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For All Parents

Mother and Child in Sunset

 

Introduction

Parenting can be one of the most beautiful, exciting, fulfilling, joyous, challenging, rewarding, exasperating, frustrating, anxiety producing, and difficult experience one can ever have. You can arrive home from work, having one of the worst days of your life. Then little arms grab your legs and squeeze tightly and your child utters the words, “I love you”. Those three simple words seem to melt away all the stress and hardship of the day and you are filled with a sense of love and caring. Yet, some days, you may feel like your nerves are popping and the frazzled confused feelings inside take hours to dissipate after rushing out of the house in the morning when children drag their feet and are crying and screaming. Yes, this is the mix-bag of parenthood. Simple words can melt your heart. Noises, behaviors, tones, and those words once again can bring you to the edge of reason.

In this section, you will find ideas that will spark creative solutions to parenting issues in your home. More importantly, I hope you will gain an understanding of the skills needed to be the best parent you can be. Parenting is problem solving and so much more. We teach our children skills on a daily basis by having a quality relationship with them. The quality of our family life will be determined by temperament, skills, and external factors. Therefore, this section is so much more than a problem solving section, although problems will be addressed. It is my hope that you will enhance your individual and family foundation, thus creating a more enjoyable life for the entire family. Read, ponder, and grow – that is my wish for you.

Below are three sections of articles written by me. Books about parenting and child development will be listed in another section. Finally, I have a list of resources where you can find additional information.

Happy Parenting!

 

How to Keep Stress Out of Family Life

In today’s erratic economy and fast-paced environment, many families are under more stress than ever. Parents are hurting because they feel they don’t have either the time or money to spend on their children. Parents often feel guilty. They expect themselves to be the best parents in the neighborhood and often expect their children to be perfect as well. It’s hard to accommodate everyone’s needs or wants, particularly when a spouse is having a difficult time in his/her job and the kids always want to have the latest new gadgets.

In order to have an enjoyable family relationship, parents need to look at their attitudes. It’s more important to create a fun and caring family atmosphere than it is to have too many expectations of yourself or your children. Life as an exciting journey, where you as a family should share enough time in order to have shared values.

There are lots of activities you can do together. You can plan and fix simple meals together. This could include shopping together for just the right ingredients. Cleaning-up together afterwards should also be expected. Having a friendly competition while cleaning can make it more fun. Why not have quiet times where you listen to music together instead of watching TV? Singing or even dancing together can be fun; it’s not the steps but the creative expression that releases stress. Playing cards or games can be enjoyable if they are age appropriate. Working on creative projects, such as painting, woodworking, handcrafts, or needlework could promote good connections between family members.

Everyone should have a good time doing whatever activity you choose to do. Any activity should be relaxing and not too structured. When you are planning family activities, you need to decide what stress might be involved in pursuing each activity. Does driving to an activity cause stress? Do your children need or want exercise or active play-time? Sometimes, being cooped up inside can cause stress. Would creating crafts cause a lot of extra mess for you to clean-up? You want the best scenarios possible so planning ahead is crucial.

Family relationships can improve when you make some simple changes in the way you structure your time together. Your previous hurts can heal, particularly with more share time. To assist you in making changes in your family life, here are some good family stress-busting ideas:

  1. Teach yourself and your family Meditation, deep breathing, and other relaxation techniques.
  2. Have your children and you visualize positive family life or other fun experiences.
  3. Reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.
  4. Find hobbies and play experiences which connect your family.
  5. Listen to music and dance.
  6. Be active together: outside sports or exercise.
  7. Participate in blowing bubbles, drawing, painting, and other creative projects together.
  8. Remember to hug each other, touching is very important.
  9. Get out of your normal routine to have individual or family relaxation.
  10. Have a family dinner night.
  11. Do unexpected things once in a while, like making smores in your fireplace.

 

Parenting 101

One of the most rewarding and yet most difficult jobs in life is to raise a child. Helping a young person grow and develop is so important; and yet, perspective parents are given no classes, preparation, or even an understanding of the process of raising a child. Even more alarming, parents are not taught the basics of child development or what it is like to be a child. This article is about the basics of parenting. It is for beginner parents or even parents who have been derailed and want to get back on track.

The most important fact to understand about parenting is that it is a relationship. The relationship you have with your child will be the basis for all future interactions. From the time of conception, you are impacting your child and your child is impacting you. Babies can hear in the womb. Even immediately after birth, you begin to form the bond that will lead to a secure attachment. It does matter if your baby cries! You cannot spoil an infant.

The healthy connection you develop with your baby will be the glue that helps cement your relationship and teach your child healthy emotional and social behaviors. Relationship building is a powerful tool for both parent and child. This is the first fundamental building block of quality parenting.

Another important issue is to understand your past and ponder upon the ways this past might impact your growing child. We all have a past, and that past will rear its ugly head at the most inopportune times. Each one of us will impact our children intentionally and unintentionally. Therefore, it is best to revisit that past and connect with that child inside yourself.

Remember how it felt to be a child. Delight in the simple joys of childhood. Also, remember the pain and sadness of your past. If you have concerns, call and visit a therapist. Work through many of your problematic past issues before having children. It is a fact that many people don’t know or can’t remember their past. Others don’t realize how their past will impact their families until they have children. If that is you, try not to get stuck in the cycle of shame or guilt. Look for a qualified professional to help you.

This brings me to my next point. Stop feeling guilty over everything. Today, parenting is so difficult because there are so many rules about what not to do. Worry and guilt about the past are not that helpful. Yet, everything parents read cautions parents not to let their children eat this, watch that, or even behave like children. Parents often feel guilty for their thoughts and feelings. They can become frozen, like a deer in headlights, because they don’t know how to behave without damaging their child.

When parents feel stuck, a parent development group or a few visits with a therapist who works with children may be helpful. Make the necessary changes so you will not be consumed with guilt and worry. Sometimes a little guilt can be the impetus for change, but obsessive guilt is not healthy. Often, guilt keeps people stuck.

It is good to read about parenting and even take a parenting class. Both parents taking a class or participating in a group will help parents get on the same page and develop a cohesive framework for raising healthy children. Reading about child development could also be useful. Ask professionals who you respect to recommend some books you might find informative. A pediatrician, nurse, principle, therapist, school counselor or even some teachers may have ideas. While you read, be discriminating. Read several books and articles. Find the ideas that will fit for you and your child. It is important to keep in mind that you and your child are unique and have a unique relationship. Your relationship is based on past history, temperament, and limitations or capabilities of each of you. Yes, you are the expert when it comes to your child.

Learning to contain, understand, and regulate strong emotions will help you and your child. Seeing a child you love in pain or out of control with rage is difficult for parents. Often, parents don’t know what to say or do. They can feel overwhelmed or paralyzed with fear of doing the wrong thing. Some parents are activated by their children’s behavior and seem to reach the same level of emotion.

Helping children name and understand their feelings is the first step to regulation and containment. When children know and understand their feelings, they can better understand what is happening. With encouragement, practice, and patient guidance children can navigate these treacherous emotional waters and learn to manage their feelings.

Learn to communicate with your child effectively. This strategy for parents will pay off a hundredfold. Talking to and spending time with your child is one key to having a healthy parent child relationship. Speak in a way that invites communication and develops mutual respect and trust.

Listening to your child is just as crucial. Listen to what your child says, and what he or she leaves out. Sometimes the things unsaid are even more important. Look at your child’s nonverbal communication. It is just as important as words. Watch, learn, listen and then talk to your child regularly.

Relax and enjoy your children. Sometimes we get so busy it is impossible to remember why we had children or even to enjoy those little ones. They are precious and usually have a fun loving spirit. Connect with your family. Have a family play day or even a play evening. Sometimes it is nice for parents to have special play time with their children. If you follow your child’s lead who knows what great adventures you both will have. You are building memories and fostering connections.

Some day, when the adolescent emerges, parents wonder where is the sweet little angel who used to clamber for their attention. Hold on to these times and develop trusting, supportive, loving, and respectful relationships with your child. Have fun, play, laugh, and enjoy your families. The investment you put in to your family’s development today will be fruitful. Take it from one parent to another, being a parent will be harder than any other thing you do in your life. Parenting happy, healthy, and loving children is also the most amazing experience you will ever have. Enjoy!

 

Parenting 101 Tips

  1. Focus on building a healthy parent child relationship. It is never too late to begin developing a loving, caring, and supportive relationship with your child.
  2. Work through past issues that may impact your ability to parent your child.
  3. When you feel stuck, overwhelmed, or in a quandary, seek professional help. There is no shame in seeking help for parenting issues or problems. We are all human and that means we all struggle from time to time.
  4. Read recommended books with a discriminating mind. You are the expert when it comes to you and your child.
  5. Develop working strategies for parenting with your mate. You can read books, take parenting classes, or join a parent development group.
  6. Learn to contain and regulate strong feelings if you don’t already know how.
  7. Watch, listen, and learn to talk to your child in a way that will facilitate communication.
  8. Remember obsessive guilt and worry usually creates more stress. Get help if you need it.
  9. Have fun, play, and enjoy your children.

 

Summer Does Not Always Mean Fun!

By the end of each school year, many parents and children anticipate the fun, excitement, and pleasure of being on vacation. One day during the first three weeks, that same child who had eagerly waited for summer vacation is having crying fits. Getting in to the swing of summer break is a time of transition. Parents and children alike need to adjust to being together and having free time. What can we do as parents to help our children and ourselves?

Admitting there is a problem is the first step. Many parents feel guilty saying they struggle at summer time. Other parents feel the pressure to keep up and entertain their children all summer. Since often this entertainment is expensive, parents can ill afford costly vacations and day trips.

It helps to discuss your child’s expectations and your financial reality even before summer begins. Put limits on outings. You will feel more relaxed and, as a result, your child will be also. You and your child can choose the outings you can afford. This might mean compromising on the number of outings, if a child has their heart set on an expensive one. Problem solve the situation with your child. By no means do I mean worrying your child with financial concerns. Let your child know you have a summer budget and you need to stay within that budget.

Plan outings and then put them on a calendar. Everyone will look forward to the big days with excitement and anticipation. If you feel more comfortable, fill your calendar with inexpensive day outings. I have a list of some in my Hot Summer Survival Tips.

When it comes to very young children, I would not tell them more than two or three days in advance about big outings. The anticipation and waiting may be too much for them. You can even put special evening or day events at home on the calendar. For example, Tuesday night barbeques or Thursday night game nights could be written down.

When I was young, once a month we had "ice cream night". My parents and grandparents would get out the ice cream freezer and we would all help mix the ice cream. After the mixing came the ice and rock salt. I remember turning the freezer until my arm was sore. Yet, eating the delicious ice cream brought us all together as a family.

My good friend uses summer time to make holiday gifts for friends and family. She collects projects and then on those at home summer days they start working. Making Holiday cards, bottling fruity vinaigrettes, and all sorts of crafting projects make nice gifts. All these great holiday ideas can be done ahead of time. An art box is another good idea to bring out in the summer. Older children can use paint’s and pastels. Jewelry making projects are wonderful for older children. Younger children enjoy cutting with rounded edged scissors, gluing, drawing, using stickers, and stamping. Making a memory book of your summer is also a worthwhile project. With inexpensive cameras, digital cameras, computers, and scrap booking materials, a memorable summer journal can be pictorial as well as written.

Because life is so hectic, quiet summer days at home are important. Children need to learn how to entertain themselves and develop interests. If children run from activity to activity, they never find out what they enjoy. They need time to develop skills that will allow them to entertain themselves. Staying home is a gift you can give your child.

Creative materials should be available for them to enjoy, such as: art supplies, clay, puzzles, books, games, and building materials. These are just a few ideas. Watch your child, see what interests them, and then follow their lead.

During the summer, an hour of quiet time every afternoon allowed us all to rest and relax. Often, I would put on quiet music or an audio tape book. Watching TV or playing video games were off limits during this hour. That quiet hour seemed to improve moods and gave us a much needed break. When the hour was up, I would come out of my room and, as the children were ready, they would emerge from their bedrooms. Many times, they were so engrossed in what they were doing they lingered in their rooms finishing projects, books, or activities.

Summer is a great time to do things you don’t have time to do during the year. It might be joining a sports camp or music program. It might be cleaning and organizing things in the home. It could be developing a new interest like gardening or wood working. This is a perfect time to expose your child to new experiences and give them new opportunities to learn.

Learning how to organize their room with a parent can be a great problem solving exercise. What better way to build self-esteem. Planning a vegetable or flower garden with a child is another way to help children plan, problem solve, and learn new skills. Watch to see the expression of pride on their little faces when the family eats the tomatoes your child helped you plant and water.

Plan play days with other children and parents. You can leave your child at a trusted parent’s house or stay and enjoy some social time. When you leave your child for a couple mornings at a summer camp or summer program, it may give your child a little structure and give you time to do the things you need to do. If a summer program or camp is a luxury you can’t afford, consider hiring a mother’s helper a couple afternoons a week. A young girl, just learning to babysit, would enjoy the opportunity to earn a little money and gain much needed experience. You would be able to stay home and keep an eye on the child helper, but at the same time you would be free to complete projects and take care of business.

With a little planning, your creativity and inventiveness might make the summer become more of a dream summer break. Enjoy your children, relax, stay within your financial limits, and remember what you did as a child on those long summer vacations. Get inspired and build a healthier, happier family this summer. Your family will thank you for the great experiences and all the memories. Enjoy!

 

Hot New Tips for Surviving Summer Vacation

The long-awaited summer vacation can soon turn into a nightmare for both children and adults. After about two weeks of summer break, some parents can’t wait for their children to return to school. Here are some proven methods to meet the challenging activities. These summer activities are low cost and can help your family stay on track. With a little planning, creativity, and resourcefulness you can create a summer experience that is enjoyable and inexpensive.

  • Be organized and plan outings on a calendar. Even though there is no school schedule many children find it difficult to entertain themselves all summer. Make plans and put them on the calendar so all can be aware of activities. This will reduce anxiety. For very small children do not tell them about outings more than two to three days before the planed event.
  • Times are difficult financially. Sit down and discuss the summer plans for activities with your children. Pick a few activities that are important to each child.
  • Beach days, trips to the park, free concerts, and the library are all inexpensive activities that will help your children burn off energy or learn something new. Museums and zoos are also relatively inexpensive.
  • Try to schedule play dates with other parents who reciprocate so you can have a break.
  • Each afternoon you are home get in the habit of giving your child some quiet time. Younger children can nap, while older children can play in their rooms, listen to music or draw. Any quiet creative calming activity will work. This will give parents a time to relax.
  • Outside activities for late afternoon or early evening such as: sidewalk chalk, painting with water mixed with food coloring, blowing bubbles small pools, or play dough are an excellent winding down activities.
  • Parks, Museums, The Hollywood Bowl, Junior Colleges, Universities, and The Zoo all have relatively inexpensive classes for children during the summer.
  • Remember to leave some time for your children to relax and be creative. These stay at home days might be a good time to bring out the art supplies. Keeping a box with all sorts of creative materials will give your child a chance to be resourceful and develop skills that they don’t have time for during the school year. Some of these activities might be: jewelry making, painting, drawing, sculpting, paper mache, making greeting cards, and stamping.
  • Let your child help with simple house hold tasks, such as: cooking simple meals, dusting, vacuuming, cleaning out closets or garages. You can turn this into a game where they earn a prize or simply use their imagination to create a story about their activity.
  • Try eating outside and letting your child help cook. Scooping melon balls or placing veggies or meat on a skewer (depending on age of child) are all good ideas. Letting your child make a special dessert is also another idea. Children love to cook and this is the perfect time to let them learn to help. Making homemade ice cream is a fun activity for children and adults. Pop cycles’ are another simple summer treat.
  • Gardening is another activity many children enjoy. Watering and watching plants grow. If you have planted fruits or vegetables you will see your child’s pride and enjoyment as they grow.
  • An outing in the car can be much more fun if you plan ahead. Bring music, snacks, and some in car activities. On the spot made up games are great for older children. Counting games, eye spy or Animal Vegetable or Mineral are games I remember playing on long bus and car rides as a child.
  • Discuss with your children what is expected of them over the summer break. Work together to create a structure that meets your needs as well as your child’s.
  • Get rid of guilt about not providing expensive activities for your children every day or even every week. Know your summer budget and stay within those limits. This will allow you to be free of resentments over financial stress.
  • Connect with the fond fun memories you had as a child. Have fun and create an enjoyable summer vacation for you and your child. Build memories you and your child will share for a life time.
  • Have your child create a memory book of his/her summer activity by taking pictures and documenting the events.
  • Create and design holiday cards and gifts for giving later in the year.

 

Vickie’s Bibliography for Parents

  • Bettelheim, Bruno (1987). A Good Enough Parent: A Book on Child-Rearing. New York: Vintage Books A Division of Random House.
  • Covey, Stephen R. (1997). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families. New York: Franklin Covey Company.
  • Dinkmeyer Sr. D., McKay, G.D., McKay, J.L., & Dinkmeyer Jr., D. (1998). Parenting Teenagers: Systematic Training for Effective Parenting of Teens. Circle Pines, MN: American Guidance Service, Inc.
  • Elkind, David (1984). All Grown Up & No Place to Go: Teenagers in crisis. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Elkind, David (1981). The Hurried Child: Growing Up Too Fast Too Soon. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Elkind, David (2006). The Power of Play: How Spontaneous, Imaginative Activities Lead to Happier, Healthier Children. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Elkind, David (2007). The Power of Play: Learning What Comes Naturally. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Elkind, David (1989). Parents' Guide to Raising Kids Who Love to Learn: Infant to grade school. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Faber, A. & Mazlish, E. (1980). How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. New York: Avon Books, Inc.
  • Faber, A. & Mazlish, E. (1987). Siblings Without Rivalry: How to Help Your Children Live Together So You Can Live Too. New York: Avon Books, Inc.
  • Fraiberg, S.H. (1959, renewed 1987). The Magic Years: Understanding and Handling the Problems of Early Childhood. New York: Fireside.
  • Ginott, Ph.D., H.G. (1965, renewed 2003). Between Parent and Child. New York: Three Rivers Press.
  • Gordan, Ph.D., Thomas (1970, 1975). P.E.T. Parent Effectiveness Training: The Tested Way to Raise Responsible Children. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc.
  • Gottman, Ph.D., John (1997). The heart of Parenting: Raising an Emotionally Intelligent Child. New York: Simon & Schuster.
  • Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (1999). Building Health Minds: The Six Experiences that Create Intelligence and Emotional Growth in Babies and Young Children. New York: Perseus Books. Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (1995). The Challenging Child: Understanding, Raising, and Enjoying the Rive “Difficult” Types of Children. Reading, MA: Perseus Books.
  • Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (1985). First Feelings: Milestones In the Emotional Development of Your Baby and Child. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (1985). First Feelings: Milestones in the Emotional Development of Your Infant and Child from Birth to Age 4. New York: Viking Press.
  • Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (1993). Playground Politics: The Emotional Development of Your School-Aged Child. New York: Perseus Books.
  • Greenspan, M.D., S.I. (2002). The Secure Child: Helping Our Children Feel Safe and Confident in a Changing World. New York: Perseus Books.
  • Miller, Ph.D., M.S.W., Nancy B. (1994). Nobody’s Perfect: Living & Growing With Children Who Have Special Needs. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co.
  • Ricci, Ph.D., Isolina (1980, 1997). Mom’s House, Dad’s House: Making Two Homes For Your Child: A Complete Guide for Parents Who Are Separated, Divorced, or Remarried. New York: Fireside.
  • Siegel, M.D., D.J., & Hartzell, M.Ed., M. (2003). Parenting From the Inside Out: How A Deeper Understanding Can Help You Raise Children Who Thrive. New York: Penguin Group.
  • Stern, D.N.(1992). Diary of A Baby: What Your Child Sees, Feels, and Experiences. Basic Books.
  • Stern, D.N.(1977). The First Relationship: Infant and Mother. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • Stern, D.N., Freeland, A., Bruschweiler-Stern, N. (1998). The Birth of A Mother: How the Motherhood Experience Changes You Forever. Perseus Books Group.
  • Turecki, M.D., Stanley (1985, 1989, and 2000). The Difficult Child: Expanded and Completely Revised, the Classic and Indefinite Work on Parenting Hard-To-Raise Children, With new chapters on ADHD and the latest medications for childhood problems. New York: Bantam Books.
  • Winnicott, D.W. (1990). The Family and Individual Development. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.

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