Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Co-Parenting and Family Involvement

About half of all U.S. children will live apart from their fathers some time during their childhood because their parents have divorced or separated. While some nonresidential fathers do not maintain contact with their child, others are able to continue to be a part of the child's life. A very important factor in whether a father remains involved seems to be how the mother and father work out their co-parenting relationship after they split up. Fathers may be involved in decisions about the child, have frequent contact, and be involved in warm and supportive relationships with their children—or they may be fairly distant or not involved at all.

A recent study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family looked at co-parenting relationships between custodial mothers and fathers living apart from their biological children. Using data collected from a national sample of children and custodial mothers, the researchers found that cooperative co-parenting is fairly uncommon: 66% of mothers say that the father has no influence over childrearing and 58% say that they get no help from the father in childrearing.
These results suggest that "many parents may find it difficult or even impossible to engage in cooperative co-parenting after separation>" However, when they can cooperate, fathers are able to have more frequent contact with their children and a more trusting and supportive relationship, confirming other research that finds father involvement has many positive outcomes for children.

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Early Adolescent Problem Behavior

You've probably known a parent of a middle-schooler who has lamented that aliens abducted their sweet child and returned a different, not so sweet preteen being. Early adolescence is a time of change in the relationship between parent and adolescent, and both have to adjust. Although most families weather these changes without serious difficulties, some families do have problems.

Some research shows that when parents are critical and angry with their young teens, they're more likely to misbehave at school and exhibit other bad behaviors. But youth also may act in hostile ways toward their parents.

Recent research studied more than 400 youth ages 11 to 14 and their parents to better understand youth problem behavior, hostility between parents and young teens, and the influence of peers. The research confirmed that when parents and adolescents were hostile with each other, even at low levels of hostility, young teens behaved in problematic ways, such as misbehaving at school, or lying and cheating. Hostility between parents and teens seemed to take a toll on parents' energy and patience, too, and they found it more difficult to set and follow consistent and effective rules.

There are ways for families—parents and youth—to make a smoother transition to the teen years. Strategies might include how to communicate respectfully with each other, managing conflict, and setting reasonable rules and limits. These patterns are best begun earlier in childhood, before families cross the sometimes-rocky terrain to adolescence.

Source: Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Adults tend to look at play as the opposite of work. You may have heard yourself say, "Stop playing and get to work!" However, children need play in their daily lives to learn better, grow stronger, and develop positive social skills. Through play, children learn many things about themselves and others. They learn about the properties of matter and motion, feelings and relationships, language and communication.

How can you, as an adult, help your children learn through and enjoy play? The first step is to provide a safe environment where your child is free to explore. Make sure that things that might break are put away. Toys are enriching for children, but they don't need to be expensive or complicated. A child's imagination is a powerful force that can be energized with a few simple items, such as a few dress-up clothes that transform a youngster into a dancer, a ball player, a teacher, a superhero, or mom or dad at work. Other items that are especially interesting to children are play dough, crayons, beads for stringing, picture books, and sand and water. Let them play with boxes for hiding in, pots and pans for banging, balls for throwing or rolling, or a doll for nurturing.

Don't be afraid of unstructured time for quiet play or other activities that spark the child's interest. Children need time where nothing is planned so they can use their imagination. Also, be sure to turn off the TV so children can learn to entertain themselves.
Remember that play is fun! Encourage your child's play and join in!

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Helping Children Get a Good Night's Rest

Does your school-aged child complain about being sleepy during the day, doze off in class, or yawn a lot? Does he or she go to bed late or have trouble falling asleep? If so, your child may not be getting enough sleep.

Health care providers report that elementary school-aged children need at least 9 hours and recommend 10-11 hours of sleep nightly. Sleep affects children's ability to concentrate and learn, and impacts their overall physical and mental health. In fact, good sleep is just as important as proper nutrition and daily exercise.

A recent study published in the Journal of School Health found that over 60% of students surveyed said they slept too little at least twice a week. They stayed up late when their parents thought they were asleep, and they had trouble falling back asleep after waking up during the night.

Parents can help their children get the sleep they need by creating a healthy sleep environment. Set the room temperature so it is comfortable: not too warm and not too cool. In addition, parents can establish a nighttime routine. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it, and make the time right before bed enjoyable and relaxing, such as with a warm bath and a book. Take distractions such as TVs and computers out of the bedroom because these interfere with falling and staying asleep.

Bedtime is important and can be a loving time for families. A calm and caring approach to helping your child get a good night's sleep can give them a great head start to each new day.

Source: Suzanna Smith for Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Building self-esteem in children is not about telling them how wonderful they are. Rather, it's about helping them feel good about their actions and accomplishments.

There are two kinds of feedback that adults typically give in response to children's behaviors. The first is encouragement, which fosters a child's sense of mastery and allows them to evaluate their own behavior. The second form of feedback is praise, which may have the counter effect to what adults intend. It can actually make children feel helpless and more dependent on others' feedback and approval. Praise tends to be judgmental, is based in competition, and is vague. It's often delivered publicly and is associated with a finished product, rather than occurring during the preparation phase.

Encouragement allows the child to evaluate his or her own efforts rather than compare himself to another child. It's specific and occurs through the process of a child's step-by-step accomplishments toward a given goal.

Examples of praise might be, "What a beautiful painting." Encouragement sounds more like, "I notice how you used a lot of bright colors in your painting." As a parent or teacher, you may often catch yourself saying, "Good job!" or "That's great!" to your children. This is only natural as most of us recall hearing similar words said to us as children. Practicing encouragement is not about eliminating praise entirely from your vocabulary, but balancing comments of praise while using as much encouragement as possible.

Source: Kate Fogarty for Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Managing Childhood Stress

As a parent, perhaps you've heard, "You don't know what it's like to be a kid these days!" Unfortunately, they're probably right. Many children today face stressors and experience traumas that are different from those endured by their parents' generation. Today's children are pushed to make above-average grades and excel in extracurricular activities and athletics. Additionally, they endure exposure to their parents' stresses in the home, as well as school violence and terrorism.

Most theorists agree that the responses children have to stressful situations are an innate reaction; however, the susceptibility to stress-related behaviors in children can be linked to several factors, such as environment, genetics, modeling stressful behavior after anxious parents, or through rewards or punishments for displaying anxious behaviors.

How do you know if your child or teen is experiencing stress? Dr. Suzanna Smith from the University of Florida explains that the signs of stress may include children expressing that they feel afraid or scared, or their grades may drop suddenly. Perhaps they are extra-clingy or needy; they may go back to behaviors they've outgrown, such as bed wetting or thumb sucking, and they may withdraw from others.

There are many actions parents can take to assist their children with managing stress. For example, spend time together. Follow daily family routines and work together. Children thrive on predictable patterns. You may find that helping children manage their stress can be good for the grown-ups too!

Source: Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Teen's Developmental Tasks

As your children enter 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.

Sexual maturity also occurs during the teen years. Teens begin to define what it means to be male or female, though most conform to society's definitions of gender. UF researchers say teens often confuse sexual feelings with intimacy and don't get into long-term relationships until later years.

Another teen process many of us are familiar with is establishing independence from parents and other adults. Although many Americans do not gain economic independence until after long schooling, it's during the teen years that they begin to consider careers and 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 also begin to work towards socially responsible behavior, such as employment or marriage. So while parents may feel overwhelmed by the tide of what feels like counter-assaults on what they've taught their children, it's important to remember they still have tremendous influence.

Source:  Family Album Radio, University of Florida Extension

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Parenting Question

Will giving a child all he or she wants including gifts and privileges make him or her:
A.   Happier?
B.   Well behaved?
C.   Just wanting more and more? 

It’s doubtful that it will make them more behaved and it teaches a child to behave only if he or she gets something in return.

Will showering them with gifts make them happier? Overindulging children generally leads to headache later on. It doesn’t mean that we don’t give some, but we need to show our love in a more balanced way.

What is more often true is that giving a child all he or she wants tends to make them want more and more. Children will learn to expect whatever they request and some children begin to equate what they get with “love.”

I knew a mother who stopped at a store every night after work - before she picked her child up from day care - to buy him something. It was usually a candy bar or a small toy. She said it made him happy. Although I believe the true purpose of buying the child a gift everyday was to make mom feel less guilty. It’s sad that she didn’t’ think she could make him happy unless she was buying him something. I often wonder how that child turned out.

Showing love with gifts and privileges is great in small doses. But children who are overindulged often have trouble being happy as adults. Eventually the gifts stop and this can create a lot of disappointment for a child who learned to feel loved only when he or she was getting something.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Adolescent Employment

Does your teen want to get a job? Are you ready for them to get that job? According to the Center for Labor Market Studies, the teen employment rate was at 37% last year. Statistics also indicate that half of those teen who do work are on the job more than 15 hours, and 16% work more than 15 hours per week.

Some research supports that employment for less than 20 hours a week can have a positive effect on family relationships, financial responsibility, time management and student’s sense of purpose. Another theory, however, suggests that adolescent employment, especially in excess of 20 hours a week, can weaken important social inflorescences, such as school and family and can increase a teen’s anxiety.

According to researchers at the University of Minnesota, good jobs in adolescence support rather than displace academic roles and offer genuine opportunities to learn important life and work skills. Volunteer commitments offer similar benefits, while not requiring as many hours, and should be taken just as seriously as paid positions.

So, is a job the right investment for your teen? Consider financial need and possible harmful effects before making your decision. Play an active role in their job decision by limiting the hours they can work and discussing their experience with them. Help them manage their income responsibly and monitor for changes in attitude, per group and academic performance.

In the right context, a job can be just the right experience to increase a teen’s confidence and help them identify their personal strengths and intersts.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Pencil Vs. Pen Rules

As your child gets older, the way you approach rules and consequences can change a bit. Remember, the reason we make and enforce rules is to teach our children how to manage their own behavior so they become responsible adults. When parents refuse to  change rules as the child grows, the child feels that he’s being treated unfairly and tends to rebel.

The end goal of discipline is for your child to learn to control his or her own behavior. That being said, one way you can keep communication lines open with your child when discussing rules is to have “pen” and “pencil” rules. This simply means some rules can change as your child earns privileges while other rules that are written are not negotiable.

Some rules should always be “pen rules” because they are needed to keep your child safe. These “pen rules” also follow the laws of our society. Pen rules would include: absolutely no under-age drinking, no drugs, you must drive the speed limit and follow the state rules for teenage drivers, no hitting, etc. These rules need to be strictly enforced and they are not negotiable. Some parents also include “No opposite sex friends in your bedroom” and other similar household rules.

Some rules can be written in pencil so that they may be negotiated and changed as your child matures. A good example of a pencil rule is bed time. It’s normal for children around the age of 8 or 9 to want a later bed time. You can talk about this and be willing to compromise if you feel your child’s behavior has earned a later bed time. It would sound like this, “You have been doing well in school and with your behavior. Perhaps we could make your bedtime 30 (or 45) minutes later because you are getting older. However, if I see your grades going down, or you are grouchy because you haven’t been getting enough sleep, I will put your bedtime back to the earlier time. Let’s try it for two weeks? Do you agree with this deal?”

Pencil rules help your child feel he or she is being listened to and that his or her needs are being met. When you discuss pencil rules, your child needs to understand that his or her behavior earned the change and that poor behavior will “earn back” the earlier rule. This helps your child understand consequences of his or her behavior in both good and bad ways.

Make a list with each of your children pencil rules and pen rules. As they get older, be open to discussions on the pencil rules.