Tag Archives: childhood development

Sunday Morning Shout Out

As the holidays quickly approach, does the thought of gift buying leave you uninspired?  Would you like to make your holiday more meaningful with your family?  Consider making presents with your children, for family and friends.

Before you accuse me of falling of my rocker, let me just say that these crafts are doable even for the un-crafty sort ( like me).  Sherry Osborn’s article, “100 Homemade Gift Ideas, at the “About Home” website, offers many ideas that appeal to different sensibilities.  They are sweet and often upcycled from common household items-buttons, pens, and even old cabinet doors. They make especially cute gifts for teachers, family, and friends who may have everything else already.

If crafting isn’t your thing, perhaps baking or cooking gifts for others is more appealing.  The article “Exceptional Homemade Edible Gifts,” by Carroll Pellegrinelli, at the “About Food,” website, lists some mouth watering delicious treat ideas for edible gift giving.  Let’s just say chocolate figures into many of the recipes that are listed.  It’s a win-win for everyone!

Whether homemade crafts or homemade treats for gifts, homemade anything shows a lot of heart.  Anyone can purchase a necktie, calendar, or gift card for a loved one.  But these ideas and their finished product possess that lovely and special quality that the standard mall gift does not.

With working together on these projects and giving from the heart, it may just lead you back to what’s essential about the holiday season.  And that is definitely another win-win!


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Source: Ken Lauer, Nov. 2014

Source: Ken Lauer, Nov. 2014

Winter is coming to an end but is it too cold to go outside and play?  Are the roads super bad, preventing you from going anywhere?  Are you stuck home?  Is everyone sick with the sinus junk that’s been going around?  Has pure, pervasive cabin fever struck? Recently, “The Washington Post’s, On Parenting section, reposted a popular article, “10 Indoor Activities to Get You Through Winter,” by Lauren Knight, that might just be the solution.

1)  Cardboard playhouses, rockets, jets, cabins, etc: Build a cardboard playhouse or cardboard anything for your child. It is truly amazing to see how children imagine things when they are given a big box to play in for a day. If your house is anything like mine, a big box like this is not just a day, but multi-day piece of fun.

2 )  Make homemade play dough: There are a gazillion online recipes for making this kid favorite. While playing with it is good fun, making it is too. It is also a whole lot cheaper and less toxic than the stuff in the store.

3)  Sumo wrestle: Let me just say, I read this idea and laughed. The premise is to size up that perfect moment where your children need to blow off steam. Give them each a large overstuffed t-shirt, in which they can stuff pillows in the back and front. Let them wrestle and do their thing, while you laugh.

4)  Make marshmallow structures: With marshmallows and pasta, design possibilities and great geometry lessons are limitless.

5)  Cardboard monster feet: Make cardboard monster feet, with cardboard you have left over from the playhouse, rocket ship, fort, etc. Reduce, reuse, and roar!

6)  “Mad scientist bath”: Let your child take a “Mad Scientist” bath. With the aid of a plastic stool to set experiments on, measuring cups, soap and water, and containers, let your child play away in the water and see what she can “create.”

7)  Pool noodle racetracks: Make a marble race track (or one for cars) by cutting a pool noodle in half lengthwise. The idea is to have two of them. Children can race their marbles or racecars, and see which ones are the fastest.

8)Indoor scavenger hunt: Create an indoor scavenger hunt for your children. Hide clues, have them work as teams, and have a great find at the end.

9)  Build a tapestry table: I am not feeling this one, but the author says you can pick up an old coffee table at a secondhand store and staple a large piece of burlap material around the edges. With this, some scraps of yarn, string, large plastic children sewing needles, and some desperation, children can learn how to sew.

10)  Make a reading nook: Either collect a bunch of books from the library or around the house and create a special, most comfy corner, pile of pillows, or room, replete with even more pillows, blankets, and stuffed animals to read-away for an afternoon or snowstorm. (Now that sounds downright awesome to me!)

With these great ideas, cabin fever will be cured in no time and a greater appreciation for the season may just be.  Plus, Spring is just around the corner!


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Sunday Morning Shout Out

Tonight, I missed an important talk at our children’s school.  School personnel discussed the rising crisis of prescription drug abuse among teens.  Knowing the importance of the issue I thought I would look at this growing problem myself.

