I Don't Want To Go Back To School Ma!

Transitioning Back To School After Summer Break

There is nothing fun about having a unstructured summer, sun, and open ended schedule to going back to school that fills like the total opposite for kids. Now I know us parents enjoy it, finding camps and things to do in and out of the city can be tough. Grouped with the extra energy around the house and no one to tag you out. Either way it can be challenging for all parties involved. 

This was my first year off with both my girls and I must say there was nothing I could have done to prepare for it. It was an indescribable feeling having the freedom of enjoying my children in a way that allowed for me to bond, create the type of lifestyle that I saw fit without the constraints of work, school, schedules, and time slots. And we did exactly that. We woke up when we wanted, we chose the type of fun we wanted to have day by day, and enjoyed the ideal of stillness. We made the most of it, and there was not one moment I took for granted....BUT when I tell you at the end of summer I was exhausted, I was TIRED. And even though I was tired, there was something in me that didn't want it to end.

I begin to feel my anxiety increase as I knew back to school was approaching and I needed to return to work. Honestly I just didn't want my freedom to end, and if I felt that way, I knew that both my daughter's were feeling it too. They had never had their mom in this way. Fully focused on the art of parenting, and forever trying to be presence in each moment. I contemplated even returning, and mapped out an ideal to my recently graduated husband who stated..."we just aren't there yet." So both me and the girls couldn't avoid it....it was going to happen rather we liked it or not. And the funny thing about time is that no matter how much we would like it to stop, it just keeps on going. 

So the same tips I adopted for myself I wanted to share in hopes that it helps the transition from summer to school go a little bit more peacefully for both parent and child....

  1. Acknowledge and validate your own anxiety- there is nothing worst than trying to shut out a feeling that is there. Give yourself permission to worry or to not be ready. It's okay to be attached to the idea of having your children home, or the freedom that summer brings. On the other end if you are excited they will return- gloat in that as well. Parents jobs are not easy, school allows for an additional support. There is nothing wrong with needing or wanting help from your village, and school should be apart of your village. And let's e honest we can not all afford the opportunity to be stay at home parents, or even want to for that matter. All in all try to maintain a positive attitude because children will feed off the energy you give. If you are worried, they become worried and that can become a bigger issue when school starts.
  2. Validate your child's anxiety- Talk openly with your child about what they are feeling. Allow for them to share their stressors and ideas on what they need to help prepare for school. It can be anything from help with using the potty, to not knowing how to unlock a locker. Let them know you are there as a resource to help even if they act like they don't need it, because we all know they do. 
  3. Go back into routines and schedules slowly- Don't try to go straight back into school mode with rigorous schedules. It can be tough being use to staying out after dark, to getting up in the early AM. I like to start about a week before school starts with putting the girls down at the time they would for school. I started a plan where everyday we did 10 minutes earlier so that when it was time to go back to school they were going to bed at a decent time. Therefore their body had time to get use to it, as well as their mind. I also buy Kennedy (10) a planner where we begin to prepare and have fun creating her to dos, and task to be completed to get her mind back into the mood to use time management skills. With Karter (3) we read tons of books that talk about school, her teacher actually came to my house to visit, and she went to see her class. I didn't want her to be shocked by the idea of starting preschool. So the more pre planning you can do, do it!
  4. Still have fun!- Just because summer is over doesn't mean you have to stop enjoying outdoors, free play, and all around fun. Allow your child to still go outside especially because the weather is still warm, enjoy after school time together, and find ways to continue to be creative with your child's use of time. I love that my oldest daughter school has gotten rid of the concept of homework. They believe after school time is better spent enjoying moments with family which to me is far more valuable then continuing with course studies.
  5. Chart it up- provide visual cues, incentive charts for rewards, chore charts, and other helpful reminders. Kids can be very robotic in the sense that they enjoy doing the same things over and over because they feel safe and know what is to be expected. Allow them to have the sense of independency but with support with visuals along the way. Have fun creating them together, and do practice runs! Make going back to school fun, but have goals be maintainable and timelines be realistic. 
  6. Spend individual time with your child daily- I give myself a minimum of 15 minutes where I give my undivided attention to each child. You would never know how much this can increase a child's positive behavior. Try to do it at a designated time when you know you are available, allow your child to decide what they want that time to look like, and just bond. No phones, no pictures, not a lot of questions, just pure love and undivided attention. This is a great way for children to get out of school mode, and allows them to just be your child, and sometimes that feels like an impossibility, so make it happen!

Remember that every summer has a story and every story will have a special memory attached to it. When summer ends, the memories both you and your child created will hold a special place in your heart that will carry you through. 

Here's to a successful school year!

Why I chose Montessori for Karter?

Montessori Method

If there is one thing I have learned to value as a early childhood therapist it is the importance of early learning. The ideal that children under 6 need just as much preparation for the world that they live in as their older peers. When raising my older daughter (Kennedy) I have to admit my skills were minimum. Not only because I was 22 and this was my first child, but because generations before me didn't value education (work was more important). Staying at home wasn't an option and is still not because I value my worth in the work field and have entrepreneurship goals to obtain. So I did my best at exposing her and placing her in programs that I believed to be best for her learning, but I never felt confident in the choices I made. So I placed her in schools where I felt she would be safe, and would learn the norm. So naturally she transitioned into public school to get rid of the financial burden, and to do exactly it was that I did which was public schooling. Now I am not saying that Kennedy's education has been for nothing. She is smart and well rounded, but most of her genius comes from my husband and I being her first teachers. There were times I would get frustrated that they weren't challenging her enough, pushing her enough, and not seeing her for who she was. She often complains of being bored in class, and when addressing it with her teacher, I would learn that they were doing the best they could, but had other children to teach. I also was agitated by the lack of practical skill building, and character development. I understand that math and science are on the test, but could you teach my child how to be a leader!! And don't let me talk about the test, and the decrease of art programs. The list could go on and on. But I still persisted that it was okay because I was willing to go the extra mile at home. We are now considering switching her to Montessori. There are a few things to consider because she is close to middle school, and Montessori stops at 6th grade where we live. She also is very invested in her school and to switch to a totally different program would not only be challenging but would pull her away from her comfort zone. But as parents we can't allow our children to jade us, we have to make the best choices we know as adults and sometimes that comes with disappointment.

Why have so many schools reduced the time and emphasis they place on art, music, and physical education? The answer is beyond simple: those areas aren’t measured on the all-important tests. You know where those areas are measured… in life! Art, music, and a healthy lifestyle help us develop a richer, deeper, and more balanced perspective. Never before have we needed more of an emphasis on the development of creativity, but schools have gone the exact opposite direction in an effort to make the best test-taking automatons possible. Our economy no longer rewards people for blindly following rules and becoming a cog in the machine. We need risk-takers, outside-the-box thinkers, and entrepreneurs; our school systems do the next generation a great disservice by discouraging these very skills and attitudes. Instead of helping and encouraging them to find and develop their unique strengths, they’re told to shut up, put the cell phones away, memorize these facts and fill in the bubbles.
— Dave Burgess

I had a lot of learning/growing  to do as a parent and that's exactly what I did. Through maturity, education and training it has expanded my knowledge in the field of education. As I begin my journey to enroll Karter in preschool, I knew I wanted to be more diligent when choosing her education. I wanted my values from home to transfer to school. I wanted her teachers to bring pieces of home into the class. I wanted for her to be around a diverse group of peers, and have the ability to move at her own pace. I also wanted the program to value practical skills just as much as educational skills. And I wanted her to be challenged in a way that promoted independence. And when I thought that was impossible to find, I found Montessori.

What is the Montessori Method?

The Montessori Method of education, developed by Dr. Maria Montessori, is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children from birth to adulthood. Dr. Montessori’s Method has been time tested, with over 100 years of success in diverse cultures throughout the world.

It is a view of the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It is an approach that values the human spirit and the development of the whole child—physical, social, emotional, cognitive.

The teacher, child, and environment create a learning triangle. The classroom is prepared by the teacher to encourage independence, freedom within limits, and a sense of order. The child, through individual choice, makes use of what the environment offers to develop itself, interacting with the teacher when support and/or guidance is needed.

Montessori students learn to think critically, work collaboratively, and act boldly.

Montessori is a method of education that is based on self-directed activity, hands-on learning and collaborative play. In Montessori classrooms children make creative choices in their learning, while the classroom and the teacher offer age-appropriate activities to guide the process. Children work in groups and individually to discover and explore knowledge of the world and to develop their maximum potential.
— Unknown

Why I chose it?

  • Fosters the growth of functional independence, task persistence and self-regulation
  • Promotes social development through respectful, clear communication and safe, natural consequences
  • Contains a large variety of materials for the refinement of sensory perception and the development of literacy and mathematical understanding
  • Offer opportunities for imaginative exploration leading to confident, creative self-expression
  • Allows parents to collaborate with teachers in their learning environment
  • Understands the importance of character building and practical yet valuable skills
  • Employs teachers who have been trained in Montessori teaching who understand the "whole" child concept (usually former public school teachers)
  • Respects all cultures and diversity
  • Groups peer of older and younger age together to promote leadership within the classroom

These are all things that I believe promote the well being of children. For any parent who wants more information on Montessori education please look in your local community. What's best for one is not best for all. So please be advised that this was something that was important to me, and that I share this experience as a flawed human.

