Category Archives: Education

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

friendshipEarly friendships are a trademark of childhood.  While they can bring great joy, they can also bring challenge and even great sorrow. In childhood we learn to negotiate this process.  The article “Helping Elementary Schoolers Deal With Social Conflict,” from the PBS Parents website, offers some great tips for children and parents alike.

The experts from this article say that parents should teach their children how to handle social conflicts, rather than solving their problems for them. Here is a brief recap

  1. Expect your child to respect everyone and treat them with non-hurtful behavior, but respect their right to not necessarily like everyone or want to be their best friend.  Respectful behavior means treated classmates civilly.  If a classmate, rather than a friend, comes to your child’s lunch table and says hello or asks a question, civil means your child is expected to say hello back and answer their question.  Civil means no meanness.
  2. Role model the behavior you want to see in your child.  If you want your child to be inclusive, you need to exemplify that by who you talk to at their school or in your life.  If you do not want them to gossip, refrain from this yourself.
  3. Don’t get over invested in their social life or as the article puts it, “dig for pain,” if something bad happens to them socially. Parents often experience two simultaneous things when their child is hurting or in trouble.  It can be very painful to see your child experience pain like this for the first time or to see them inflict pain like this for the first time.  It may also bring up their own pain or bad memories of school.  Additionally, it may put a parent into Mama and Papa Bear form.  This article encourages parents to focus on teaching their children how to handle the issue in a proactive way, to not over analyze it, and not become overly involved.
  4. What can you do then? You can teach them to learn to speak directly.  “Emma, you hurt my feelings when you would not let me sit with you.”  “ Hunter, I am sorry I hurt your feelings when I did not pick you for the game.”  Even at this early stage in the game, you can begin to realize their goals are not necessarily your goals, when it comes to friendships and so many things. Accepting this is important and helping them capitalize on making and reaching good goals on the social front and other fronts -so important. Yet with this, it is important to be open about what you see in friendship dynamics (and your rights as a parent). You can congratulate a behavior in them or a friend or criticize a behavior in them or a friend, without criticizing a friend or them.  For example, it is okay to express disappointment that Suzie did not give out invitations to everyone for her party, but only a select few.  This will help them begin to analyze dicey and good friendship dynamics, by seeing you model this for them. This is different than saying Suzie was so selfish and inconsiderate to not give everyone at school an invitation for her party.
  5. Teaching them to solve problems independently is the ultimate emphasis, and something that can be considered separately.  If your child comes home upset from school or a play date, you can ask them what happened and the following questions: “What did you try?”; “How did it work?”; and “What else could you try?” Give them time to respond to help the answer come from them.  When you do this, it helps parents get out of the routine of always telling their children what to do.

Let’s face it.  We are not always around to tell our children what to do.  We need to equip them with the skills to make good decisions on every front.  When they are equipped, a new behavior takes a hold, along with a sense of confidence and pride.

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Filed under Education, Health, My Experiences, Parenting, School Safety

Sunday Morning Shout Out

This past month “The Atlantic” ran a great article about a disturbing trend that is occurring across America’s college and universities entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind.”  Authors Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt looked at how across the nation, college students are looking for emotional protection from words and ideas they don’t like.  In effect, this negates true debate, discussion, and educational takeaways from the classroom, and possibly even increases anxiety around sensitive topics, counter to their aims.  It helps to look at this whole phenomenon more closely , ask what is driving this trend, and why is those damaging to higher education?

Currently colleges and universities can be perceived as places where professors and students are walking around on their educational tiptoes. This is evidenced by professors being asked to not bring up certain terms or discuss certain works of literature, in the event that a student has experienced a trauma around the concept.  For example, the authors give the example of how Harvard law students asked their professors not to discuss rape law, lest a fellow student was raped.  At another university, students suggested that The Great Gatsby not be read, lest some students would be harmed by its portrayal of misogyny and physical abuse.  It is further illustrated by professors being trained to be on alert for microagressions.  These are small words or actions that seem to be innocuous, but are then later thought of as a kind of a violence nonetheless.  Lastly and perhaps so strangely to anyone who went to college and university during a previous time, professors are being told to issue trigger warning or alerts if something they teach in a course may illicit strong emotional response.  Professors are being asked to watch their words and their students words, so no one goes away feeling harmed after class.  The slightest, most accident slight can be met with punishment for them or for a student.  What happened to higher education being a place that scintillated your senses and provoked thought?

The authors state that this trend is being led by students who want protection for their emotional well-being and punishment for anyone who undermines it.  But what has driven this attitude?  The authors discuss that some see this as an outgrowth of political correctness gone too far.  They also speculate that it is a generation who is use to such protection across the board, often having helicopter parents that did the “protecting,” prior to college and university (and may still do so).  They point to the great and increasing tides of political polarization that characterize are country right now.  When people of disparate viewpoints are in the same space, there is often verbal sparring.  But there is also downright hostility.  They discuss how college students today are not just digital natives, but what they call “social media natives,” and how this sense of power and voice from online forums, Facebook and the like, have help change the power structure between professors and students, giving students the upper hand.  They suggest that some individuals’ interpretations of US Federal antidiscrimination laws may make them feel more discriminated against or harmed by words than in any other generation.  Lastly, they point to the increased rates of self-reported anxiety on college campuses and how campuses in some ways really are becoming more emotionally vulnerable places.

These events are of course damaging to higher education.  When the exchange of ideas is limited, so is the degree of learning that occurs.  When we demonize the discussion and exploration of controversial topics, we diminish what can be gained by discussion and insight.  This may also serve to increase the serving of anxiety and depression that those who do not want to discuss these issues face, by creating a large, general uneasiness about the subject in general.  It also contribute to a general overall hostility on campuses when there is anxiety and disagreement over what should be discussed –what’s appropriate, and what might “harm” students as they learn. In my estimate, we are going backwards rather than forwards here.

The authors argue that Department of Education should release colleges and universities from the fear of unreasonable investigation and sanctions by applying the Davis Standard for discrimination cases.  This basically asks colleges and universities to show a long entrenched pattern of harassment and discrimination, as opposed to one offense, that interferes with a student’s ability to access education.  They implore colleges and universities to do everything possible to balance of freedom of speech, while making every student feel welcome.  They say they must abolish the use of trigger warnings across campuses and borrow a quote from the American Association of University Professors who call this a threat to intellect challenge and both “infantilizing and anti-intellectual.”  Lastly, they state while there is great value to teaching culturally sensitivity on college campuses, there is also great need to teach students what to do when other individuals’ thoughts conflict with their own.

Lukianoff and  Haidt state that by teaching tenets of cognitive behavior therapy a student learns to look at something that angered them, how their thoughts might be distorted around the issue, and applying “evidence” to counter their distortions, they can then look at their beliefs and feelings more concretely and fully.  This would go far in reducing anxiety, intolerance, and hostility that runs high and sweeps fast on many campuses.  Difference of course is present beyond colleges and universities, and is part of work, community, and political life.  How better off we would all be if we accept these differences, allow meaningful debate, fully examine issues, even if we disagree with all their sides, and truly discuss, debate, and learn.  Fear breeds further fear, anxiety, misguided feeling…not learning…. Fear and learning such as this translates to a great damage to our higher learning, the workplace, community, and democracy at large!

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Children are all different when it comes to how they learning, studying styles, and the way they approach homework.  In our household, we have a self-starter, a child who needs a little prodding, and a non- homework “doer,” in the throes of preschool.  One of the most challenging times of the day, can be homework time.  The article “Homework Help for the Distractible Child,” at the website, briefly looks at common reasons for distractibility and offers some ways in which a parent can encourage their daydreamer with the homework process.

Children can be distracted for many reasons.  While people often think of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) a neurological disorder that impacts a child’s ability to focus and learn, children can also be distracted for other reasons. They include: stress, anxiety, depression, or a learning disability.  For purposes of this article, we will consider general ways to help any child who is distracted.