The numbers and misguided perceptions about prescription drug abuse among teens speak loudly.  According to a 2012 study that was reported in the article “Prescription Drug Abuse Up Among Teens: Survey,” by Alan Mozes, more than 24 percent of high school student (more than 5 million young people) have abused prescription medications, marking a 33% increase from 2008.  Within this same cohort, 13% stated they had experimented with common ADHD medications Ritalin and Adderall that were not prescribed for them, and that 20% of teens who admitted to using prescription drugs, admitted doing so before age 14.

Of this specific group, 27% believed that prescription drugs were less harmful than street drugs. One third of teens stated they did not have a particular issue with taking someone else’s prescribed medication, to help them with health concerns.  One quarter of teens believed that their parents were more concerned with street drug use over prescription drug use.  Approximately four out of five teens said they had talked about alcohol and marijuana; about one third had discussed crack cocaine, and only 14 to 16% teens had discussed painkiller/prescription drug abuse.

There were also troubling numbers from the parents’ side.  One third of parents interviewed in the study believed that Ritalin or Adderal could boost their child’s school performance, even when there was not a diagnosis that warranted such drugs being taken.  Twenty percent of parents stated they freely gave their teens a prescription they had on hand that was theirs and not diagnosed for their child.  Sixteen percent of parents said they thought prescription drugs were safer than street drug.

These results were from a study that was done by the Partnership at Drugfree.org, in conjunction with the Metlife Foundation in 2012. The sample population was a nationally representative groups of3,900 teens in grades 9-12, enrolled in public, private, and parochial schools, along with more than 800 parents, who completed home interviews

What’s the take away from such a study as reported in US News? The first one that jumps out to me is the steep increase from 2008. Five million teens abusing prescription drugs marks a 33% increase in such a short time! Also what stands out for me are the strong misconceptions among teens and parents alike.  There are significant numbers among both camps who do not see this behavior as dangerous, as the use of street drugs.  Steve Pasierb, president CEO at the Partnership Organization, who helped conduct the study states:

“The key here is that kids and often their parents are buying into the myth and misunderstanding that prescription drug abuse is a safer way to get high, a safer alternative to street drugs, and that they can control it.”

This of course is so dangerous on many fronts. Denial and ignorance on the topic are the road to nowhere.  This is occurring at an alarming and epidemic rate!  The point of access is also so troubling.  The study found that 56% of the prescription drugs teens are using came from their parent’s medicine cabinet, without any obstacles to access them.  The problems that can stem from prescription drug abuse can be incredibly injurious and deadly in their own right, leading to addiction, accidental overdose; and/or serving as the gateway to heroin and other street drugs as reported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).  My note to self is that I need to be greater informed ; our teens need to be greater informed; and that medicine cabinets should be monitored/watched for proper use of medicines, supplies, etc.  It perhaps is also my note for you….

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Sunday Morning Shout Out

dinnerWe all know dinner together as a family is important.  But did you know it is the best predictor of how adolescence will go for our children?  In my favorite go- to place for professional advice about “Happy Familiying,” Dr. Laura Markham, Ph.D., at the “Aha Parenting” website, discusses why dinner and eating together are the glue that keep families strong.

Dinner is a protective factor for all family members and an extremely powerful one for adolescents, especially.  The more frequently teens eat with their families, the more likely they are: to do well in school, not do drugs, and become sexually active in high school, depressed, or suicidal.  They are many factors at play.  Families that regularly eat together, offer structure and routine to their children.  They offer oversight and supervision to teens and all children, in a world that can be utterly fast and risky for all.  Dinnertime offers children a sense of identity as a family, tradition, and stability.  In a world where a lot is changeable and stressful, regular dinner offers a family a constant.  Dinnertime is a place to check in with one another about each other’s day—the good, bad, and ugly.  It is a place to ask more questions about what occurred at school; what your children’s feelings and thoughts are about family events; and it is a place to weigh in, for all parties.  Most importantly, it is a place to belong, connect, and build better relationships.

As ideal as this sounds, life is not always conducive to sitting down together.  Many different schedules can exist in the same house.  If this is not happening at all, Markham says to aim for a few days a week.  The more times you can do this, the greater the effect! Perhaps it is a single parent home. Maybe, one spouse works later than another.  There is still great power in sitting down together regularly, as a family with a single parent or as a family where one parent is the regular one at dinner.  Markham suggests if one parent gets home later than the other, everyone could sit down and have a snack together.  Or, there could be special emphasis placed on weekend dinners together.  Weekends could then be kept sacred for dinner.  She also states that families may want to adjust dinner time to eat earlier or later, if it means everyone can eat together.

There are other practical things to keep in mind, according to Markham.  Do not get hung up on making an elaborate dinner, at the expense of energy, patience, and time! It is better to put all these ingredients into the actual activity of connecting with one another.  She also talks about creating a welcoming dinner atmosphere, and biting your tongue as a parent if needed.  The idea is build up one another and connect as a family, rather than tearing each down over a difference of opinion or behavioral critique.  She lists some creative resources for promoting dinner conversation, so it goes beyond, “How was your day?”  One classic approach is having everyone give their high and low points of the day-or their roses and thorns.  The point is to connect, converse, and feed more than just the appetite.  When we do this with our families, we do so much more than eat….

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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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Sunday Morning Shout Out

There are so many incredible firsts that happen for children during the summertime.

For some, it may be when they first learn how to swim or dive into a pool.  For others, it may the first time they go to camp or away from their parents for an extended period of time.   Still for others, it may be riding a bike without training wheels.

While these things be exhilarating, their negative counterpart is that they can also launch or intensify fears.  The article “Understanding Childhood Fears and Anxieties,” at the Healthychildren.org website discusses the commonality of childhood fears and anxieties, and what parent s can do to help.  The article states that 43 percent of children between ages six and twelve have fears and concerns.  Topping the list is one that ranks high in this house-fear of the dark and being left alone in the dark.  Fear of animals, particularly large barking dogs, fires, thunderstorms, burglars, kidnappers, and nuclear war also make the list.  I see some of my own childhood “favorites.”  By middle childhood, these fears often lessen or perhaps briefly intensify, before they subside on their own.  For some, these fears become more entrenched and turn into phobias.  According to the article, this occurs when fears become so extreme, persistent, and focused, that they interfere with the child’s daily activities.

There are many things parents can do to help a child who is fearful or phobic.  To mitigate fear in a child, it is important that a parents talks to their child about their fear and is sympathetic.  Their fears are very real to them and are a normal part of life.  Not being so can shame a child and make a fear worse!  It is important to acknowledge the fear, but not increase or reinforce it.  It helps to point out what is being done to protect the child.  The article suggests getting your child on board to take additional steps to combat their fears.  This is very empowering and can help resolve or make a child’s fears more manageable.

When such efforts are not enough to soothe and reduce the level of fear and anxiety in a child, it may be time to work with a licensed mental health professional.  When entrenched fears turn into phobia s that get in the way of everyday life for your child, a licensed mental health professional can work with your child to desensitize your child to her fears; build coping skills; and help them return to more normal functioning.

I come back to the phrase I often hear growing up, “There’s nothing to fear, but fear itself.”  By empathizing with your child; demonstrating what is being done to assuage the fear; and seeking their active involvement, many fears can be put to rest. —Putting them to rest, may just mean you can rest , a little better and a little more easily.  If this is not possible, there are many licensed mental health professionals eager to help and fully equipped to do so…..

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Parenting: All Joy, No Fun?

9780062072221_custom-3ad0830c9e5840ec040960b6d50a8049e48fcc91-s2-c85During a recent trip through our Western New York frozen winter wonderland I had the radio on and I was able to catch part of an author interview on my local NPR station.  The @ 40 minute segment was on the Fresh Air program and was titled “Are We Having Fun Yet? New Book Explores The Paradox Of Parenting“.  I only caught a portion of the show but the parts I caught were pretty thought provoking.  As stated on the NPR summary of the interview with Jennifer Senior:

In her new book, Senior writes about how about children change the lives of their parents — for better and sometimes for worse. ‘All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenthood‘ considers the impact of children on marriage, sex, work, friendships and one’s sense of self. Senior draws on a wide variety of studies, surveys and histories, as well as her own interviews with parents.

Topics discussed in the interview included:

  • Defining the Role of Parents Today
  • Housewives vs. Stay-At-Home Mom
  • Teaching Happiness
  • “Drone” vs. “Helicopter” Parenting
  • The Correlation Between Parental Happiness & Government-Subsidized Social Services

I did not listen to the entire show yet, nor have I read the book but the portions I did catch were intriguing.  I love history and Ms. Senior discusses the history of parenting and how it changed dramatically when child labor became frowned upon in most developed countries during the progressive era between 1890 and 1920. She also shows some depth to her book by citing research done by sociologists, anthropologists, educators and other social scientists.

Listening I had a few ‘aha’s!’, a couple of ‘hummms?’ and a point or two of contention.  To me that adds up to something I should explore more as I continue to learn this parenting thing!  I also thought it something our readers might want to explore more.


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