Wednesday, March 28, 2012

10 tips for Low-cost Indoor Family Fun

The Oregon State University Extension Service suggests the following fun, yet low-cost, indoor things to do with your family:

·         Read stories to each other
·         Bake or cook something together
·         Have a family game night. Trade games with other families that have children the same ages as yours. Set up a play area, pop some popcorn and learn new games.
·         Set up a puzzle to work on. Everyone can work on it as they pass by during the day. And, you can choose times when the family can work on it together.
·         Visit your local library for movies, music CDs and audio books that the entire family can enjoy.
·         Many museums offer free or reduced admission on certain days of the week or month.
·         Teach children crafts you enjoy and spend time doing them together.
·         Choose a topic the whole family would like to know about. Look it up together on the Internet.
·         Get together with friends once a month for a potluck. Make a pot of soup or stew and ask others to bring side dishes. If there are a lot of small children, all the parents could share the cost of a babysitter to be there, too. That way, you can have some “adult time” after the meal.
·         Check out free concerts, lecture or events at nearby colleges.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Talking with Children when the Talking gets Tough

As adults we hope that tragic events, such as natural disasters, missing children, shootings in schools, death and war will never happen anywhere. We want to protect our children from the pain and horror of difficult situations to ensure they have a happy, innocent and carefree life.

So what is a parent to do when disasters will the airwaves and the consciousness of society? Purdue University Extension offers these suggestions:

First, don’t assume that the kids don’t know about it. They probably know more than you think. Not talking about it does not protect children. In fact, you may communicate that the subject is taboo and that you are unavailable if you remain silent. Be available and askable.

By listening, you can find out if they have misunderstandings and you can learn more about the support they need. You do not need to explain more than they are ready to hear, but be willing to answer their questions.

Share your feelings, but be careful not to overwhelm them. You can tell them that you feel sad, angry or frustrated and tell them how you deal with those feelings.

Help children use creative outlets like art and music to express their feelings. They may not be comfortable or skills with words, especially in relation to difficult situations.

Reassure young children and help them feel safe. It is important to let them know that they are not at risk – if they are not. Try to be realistic. You can try to support them and protect them, but you cannot keep all bad things from happening. You can tell them that you love them, though. You can say that, no matter what happens, your love will be with them. That is realistic, and often that is all the children need to feel better.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Parenting Question #3

Where do teenagers prefer to get advice? Do they prefer their families, their peers, or their teachers? If you said peers and teachers you are partially right, however teens actually show a great preference for getting information they can count on from their mom and dad. Surprising, but true!
Any time is a good time to connect with your child. Remember to spend more time listening and talking with them than you do telling them what to do. Kids are listening to parents!

Here’s another parenting question: A trusted adult such as a parent will not always be around, so children need to follow:
A.   An inner voice to help guide them
B.   The advice of other children
C.   Rules that other adults spell out for them

Having an inner voice is really critical. Often teens have not developed a sense of speaking up for themselves. They may listen only to others if they have learned to depend on others to instruct them what to do all of the time.

Our goal is that children develop an inner sense of what is right and wrong. We need to help children learn to listen, certainly, but also to begin to act independently on their own.  We will not always be around to guide them.

So the best answer is “An inner voice that helps to guide them”. We also call this a conscience. If we don’t give children a chance to practice listening to their conscience in the safe confines of our supervision, then they may become followers. The trouble with followers is they can easily be talked into doing something wrong by their peers or adults. Children need opportunities to practice developing that inner sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Challenging Behaviors may not be Intentional

All children argue with adults and other children from time to time. It’s a part of growing up and learning to be independent. As parents, we might think our children intentionally argue with everything we say, but the problem may be more complicated. Louise Davis, Mississippi State University Extension Child and Family Development Specialist says the reasons could be beyond the child’s control.

Most children (like many adults) become more irritable and difficult to deal with when they are tired or hungry. So one of the first steps to addressing behavior issues is to follow a schedule and make sure children are getting plenty of rest, exercise and regular, healthy meals. Negative behaviors tend to increase when children are tired, hungry, stressed or upset. Find out what may be causing your child stress and talk about ways he or she can manage it.

Davis also says that children may not understand the adults around them. If children are not following directions, parents may need to explain the expected behavior or task more clearly. This includes clearly stating consequences that mean something to your child and that you will follow through on.

Parents should also consider whether their expectations are reasonable for the developmental age of the child. An example would be expecting a two-year-old the sit still during adult church services. If the same method of guidance is producing the same negative results, then parents need to change what they are doing or saying to improve the outcome.

So when your child’s behavior needs guidance, stop for a minute and ask WHY your child is behaving that way, and what will work best to help him or her control their behavior.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Is my child being bullied?

Many children feel ashamed about being the target of a bully. They think they should b able to stand up for themselves and may be afraid to tell their parents or other adults.

