November Is For Giving

Every year the gap between Halloween and Christmas seems to close.  November 1st hits, and BOOM, people are talking about Christmas, or even going as far as putting up their Christmas decorations.  We seem to have forgotten a very important holiday that is in the middle, the star of November, Thanksgiving.  Society is quick to jump from the overindulgence and hoarding of candy on Halloween to the flashy commercialism of buying and getting gifts.  We forget to slow down, take count in our blessing, and just be thankful.

We start on November 1st

In my house November is for giving.  We start on November 1st with a candy donation.  Our neighborhood is very generous with all the candy and treats they pass out, and there is no way my kids will eat all of it. So, I give each kid a small bowl and have them fill it with the candy/treats they really want.  Then, the rest goes into a box that we donate to the soldiers.  We are always sure in include a thank you note or pictures as well. Organizations like Operation Gratitude and Soldiers’ Angels collect candy, treats and other items to send in care packages to hard working military members overseas.  You can find a donation location near you here.  Be sure to check the deadline dates, some are fast approaching.

 

My family also knows that in November we go through everything and donate.  Toys, books, clothes, kitchen items, etc., everything gets examined and if we haven’t used it in a while, we donate it to a local charity.  Our kids’ books and toys go to a donation center called The Toy Box Collection.  They distribute toys and books to over 20 local children’s hospitals, shelters, orphanages, and other kids in need.  As we are going through, I talk to the kids about how lucky we are, and how some kids don’t have as much as they do.  Sometimes this is hard, especially with younger kids, but we talk through it.  I ask them to remember some happy memories playing with a toy, and then have them imagine how many happy moments it will bring another child.  We repeat often, November is for giving.

There are many ways to give

We also try to find ways to give our time.  My mom’s group hosts an Operation Christmas Child collection and packing party.  My son’s Cub Scouts also do several service projects including Feed My Starving Children.  If we see a food pantry collection box, we try to put something in it.  And every time we do, we talk about how it is important to help others.  November is for giving, and I’d like to see more people take the time to remember that.

Choices and Consequences

Life is all about making choices and dealing with the consequences.  Good choices lead to good consequences, which we usually refer to as rewards.  Bad choices lead to bad consequences, which we usually refer to as punishment.  However in calling consequences either rewards or punishments tends to confuse us as parents, and skews our view of parenting.

Consequences are simply the results of our choices.

In parenting, one of our main goals is to teach our kids that their choices have consequences.  However, they don’t necessarily need to be rewards or punishments; they can just be naturally occurring consequences.  You don’t always have to take something away, and you don’t always have to give something to your child.  Does that make sense?

If you want your child to do their homework right away when they get home from school, tell them so.  Then give them a choice: they can get their homework done asap, and then have the rest of the evening to play, or they can sit at the table (desk or where ever) until they are ready to do their homework.  If they make a good choice, they can have more play time (good consequence).  If they make a bad choice, they delay their play time (bad consequence).  In this instance, you are not “rewarding” your child with something that wasn’t already going to happen.  And you’re not “punishing” them by taking something away.  It is all up to them and what they choose to do.

Setting the parameters.

This works for just about any situation.  All you have to do is set up the parameters:

  1. Determine what you are wanting your child to do.

-Get ready for bed

-Clean up toys

-Get dressed

 

  1. Clearly state the consequences to your child.

-If you don’t get ready for bed now, we won’t have time for a story.  But if you move quickly, we can read together.

-When you are done cleaning up your toys, we can have lunch (leave for a party, go to a friend’s house, whatever). The longer you take, the less time we will have for (enter in your thing here).

-If you don’t go decide what you are going to wear now, then I will choose your clothes for you.

 

  1. Always follow through. Whatever the consequences you have laid out to your child, you must follow through. If you don’t, your child will come to learn that you do not mean what you say, and that their choices don’t have any real consequences.

 

For more examples of this, and more tips on how to incorporate this technique into your parenting, please read our book!  Change Your Perspective, Improve Your Parenting is now available!!!

The Teal Pumpkin Project

Halloween is approaching, and there is somthing I’d like you to think about.  It is becoming more and more common for kids to have food allergies.  Most common is the peanut allergy.  Peanuts are in many of the candy bars that are given away to trick-or-treaters on Halloween.  And if peanuts are not in the candy, the candy may have been exposed to nuts.  So what’s the big deal?  Many kids with allergies can’t trick-or-treat, or they can’t eat the candy they have collected.  That is where the Teal Pumpkin Project comes in.

What is the Teal Pumpkin Project?

The Teal Pumpkin Project is an initiative that is designed to educate and spread awareness about food allergies.  It also encourages people to have non-food items available for trick-or-treaters.  By simply putting a teal pumpkin on your stoop, or displaying a picture of one, indicates that your house as non-food treats.  You can go here to learn more.  Addresses can also be registered so that families with food allergies can search for houses near them that are safe to trick-or-treat at.  The main goal of the Teal Pumpkin Project is to help kids with food allergies have a safe and happy Halloween.

Non-food Treat Ideas

Candy is everyone’s go-to for Halloween treats, but here are some ideas for non-food treats:

-glow necklaces & bracelets                          -Halloween stickers & temporary tattoos

-vampire teeth & witch fingers                     -slime

-toy lizards, worms, bugs, etc.                      -Halloween pencils & erasers

-bookmarks                                                      -bouncy balls

-slinkies                                                             -bubbles

 

At my house, we have two bowls, one filled with candy, and another that is a Teal Pumpkin bowl.  We just don’t know how many kids are affected by food allergies, so we try to have something for everyone.  It’s a simple gesture that could make the difference in a child’s Halloween experience. Please think about becoming a Teal Pumpkin Home.

How to Create Screen Time Limits

Why are screen time limits so important? Today, our children are growing up with technology everywhere!  They have access to 24/7 entertainment, news and social media. There are even TV channels that have children’s programs on 24/7.

Many kids don’t get outside enough because they are glued to the screen.  Kids today are losing their sense of adventure and imagination because the constant entertainment of the screen has left them not needing to entertain themselves. Many kids aren’t developing social skills because their only interactions with people are through screens.  Screens are also causeing a lack of free play time.

Free play is one of the most important aspects of child development.  It is when a child is left to just play that they strengthen their creativity and imagination.  They practice and learn problem solving skills as well as large and fine motor skills.  However, when screen time encroaches on free play time, development slows.  Social emotional development, large and fine motor development, and even quality of sleep can be effected by screen time.

As parents, there are ways we can combat this lack of free play time, and help our children.  A big part of it is limiting screen time.  But what should the limits be, and how do we enforce them with our older kids?

Children Under 2

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping all screens off around babies and toddlers younger than 18 months. They say a little screen time can be okay for older toddlers, and children 2 and older should get no more than an hour of screen time per day.

But the AAP emphasizes that setting time limits isn’t enough: It’s also important for parents to choose high-quality shows and games, and join their children during screen time instead of just handing over their phone to be used as an electronic babysitter.”

Young children don’t yet have the ability to learn anything from a screen. In fact, it can inhibit their verbal skills.  Verbal skills are best developed through real interactions with their parents and other people around them.  So rather than sitting your child in front of a show to “help them learn,” read a book to them, sing songs with them, and just talk to them.  These things will help to develop verbal and social skills in your young child.

Screen Time Limits for Children 3+

Kids who are older than 3 can have more screen time, and actually have the ability to learn and benefit from educational programming and interactive educational games.  However, this screen time should also be limited to about just one per day.  The trick is to seek out the high-quality games and programs that will help your child learn and develop.  And, again, watching or playing with your child is important so you can be aware of what they are learning, and have follow-up discussions.

Instead of screen time, let them just play!!  Allow them to run around outside, or give them toys that they can create with.  LEGOS, blocks, Play-dough, costumes, dolls and action figures, pretend kitchens or stores all help to spark a child’s creativity and imagination.  When kids are left to their own devices when at play, their creativity awakens, and their social and problem solving skills develop and strengthen.  Even something as simple as a box of crayons and paper can get their brains going.

Tweens & Teens

It’s when kids get older, and get their own devices given to them, that this limiting really starts to get difficult.

Adding to the difficulty is the fact that some homework assignments will require the use of a computer and possibly even the internet. But there are ways to limit your older child’s screen time.  And since you really can’t control how much time they will need to spend online (or on a device) for homework, I suggest focusing on setting the recreational screen time limits (games, TV, movies, social media).

Make hard and fast rules about when and where screen time can be had.  I know many parents have a docking/charging station in a main room of their homes.  This is a place where all phones are to be plugged in and kept.  This keeps it so that your kids are not always on their phones in the house.  Many parents also have a “no technology behind closed doors” policy.  This keeps your kids from wielding their tablets or phones alone in their rooms.

Another option is to have a work station in common areas of the home.  This way if a child requires internet access for a homework assignment, they are in a communal area.  This may work for some, but not all.  Figure out what works best for your family.

A good way to set the rules and limits of device use is to have a screen time limits/internet use contract with your child.  This would be a document that clearly lays out all the rules and screen time limits your child is to abide by if they are to be allowed to have their own phone or tablet.  It should also clearly state the consequences your child will face if the contract is broken.

Lead by Example

But setting screen time limits isn’t enough; you need to lead by example, and limit your own screen time as well.  But what does that look like?  Many of us work via emails and messaging, but we can control when we work.  If we work from home, we can be sure to keep our work in our home office, at our home desk, or only between certain hours of the day.  When our kids are around and require our attention, we should make sure we PUT OUR PHONES DOWN and give them our undivided attention.  This demonstrates that people, that THEY, are more important than our screens.

When our children are off playing, or at school, and don’t require our direct attention, follow the same rules you set for them in regards to screen time limits.  Have a free moment? Try picking up a book instead of your phone.  Or occupy yourself with a physical task rather than always reaching for your screen to entertain you.

At meal times, create a no-screen policy.  Give your family the opportunity to talk, share and connect with one another.  When screens constantly become a presence in our lives, our relationships cease to grow and deepen.

Too much screen time can lead to lessened sleep quality, can lead to obesity, and can also lead to depression.  We grew up without technology, so teaching balance is new ground for parents these days.  However, if we make screen time limits and balance a priority lesson for our children, they will grow up and be able to pass the lesson on to their kids as well.

The Importance of Limiting Screen Time

Yes, I realize the irony of me writing about limiting screen time, and then distributing it out onto social media platforms.  However, that is where we are at today.  Our lives have changed, and so is the way we communicate and keep in touch with one another.  Social media is the new handwritten letter to your long-distance friend.  Our phones are now how we not only communicate socially, but how we check our emails for work.  They act as our cameras too, so even when we want to disconnect, we have them close in case a photo op arises.  We play games, get our news, find recipes, and even read books on our phones and tablets.  There is almost no escape from the screen.

Many of us didn’t grow up with this sort of technology infiltrating every aspect of our lives.  When I was little, we had a house phone.  We had a desk top computer with access to the World Wide Web.  But the technology was confined to those two places.  We couldn’t use the phone away from the house, and we couldn’t take the computer to our rooms.  Children’s programs were on TV in the mornings, and that was it.  When we left the house we were free from screens.  We played outside, used our imaginations, talked to friends, had pen-pals, explored our surroundings, and had a great time.

Today, our children are growing up with technology everywhere!  They have access to 24/7 entertainment, news and social media. There are even TV channels that have children’s programs on 24/7.  And this constant stream of endless entertainment is one reason we need to limit screen time for our kids, as well as for ourselves.

Limiting Your Kid’s Screen Time

Why is it important to limit a child’s screen time?

-Screen time can inhibit a child’s creativity and imagination.

-Social and emotional development can be stunted by excessive screen time.

-Large and fine motor skills are not being developed during screen time.

-Quality of sleep can be affected by excessive or late-night screen time.

 

How to limit screen time:

-Set certain times of the day when your child knows they may have screen time. (ie: in the morning before school, after school, rest time)

-Set a time limit for these time blocks.  Make sure your child is getting no more than 2 hours of screen time per day (depending on their age)

-Be consistent.  Once you set the rules and limits, stick with them every day.  Your child will learn to stay within them as long as you are consistent.

 

Limiting YOUR Screen Time

Why is it important to limit YOUR screen time?

-Your kids learn from what you do. If you are always on your phone, they will be too.

-Interaction is a big part of your child’s development; teach them to socialize and interact with people face to face.

-Be more present in your life and the world around you.  Appreciate and explore with your child.

-Critical thinking skills can be diminished with excessive screen time.

-Too much screen time and not enough real-world personal interaction can lead to depression.

-Quality of sleep can be affected by excessive or late-night screen time.