The article pulls tips from the book 10 Days to a Less Distracted Child, by Jeffrey Bernstein Ph.D.  He states that parents need to firm, calm, and non-controlling.  If a child is melting down about homework and having great difficulty focusing, a parent needs to be an anchor and calmly steer the ship.  We all have probably seen it or “been there,” -where our responses escalates with our child’s, to no avail.  It is important to empathize, give space to vent, but not get involved in a power struggle.

Dr. Bernstein advises parents to help their children get past the “I can’ts.”  His first suggestion is for parents to suggest to their children to go with the thought “they can.”  He says that parents should establish this mood/mode, leave the room, and see what happens. He also suggests some helpful probes when the “I can’t’s,” start.  You can say “Can you tell me how and where you are getting stuck?  Or perhaps “What part of the instructions are unclear?”  Or even maybe “Tell me what you think the answer is.”

Some of Dr. Bernstein’s suggestions are the tried and true.  He is a big believer in a set time to do homework.  While some kids can do homework right away, he states that many distractible children need downtime to decompress and relax, before they can go back at it.  He underlines the value of knowing your child’s learning style to best help her through the homework process. For example, if they are an auditory learner, answering questions about a reading passage, may be best done by reading out loud (you or your child) and helping them process the passage and questions this way.  Visual learners might best get spatial relationships by a piece of cut fruit or a group of pasta, coins, candy, etc to process a problem. Or perhaps they can draw a diagram, a picture, a make a writing web to best sort out their ideas.

Prioritizing the homework load can go miles according to the author, as can praise, support, and guidance.  Asking questions like “Do you know what you should do?”; “Do you have everything you need to complete the task?” can do wonders to move a distracted child into action.  Encouraging them to break down projects, problems into bite size pieces, huge.  He also points out the value of obtaining extra text books for home.  A distractible child may be prone to forgetting hers.  With Common Core standards today, it might be a helpful guide to the parent who is trying to instruct, guide, and reinforce children through new math, etc. Homework may always be a struggle. But it is a necessary part of learning and reinforcing what is taught at school.  While distractible children may find homework more formidable, a calm, knowledgeable, and positive parent can help the process be more bearable, fruitful, and productive for child and parent alike.



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Filed under Education, Improved Learning, My Experiences, Parenting

Sunday Morning Shout Out

Homework can feel a bit like a jolt of electricity after summer vacationand leave you and your children a bit disorientated.  Are your children finding it hard to hit the books at home?  Does your homework routine need a makeover?  The article at titled ‘10 Homework Help Tips‘  by Ms. Stephanie Wood offers some great ideas to ensure an effective homework routine. The folks at sought and received great tips from parents and teachers around the country, ranging from tips on time and place to do homework, to tips on increasing motivation and curtailing homework anxiety and frustration.

The top tip this article had was to get homework done good and early.  While some kids can hop off the bus and go right at it, other kids need a short break, before they begin their homework.  The biggest take away from this tip was to give a specific time frame-say 3pm to 5pm for homework, and to not start after 5pm for younger children especially.  Young children (and often parents too) are too tired to start at this point and there is dinner, maybe classes or practice, and the bedtime routine to start.

There was a great suggestion to create a call list for when homework is forgotten.  If that vital spelling list is forgotten, a homework buddy can go over it on the phone or have a grownup take a picture of the list to send over the phone. Or it could be e-mailed.

There were tips for motivating the overwhelmed and dispirited child.  It was suggested that you can build initial confidence by tackling that first homework problem together and then turning it over to your child, once she is confident and calmer about her work. Here and always, it’s a good practice to heap the positive feedback on your child’s efforts.  When you do this, you should be as specific as possible. What about the dispirited parent, who has his own homework woes, listening to his child whine and melt down over school work?  The article suggests leaving the room, (sanity saving action) but staying close by until the whining subsides.  It also suggests letting your child complain for a short time and practicing empathy to get over the initial hump.

