Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Got Balance?

Looking for a healthier, happier, more satisfied life? 

Check out my Free “Life Balance” Workshop On-line

This 30-minute, five-part series on the Basics of Balancing Work and Family is an over-view of ideas and strategies to help you achieve a balance with your work, personal and family life.The workshop, offered by the University of Florida/Hillsborough County Extension Service, includes a handout to help you personalize the information and develop a satisfying life plan that fits you.

Visit us at:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Resolution for the New Year

If you make New Year’s Resolutions, you might want to think about making a resolution to eat breakfast if you don’t already do this every morning. Busy families especially need to add this to their list of healthy habits.

It can seem as if mornings just fly by when rushing to get ready for work and school. Eating breakfast can easily be forgotten or neglected on busy mornings. However, breakfast is a very important meal for you and your family.

Eating a morning meal has many health benefits. It is important to refuel your body after not eating for many hours during the night. Breakfast provides the glucose that is the primary energy source for the body and the brain. The American Dietetic Association states the breakfast skippers often feel tired, restless, or irritable in the morning. The brain’s functions are very sensitive to changing glucose levels. Research has also shown that missing this meal diminishes the mental performance of children, young adults, and the elderly.

Eating breakfast may also help in weight management because it reduces hunger and prevents eating binges. People who eat a daily breakfast are far less likely to become obese, compared to those who skip the first meal of the day, according to one study by the Harvard Medical School.

So, make a New Year’s Resolution and start off your day on the right foot. Make sure that breakfast is included in your family’s routine. Simple meals such as whole-grain cereals, fresh fruits, and eggs can be prepared easily and quickly. These kinds of foods also provide energy and many nutrients your family need to stay healthy.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Being with the In-laws at Holiday Time

Did somebody forget to tell you that when you married the person - you married the family? You don’t have to have seen the movie series “Meet the Parents” to know what challenges may lie ahead. The holiday season usually involves extended and in-law family members getting together and this can sometimes cause conflict.

Unfortunately for some, we can’t control the way our in-laws behave towards us, but we can control the way we react. Some family therapists offer the following tips. First, identify the issue. Are your in-laws unreasonable or are you being impatient?

Second, regulate your reactions. Take a deep breath when necessary and control your temper in heated situations.

Third, look for compromising solutions. Don’t be a victim, but be willing to sacrifice for the sake of maintaining peace. You don’t always have to be right and you don’t always have to have the last word.

Finally, act rather than react. Prepare yourself for possible conflict and decide ahead of time how you will react or respond. Remember to be control of your actions and words – even if the in-laws are not!

Renowned marriage researcher, Dr. John Gottman says that when dealing with conflict with the in-laws, it’s important to put your spouse first and not to tolerate any contempt toward your spouse from your parents. This simple act set a precedent that your marriage cannot be divided. Discuss issues with your spouse prior to visits with the in-laws to ensure that you will always be on the same page. Beware making critical comments, however, after all, these people you may be complaining about are deeply connected to the person you love.

If you and your spouse actively listen to each other and tend to your relationship (in preparation of dealing with conflict as a team,) you will be more likely to become stronger than to be broken down.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Take Care of Yourself During the Holidays

Although the winter holiday season should be a time of enjoyment, the events associated with the season are often the cause of stress.

When we’re feeling stressed we’re much more likely to neglect our needs, but that is when we need to take care of ourselves the most! Making sure that we eat healthy foods, get plenty of rest, exercise, and take time out for relaxing activities helps bolster us and renews our physical and emotional resources.

During the holidays it is tempting to eat too much (and the wrong kinds of foods), drink too much alcohol, skip the exercise, and stay up too late. Although a little indulgence is okay, forgetting to take care of ourselves day after day leaves us physically and emotionally drained, and unable to handle the stressors that will come our way.

If you are up late one night because of a party or gift-wrapping session, make sure that you go to bed early the next night. Try to increase your physical activity by going walking after meals, and taking stairs rather than elevators. Even walking in the mall can be a great source of exercise! If you enjoy trying all of the different goodies at a party, make sure to just try a little bit of each. Then focus on the healthier foods, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.

You may also want to ask yourself if you are truly hungry, or simply eating because the food is there. Finally, try to take some time out for yourself, even if it’s only a few minutes while you’re lying in bed in the morning. Hot baths or showers are relaxing, reading can be a great escape, and some people find meditation helpful. Everyone is different, so you will need to figure out what sort of activity provides a good way for you to take a break and decompress.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Dinner Table Conversation Starters

Holiday family gatherings are a great opportunity to take time to share, talk and eat together. Of course, the holidays aren't the only occasion to enjoy lively conversation, so keep the family meal time a tradition in your household. Make it a goal to eat together as a family at least four times a week. Here are ideas for conversation starters. Pick a topic, enjoy quality time together and take the time to learn from and appreciate each other.
Name one thing that you would like to do this weekend.
If your picture were in the paper today, what would the caption say?
If you could be any type of animal, what would it be and why?
What is your favorite family tradition?
What family tradition would you like for us to start?
Talk about two things that your friends’ families do differently from ours.
Name one thing you appreciate about the person sitting on your right.
What outside activity could we do together as a family today?
What is the most interesting news you heard this week?
If you could be president, what is the first thing you would do?
What would you like to do after you finish high school?
What was the nicest thing you did for someone this week?
Tell us about your favorite food without using the name.
If you could have a super-power, what would it be?
If our family could have any animal in the world as a pet, what would you like to have? Why?
If we had a time machine, when and where would you like to visit?
If you could participate in any event in the Olympics, which event would it be? Why?
Tell us about your favorite part of the day.
If you could invite someone to dinner who would it be? Why?
If we had no electricity, what would our day be like?
If we were to write a family goal for this week, what would it be? What could we accomplish?
How could we as a family help others in our community?
Tell us a funny joke or story.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Holiday Safety at Grandma and Grandpa's House

If Grandma and Grandpa do not usually have young children in the home, it is likely that their home isn't childproofed. In addition to not having safety locks on cabinets, gates on stairs, or covers on electrical outlets, they may also have prescription medications that aren't in a child resistant container.

Things to be especially watchful for, and which you may want to be mindful of when visiting during the holidays, include:

• If there is a pool, does it have a fence? Can the child get to the area where the pool is located?

• Are there guns in the house? Are they stored unloaded or locked in a box with bullets locked separately?

• Are medications, poisons and household cleaners out of reach? What needs to be removed, locked up or put out of reach?

• If they have a pet, do you need to take special precautions to keep children safe?

• Are there gates on the stairs? Do you need to bring a portable gate?

• How can you remove small objects, such as nuts or candy dishes so young children cannot reach them?

• Can you remove breakable objects or put them out of reach of the children?

• Are there holiday decorations, such as lights, trees, plants, artificial snow or candles that could be potentially harmful to children? What can you do to make the environment safer for your child?