 

How to limit your screen time:

-Set certain times when you are allowed access to your devices (when your kid naps, or after they sleep, or during certain working hours).

-If you work from home, keep your work confined in your home office or at your desk.  Don’t be working from your phgone or tablet when you are with the rest of your family.

-Put your phone down.  Take your phone out of your pocket and just leave it on the counter somewhere.  If it’s not physically on you, you won’t be tempted to check it every time it buzzes with a notification, or when you think you’re bored.

-Don’t allow media at the table.  Talk to your family instead of looking at a screen.

-Say goodnight.  Set a goodnight time for your phone, TV and tablet.  Shutting off screens at least an hour before you go to bed will help you to sleep better.

-Be consistent.  You may be very used to viewing your screen whenever you want, but it’s good to set limits.  Be strict with yourself, be consistent in following the limits you set, and soon it will become routine.

It Takes a Village

We’ve all heard the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child,” but what exactly does that mean?  Yes, one person could raise a child alone with no help, but I don’t think that’s the point.

The Help

First of all, parents need help.  They need to have someone in their lives that can come in, care for the child, and allow them to take a break.  Parenting is exhausting, and breaks are needed.  Even a trusted babysitter who comes once a week is a help.  More so are the daily help a parent gets.  Whether it be a spouse who comes home at night, or a daily caregiver who watches and cares for your child while you are at work.  These people are part of your and your child’s village, and without them, things would be so much harder.

The Community

Branching out into a wider village, you have your neighbors, teachers, bus drivers, crossing guards, etc. who have an almost daily interaction with your children.  They don’t necessarily help you in a literal way, but they do have an impact. These people teach your children to follow rules outside of your home.  They teach them about being part of a community and helping one another out.  And they also may introduce your child to different interests and hobbies that they may not have been exposed to within your home.

The Family

Even further still, you have a village of extended family, aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, and family friends, who may not see your child every day, but who have a great impact on their lives.  These are the people who love your child as you do.  They can tell stories of a younger you to your child.  They help to set your child straight, but also give them special attention.  These are the people you go on big family vacations with, have holiday parties with, and make life-long memories and traditions with.

Your village that helps raise your child is a little about assistance, but it is mostly about interacting with different people.  All these interactions help influence and teach your child about the world around them.  Every single one of these people will help to shape the person your child becomes.  Who is in your village? Who is impacting your child as they grow up?

18 Summers

“We get 18 delicious summers with our children.  This is one of your 18.  If that’s not perspective, I don’t’ know what is.” –Jessica Scott

The Math of Summers

We get 18 summers.  That’s it. After that, they will have other things to do, and you can’t force them to summer with you.

Each summer break is about 100 days.

That’s 1,800 days of summer. (give or take depending on your school’s schedule)

The Reality

Summers fly by, this one is almost done already!  Between the pool, activities, play dates, and vacations, it seems as if we blink and the summer is gone.

Some days seem never ending when the kids are fighting, and you are at your wit’s end.  But this thought of only having 18 summers always brings me back.  It seems like such little time to explore and make memories as a family.  Soon they will be grown, having jobs, and (hopefully) living on their own.

So now is the time to soak in the moments.  Watch them play. Watch their cannon balls 100 times a day. Listen to their giggles and belly laughs.  Make memories and open their eyes to the world around them.  Share your favorite summer childhood activities with them.  Make the most of this summer, you only have so many left.

Memories will last

And I’m sure it doesn’t need to be said, but don’t forget to take thousands of photos.  Not for your FaceBook or Instagram followers, but for yourself and your children.  Pictures of summers past are always the best to look back and reminisce over.  Take them becuase you want to remember the joy and wonder on their faces as they were making summer memories with you.

6 Things You Should Know About Kids

Every once in a while I like to check in with my boys to see how they feel I am doing as a parent.  Seeing if there is anything I can do to better meet their needs.  I check in to make sure I’m not missing anything that is important to them.  Sort of like a performance review.  Recently, I asked my seven year old what he thought every parent should know about their kids, and this is what he had to say.

1. They might make a big mess.

Kids love to play!! They get really into it, and excited.  And because of this, they sometimes forget to clean, and it just becomes a big mess.  Parents will sometimes have to remind kids to clean up.

2. They are very active.

Kids have a lot of energy!! Sometimes it is hard to control and contain themselves.  So parents should make sure that they have an appropriate outlet for their energy and noise.  Make sure they get a lot of outside time, or that they have a place in the house (like the basement) where it is ok to be active and loud.