Today was Karter's interview/observation to begin the process of enrollment. I was allowed to watch as her and the teacher explored the classroom, and begin to learn pieces of the Montessori curriculum. I was overwhelmingly surprised how fast she picked up on ques and direction from the teacher. The teacher was kind with her approach, but didn't hold back what she knew Karter could do. She was directive, but wasn't (hard to explain). From the first 15 minutes I could tell that this was the perfect program for Karter. In that moment I was so proud to be her Mama, and I was also so scared to let her go. Where did my breastfeeding baby go? I know there will be times that she has to find her way in the world without me. In this program I trust they will be an extension of my heart. Cheers to preschool! 

The Conscious Parent

Conscious what, conscious who?

I realize that I have been throwing around quotes on many of my social media platforms without true intent to give my followers the meaning behind what it is to be a "conscious parent". For me being conscious is being awakened. It's about taking away traditional ways of raising children, and really focusing in on the the "whole child", all while being more reflective when raising children than punitive. The "whole child" you ask? The whole child is what I like to use to describe everything your child encompasses. That's each child's unique emotional, spiritual, educational, environmental experiences that make them who they are. There are many times I have spoken to caregivers who raise children who they believe are 1 dimensional. I have learned through my profession and role as a mother that children have many layers to them, as we do adults. So taking in their unique prospective is essential for understanding what it is to be conscious.

Once you accept your children’s basic nature, you can contour your style to meet their temperament. To do so means letting go of your fantasies of yourself as a certain kind of parent and instead evolving into the parent you need to be for the particular child in front of you.
— Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent

 

Conscious parents often times will focus in on the emotional connection between the parent/child versus the more authoritative (who is boss) approach between parent/child. This does not mean you throw away specific practices that have worked for you or practices that have been passed down that also work well for your family. This method of child rearing focuses on mind shifting to begin to solve what's really going on behind your child's behavior. We often times as parents like to think that are children are just like us, and although that can be true in some areas, children have their own state of being. Allow them to have a different perception than you. 

When you parent, it’s crucial you realize you aren’t raising a “mini me”, but a spirit throbbing with its own signature. For this reason, it’s important to separate who you are from who each of your children is. Children aren’t ours to possess or own in any way. When we know this in the depths of our soul, we tailor our raising of the them to their needs, rather than molding them to fit ours.
— Shefali Tsabary, The Conscious Parent

Conscious parenting assures that your child feels secure in the world and and in return you feel reliable and safe. By altering how we experience our primary relationships (parent/child) we can begin to shape perspectives, beliefs, self esteem, and outlook. In it is this that cultivates the environment your child needs to be the best them mentally, physically, and emotionally.

3 Conscious Tips:

  1.  Check your language- is it cruel, shows impatience, or non effective?
  2. Check your expectations- is your child developmentally ready to handle what is being asked? Could you meet your needs without asking your child for help?
  3. Check you self-regulation- Is your temperament calm, or are you parenting from a place of frustration? Did you set your limits with kindness, and is this approach best to prevent your child from being upset?
Parents, choose your words wisely, carefully, thoughtfully. In the same way that violence begets violence and anger begets anger, kindness and peace begets peace. Sow words of peace, words that build, words that show respect ad belief and support.
— L.R. Knost

This can be challenging, but always try to bring the focus back to building a strong bond between you and your children. When solving conflict it does not have to be about making your'e child feel bad, or inflicting pain. Most often conflict is able to be resolved through empathy and understanding. Once you begin to make that a consistent message with your children it will make effective changes in your household. Now I don't want you to use this reading as a way to say you can not set boundaries or to allow inappropriate behavior. This ideal will be a baseline on how you would do such. For instance, I had a hard time getting my oldest daughter Kennedy to understand that every time we go to a store she is not warranted gifts just because. It would always be this argument or tantrum why she couldn't get something. I begin to look at her need-she wants rewards, my want- I want her to earn it, work for it, solution- we sat down and discussed openly her frustrations and mine. Together we came up with a chore chart for her to earn money, as well as start a savings account to assure she "gets the things she has earned" and I "feel better that it just wasn't given to her". For my 2 year old this looks very different. So for her when she cries, or can't communicate her needs, as her parent I take the time to make sure she has had rest, food, and attention, but also making sure I stay calm and approach her in a manner that is supportive and loving. Our influence as parents is much stronger and long lasting when it is loving and intentional rather than fear based and short term.

People always say, “Choose your battles”, in parenting. Let’s choose peace, instead. After all, our children aren’t our enemies, and childhood shouldn’t be a battleground.
— L.R. Knost

So I will leave you with these 13 principles of Conscious Parenting by a speaker and author, Alfie Kohn. You are enough, and we together can raise consciously aware children, who will lead this nation far more than we have ever imagined.

13 Conscious Parenting Principles:

  1. Be reflective
  2. Reconsider your request
  3. Stay focused on your long terms goals
  4. Put your relationship first
  5. Change how you see not just how you act
  6. RESPECT
  7. Be authentic
  8. Talk less, ask more
  9. Be mindful of your child's age
  10. Attribute to children the best possible motive consistent with the facts
  11. Don't stick to no's unnecessarily
  12. Don't be rigid
  13. Don't be in a hurry

 

Healthy parents, raise healthy children!

P.S. Listed below is a book I have read many of times, that many of my parenting approaches come from. Check your local library, amazon, or book store if you are looking for a great read!

Parenting Magic!

Kids Have Feelings too

How to promote your child to share feelings

Over the past month, my own child have came to me asking for help with feelings she was exhibiting. This was nothing new to me because my children have been taught from a very young age that displaying emotions are okay and normal, as well as learning effective ways to cope with those emotions.

Recently those conversations have became more real. The election, my youngest being attacked by a dog, anxiety around moving into a new house, new school, etc. Children have feelings too, we have to learn effective ways to allow our kids to manifest those truths, so as parents we can shape them into healthy adults who are able to process their emotions safely. 

This activity is a exploration learning about how and where children "wear" their feelings on their bodies and what we can do with them. This activity works well with children of all ages regardless if they have a mental health impairment or not. Use your discretion on how to present it to different ages of children and be aware of what it might look like. For instance my 2 year old was not able to have a detailed conversation. I used simple language like mad, sad, and happy and coded those feelings with specific colors. My very mature 9 year old was able to really have a in depth conversation around specific incidences and used a wide range of feeling vocabulary. 

Activity:

1. Have your child identify at least 3 strong emotions they have experienced over the past week or so. These feelings can be both negative and positive. I would recommend a few of each to balance things out and not be hyper focused on only the negative. 

2. Use a cut out of a body, or draw a body that will represent the child.

3. Code each feeling with a color and create a key so that children can go back and understand what color goes with what feeling.

4. Have your child paint or color where they hold or show that emotion via internally or externally on the body. For example, if I used yellow for happy, I may color my face yellow because when I am happy I smile. If angry is red, I may color my stomach area red, because when I get angry by belly tightens up.

5. Begin a discussion on when, what, where, and how. Allow your child to express emotions without judgement. Discuss how some feelings are felt in the same places and how it can be beneficial when they are feeling the negative feeling to try to think of ways to get the positive feeling back. Most important remember to VALIDATE. Nothing more annoying then telling a child they can't feel a certain way. Or they are too young to feel. 

6. Help them problem solve. No matter if the feeling is fear, anger, being left out, sad. Practice and teach children what they can do and who they can talk to.

 

Let Them Be Little.....

Benefits of Extra Curricular Activities

Extra Curricular Activities can be explained as any activity outside of a child's normal curriculum including school and home. Most extra curricular's include same age peers and are instructed by a facilitator. Experts in child advancement suggest that participation in extracurricular activities on a regular basis is the best way to help children develop their individual personality, cut down on emotional stress, and enhance social or academic skills that could benefit them in the future.

There are several reasons parents choose to involve their children in an activity outside of school. The benefits can be so wide and varied. For my daughters I chose to put them both into extra curricular activities because I knew that I wanted to raise well rounded children. I wanted them to have a balance of both academics and skill, because my belief is that one enhances the other. I also made sure that academics came first. My oldest, Kennedy (9), needed to know that it is just as important for her to be book smart as it is to excel in a sport. So before she was able to participate she would have to establish strong work habits. Note: I start Kennedy into programs a few months after school has started, meaning she needs to have her school routine down. Not only did I want to avoid feelings of her being overwhelmed, it was a way for me to monitor if she was actually prepared to take on the task of adding additions onto her schedule. For my younger daughter, Karter (2), it was making sure that I allowed for her to share experiences with other children, but reminding myself that individual learning and free play is also essential.

I have broken down my top reasons to consider having your child join a sport, club, or even volunteer. Because building strong children doesn't equate to books only, but a diverse amount of experiences that will build your child's resiliency.

Top 5

1. Enhances Your Child's Academics- if a child learns something new in an after school activity, it could boost their understanding of school subjects — even if that activity doesn’t relate directly to classwork. Discovering that they have a talent for something can give children a new source of confidence or passion that translates into their behavior at school. 

2. Increasing Life and Social Skills- Regardless of whether they’re establishing new relationships, or building upon existing friendships, after school activities provide an ideal environment in which to nurture social skills and confidence. Numerous extracurricular activities work to teach children the value of working as a team to achieve a mutual goal — a skill that will benefit them in their future occupation.

3. Building Happy Children- After school activities offer a positive environment in which children can grow and thrive when parents are working and unable to make it home for right after school. Many adults today stay at work after the school day has ended. After school activities remove the temptation to sit in front of a television set. With this being said children are able to burn off extra energy, relax their minds, relieve childhood stress associated with school. Basically it's a break, and we all need breaks!

4. Creating Healthy Habits- Children can begin to learn concepts of time management and responsibility. As I said before children have to find a balance between school, home and activity. They have to begin to understand how to manage their time and follow schedules to ensure they are successful in multiple things at once. Note: Please, please, please allow your child to also have free time. They should continue to enjoy the spontaneity of just being little. Nothing is more upsetting than a child who is overbooked. This could be counteractive as it can create stress and perfectionism types of personalities. They also have to begin understanding concepts of discipline because skills are taught by someone other than parent/teachers, as well as working together to complete a goal with same like peers.

5. Building Stronger Futures!- Creating more options for children sets them up for success. When we begin to limit the amount of experiences for our children we begin to pigeon hold them into what "we want" them to be. Allow them to explore, make mistakes, and experience failure. As parents we have to prepare our children for reality based situations. 

Don't!

  • An extra curricular activity should be fun and a creative outlet and should never take over academic interest.
  • Getting used to video games/i-pad is not an extra curricular activity.
  • We should not force our ambitions on our kids under disguise of extra curricular activity.
  • An extra curricular activity is a structured fun time for the child; we must ensure child has adequate unstructured activity time as well; else you will create a slave to timetable driven life.
  • You may have taken trouble in making your child join/take up a specific activity but if your child does not enjoy it – just quit! You may be doing more harm than good. But also challenge them to complete, because we want to teach children to finish things they commit to. 

As if we don't have a million other things on our plate, don't let time or money be your reason. It takes a village. Find local resources and free activities in your community. If travel is hard, find programming linked with your child's school. Be creative when looking for reduced price activities such as your local churches and YMCAs. Inquiring goes a long way. Sacrifices are to be made as parents, outcomes will be worth it!

"Consistency" is a Major Key"

If there is one thing this move has taught me, it is that kids rely on consistency and structure.

Rewind.

Earlier this year my husband and I decided to buy an investment property. We lived in our first home for 7 years and it was just time. The buyer/seller market was phenomenal, I was employed with excellent credit, husband was close to finishing school, and most importantly my husband and I always discuss taking risk within the limitations of our family. It's very easy to get comfortable, but comfortable keeps you stagnant at times. So change for us was calling our name because giving our girls more for the future means planning for it.

It has always been important for me to provide my girls with a sense of stability. I want them to grow up in a community that feels like an extension of family.
— Me

Of course we had conversations about what that would look like for our children because you can't be a parent of two and not consider subjects like school districts, cost of child care, environmental safety, how will they adjust, and most importantly is it close to my mom, lol Either way I knew there would be challenges but I planned to face them head strong. Thank God for my title as an "early childhood mental health therapist" because it provides me with a stronger source of information on how to address childhood anxiety, childhood stress and concerns with adjustment.

Moving is often stressful for most adults, this warrants the same response for children. Moving to a new town or even a new neighborhood is stressful at any age, but a new study shows that frequent relocation's in childhood are related to poorer well-being in adulthood, especially among people who are more introverted or neurotic. Now I am not saying all parents should avoid change. Some change is good because it teaches kids concepts of adaptability as well as resiliency. It's when it becomes routine that kids little bodies can't adjust or feel safe (don't know what to expect). There can be both pros and cons to this argument. The ideal is that we do our best as parents to provide mental wellness to our children by doing what we ultimately feel is right.

My husband grew up a military kid, who moved around like a leaf in the wind. He became too comfortable with change and has a personality that blends in like a chameleon.
— Me

For my oldest daughter I knew it would be hard. It was the only house she knew. She felt safe and secure. She's had the same group of friends, had her routine down, and just felt comfortable about the way she was going through life. Once I poured the news to her in a positive manner, explaining that her room would be bigger, she will be closer to the activities she enjoys, and meeting new friends, all I saw was weeping. It was hard for her to understand that life could possibly start over, at least that's how she felt in that moment. I also shared this news to my very strong willed 2 year old. With the understanding that kids as young as her are able to understand concepts that are explained to them. And just as much as I wanted to prep my oldest, I equally prepped my youngest daughter as well.

Fast forward.

We sell our home. Our new home is scheduled to have 60 days of renovations and we decide to move with family. A family with children of their own, schedules of their own, routines, and limits. Now I am 3 weeks in and have developed 5 ways I was able to provide my children with consistency. That has decreased the stress of change, and create happier human beings (both parents and children).

Home is where the heart is, but giving my children something to build upon will keep the heart beating.
— Me

Major Keys:

1. Prepping- Have conversations with your children. Be open and also allow feedback. Validate for your child that it can be scary and sad. Allow them to air it out, and be honest. This also goes for super little ones. I explained to Karter we were moving, she helped pack her toys, she knows we have a new house, etc. Young children feel the stress of change too. Don't ignore a fussy toddler, pr snotty tween. Allow them to need you a little more. Little people's feelings are big for them, and can seem small to us.

2. Keep connections- When I knew for sure we were moving I made my older daughter collect all names and numbers of her friends. Thankfully we weren't moving out of state, so I explained to her she could plan a big sleepover, visit, etc. Moving doesn't warrant forgetting the children your child has connected with. Even if going out of town, I would use the benefits of technology, or even becoming Pen-Pals!

3. Familiarity- During moving process. Allow your child to have things that are familiar. We are staying with family, so I made sure to pack bedding from their actual beds, favorite toys, and little reminders of home. This was really great for Karter (2). It was easier to put her down for bed, or adjust to playing in a foreign place when things felt familiar around her.

4. Routines/Schedules- Routines and schedules should be the same as much as possible. Predictability allows for a child to know what to expect next, which prevents meltdowns during a transition they are not use to. This was one of the most challenging concepts for me. My uncle who we are living with has a very passive parenting style, he also has children that are the same age as mine. I had to be very diligent about telling the girls to eat dinner, do homework, bedtime, etc when their cousins weren't doing the same thing. In the beginning it was a fuss "Why do they", but now it's to be expected. More importantly when moving again to our home we won't have to start over. Kids yearn for structure. Knowing how to operate makes them operate more efficiently.

5. More Love- if anything can fix it,  a calm and nurturing spirit can. Be patient. Allow and expect your child to have a reaction via negative or positive. Expect them to cry, act out, be a little more defiant. It's part of the adjustment process. It can be hard for kids to communicate exactly how they feel. Be understanding, and offer them more hugs and kisses that will release some of the anxiety of transitioning. Kids react the way parents do. When a child sees you flooded with emotion, they too will take on those feelings.

Change is unavoidable. Change is a part of life. And change makes us discover more. We as parents have to learn ways to provide a balance within the realms of our families that makes us feel comfortable. Children are one of the most resilient groups of people. The more we can plan for their success the more successful we can feel as parents.

Cheers to new Beginnings!

Providing Discipline

Uh-oh here we go...

The ugly part of parenting is here. One of the worst moments of parenting arises during the time you have to set limits and boundaries. These moments don't warrant good responses from our children. It's important to know that children need a balance of both love and limits. And those 2 words, although used separately, often time overlap. Setting limits is also a way for children to know we love them. Setting limits keeps are children safe and reassures "us" that children understand self-control. It's okay to want to place boundaries because we know what's best, or just as a response to a simple annoying temper tantrum. Setting boundaries allows for the parent/child relationship to be one of trust and security. Of course that sounds easy. But the task of setting limits or giving a consequence is much more difficult. It's both the frustration of a high pitched cry, or simply saying “no” and following through. It's all complicated, it can be challenging, and it often leads to feeling unsuccessful.

The best way to accomplish any task when it comes to raising children is the concept of "consistency". Consistency and structure is vital during the difficult moments. Kids enjoy habits, they feel better when they know exactly what to expect next. For children, it's the fear of trying something once that initially is terrifying and then realizing after the 10th time it's actually okay and is unavoidable. What we tell children when we keep things the same, is that they can feel stability. This assures children that their environment doesn't change. This does not mean that routines won't vary from time to time, because they will. But when parents say "no" to touching the hot stove, the answer will always be no. And for children that is an essential part of their development.

Structure allows children to follow routines and ease into transitions. If you ever noticed in any classroom you visit there is always a chart of some sort that is a visual reminder for children to know what their day will consist of. This is done purposely to help children stay on task, more importantly so they are aware of expectations. For very young children we see time rituals for sleep, eating, playing, etc. It's all about keeping time and expectations being met. This transpires into adult hood, as we also have to keep schedules (ESPECIALLY PARENTS). This all ties into the concept of discipline because the more we can prepare kids, and help them with consistency, stability, and structure we can decrease meltdowns that result in a consequence.