• Remember that holidays can be stressful for some children. Traveling, visiting family, a disruption of the regular routine, excessive noise and getting presents can increase your child’s stress levels. Try to maintain your child’s usually routines such as sleep and nap schedules and meal times. Remember to spend plenty of one-on-one time with your children so you both can enjoy the holidays. Take along indoor and outdoor games, activities and their favorite snacks for them.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Parents Give Teens Alcohol

The discussion about the drinking age comes up with some frequency in my classes for parents with adolescents and teens. It can be a challenge that many parents face. Yet, one recent study found that parents are in fact the source of alcohol for many teens today.

Using surveys of sixth, seventh and eighth graders from a middle school in urban Chicago, researchers from the University of Minnesota and the University of Florida studied alcohol use and sources of alcohol among these young teens. It’s common to hear about kids with fake ID’s who have been able to purchase alcohol and get into clubs, or older siblings and neighbors who provide alcohol to younger children. However, according to this study, social sources including family and friends were the most likely source of alcohol for these underage drinkers. In addition, parents were the primary source of alcohol to the middle school students in this study.

By the time they were in 8th grade, these students had increased their access to other sources, and were “taking alcohol from home, and getting alcohol from other adults, individuals under 21, and commercial sources”.

The researchers concluded that their findings reinforce the importance of educating parents about the impacts of providing alcohol to their children and their children’s friends. They recommended that parents who consume alcohol should be vigilant about locking up or monitoring alcohol in their homes. They also suggest that parents who provide their children with alcohol for special occasions or religious events should consider the subsequent effects, including increased risk behaviors associated with early acceptance of alcohol.

So if you’re considering supplying (or already supply) alcohol to your underage teens and their friends, you might want to consider the consequences.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Year-round Education

Year-round schooling is a hot topic among school districts across the United States, although it’s not a new idea. The first year-round school in the US opened in Indiana in 1904. What is not considered the traditional school-year calendar was designed to allow children to help their parents on the farm.

In recent decades, overcrowding, high drop-out rates and low standardized test scores have brought about a return of year-round school calendars, increasing from 410 public schools in 1985 to 3,095 in 2000.

Advantages includes: improved achievement test scores, reduced drop-out rates and more high school graduates going on to college, fewer discipline problems, improved teacher and student attendance, reduction in teacher stress, and reduction in class size. Another advantage is that minority youth tend to take advantage of educational opportunities provided through school activities occurring over breaks.

Disadvantages include findings that multi-tracks do not divide students and teachers equally in terms of ability. Also, year-round school calendars result in increased administrator and clerical burn-out, scheduling conflicts, siblings placed on different attendance schedules, less teacher enhancement opportunities and increased costs of operation.

As the debate continues, proponents honestly state that year-round schools are hard work to institute and that calendars don’t teach kids. Teachers do!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Imperfect Holidays

I wish I would have started a tradition thirty years ago. I would call this tradition “Holiday Bloopers” or “Things That Went Wrong.” This tradition wouldn’t be to remind me of my failures and short-comings, but it would serve to give us all something to laugh at years later.

Some of the best times I share with my extended family include laughing at mishaps, funny situations or down-right embarrassing moments when things didn’t quite go as planned. Perhaps we have a twisted sense of humor, but I believe hearty laughter is essential to families.

I would take photographs of each blooper. One would be of the huge pile of delicious, buttery mashed potatoes splattered on the kitchen floor when my wrist gave out and they just kept sliding out of the bowl and plopping to the floor while I (and everyone else) watched.

Another photo would be the beautiful bottoms of a dozen crispy, blackened, burned rolls – and don’t pretend you haven’t done this. And when a gift gets the wrong recipient’s name on it, such as when Uncle Henry got the lacey, pink Victoria’s Secrets unmentionables.

I don’t know why, but I just think it would be funny to see photographs of these things.

With this tradition, we would delight in any “things gone wrong” moment instead of expecting everything to be perfect and getting disappointed when it’s not. In fact, we might even search out the “photograph of the season” to add to the pile. People aren’t perfect. Families aren’t perfect. Holidays don’t have to be perfect. They just have to bring us together.

I’m hoping my children and their families will gather (in the far, far future) to laugh about some of the stupid, clumsy or embarrassing things I have done.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Teens Expect to Cohabit Before Marriage

I am constantly reminded that, just as every person is unique, every family is quite unique as well. What seems to work for some families may not work for others, whether it’s how they form their relationships or how they parent their children. Even among my own friends and relatives, what one person considers “normal,” others may think of as unacceptable. Such is the case with cohabitation before (or instead of) marriage.

Following in the footsteps of the Boomers, who redefined marriage and family in so many ways, today’s young adults often consider cohabitation not only “normal,” but almost think of it as a prerequisite to marriage. My daughter has already announced to me that she would never think about marrying someone without having lived with them – “cause you just don’t know what they’re really like until you live with them.” I cannot disagree with her about that!

In a recent study published in The Journal of Marriage and the Family, researchers found that not all teens expect to cohabit before they tie the knot, yet most still expect to marry. In fact, three quarters of the teens studied report having definite or probably expectations to marry in the future, and one quarter of those have no intention to cohabit prior to marriage. Still, about half of the teens report they expect to live with their future spouse prior to marriage. However, these teens also did not see cohabitation as a replacement for marriage.

Researchers also found that adolescents’ expectations to cohabit are based in part on two very important influences; their interactions with the opposite sex (including sexual activity as teens) and how their parents communicate their own values.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Managing the Holidays with Young Children

Holiday time provides the "stuff" of childhood memories. Parents want their children to look back at holiday celebrations and remember them as a time of wonder, joy and fun. As parents, we create the values and excitement of the holiday season. Here are a few ideas to make this time special:

Don't expect that young children, especially toddlers, will fully understand the meaning of the holiday season. Remember that most children become very exhausted during holiday time. Be aware of your child's capacity to deal with the excitement and emotions and plan their schedule with these limitations in mind.

Keep to your child's routine as much as possible. Make sure that your child's mealtime schedule is not interrupted. Hungry children quickly become cranky children. For that matter, so do some adults! It's better to feed your child his or her meal than to wait until the special, large dinner. He or she can then play quietly, watch a movie, or nap while the adults have their meal.

Don't make major changes in your child's life during the holidays. This is not the time to wean him from the bottle, pacifier or crib. To avoid overwhelming your children by the crowded mall, shop by catalog, hire someone to shop for you, or hire a baby sitter to stay home with your young ones.

Many children are afraid of sitting on Santa's lap (can you blame them?) so don't force the situation for a magic Kodak moment. Most likely, you won't get the picture you want. You might consider standing next to Santa with your child.

Grandparents and other extended family members may not be used to having small children around, so plan separate activities with your children to give everyone a break. Try taking a walk with your children, reading a book out loud, or setting up a puzzle on a table in the corner for quiet time. Remember to keep your plans simple so the entire family enjoys the holidays.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Holiday Stress

We all have an image in our head about what the holidays should be like – sort of like a Norman Rockwell painting, right? These fantasies also include a picture-perfect family and wonderful images of celebrations from our childhood. We want to capture what it felt like to be that young child. Because of this, we often have unrealistic expectations of our time, energy, money – and our children’s behavior.