The following signs may indicate your child is being bulled:
·         Make up excuses to avoid going to school.
·         Drop in grades.
·         Wants to be driven or walked to and from school.
·         Has torn clothes and unexplained bruises.
·         Need extra money.
·         Is hungry after school because lunch or lunch money was taken.
·         Shows fear, anxiety.
·         Sleep patterns change, or has nightmares.
·         Shows sadness and/or depression, talks of suicide.
·         Has headaches, stomach aches.
·         Has angry outburst.
·         Withdraws.
·         Loses possession, such as jackets, toys, shoes.

Bullies pick on certain children for all kinds of reasons. Adults must help children understand they are not at fault if they become victims or targets of bullies. Children need to believe that differences among people are wonderful – it’s what makes us unique and interesting. Targets of bullies do not need to change. Bullies need to change.

What’s a parent to do? Ask your children directly if he or she is being bullied.  To open a discussion, you might say, “Sometimes one child picks on other children. This happened when I went to school and it still happens today. It’s not right and children who are picked on are not to blame. It’s my responsibility to keep you safe. Are you having any problems being bullied?”

Arrange a time to talk to school personnel if there is a problem at school or an adult leader if the problem is at a community center, club or other activity. If school personnel are not responsive, remind them that schools are responsible for keeping students safe.

For more information, check out the Hillsborough County Bully Buster’s Website at

Report a bully and remain anonymous by calling 1-800-873-TIPS (8477)
Or text your tips to: C R I M E S (274637)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

My child is a bully. What can I do?

Use positive discipline. If you hit your child, be prepared for your child to hit others. If you have used physical punishment in the past, stop. Tell your child the new rule in the home for all family members is, “no hitting.” Teach your child that hitting, pushing, and teasing others is never okay.

Take a parenting class to learn how to discipline without hitting or spanking. Parenting classes in Hillsborough County can be found at:

If your child steal or damages another child’s clothes or toys, have him or her restore them or replace them. Require your child to do additional chores to pay for replacing the victim’s property or take away his or her allowance for several weeks to pay the cost.

Help your child develop empathy and caring. It’s important they learn how their behavior affects others. Bullies begin to think about their behavior and the outcomes of their behavior when adults discuss situations and ask questions. “What could you do when you want to feel powerful instead of hitting and shoving someone?” or “You are a good kid, but it’s wrong to hit others. Can you think why you might do this?” are good questions.

Tell him or her that you won’t allow the bullying to continue. Tell your child:
·         Stay away from the child or children you have harassed or bullied.
·         You can’t be with other children who are bullying with you.
·         Go directly to school and come directly home. If possible, make arrangement for an adult to go to and from school with your child.
·         I (or another adult) will supervise you. If other children play in our home, you must play where I can see you.
·         If you visit another child, I will call the child’s parent to see if he or she is at home. You will be closely supervised.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

School Shootings

What do we know about the kids who are committing these crimes? Jodi Dworkin, Ph.D., Department of Family Social Science and University of Minnesota Extension Service provides information on the behavior that potentially violent students may exhibit:
·         Difficulty recognizing others’ feelings.
·         Feeling no remorse.
·         Believing that the only solution is to take matters into their own hands.
·         No positive role models.
·         Feeling unloved at home and unaccepted at school.
·         Experienced either physical or psychological abuse, or neglect.
·         Inability to see their future.
·         Inability to recognize their own anger and redirect it so it does not lead to violent behavior.

Be aware of these additional warning signs in teens:
·         Name calling, abusive language, and threats of violence.
·         Preoccupation with weapons or violence.
·         Cruelty to animals.
·         Problems with drugs or alcohol.
·         Discipline problems at school such as truancy or expulsion
·         Few or no close friends, feeling like an outcast at school.
·         Bullied or bullies others.
·         Preference for movies, TV, music, video games, books or clothes with violent themes.
·         Expressions of anger, frustration, or violence in writings or drawings.
·         Depression or mood swings – there is a difference between feeling down one day and being depressed. It is not normal for teens to be severely depressed or extremely moody.
·         Suicide threats or attempts.

For more information:
National School Safety Center:
National Crime Prevention Council:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What if the next school shooting is at my school?

Even though it can feel like the news is filled with reports of school shootings and other violence, school-related violence is actually lower than in previous years. Statistically, school is the safest place for children to be.

Even if your child doesn’t bring the subject up, it’s important to talk to your child about school violence and listen to his or her thoughts and concerns on the issues.

Teens are aware of social issues so talk with them about bigger issues, like gun control and what they can do to help keep their school safe.
·    It is okay to express fear at what has happened and compassion for the students and families involved in these horrors.
·    Explain that there is a difference between “being different” from other students and having sever problems that lead to extreme violence.
·    Make sure your child understands how important it is to let you or another adult know if he or she hears another child threatening violence.
·    Talk about what it might feel like to be an outcast at school and find out if your teen is having trouble fitting in.
·    Talk with your kids about constructive solving problem; help them to find appropriate solutions to problems without using violence.

Source:  A survival guide for parents of teenagers: What if the next school shooting is at my school? University of Minnesota Extension

For more information:
National School Safety Center:
National Crime Prevention Council: