Tag Archives: connecting

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


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


While our two and a half year-old son is a ways off from the “tweens,” I am hungry to read everything and anything on this new, little mystical creature called boy in our house.  This month’s “Western New York Family Magazine” is dedicated to raising boys.  Please take note that this issue has many diverse articles on boys, covering everything from boys and literacy to gender stereotypes.  I clutch this magazine to me like a reassuring embrace and turn to page 12 “Bond With Your Boy Through the Tween and Teen Years,”  by Sue LeBreton, a health and wellness journalist.  I’ve been told that what we are experiencing now with a two and a half year-old is both nothing and a preview of the teen years.

The article begins with LeBreton retelling a recent episode where her tween boy comes home making a statement about how badly his life stinks and how he wishes he was dead.  Like most parents, five alarm bells started going off.  After a professional psychological assessment and reassurance that her son is very and “merely” overwhelmed with the daily activities of his life, (a life that contains diabetes and new raging hormones to be managed) she realizes and is told that the best thing she can do is find increased ways to stay connected with him.  During the younger years, this may seem obvious and easy.  But as tweens and teens get more sophisticated and aloof from their parents, she says that perseverance and creativity are required to maintain this connection.  She states that in her experiences she has found that”

  1. Parents need to keep talking, even if your child seems s not to be listening. Outcomes and evidence may prove otherwise.
  2. Connect through movies (and I will add food). While shoot them up, bang them up, faster and more furious, extraterrestrials may not be your cup of tea, chances are romantic comedies are not his. A movie date or dinner date, may connect with his interests or at least his unquenchable appetite and thereby himself.
  3. Move and talk. Whether walking the dog, riding in the car, or jogging together, parallel interactions can open communication channels more easily than face to face for many tweens and teens.
  4. Hear him and just listen. Listen to his chatter about his friends or the latest on Facebook. Ask clarifying questions. Don’t give opinions unless he asks, or lest he stop talking!
  5. Get off the bleachers: While cheerleading your boy on is great, be an example of activity and exercise to your son. The example is great and he might just join you.
  6. Share his music: Have him guide you through the music he likes.  Ask questions about what you are listening to together.  I might add, there might be teachable moment s in the lyrics.
  7. Refrain from harsh criticism: When it comes to delicate matters, start the conversation with why you are concerned and not with harsh criticism.
  8. Open your home. Let boys be boys, sometimes loud, often hungry, and many the times in need of horsing around with their buddies.
  9. Share his interests.  By respecting what is important to him, you are offering him respect and not dismissal for being foolish, impractical, and unimportant.
  10. Counter negative media images about tweens and teens.  Remind your boy of all he is doing well.  Support him as he grows up, by accentuating the positive; directly confronting what needs to be addressed- just the facts mam; and finding any way to connect and maintain what can be a precarious link.  While your tween or teen might not thank you, your successful grown son just might…

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Sunday Morning Shout Out


Image Source: crazyleafdesign.com

Image Source: crazyleafdesign.com

Just in time for Valentine’s Day week comes the dear story in the Huffington Post of a man who has written 826 napkin notes to his daughter.  Garth Callighan has written these  lunch time notes for his daughter Emily Claire Callighan, age 14, since she has been in 4th grade.  But now he has upped the ante.  Garth has been fighting various forms of cancer for the last three years, and currently has stage four kidney cancer.  While Garth writes a new note everyday, he has written enough of these notes to last until Emily graduates high school. They have been meant to inspire, show love, and to connect with his daughter.   The notes contain his personal beliefs and words of support for his daughter. One note said, “Dear Emma, Everything in moderation.  Except awesome. You can never have too much awesome. Love, Dad.”  Another note quoted Benjamin Franklin and said, “Either write something worth read or do something worth writing.” You can read more of his work at his blog or his facebook  page.

“I want my daughter to know how much I love her and want her to grow up to be a strong, positive, self-confident woman,” he told HuffPost. “I wanted that before I was diagnosed, but now I recognize that our time together is finite.”

While Garth is a fighter, he wants to leave his words with his daughter in case he succumbs to his illness.  She in return has written him napkin notes back and has needed her own napkin supply.  Perhaps this Valentine’s Day, you can start your own practice of napkin notes.  It might just be what your child needs to hear when she feels alone, unloved, scared, or unsupported.  While much can be communicated via text, e-mails, and through other instant means, how powerful the written note. –How powerful indeed….

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Filed under Health, Parenting, Writing

Sunday Morning Shout Out


A couple of weeks ago National Public Radio, (NPR) featured a segment on a Maryland Math teacher who has made a connection to his students through rap music.  The segment was titled ‘2 Pi: Rhymes And Radii‘ and in it Montgomery Blair School High Math teacher Jake Scott, rap alias 2 Pi, explains how he uses rap to  sustain the attention of his students; teach quadratic equations and other complex math theorem; and sprinkle in public service type of announcements about personal behavior, relationships, and respect for parents.  Scott explains that this generation is a generation with a short attention span, who is used to abundant and ever changing media to keep their attention. He makes use of rap as one of his tools to accomplish this feat, which can be daunting for any teacher today.

For Scott or 2 Pi, it is all about connection. He states that one of his most important goals as a teacher is to make meaningful connections with students.   Talking about all the hurdles he faced and young people face today he says, “ …We can preach to kids until they turn blue and we turn blue, but if there is no connection, then there’s no response.”  He also doubles as the school’s wrestling coach, an activity he credits as saving him from the negative outcomes of many peers who got involved in drugs and other criminal activity.  Jake Scott made a profound connection with his wrestling team as a young adolescent who was veering down the wrong path quickly, something he desperately wants to offer his students and the team he coaches.

It sometimes takes that special teacher.  For me, it was an English teacher named Miss Smith. She made this fledgling young writer feel confident and worthwhile in what she wrote and offered from her perspective in class. That translated far beyond junior English class and being sixteen years-old.  Finding confidence in one area as a teenager and certainly as an adult can have such a ripple effect throughout life.  No matter what I have done and what I do, writing grounds me and so meaningful to me.

If your student is struggling, perhaps she needs to connect with that one teacher, coach or tutor that makes her feel worthwhile.  Maybe it is joining wrestling, art club, science club, or drama club that forges an increased connection to school and greater self-esteem.  If there are barriers in these areas, I encourage you to break them and help deliver your child to the next level…

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