Our schedules are already hectic, yet the holiday season adds more demands. We scramble to make to-do lists, buy every gift, bake every dish, pull out every decoration, get everything done.

The holidays also mark the passage of time for us with a heightened loss or loneliness for some. We also examine our personal gains and losses this time of year and we are also reminded of life stages and life changes.

Many of us have families who are scattered through the states and world – and changed family situations that can make the holidays difficult. When we do come together, the holiday season can be a catalyst for unfinished emotional business and gatherings may not always be pleasant. Yet, we expect families to get along, just like on commercials that come out at this time of year.

We work hard to make the holidays perfect for everyone and ignore our need for rest and rejuvenation.

So this year, give yourself permission to take it easy, relax and enjoy your family. And if you happen to burn the dinner rolls, then just cut the bottoms off and forgive yourself! You are perfect just the way you are!

Watch for more Holiday Survival blogs and share your ideas.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Importance of Play

Adults who watch children at play think of it as having fun, goofing off or getting rid of extra energy. Yet play is actually how children learn and is essential to their healthy cognitive, social and physical development.

Play stimulates every aspect of a child’s development. Motor skills such as walking, kicking, or skipping are strengthened by sliding and running, by jumping rope, or playing ball. Children develop their fine motor skills and hand eye coordination with art work such as finger painting and coloring.

They build their thinking skills with games that require strategy and planning to reach a goal, making choices, or solving problems such as board games, puzzles, and models. Even making mud pies teaches children about measuring and mixing.

Playing with other children also helps youngsters develop social and interpersonal skills as they take turns, share their toys, and work as a team. Plus, they have the added benefit of the sheer joy of being with a friend. Play helps children develop confidence as they learn new things. What parent can forget a child’s look of pride as he or she finally masters a task?

Playing with your child can also build your relationship as you both enjoy each other’s company and have fun together. As adults, we often forget that we, too, still have permission to play. Play is what childhood is all about, so give children reasonable freedom to explore, provide interesting play things and play together often. So go ahead, get that Cootie game out, put your skates on, or play ball with your kids today.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Breakfast and School Performance

A very important component of your child’s school success is breakfast. In the morning, energy levels are low and need to be kick-started. Healthy breakfast foods help replenish these energy levels and provide nutrients, like calcium and iron, that often are low in children’s diets.

Eating breakfast increases cognitive performance in children, especially tasks that involve processing complex thoughts. Other benefits of breakfast include the increased ability to concentrate, stay alert, solve problems, and memorize. Some studies have linked a good breakfast to better moods and improved performance on tests.

A healthy breakfast should consists of whole-grain bread or cereal combined with a calcium and protein source, such as low fat or fat-free milk, yogurt or cheese. A piece of fresh fruit is a good way to round out the meal.

Consider the atmosphere in which your children eat their breakfast, too. Do they have enough time to sit and eat what you or they have prepared or do they feel rushed? Planning enough time for a sit down breakfast is a great way to start the day at a low stress level.

It may take some planning ahead to make a healthy breakfast part of your child’s morning routine, but it can yield benefits related to academic performance as well as nutritional status and health. And that is certainly worth the effort.

Hillsborough County school children are provided a free breakfast, so if your morning routine just doesn’t allow breakfast at home, be sure your child gets to school in time for breakfast in the cafeteria.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sexualization of Girls - What Parents Can Do

In its recent report on sexualization of girls in the media, the American Psychological Association reported numerous negative impacts of the powerful message that what matters is “how hot you look.” The pressure to be thin, beautiful and sexy can have devastating results on developing girls.

According to the APA research, when combining television, Internet and video games, children use media an average of 6 ½ hours per day. Girls now equal boys in video game use as well as Internet use. The researchers explain, “Massive exposure to media among youth creates the potential for massive exposure to portrayals that sexualize women and girls and teach girls that women are sexual objects.”

However, parents can still have a powerful influence on how their children interpret media messages and make healthy choices for themselves. For example, the APA recommends teaching girls to value themselves for who they are, rather than how they look; and teaching boys to value girls as friends, sisters and girlfriends rather than sexual objects.

They also suggest that parents “tune in and talk.” Watch, listen and read the same media your children are using and talk to them about it. Ask them what they think and listen carefully to what they tell you. Also speak up if you don’t like a TV show, video, music lyrics or even a doll. Let your children know what you object to and why.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Teaching Teens about Money

In 2002 teens spent over 170 billion dollars - an increase of almost 40% in five years. Nearly 50% of today’s college students have four or more credit cards. I remember when my oldest child got her first job. She was barely 16 years old, but the credit card offers came pouring in! Although teens are controlling more and more money, studies have shown they have less and less financial understanding. How can we help our teens be more money smart?

University of Florida researchers recommend that parents introduce pre-teens between the ages of 9 and 12 to spending plans, savings and bank accounts. A teen’s income sources might include allowances, gift and/or employment. If you chose to give an allowance to your kids, determine the amount of an allowance they will receive based on how much her or she actually needs for school or other expenses, and how much the teen can spend as he or she chooses.

Encourage them to open a savings or checking account to begin managing their own money. Once teens have experience managing a checking account, they should be introduced to debit cards or pre-paid checking cards. They gradually become ready for credit cards. As a parent, we need to teach them to keep track of their purchases and to pay off balances each month.

Begin planning for the future with 16 to 18 years olds. Explain taxes and other with-holding that appear on their paychecks. Also, encourage them to open an investment account, placing whatever money they can into the account each pay period. By teaching financial dos and don’ts at an early age, researchers say we can reverse the trend of over-extended college students and personal bankruptcies later in life.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What parents can do to fit their child's temperament

Some babies have regular sleep patterns and cruise serenely through the day, while others wake up often during the night and during the day, demanding seemingly constant attention. Some children make friends easily and others have difficulty making friends. Just as babies are born with different combinations of physical characteristics, they also have certain patterns of behavior, or temperament, which make them unique.

Sometimes parents and children have different temperaments, and in that case, parents may need to adjust. How can you, as a parent, create a good fit between your own temperament and your child’s temperament? First, be aware of your temperament and how your child’s temperament is similar to or different from your own. Keep these differences in mind when you don’t see eye to eye on things, when your youngster pushes your limits, and when you have trouble understanding your child’s behavior.

Embrace what makes her or him unique, without comparing your child to others or trying to change your child. For example, you may have been painfully shy as a child and when you see your young child being shy, you might want to “force” your child to be more outgoing. Be patient, and actively work to change any negative reactions you have to your child’s behavior. Also, avoid situations that might set your child off. If your child becomes anxious around crowds and commotion, having a large birthday party at a busy play center may ruin the day for everyone.

When we can adjust our parenting methods so there is a good fit between our own temperament and the child’s, time together can be more enjoyable.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Understanding Your Child's Temperament

When a second or third child is born, many parents immediately know that everything they thought they had figured out about parenting had just gone out the window. While siblings come from the same parents and environment, there is often little about each of their personalities that are in common. Each child has a different temperament and every parent learns this quickly. Learning about their temperaments and how to manage children’s differences can be quite an adventure.

