  Not only are they losing time to find out what truly interests them, they may be losing their childhood.  Children today are overscheduled, overcommitted, and over involved.  There are so many great things that come from unstructured play and more peaceful family time.  As parents, let’s help our children explore their interests.  Yes, passion may come from some of these interests.  But let’s let it be defined by them, instead of us.  Money, time, and childhood are at stake……

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


It’s not easy being a child today.  While this may always have been the case, today’s children live in a hyperactive world.  Between meeting the demands of Common Core and the umpteen activities they do, children can face a great amount of stress.  A normally docile acts out.  An energetic child is sluggish and out of sorts.  These are all ways children show stress.  Fortunately, parents can help their children combat stress in many different ways.

The article “Helping Kids Cope With Stress,” from the “Kids Health” website  offers some great tips to parents.

The first tip is to “notice out loud” when a child seems stressed.  for example, when Johnny seems stressed, put it to words. “Johnny, you seem mad about what happened in gym yesterday” or “Susie, you seem like something is bothering you.”  When parents do this, their concern goes far in helping children feel armored to fight stress.  Children often feel alone and consumed by their stress and worries.  Show them they are not alone and you are there with them.

Along with this, parents should actively listen to their children when they tell us what is wrong, without adding judgment or without rushing them along.  Ask open ended questions to get them talking about their worries.  “Jilly, what is stressing you out?” “Tell me what happened in class.” “What did you do after your coach said that to you?” It then helps to dose them with a great deal of empathy.  This sounds like a no brainer, but in the heat of the moment parents are often at their wits end or flooded with their own feelings-anger, stress, distraction.  Feeling understood and listened to, helps your child feel supported by you.

Parents can also help our children put a label on their feelings and help them think of things to do. Children, especially small children, may lack the words to express their feelings.  This is probably why they start with I have a headache or stomachache, instead of I feel overwhelmed by homework; I am tired; I am upset by all the attention Baby Sammy is getting instead of me, etc.. Early on, children are able to describe a belly ache or a head ache. By helping children identify and label their feelings, parents help them increase their emotional awareness. “Susie, you feel overwhelmed by all the homework you have this year. You’d like more time to play.” “Joey, you are saying you are sad because you miss spending time with me, now that the baby is here.”

After having increased emotional awareness with your child, help them develop an action plan.  Help your child think of what to do when stress arises.  Parents may need to start the brainstorming session, but ask them for their ideas. – When Johnny comes up with ways to deal with not forgetting his homework, that’s pretty powerful stuff. Help him follow through.  Maybe he isolates the problem. His folder never comes off his desk once homework is completed.  He tells you he needs to place it right in the bag, after you check it Of course, right.  When children come up with the solution, they gain confidence and feel empowered.

In the article, parents are reminded that sometimes they just need to listen and help them move on. Sometime, it only takes a sense of being heard, to feel better. Listen and help your child find something fun and relaxing to do.  Do not give a problem more attention than it deserves.  Also, a child may not need to talk about it or want to talk about it.  They just need parent to be there for them and ready to listen if they want to talk to us about it.  Be loving, patient, and present to them.

Lastly, parents may need to actively step in and minimize stress in their children’s lives.  If the morning is pure chaos, what is our role in reducing it?  Does everyone have enough time to get ready? What can be done the night before to make for a smooth morning routine?  Did everyone have a healthy breakfast, to provide them the right nutrition to start the day? Are your children getting enough exercise at home? How about activities? Today’s children need more downtime and less scheduled time.  It will not wreck their college application for them to forgo competitive swimming at seven years-old or five day a week, travel soccer.  Childhood is brief.  By teaching health stress management skills now, parents are helping their children for a lifetime.

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


We all know connection is key to relationships.  Whether we are stay-at-home parents or working parents, the hustle and bustle of day to day living can erode our connection with our children.  When they are not in our presence, they orient themselves to other people, places, and things.  In the article “Staying Connected With Your Child,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D. offers some great tips to reorient them to “planet family” and stay connected to them.

When children are not in our presence, they orient themselves to others or other ideas.  This can include daycare providers, teachers, friends, and/or pop culture, electronics, etc.  If we want to be the principle influence in their lives and parent well, Markham states we need a good connection.  Otherwise, we may be headed for behavioral issues.  She encourages us to think of connections and connecting as preventive maintenance.

Markham offers the following suggestions to connect to our children:

  • Place a premium on relationships in our family. If you place value on connecting with your children, your children will place value on it as well.
  • Acknowledge relationship and separation: It may seem self-evident, but it is important to greet and say good-bye to our children in their presence. These acts are like the bookends in connection.
  • When you reconnect, consciously refocus your attention. It may be tempting to pick up your cell phone when your child walks on the door. It may be hard to not check your Facebook status or avert your eyes from what you are watching on television. You may find it hard not to dwell on the meeting you just left , or the fact that you don’t know what’s for dinner yet. But Markham states that those first few minutes of reconnecting are key and to do it right, you need to put other things completely aside.
  • Until you reconnect, keep distractions to a minimum. Along with what was just said, focus on your child-not your phone, not the television, not the ten other things on your to-do list. For your children, encourage them to reconnect upon returning home. If they come back from a sleep-over, insist they spend time with their family before calling up or texting a friend. Parents, wait to have company until you have connected with your arriving child.
  • Attune to your child’s mood. Markham states that to truly connect, parents need to acclimate to their child’s mood. If your child is in a serious mood, become serious with them.  If your child is silly, become silly with them.  This helps reconnection occur quickly.
  • Connect on their level.  For parents of toddlers and preschooler, reconnecting on their level means literally getting down to their level and have eye-to-eye contact with them.  For older children, this means being in the same room with them.
  • Floor time. Just as we made “floor time,” an important part of our time with our children as babies, Markham says “floor time,” is needed at every age. During this time, our only goal should be to be completely present with our children for a snuggle and talk. This is quality time, not to be used for directing or shuffling them off to somewhere, but listening to what’s on their hearts and mind.
  • Welcome your child’s babyself: Your little person may behave wonderfully at daycare or school, only to “lose it,” upon seeing you. See these emotions for what they are. Your child has been brave enough to get through the demands of the day. In our comfortable presence, they feel free to let down their guard. When the emotions flow like this, hug them, scoop them up, snuggle with them, and let them be their “baby self,” so we can guide them, teach them, and simply be with them.
  • Remember the five to one ratio. Markham reminds us for every poor interaction we have with our children, we need five positive ones to connect with them and sustain a positive relationship. Let the numbers speak and seek to positively connect with your child all the time.
  • Do repair work along with preventative maintenance. Markham says if we are not our children’s supportive base, they will probably seek this from their peers. I f we want our children to have us as their base, we may need to repair it. Maybe you have no idea how to connect with your children or time and daily stressors have left your relationship frayed. By making a conscious effort to address the stress and disrepair, start anew; and connect and reconnect with our children, we can go miles in having a great relationship with our children. Markham’s website is a great place for tips on how this subject, and many other important parenting ones.

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