Time Out vs. Spankings

I know that some of us were raised where "spankings" were the only form of discipline. And I am not here to tell you that it was wrong. I will simple state as an early childhood mental health professional the pros and cons, and why I promote the use of time out. Spankings offer an instant reaction for parents. Some parents see this as a bonus because it takes care of the problem immediately. Children start to fear the use of pain and begin to comply out of fear. So I definitely understand why some caregivers go to that route. But does it truly offer any sort of teaching moment. What I mean by this is that spanking teaches a child that we react by hitting when frustrated. Another concern with spankings is the emotional reaction it creates for the adult. Are we hitting our child because our fuse is so thin we become reactive? Are we spanking when our patience runs thin, and we tell our minds nothing else will fix it? Think of how you feel when you spank. Make sure it comes from a place of safety. Meaning make sure it is always appropriate, if that makes sense. 

Now "time out" is not very immediate. It takes tons of time and patience to teach a child to stay in a spot and think about their choices. But what "time out" does offer is a time for your child to learn how to calm down their own bodies by giving a time for the heart rate to decrease. When we place children in time out, it allows the child to learn how to take care of themselves. Kids begin to understand that when they get upset, mad, or simply can't get their way, they are allowed to have a reaction but it doesn't warrant the attention from the caregiver. Another benefit of using time out is that children begin to learn what gets their parents attention. Children are attention seekers regardless if it's from showing negative or positive behavior. What we give attention to is often what we see the child exhibit.  For example, have you ever had to say no a million times, only to get the same response? It's because in those moments our children are getting the best of us. Try ignoring your child during those moments, and see if it results in a different behavior. So if we can begin to show a child that negative behavior warrants no attention, and positive behavior warrants praise. Guess what we will see more of, THE POSITIVE!!

Just a little more.....

1. Always start with ignoring. Literally ignore your child when they are whining, crying, or have been told no but refuse to accept it. Walk out the room, talk to a friend on the phone, begin a hobby, but just don't entertain it. This is so hard to do, because we want to say a million things. I've learned as a parent to pick my battles.

2. A cool way to extend "time out" as a way to increase childhood development is to offer "calm down" activities in the time out space you use. I place bubbles, books, a squishy toy, etc. This is a tool to use to decrease the heart rate. Allow deep breathes, or something sensory based to allow your child's body to calm down so they are more rational. The recovery is faster!

3. Try to use the same time out spot in the home. Make sure it is not the same place they sleep, so they don't associate time out with sleeping. Make sure the spot lacks distractions, and that it is safe. 

4. Time the time out. I place 1 minute for every year of age. 2 years old=2 minutes. Of course they may not even stay for that long. But be repetitive by physically helping them stay or putting them back in the spot.

5. Don't over talk. The punishment is placing them in time out. No child can listen or rationalize when they are upset. Don't begin a speech about what they should have done. Simply state the reason and place them in the spot. Trust me they will get the point.

6. Adjust for older children. Time out for older children can simply mean taking a break to go think about their actions and repair. Kennedy, 8, after a few moments will apologize because she knows she was wrong (empathy). If I threaten a consequence, such as no company, or no television, then it is exactly that. What mommy says goes. Now there is always room for compromising. I try not to argue, but if she can logically state her case, I'm always down to listen. As parents the follow through is key (consistency, structure, limits).

7. After you impose a consequence start from a clean state. No holding grudges or punishing all day because of one moment. Let your child know that behavior is redeemable, and the consequence doesn't last forever. 

Let's Practice

My go to guide is as follows....this chart allows you to understand the cycle of time out. I promise you if you resort to this every time, your child will begin to decrease the amount of defiance. This provides your child with an environment of safety and consistency. Ultimately you as an adult decide what type of discipline strategies to use in the comforts of your home. I have seen my share fair of child abuse cases to know that time out is just an overall safe strategy. And that is not stating that those who choose spanking are abusers. The point is that we are teaching children that hitting is never okay, and there are more effective ways to get what you need.

 

Remember that most children, rather you are using spankings or time out loves you just the same. Your child wants to please you, but it is natural for our children to be in need of discipline. This is how children learn right from wrong, how to follow rules, and respect authority. We aren't born with the understanding of how and why we see the world the way it is. Children's brains develop in connection with the experiences parents expose them to. So always remember when you are considering how to use discipline, remember the messages you are sending and how you want those to be remembered.  

 

Mother's Day Craft

A Very Crafty Bouquet Of Flowers

Okay so we are pretty obsessed with collecting art material and finding simple yet fun crafting activities. Today we made use of our recycled paper towel and toilet paper rolls. I must say although this craft had tons of steps, it kept Karter (2) entertained the entire time. Partly because she has the ability to stay regulated when engaging in sensory play (finger paint), but also because with every step we used some sort of different material. So she would get excited every 15 minutes.

Kennedy and Karter have been on a flower/plant kick lately. Everyday they bring home some sort of new greenery that needs planted or attended too. I thought why not use the paper rolls to produce our very own bouquet of flowers. So here it goes.

Please feel free to adjust this craft to your liking. I know paint and other items can be intimidating so make sure it suits your comfortability.

Materials:

  1. Paper towels, toilet paper rolls. Paper towel rolls should be cut in half.
  2. Paint- finger, water, and/or acrylic
  3. Pipe Cleaners or popsicle sticks
  4. Cardboard
  5. Construction Paper
  6. Scissors
  7. Clear Glue or Mod Podge
  8. And any other art material that is great for decorating 

Begin my cutting down the rolls to be different sizes in length. Begin designing with paint, stickers, glitter, and whatever else suits your fancy.

Cut the cardboard (flat) into a square to be the base of your bouquet. While your rolls are drying on the side, begin to paint and design your base. Kennedy took it to the next level and covered her base with a cool paper design by just gluing it on top.

While both base and toilet rolls are drying. Begin cutting out flower designs with your construction paper. I did different shapes and sizes to make it more abstract. I let Karter use crayons to color the petals. Kennedy used that same pattern paper and cut out her petals and glued them together to give the appearance of a flower.

Puncture the center of the flowers, and place pipe cleaners to look like stems. I tied a little knot to hold the pipe cleaner in the center of the flower. Popsicle sticks can be substituted for pipe cleaners.  

After rolls are done drying, attach the pipe cleaner/popsicle stick to the inside of the roll using either glue or a small piece of tape. 

After base is completely dry, cover in clear glue/mod podge. Before drying occurs, sort all the rolls around the base, giving it the look of a bouquet of flowers.

Allow to dry and viola! Mommy has her very own crafty bouquet of flowers!

Happy Mother's Day to all my sweet momma's! Hoping this fun, simple craft creates a special and messy moment! (Thank me later) lol.

Strengthening The Parent/Child Relationship

The Importance of Building Attachment

From the moment babies are born it is clear they are able to communicate their needs. As parents the more we understand how to respond and meet those needs appropriately and efficiently the more are children will begin to understand the world around them. Attachment can be described as an establishment of an emotionally positive and mutually rewarding relationship between an infant and its parent or other caretaker (Gander and Gardiner, 1981). This concept is a 2-way street. It takes intentional effort by both the parent and child. Bonding is the process whereby parents and child determine that they are special to each other. It's important to note that this is not something that just happens, it's a process. And this process begins with understanding the importance of the parent child relationship.

Please note, this doesn't require you to have a 2 parent household, or the child to be yours biologically. Research tells us that children who have an secure attachment to at least one caregiver in the first year of life has a greater ability to handle stress, build healthy relationships, perform better in schools, higher self-worth, and helps build childhood resiliency. In summary, the way children receive love, is the same way they will project it. This is primary to promoting childhood development.

What is challenging for some parents is the idea that you can spoil your children with too much love. Parents have been told to allow their children to cry it out, or they shouldn't be held too much. I've even heard parents tell me that they don't want their sons to be soft. I am a true believer that there is no limit to loving or giving positive attention. Think how much of a tool this could be to building a child's self-esteem. Or how much greater of a world we would live in if we teach concepts of empathy, and love early on. Love has no gender, and love has no limits. There is a fine balance of love/discipline that should be offered. This is a great time to think about your own parenting style. Are you super passive, or too authoritative? Children need a balance of both love and limits. Setting limits doesn't mean you don't love your child, it means that you are teaching them tools of staying safe and having the ability to follow rules. What is not effective is if we only show children how to follow rules and/or create too many boundaries, without giving them rewards or being responsive (love). Not only is this harmful to development, it's not a reflection of the reality we live in. 

 Attachment Theory

As I could spend tons of time explaining what attachment theory encompasses. I thought a visual would be a great way to sum up what attachment looks like and it's implications on adulthood. Click on the charts below to get a better idea of attachment.

Attachment Activities: 

Okay now let's do it....

1. Special Handshake- Make up a special handshake together, taking turns adding new gestures. For example, you can do a five high, clasp hands, tickle palms, etc.

2. Co-Sleeping- IDK IDK IDK…Some will say this is dangerous, some say it’s necessary. I love the concept of co-sleeping. What I like to do is set up a “sleepover” night in our house. I allow the children to sleep as a reward or just a special night we create. They are able to understand that regularly they sleep in their own rooms, but it’s super special when I get to sleep with mom and dad.

3. Mirror-This activity does not necessarily require any physical items or toys. All it takes is having the parent and child both present and ready to interact with each other. The basic idea for this activity is to have the parent playfully copy what the child is doing, such as by having the child begin by clapping his hands together and having the parent clap their hands in the same volume and speed as the child. When the child changes his style of clapping (such as louder or softer), the parent should imitate the child. Eye contact, smiles, and laughs are also helpful to promote a healthy relationship and repair or enhance attachment. Mirroring can also be done with other activities, such as jumping, playing with toys, or facial expressions.

4. Piggy Back Rides- Piggy-back rides can help to strengthen parent-child relationships and repair or enhance attachment because they involve fun and physical closeness. When children are babies, they need plenty of physical contact with their parents. Babies thrive not only from being fed and kept physically safe, but also from feeling the comfort and security of having their parent close to them.

5. Brushing Hair- Sometimes girls can be fussy about getting their hair brushed, especially if they have experienced pain from well-meaning parents brushing their hair too hard. However, allowing a daughter to gently brush her mother’s hair and having a mother gently brush her daughter’s hair can be an activity that can promote connection. This can be a calming activity that includes a sense of nurturing which connects to a person’s internal experience of attachment and bonding.

6. Taco Girl-  She lays in the blanket aka taco shell.  Then we put all of the toppings with different sounds for each.  Hamburger, lettuce, tomato, cheese, sour cream, salsa, then we wrap her up in the blanket.  Next, we pretend to “eat” the taco.  Tickling and saying, “this is one very yummy taco” the whole time.  

7. Cuddles-Have you ever tried to hug someone who doesn’t like physical touch? Awkward. Physical touch doesn’t have to be your love language for you to appreciate the connection and thought it implies. If parents never touch their children they will be deprived affection. If your kids are deprived affection they will seek it elsewhere. Believe me, you will not like where else they seek it.

 

In Summary

This quote sums of the idea of attachment perfectly. Love on your children, love on the children around you (being aware of stranger danger of course). The point is that teaching concepts of love and bonding are learned behaviors. Be comfortable with touch, and step out of your comfort zone. No one should or will love on your children as genuinely as a parent and vice versa. Love heals all, feels all, and has no bias. Love on your children, for when they are lost, the memories of love will lead them back to you.

 

Potty What!

Here I am, starting all over after having an only child for almost 7 years, and I am totally clueless on how to begin the process of potty training my almost 2 year old. My older daughter was a piece of cake, this little one, not so much. Karter is one of the smartest toddlers I know, with no bias, lol. Did I mention that she will come up to her father and I after soiling her diaper to ask to be changed. As an early childhood professional, I am a true believer of letting your child show you they are eager to conquer a new task naturally. But Karter, has mommy going crazy, as she is showing tons of signs of being ready. I posed a question to my social media mommies asking for some of the best strategies and/or tips on the secrets to potty training, so of course I had to share!

Signs of Readiness

It is important to note that as parents we naturally feel the need to compare children. If it's comparing them to kids at the park, or siblings, it's hard to not want your child to be the best at whatever they do. Children are truly one of a kind. Potty training before 2, or after entering preschool is not more genius than the other. In the same breathe if your'e truly concerned that your child is not interested I would take them to a primary health physician to get more feedback. Also notice changes in environment, and survey all aspects of your child's life that could be impacting their ability to toilet train. Some concerns may be validated by an alternative source, so be aware of your child's capabilities and move forward with that in mind. There are some truth-telling signs that your child is eager to move forward and is possibly ready to begin potty training.

  1. A decrease in wet diapers- if they are capable of waiting hours in between wet diapers, they are more prepared to be toilet trained. This tells you they have the ability to hold it until they can release. 
  2. They can announce it- in my case Karter will directly tell me "Mommy I poop", or will ask to be changed because it feels uncomfortable. She now understands her bodily functions, and the need to be clean.
  3. They have the ability to undress- fine and gross motor skills are necessary. If your child seems ready but cant pull his pants down, there's a problem. Begin to teach the process of pulling there pants up and down. Need more practice in those areas google fine/gross motor activities to help.
  4. They are curious- Nothing is more curious than your child following you to see how it's done. This means they want to know how they could possibly master it themselves. Act on your child's curiosity.  
  5. Predictability- If your child is going routinely after eating and drinking, this can make toilet training easy. As parents you know when your child needs to go and so do they!
  6. And most importantly- they demonstrate wanting to be independent, and take pride in their accomplishments- this is displayed by them having the motivation to want to be toilet trained and feeling the reward of doing so.

Okay are they ready?! Here we go....

Top 10 Potty Training Tips!

1. No Pull Ups- My mommy friends tell me this is a big no no! It feels too much like a diaper. The feel of a diaper allows your child to believe they can still soil themselves and/or are confused on if it is indeed a diaper. Allow them to feel uncomfortable, to encourage them to not want to feel that way again. I received a great tip of something called plastic undies. The idea is that they don't get the clothes wet, but the child can still feel the sense of wetness. Genius!

2. Freedom Reigns- I've heard through the grapevine that 3 complete days of nakedness does the trick. This means delegating time to just allow them to be free to hurry and get to the potty. Allow for tons of accidents. After they have mastered going to the potty naked, begin trying to implement having on clothes.

3. Favorite Undies- If your child is anything like every other kid in this world...they have a favorite character/object of some sort. I am hoping it is a character that can be brought as underwear. Encourage them to not get Dora, Trucks, Elmo wet. My daughter is obsessed with frozen. I'll make a big deal of it by saying "Don't get Anna wet, that makes her sad". Practicing feelings and potty training. Win win.

4.  Bribes- Sticker charts, treats, candy...whatever will kick in the enthusiasm. Nothing like getting an instant reward for pleasing the parentals. Make sure they are motivated by the reward, by it being something they don't get often. Don't feel comfortable giving candy, don't do it. Do what works for you and your child.

5. Special Toys- A mother shared with me, that she purchased a toy that their child only played with during potty time. I thought, GENIUS! What a way to get your child to sit still. I then thought of the massive meltdown once it's over. But hey beggars can't be choosers, pick your battles wisely.

6. Books and Music- Prep is everything. The more you expose your child to the concept of being toilet trained, the more prepared they are to complete the task. Visit your local library, and youtube for songs and books specific about going to the potty!

7. Target Practice- Make a game of it. One game a friend of mine suggested is putting a cheerio in the potty and letting their son have target practice. Sounds safe to me!

8. Big or Little Pot- Some kids prefer going to the adult size toilet, for others this can be intimidating. Find what it is your child fears so they are not super anxious or reserved about going.

9. Praise/Model- Nothing is better than positive reinforcement. You can never give your child enough verbal praise. Kids enjoy pleasing parents, and crave positive attention. The more you bring attention to it, the more likely they will do it. Praise yourself and make a big deal out of it. You go use the restroom, bring them, and tell yourself out-loud "I did it"!

8. Clock Work- Time is everything. Be routine and structured about it. Observe how long it takes your child to digest food, or hold water. Take note of your child's body and use it towards your advantage.

10. Patience is a Virtue- Allow your child to show you the signs that I covered earlier. The thought of not buying diapers is awesome, but you don't want to make for a traumatizing experience. Kids who are often rushed, regress back, or have an increase of accidents.

With all this being said. Karter is just not ready, or at least I didn't conquer it this week. She won and I'm totally okay with that. She is excelling in areas, and reserved in others. I don't blame her for wanting to be my baby for a little longer. I will continue to encourage her without being forceful. I want her to feel proud when she is ready to succeed at going. Often times we as parents rush are children to grow up, and then when they are older we wish they had stayed young. Enjoy your children just where they are. Nothing more precious than time...

Skills should be encouraged, not forced.
— Mommy Wells
 

Supporting Self-Regulation

Close your eyes and picture this:

Your 2 year old is home, running around per usual. He/she notices that their sibling is playing with a toy that sparks their interest. Your 2 year old goes and snatches the toy screaming "this is mine!" As they proceed to run with the toy, they miss a step and fumble. Not only did they just lose the ball, but now they are hurting. All you hear is screams.....

Does this sound familiar? This seems like an everyday occurrence at my home. Accidents and emotional breakdowns happening left and right, with a toddler whose only response is to cry, and a tween that has a slight attitude problem. Well I am here to tell you that we can decrease breakdowns by understanding our role in developing your child's self-regulation skills.

What is Self-Regulation?

Before I write a novel, I will simplify all that self regulation encompasses. Self-regulation is the process that your child goes through that gives them the ability to control their behaviors and emotions. Children develop at different rates, this is also true for self-regulation. It is important to understand that self-regulation does not occur in isolation. Physical behaviors such as needing to be rocked, thumb sucking, swaddled, feeding, etc.; are all driven by getting an specific need met. These are early signs of self-regulation. Emotional regulation is a child's discovery of how to manage their emotions to socialize with peers and adults. This is exhibited by learning how to share, throwing tantrums, following the rules, and saying one's needs. Demanding "this is mine!". Self-regulation involves using tools to help work and process challenging moments. Those same tools require thoughtful planning by both parent and child.  