All children are born with their own style of interacting with or responding to the world. In a groundbreaking study in the 1950’s, researchers identified nine temperament characteristics, or behavior traits, that clinicians and researchers continue to use today. The researchers found that these nine traits were present at birth and continued to influence development throughout life.

The nine temperament traits include a child’s activity level, their rhythm or lack of rhythm in sleeping and eating habits, and approach or withdrawal (for example, does the child shy away from new people or make friends with every stranger). Three additional temperament traits include adaptability, intensity, and a child’s typical mood.

A child’s persistence and attention span are also examined for temperament, as well as their sensory threshold, or their ability or inability to tolerate external stimuli, such as loud noises or bright lights. The final trait is distractibility; the child’s ability to shut out external distractions and stay with an activity.

As parents understand and embrace their children’s temperaments, they usually have better responses to their children, hopefully making the adventure of parenthood a more pleasant ride. More on temperament to follow on another day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Preventing Holiday Exhaustion

To control your stress during the holidays, it’s important to have a balance of socializing with others and being by yourself. Give yourself time to reflect on the past year and time to think about what you want for the coming year. Set one or two goals for next year. This doesn’t mean a lengthy New Year’s Resolution list, but a few things you want to accomplish.

Keep a positive attitude. Find something you enjoy in each activity and event. Limit time with negative people as much as you can.

It’s important that you take care of yourself throughout the year and especially important during the holidays. This means watching what you eat and drink, getting enough rest and exercising. Take care of your own needs and pace yourself.

If you are getting together with relatives or returning to your parent’s home, anticipate what might happen and be prepared with a non-defensive response. Be realistic about your family and don’t use holiday celebrations to settle old conflicts. Plan on taking a quiet walk when people get to be too much.

Remember to engage in fun activities that aren’t costly so that you can focus on the true meaning and essence of the holidays. As a family, plan an event which involves helping the less fortunate.

Spend time individually with each child so they get the attention they need during the busy holiday season.

Practicing stress management exercises will help control your stress, too. For a free on-line stress management workshop, go to:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Realistic Holiday Expectations

As wonderful as holidays are, they can also be a time of stress for individuals and families. Some of this stress comes from the expectations we each have of the holiday season. The difference between our expectations and our reality can be disappointing. Here are some ideas to maximize the pleasure of the holiday season.

Look at the difference between your expectations and your reality by assessing your current situation (including time and money) and acknowledge the limitations you and your family might have. Is it reasonable to expect that you can put on a holiday dinner just like grandma used to make? Is it reasonable for your children to expect the same amount of gifts under the tree this year if you have been out of a job for the past three months?

Adjust your plans and budget to be more realistic. Aim for reasonable and reachable goals. Be honest about your situation and your feelings with family members. A good start to a conversation might be: “I need to stick to a tighter budget this year and would like to adjust our holiday spending.” Or “I would like to cut back on the number of gifts we exchange this year, would you be willing to do this?”

Discuss gift giving in advance – Thanksgiving is a great time to talk about the December holiday plans. Offer a gift of time or help instead of a purchased object. In fact, I would love a home-made coupon book for car washes, window cleaning, weed-pulling or a back massage in my stocking! Children might like homemade coupons or gift certificates for one hour of Monopoly playing, a bike ride together, or one day free from chores. Remember to include fun activities for your family!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Re-evaluating Your Holiday Traditions

Traditions are important to families. They reinforce meanings in life, bind us together and provide continuity of the past and present. It’s fun to pass down traditions we remember from our own childhood to our children and grandchildren.

In our busy world, however, it’s not always realistic to continue some traditions. If an old family tradition doesn’t work for your family anymore, recognize the need for change. Engage your family in the process of setting up new traditions that you can each participate in and enjoy together. Establish your own traditions while keeping the customs that mean the most to you.

Make a list of your traditional holiday preparations – from holiday greeting cards, gift exchanges, holiday meal preparation, to decorating and “clean up and take down” day.

Then gather your family together and ask what is important to each of them and see if they are willing to help continue that tradition. All family members must “buy into” the activities and at least lend a helping hand if not completely take over a task.

If a tradition has become unimportant to you, or not worth the time, energy and money you would spend on it, feel free to cross it off your list – at least for this year. You can re-evaluate it later.

Pare down your to-do list and write names of the people who will take responsibility or help out. Break large projects into several smaller steps. Then use good organizational and time management techniques to plan ahead, delegate or accomplish tasks necessary for each holiday tradition.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Honey and Infants

Many people find it difficult to resist the sweet taste of honey. New research shows it even contains antioxidants and other health-promoting compounds. But honey isn’t for everyone. In fact, feeding honey to infants less than 12 months old may have severe and sometimes deadly consequences.

While is may seem harmless to add a little bit of honey to your child’s pacifier, honey often contains spores of bacterium that causes infant botulism. Although these bacterial spores do not affect the digestive systems of adults, an infant’s digestive system is not fully developed, and can’t prevent the spores from germinating. When this happens, the bacteria produce a toxin that is often fatal.

Botulism toxin affects the neuromuscular system, leading to a weak and lethargic baby. An infected infant will first experience constipation, followed by a weak cry, poor feeding and sucking ability, droopy eyelids, and overall weakness. Noticing these warning signs and seeking medical attention is the best way to ensure a safe recovery if the baby is infected.

The most important thing to remember is that infant botulism is preventable. You can keep your baby safe by NOT feeding your baby honey, even in baked goods, and keeping honey away from your baby’s pacifier, water and medications. Once the infant is over 12 months old, you can relax and allow your little one some honey.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Setting Limits and Standing Firm

A toddler needs to learn quite early that he or she should not go beyond the fence or touch the hot stove. A teenager needs to have a reasonable, yet caring and protective curfew. Setting clear limits for children and teens can not only keep them save, but can help to give them boundaries for acceptable behavior.

Limits are at the foundation of parenting responsibility. They protect youth from physical and psychological harm, protect property, and promote respect for others. Limits also give children a sense of security. And usually, they like knowing an adult is in control.

It’s wise to keep the number of limits or rule to the ones that really count. It is important to set limits, but also allow children the opportunity to choose. Giving them a choice when you can, helps them develop independence, confidence and a sense of accountability for their actions.

Expecting too much can lower a child’s self-esteem and cause stress in your child. Parents should use limits consistently so children aren’t likely to get confused. Of course, as children grow older, their limits should change to reflect their developmental stage. In fact, as children grow, they often have wonderful ideas and opinions about limits. Parents can move from being caregivers to nurturers, to encouragers, then counselors. By involving them in discussions, parents are more likely to gain their children’s cooperation in following rules.

Children will try to test their limits to see how parents respond. It’s a crucial part of their development. In testing the limits, children are testing their parent’s love as well as their commitment to their word and rules. All children need the security of limitations to their behavior, while at the same time needing to grow and explore their world.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Dieting Linked to Smoking among Girls

While watching a classic film recently, it seemed that all the characters played by the actors were smoking cigarettes. Then I recalled that was indeed the way it used to be. And, although there are some movies and television programs that have gone back to having main characters smoking, it still is less prevalent than in the days before we learned how detrimental to health smoking really is.

The good news is that in about the past ten years, the percent of high school students in the U.S. who smoked regularly has dropped from about 35 to 23 percent – according to the Centers for Disease Control.

However, there are some teens who appear to be more at risk of picking up the bad habit. Recent research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that teenage girls who started diets were twice as likely to start smoking as their peers who did not diet.

Consistent with previous studies, the researchers found that dieting and weight concerns were not related to smoking among boys. Additionally, boys who were not overweight were more likely to try smoking, but were not as likely to smoke regularly.

The researchers suggested that health educators and practitioners should consider the link between initiation of dieting and regular smoking as they develop and use intervention and smoking prevention messages and programs. They also caution that parents need not panic if their child changes their diet. If, for example, your child begins eating healthier and more balanced meals, these changes should be celebrated as part of a healthier overall lifestyle.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Harry Potter- Good for Reading

Are you excited about the new Harry Potter movie? I am, but I usually read the books before I allow myself to see the movie. I’m a little behind on Deathly Hallows.

When you think of celebrities that are household names, you’re not likely to think of a fictional character – yet Harry Potter has certainly earned that distinction. And while the Harry Potter books and movies have catapulted to record-breaking success, even amid controversy, these books have also had another extraordinary effect on our youth. Harry Potter has stimulated an interest in reading among older children.

In a recent study conducted by the research firm Yankelovich and Scholastic Educational Publishers, children and their parents credited the Harry Potter series with getting more young people to read for fun and with helping them do better in school. Just more than half of the children between the ages of 5 and 17 claimed that they didn’t read books for fun before reading Harry Potter, and 65% reported they have been doing better in school since they started reading the Potter books.

Their parents were a little more enthusiastic, with 89% reporting their children showing an improved attitude toward reading, and 76% believing their children are doing better in school since starting to read the Potter books.

In the Kids and Family Reading Report, the researchers found that older children claimed that they don’t read for fun because they can’t find books that interest them. However, the Harry Potter books have garnered interest along all ages and have given many families books to enjoy together. This leads to improved attitudes toward reading.

Perhaps the magic of Harry Potter was equally powerful outside of the story, as the study shows that parents who want their children and teens to read may have found a spellbinding solution. Now I need to go find my daughter’s latest copy of Harry Potter!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Teenager's Internet Use

In my home, everyone uses the internet to get information for reports, the news, to shop, and to communicate with friends. We are fairly typical of families these days – in fact, more than half of American families with children now have Internet access.

While the Internet is a useful tool, it also poses challenges for parents who want to protect their children from inappropriate content.

In a recent study appearing in the Journal of Marriage and Family, researchers used data from a national survey of online teenagers and their parents to develop a profile of parents’ internal rule setting. Sixty percent of American parents with Internet access said that they regulate their teenager children’s Internet use by limiting the time they can spend online and by checking the Web sites their teens use. Another option is to install software to block questionable Web sites, and about 44% of parents reported using this option.

Parents who use the Internet with their teens are more likely to regulate Internet use, although older teens are less likely to have many rules.

You might be surprised that the research revealed that fathers are more likely than mothers to check the Websites their children visit and parents with lower education are more likely to put monitoring software on their home computers.

More information is needed to better understand the challenges of the Internet for families. But, understanding the opportunities and the risks of the Internet may help parents make decisions about the access they allow their teens.

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Protective Role of Grandparents

Being a grandparent today can mean many things. Many grandparents have a daily impact on their grandchildren because they live in the same household or they may be serving as surrogate parents. In fact, nearly 6% of children in the U.S. are now being raised by their grandparents.

These grandparents find themselves parenting their grandchildren when the adult child is unable to care for their own children and the grandparents step into help. Research tells us that grandparents are also the most willing of any family member to take grandchildren into their home.

Additionally, grandparents can affect grandchildren even when they don’t live under the same roof. Grandparents can make a difference “from a distance” by positively affecting a child’s development. Recent findings have shown that grandparents buffer the negative effects of high risk circumstances on children. For example, a grandchild’s sense of emotional closeness to, frequency of contact with, and their view of grandparents as a source of social support can buffer the negative effects of poverty and family stress.

The researchers also found that the closer grandchildren were to their grandparents, the less likely they were to be depressed as adults, particularly if their mother experienced depression during their childhood years.

As we can see, keeping children involved in their grandparent’s lives for the sake of Grandma and Grandpa is only part of the picture. These studies show that it certainly goes both ways! Grandparents are important in children’s lives, especially when facing difficult circumstances.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Parent Teacher Conferences

Schools and teachers set aside time for parent-teacher conferences during the school year so they can talk with parents and try to work together to help the student succeed. The National Education Association and the U.S. Department of Education advise parents to prepare for these conferences to make the most out of the time they have with teachers.

Before you go, make a list of things you want to discuss with the teacher such as how your child is doing at school – in his or her studies AND in relationships with classmates. Help the teacher understand your child’s special talents, interests and hobbies, how she or he learns, and any struggles with homework or any particular subject.

Be sure to ask the teacher for suggestions on how to help your child at home. It’s important to schedule a conference if problems arise. Your child’s grades might have dropped suddenly, or he/she may be upset about something that happened in school. You can also let the teacher know if something changes in home that may affect the student’s learning, such as a new baby, parental illness, a family move or divorce.

Keep in mind that the purpose of any parent-teacher conference is to help your child in school. As a parent, you are an important part in the partnership, working together with the teacher and your child to help your child succeed.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Children and Lying

What child hasn't helped himself to the cookie jar and denied doing it? Parents usually feel upset when they notice their child lying. But before we brand a child “a liar,” we need to consider the child’s developmental stage and the motives behind the lying.

Preschool children don’t understand the concepts “lying” and “telling the truth.” They also may “exaggerate” because they have trouble separating wish from reality. A child may say, “I am the smartest kid ever.” Adults need to understand what the statement means to the child - that she is confident in her abilities and values intelligence. This doesn’t mean she’s a liar.

Around the age of four, children can start to tell the difference between lies and truth and between wrong and right. This doesn’t mean they won’t tell an untruth, though!

Children lie for the same reasons adults do; to avoid getting in trouble, to feel powerful, to take advantage of a situation, to keep a secret, or to help a friend. By ages five or six, a child can tell whether a listener believes a lie or not. Between seven and eight years of age, they understand that not only what they say, but their motives behind what is said can be judged. At ten to eleven years of age children can lie successfully.

What can parents do? Leading by example is key. Children need to depend on adults to tell the truth. A recent survey, however, found adults admitted to lying more than ten time a week.

Also, when you find your child is lying don’t be quick to anger. Take time to calm down before dealing with the lie. Find out the message of and the motive behind the lie. Explain the consequences of lying and use consequences to help your child develop his or her conscience. Have you ever told your child a lie? What was it and for what reason?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teens using TV as a Guide for Sexual Attitudes and Behaviors

One of the things I’ve always loved about children is watching them absorb the world around them, like sponges. They sometimes have such a funny take on things. Children and teens have inquiring minds. And even if we don’t see evidence of it sometimes, they have rapidly developing brains, too. What they are exposed to during this time can have a big influence on them.

A recent study has found that television can be quite a powerful influence on teens’ sexual attitudes and behaviors. As reported in the Journal of Research on Adolescence, researchers from the University of Michigan found that high school students in their study reported a higher endorsement of sexual stereotypes when they watched more talk shows and “sexy” prime-time programs and also when they watched TV to fill their need for companionship.

For example, these students were “more likely to agree that sex is recreational, and that men are sexually driven, and that women are sexual objects”. Their findings also suggest that these students may be relying heavily on media for developing their own social norms and values. Is this a good idea?

The study also found that students who frequently viewed music videos and talk shows and who strongly identified with the main characters in television programs also reported a greater experience with the types of activities frequently featured on TV, such as dating and sexual activity.

This study gives strong argument for parents to monitor their teens in both the real world (such as knowing their peers and whereabouts) and in the surreal world of television. It’s a good idea to know the show your teen is spending time watching and how often. What does your teen like to watch on TV?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Moral Development in the Classroom

Parents have many opportunities to visit their children’s school throughout the year. Attending Open House, parent-teacher conferences, special assemblies and presentations, sporting events – these events give parents a glimpse of the environment in which their children are spending a great deal of time. But how does a parent know if morality is encouraged there?

Morality refers to social conduct that exhibits good judgment of fairness, honesty and equality. Research studies and analysis have found that teachers who consistently encourage mutual respect in classrooms help develop morality in their students. Experts suggest that teachers who praise a student’s considerations for others or encourage politeness throughout the school day also cultivate a sense of morality in the classroom.

Children may be able to learn morality by putting themselves in someone else’s shoes. In terms of equality, honesty and keeping promises, one study in China found the concept of “If I were you and you were me” to be helpful for children. For example, if the teacher explains how either party would feel regarding the betrayal of a friend who broke a promise, both children learn a moral lesson from the event.

In addition to teachers, close friends also have an impact on moral learning. When children have a close friendship with a least one peer, they are better able to tell the difference between the norms of genuine and close friendships compared to the norms of friendship in the context of a group.

So the next time you visit your child’s school, check out the playground and the company your child keeps. It may be the values of your child’s friends – good or bad – that are helping to shape your child’s view of morality.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Test Anxiety

I often have parents ask me how their child can do so well on daily school work, yet get an FCAT score lower than the parent expects. One reason for this may be text anxiety.

Standardized tests are used to measure a child’s learning to see if he or she is ready to advance or if they need extra time to learn. They are also important for school accountability. Because of this, children face increased pressures to perform well on standardized tests, such as FCAT.

One reported outcome of standardized testing has been an increase in the prevalence of test anxiety among school-aged children. According to research published in the Journal of Instructional Psychology, students who experience high levels of test anxiety tend to score lower on standardized tests than student who experience low levels of test anxiety. Nothing shocking about that!

According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are a number of actions parents can take to help prepare their children for tests and reduce their anxiety. First, meet with your child’s teachers on a regular basis to discuss progress and ask teachers for activities you can do with your child at home to help them prepare for tests. Some parents like to conduct “mock” tests using a timer for practice.

Try to provide a quiet and comfortable place at home where your child can study, and on test days, make sure your child is well rested and has had a good breakfast. As a test day approaches, calmly talk to your child about what is coming up and encourage him or her to do his or her best.

You can practice stress and relaxation exercises with your child, too. Deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation or visualization can help. Visit my free on-line Stress Management workshop at

Finally, it’s important for parents to avoid placing too much emphasis on their children’s test performance by getting upset over “bad” test scores. Doing this will only place extra pressure on your child to perform and increase their anxiety instead of making it better. Make sure your children know they are loved no matter how they do and that you know they will do well because they are ready!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Neighborhoods Hurt Students More Than Income

Most people might assume that children who grow up in disadvantaged communities are at higher risks of many unfortunate outcomes, including problems with cognitive development that lead to learning problems. However, researchers at the University of Chicago wanted to determine whether children of families living in the same communities but whose family incomes were higher had better results.

The research suggests that the neighborhood itself (rather than household income) was the most important in determining outcomes for children.

The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, followed families over a six year period as they moved in and out of what were considered disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago. Neighborhoods were defined as disadvantaged based on their rates of welfare receipt, poverty, unemployment, female-headed household, racial composition and number of children per household.

The research revealed that regardless of whether the families were low or middle-income families, the neighborhood played a more significant role in the development of verbal skills than did economic inequality. Additionally, the researchers reported that living in severely disadvantaged neighborhoods lowered verbal test scores by the equivalent of missing one year of schooling. The strongest effects continued to appear after children had lived in these communities several years.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Teens and Extra Curricular Activities

Ask any “Soccer Mom” where she spends her time, and she’ll tell you – in the car! Extra curricular activities can take up every evening and most of the weekend, and parents may find themselves asking why make such an effort? As a “Volleyball and Softball Mom,” I’ve spent plenty of hours driving an athlete to and from practice and tournaments. I’ve spent even more hours sitting in the bleachers! Was it worth it? Definitely! YES.

While a great deal of research has pointed to the benefit of youth activities – including sports, cultural activities and community organizations, a recent study asked teens to describe their own growth experience in extra curricular activities. The teens participating in the study reported that their extra curricular activities helped them in many ways. As they tried new things, teens learned more about themselves.

They developed personal initiative by learning to set goals they could achieve, working hard and persevering, managing their time and taking responsibility for themselves. The teens also reported that they learned to manage their feelings, especially anger, anxiety and stress.

They developed feelings of loyalty and friendship with peers, even those outside of their existing social network. Additionally they learned not only to work as a team, but also to develop leadership skills. Finally, they also developed an understanding of how their communities operate and enjoyed support from coaches, leaders and community members.

So, as you attempt to navigate what can be challenging teen years, you might want to consider what opportunities your teens have to experience personal growth through participating in organized activities. What activities are your children involved in and how do you think they benefit from them?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Healthy School Lunches

As the obesity epidemic in America continues to grow, more of today’s youth are struggling with being overweight. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of overweight children has more than quadrupled since 1970. Fifteen percent of today’s children and adolescents are overweight.

Schools are a key setting for healthy nutrition and physical activity strategies and are working with the Department of Agriculture to promote physical activity and nutrition education. Through the USDA’s “Healthier Us” School Challenge, schools are recognized for the changes they have made in improving their school nutrition environment, improving the quality of food served, and providing students with healthier, more nutritious choices.

Parents can also play an active role in ensuring that their child is eating healthy school meals. Parents are encouraged to eat a breakfast or lunch at school to see first hand what the meals are like. Visit the school cafeteria and get to know the staff and consider volunteering to organize a tasting party to introduce new and nutritious foods to kids.

Work with the school PTA to make sure parents’ opinions about healthy food choices are heard. Make sure that your children and teens appreciate how healthy meals influence their mind as well as their body.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Developmental Tasks of Teens

As your children enter into their teen years, they begin a physical and emotional journey that will bring them into adulthood and parents can play an important role in helping them establish who they are.

Teenagers begin to interact with each other in more adult ways as they mature. Experts at the University of Florida say this is linked to physical development, and that peer groups may change during the teen years as they grow at different rates. While their bodies are changing, teens also are learning to accept their appearance and not feel pressured into the perfect body image.

Sexual maturity also occurs during the teen years. Teens begin to define what it means to be male or female. And while this can be a time to experiment with their image, most conform to society’s definitions of gender. UF researchers say teens often confuse sexual feelings with intimacy, and most do not get into long-term, intimate relationships until later years.

Another teen process many of us are familiar with is establishing independence from parents and other adults. During these years, teens learn to rely on themselves more. Although many do not gain economic independence until after career training or college, it’s during the teen years that they begin to consider careers and their financial independence.

Teens also begin to determine their own values and beliefs, although research shows these are usually based on their parents’ values and beliefs. They begin to work towards socially responsible behavior, such as employment and marriage. It’s important for parents to remember (particularly when the “going gets tough” with teens) that they still have a tremendous influence on their child’s development.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Helping Your Child Deal With Peer Pressure

The issue of teen drug and alcohol use is alarming, but parents can and do make a difference in a teen’s decisions to use or not. Family researchers say you have to establish a firm “no use” drug and alcohol family rule. Once the rule has been established, here are some ideas from researchers at Brown University about how to help your child deal with peer pressure and drugs.

Responding to peer pressure in a kind but firm tone of voice is the best way to go. Parents can role-play scenarios with teens and come up with ideas for catch-phrases to legitimize the teen’s reasons for not using drugs, such as, “I’ve tried that before and I don’t like it.” Or “No, that’s not my kind of stuff.”

You might help your teen to consider other reasons that refer to consequences, such as “The one time I tried that, I got really sick and threw up all over the place.” Use any idea that will work for your teen and help him or her practice saying it. Another tactic your teen might use is to change the subject, and, if push comes to shove, leave the scene.

Peer pressure is not always the biggest enemy when it comes to substance abuse. The issue is not always outside influences, but those within the family. When teens don’t feel that their family supports them, they are at the greatest risk for problems.

Keep lines of communication open, use active listening while conveying support and concern, and calmly reinforce a “no use” view of drug and alcohol. These are the most effective ways to help teens resist using or depending on drugs and alcohol. Stay involved and stay connected with your teen.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Outcomes of Bullying

Bullying has been around for generations and has in the past been viewed as a rite of passage or harmless youthful behavior that makes children stronger or tougher. Now bullying is considered a public health problem that affects as many as 30% of students and has serious negative impacts for the bully and for the victim.

Children who are the targets of bullying have low self-esteem and often endure serious emotional problems, such as depression and anxiety. They cannot concentrate on school work or may decide not to go to school at all.

Research conducted by the National Information Institutes of Health reported that children bullied once a week or more were more vulnerable to poorer health, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and thoughts of suicide than children who were not bullied. Some of these problems last into adulthood.

Young people who bully also experience problems. They are more likely to be involved in other problem behaviors, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, and they don’t do as well in school. They are also more likely to engage in criminal activity as adults.

Parents need to be aware of the signs of bullying, which include (but is not limited to) a drop in grades, lack of interest in school, withdrawal from social activities, feeling ill in the morning, has unexplained cuts or bruises, has money missing or “lost,” stops eating, or is bullying other children or siblings.

Schools can be successful in reducing bullying by establishing clear rules against bullying and by increasing adult supervision where bullying usually happens – in cafeterias, bathrooms, hallways, stairwells and school yards.

Parents can make contact with the child’s school or visit the Hillsborough County Bully-buster’s Website for more information at

Monday, October 4, 2010

Childproofing Outdoor Areas

Although we hear a good deal about childproofing our homes, less attention is given to the potential hazards of the outdoor areas where children play. Yards, garages, barns and stables, or work areas, whether on a farm, a suburb, or in the city, can present dangerous, even deadly situations to children.

Barns and garages are both places where children can easily find stored items. From a child’s point of view, these can be great play places. Children climbing on stacks of logs and utility trailers have been killed when these makeshift toys shifted or toppled and crushed them. Broken equipment, such as old cars or parts of cars can also lead to tragedy. Stored chemicals, such as paint, paint thinner and cleaners may also be inviting to children. How can you protect children from harm outdoors?

Extension safety experts recommend that you increase your family’s awareness of dangers and reduce the risks by starting with a safety audit. Walk through your back yard, garages, barns, and shops with your children to identify potential dangers. Explain to them why things are off limits, rather than just telling them “Don’t play on this.”

Once you have completed your safety audit, consider what actions need to be taken. For example, lock sheds and barns and remove all keys from machinery and equipment not in use. Fence off hazardous areas, including retention ponds. Cap and secure all wells. And of course, store hand tools, power tools and toxic chemicals out of reach. Teaching your children about safety and taking the time to secure unsafe places can be the difference between life and death.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Children and Chores

Children who have regular household chores not only help keep the family home running smoothly, but also learn responsibility and the skills they will need for their own homes. There are several steps parents can take to make the process work for everyone.

First, make chores part of the child’s routine so that their jobs are done at regular times. A chart or list of chores can help children remember, and so can a simple reminder like, “It’s trash time.” Teach the child how to do the job by first showing and explain how it’s done, let them try while you watch, then let them do it on their own.

Experts advise parents to start early in assigning children their own chores based on what they can safely do at certain ages. Even a 3-year-old can help set the table. Older children can vacuum, help prepare dinner, load the dishwasher and run the washer and dryer. Don’t underestimate your children. The same child who runs a complicated computer game can certainly manage the washer and dryer!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Grandparent Care

For centuries, grandparents have been an important source of support and care for grandchildren, and grandparent care is still common.

According to a study conducted by the nonprofit research center, Child Trends, today’s grandparents provide care “when parents are at work, out for the evening, or must be away for a short time,” such as to run errands, keep doctor’s appointments, or attend social events. Using data from two national surveys, Child Trends found that nearly one half of all grandparents give some type of childcare to their grandchildren. Not surprisingly, grandparents who live nearby are more likely to provide child care than those who live far away.

Grandparents do give substantial time to care. The study found that about 70% of young children in grandparent care received care for more than 10 hours per week, and almost half were in grandparent care for more than 20 hours. When thinking about grandparents and grandchildren, you might imagine a doting grandmother, and this study found that 54% of care was provided by grandmothers. However, more than one third of grandfathers provided care.

This research suggests that grandparents play an important role in family life by providing care for grandchildren, during parents’ work and non-work hours. This can be an opportunity for grandparents and grandchildren to build their personal relationship, cement family bonds, and also to pass on family traditions, history and values.


Guzman, L. (2004). Grandma and grandpa taking care of the kids: Patterns of involvement. Child Trends Research Brief #2004-17.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dealing With Toddler Temper Tantrums

Most of us have experienced the incredible tantrums of toddlers. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are, all toddlers experience those moments. Toddlers have tantrums because they get frustrated easily and have very few problem-solving skills. Most likely, a tantrum will happen when toddlers are hungry, exhausted, or over-excited.

So what are you supposed to do when faced with a tantrum? Here are a few recommendations.

First, try to remain calm. Shaking, slapping, spanking or screaming at your child will only make the tantrum worse. Set a positive example for your child by remaining in control of yourself and your emotions. Count to ten (or 100) if you have to, but keep yourself in control.

Second, pause before you act. Take a deep breath, then take at least 30 seconds to decide how to handle the tantrum. Consider distracting them or taking them to a private place to calm down. Also, you might just hold them. Gently put your arms around them. You might even try whispering softly, telling your child to take a deep breath and then let the bad feeling go. This can be comforting to children because they don’t like to be out of control – it scares them.

Third, always wait until your child calms down before talking about the situation. You cannot reason with a screaming child. When your child is calm, talk about how he or she felt just before the tantrum and offer ways your child can show his or her frustration without the tantrum.

And, fourth, comfort and reassure your child that you still love them, even though you disapprove of their behavior. Tell your child that as he or she grows, they will be able to be in better control of their frustrations and angry feelings.


Monday, September 27, 2010

School Drop Outs

According to the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development, remaining in school is the single most important action adolescents can take to improve their future economic prospects. Individual state laws, along with innovative dropout prevention programs have helped reduce the number of teens dropping out of schools nationwide.

A variety of factors influence whether or not a teen will do poorly or succeed in school. We know from research that students who do poorly in school tend to believe their success or failure is beyond their control, while students who do well tend to believe their success is because they are smart, and any failure is because they did not try hard enough. To help, parents can applaud their children’s ability when they do well in school and their effort when they do poorly.

In addition, students whose parents were not involved in their school are more likely to repeat a grade, be suspended or expelled, have poor grades and have behavior problems compared to those whose parents are involved.

While most parents want their children to do well in school, by the time teens reach 12th grade, only half of parents are involved in school activities, such as attending a school meeting or event. It is especially important for parents of teens to remain involved in their school. Creating partnerships among schools, parents and key community organizations in joint responsibility for adolescents’ educational achievement and healthy development can continue to reduce the number of kids dropping out of school.


What to Know about Dropping Out of School: A publication for professionals who work with adolescents and the parents of adolescents, (1998), Kathleen Boyce Rodgers, University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service.

Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century: Concluding Report of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development. Carnegie Corporation of New York. (October, 1995). New York, NY.

Steinberg, L. & Levine, A. (1990). You and your adolescent: A parent’s guide for ages 10-20. New York: Harper Collins, 1990.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Teens, Drugs and Family Dinners

Did you know that the more often children eat dinner with their family, the less likely they are to smoke, drink, or use illegal drugs?

A study by the center on addiction and substance abuse reveals that teens who eat dinner with their families more than three times a week have half the risk of substance abuse than teens who eat with their families twice a week or less. This study adds to the growing pile of evidence that family dinners help strengthen family bonds.

Some may find this hard to believe, but, teens want to spend time with their families. Research from the Hawaii Department of Health reveals that two-thirds of the 10th and 12th graders surveyed want more opportunities to do fun things with their families, to share personal problems with their parents, and participate in decisions that affect them.

Children develop and maintain a sense of belonging within the family from these dinners. No matter what kind of day the child experiences, the routine of being part of a family is re-affirmed each night at dinner. This feeling of connectedness carries over into other aspects of the child’s life.

Scheduling family dinners gets more difficult as your child nears the 16 or 17-year old mark, because they are busy with their own life and able to drive themselves to school, jobs and friend’s houses. However, that’s also when their risk-taking behavior takes an abrupt upswing. Insisting that the child value the family’s shared dinner times may take some doing, but providing the tools to help your child resist drugs and alcohol is a worthwhile goal.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Reframing Your Toddler's Annoying Behaviors

Raising a toddler sure is fun. But it can also be frustrating can’t it? Many behaviors during early childhood leave parents questioning their parenting skills. Have you ever caught yourself thinking that your little ones are just trying to drive you crazy? Relax. They are not. Their behavior is probably following the normal “ages and stages” journey to growing up. If we reframe our thoughts about their behavior, it can be easier to deal with.

Crying – Instead of: “She’s trying to get at me.” Think: “She sure lets me know she needs something. What a communicator!”

Thumb sucking – Instead of: “He’s such a wimp. He’s going to ruin his teeth.” Think: “Isn’t it great that he’s found a way to comfort himself?”

Separation protests – Instead of : “She’s so spoiled! I can’t move without her hanging on my leg.” Think: “I sure am special to her. She really knows I’ll take care of her.”

Getting into things – Instead of : “What a pain in the neck. He won’t ever stay out of my stuff.” Think: “He’s so curious and eager to learn. He wants to see and touch everything. That must be so exciting for him. I need to childproof his world.”

Saying “No” – Instead of: “She’s so defiant. She better learn some respect fast.” Think: “She’s becoming so independent. She needs to show me she has a mind of her own.”

Throwing food – Instead of “She’s so messy and badly behaved.” Think: “She must be finished eating. She’s going to have a great fast-pitch some day!”

Reframing doesn’t mean you don’t take steps to teach the good behavior, such as “Let’s not throw the food. If you’re done, you can go play.” It simply means if you put a more positive though in your head, you can deal with the behavior in a more constructive way.

If you are frustrated over your child’s behaviors, educate yourself about your child’s age and stage of growth. This will help you react to your child’s difficult behaviors in a better way. Spend some time this week reframing your thoughts and let me know if it helped.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

When your child doesn't want to go to school

When a child says she or he feels sick, has a headache, stomachache, or a sore throat right before it's time to leave for school, and does this frequently, this is likely a case of school phobia or school refusal. What parent hasn't faced this issue?

The reasons for this frustrating behavior can vary. Family problems may play a part, such as a recent move, a new baby in the house, separation, or illness of a parent. Bullying at school, homework that isn't finished and problems with school work are also common reasons that children don't want to go to school.

First, take your child to the doctor for a physical to make sure there are no true health problems. Have a talk with your child's teachers, ask if they know the cause of your child's behavior and if they have any helpful suggestions.

If your child still appears anxious about going to school or has been allowed to stay home because of school refusal, make sure your child knows you are there to support him and that you are available to talk. This will help your child to know that her problems are being taken seriously.

Involve your child in planning how to best overcome the issue. Ask, "You seem to have a tummy ache every morning, what do you think the real problem is?" or "Let's talk about your morning headache and try to figure out what we can do about it because you can't be missing school like this."

Missing a lot of school can be damaging and keeping your child out of school will usually make the problem worse. Once you have investigated the possible causes, and offered your support as a parent, you may have to "push" your child out to school.

When you do allow your child to stay home and believe that he or she is sincerely sick, don't make his or her day a fun day. If watching TV, eating cookies and playing all day becomes more rewarding than going to school, you'll never get your child into the classroom - at least not with the attitude he needs for learning.