For daydreamers and procrastinators, there are these tips.  A daydreamer may work better in a separate and specific spot to do his homework. In the article, a parent mentions setting her child up in her office.  There is something about letting a child work in a special place (like where you do your important work) that can be very motivating.  For that special procrastinator in your life, the article discusses having her try to beat the clock, to get over the initial hesitancy and inertia.  A parent can set the clock for five or ten minutes and instruct her child to fire away at her school work.  “ See how many math problem you can finish in 10 minutes!  I bet you can beat the clock!”

Other great tips include helping your child breakdown large tasks into more bite size pieces.  By taking a dry erase board or dry erase calendar, you can take that large project and schedule it out into more manageable steps.  For example, if your child has a special project they need to do on the fifty states, that culminates after two months of work, you can look at what has to be accomplished each of the eight weeks.  Doing it this way can help the most overwhelmed child and parent, too!  A last great tip they gave is something like an emergency switch.  If your child is truly done in and exhausted by specific homework, you can cut in half what they need to do. Either you or your child can explain that he did have of what was assigned, but could not complete it.  If a child uses this technique sparingly, it can help squelch a much larger homework problem.  He must then get the help he needs at school , through a peer, a tutor, or you, to further overcome their struggles.  With these tips, struggles should lessen.  Homework woes should ease and everyone should breathe easier at night…

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

As the new school year gets into gear, perhaps you would like to spice up and “health up” the lunch you pack for your child.  I know that I sometimes feel like I get in a school lunch rut with our kids.  While giving them nearly the same thing everyday works, I would not consider making the same dinner every night.  Good food is just too exciting and important for that type of resignation.  I think I stay with the tried and true out of habit and the need to meet the tastes of three children.

I am ready to branch out!  At the “Eat Well,” website, there are some great ideas that can turn boredom on its sorry head.  From the “Pizza Roll- Up Bento Lunch” to the “Broccoli Cheese Pie” that brilliantly features the fifth food group -bacon (and can easily become a vegetarian entrée by skipping the bacon), there are great and delicious ideas here for lunch.  Even the most fickle pickle of children could find these offerings, many which have kid friendly fruits and vegetables on the side, appealing and desirable.  Think star shaped watermelon slices, and rainbow colored plates of fruits and vegetables!  These unique offerings go far to deliver a very “whole food” lunchtime meal.

Gone are the days of plain peanut butter sandwiches and hello to the days of healthier, and more interesting yum!  However, remember to throw in that old favorite once in a while.


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

We are at that point. The school supply list has been fulfilled and a week or two of school is done.  If not, it will be done shortly.  It got me thinking about the other ways in which I would like to be prepared for the school.  I am thinking of this as a different type of school supply list.  It is really one about emotional reserves and the essence of parenting and supporting a school aged child.

May the kids have sharpened pencils, instead of sharp words in the morning or in the evening, at homework and dinner time.  With their folders, may we enfold them in enough hugs on a daily basis.  With their lunch boxes, may they be nourished by the time we have as a family and the time they have with their extended family and friends.  Along with their books for school, may they have a great book that they picked and love reading.

May Math be fun and not dreaded.  May someone explain it to them well so it is so.  In their new school shoes, may they know they never walk alone and know that there aren’t any mountains too steep to climb.  On their long bus ride or walk to school, may they know they are fortunate to have the privilege of going to school, and that not all children in the world have the same privileges.  Alongside their notes from class, may there be affirming notes from us.

May each requirement that they are facing under Common Core, be met with equal parts courage, resiliency, and understanding.  May they know when these supplies feel or truly are in short supply, there are some other loving and caring adults in their lives that are also there for them, they are called teachers and school administrators.

May their dreams never be in short supply.  If assignments are missing or certain requirements are not met, may we make sure it is not something missing on our part or behalf.  When they are scared, feeling down, or overwhelmed, may it met be with a large supply of love and a healthy dose of laughter.  This school year, may both of their school supply lists not be in short supply….

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