3. Playing can be loud.

When kids get excited about playing they can be loud.  And when parents want to tell them something, sometimes they don’t hear you.  It’s not that they are ignoring you, they just didn’t hear you.  It is best if a parent would come to where the kids are, get their attention, and then tell them something.

4. They want information.

Kids love to learn new things.  They ask a lot of questions, and want answers so they can learn.  Parents should answer questions honestly, and with as much detail as possible.  If parents don’t know an answer, you can look it up together with them.

5. Kids like to try new things.

But sometimes trying new things can be scary.  Parents should hold their hand to help them through the first time they try something so they know they can do it.  If you can’t hold their hand, just stay close and cheer them on!

6. They want to know they are loved.

Whether it’s hugs, kisses, high-fives, snuggles, or holding hands, kids just like to know they are loved.  Putting all distractions aside and really listening to your child is another great way to show them they are loved. You are important to your kids, and knowing that you love them makes them feel important too.

Cut Yourself Some Slack

Life gets busy. No matter what time of year it is, there never seems to be a break in events.  Between sports and activities, playdates and parties, family obligations and events, vacations, appointments, and other random things on your calendar, there is always something to do.  But there is also work and house work to fit in as well.  Sometimes it all seems like too much to do, and it is at that moment you need to cut yourself some slack.

It is ok to slack on the housework for a day so you can enjoy some quality time with your kids.  Sometimes slacking off is having frozen waffles for dinner; no one will care, and your kids will love it!  Or maybe it’s going out for fast food so you don’t have to cook or do dishes.  Maybe slacking is leaving the dishes and vacuuming for another day.  When someone calls you up for a playdate on the only free day you have, it’s ok to say no.  Relaxing, staying at home, and spending quality time with your kids is necessary sometimes.  Both you and your kids need a chance to unwind from hectic schedules.

More often than not, cutting yourself some slack is more of an internal process.  Social media makes it seem like every one of our friends has it all together.  However, we need to keep in mind that we are seeing pictures of moments, not hours or days.  We are seeing a split second of perfect.  No one can be perfect all the time.  No one can get everything done every day. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed, frantic or frustrated with all we need to get done.  But we need breaks every now and then; we need to cut ourselves some slack, and enjoy the moments we are in.  So cut yourself some slack.  You are doing better than you think.

Finding Better Sleep as Parents

As parents I feel like we’re continually worried about and discussing our children’s sleep habits and routines.  Parents know about the importance of a bedtime schedule and bedtime routines.  We read up on growth patterns and sleep regressions so we are prepared.  And we buy nightlights, cozy blankets and noise machines to help our kids fall and stay asleep.  But then, there is us.  We are tired, exhausted, but it’s rare that we look into helping ourselves find the sleep we need.  So how do we find better sleep as parents?

Helpful Sleep Articles

I recently came across two different articles on sleep as parents and adult sleep, and they were very interesting. Healthy Sleep for New and Expecting Parents deals more with being the parents of a new baby, and Helen Sanders’ article, How to Reset and Optimize Your Sleep Schedule, is just on adult sleep in general. Both are worth a read if your are tired of being tired. Many parents struggle with sleep, but it is important that parents get the sleep they need.

The Take-Away

One big take away from both articles is the fact that adults need sleep schedules and routines too.  Just as we give our children calming baths, cuddle close, and read stories to get them ready for bed, our bodies need some down time too.  We should begin to get our minds and bodies ready for bed by dimming the lights, turning off electronics, and just enjoying the calm and quiet.  We should eliminate distractions from our bedrooms in order to make it a more restful atmosphere.  Parents spend a lot of time creating and maintaining sleep schedules and routines for our kids, but as it turns out, we need to focus on ourselves too.

Balance

The night time is an interesting balance of things that should be done vs. things we want done.  As someone who stays home with her kids all day, I struggle between going to bed at a normal time vs. just having quiet time to myself when no one is climbing on me.  Sometimes I use the night to catch up on writing, reading, or chores that got put off during the day.  Other times, I use the night to catch up on social media and see what my friends are up to.  There are only so many minutes in a day, and fewer of those in a night.  It is important for us to put a little more focus and attention into getting ourselves some better sleep.