 Basically...

Basically...

Why is this important?

Self-regulation is the foundation of early childhood development. It's the seed planted to assist adults with managing emotions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. If we give children the ability to learn strategies to stay calm in stressful situations. As they begin to grow into adults they will continue to use the same habits of using effective coping skills. Hence, self-regulation works as a bridge. During the preschool years children have to learn several new concepts. This includes but not limited to learning how to sit, listen, share, follow directions, and rules. This all happens simultaneously and continuously. Not to mention one day children are protected from the world by parents, the next day we are prepping them to face the world on their own (preschool). This idea can be overwhelming for little ones. The more we understand how we can guide our children to self-regulate, the more we can begin to feel comfortable about letting them go off into the world alone...

This week I will be sharing via social media, fun, simple self regulation strategies/games! I will leave you with a few simple ideas here on the site.

Allow your child to consume lots of water. Fueling with water is necessary to keep our nervous system to stay calm.

Lots of sleep. Kids can sleep up to 12-14 hours a day. And they absolutely need it! Lack of sleep makes for a challenging day!

Provide opportunities for free play/outdoor play. Let the energy out. Increase heart rate=more blood flow to the brain= brain power.

Walks... My older daughter when feeling emotional dysregulated just needs a walk for fresh air. As her body begins to increase with happy hormones that by physical activity, she presents as more calm.

Blowing bubbles is the same idea of practicing deep breathing. When you blow bubbles too quickly or too slow, it may cause for a disaster. But if you do it from the belly, at the right tempo, you get the perfect amount. Show kids how to deep breathe by using bubbles. Plus who doesn't like bubbles, lol.

Read books about feelings and that offer sensory stimulation. I love Todd Parr books, he does an amazing job displaying an array of feeling vocabulary. Usbourne children's books offers the use of sensory. "That's not my"...books use textures to stimulate your young reader. Sensory is linked with self-regulation. Offer sensory items to help keep your child regulated.

Music! Again this is linked with sensory play. Music is known to be something that allows you to stay relaxed. It is also an opportunity for your child to use both sides of their brain!

 Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!

Kids Yoga! Yoga is a great way for kids to connect to their bodies, stay focused and calm themselves. Try adding 15 mins a day or after a meltdown!


I would like to challenge you to allow your child during the next meltdown to do one of these as a way to redirect a challenging behavior. Take advantage of moments that provide you with an opportunity to teach. When you put your child in time out, offer bubbles; can't get a child to share, read a book about sharing. That 2 year old we discussed earlier was able to get up, come to mommy, and ask for a simple hug. The perfect coping strategy to help self regulate :-)








Guiding Your Child's Temperament

Temperament 

~a person's or animal's nature, especially as it permanently affects their behavior...

If there is one thing that I have begin to understand about my own style of parenting is that my personal attitude and/or biases have a personal effect on how I guide my children. I like to blame my horoscope to provide evidence to why some of my kid's behaviors affect me personally. I'm a fan of horoscopes, slightly because my mother's own biases, but mostly because they are so accurate. Maurice (my husband)  believes it's general information that fits the mold of all people. I like to think that our universe provides a reason for everything, so following my zodiac is a way to explain some of it. So for example, I am a Cancer, emotional at heart, very reactive, and quite tenacious. My eldest daughter is a Gemini, represented by 2 heads to show the prevalence of 2 personalities, so she is up and down. Very expressive, but can often times be very serious. And then there is my youngest daughter, an Aries, who is very determined and courageous, but can be very impatient.  

This was easily played out on the day of our family photo shoot. Here I am trying to work on the advancement of my family, and my children have the audacity to show their most challenging characteristics of their zodiac sign. Of course the OCD mommy in me, has been prepping my children for this day for the past few weeks. Making sure they knew what to expect, and just a little practice of smiling, lol. The day gets here and I wake up  super early due to excitement. Then I was quickly reminded that yesterday Karter didn't nap, and I witnessed Kennedy waking up on the wrong side of the bed (figuratively). I knew what type of day was ahead. It's funny because as a mother, I can innately tell when my children will have crummy days. So, as I run around with excitement, my girls decide to give me the blues. Kennedy dragging, not liking how her hair was done, upset because she couldn't have colored lip gloss. Karter refusing to eat breakfast, begging for a fruit snack instead, and with the energy of a 2 y/o (because she is 2). I wanted to scream. But I pressed forward to continue to make sure we would accomplish the task. As we begin to prep for pictures, I can tell Kennedy's body language screamed that she wasn't happy, all awhile Karter won't smile, and keeps playing a game of cat and mouse with her invisible friend. I keep pushing, but it was getting to be overwhelming. My husband is more worried about his shirt looking wrenkled and was at no assistance, lol, he was clearly excited.  So I started to get frustrated, I begin to address Kennedy, as she cried and ran upstairs. Karter begin to tantrum, and I just felt like I was going to lose my mind. Then in a moment of self reflection, because at my most challenging times, I have to self reflect to get re-centered. I  quickly reminded myself of my children's temperaments and how I needed to use that to get what I wanted.


Tips:

  1. Understand that temperament is biology. There is nothing you can do about it. It's nature's gift to us to show our individuality. There is nothing you can do to change it, so don't try to.  Your child's temperament is not a reflection of you. It's a reflection of their own uniqueness.

  2. Understand your temperament and how it is different from your child's. Use that to understand how to respond to make things more effective or more challenging. Ask yourself if my child is already over emotional, if I scream, I'm sure that is going to make them cry. We are able to tailor our responses from our children, even other adults. Be aware of how your personalities clash and/or compatible.

  3. Just respect it- it is what it is. And don't compare it to another child, as if one is better than the other. No one's temperament is better than the other just because it appears to be more tolerable. There is no competition when it comes to temperament.

  4. Always model what you want to see from your children. If I always go off when frustrated, it's natural for children to learn that same behavior. This is challenging because we are human. But we are our child's first teacher. You have to literally live in the light you want your child to follow.

  5. Avoid any situations that you know are a hazard. Some children are sensory sensitive. High stimulation, too much noise, lots of people, can be anxiety provoking. Find a way to prepare for the moments you know will be tough.

  6. Focus on the present moment. Key in to what is happening now. Don't project things in the future, and don't live in the past. Work on what's in the moment so that you always address things with a fresh perspective.

  7. Try to find a way to appreciate both negative and positive attributes of your child. Being emotional is not a bad thing. Always feed your child positivity, or find a way to refrain it. I also tell Kennedy when she is upset, that it's okay for her to be experiencing an emotion, but what happens if we stay in that emotion for too long? Never label your child as bad. Those thoughts stick in your child's brain, and children begin to believe what it is people they trust is telling them. Once you label a child bad, it can lead them to doing bad things, because they already have the title.

  8. And lastly SELF CARE- find a way to always recenter yourself by spending time apart from your child to be self reflective, and take a break.

We will never get it 100% right. But today I finished my first photo shoot with my crazy family. I don't care that it took 4 hours, I got it done, and that's all that matters. By understanding that my girls are human, and I am human. We cried, laughed, got frustrated, and ran around...but we ended happily. 

A few outtakes before I get the finished product :-)


"Feelings" Matter

Happy, Sad, Mad, Scared....

Yes, we all have had a mix of emotions experienced in our lifetime, but did you know that very young children do too?

 Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

Karter practicing her deep breathes at 18m.

As early as 18 months children start to display empathy. This is not to be confused with sympathy. Empathy is the ability to feel another person’s pain and having an urge to want to soothe it. Empathy fuels connection and sympathy drives connection. This is a way for children to begin to understand how other people feel, even when they don't feel that way. This concept is introduced in early infancy. For example, when a baby cries and mommy or daddy comes to soothe them, this begins the process of learning how feelings and emotions connect with others. This continues to develop, as a child learns that certain cries or screams deem different reactions from caregivers. i.e. I need to be changed, held, fed, sleep, etc. 

WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT?

Understanding one's feeling early on can impact the connections children make as adults. Studies show that children who are empathetic tend to do better in school, in social situations, and in their adult careers. These skills provide a more compassionate relationship between individuals big and small. Most importantly we want to raise children who want to help one another, so that they can have a better understanding of the world around them.

HOW CAN WE DO THIS?

I like to use feeling identification to continue to teach my children the importance of empathy but also how to process feelings for themselves.

 

It’s the power of understanding that it’s okay to experience an emotion as long as you know how to process it.
— Mommy Wells

 

For a young child who experiences several emotions daily, having adults who validate those emotions as "real" can be substantial and gives them the ability to transfer that same notion to peers. For example: Karter is into the "it's mine" phase, no matter if it's hers or not. She will take Kennedy's toys and claim them, as well as other children her age. I will begin to explain to her "that makes Kennedy sad when you take her toys." She has begun to understand sad and hates for her sister to feel that way. Therefore giving back her toy because she feels empathy for her sister.

Understanding feelings helps children problem solve. As adults we can introduce this concept by labeling and validating our child's feelings very early. When your child is feeling sad, tell them, wow you look sad. If they are angry, tell them that. This makes them feel important. For a child they feel as if my parent really understands me. The worst thing a parent can do is to tell a child that they are not allowed to feel a certain way because they are a child or to tell them to suck it up. This can be very dis-empowering. As parents we don't need to place band aids to cover up the feeling, we focus more on the healing process to encourage growth.

To take it to the next step, begin to offer coping strategies. As adults we can't be productive if we stay in a certain emotion...mad, sad, angry, jealous. I like to teach my children that it's okay to experience feelings but what do we do about them. For example, if Kennedy is angry about doing homework, I will acknowledge that by stating "wow you seem upset you have to do homework" (i.e. validate). Then I'll go on to say "what can we do to make it better for you" (coping strategy). Same with my toddler Karter, "you are so SAD you have to share your toy" (validate). "Can you give mommy a hug to help you feel better or take turns" (coping strategy). This habit will allow your child to begin to understand their own emotions, but also how to get relief.

Here are some strategies I use to help teach my children the concept of feelings and emotions. 

 

As adults we have to give our children the tools for better outcomes in the future. Leading to healthy adult lifestyles.
— Mommy Wells

1. Books!!! This is awesome for toddlers as well as adolescents. Reading is the tool to help spark conversation. At beginner level they can begin to learn what feelings are and the faces to match. For older children this can be more about how to process feelings. Here are a few books I love.

2. Feeling Flashcards! This is just a extension of a book. It is more specific in nature. I use flashcards as a way to have conversations about the "feeling" and the moments my children have felt that way. Sometimes kids will describe a feeling and it's totally different from what they are displaying. Kennedy gets frustrated and angry confused. Although they may look the same they warrant different responses. This is a great way to make sure your child's feeling matches what they feel so that they have a better understanding on what to do with it.

3. Feeling Charts! When a child is experiencing a emotion, this could be a great quick reference to help children process quickly. I hung this up in my baby girl's room. When she gets upset, I'll point and say the feeling, and then try to redirect her behavior, or offer her a coping strategy such as blow some bubbles, count to 10, get a hug, rest, etc.

NOTE: If we are asking children to process emotions, be mindful about  providing tools to help them process. Sensory items are great to help kids calm down, it literally slows down their heart rate. Offer a "calm space" for them to sqeeze a stress ball, hit their pillow, take deep breathes. Sounds familiar right? As adults we need to call a friend, listen to music, go workout. Same premise, same purpose. 

4. Videos! You wouldn't believe how my toddler is already obsessed with YouTube. She loves watching some of the most weirdest videos of people opening eggs, or people being silly. I use this to my advantage. I have found some pretty amazing feeling songs. This is another reminder of how great sensory integration can be. Music is tied to memory.  Check out "Super Simple Songs", they not only have an amazing "feeling song" they offer a palette of toddler/preschool friendly music. Check Karter out!

5. Pretend Play! Self explanatory, it's the foundation of learning for children. Use puppets to act out problem solving scenarios. Great learning tool and children love them!

 

Last Thoughts!

Our early childhood experiences transpire into our adult lives. The more that goes into prepping our children the more impact we will have regarding their future.

Please check out my Pinterest account for all great ideas in regards to childhood emotions and feelings!

Shaving Cream Fun!

The magic of shaving cream.

Today we used shaving cream as our sensory tool. I added a extra twist by making it holiday festive, but please feel free to use whatever design you like. Allow for this to keep the kiddos occupied in their imaginations for a little...

Material:

  1. Shaving Cream
  2. Construction Paper/Card Stock
  3. Paint and/or Food coloring
  4. Q-Tips and/or Paintbrushes
  5. Cupcake holder/Paper plates

Begin by cutting out any design to use as your template. I chose a heart shape, due to it being Valentine's Day.

Spray out shaving cream in different sections to separate by color. I used a cupcake pan, and sprayed as much as I thought my children would use. Add a few drops of food coloring and/or paint. I used both for brightness and  to assure it dried on the paper.

Use paintbrushes and/or a Q-tip to begin painting!

Note: I prefer hands! Therefore they can really use "touch", and truly integrate the sensory play. Again this helps with self regulation and increases a child's brain develop! 

Describe the art as they paint to help increase your child's knowledge of colors and how they mix to make new colors!

Have fun!

P.S. After you are all done. Place your extra shaving cream and color into a plastic ziploc bags. Prevent your child from opening them by sealing the bags with tape. These little sensory bags can continue the fun. Let them draw letters using there hands, or just to squash around!

 

 

 

 

Effective "Chart" Making

BEhavior Charts, reward charts, chore charts, potty charts just to name a few....

It's great that parents come up with many different ways to get our kids to comply with our rules. One way we do this is by creating a chart that is a visual reminder for kiddos to stay on task, or be motivated to do whatever it is we are requesting. Little Johnny goes to his room and the first thing he notices is his chart, and boom "magic" he does what is displayed and gets his sticker or candy, right? Wrong!! 

Online forums will tell you to make a list of all required task or chores you want done, and all day the child is to follow to your expectation to get the reward. Well this is not totally wrong, but can be totally unrealistic. How challenging is it to be perfect all day as a 5 year old? Even I as an adult cannot stay on task, or follow all orders requested by my boss daily. Sometimes as parents I believe we forget how young our child's mind can be, and how immature the brain functions. We expect for them to comply, 99% of the time, with little room for error. This can be a major set up for the child to fail, and increase stress on the parent. Well I am here to tell you we all have had it wrong. Allow me to share some effective tips when creating any type of chart that will increase the behavior you are seeking, all while making your child motivated to do so. 

 Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Daddy Wells using a "chart" to go over letters and numbers. Charts work...learn how

Chart Making Tips

1. ONE behavior at a time-This is the most effective tool of them all! Very challenging because most parents lump a lot of behaviors together. As parents we place every negative behavior on a chart, and tell Johnny if he doesn't do all those negative behaviors he can get a reward. For a child this can be overwhelming. It's just too much, and so when they fail at one they are not encouraged to do the others. I would start by thinking about your child's most challenging behavior, the behavior that is primary to the others or drives the others. For instance when Kennedy was in preschool she would bite and hit. For me biting was more "bad" then hitting. The goal is to focus on one, fizzle the chart out, and work on another. The child is empowered to complete the next task because they feel good about completing the first. If you're really effective, the most challenging behavior, if tackled, will diminish the others.

2. Positive Reinforcement-When you label the chart, use a title or word of the behavior you "want" to see. This is like the red button in the elevator. You're told not to press the red button and somehow it makes you want to touch it more. Stating what you would like to see, makes it easy for the child to follow. Example: When I tell Karter "no throwing", she immediately throws. But if I say "calm hands", she shows me her calm hands. This takes practice. Before creating the chart think about the behavior you want to see "more" of. Begin using it in your everyday conversation so your child understands what it is you're asking of them. So for a kid who doesn't listen, I would place "listening ears" on the top of the chart. "No hitting" change to "gentle hands", kids who scream "soft voice". Again this encourages them to succeed because they know exactly what mommy/daddy is expecting. It feels positive and promising.

3.  Small and Simple-Make the steps incredibly small and simple. I really like to allow my kids to feel like they can do it. Great to help build your child's self esteem! It can be tough to follow a rule all day. Notice the times your child negative behavior increases or is most present. So if your child screams more in the afternoon, simplify your chart only focusing on the 3 hour period in the afternoon and reward with a sticker every half hour. I love to do this for homework time at my house. Kennedy loves to complain after school about homework, even though she knows she has to do it. Her chart is labeled "Positive homework vibes"- the behavior I want to see. I created a chart that marks off 4p-6p, 30 min increments. Every 30m that Kennedy displays "positive homework vibes" she places a check mark. The more specific the better. Again be realistic, once the child has mastered a few hours you can continue to increase, and increase, until it is no longer needed.

NOTE: if your child can earn 6 stickers/checks/etc during the allotted time, I would not expect for them to get all 6 to get the reward. You know your child best. If your child is very defiant, start small allowing them to earn 2 stickers. This increases there motivation to want to strive for more.  Rule of thumb is to cut in half, and increase the challenge as you see them increase the behavior. This is the same for weekly rewards. Kids need to have a since of pride,"Mom I can do it, so I want to do it more" (hopefully).

4. Daily and Weekly-Make daily and weekly rewards. This is pretty self explanatory. Children NEED instant gratification. No way can a child wait until Friday for an accomplishment produced Monday. Similar to a dog, when he does the trick/goes to the potty we reward right after to encourage them to do it again. Daily rewards can be simple and no cost at all. Ex. Stay up 15 minutes past bedtime, read an extra story at bedtime, extra electronic time, etc. Most importantly allow your child to help you come up with rewards. Nothing is more painful then rewarding your child with something they don't like. This is the easiest way to lose the child's interest. Should you go out and purchase expensive toys, NOT AT ALL!  The point is to increase something they already enjoy. Weekly rewards can be low cost. Be creative and practical. 

IDEA: Together me and Kennedy made a list of fun inexpensive rewards she would like. Ex: Special play dates, pick her favorite meal for dinner, $1 Target section greatness, etc. We placed in a box, and she had the ability to pick out a reward weekly. Super fun craft idea as well (have the child design the box to their liking)!

5. No Double Consequences-Do not mix rewards with punishment. If your child does not do the task, they simply don't get the reward. Double consequences is never a good idea. Again this gives the child little motivation to start over. I love positive reinforcement. Kids know when they are bad, they rarely are praised for being good. Everyday is a new day to start over. Never allow the frustration from the previous day impact the child's ability the next.

6. Fizzle Out-Lastly! Gradually decrease rewards with social acceptance. Children are creatures of habit. After a few weeks/months of heavy rewards for a specific behavior soon it will become part of their routine. Just be aware of how much your child is motivated by the reward, and make sure it's more focused on accomplishing the behavior. Praise them heavily, continue to make a big deal out of it when they do it, but don't offer a reward. You can then begin your new behavior/task you want to work on.

Final Thoughts

We are all motivated by something. Adults work hard to get rewards out of life. This is the same for children. Some parents argue kids should do what's told simply because they don't have a choice. This is all well and good, but it's just not true. They do have a choice, and if they choose "no" each time, you are then left frustrated, and non effective. We are raising children in a different generation. Advertisements are heavy, and the need for gratification has increased. Allow this to work in your favor. In the end it will save you from lots of stressful moments. And at the end of the day, you're the one who really won!

FYI: All resources below we're found on Pinterest! Click my Pinterest link to see some of my favorite charts to use!

The Benefits of Play Dates

It’s amazing to stand back and watch her interact, seeing the pieces of me directly reflected in her ways.
— Mommy Wells

Who likes playdates? (Sarcastic mommy voice)

Okay not everyone...playdates can be stressful. The biggest challenge with playdates are setting them up. Who, what, when, where, and how are just some of the barriers to putting it all together. Rather just have your child play alone, sounds easier right? This is true, but there are several benefits for both younger and older children when being intentional about creating social interactions, and developing friendships. Social and emotional development is necessary for all children. Not only do we live in a society that requires us in some capacity to be extroverts, kids have something way more important that they have to conquer "School"! School by far is the biggest social exchange for children, and rather then wait for school to be a place to break the ice, what better way to prepare children then by having a playdate.

For younger children playdates would be a great introduction for preschool or kindergarten.  Social and emotional development within the early years of life allows for your child to build confidence, develop problem solving skills, increase critical thinking, and communicate emotions. These components lead towards a pathway to greater success and learning. When creating a playdate, as a mommy, I like to use this time to coach Karter on skills like sharing, showing empathy, taking turns, and sharing her personal space. Of course Karter would like to think that the world revolves around her, in some ways that is true, but in others it is not realistic. The more she is exposed to other children the less anxiety she will have about being around them. This makes for an easier transition into school, and is the foundation for leaning how to build friendships outside of family.

 Karter looking unamused, but having fun beside my friend's daughter Tara. Parallel play at it's finest.

Karter looking unamused, but having fun beside my friend's daughter Tara. Parallel play at it's finest.

For older children playdates are an extension of the foundational tools that are mastered early on. Kennedy is at a stage of life that she request an increase amount of social interaction. Always asking for sleep overs, or wants to be on her Ipod Face-timing.  Early adolescence is the ground point of self identity. Kennedy is finding herself through the power of her friendships. This is where choosing the "right" types of friends is vital. During her time with a friend/s, I am very purposeful in making sure she is being respectful, not being "clicky", and respecting her values that I have reinforced. I want her to have the ability to have fun, share secrets, and talk about boys (shhhh). But I want to make sure she is being safe, honest to who she is, and being fair by not always dominating. It's amazing to stand back and watch her interact, seeing the pieces of me directly reflected in her ways. Playdates build leaders.

 Kennedy and her school friends. And a plus 1 always.

Kennedy and her school friends. And a plus 1 always.

Play Date Tips:

1. Meet like wise mommies. I know it sucks to go outside your friend zone, but making relationships with parents of the children in the classroom is necessary. It's a easy point to start because your children are already friends. Adult life is about cultivating your associates. Most classrooms make rosters available for parents who don't mind being contacted. Just ask. For younger children start with personal mommy friends, or playgroups. 

2. Start small and in the community. I don't often invite people in my personal space (home). Setting up a meeting at a location for the kids to have fun is a great way to ease the stress of having someone you don't know in your home. This shifts great into tip #3.

3. I do not endorse sleepovers with strangers. I am a social worker and have been jaded by my profession. I have to have a personal relationship with you to secure my child's safety. This also speaks to knowing who your child is friends with. Birds of a feather flock together. Allow your children to be around kids who influence them in a positive way. Very similar to how we should look at friendships as adults.

4. Be observant. Coach your little one by describing the play interactions and explaining what you want them to do. Meltdowns will occur because they are not use to sharing their space. This is a great introduction into teaching empathy, and the concepts of sharing. With older children be mindful of their conversations, and try to have activities planned to make bonding intentional. 

5. Let kids be kids. Its so organic for children to have the ability to master friendships. Some children are more reserved or shy. I would offer more support if warranted. But all in all, allow them to have fun, share awkward silence, or just be in the same space. Sometimes the art of nothing is better than too much. 

If any of my local moms who are interested in a group playdate, contact me via email. I am eager to start a mommy support group of some sort!

Overcoming Doctor Visits

It is natural for young children to have fear around going to the Doctor. The first 2 years of a child's life is dedicated to doctor visits that require vaccines, strange instruments, and people in your child's personal space that they don't know. This is not only anxiety provoking for the chid, but can be stressful on the parent. Especially when the nurse ask for you to be the one to hold down your child as they quickly gauge needles in their little arms and legs. And if your toddler is anything like mine, the crying spell can lead all the way to the car. The shots will never be easy, yes they will still cry. These helpful tips will allow your child to feel safer, and present more calm. Easing the child, eases the parent. And I'm all about making a parent's job easier. 

1. How you interact with the doctor models how your child will respond. Be positive, the doctor should be your friend. The more a child knows that mommy/daddy trust this person, they can begin to trust them too. 

2. Pretend play! Down below is a example of a doctor kit that I allow Karter to use as she engages in imaginary play. I let her play doctor, and when she pretends to give me a shot I'll say "ouchy, that hurt, but mommy is being brave". This way I'm not ignoring the fact that it doesn't feel good, but I am complimenting her for following through.  I'll then give her a friendly check up using verbal descriptions while she plays, remember the power in "praising" your child. If you give encouragement, the more prone a child will be to achieve the task.

 B. Dr. Doctor

B. Dr. Doctor

3. Find a good book. Literature around several topics is a great way to comfort children. Visit your local library and request a book around dr. visits. My favorite is "The Berenstain Bears Go to the DoctorSay "Ahhh!"

4. Allow for them to bring a comfort toy. 

5. Provide lots of hugs and kisses. Because that's exactly what you need when you're hurt. Show empathy, validate their feelings, and never lie. If their getting shots, don't tell them they aren't. This will cause the experience to be worst. And once the trust is broken every doctor visit that follows will be challenging.

6. And the most important tip: FIND THE RIGHT DOCTOR. There are several pediatricians that are not child friendly, weird right. Find someone that presents like a person you would want to see as a child. This can be trial and error. But if this person is someone you need to trust with your child's health, then it's worth the battle.



The Power of Our Words

A well known research study done by Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995), found that some children are introduced to a maximum of thirty million words by their 4th birthday. Those same children were followed into grade school and excelled in reading, received higher test scores, in addition to having an extensive vocabulary.

How so you ask...The Power of our Words.

Parents and caregivers are the child's first teacher. Children have the ability to began recognizing language pre-natal (in the womb), and this continues to expand and be most vital until age 3. Expanding a child's early language development happens by increasing the parent child relationship. This doesn't mean you have to go around reciting Shakespeare, this simply means you have to master the art of speaking to your child. Babbling is cool and all, but speaking with diction and adult like language is best. This way they can master the art of communication.

Remember these key components:

1. Be Positive- always model what you would like to hear from your child. Use your manners, be attentive, and allow for them to have time to talk back. These are all effective communication techniques that transpire into adulthood.

2. Be Descriptive- explain what you are doing, and describe what they are doing. Children will began to recognize that what you are explaining is what they are doing, and will connect the two. 

All in All...just talk more!

For more information regarding the power of language. Please check out this cool initiative.

http://thirtymillionwords.org/

Snow day in

Snow Days Indoors

Who doesn't enjoy a snow day! Not only because you have an excuse to stay inside and wear pj's, but the snow fall can be quite relaxing. If your home is remotely like mine, days in can be challenging. Partly because you have energized kids whose need for outdoor play is at a all time high.

Karter was fascinated by the first snow fall. She glared outside the window, yelling "snow mommy, snow"! It was the sweetest gesture, but as a "resistant to cold weather mommy" (yes, I live in Ohio) I refused to take her outside. So what better idea than to create a sensory play activity and bring the snow in!

I literally scooped up a fresh pile of snow, placed it in a container, got out some molding toys we use for Play-Doh and let her go at it. Use whatever size container makes you feel comfortable, and place it on a mat or towel in a space that you don't mind getting wet. To make it more interesting you can add food coloring to continue to educate your young one on colors or just to make it more visually stimulating. 

We both were satisfied. She was able to play in the snow and I stayed in my warm pj's and watched from the couch! Double win!